The Mystery Stone and Seneca Ladd of Meredith New Hampshire

Even after one hundred and thirty four years, New Hampshire’s so-called “Mystery Stone” is attracting a great deal of attention. Donated to the New Hampshire Historical Society in 1927 by Frances Ladd Coe, a daughter of the discoverer, Seneca A. Ladd, it is on display there.

Engraving-portrait of Seneca A. Ladd, before 1892; New Hampshire Historical Society Collection.

Engraving-portrait of Seneca A. Ladd,
before 1892; New Hampshire
Historical Society Collection

Several people have asked me to publish an article about this stone.  I am not an archaeologist, nor even an amateur scientist, and so I make no claims whether the stone is ancient, or not (beyond 1872 when it was “discovered”).  It is an intriguing relic, and worth the trip to the historical society to see for yourself.

Not a great deal of the symbolism and art of the eastern Native Americans have survived to today.  What I was able to readily find on the Internet were the personal “marks” made by the “Eastern Indians” and the governments of New Hampshire and Massachusetts when they signed a treaty at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 13 July 1713.  Their “marks” are simplistic in nature, but of course they were not intended as artwork, as possibly the stone was.  Upon quick inspection of the “Mystery Stone,” I wondered if the M-like mark be the symbol of the Thunderbird.

As for the tipi, I had previously believed that the New Hampshire Native People’s lived in homes of a slightly different nature, (i.e. wigwams) — but then I am not an expert on this (perhaps someone who is can respond to this inquiry).  For a few months back in 1972 I lived in a tipi, made of rip-stop nylon, on the shores of Lake Champlain.  But the pattern for that tipi was borrowed from the plains Indians, not the local ones.  Did the local Native Peoples really make tipis out of birch bark, or is that a dwelling created for the tourists?  Could the stone have possibly been dropped by a visitor from the western plains?

Documents and newspaper articles show that by 1872 Seneca Ladd had the “egg” (as Seneca himself called it) in his possession.  By 1885 it was a noted enough event that it was reported in the county history book.

Collections of other Native People artifacts from the Meredith and Winnipesaukee area, can be seen at the Laconia Gale Memorial Library, Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh (Pa.), the Harvard Peabody Museum of Archeology and Ethnology, and several others.

I’ve provided  a more detailed story about this mysterious stone, and its 19th century discoverer, from sources dating to about 1885, only thirteen years after its “discovery.”  Now, you decide for yourself–it is genuine, or is it a forgery?

Editor’s note:  This mystery stone is not the only one found in New Hampshire with symbols engraved.  The New Hampshire Historical Society has a collection, intimating that the practice of marking stones was not unique to the Meredith stone.


Addendum October 21st, Additional Commentary
Earthfiles– (Additional photographs of the stone)
Odd Things I’ve Seen: Mystery Stone of Seneca Ladd

Source of the information directly below: “History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties, New Hampshire; Philadelphia:  J.W. Lewis & Co.,  1885; pages 856-860.”

A curious relic was discovered in 1872, in Meredith, New Hampshire, about six feet below the surface of the ground, at the bottom of a post-hole dug in the trail of the Indians between Lakes Winnipesaukee and Waukawan.  It may have been the work of some one living in pre-historic days, as nothing like its fine workmanship has been produced by the Indian tribes of this locality, and it has attracted great attention from the scientific and ethnological world.  The curiosity is of fine silicious [sic siliceous] sandstone, as hard as granite, of almost the size and shape of a goose egg,–longest diameter, three and three-fourths inches; transverse, two and five-eighths; weight, eighteen ounces,–but not a lathe product, deviating slightly from a “solid of revolution.” A conical hole (three-eighths of an inch at base, one-eighth at summit) passes along the axis, but lacks nearly one-eighth of an inch of being concentric with the base, and less at the summit. Ten figures–some in low relief, but sunk below the surface,–are cut with a workmanship inferior to the gems of ancient Europe, but as much superior to any ever found on this continent.  For instance, in the ear of maize, seven-eighths of an inch long, there are seventeen kernels in the row, and four of the rows clearly visible, with two more partly in sight.  In a circle below (near the broad end) is the scalp of an animal with large ears, a deer’s leg and another figure like a three pointed cap.  The scalp may be also a cap.  To the right is a face in an oval, two and one-eighth inches long and five-eighths broad. This resembles strongly ancient Egyptian countenances. The face is sunken, as the nose does not rise above the regular surface.  The next figure is an Indian lodge of four poles, visible above where they cross at the top. Three breadths of curtain are shown, and they are carefully roughened, as if of hides.  This is not on a depressed surface. Below this is a blank circle. There remains a series of three figures not in depressed surfaces,–first, four spears of paddles arranged in a form suggestive of the letter M, a crescent, and under it two maces in the form of X, with two dots between the heads.  Lastly, there is a circular figure around each end.  One little flaw is seen in the edge of the depression from which the face is raised.  The stone was so encrusted as to completely conceal all traces of the carving, and only a careful investigator would have discovered its secret.  This was done by Seneca A. Ladd, the Meredith philosopher and antiquarian, in whose possession it is now.  This stone has attracted the wonder of the scientific world, European savans having vainly tried to obtain it.  The Smithsonian Institution at Washington has offered to send a map to Meredith to make a cast of the “egg,” as Mr. Ladd calls it.

