Monday, June 28, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 54: The 3 Bridgewater Towns, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 54: The 3 Bridgewater Towns, Massachusetts
June 3, 2010

            Unlike many cities and towns whose smaller villages are considered part of the larger town, such as South Dennis and East Dennis being part of the town of Dennis, the three Bridgewater towns are each a separate entity.  East, West, and Bridgewater proper are all connected despite being different towns; I have decided to wrap them all into one article.
            That being said, the separate incorporations are not what drew me to pay a visit to these three towns.  My father’s side of my family has the vast majority of its roots in East Bridgewater, while the allure of paranormal activity at Hockomock Swamp in West Bridgewater was too much to pass up.
            I began my visit to the three Bridgewaters at the Beaver Cemetery in East Bridgewater.  One of my major interests on these trips is that of history.  Normally it is history of a town or famous person that I have no connection with.  However, in the case of East Bridgewater and Beaver Cemetery the history is all my own.  It is in Beaver Cemetery where I was able to find the graves of my great grandparents and my second great-grandparents as well as numerous great aunts and uncles. 
            Having done quite a bit of research on my own family tree in the recent months it was somewhat surreal to actually stand before the markers of some of these long since departed relatives.  The cemetery itself is small and on a rural intersection which made it very peaceful and quiet; a perfect setting to envelop myself in thought.  Not wanting my entire day to be spent in a cemetery I moved on in East Bridgewater.
            In keeping my eyes open as I drove I discovered a moss covered stone along Pleasant Street, not far from Beaver Cemetery.  It marks the site of an early Iron Works site in East Bridgewater(left).  The years marked on the stone are 1760-1887 and the site is along a creek bed that seemed to be quite dry.  I have done my research and have had trouble finding any sort of information about just what did lay on the spot marked by the East Bridgewater Bicentennial Commission in 1976.  That is something I would like to find out for myself someday.
Keeping with the theme of keeping my eyes open for places as I drove near the Town Hall I discovered a small but beautiful little green wedged like a triangle between three streets(left).  The green had a gazebo and an impressive World War II monument at the east end.  As with Saugus in my last article, the Town Hall in East Bridgewater stood out because of its different colors.  I can only describe them as salmon and periwinkle, it made the building look closer to a doll house than an official government spot.  I enjoyed the colors though, let me make that clear, I wish more towns experimented the way Saugus and East Bridgewater have.
Normally the historical societies of towns are located inside centuries old buildings.  In the case of West Bridgewater not only was this spot an historic site, it was also located next to a small farm loaded with cows out for a graze.  The Reverend James Keith House(right) is packed with history.  Built in 1662 it was the home of the first minister of what was then Old Bridgewater, James Keith.  The area on which the house was built was a colonial outpost and garrison.  This was important because it was in this very house where in 1676 the wife and son of King Philip, also known as Metacom, were held during King Philip’s War.  The Keith House is recognized as the oldest parsonage, or rectory, in America.
After leaving the Keith House and the adorable cows I headed for a more serious and sinister area.  Hockomock Swamp in West Bridgewater is the stuff of legend.  The 6,000 acre wetland was a strategic area for Metacom to launch attacks on nearby settlements during King Philip’s War but that is only scratching the surface of why the Hockomock name is so well known.
Coming from the Native American word meaning ‘where the spirits dwell’ Hockomock is seen by many as the site of strange occurrences to this day.  This has earned the area the nickname the ‘Bridgewater Triangle.’  Sightings of UFO’s, bigfoot, ‘black helicopters,’ and thunderbirds have been reported in this area.  Despite these possibilities I headed down to the swamp not expecting anything out of the ordinary. 
I will admit though that as I drove down a bumpy dirt road that carried me into the swamp the bright sun was quickly replaced with an eerie fog which gave me pause about my expedition momentarily.  I drove as far as I could and then walked from there.  The swamp area that I experienced was lush and green and filled with insects(left).  The only odd noises came from scattering birds that heard me coming but were out of sight from me.  Eventually the insects got the better of me before I got more than a mile into the quiet of the swamp and I was forced to retreat.  Although it would have been neat to see or hear something I could not explain I will admit that I am glad I did not.
Though separated into three completely independent towns East, West, and Bridgewater proper are all parts of one beautiful whole.  Having the opportunity to pay respect to some dearly departed relative in East Bridgewater and also getting to take a walk in the ‘Bridgewater Triangle’ made the trip one to remember.  Since they are all connected I highly recommend taking a day and visiting all three of the Bridgewater towns, it is well worth it.  Have fun and happy traveling!
DirectionsKeith House:  From I-495 west take Exit 7A for Rt. 24 north.  Take Exit 16A for Rt. 106, turn right at N. Elm St.  Continue onto Charles St., turn left at River St., Keith House is #223.
            Hockomock Swamp:  From I-495 west take Exit 7A for Rt. 24 north.  Take Exit 16A for Rt. 106, turn left at N. Elm St.  Turn right at Grant Street, right at Copeland St., turn right after .3 miles, and a quick right to lead you around a cemetery, go straight and at the end is the entrance.
            Old Bridgewater Historical Society
            Bridgewater, Ma. - Official Site

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