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Dorchester Puddingstone
 The conglomerate rock that naturally occurred in Dorchester (and actually much of the world) has engendered many references. St. Peter's Church was built partly of the stone quarried from its site. Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote of Dorchester puddingstone both in The Professor at the Breakfast Table and in a poem entitled 'The Dorchester Giant'. There was even an 'out of place artifact' story circulated in 1851, supposedly published in the Boston Transcript and reprinted in Scientific American in June 1851. The story is that a metallic vase was dynamited out of solid Dorchester puddingstone in Dorchester. The bell-shaped vase was 4 inches high, 6 inches at the base, 2 inches at the top and an eighth of an inch thick. The metal was an alloy of zinc and silver. Designs on the sides showed six figures of a flower in bouquets, inlaid with pure silver, with a vine or wreath. The vase was blown out of solid puddingstone from 15 feet below the surface, and its estimated age was 100,000 years.

The Dorchester Giant, by Oliver Wendell Holmes
 There was a giant in time of old,
A mighty one was he;
He had a wife, but she was a scold,
So he kept her shut in his mammoth fold;
And he had children three.

It happened to be an election day,
And the giants were choosing a king;
The people were not democrats then,
They did not talk of the rights of men,
And all that sort of thing.

Then the giant took his children three
And fastened them in the pen;
The children roared; quoth the giant, ?Be
And Dorchester Heights and Milton Hill
Rolled back the sound again.

Then he brought them a pudding stuffed with plums
As big as the State-House dome;
Quoth he, ?There?s something for you to eat;
So stop your mouths with your ?lection treat,
An wait till your dad comes home.?

So the giant pulled him a chestnut stout,
And whittled the boughs away;
The boys and their mother set up a shout;
Said he, ?You?re in, and you can?t get out,
Bellow as loud as you may.?

Off he went, and he growled a tune
As he strode the fields along;
? Tis said a buffalo fainted away,
And fell as cold as a lump of clay,
When he heard the giant?s song.

But whether the story?s true or not,
It is not for me to show;
There?s many a thing that?s twice as queer
In somebody?s lectures that we hear,
And those are true, you know.

* * * * *

What are those lone ones doing now,
The wife and the children sad?
O! they are in a terrible rout,
Screaming, and throwing their pudding about,
Acting as they were mad.

They flung it over to Roxbury hills,
They flung it over the plain,
And all over Milton and Dorchester too
Great lumps of pudding the giants threw;
They tumbled as thick as rain.

* * * * *

Giant and mammoth have passed away,
For ages have floated by;
The suet is hard as a marrow bone,
And every plum is turned to a stone,
But there the puddings lie.

And if, some pleasant afternoon,
You?ll ask me out to ride,
The whole of the story I will tell,
And you shall see where the puddings fell,
And pay for the punch beside.

Source: Holmes, Oliver Wendell. Poems. Philadelphia: Henry Altemus, ca. 1870.

Excerpt from The Professor at the Breakfast-Table
 I wonder whether the boys that live in Roxbury and Dorchester are ever moved to tears or filled with silent awe as they look upon the rocks and fragments of “puddingstone” abounding in those localities. I have my suspicions that those boys “heave a stone” or “fire a brickbat,” composed of the conglomerate just mentioned, without any more tearful of philosophical contemplations than boys of less favored regions expend on the same performance. Yet a lump of puddingstone is a thing to look at, to think about, to study over, to dream upon, to go crazy with, to beat one’s brains out against. Look at that pebble in it. From what cliff was it broken? On what beach rolled by the waves of what ocean? How and when imbedded in soft ooze, which itself became stone, and by-and-by was lifted into bald summits and steep cliffs, such as you may see on Meeting-House-Hill any day -- yes, and mark the scratches on their faces left when the boulder-carrying glaciers planed the surface of the continent with such rough tools that the storms have not worn the marks out of it with all the polishing of ever so many thousand years?

Or as you pass a roadside ditch or pool in spring-time, take from it any bit of stick or straw which has lain undisturbed for a time. Some little worm-shaped masses of clear jelly containing specks are fastened to the stick: eggs of a small snail-like shell-fish. One of these specks magnified proves to be a crystalline sphere with an opaque mass in its centre. And while you are looking, the opaque mass beings to stir, and by-and-by slowly to turn upon its axis like a forming planet, -- life beginning in the microcosm, as in the great worlds of the firmament, with the revolution that turns the surface in ceaseless round to the source of life and light.

A pebble and the spawn of a mollusk! Before you have solved their mysteries, this earth where you first saw them may be a vitrified slag, or a vapor diffused through the planetary spaces. Mysteries are common enough, at any rate, whatever the boys in Roxbury and Dorchester think of “brickbats” and the spawn of creatures that live in roadside puddles.

Source: Holmes, Oliver Wendell. The Professor at the Breakfast-Table; with the Story of Iris. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1860.

Readers' Comments
 October 2007 From: Steven T. Mayer

One of the outcroppings of puddingstone on which I often played (in the 50's) is on East Street - on the left hand side heading east.
Another (we called it "Flat Rock) can be seen (if it is still there) from the intersection of Pleasant and Hancock Sts. It's up behind the autorepair shop.

I suspect that whole hill is puddingstone, what with East Street bordering it on the other side, and St Peters being at a higher elevation of the same hill.

I always found it fascinating. Before I was old enough to be aware of the glacial connection, I seem to recall playing a game where the rock was lava, and we were tasked with esacping before it rolled over us. From that young perspective, with the whole smooth stones of varying shades embedded in the large black/gray mass, it looked like lava.
One of the great intrigues, for me, about the outcropping on East Street still is the large smooth surface - apparently caused by the glacial action - amidst the pockmarked and pimpled surface that surrounds it.

Goodness, we boys from Linden Street (and a girl or two) lived adventures on those rocks, the stuff of which Hollywood could only dream!

Related Images: showing 1 of 1 (more results)
Here are some images from the Atheneum archive related to this topic. Click on any of these images to open a slideshow of all 1 images.
Dorchester Puddingstone in Wall at Boston Home
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Created: July 13, 2003   Modified: December 9, 2007