August 9 2019

Historical Society Speaker to Talk about African American History and Perhaps Shed Light on Mysterious Carving



The Burlington Historical Society will feature a guest speaker to talk about African American history in the Boston area and to possibly offer some insight into a long-standing Burlington mystery. 

The Historical Society will feature Shawn Quigley, National Park Ranger, at the its meeting on Thursday, September 5. Quigley works at the Boston African American National Historic Site and is  knowledgeable about the history of the African American community that lived on Beacon Hill in Boston from the Revolutionary years to the Civil War. He will speak about the history of the Underground Railroad. 

“Quigley will also shed light on the intriguing wood head carved sculpture that is stored in our Museum and was discovered more than 40 years ago in a Burlington swamp,” a message from the Historical Society says. “It should be an interesting talk.”

As reported on BNEWS, Forty years ago Mike Panico was mucking through a swamp between Route 3A and Fieldstone Drive on a quest to find turtles. However, it wasn’t turtles he found. During his search, which was after a drought in the area, he saw what looked like a head attached to a dead tree. He cut it off and it has been in his family ever since. 

Panico, who now lives in Florida, got curious about the head, which looks like a totem, and says he took it to an archeologist who examined it. The archeologist said that at first blush he believed it was quite old and definitely Native American. Panico is not sure if the archeologist was right or just trying to be knowledgeable, as he only spent a few minutes examining it and it was not his area of expertise. The head weighs about 4.5 lbs. and stands about 10 inches tall.

In 2016 he decided to send it to the Burlington Historical Society where it is today. Since then, Society President Mary Nohelty has been trying to find answers. 


At the recommendation of the Smithsonian, she sent photos of the carving to consulting archaeologist and rock art specialist Edward Lenik. Lenik said he does not believe the carving is of Native American origin as it does not have similarities with other known artifacts. He suggested it may have be African American in origin. 

Now Quigley is going to weigh in on the mystery. 

The program is open to the public and there is no charge. It is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m and the doors open at 6:30 p.m. The program will be held in the Murray Kelly Room of the Human Resource Building at 61 Center Street, Burlington.  Refreshment offered after the presentation. Handicap accessible and all are welcome.


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