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Brief History of American Milestone Markers
Two Types of Milestone Markers



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Brief History of American Milestone Markers

The earliest milestone was erected in Boston in 1707 by  Judge Samuel Sewall. Sewall wrote in his diary that he had two milestones put up on Newbury Street (now Washington Street), Boston, Massachusetts in that year.

Judge Sewall had a relative in Byfield Parish in the town of Newbury, Massachusetts who also had a keen interest in stone markers. His name was John Dummer, grandson of Richard Dummer a first settler in Newbury. In 1708 Byfield Parish had an unusual visitor a rural gravestone carver, John Hartshorn.  John Dummer hired John Hartshorn the gravestone carver to carve a milestone that year.

After 1708 milestones became popular along the Bay Road north of Boston. Ipswich, Wenham and Newbury had at least five milestones put up between 1709 and 1710.  More were put up in the 1720’s. Around the first centennial of Newbury John Dummer commissioned three more milestones. This set marked the first five miles on the Bay Road in the town of Newbury.   Wenham’s two mile stretch on the Bay Road had three milestones. Ipswich and Rowley each had many miles marked by milestones. In Wenham and Newbury historians have preserved and taken over the care of these stones. Because of their dedication we have two complete sets.

The Bay Road, although it later served as a post road, too was the main highway from Boston up to the New Hampshire border.  In New Hampshire it became the King’s Highway up to Portsmouth, NH. The road was built to be a continuous highway to connect Boston with Portsmouth via a land route.  Prior to the Bay Road which was built between 1640 and 1660 the only way to get from Boston to Portsmouth was by ship along the coast.  The Bay Road being the only land route and a major highway it became the place to showcase a town by placing milestones along it.

Benjamin Franklin is generally credited with erecting milestones along the major post roads between Boston and Philadelphia in the 1760’s. However, according to Franklin scholars, this attribution is not true. There is no evidence he was ever involved in erecting any of many red sandstone milestones along the post roads in Massachusetts and Connecticut or any other place in the American colonies. Who erected these milestones is currently unknown. Careful examination of the stones indicates they were the work of different carvers and were probably erected in different years.

Milestones continued to be carved and erected into the early 1800’s. On a section of Route 1 in Rowley there are two milestones from circa 1806 when the road was first completed. Another milestone of similar age is farther up Route 1 in Hampton Falls, NH.

Two Types of Milestone Markers: Highway & Turnpike

There were two types of milestones highway and turnpike. Highways were major routes often times made up of numerous roads in connecting towns. They date to the 1600 and 1700’s. Turnpikes were planned straight roads dating to the 1800’s. Both types of milestones have one thing in common in New England they have numbers verses roman numerals.


 Highway milestones listed mileage to/from major cities such as Boston and Philadelphia. A highway milestone always had a letter and number, like B 33. “B” stood for Boston and “33” stood for thirty-three miles to Boston. Additional mileage was occasionally listed for other important towns along the highway. Important towns included places of commerce (seaport towns, towns located on navigable rivers, etc) and towns with government offices like court houses. Wenham, Massachusetts has a good example. The milestone in the center of town has N 17 ½, I  6 ½, B 20 ½, S 9 ½ . This milestone reads Newbury (seaport) seventeen and half miles, Ipswich (court house) six and half miles, Boston twenty and half miles, and Salem (sea port, court & government offices) nine and half miles.

On inland highway routes (New Hampshire’s Routes 121 & 121A) a similar system was used but with less elaboration. A milestone in the center of Sandown, NH on Route 121A reads “2 / Mils. To / Chr. M.H. / 14m. Extr.” It means, 2 miles to Chester, where the highway joins modern Route 121, an old highway between Manchester & Haverhill, MA. Early highways were not given route number like today. Instead they were known as the “the highway that leads from Haverhill [Massachusetts] to Manchester [New Hampshire].” This explains the use of the “M.H.” abbreviation. The last line means fourteen miles to Exeter, NH. Both Exeter and Haverhill were located on navigable rivers and therefore important points of business. Manchester was the site of a number of important mills.


Turnpike milestones listed the mileage along the road such as “mile 1”, “mile 2”, etc.

Massachusetts & New Hamphire Milestones

The Gages have found found 129 surviving milestones in Massachusetts. A complete list of all the milestone can be found in their new book Guideposts & Milestones of Massachusetts and Southeastern New Hampshire (2014) The book also lists a number of milestones and guideposts in New Hampshire. Since the book went to press additional milestones in Acushnet MA have found.


