“Just off Baker Point in about 10 feet of water and 40 feet from the shore is where THIS thing is,” Dan Pontbriand said as he extended his arms toward a wooden model on a table. “Whether we’re going to call it a boat or not, I’m hoping you can help me fill in the blanks on what this thing might have been used for and whether it’s a boat, a sled, or a barge.”
A group of interested community members gathered in the Enfield Community Building in Enfield, New Hampshire, on January 23rd, 2020 to hear Pontbriand tell the story of the search to identify this mysterious artifact. Everyone in the room wanted to know: what is this thing and how did it get to the bottom of Smith Pond.
In May of 2018, Alan Strickland and Ken Warren asked Dan Pontbriand to help them research a mysterious artifact submerged in Smith Pond in Enfield, New Hampshire. Strickland and Warren had a few questions that they wanted to answer: can we dive to the bottom of Smith Pond to locate and investigate the ruins of a barge? Could this barge be attributed to the Shakers of Enfield? Pontbriand’s years of scuba diving and research experience from his time as a Park Ranger with the National Park Service could help the team discover the story behind this Upper Valley historical mystery.
On June 8th, 2018, Warren, Strickland, and Pontbriand traveled to Smith Pond to attempt to find the answers to their questions at the site of the sunken artifact. The artifact was found within minutes of searching near Baker Point, despite poor water visibility of only 5-6 feet and a water temperature of 52 degrees. The team took many photos of the artifact during their dive, documenting the size of the structure, the wooden beams and joints that were holding it together, the few pieces of metal hardware that remained, the skids underneath the base, and the transom on the back. They also took pieces of metal hardware and wood that were detached from the artifact for study and display. There were several large rocks on the structure, adding to the mystery. Had it been sunk on purpose? Had the users of the artifact tried to transport one too many rocks across the pond?
Pontbriand, Strickland, and Warren introduced their Smith Pond artifact research to the public as part of the UVLT Lunch & Learn series. Several of the attendees shared helpful information about the Shakers and how this artifact may have been related to the settlement. Others related their knowledge of boats, history, and woodworking.
The Lunch & Learn gathering piqued the interest of all who were in attendance, resulting in much history being shared and many good questions being asked. Yet no solid answers were given as to the exact purpose of this artifact before it sunk to the bottom of Smith Pond. Is it truly a relic of the Shakers? Was it used on water or on ice? Was its demise an accident or was it sunk on purpose? Was it a craft to aid in the construction of dams? While the presentation and discussion may have led to more questions than answers, the presenters and audience enjoyed being able to gather around a mutual interest in unsolved mysteries in the communities and on the lands they love.
The project came to a close on October 3rd, 2020 when Dan Pontbriand and Jay Whitehair, of the Hanover Fire Department and New England Ice Yacht Association, executed a scuba dive into the cool fall waters of Smith Pond. Their mission was to replace the detached hardware and wood that Pontbriand, Strickland, and Warren had removed from the site for study. Poor visibility clouded the dive, but the two divers were able to find the artifact after 15 minutes of searching near Baker Point. They placed all of the artifacts back in the places from which they were removed, leaving the site as they had found it. The site is left intact so that the next group of researchers to come across this mysterious artifact will have a complete site for their investigation. Pontbriand, Strickland, and Warren have filed paperwork with the state of New Hampshire to designate the artifact as a Registered Archaeological Site, ensuring that the site and their findings will be available to future researchers.
UVLT would like to thank Dan Pontbriand, Alan Strickland, and Ken Warren for their field work and research on the mysterious artifact in Smith Pond. If you have more information about this artifact or have questions about the project, please let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The information in this piece is sourced from Dan Pontbriand’s presentation “Lunch & Learn: Mysterious Artifact in Smith Pond” which can be viewed below.