Excerpt from HHA Annual Meeting – The Colonial Presence

By HHA Member Tom Helmer

Do you spend any time wondering about our stone walls? Probably not. They are decorative but we hardly ever think about them. It was only after Lauri Arruda spoke about finding where the Valley People lived that I developed a serious curiosity about the stone walls. Those of us who live in Tomaquag Valley are proud that in the Colonial era, the Valley was the population center of Hopkinton.

From the start of mapping in 2003, I believed the stone walls would be an honest guide to locate where the Valley People lived. This has proven to be true. The emphasis on thorough Mapping produced a surprising picture of the Farming Community centered in Tomaquag Valley. You can see it’s remains on the map.
And what the map says is there were only ten houses down there!
That is not what any of us ever imagined for a bustling Colonial Hopkinton.

That is the first surprise for this afternoon.

To compare Colonial Hopkinton with today, simply draw a mental circle around the 9 closest houses to where you live, and then look thoughtfully at those 10, scattered on the map. The frightening reality of their lives is very different from walking securely in Sturbridge Village. They certainly lived, and probably thought differently from us, way back then. It’s ironic. The old farmers knew each other. They had to. Today’s occupants of the 93 homes crammed into the same area now live in isolation from each other.

The book you now own, “Walking Together In Tomaquag Valley”, is a well researched Time Capsule of the early Valley. It begins it’s record of the Colonial Presence by simply walking together with my fictional hiking companion as we follow one wall in it’s mile long journey through the woods of Tomaquag Valley.

The Colonial Presence

The most abundant Colonial Artifacts are the stone walls they left behind. We see them next to the road, but they run off and hide in the woods. Even outlined in snow with no leaves, they vanish.

To learn what they can tell us, and their secrets, you have to walk them on foot through their terrain. Even if you can see them from Google Earth, they will not talk to you about their secrets or the Sacred Landscape, if present. You have to walk them, and it is better with an experienced, trained eye.

The founding premise of the text of “Walking TOGETHER In Tomaquag Valley” was teaching “the Companion”, how to “see” in the forest, during nine progressively challenging educational walks, It’s easy when you and the wall sit still in my front yard. But to follow a wall in the woods, like the Companion and I do, inevitably leads to encounters with Obstacles.

Sometimes you have to force your way through dense bull briars single file

Colonial Entry DoorBut the “historic pay off” is when the walls lead you to a Colonial ruin, like this Home. The red lines show the home’s footprint and front door.

 

 

Colonial Spring House

And that home’s refrigerator, a Spring House. Again, red lines show the perimeter of the Spring House and the well.

 

 

Colonial WellThe well is 36 inches across, & the water table is very high. One of my
Fears in hiking the Valley alone is falling in an old well or cess pool
without Lassie to run for help.

This is the grist mill owned by Jedediah Davis, now very much in ruins.
The mill itself was on the flat raised area on the opposite side of the broo

Colonial Mill Siteand this is the same photo, showing how it might have looked 260 years ago.

If Jedediah Davis sounds vaguely familiar, maybe you’ve seen his name outside Town Hall, but never had any connection to him and his wife Amie

 

Sometimes Lauri Arruda makes the initial discovery in the Town Archives.
This is the Probate document after Jedediah’s son, Oliver Davis, died in 1822.

Later on she discovered that property lines today follow the yellow
Davis Property Lines.

Davis Property TodayJedediah owned land that stretched from Tomaquag Road, including my home, to Collins Road, including Lauri’s home, all the way over to Maxson Hill Road, including Nathan Kaye’s Indian Shelters. Imagine HIS Tax Bill today!

Lauri’s discovery allow me to stand in the cellar hole of Jedediah and Amie
Davis the next day, ending many days of searching for their home. Later,
Oliver and Penelope Davis raised their 12 kids (that lived) in this 18’ x 22 foot, two story home.

My patient strategy of slowly mapping the walls allowed me to accurately place Historic locations on the map with confidence. My eye got trained to see the Colonial Presence remaining in the forest.

Colonial RoadAs a result, we can walk together on Colonial Roads

 

 

 

Colonial BridgeAnd walk together across functioning Colonial Bridges,

 

 

 

Four Corners ButtonwoodAnd at “4 Corners In The Forest”, walk together beneath the equally ancient forest mates of Hopkinton City’s Sycamore / Buttonwood Tree growing by Rt. 3’s blinking lights near HHA’s Meeting House.

All of this, our shared Colonial History, is in “Walking Together In Tomaquag Valley”, the book that the Hopkinton Historical Association now owns.

It’s hundreds of pictures bring the Valley to those who’s hiking days are fond memories, while serving as a guide for today’s hikers to come out, feed the bugs, and see the many centuries of Hopkinton’s forest legacy, our still preserved “History In The Wild”, with your own eyes.