Acushnet, MA

Milestones 6, 7, & 8

Masssachusetts Acushnet Milestone 6   Massachusetts Acushnet Milestone 7

Massachusetts Acushnet Milestone 8

These photographs are courtesy of Steve Dimarzo. Milestone 6, 7, & 8 are located along Main Street. Only the stub of milestone 8 survives. “FH” stands for Fairhaven. Milestones 6 & 7 were carved by the same stone carver. The stones appear to be part a series.

Ipswich MA
Milestone Boston 25 (1709)

Ipswich MA Milestone Boston 25 Route 1A (1709)

Ipswich MA Milestone Boston 25 Route 1A (1709)   Ipswich MA Milestone Boston 25 Route 1A (1709)

Ipswich MA Milestone Boston 25 Route 1A (1709)   Ipswich MA Milestone Boston 25 Route 1A (1709)

Ipswich, MA - Milestone Boston 25 (1709) - This milestone located on the west side of Route 1A approximately halfway between the two entrances into the Appleton Farm. It is near an old stone and flanked by two recently added protective granite posts. It is low to the ground and difficult to see from the highway. This milestone marked the mileage along the old Bay Road from Boston to Newburyport. It is dated 1709 and the nine is carved as a zero with a tail which is typical for the time period. The letters and numbers are carved with a deep “V” groove. the stone is either granite or diorite. “B” stands for Boston and “25” is the mileage from Boston.

Marlboro MA
Milestone 28 Rte. 85, Maple Street & Mill Street

Milestone 28 Marlboro MA

It reads “28 Miles | To Boston. | Right hand | Road to Worcester | Lefthand to | Graftown.” The number 8 lacks a center cross bar, the “S” in Boston and Worcester use the “f” character. In addition many of the characters have serifs. The lettering stype places the carving date in the 1700’s. The similarity of this stone to other milestones on this route suggests a circa 1770-1790 date. This milestone marked important road junction. However, it is interesting to note the mileage to Worcester and Graftown are not given.

Mendon MA
Milestone 37, Rte. 16 Hasting Street

milestone 37 Mendon MA

This milestone reads “37 Miles | from Boston | T. H. 1785.”  The three lines of information are enclosed in a carved rectangular box. T.H. would be the initials of the gentleman who commisioned the stone to be carved and erected. The “S” in Boston uses the old style “f” character typical of the 1700’s. The stone is an unusual white granite like rock (trachyte ?)

Milford MA
Milestone 34, Rte. 16 & Park Street

milestone 34 Milford MA

It reads “To Boston | 34 Miles | 1773.” It is granite rock with a thin white layer (feldspar?) on one side. The lettering is carved straight through the white layer exposing the darker granite beneath. It makes the letter easy to read. The “S” in Boston uses the old style “f” character typical of the 1700’s.

Newbury MA

Newbury / Byfield MA Milestone 33

Milestone 33 on Middle Road, Newbury, Massachusetts.

The stone was carved by gravestone carver, John Hartshorn. It reads “N 5” five miles to the center of Newbury, “B 33” thirty-three miles to the center of Boston. Beneath the mileage is the date 1708, the year it was carved. Below the date is a double triangle. This geometric triangular design is part of a series of designs all having a triangular motif. Geometric designs in general were popular as colonial folk art carved on wooden chests. In this case the triangle was used to form a link with other carved stones commissioned by the Dummer family.

Milestone 34 (Reproduction) New Bury MA

Milestone 34 (Reproduction) on Middle Road, Newbury MA

Milestone 34 (Original) Newbury MA

Center Section of the original Milestone 34 in Newbury MA (Private Collection)

Milestone 34 (Original) Closeup Newubyr MA  Milestone 34 (Original) Closeup Newubyr MA

Close-up Photos of the original Milestone 34 Newbury MA

The current milestone 34 on Middle Road is a reproduction based upon the middle section of the original stone. The original stone is in a private collection. Based upon comparisons to similar milestones it is dated to circa 1709-1710. The person who commissioned the stone and the carver are unknown. It reads “4 | N” four miles to Newbury, “34 | B” 34 miles to Boston. The unusual “B” was probably an attempt to disguise a carving mistake. It has “<” and “>” which are presumable arrows pointing to Newbury and Boston.

Milestone 35 Newbury MA

Milestone  35 on Orchard Street, Newbury, MA.

