Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Steeple 'Neath the Water

By the very nature of its creation - four towns dismantled and flooded to meet the water needs of Boston - the Quabbin Reservoir has lent itself throughout the years to much local speculation and many an oft-recirculated rumor.

It is an area of New England that will undoubtedly forever remain shrouded in its unique mysteries, fueled by new generations of visitors and stewards who can't help but be captivated by the story flowing beneath the reservoir's surface and whispering through the watershed's forests and meadows.

Some stories are simply false.

Not a few visitors to Quabbin seek the legendary church steeple that juts from the water.

Legendary because that's what it is: Pure legend.

All buildings below the waterline were removed prior to August 14, 1939, the date the flooding of the Swift River Valley began.

Or were they?

For years, the general belief was that all of the tombstones and departed souls they represented had been removed from the cemeteries within the reservoir basin and environs, but when divers (UMass Biology Professor) Ed & Libby Klekowski explored Quabbin's depths in the Summer of 1999 for the first time since it's creation, they made some pretty surprising discoveries.

One of them was the family burial plot of the prominent Underwood family of Enfield.

Nearby were tombstones stacked neatly in a pile, forgotten or ignored by those who had last handled them.

These finds were chronicled in their documentary film 'Under Quabbin.'

What (or who?) else may have been left behind?

The steeple is gone, but the Spirit remains.


Bill Dusty said...

So... are we to understand that the Underwoods are now underwater?

Unbelievable >:-\

Mark T. Alamed said...


I think that the area the tombstones were found in is now part of Ware. That would make them - this is bad, I know - under Ware.

I really have to stop replying to comments before 6 a.m. ;-)

sojourner said...

Good plays on words, gentlemen.

Thanks for the tribute to Springfield's birthday, Mark. I wonder if anyone else in town will observe the occasion.

StilesLake said...

Actually, the tomb stones are in New Salem, because the cemetery was near the northwest bank of the Swift River. The prevailing feeling about the cemetery remnants left in the cemetery site is that things like monument bases and granite plot enclosures were too expensive to move, so they were left behind; and as for the tombstones, the guess is that these marble stones cracked during removal, and either the state or the families -- or both -- agreed that a new granite stone would mark the relocated graves.