Take a walk in the woods on Rattlesnake Hill, and you may find yourself stumbling across a massive rock with a hefty chunk of legal reading material carved onto its flat surface.
In 1840, a man named Solomon Parsons Junior, the religious grandson of a reverend, bought a 10-acre plot of land. He paid $125 for the wooded lot, located in the hills of Worcester, Massachusetts. Instead of constructing a home on the property, he concocted grand plans to build a temple atop it and dedicated the land to God.
Though still symbolic, he cemented his decision with a legal dedication rather than a solely spiritual one. He had a 200-word deed etched into a large boulder, where he stated that in exchange for the money he had paid William Hall, the previous owner of the land, the property now legitimately belonged to God through “The laws of Jesus Christ.”
Parsons was a Millerite, a member of a group of people who believed the world would catastrophically end in 1844. He planned to use the 10 acres as a refuge to help survive the end of times, and became a pacifist and vegetarian (who even refused to use items like leather and horse hair) in preparation for the Second Coming.
Parsons died at the age of 93. Houses and apartments now surround the hill, and the rugged temple he built has since crumbled and decayed. But Deed Rock and God’s 10 Acres, the nearby woods, remain. Though now well over 100 years old, the inscription on the boulder is still legible.
The transcript of Deed Rock is as follows, complete with errors:
“KNOW ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS THAT I WILLIAM G HALL OF WORCESTER IN THE OUNTY OF WORCESTER AND COMMONWELTH OF MASS IN CONSIDERATION OF 125 DOL PAID BY THE HAND OF SOLOMON PARSONS OF THE SAME WORCESTER THE RECEIPT WHERE OF I DO HEAREBY ACKNOWLEDGE DO HEAREBY GIVE GRANT SELL AND CONVAY UNTO GOD THROUGH THE LAWS OF JESUS CHRIST WHICH ARE MADE KNOWN TO MAN BY THE RECKORD OF THE TESTAMENT RECORDED BY MATHEW MARK LUKE JOHN THE EVANGELIST THIS LAND TO GOVERND BY THE ABOVE MENTIONED LAWS AND TOGATHER WITH THE SPIRIT OF GOD THE SAID TRACT OF LAND IS SITUATED IN WORCESTER ABOVE MENTIONED THE SOUTH WESTERLY PART CONTAINING TEN ACRES MORE OR LESS BOUNDED AS FOLLOWS VIZ BEGINNING AT THE SOUTHWEST OF THE LOT AT A STAKE AND STONES BY LAND OF E DANIELS THENSE EASTERLY BY LAND OF S PERRY ABOUT 97 1/2 RODS TO A CORNER OF THE FENCE THENCE NORTHERLY BY LAND OF ABOUT 54 RODS TO A CORNER OF I FOWLER ABOUT 24 RODS A CHESTNUT TREE IN THE WALL AT THE CORNER THE LAND OF SAID DANIELS AND A HEAP OF STONES BY THE SIDE OF THENCE SOUTHERLY TO THE BOUNDS FIRST MENTIONED”
Know Before You Go
Swan Ave is a long, narrow dirt road. If you know where to go, it is barely off the road and a quick hike through the woods. There is no parking. The road is narrow. Wear long pants. There is poison ivy, ticks, and flying bugs, such as mosquitos and gnats so plan accordingly.