Rolling Rock in Fall River is always an incongruous sight, a massive puddingstone boulder surrounded by three-deckers and traffic. The pedestal it stands on was once part of a large outcrop that was quarried away. There used to be a deep pit in front of it that was the scene of drownings until it was filled in.
Old maps show it as a landmark, on the main trail which ran from the
falls of the Quequechan up present-day Pleasant Street, County Street, and then to the
Narrows. An old campfire story claims Rolling Rock was
used by the Wampanoags to crush their prisoners. While this is
possible, I doubt this story. There are many gruesome descriptions of
torture written during King Philip's War, but not a single one describes a
balanced boulder used this way. Could these rocking stones have been
used for some sort of tribal rite of passage? Perhaps, but no evidence
Mavor and Dix had their own interpretation of Rolling Rock in Manitou.
"We imagine that the
boulder could have been used as a signalling device, as rocking it in
sunlight about its axis, which is oriented ten degrees true, would cause
changes in reflective patterns when seen from the east and west."
Using a large stone as a visual signalling device
is most likely ineffective, because someone has always to be watching for changes,
and it won't work at night. Also, from the Quequechan Falls to Rolling
Rock is about two miles, as is the distance from Rolling Rock to the east
shore of North Watuppa Pond. Any changes in the rock would be hard to
pick out, because it would appear quite tiny at that distance. Rocking the boulder may have generated loud sounds and vibrations through the ground, which could have been used as signals. Rolling Rock has been fixed in place since the 1930s, so there is no way to test this.
Or maybe the significance of this stone is simply that it rocks.
I have often wondered how Rolling Rock looked originally. Here we may take a walk past the rock and down to the falls on a warm summer day.