The stone was carved by graverstone carver, John Mullicken of Bradford, MA circa 1735. It reads “B 35” Boston thirty-five miles. This milestone has two sets of geometric designs.  Note the line of triangles across the bottom edge.

Milestone 36 Newbury MA

Milestone 36 on Boston Road, Newbury, MA.

The stone was carved by gravestone carver, Robert Mullicken, Sr. of Bradford, MA circa 1735. It reads “B36” Boston thirty-six miles. Although carved in the first quarter of the 18th century the carver resorted to an older carving style from the 17th century for the number six. This number was made from a circle with a tail attached. In the bottom edge design triangles are worked into the design.

Milestone 37 - Newbury MA - Front Side

Milestone 37 on Green Street, Newbury, MA.

The stone was carved by four gravestone carvers: Robert Mullicken, Sr., Robert Mullicken, Jr., John Mullicken and Joseph Mullicken of Bradford, MA circa 1735. This milestone has sunken into the ground so that the bottom edge design no longer is visible. Like the other two milestones done by this family the designs are fancy and bold, made to stand out. This stone has a flat narrow top. On the top there is a double triangle like the one on the 1708 milestone. the north side of the milestone reads “P 20” Portsmouth, NH 20 miles, and the south side reads “I 10” Ipswich, MA 10 miles.

Milestone 37 - Newbury MA - North SideNorth side - Milestone 37

Reads “P 20” with a triangle below it.










Milestone 37 - Newbury MA - South SideSouth side - Milestone 37

Reads “I 10”










Milestone 37 - Newbury MA - TopTop side - Milestone 37

Double triangle motif, similar to the one on milestone 33.




Source: The information on the Newbury, MA milestones comes from the book Stories Carved in Stone. The meaning and purpose of the various geometric folk designs is discussed in much greater detail in the book.

Sherbon MA
Milestone 21, Route 27

Sherborn MA Milestone B 21

This reproduction milestone is located on Route 27 across from the “Plain Burial Ground.”
It indicates 21 miles to Boston, MA.

Wayland MA
Milestone 19 Rte. 26 Jct. of 27 & 126

Milestone 19 Wayland MA

This milestone with its bold curvalinear letter style reads “19 MilES | BOSTON | 1768.” The carver mis-judged his spacing and the words “miles” and “Boston” come close to the right hand edge. The lower case letters in “miles” are the same hieght as the capital letters. “Boston” is written in all capital letters which is the reason why it has a “S” rather the “f” used to denote lower case “s” letter in the 1700’s. This irregular capitalization is typical of the period especially on gravestones done by rural carvers

Wenham MA

Wenham MA Milestone Boston 20

Milestone 20 on Route 1A, Wenham, Massachusetts

It reads “I 7” Ipswich seven miles, “B 20” Boston twenty miles. It is dated 1710. The saying reads, “Job the 30 23 I know that tho wilt bring me to death and to the house - appointed for all living”. This milestone was erected in front of the meeting house and burying ground.

Wenham MA Milestone Boston 20 1/2

Milestone 17 1/2 on Route 1A, Wenham, MA

This milestone is in the middle of town. It reads, “N 17 ½” Newbury seventeen and a half miles, “B 20 ½” Boston twenty and a half miles, “S 9 ½” Salem nine and a half miles, “I 6 ½” Ipswich six and a half miles. It is dated 1710. Milestones from 1708 through 1710 that have survived have a common feature.  Their information was separated by lines forming squares. It was style of the period.

Wenham MA Milestone Boston 21

Milestone 21 on Route 1A, Wenham, MA

It reads, “I 6” and “B 21” and is dated “1710”.  This milestone differs from others in that it has initials. The initials “D D” are those of the person who had the stone carved and erected.  For many years milestones were purchased and erected by wealthy individuals and sometimes by tavern keepers who wanted to be identified with a milestone.  In a few of these cases the individual had his initials carved on the milestone.

Source: The information on the Wenham, MA milestones comes from the book Stories Carved in Stone.

Who was D.D.? According the vital records of Wenham, Daniel Dodge was the only adult resident in the town with the initials D.D. in 1710 when the stone was carved. Daniel was born in 1677 and would have been 33 years old at the time. He was a graduate of Harvard College, served as one of the deacons of the church, and held the office of town selectman in 1719. Milestones were commissioned by affluent and respected members of the local community. Daniel Dodge certainly meets that criteria. (Update 12-23-2011)

Westport, MA

Massachusetts Westport Milestone Side 1

Side 1

Reads “11 MILES TO

Massachusetts Westport Milestone Side 2

Side 2

Reads “3 MILES

Westport photos courtesy of Steve Dimarzo. This combination milestone / guidepost was listed in the new book Guideposts & Milestones of Massachusetts and Southeastern New Hampshire (2014) but good photos were not available at press time. It is located at the junction of Sodom Road & American Legion Highway.



