Queen’s Fort
Exeter, Rhode Island

Queen’s Fort is in the northeastern corner of Exeter, near North Kingstown and near Route 4. A visit to Queen’s Fort could be combined with a visit to Wickford Village, or combined with a visit to Fisherville Brook Wildlife Refuge.

Queen’s Fort is rather small, and the terrain is rocky, so you may not enjoy it unless you’re interested in Indian stone structures or erratic boulders. Queen’s Fort is chock full of erratics; only Beaver River has as many erratics. I didn’t see a parking area at Queen’s Fort, but parking along Stony Lane seems easy. Queen’s Fort is a hill; when the leaves have fallen, you can see the hill looming above you from Stony Lane.

Queen’s Fort is named after an Indian chief, Queen Quaiapen. Quaiapen died in 1676, a casualty of King Philip’s War. Wikipedia says that Queen’s Fort was built in 1676, the second year of King Philip’s War. In my view, this is a gross error; it was neither a fort nor built in 1676.

I believe Queen’s Fort was a sacred place for the Indians, not a fort. Its sanctity was probably due to its elevated position, and its unusual mass of boulders. I would guess it was built before King Philip’s War, but it’s difficult to date Indian stone structures. My view of Queen’s Fort was shaped by the book Manitou, an important work on Indian stone structures in New England. (Click here for my discussion of an Indian structure in Massachusetts.)

The authors of Manitou, Byron Dix and James Mavor, mention two stone enclosures at Queen’s Fort.1 On the map below, I marked the larger enclosure with a yellow pin, the smaller with a purple pin.

Larger enclosure, with spiral shape

Dix and Mavor say that if you’re in the smaller enclosure (the northeastern enclosure), the larger enclosure is to the southwest, and aligns with the setting sun at the winter solstice. I find their reasoning persuasive. They write, “Winter solstice alignments are the most frequent in our experience with New England stonework, not surprising because the winter solstice was the most important Algonquin Indian festival, the Feast of Dreams.”

You’ll notice that the map shows two walks, both of which start from Stony Lane. The western walk follows a trail, and takes you to the large, spiral enclosure, which has a diameter of about 10 feet; this large enclosure is at the summit of the hill. The eastern walk isn’t on a trail; it’s rougher and steeper than the western walk, but it enables you to reach the smaller enclosure, which has a diameter of about 5 feet (if you tried to go directly from the larger enclosure to the smaller, your route would be obstructed by numerous boulders).

Boulders abound at Queen’s Fort. Many are covered with lichen.

According to Dix and Mavor, both enclosures are built into stone rows. “In the northeast row is a partial enclosure, which could be described as a bastion if the structure were a fort.” I found this “partial enclosure” without difficulty. Just south of the partial enclosure, and “several feet lower,” is a “circular enclosure.” I found the circular enclosure, too.

Which enclosure, the “partial” one or the “circular” one, aligns with the winter solstice? Dix and Mavor are somewhat ambiguous on this point, but their map indicates that the partial enclosure aligns with the solstice. I wasn’t able to see the southwestern enclosure from the northeastern enclosures. Perhaps you should attach a brightly-colored shirt to something in the southwestern enclosure, or ask a friend to stand in the southwestern enclosure.

More on Indian stones
Solstice Stones, Boxborough MA
Estabrook Woods, Concord MA
Great Brook, Carlisle MA
Beebe Woods, Falmouth MA
Maudslay State Park, Newburyport MA
Standing Stones, Smithfield RI

1. Manitou, Ch. 4, p. 95 back