Mystery rock: Was memorial meant to honor WWI hero?

The plaque-less stone monument in Savin Hill’s McConnell Park. 	Ed Forry photoThe plaque-less stone monument in Savin Hill’s McConnell Park. Ed Forry photo

Savin Hill resident Heidi Moesinger has probably walked by the mysterious stone in McConnell Park hundreds of times, never knowing why it was there.

The stone, which sits about 50 feet from the park’s playground, is surrounded by a low, black fence and rests on a small hill overlooking the beach.

On the side facing the ocean, a faint, oval-shaped shadow and drill holes remain, suggesting that the stone was adorned with a plaque in the past. According to local residents, the rock has been sitting there for more than 60 years, but despite the fact that it looks to be some kind of monument, no one seems to be sure what it is meant to honor.

Some residents suspect that the stone was placed in observance of Landing Day, the day that English Puritans first landed on the site in 1630. Others suggest that the site is meant to mark “Rock Hill,” the spot at which Dorchester’s English settlers first encountered Native Americans.

Some locals claim that the missing plaque is not the first of its kind, and was stolen several times, with the latest theft occurring in the 1970s. Still, no one remembers the message that was on it.

With a healthy curiosity, Moesinger set off to research the monument with hopes of replacing the plaque, only to run into a number of dead ends. McConnell Park is run by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which says it has no record of the monument. And local newspaper archives appear to hold no clue about the meaning of the monument.

“It’s very odd that nobody knows where this came from,” said Earl Taylor, president of the Dorchester Historical Society. “It may have been put in place to celebrate the [town of Dorchester’s] tricentennial” in 1930.

By the time that Taylor moved to Boston in the mid-1970s, the stone had been there for decades and the plaque was gone.

Taylor may be pointing Moesinger in the right direction, however. She contacted the Mayor’s Hotline about the mystery and received information about a 1933 plan for the park which listed an entity known as the “McConnell Monument.” In 1919, the park had been renamed for Dorchester native Joseph W. McConnell, a US Army captain who had been killed in action in France in 1918 and awarded the Distinguished Service Cross posthumously.

Moesinger says that she wants to reach out to anyone who might have any information about the stone. “The monument shouldn’t just sit there for years with out anyone knowing why,” she said. “It was put there for a reason, and I think people should be aware of that reason.”