Comfort Bridge & The Solitude Stone

The Solitude Stone lay undiscovered for 80 years...until a local girl went missing after one fateful canoe trip in West Bridgewater in the summer of 1916. If Evelyn Packard hadn't mysteriously died, her body not found for days, the Solitude Stone might never had been discovered at all.

1916. A missing girl vanishes from a canoe on the Town River in West Bridgewater within a half hour after she rents her canoe. The canoe is found shortly after with no clues as to her
whereabouts. Her coat and a pillow are found inside the canoe "bone dry."

One headline read: "Doctors Fear Girl is Crazed in Hockomock Swamp." After combing the woods for days and finding no clues as to her whereabouts, foul play is suspected. During one of grueling searches of the woods of the swamp, a local reporter decides to take a break and sits down  on nearby Comfort Bridge, a bridge that at the time was made out of three immense ancient stones. Up until of August of 1916, no one had noticed that there was something very special about this particular stone. Hidden under 80 years of dirt and moss, was the stone that would become known as the "Solitude Stone." It would take some time to uncover the mysterious author of the words inscribed on it. And that person would turn out to be the leading Egyptologist of the day, called upon worldwide to decipher hieroglyphics. He wrote the book "The Temple of Solomon" and followed the teachings of an occultist mystic.

Only in the Bridgewater Triangle, right?

The Solitude Stone might possibly be the BIGGEST clue in the mystery of the Bridgewater Triangle.
Let me start at the beginning. “Pretty” Evelyn Packard--as local papers called her--had taken the trolley from her Brockton home to The Americanage Club on South Street on August 4, 1916. There on one beautiful, sunny Wednesday morning, she rented a canoe and began a journey to which she would never return. Soon after Packard began her paddle “into oblivion” down Town River, two local boys found her canoe floating empty in a lagoon. The authorities were stunned. If she had fallen into the water from her canoe, surely there would be water on the interior to indicate a splash. But there was none. The canoe was bone dry. Area doctors speculated that Packard had wandered into Hockomock Swamp and had become “crazed by her experiences.” The townspeople dragged the river, despite the suspicion that the girl was lost in the swamp, but produced no evidence to solve the mystery of her disappearance. The day after Packard disappeared, one local newspaper reported, “The mystery remains as deep as ever and that there remains one explanation: That the young woman was the victim of foul play. Miss Packard’s own family scout the theory of her being enticed into one of the several cottages along the river bank and being held prisoner. In other words, the disappearance of the really beautiful and shapely 27-year old Brockton girl is as profound a mystery tonight as it was on Wednesday afternoon, when the canvas-covered canoe, which had been hired earlier in the day at the Americanage Canoe Club, was found drifting, right side up, and with the interior and the contests as dry as a chip, by two boys.”

Packard's body was found under Skim Milk Bridge (two bridges down the river from Comfort on the Town River) three days after she first went missing. During the search for her body, while searchers were still combing the river, a local newspaper reporter found something curious in the woods. A peculiar stone with an inscription on the middle of nowhere. 1900s Bridgewater Historian Edgar Howard wrote of the incident: "While sitting upon the bridge, resting after a day of arduous searching for the girl, the writer’s attention was arrested by an inscription chiseled upon the flat stone forming the south side of the bridge. The stone is of an oblong shape and perhaps five or six feet across. Curiosity was aroused and an attempt was made to decipher the ancient inscription, which comprised of six lines extending across the face of the stone, and which had been almost been obliterated by time and the elements, and it was only by clearing away the tangled vines and filling the letters."

Poem Inscribed on the Solitude Stone:

All ye, who in future days,
Walk by Nunckatessett stream
Love not him who hummed his lay
Cheerful to the parting beam,
But the Beauty that he wooed.

