Middlesex Fells Reservation

Winchester, Massachusetts | C.1891

Photo Credit: @jenniac

Middlesex Fells Reservation, often referred to as “The Fells,” is a state park covering more than 2,200 acres around the Massachusetts towns of Malden, Medford, Melrose, Stoneham, and Winchester. The park houses five reservoirs which supply water to the town of Winchester, and one granite slab on Great Island with a mysterious past.

Only by renting a kayak or rowboat from Boating in Boston’s Stoneham dock can inquiring minds reach the island where a headstone-style piece of granite is engraved with the words “WHERE SHUTE FELL.” Who Shute was and why he fell remain a mystery, lost to years of oral history and hearsay.

A 1915 account from the Medford Historical Register suggests Shute was a colonel who died nobly in a duel on Great Island; his crew erected the slab to commemorate his battle. But after the story was revealed to be fiction, historians dug deeper to find a story dating back to the 1870’s with a much less honorable end.

Shute was one of many who frequented the Spot Pond House, a hotel on the nearby shore that attracted those of “lower character.” Shute, a known alcoholic, fell on his head in a drunken stupor and drowned to death. As in the first story, the slab was dug onto the spot where, as it reads, “Shute Fell.”

The third account, presumed to be true, is even more intriguing. Instead of being a colonel or a drunk, Shute was a renowned fighter from the Haywardville-area of Stoneham participating in illegal wrestling rings on Great Island. Considered by many to be unbeatable, he eventually suffered his own loss, one so shocking that spectators felt a granite monument was in order. Shute, embarrassed by his loss, never returned to the island.

 

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