Historic Area Become Newest EQLT PRESERVE
Official Opening Planned for 2014
The Sucker Brook valley in West Brookfield played an important role in the lives of Native Americans and settlers back in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Remains of the roads and two dams are prominent features of the 42 acres off Wickaboag Valley Road recently purchased by the East Quabbin Land Trust, which will be called Pynchon’s Grist Mill Preserve. Modern events have largely left the valley behind, leaving the
artifacts of that era intact except for natural influences of weather, water, wild- life and vegetation.
Native Americans traveled this way as they moved between the Winimusset in New Braintree and the Quaboag River in Warren and beyond. This trail, as in other locations, aided European settlers as they moved into the area. Currently, this trail is known as the Old Baypath Indian Trail and Historical Commissions in the region are working to identify and conserve the Trail. Future plans at the Preserve include interpretive signs that elaborate on the historical uses of the land.
Fur trader John Pynchon was instrumental in getting the original thirteen families from Ipswich to settle “Quaboag Plantation” in 1665. In 1669 Pynchon financed the building of a dam and gristmill on Sucker Brook, assuring the success of the Plantation. Account books kept by John Pynchon at Springfield offer a precise record of the mill’s construction. Before this mill and because of this isolated location, grain raised here had to be taken all the way to Springfield to be ground into flour or meal.
The Mill continued operation until both the Quaboag settlement and the mill were destroyed in August 1675 during King Philip’s war. A quote in “Quaboag Plantation alias Brookefield” by Dr. Louis E. Roy indicates “The remains of this millsite and the artifacts found there are probably the oldest relics in existence of Quaboag Plantation and of its most important mercantile structure.” Historical records show that John Ayres, William Prichard and Daniel Hovey built the millhouse. The dam to create the millpond was built by Rev. John Younglove, Nathaniel, Samuel and John Warner Jr., James Hovey, Judah Trumble, Samuel Kent and Thomas Parsons. The principal investors were Richard Coy, John Ayres and William Prichard. Both William Prichard and John Ayers served as millers until the mill was destroyed. Many of their descendants attended the 350th Celebration several years ago and supported conservation of this landmark.
Pynchon’s Grist Mill Preserve is entirely wooded beyond the pond and stream banks. The woods are white pine and mixed hardwoods that slope steeply away from the brook on either side. Soils are well-drained, sandy loam left over from the glaciers. In addition to the Old Baypath Indian Trail, there are informal trails heavily used and damaged by all terrain vehicles. Initial stewardship practices will be focused on encouraging appropriate trail uses, rebuilding some trails and closing others. The principal dam site was breached long ago, but beavers have built a dam to keep water levels up. The recent rains have partially washed out the beaver dam so the water level is down a few feet. Eventually we expect the beavers to recolonize the area and rebuild the dam.
The East Quabbin Land Trust partnered with the West Brookfield Historical Commission and Conservation Commission to purchase this land. In addition to receiving a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Conservation Partnership grant program, the Historical Commission and a number of private individuals made financial contributions. Grant requests are still pending. Thank you to all who have supported this initiative to date. Additional funding is necessary to officially open the property with historical markers along a public walking trail that will include information about the history of the area and those involved in building and operating the mill.
East Quabbin Land Trust Newsletter SUMMER 2013 | Volume 10 | Issue 3 www.eqlt.org