In Episode 130, Jeff Belanger and Ray Auger row out to Great Island on Spot Pond in Stoneham, Massachusetts, in search of a headstone that reads three words: Where Shute Fell. We know it’s been here since at least 1884, but who was Shute? What does the stone mean? The theories are wild, but not as crazy as the truth!
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*A note on the text: Please forgive punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. Like us, the transcripts ain’t perfect.
RAY: Does the ice seem sturdy to you?
JEFF: It’s mid-February. Though this hasn’t been the coldest winter, I think we’ll be okay to walk out to the island in the middle of Spot Pond here in Stoneham, Massachusetts.
RAY: Okay, that sound always freaks me out.
JEFF: I get it, the ice creaks and groans when we walk on it. It’s a good thing it’s a short distance away from the shore.
RAY: Okay, this is a pretty small island in the middle of the pond. What are we… WOAH!
JEFF: Ray, are you okay?!
RAY: Yeah, I just tripped over something.
JEFF: You tripped over the very thing we’re out here to find!
RAY: It looks like some kind of small headstone! Maybe a foot-and-a-half tall.
JEFF: Can you read the inscription?
RAY: It says: Where Shute Fell.
JEFF: I’m Jeff Belanger.
RAY: And I’m Ray Auger, and welcome to Episode 130 of the New England Legends podcast. If you give us about ten minutes, we’ll give you something strange to talk about today.
JEFF: Think of us as your modern-day Brothers Grimm on a quest to document every single legend in New England one story at a time. We do that through this weekly podcast. 130 weeks in a row so far, through our Emmy-nominated New England Legends television series that you can watch right now on Amazon Prime, and through our Web site which is ournewenglandlegends.com.
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JEFF: So Ray I take it you’re a little underwhelmed with Great Island on Spot Pond in Stoneham?
RAY: Yeah, this island is small. It’s maybe the size of a football field. A bunch of trees. No buildings that I can see. Just a small island on a pond.
JEFF: With a strange headstone.
RAY: Right. Where Shute Fell, with “Shute” spelled S-H-U-T-E.
JEFF: And this must be where he fell.
RAY: Who is Shute? Did he die here?
JEFF: Yeah, this is a puzzle. The first time this stone shows up in writing is in an October 14, 1884 Boston Globe article. So let’s head back there and see if we can figure this out.
[ROW BOAT ON WATER]
JEFF: It’s the Autumn of 1884. The weather is crisp but comfortable, the trees are bursting into the brightest colors, and we’re talking a small boat out the island in the middle of Spot Pond. There’s a group of picnickers out here already enjoying the day.
RAY: I see there’s a wooden shack out here that might be used for storage or I guess shelter if it rains… and hey, check this out, there’s the stone! Man, it looks old even now. It’s standing right by a hemlock tree, it’s covered in lichen and dirt. It’s pretty hard to read, but there it is. I’d guess this stone has already been here a while.
JEFF: But if we rub away the mess on the stone here, there’s the words: Where Shute Fell.
RAY: We seem to be drawing some attention from the nearby picnickers. (PAUSE) Excuse me, ma’am, do you know what this stone monument is all about?
WOMAN: Oh that! That stone was set there more than—well, it was way back a good many years ago. Shute, he was a captain or colonel of something or other in the Revolution, and that there stone was put up to mark the spot where he was killed.
KID: Is that why they call this SPOT pond?
RAY: (LAUGHING) No kiddo, that’s not where the name came from. But I guess this solves the mystery, right? I mean this is a monument to soldier name…
WOMAN: (INTERRUPTING) Shute was captured by the British, but he escaped and came up this way. A squad of the Britishers was sent out to catch him again, and he took to the woods. He saw they were closing in on him and had to take to the water, but before he could get across the pond he had to give it up and landed on the island. The soldiers, they got a boat and went after him, but before they got to the island, one of ‘em fired.
WOMAN: And right where he was standing, right here, Shute was hit and killed. Shute’s family lived hereabouts somewhere, and after the war was over they put this stone here to mark the place where the old soldier died.
RAY: Okay, I guess that solves it. A Revolutionary War soldier. It makes sense.
MAN: No wait now. I’ve heard a different account of that.
JEFF: Geeze, Ray. It looks like we’re drawing a crowd. What do you mean, sir?
MAN: Shute, as the story goes, was one of the early Puritan fellers, in the times when they used to have so much trouble with the Indians. He and his family, they settled up beyond here somewhere, where not many white folks live. In one of the Indian raids, they and some other scattered families tried to get back to the settlements, back to Boston, I suppose. If I remember right, as the story goes they came here on to this island one night on a raft, so they would be intending to go on in the morning, but when morning came they found the Indians on shore in every direction. Then they were in for it. The Indians came off in canoes and attacked ‘em, but they fought ‘em off. Only during the fighting this Mr. Shute was hit by an arrow and killed—right here. The rest of ‘em got away all right finally.