Seneca A. Ladd, from History of New Hampshire by Everett S. Stackpole, p64

Seneca A. Ladd, from History of
New Hampshire
by Everett S.
Stackpole, p64

The first person bearing the name of Ladd in America, and doubtless the ancestor of all the families bearing the name in New Hampshire, was Daniel Ladd, who sailed from London with his wife, Ann, March 24, 1633, in the ship “Mary and John,” and settled at Ipswich, Mass.  His name is fifth on the list of sixty-eight who founded the town of Salisbury, in 1638.  In 1640, with eleven others, he removed to Pawtucket, on the Merrimack, and organized the town of Haverhill, where he lived, respected and honored, to an advanced age.  He was descended from an old Kentish family, who were landed proprietors as early as the fifteenth century.

Daniel Ladd, a lineal descendant form the English ancestor, was born August 21, 1742, at Epping, N.H., and became a farmer. He did not remain on the ancestral acres, but dealt largely in new land, residing first in Lee, then in Canterbury, and finally in Loudon, where he was an early and esteemed citizen.  He married Judith Lyford, of Raymond, about 1765. They had nine children, of whom the eighth was Gideon.  Gideon was a chaise and carriage-builder. He was a man of much brain-power. Sober and sedate in his manners, of stern demeanor, he was a great admirer of the characters of the ancient Greeks and Romans, whose history he delighted to read. He was an industrious man and faithful to all his duties. A life-long resident of Loudon, he died there February 2, 1848. He married Polly Osgood, of Loudon, and had twelve children.