Chester NH Milestone

Milestone 15 on Route 121, Chester, New Hampshire.

It is located on west side of Rte 121 on private property. This milestone reads “1790 / 1 MCM / 15 M:H.” The lines under both lines of numbers and letter were used to as guidelines to keep the letters and numbers level.

“1790” - The year the milestone was erected.

“1 MCM” - 1 Mile (“M”) to Chester (“C”) Meeting House (“M”),

“15 M:H” -   15 Miles (“M”) to Haverhill (“H”)

Chester NH Milestone

Milestone 13 on Route 121, Chester, NH

It is located on east side of Rte 121 on private property. This milestone is similar in style but not exactly like the other Chester milestone (above). It was carved by a different carver. This milestone reads “1790 / CM 3 / 13 H”

“1790” - The year the milestone was erected.

“CM 3” - 3 Miles to Chester (“C”) Meeting House (“M”)

“13 H” - 13 miles to Haverhill (“H”)

Chester NH Milestone Guidepost  Chester NH Milestone Guidepost

This milestone / guidepost is located in front of branch Cemetery on Raymond Road (route 102) near the Chester & Raymond town line. The granite slab as two blast holes, a number of flat wedge quarry marks, and half round holes from the commercial plug & feather method. It post dates 1803 (based on the quarry marks) and prior to 1854 when Poplin changed its name to Fremont.

“CHESTER 4 1/2”






Chester NH Milestone

Chester NH Milestone

This milestone is located in front of 220 Chester Street (route 121) between the old Chester Turnpike and Candia Road. The carving is badly eroded by still legible.

“1. M.”

“To Chester”

“Meeting House”


“17 M”

“To Pembrook”


Chester NH Milestone

Chester NH Milestone   Chester NH Milestone

This milestone has fancy script writing for the “C T M” line (“Chester Meeting”). It located between 110 and 130 Candia Road in front of a stone wall.

“2 M” The top of the “2” is broken off

“C T M” Chester Meeting

“H” House

“1790” The number ”1” is very faint

Hampton Falls NH
Milestone 46 on Route 1

 Hampton Falls NH Milestone               Hampton Falls NH Milestone

Milestone is of granite. People heading south towards Boston saw “B 46”. People heading north towards Portsmouth, NH saw “H 2”. “H” stands for Hampton, NH. The letters have serifs and the number 6 is formed by a small zero with a long curving tail. This tends to suggest 1700’s date for the milestone.

Milestone on Route 121A

Sandown NH Milestone

This milestone is on the property of Sandown Historical Society Musuem. The museum is housed in a former depot and has two old train cars. the Museum is open seasonally. The milestone reads “2 / Mils. To / Chr. M.H. / 14m. Extr.” This translates as 2 miles to Chester Meeting House / 14 miles to Exeter. The milestone is undated. It shows strong similarities to the two dated milestones in Chester. This suggests a circa 1790 - 1800 date for this milestone.

2 / Mils. To / Chr. M.H.” - 2 Miles to Chester, where the highway joins modern Route 121, a old highway between Manchester & Haverhill, MA.

“14m. Extr.”- 14 Miles to Exeter.

NH Sandown Milestone

This milestone is also on the grounds of Sandown Historical Society Depot Museum

“1790” The year the milestone was carved

“C M 4” Chester Meeting House 4 Miles

H B 14 M” Haverhill, Mass. Border 14 Miles


1793 Pembroke NH Milestone David Kimball's Tavern

This milestone is located at 223 Pembroke St (Route 3) in front of the former Kimball Tavern.

“1793” The year the milestone was carved

“19 TO” 19 miles to

“C . M . H” Chester Meeting House

“35 M TO” 35 miles to

“H . 6” Haverhill 6

“M TOC” Miles to Concord


“D . K” The initials of the man who commissioned the stone David Kimball



This milestone indicates two miles to downtown Portsmouth, NH. It is located at the junction of Peverly Road & Middle Road relocated a few feet into the cemetery. The granite post was quarried using the commercial plug & feather moethod and therefore post dates 1803.


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Milestones & Guideposts of Massachusetts and Southeastern New Hampshire

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