RAY: Does that explain it?
MAN: This stone was put here some fifty years ago by old Ezra Shute of Stoneham. He was a descendent of Shute who was killed here, and I believe he owned this island.
RAY: We spoke to a man earlier today in nearby Medford on our way out here who told us this was once the site of a duel between two men. A duel that left a Colonel named Shute dead.
[OLD BOATMAN LAUGHING]
JEFF: Oh man, I don’t think that explains it either. The old boatman over there seems to be getting a kick out these stories. Maybe he knows something? Let’s go talk to him.
RAY: Hey my man, do you know why this stone is here?
BOATMAN: I suppose I’ve heard more cock-and-bull stories about that there stone than would fill a book! Old Shute, he was a jolly old dog.
JEFF: So you knew him?
BOATMAN: Know him? Well, I guess I did. Shute, when he was sober, was the toughest wrestler you ever did see. An’ such a crowd of ‘em as used to come here! They hadn’t been here now for quite a number of years, but it used to be lively when they did come.
RAY: Who were they, and who was Shute?
BOATMAN: It was a crowd from Malden and Charlestown. They used to come here two or three times every season all together. There was as many as fifty or seventy-five of ‘em, I should think. Many’s the time I’ve rowed ‘em over here to the island, a boatload at a time. But Shute, he could throw any of ‘em. One time, he had too much to drink, and over he went! How they did go for him that day! Few days later some of ‘em brought that there stone up here and sat it in the ground, and before long they had another of their picnics here on the island. Shute, he hadn’t heard of the stone; they kept it quiet from him til he got there an’ when he saw it he was so mad! Why, he never came here from that day to this. That was twenty years ago; yes, nigh on twenty-five.
JEFF: So you’re saying this is a stone to a big man who finally got knocked down in a wrestling match?
BOATMAN: (LAUGHING) Yup. You fellers have a nice day.
RAY: And that brings us back to today.
JEFF: Okay, every once in a while this stone on Spot Pond in Stoneham makes the news as a special interest piece.
RAY: That makes sense. Someone sees the thing, asks about it, the press runs a story, then we all forget about it for a bunch of years until it cycles into the news again.
JEFF: And without a lot of information, people are left to guess at the backstory based on just three little words: Where Shute Fell.
RAY: It’s worth reminding everyone that what we know from our trip back in time, came from that October 14, 1884 Boston Globe article. That’s exactly what various people on the island said about the stone’s origins. So we heard four different theories.
JEFF: Three were pretty similar: a soldier of some kind was killed in this spot.
RAY: So how do we know who to believe?
JEFF: We have to give the most credence to the old boatman. He was the only person who said he actually knew Shute.
RAY: You don’t think he was just spinning a yarn trying to get in on the story telling?
JEFF: It’s easy to think that, but then I checked with the Medford Historical Society and Museum. They actually have a photo of the old wooden shack out on the island. Remember the wrestling matches the boatman talked about?
JEFF: Wrestling isn’t really the right word. According to the historical society, groups of men used to meet out here for these bare-knuckle fights. Some of these fights would last seconds, others could go on for hours. These were planned fights. I guess they came out here to blow off steam.
RAY: According to our research, the actual fight would have occurred around 1856 which is almost 30 years earlier than the article.
JEFF: So completely possible the old boatman did remember Shute.
OLD BOATMAN: That was twenty years ago; yes, nigh on twenty-five.
JEFF: Even his memory on the timing was pretty close.
RAY: And the fight must have been epic for people to go through the trouble and expense of erecting a stone out on this island. Shute must have been a legend in his own time.
JEFF: Definitely. Because if not for this stone, he’s lost to the ages. We have no idea of his full name, where he lived, died, or anything else. He must have been a serious contender in this group of wrestlers and bare-knuckle boxers.
RAY: Wait a minute! I’ve seen this movie! Fight Club starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt!
JEFF: It does sound like that, doesn’t it?
RAY: I mean, it’s not my idea of a good time, but some people are all about mixing it up and going home bruised and bloodied.
JEFF: And here we are violating the very first rule of Fight Club.
RAY: Oh man… we just did just talk about fight club… and the legend of a man named Shute.
JEFF: And right here is where he fell.
RAY: If you guys enjoy our exploration of legends and lore each week, please consider posting a review of our show on Apple Podcasts or iTunes. Those reviews go a long way in helping others find us.
JEFF: Also visit our Web site at ournewenglandlegends.com for our entire archive of shows, a link to our super-secret Facebook group, articles, videos clips from the New England Legends television series that you can watch on Amazon Prime right now, and dates for my ongoing story tour.
RAY: We’d like to thank Michelle Mowry, Sophie Belanger, Scott Markus from Whats Your Ghost Story dot com, and Michael Legge, for all lending their voice acting talents this week, and our theme music is by John Judd.
VOICEMAIL: Hi, this is Carl Johnson from North Providence Rhode Island until next time remember the bizarre is closer than you think.
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