Seneca Augustus Ladd, fourth son and sixth child of Gideon and Polly (Osgood) Ladd, was born in Loudon, N.H., April 29, 1819.  Probably no more marked individuality than his has been the production of the Granite State.  From a child his methods of thought and execution have been sui generis.  He attended the town school, summers, until ten years of age, and winters, until he was seventeen, without much progress, as he says:  “School-books and rules were hard tasks for me, and to obtain knowledge in that way was much like trying to take on fat by eating saw-dust bread.”  Only one of his teachers comprehended his nature–John L. French, afterward president of Pittsfield Bank.  He allowed the youth to pursue his own methods, originate his own rules, choose his own time and way of study, only directing him in their general course.  From him Seneca had the pleasure of receiving the prize offered to the class–a silver piece of Spanish money worth six and a quarter cents. Mr. Ladd still has the coin.  When thirteen he went to learn the carriage-maker’s trade in Raymond, and gave diligent service for four years, and, with his marked mechanical aptitude, was thoroughly prepared to do good work. He followed his trade in Meredith for two years, and then went to Boston and passed one year in constructing piano-fortes for Timothy Gilbert, in the second manufactory of the kind established in the United States.  Returning to Meredith in July, 1839, he purchased mills and built a large carriage manufactory and entered into business on quite an extensive scale.  This was something of an undertaking for a young man but twenty years of age; but Mr. Ladd, with his logical foresight, had mentally marked out the course he must pursue to win success.  And it came.  For eleven years he conducted his business with success.  In April, 1850, his entire plant was destroyed by fire, with its valuable completed work.  Mr. Ladd immediately leased the cotton-factory, then idle, and fitted it up with new machinery adapted to this purpose, and engaged in the manufacture of pianos and melodeons.  He devoted himself to this for eighteen years in Meredith and Boston, and showed himself one of the most successful men of this line.  He made money and was conceded to be master of all the elements of success in this field.  Having acquired a sufficient property to place him above the necessity of an incessant devotion to business, and having attained all the mental development he could expect in the various branches of labor he had followed, he was ready for a change and further progress.  His humanitarian and philanthropic nature guided him in this. As an employer he had noted the recklessness with which the young people squandered their money, and his advice had frequently been given to them to take care of it.  In revolving the problem of how to help them, the idea of a savings-bank seemed the thing needed.  In November 1869, he and his associates procured a charter from the Legislature and established the Meredith Village Savings-Bank…..
Such a peculiar nature as Mr. Ladd’s must needs have had a peculiar education. This has been given by careful observation of everything that came in his way; by examining the structure and nature of the smallest as well as largest matters in nature; by attending to the needs of each of the many sides of both mental and physical organisms; by practical business, by newspapers, scientific and literary works of a high order, and by avoiding everything tending to sensation or frivolity.  He has never read a novel or attended a theatre. This education has given him a mental character of strength and ability far beyond that attained by the usual curriculum of a college course, and on any of the grave subjects under discussion among scholars his opinion is listened to with earnestness and commands respect. From an early day he has been pronounced in his adherence to temperance. When a boy he joined a church, but left it as son as he found that it was obligatory on him to take wine at communion.  Since then he has been a member of no church, but contributed to the support of many. He has never used tobacco or alcohol in any form, and has battled strongly against the rum traffic. In politics, his votes have always been cast in favor of universal freedom. The Liberty, Abolition and Republican parties have, in turn, received his warmest support and most active services, and in all social and public matters he has ever been in accord with the most advanced and progressive minds.
His regard for the young has been noticeable through life. He rarely passes children without bowing or speaking to them, and during his life he continually scattered kind deeds among them.  William O. Clough, editor of the Nashua Telegraph, expressed the result of this in his own case, and this is but one out of many of like character: “Mr. Ladd was always giving me something, doing me some favor, speaking kind words to me, encouraging me, giving me to understand that my chances in the world were just as good as anybody’s, providing I kept at school and did it right. Somehow I always felt, while I lived in the neighborhood, that he was watching me, and that I had a friend in him, and for these reasons I tried to be a good boy and meet his approbation.  I told Mr. Ladd in grateful remembrance, and never think of him but to honor him, or hear his name mentioned but to recall instantly his generosity towards me; and I thank him for all the favors shown me in my youth, for all the kind words spoken and good advice given.”
Mr. Ladd married, first, Susan Tilton, of Meredith, March 24, 1840. She was a most estimable and Christian lady, and at her death, April 14, 1850, the whole community was wrapped in gloom. Their children were Fannie C.A. (Mrs. D.W. Coe) and Charles F.A. (deceased).  He married second, Catherine S., daughter of William Wallace, Esq. of Henniker, June 1, 1852.  They have one child, Virginia B.
Mr. Ladd is an earnest student of geological and meterological science. He has kept meteorological records for eighteen years. He has devoted much time to the study of geology, mineralogy and nature, and has acquired one of the finest private collections of minerals, antiquities and Indian relics in New Hampshire. Notwithstanding his penchant for science he is a thorough New Englander in practicality and enjoys himself in constant occupation.
Rev. I.F. Holton, an eminent scientist and a strong personal friend, gives, in the Boston Daily News, this graphic picture of Mr. Ladd and the bank: “This gentleman of boundless courtesy and leisure is very hard of hearing, a man of great reflection, remarkable observation and unusual originality.  The establishment looks like a professor’s cabinet; there are no signs of a bank, external or internal. Cases of books, minerals, coins, gems and antiquities, a few pictures, a ‘Novelty’ printing-press, a moderate safe and a lounge or two, with easy-chairs, complete the establishment. Clay-stones and other concretions and results of frost have been an esepcial study, and also stone arrow-heads of both the Old World and the New. Several specimens are of flint and probably came from Europe.” (For the description of the stone “egg,” the gem of his collection. [shown above]).
Mr. Ladd, through partial loss of hearing, has been compelled to labor in a more circumscribed field than otherwise would have been the case; but the same fixed integrity, persevering diligence and mental qualities which have in so conspicuous a manner won success in the unassuming vocation to which he has given his attention could have wrought only the same successful result in a broader sphere.  He is an honorary member of the New Hampshire Antiquarian Society, member of the Pilgrim Society of Plymouth, Mass., and life-member of the New Hampshire Home and School of Industry. Many of his pithy sayings and expressions are worthy of being preserved as comparing well with those given by Franklin in “Poor Richard’s Sayings.”  THey have a dry, pleasing, Yankee terseness which goes at once to the essence of the subject.  We regret we have space for but few, —  “Life-possessors, the world over, are artists.  Mind, however high or low, is the canvas.  All labor is merely the placing of colors and tints.  The picture exhibits nature improved by art.  Life was not created for life’s sake, but as a mean of perfecting nature, and thus form the basis of perfect bliss, the apparent aim of all sensible beings.”  The active  youth, having a good physique, who shuns idle labor, will build up a beautiful and perfect body, a wise and powerful mind, and among men will be as a towering pyramid among chafing pebbles.”  “It is common for some persons to go back to rectify mistakes, and for others to go forward after duty; both are in error, as there cannot be any duty back or forward of the present.”
Most kind and attentive in his family relations, liberal in all matters of public improvement, no man in Meredith has stronger friends…..

