Hale Reservation’s Land Protection Footprint Expands - November, 2010

 

Hale Reservation is pleased to announce the purchase of 1.4 acres on Dover Road.  Although the acreage is relatively small compared to its other 1,130 acres, the property and house at 573 Dover Road are of critical environmental and aesthetic importance to Hale Reservation.

 

The property abuts the entrance to Hale’s Membership Beach.  “For years, we have recognized this property as one of high importance for us,” commented Eric Arnold, Hale’s executive director.  “The area is surrounded by wetlands that feed into Noanet Pond.  This property and the surrounding area, including parts of Dover Road, Morgan Farm and Rockmeadow Road are all in our watershed area.  Construction, fertilizer and other human impact directly affect the quality of water in our ponds.”  The purchase of this property insures that it will be appropriately managed in the future and that it will not be overbuilt.

 

Hale is also very aware of the relevance of this property for its Membership Beach program.  “Although it hasn’t been Hale property in the past, many have perceived it as such.  We want to make sure the entrance to this significant Hale Reservation program area is aesthetically appropriate,” added Juanita Allen Kingsley, president of Hale Reservation’s Board of Directors.

 

Initially, Hale Reservation anticipates renting the house as it develops a plan for future use.  Current strategic planning for Hale Reservation includes the evaluation of the Carby Street entrance, maintenance facilities, the need for a small Welcome Center as well as continued improvements to program spaces.  Graduate students from the Boston Architectural College have been working on design concepts for these potential improvements.   The purchase of the property was made possible thanks to generous gifts from  supporters who have both donated and loaned funds to Hale.

Land Use History

trees in fall foliage

The land now occupied by the Hale Reservation literally abounds with early Indian and colonial history. The main Reservation Road, Carby Street, was originally known as “Old Indian Path” and on early maps it was part of an Indian trail that led from a large Indian settlement in Dedham to Strawberry Hill near the Westwood-Dover line, and on eventually to South Natick. Early records show that the “Plains of Powissett” (the land surrounding Powissett Peak and certain sections of the Charles River) were favorite hunting and fishing grounds of at least six different tribes of the Powissett Indians, and as late as 1763, a few Indian families could still be found in Dover. At least nine ancient, felsite quarry sites have been identified on Reservation land, which indicates that the ancestors of the Powissett Indians also were frequent travelers or residents of the area. The felsite was fashioned into arrowheads, spears, and other objects. Archaeologists from Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology have determined that these sites were being used by ancient man as early as 3,000 B.C. — the date associated with the building of the Egyptian pyramids.

boulders in the woods

During the 1700’s, most of the Reservation’s land was cleared of timber and used extensively as pasture. This accounts for the extensive stonewalls throughout the area. They were used to mark property boundaries as well as to confine livestock. During this time, many of the local residents were engaged in the business of supplying Boston with timber for ship building and making of charcoal. Charcoal was in high demand in Boston by the then flourishing iron industry. Old Reservation records indicate that the remains of a “charcoal kiln” could be seen on the Reservation south of a log cabin used by Boy Scouts Troop #39, Dorchester. These sites have been positively located in the area of Powissett Pond. Many of the local men owned oxen, which were used to haul timber to Boston — at the time, a full day’s travel away. Dover Street, Boston, was named in tribute to the men from Dover who made a practice of staying overnight in a particular tavern in that area before the long trip home. Also, the term “cart roads,” a current name for the wooded paths in this area, evolved from this time when a team of oxen was used to pull carts loaded with charcoal or timber out of the woods.

Several families lived in and around the land that was to become Hale Reservation. Probably, the most prominent of these was Thomas Larrabee. The Larabee homestead is located on Strawberry Hill on Dover Conservation Land that borders Hale but much of his farming activities took place on Hale land. Larrabee was an enlisted man during the Revolution and was assigned to the guard company that was responsible for the protection of George Washington. He fought at Fort Ticonderoga and later helped row Washington across the Delaware to attack the Hessians at Trenton. He returned to Strawberry Hill with several men who served with him and built his house around 1778. Little is known of his comrades but it is believed that he gave a parcel of land to a man named Luke Dean who built a house on the edge of a marshy area that later became Powissett pond. While much is known of Larabee, almost nothing is known of Luke Dean. The cellar of his home and several others has remained untouched for all these years; someday, we hope to learn more about him and his fellow colonials through a professional excavation of his homestead.

looking at a pond through trees

The area around Hale was a thriving community but something happened to lead people to abandon these hard won homesteads. What caused this? Perhaps some day we will know.

One of the many areas on the reservation of unique historical interest is Oak Hill, located on the Reservation property, south of Dover Road. This hill, with an elevation of 360 feet, furnished three varieties of high quality granite. The courthouse in Dedham, considered to be one of the finest architectural examples of its time in the country, was constructed of granite quarried from Oak Hill. The original buildings at the State Hospital in Medfield were also built from granite quarried from Oak Hill. Nimrod’s Rock, probably named after the mighty hunter of biblical fame, was held in high regard as “lover’s lane” during one period in our area’s history. Eye witnesses of the period recorded difficulty finding a place to park one’s horse and buggy on Powissett Street on pleasant Sunday afternoons.