By the way, Steinmeyer’s previous book, 2011’s Last Greatest Magician in the World, has a very familial look to it thanks to public domain art collections from the Library of Congress:
I tried calling the Peabody Museum this morning, but no one answered the phone. It went to voice mail each time I tried. I am also trying to contact Schafer via Facebook. I will report back on the results when and if I am able to get hold of him, and if he can share with us the documents in question.
Brody agrees that boys worked on the figure, noting that “two local boys added to the carving in the late 1800s by inscribing a ‘peace pipe’ to the area near what many believe to be the face of the Knight.” However, David Goudsward’s The Westford Knight and Henry Sinclair tells us that this story originally involved only one boy, Edward Fisher, whose sister Lily recalled in 1954 that she remembered him taking a hatchet to rock and knocking a V-shape into it 70 years earlier. This appears to be the source of the claim that Edward Fisher (and, in some versions, his brothers) carved the entirety of the image. This claim may well be false, since the Westford image was first described in an 1874 gazetteer of Massachusetts the year after Fisher was born: “The mineral called ‘andalusite’ is found here; and an immense ledge which crops out near the Centre has upon its surface ridges furrowed in former times by glacial forces. There is upon its face a rude figure, supposed to have been cut by some Indian artist.”
However, it is unclear from the gazetteer entry whether the “rude figure” is actually the punched “sword” hilt or refers to the imaginary human figure projected onto the glacial ridges, as the text implies. If that latter, it would actually support the idea that the sword hilt was punched at a later date. Indeed, in the clearer description in Edwin Hodgman’s 1883 History of Westford, there is no mention of the sword-hilt at all, and it is quite easy to read his comments as referring to an imagined face appearing in the random grooves left by a glacier: “A broad ledge, which crops out near the house of William Kittredge, has upon its surface grooves made by glaciers in some far-off geological age. Rude outlines of the human face have been traced upon it, and the figure is said to be the work of Indians.” In both the 1874 and 1883 accounts, the obviously manmade features of the current carving are not mentioned explicitly, and in both cases the authors heavily imply by placing the “rude” outline so close to a discussion of glacial activity that the image is imaginary and the product of local fancy and legend.
My conclusion would be that local people in Westford imagined a human figure in the glacial markings, and sometime after 1883 someone “improved” upon it with the pecked sword hilt, perhaps under the influence of the then-popular hypothesis that the Viking Vinland was Massachusetts.