This line of the Ladd family has died out.
Children of Seneca Ladd:
1. Frances Caroline A. “Fannie” Ladd, b. 26 Aug 1841, d. 19 Dec 1930 in Center Harbor NH; m. 1 July 1878 to Daniel Wadsworth Coe, son of John & Levina T. Coe of Center Harbor NH. He b. 28 Apr 1838 and d. 9 May 1906 in Center Harbor NH. Their only child was an infant who was born and died the same day (15 May 1879).
2. Charles F.A. Ladd, b. 28 May 1847 in Center Harbor, NH, and died 21 April 1851 in Center Harbor NH.
3. Virginia B. Ladd, b. 7 Sep 1861, d. 3 June 1927; buried Meredith Cemetery. She did not marry, residing in Meredith and Laconia New Hampshire.

Source: History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties, New Hampshire : with biographical sketches of many of its pioneers and prominent men; Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co., 1882; EPPING section, page 232-234

DANIEL LADD was the first of the name who settled in America, and probably the ancestor of all the families bearing this patronymic in New England, and was descended from an ancient family of thie county of Kent, in England, who were landed proprietors as early as the fifteenth century.  He sailed from London accompanied by his wife, Ann, March 24, 1633, in the ship “Mary and John,” Robert Sayers, master.  He first settled at Ipswich Mass, where he was admitted a townsman, an important privilege in those days, and had an allotment of land. His name is the fifth on the list of sixty-eight who founded the town of Salisbury in 1638.

In 1640 he, in company with eleven others, removed to Pawtucket, on the Merrimac River, and organized the town of Haverhill, in which he held a prominent position, and lived respected an honored to an advanged age. He died July 27, 1693.

Nathaniel Ladd, the fourth in lineal descent from Daniel, the English ancestor, and the first native permanent resident of the name in Epping, was born in the easterly part of the town, near Lamprey River, in 1745.  He married Mary Ames, of Canterbury, and built on the North River road a handsome house upon an attractive estate, which was occupied by himself and his descendants for nearly a century.  He died July, 1798. His widow died in 1829.  Their graves are a short distance westerly from the campground of the Methodist Association. He was a man of cultivated tastes, and published some essays on moral and economic subjects.  He had James, Nathaniel, Daniel, Mary and John.
James Ladd, of Hereford, Lower Canada, married Elizabeth Gould, of Hamlin, and had Mary A., James G., Betsey G., Nathaniel Gould, Zoroaster, Seneca, Eudocia, Ira W., Sophronia, William and Susan Laurett.
Nathaniel Gould Ladd, M.D. of Malden, married Abigail V. Mead and had William S., Helen, Smith M., Wesley, Mary F., Marshall, and Abie Josephine.
William S. Ladd, banker, of Portland, Oregon, married Caroline Elliot and has William M. and Charles E., who are graduates of Amherst College.
Nathaniel Ladd, the second son, married Dorothy Smith, of Epping, in 1793. He died in the Island of Trinidad, 1818. He had Nathaniel, Dorothy, and Daniel Watson. Nathaniel, the grandson of the common ancestor, became a clergyman. He married Mary Folsom, nee Gordon, and had Louisa, Mary J.A., Daniel W., and Olivia E.V.

