Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Quabbin Chronology: Index

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A Timeline of the Swift River Valley

Quabbin History by the Month - Same text in a January to December format.

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About the project...

Quabbin has been a part of my life for many years.

I stopped quite often at Quabbin Park in Belchertown as a young man, driving home from Eastern Massachusetts to Westfield via Rte. 9.

It naturally progressed into a favorite Sunday drive destination for me to take my children, who loved to have picnics and marvel at the steep grassy slopes of the Winsor Dam and the Goodnough Dike.

As the kids outgrew the station wagon and Sunday drives, I, too, outgrew the confines of Quabbin Park, which at 3,100 acres, is a actually a relatively small section of the watershed area that surrounds the reservoir with its 118 miles of shoreline.

I began to explore the access gates along Rtes. 202, 122 and 32a. I 'discovered' Federated Women's Club State Forest in Petersham and the awesome view of Quabbin from Soapstone Hill. I hiked to spots like Grave's Landing on Skinner Hill Road, Doubleday Village and North Dana. I began to collect favorite places in the Quabbin like some people collect stamps, each one simply known as 'the Spot'.

On the trail, I met hikers and loggers and people from all walks of life, but mostly I met with solitude and quiet, hiking 10 or 12 miles in a day sometimes and not seeing anyone, considered by me and my solitary nature a good day in the woods. There is nothing quite as rewarding as walking four miles in the bitter cold in fresh snow, finally approaching the edge of the frozen reservoir and seeing a pair of coyotes scavenging the remains of a deer carcass on the ice, eagles and hawks overhead. Settling down quietly. Watching. Becoming part of the scene...almost like I belonged there.

Quabbin has a way of doing that to you, making you part of the scene. All contrivances and notions of human importance left behind at the gate, visitors become bit actors in a play that envelopes man's history and his relationship with a planet that cares little of his frailties and ploddingly, quietly, continues to reclaim the land, smoothing out the sharp edges of man's influence at every opportunity. Always on the verge of rebirth.

The old foundations encountered along the roads and in the woods of Quabbin are sobering reminders that the people of four towns and several villages had to sacrifice their homes, land and future history to provide drinking water to Boston and other cities and towns. The stone walls and roads that disappear below the surface at the water's edge are surreal scenes of drowned hopes and journeys that will never be taken.

At times the aura of Quabbin is a palpable entity. Pausing on the road in front of an old homestead, one can almost hear the voices wafting through the window opened to the evening breeze. The children playing hide and seek in the last shafts of daylight, the young couple walking hand in hand, planning their future...Then the woods close in again, the damp, musty smell of rotting leaves hidden beneath a blanket of new ferns. A scarlet tanager whistling from inside its tin can.

This is the paradox of Quabbin: Deep forest that can humble a person, littered with evidence of human determination and strength.

Quabbin is a special place for me. Full of memories and stories, familiar sights and places as yet undiscovered. It is a place to escape to. To rejuvenate myself. To contemplate deeper meanings and just to have fun.

The Quabbin Chronology enriches that experience.


Old Bones Search said...

I have a number of post cards dating from the early 20th century of the towns of Enfield, Greenwich, Dana and Prescott. If there is a process whereby I can post these here, please let me know. My maternal grandmother was born in Enfield and the records of that era have provided a great genealogical resource. Of particular interest are the reinterment records when the graveyard was moved to Ware, MA.

Unknown said...

My mother's grandfather (her father's father) was born in Enfield. I know of at least one other relative (an infant) whose grave was moved from Enfield due to Quabbin being built. I would love to see the post cards that drr45 mentioned.

Old Bones Search said...

Hi Jean! I believe all the post cards are posted at "Exploring Western Massachusetts". You can contact me directly at and I can e-mail scans of what I have. By the way, what was your relatives family name? My "Enfield Ancestors" were Bassett, Blodgett, Lane and a few others.