Lawrence Brook Carvings – New Brunswick, New Jersey - Atlas Obscura

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Lawrence Brook Carvings

A mixture of strange symbols, ciphers, words and cryptograms carved in 1876 remain unsolved to this day. 


In 1876, two young men from New Brunswick, New Jersey, carved a mixture of strange symbols, ciphers, words, and cryptograms into rocks along the Lawrence Brook off of the Raritan River. Some of these carvings include the authors’ names, initials, the words “Red Rover,” the year 1876, skulls, navigational coordinates, a compass, and a mystery cipher.

It’s been more than 100 years since Elias Suydam and Henry Monroe Danbury carved these symbols into the rocks, and the meaning behind them still remains unclear. One popular hypothesis links these carvings to a potential treasure map. Using the skull and crossbones imagery as a starting point, local historian Ann Alvarez was able to link the words “Red Rovers” to pirates from a book of fiction called Red Rover written by James Fenimore Cooper and the real Red Rover Sir Thomas of Longueville who was captured during the Battle Farra in 1308. Upon consultation with a cryptologist, it is believed that the strange ciphers on the rock could be saying Red Rover.

Another set of carvings (referred to as Dock Rock) is located along the Raritan River in New Brunswick. At one point, the area was part of a steamboat dock. Whaleboat captain and notorious privateer Adam Hyler owned a house nearby and during the Revolutionary War, his men sought out British ships to capture for the American cause. Hyler was considered a pirate by many, and according to Alavarez, he can be linked to the infamous “Red Rover.”

Given this evidence, it is possible that the carvings referred to Hyler and possibly a treasure hidden in the area.  According to Alvarez’s research, it’s possible that  Hyler could have stashed away valuables that would be worth millions of dollars today. If the infamous captain had hidden a secret treasure, Lawrence Brook seems like a possible hiding place—it would have been the last accessible brook before New Brunswick via the Raritan River.

Unfortunately, many of the carvings have been removed or severely eroded. No treasure has ever been found and the true meanings of these carvings—if there is one—remains a mystery.

Know Before You Go

The rock is a piece of dark sandstone in Rutgers Gardens. The park is open 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. and is closed on Mondays. The rock is within ten feet of the northeastern section of Westons Mill Pond on the New Brunswick side (west). The rock is near some concrete ruins. Graffiti is nearby, but vandalism is strictly prohibited.

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