Emmanual Swedonborg
As to who the author and inscriber of the solitude stone was, it was a mystery. Why would someone take the time to inscribe these words onto a stone where no one would find it? Edgar Howard made it his mission to discover who the poet and inscriber were who had carved the lines into to the ancient rock. “The beauty of the scene may well have inspired the lines. To the south stretches Eagles Nest Meadows toward the Hockomock, with the winding Nunckatessett and the woods beyond. At the bridge the stream makes a sharp turn to the right before it reaches the Pine Hill ridge, crowned by whispering pines, flowing under the old bridge, with its riot of vines and almost hiding it from view.” 

It was Howard who figured out it was Timothy Otis Paine who left his mark in the solitude of the woods so long ago. REVEREND Timothy Otis Paine. Reverend Timothy Otis Paine of the New Church of Jeruselum. Never heard of The New Church? It is a religion based on Christianity and the teachings of the occultist Emanuel Swedenborg and largely based on principles of the Age of Aquarius. From Swedonborg's teachings came the Rite of Swedonborg or the Swedonborg Rite, a fraternity that paralled freemasonry.

"A detailed discussion of those ideas, and of Swedenborgian theology in general is beyond the scope of this paper but certain aspects must be noted in order to make sense of the Swedenborgian Rite. For Swedenborg the physical world is the result of spiritual causes, and the laws of nature are reflections of spiritual laws; thus objects and even the material world are images of their spiritual counterparts. This is his doctrine of 'correspondences'. From this derives the other notion that concerns us: the idea behind the literal, historical meaning of the scriptures is an inner, spiritual sense — which sense is drawn out for all to see in Swedenborg’s expository works. And it was a fascination with those expository works that led to the first creation of a masonic Rite of Swedenborg."

"Swedenborg had an influence upon Freemasonry, albeit unknown to himself...'it was the Freemasons of the advanced degrees who borrowed from Swedenborg, and not Swedenborg from them." Out of the teachings of Swedonborg came the "Swedonborg Rite" or the "Rite of Swedonborg."

 Was Timothy Otis Paine a member of this rite? My guess would be yes. Because Paine was not your average reverend/poet. He was also the LEADING Egyptologist of the day--the "go to" person for deciphering heiroglyphics. Paine was an interesting man. Theologian, archaeologist, Egyptologist, reverend, poet and historian. To say that Timothy Otis Paine was man of mystery would certainly be an understatement. To say that he was accomplished would be a disservice to all that he did. Two of his most interesting accomplishments are his book "Solomon's Temple" and his translation of the Egyptian "Book of The Dead." Two subjects of vital interest to brothers of freemasonry.

"According to Masonic historians, Freemasonry is based on the principles and values of ancient Egypt. The most important principle of the Freemasons that is traced to ancient Egypt is the belief in materialist evolution. This theory of evolution is based on the belief that the universe exists by and of itself, evolving only by chance. In this theory of evolution, matter was always extant, and the world originated when order arose from chaos. This state of chaos was referred to as Nun. A latent, creative force exists within this state of disorder which has the potential to rise above the disorder.

Another philosophical connection established between the ancient Egyptians and the Freemasons is believed to be the common rituals associated with death and burial practices. Specifically, the link between ancient Egypt and the Masons can be found in the text known as The Book of the Dead. This text’s original title is in fact The Book of Coming Forth by Day. It is an ancient Egyptian funerary text that outlines instructions for the afterlife."

Curiously, there is a photo at the West Bridgewater Library of the Solitude Stone. Whoever owned the photo had inscribed in the left-hand corner the name of the locally famous local landmark But curiously the former owner did not write “The Solitude Stone” in firm black ink. Instead the photo was inscribed with the name “The Suicide Stone.” It is unknown how many suicides it took for the Solitude Stone to earn its grisly nickname, but in 1880, a heartbroken young man by the name of John Crane shot himself in the head near it in 1880. " The bridge had “a reputation for suicide.” But at this time I have yet to figure out what suicides happened on the bridge.

In 1970, the West Bridgewater Conservation Commission moved the Solitude Stone to a safer place not far from its original spot during road construction. The old rock Comfort Bridge was dismantled and another bridge was built out of wood not far from the location of the Solitude Stone. The stone is located on Forest Street, on the left, just before the wooden bridge.