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Grist for preservation; Pynchon mill site dedicated.

Byline: J.P. Ellery

WEST BROOKFIELD -- Despite a dreary day, nearly three dozen people braved showery weather Nov. 1 to help dedicate a 42-acre site off Wickaboag Valley Road that offers visitors a chance to walk deep into town history.

The location, just south of the intersection of Snow Road, was in 1669 home to the John Pynchon grist mill, a site that last year was secured by the East Quabbin Land Trust of Hardwick as a preservation area.

Mr. Pynchon was the son of William Pynchon, founder of the city of Springfield.

Richard J. Rossman of the West Brookfield Historical Commission, interviewed soon after the dedication, expressed pride in having such a pristine site available for people to enjoy for many years to come.

"We're just proud to have this very historical place preserved and let it get the recognition that it deserves,'' Mr. Rossman said. "That's how important it was in the history of the town.''

There are various trails on the site that he said were used hundreds of years ago, by Indian tribes that made the area their home.

John Pynchon is said to have operated a variety of mills in Central and Western Massachusetts, including the grist mill in West Brookfield that was used for processing grain into flour. This saved early settlers a transport trip to Springfield for a grist mill there.

The land trust, which in recent years has obtained more than 700 acres east of the Quabbin Reservation in Belchertown, purchased the site off Wickaboag Valley Road from Elaine Lombardi for $69,000. The site is adjacent to a much larger area controlled by the state Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

In a prior interview, Cynthia Henshaw, executive director of the EQLT, said the West Brookfield site, which is actually on Holmes Road, just off Wickaboag Valley Road, will be open to the public for passive enjoyment. She said there are paths to walk, including parts of the old Baypath Indian trail, scenic beauty to behold and now an interpretive trail to enjoy, providing visitors with a wealth of information about the history of the area, which also was home to early settlers. That trail connects with others in the West Brookfield state forest

Mr. Rossman said Allison Vannah of Maine, who came to this area in 2010 for an anniversary celebration of the Quaboag Plantation, the land mass that preceded the incorporation of several local towns here, also was part of the recent Pynchon Mill site dedication.

He said that when she did her college thesis she wrote about the history of this area and in it explained that people from Ipswich settled here in the 1600s because there were no sizeable tracts left in their hometown.

Also present at the Nov. 1 dedication was Albert F. Collings of the Lake Wickaboag Preservation Association, which is intensely involved in protecting the lake and its environs.

Mr. Rossman said Mr. Collings told those on hand how important it was to protect these 42 acres from development for a reason aside from the historic significance and scenic beauty. He said Mr. Collings pointed out that commercial development of this land would likely result in runoff into nearby Lake Wickaboag, adding to the already troublesome problem of having sediment from surrounding land being deposited for years into the lake.

Removal of past sediment is a monumental, costly task that lies ahead for the LWPA, and finding ways to reduce sediment deposits is a goal of the association.

Ms. Henshaw said the EQLT is working on a management plan for the West Brookfield site and that will be one of the most critical responsibilities of the land trust, because there are signs the tract has been used a lot by off-road vehicle enthusiasts and it is the intent of the EQLT to prohibit all motorized vehicles from the site.

She said that to enforce that ban, the land trust was considering using cameras at the site.

She said the East Quabbin Land Trust always is grateful for monetary donations to assist the group in its work. The address is East Quabbin Land Trust, P.O. Box 5, Hardwick, MA 01037.
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Title Annotation:Weeklies
Author:Ellery, J.P.
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 21, 2014
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