Thanksgiving at Dana Common
We’ve taken to heading out to more spiritual places on Thanksgiving. There’s something about hanging around, cooking all day, only to eat the meal in 30 minutes and then fall asleep that is losing it’s appeal. Sure, the football is good and the company is great, but it’s useful to stop and reflect from time to time. The Quabbin Reservation is a good place for that because one is surrounded by what is, and what was. (Quick history lesson for those new to the blog or unfamiliar with the Quabbin: The Quabbin Reservoir is a large pure body of water in central Massachusetts that supplies Boston and surrounding towns with drinking water. It was created by the taking of four towns in the 1930’s, Enfield, Greenwich, Prescott and Dana. All of the dwellings were destroyed or moved. There’s nothing under the water except some artifacts and streets, contrary to the belief of some. However…read on.)
I’m still working hard on trying to explain, photographically, the spirituality of the Quabbin, which isn’t particularly easy. Yes, there are signs of the four towns everywhere, but they don’t always photograph well. The most common sites are typically cellar holes, in the forest. There are a few exceptions though and probably the most famous and compelling is Dana Common. It is a classic New England town common judging by the streets. The people, however, are gone. You have the streets, the cellar holes and other artifacts, and the trees that surround the Common. There is enough left to give one the feeling that this really is, still, a New England common.
During the spring, summer and most of the fall, the cellar holes and artifacts are covered by brush. In the winter, of course, they are covered by snow. If you want to get a good look, experience a “sense of place,” you have to go in late November or Early December. With the warming of the climate, it appears that December is looking more promising. Much of what we hoped to see was still crowded out by the remaining vegetation, though there were a few exceptions. The center of the Common and the Monument, erected by those put off the land and their relatives, are there, looking quite pristine as one would expect a New England town common to appear. These areas are maintained by the Division of Conservation and Recreation in Massachusetts who steward the land around the Reservoir.
Across the Common, one finds the entrance to what once was the Cemetery. All of the those buried there have since been moved to the Quabbin Cemetery on Route 9, just south of the southern boundary to the Reservoir. (What you see here are boundary fence posts, not tombstones.)
The site of the old Schoolhouse though, clearly shows the challenge presented by the vegetation. The weeds are in school now.
One of the most interesting sights of all though is clearly visible. The Vaughn homestead cellar hole and what I can only describe as the “Medusa” tree call out, year round.
The Vaughn home must have offered a compelling presence, right on the Common (the south side of the Common to be more specific). Evidence of what was is graphic, and yet very subdued at this point.
We will return soon to the Common, perhaps in a few weeks, to see if the visibility is a bit better. Perhaps though the quest for a better image misses the point. People walked along these sidewalks on their way to Thanksgiving Dinner, until the Reservoir was created. It must have been a nice walk for most, on the way to see friends and family. You can almost feel it.