Petersham and Lancaster. April 2, 2022

Day/Date:  SATURDAY -4/2/22
Towns visited:  Petersham & Lancaster

Had you ever been to any of these towns before? Yes /No 
Drive to 1st town:  70 miles   Time spent in town(s):   7+ hours

What did we do in the town(s)/area?  
Today’s town visit title…
Farms, Forests, Flooded Towns and Food!
PETERSHAM:  
OMG you guys-Petersham (pronounced Peter-Sam) is such an interesting and sweet town! And, TBH, it’s actually more than one town because another town, once known as Dana, sits near and at the bottom of the part of the Quabbin Reservoir in Petersham. And, yeah, we went there, sorta.  


But before we tell you about that, we want to tell you about our first stop at the Petersham Curling Club. This club is one of about four dedicated curling clubs in all of MA (there are other curling club groups, but they use multi-use ice rinks). We were so happy that the club was open today. When we went inside, the lobby had a few parents sitting in chairs watching through the window at the kids taking curling lessons. We joined in with these parents, watching the kids learn and practice strategies to release the stone and use the curling broom.  The club lobby had wood-paneled walls, a shelf with trophies, a bar (used for evening rental events and post competitions, we assume), a kitchen, and a viewing area. 

We don’t know much about curling other than that it is one of the world’s oldest team sports and it is an Olympic sport. It looks like a lot of fun for folks of any age. Who knows, perhaps we’ll visit one of the other four curling clubs and actually get a chance to play?

We brought our bikes with us today to visit our next destination; the Quabbin Reservoir and the lost town of Dana. We did the 7.2 mile out and back ‘Quabbin reservoir at Gate 40’ trail. The trail is an old road that is sometimes paved and sometimes gravel and dirt.

At just about the 1 1/2 mile mark, we reached the historical site of Dana Common. Dana was a town in MA that was originally settled in 1676 (but incorporated in 1801). But in 1938, the town was forced to disincorporate in order to make way for the creation of the Quabbin Reservoir so the buildings were leveled or moved. The Quabbin Reservoir project was a major effort set underway to meet the need for public water supply for Boston and 40 other towns. There are a few stone wall remnants as well as little posts by the open field of the common that feature pictures which, are an eery reminder of the schoolhouse, store, and homesites from long ago. 

Three other towns were lost to this massive undertaking of the Quabbin, but their locations are within other MA towns- so don’t be surprised if we bring you more about this history in some future town visit posts. 

We continued past the Dana Common, riding our bikes along the old Greenwich Dana Rd. to the end of the trail, which was a little past a rocky bridge that crosses over the water of the Quabbin.

I’m not going to lie; we were pretty ready for lunch after this exploration, so we headed to the Petersham Common to visit the Country Store. Before we tell you about our food fun in the store, we have to mention that the Common has several buildings, including the Country store, that are Greek Revivalist style architecture. We can’t quite figure out why but it was noticeable! It could imply that this was a popular building style from 1830-to 1860 in the area.  

The Country Store was fun and very cute. Inside, there was a small grocery section, a modest wine section, tables, a wood-burning stove to eat food from the cafe (Ari’s cafe), and a selection of local books and items for sale by local artisans. We partook of a delicious turkey sandwich, green velvet soup (pureed veggies and white beans), a cookie, and some Dean’s Bean’s coffee. We liked our meal so much that we decided to buy some more soup to take home and enjoy later! We grabbed a quart of the Portuguese kielbasa and kale soup (a great choice) and some local kombucha and canned coffee.

After lunch, we decided to stop at the North Common Meadow, a small parcel of land preserved by The Trustees., which was just 1/8 of a mile down from the store. Unfortunately, it was wet and muddy, so we didn’t explore too deeply. 

Next, we drove through Nichewaug (see Native American history below). It was a really lovely drive, and along the way, we saw many horses, alpacas, some pigs and goats, and an old cemetery. We couldn’t stop saying, “Oh, look! Cute!”

