Some people are well aware of the idea that Leif Erickson, long before Columbus, visited New England. Some historians even suspect that the Portuguese were aware of our coast but kept it a secret. Evidence had been found to support each of these theories but there are those who still disagree. The strangest band of men many believed to have crossed the Atlantic to visit our shores is the Templar Knights. Though many find this difficult to believe, Westford Massachusetts may have evidence written in stone to support it.
The Templars were a band of 9 knights, including Saint Clair, who were organized to protect the Holy Land and those who journeyed to Jerusalem. In 1370, King Philippe believed that the Templar Knights were disloyal to god and the king and began the great Inquisition to prove his point. According to the history books, some of the Knights fled to Scotland taking all of the treasures and holy icons with them. Some time was spent there helping the Scots while trying to stay unnoticed. In their adventures they meet and teamed up with a crew of Venetians led by Sir Nicolo Zeno, a famous navigator. Twenty-eight years later, Marco Barbaro wrote of Zeno’s adventures and a narrative was published in 1558. The Zeno Narrative claims that Henry Sinclair led an exploration party to the western Atlantic to find the Promised Land. Some think this may be Nova Scotia (New Scotland). The narrative also mentions of a conflict with an enemy that fought with bows and arrows. It goes on to say that some of these men were spared when they began to teach these people their advance fishing skills. It is believed that the narrative was speaking of a visit to New England. Indian legends seem to support this. According to the Algonquians, bearded men in 4 canoes with white wings came to their shores. Since the Indians could not grow beards these men were considered evil so they attacked them. One of the men that was captured, began to teach the natives how to fish with nets and his life was spared.
A more convincing discovery took place in 1954. Dr. T. C. Lethbridge, of Cambridge England, believed that there had been many voyages from Europe to America far before Leif Erickson. Frank Glynn, an amateur archeologist from Clinton, Connecticut took an interest in some of Dr. Lethbridges works. Soon Glynn became pen pals with Dr. Lethbridge and sent him many local publications on the subject. One of these books was ‘Greater Ireland in America’ by W. G. Goodman. Inside was a drawing of an image found on a ledge in Massachusetts. Goodman interpreted it as a represention of an 11th century Norse sword. Seeing this image, Dr. Lethbridge immediately concluded that Goodman was wrong and it actually was a pommel sword from Medieval Europe. He wrote to Gylnn and encouraged him to locate this rock. He believed that if Glynn cleared away more dirt that he would discover an image of a 14th century Knight. After 2 years of searching Glynn found the image on a bedrock in Westford Massachusetts. The locals had always assumed that it was a drawing made by the Indians. When the dirt was clear Glynn was surprised to find a life size image of a Knight with sword and shield. On the shield was a coat-of-arms later identified as that of the Gunn family. Sir James Gunn was a good friend and lieutenant of Henry Sinclair.
The Knight was not the only carving to be discover in Westford. Discovered a few miles away was a rock with an image of a one-masted ship along with an arrow and the number 184. It was suggested that image had been created using the same style and method as was the Knight. The ship was the same type used in the 14th century. Dr. Lethbridge suggested that the arrow and number pertained to the direction and distance to the knight’s headquarters. In 1966 Glynn located a stone enclosure and former spring 184 paces from the stone. Unfortunately, before he could excavate the area, a developer destroyed the structure.
Though there are many experts who believe that the engraving is not a knight and dismiss the ideas drawn from the Zeno narrative, there are those, local and abroad, who embrace these beliefs with great enthusiasm. Descendants of the Sinclairs and Gunns proudly boast of these western adventures of their ancestor. Templar enthusiasts also believe that Sinclair may have not only visited America but also transported the holy treasures to Nova Scotia or Massachusetts for safe keeping.
There are many archeological mysteries scattered across New England. Though there isn’t any that could definitively prove that knights from the 14th century visited our shore, they do open the idea of early visitor from Europe. Whether these travelers were adventurers searching for the promised land or just lost sailors washed onto a foreign shore we may never know.
~ Strange New England
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