Daniel W. Ladd, son of Rev. Nathaniel, married Lucy Ann Dustin and had Eliza Ann, who has received the degree of M.D. from Boston University; Nathaniel W., Joseph F.G. and John S., all of whom are graduates of Dartmouth College.
Dorothy Ladd married Winthrop Hilton, of New Market.
Daniel Ladd, of Stewartstown, the third son of the first Nathaniel, married Elizabeth Goodwin, and had two children.
Mary Ladd, daughter of the said Nathaniel, married Elisha Sanborn, of Loudon, and died at the age of forty-five.
John Ladd, M.D. of Epping, the youngest son of Nathaniel, the common ancestor, was born January 28, 1782. He was a student of Phillips’ Exeter Academy, when the death of his father occurred and interrupted the course of classical studies which he had intended to pursue in preparation for entering the medical profession. By teaching school he obtained the means of accomplishing his purpose, and commenced the study of medicine with the eminent Dr. Lyman Spaulding, president of the College of Surgeons, New York University, Western District, form which school he received his degree. He was commissioned upon the medical staff of the Eleventh Regiment United States Infantry in the war of 1812.  From 1806 to 1829 he was a resident of Lee, in the county of Strafford, where he was elected to various responsible offices. He was an active member of the Jeffersonian Republican party…. He married Profinda Robinson, of New Market, in 1806. Both died in August 1845. Their children were Caroline P. who died in 1843 at the age of thirty-six years; John S., born July 2, 1809; and Mary A., born in 1816

John S. Ladd of Cambridge, Mass., a graduate of Dartmouth College of the class of 1835, and member of the Massachusetts bar, was president of the Common Council of the city of Cambridge in 1851, and member of the General Court in 1845, 1846, 1847 and in 1852, and of the Constitutional Convention of 1853. He was appointed Judge of the Police Court for the District of Cambridge in 1854. His first wife, Adelia Babson, of Rockport, died June 6, 1842. He married Mary A. Butler, of Bedford, Sept. 5, 1847. Their children were Babson S., born Sept. 6, 1848; Mary Adelia, who died in infancy; Mary Butler, born Dec. 27, 1851; Allston Channing, born June 20, 1854; and John Franklin, Nov 30, 1856.  Babson S. Ladd, of Boston, a graduate of Harvard University of the class of 1870, and member of the Suffolk bar, married Ella Cors Brooks, daughter of Hon. John W. Brooks of Milton Mass, and has Paul Dean, born Feb. 16, 1880.
Story Butler Ladd, a graduate of Harvard University Science Department, 1873, and member of the bar of the District of Columbia, married Eliza Brigham Paine, daughter of Maj-Gen. Holbert E. Paine, of Washington, D.C.
Daniel Watson Ladd, son of Nathaniel and Dorothy (Smith) ladd was born at Concord, N.H., May 21, 1798.  His immediate ancestors were natives of Epping, as given above.  When only six weeks old he was adopted by his aunt Lydia Watson and uncle Daniel Watson (hiw parents having passed away at that time) by whom he was treated with the utmost tenderness. [some info omitted] He married Rebecca, daughter of Samuel Plumer and Betsy Cilley, his wife, in 1820. She was born Feb. 16, 1799, and was granddaughter of Gen. Joseph Cilley, of Revolutionary fame… Their children were Daniel W., born Aug. 29, 1821; Sarah P., born Dec. 27, 1822, died Feb 24, 1854; Samuel P., died in infancy; Lydia Watson, born Jan. 28, 1827; and S. Plumer, born Feb. 19, 1829. Mr. Ladd was a businessman and merchant, and for many years director of Rockingham Farmer’s Mutual Insurance Company [more ommitted].
S. Plumer Ladd, son of Daniel Watson Ladd, named in honor of his grandfather, Samuel Plumer, a brother of Governor Plumer, was born on the 19th of February 1829. He was educated at Phillip’s Exeter and Hampton Falls Academies… He is a farmer and resides at “Red Oak Hill;” married Sarah P. Dodge in 1853; has children–Sarah P., Peter, Paul, Rebecca, Silas B. (died young), Lydia W., Evelyn L. (died in infancy), Ellen L., Clara M., Louis P., Laura J., Dexter, Harry, Samuel Y. and Cora B.
Daniel Watson Ladd (2) was born at the Watson mansion in Epping, N.H. Aug. 29, 1821. He was educated at South New Market, Hampton Falls and Hampton Academies. He married Dorothy E., daughter of Jonathan Thyng, Esq. of Epping. She was born March 1, 1812 and died June 9, 1881. Their children were Silvina W. (died young), Bina W., Charles W. (died young), Lizzie W. (died in infancy), Jenny W., Sylvia W. (Mrs. F.R. Hazelton of Concord, N.H.), Daniel W. (3rd), and Alva W. [SEE History of Rockingham and Strafford Counties NH for biography of Alva W. Ladd].


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2 Responses to The Mystery Stone and Seneca Ladd of Meredith New Hampshire

  1. The New Hampshire Mystery Stone has been decoded using sacred geometry. It is a Cosmic Egg that details the creation of humans on earth. Please read

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