We then drove to Gate 37 and did a short hike to the water’s edge (yes, the Quabbin). Along the route, we practically tripped over a snake (very small, but we both screamed, Jenny louder than Jo!) and we also saw our first butterfly of the season, the Mourning Cloak.

Our final stop in Petersham was the Fisher Museum at the Harvard Research Forest. There was a bit of conflicting information on their website about whether or not they were open on Saturdays, and it turns out that they were not (well, they will be, but not until May). We were, however, able to take a short hike around the grounds and into the forest, which was pretty cool. We learned a few things along the trail, like how some trees can grow back from their stumps while others (the red pine) will not grow again once it has been cut down. The Harvard Research has been in operation since 1907 and includes one of North America’s oldest managed forests. The Fisher Museum includes some dioramas of the forest, which we would love to come back and see! There are also buildings for research, dormitories for visiting students, and greenhouses.  

As daylight is lasting longer these days, we had it in us to explore another town today so, we got back in the car and drove 35 miles east to the town of Lancaster.

LANCASTER:
We started out visiting the Town Hall – like we do. 
Lancaster Town Hall was adjacent to the town library and a church which, was once a meeting house designed Charles Bulfinch (you know, the guy who designed many buildings including, the MA statehouse, Boston Common and Fanueil Hall ⚜️).   

We immediately learned (from the gigantic sign in front of town hall) that Lancaster is the oldest town in Worcester County.

As we started looking up other things to explore in Lancaster, we happened upon a listing for a little preserve shop called Peg’s Preserves. The internet said that the store was open until 5pm and it was 4:54pm so we hightailed it over there to see if we could make it in time. We got there (it’s more of a house than a store) literally at 5pm- but there was no sign there and it didn’t seem like anyone was around. We later looked into it further and it looks like Peg moved to Georgia- so… well… ummm, we won’t be enjoying Peg’s preserves and jams anytime soon. Doh!

We headed back towards town common area to explore a very large building that seemed intriguing. Turns out it was part of the campus for Dr. Franklin Perkins School (aka Perkins programs); a special education school for children and adolescents who experience an array challenges and need support. The building was part of a campus that looked quite expansive.

We thought about grabbing a little snack so Jenny found a place online called BullSpit Brewery (yes, you read that right) that said was open til 6pm. We just wanted to grab some fries or something and see a local joint, so we headed that way. During our drive, we passed the South Lancaster Academy and happened upon a Trustees site called Dexter Drumlin. A drumlin is basically an elongated hill that was caused by glacial action. It can look like an egg coming up from the land. Dexter Drumlin stood out as this fully mowed grassy lump with a little path leading to the top. It was fun to see.

We made it to BullSpit Brewery which, happened to be next to a country store called Kalon Farm Country store. The country store was an unexpected treat. We walked in and there was an array of sauces, meats, prepared foods and, the canned local beer from BullSpit brewery located next door.  When we noticed that no one seemed to be next door, the woman at the country store informed us that the brewery did not get its license renewed (Lancaster has a history of being a dry town and apparently is very limited in what they allow regarding Alcohol licenses). She said they recently got approval for some outdoor events but that have since opened a place in Maynard.

We didn’t get our fries, but we did purchase some chorizo, corned beef hash, and pulled pork.  Jenny purchased 2 single beers that she is excited to try.  We already had some corned beef hash for breakfast and some pulled pork for lunch, so, yeah, they did not disappoint!  

With our backseat full of locally sourced goodies and our bodies satisfyingly tired, we headed back east to Newton.


Indigenous/ Native land info for this region: 
PETERSHAM- Nipmuc (in 2016, a parcel of land (2 1/2 acres) was given back to the Nipmuc Cultural Preservation Group by University of the Wild founder and later the same group purchased even more of that land (18 more acres). The land, which is within the town of Petersham, is called Nichewaug.

Nichewaug

LANCASTER- Agawam & Nipmuc

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