Sunday, September 19, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 70: Uxbridge, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 70:  Uxbridge, Massachusetts
August 18, 2010

            Growing up I only knew of the town of Uxbridge due to its unique name.  There are not that many towns with the letter ‘x’ in them.  After paying a visit to the town with the unique name I have come to realize that the name is not the only unique thing about this place.  As I have said with my articles on Sutton and Upton the beauty of the Blackstone River Valley is everywhere.  It was nearly impossible for me to drive from point to point and not find a random spot along the way that caught my eye and forced me to either slow down or pull over all together.
West Hill Dam
            I started my trip off with a spot not on my original list but it ended up being the very definition of the uniqueness of Uxbridge mixed with the beauty of the Blackstone River Valley.  The West Hill Dam, which runs across the West River, was an amazing sight.  First off there was the big sign warning you of bears recently spotted in the area.  I did not see any but made sure to visit the places they had been seen. 
            The dam did not appear to be the typical dam to me.  The dam stands forty-eight feet tall and though there is the spot where the river flows through the area was so much wider open with lots of trails.  The dirt road I walked on led you off into the thick forest and I watched as a couple of bikers rode past and grew ever smaller despite still being in sight.  The road carried on forever just like the beautiful scenery around the dam area.  The water of the West River flowing through the dam was so calm that there were perfect reflections of the granite rock cliffs on either side of the river.  The absence of movement made the scene like a painting, perfect for pictures.
River Bend Farm
            After leaving the West Hill Dam I visited another simply amazing spot known as River Bend Farm.  Founded by Peter White in 1760 this spot is a thousand acres of natural beauty on the line between Uxbridge and Northbridge.  There is also the amazing Rice City Pond expanse which you can canoe to down the river, it is located just across Hartford Ave. East.  This pond was created as a result of the development of the Blackstone River Canal between 1828 and 1848.   The canal itself became obsolete with the completion of the railroad in 1847.  Most of the remnants of the canal have been removed but some of the locks and dams remain.
            Across the street from the big red barn is a really cool authentic Nipmuc wetu, or lodge.  It was built using a combination of traditional and modern methods and the dome shape of the dwelling was created by making a frame of bent saplings.  I enjoyed sitting and looking through the opening behind the wetu and taking in the view of River Bend Farm.
John Farnum House
            Another great spot of historic significance is the John Farnum House.  Built around 1715 this is the oldest house in Uxbridge and holds much more importance than only that fact.  It was in this house on July 25, 1727 that the very first Uxbridge town meeting took place.  This meeting was to create the town of Uxbridge and become a separate entity from the town of Mendon.  In an amazing twist, John Farnum and his wife Mary may have ended up in the town of Mendon due to witchcraft controversies that surrounded her family in the town of Andover.  So in theory witchcraft may have led to the formation of Uxbridge.  I did enjoy taking a walk around the grounds of the Farnum House despite the fact that its lawn was being noisily mowed at the time.  Many of the photos I took were filled with a grassy haze in the air.
            The final spot I took in during my time in Uxbridge was the Stanley Woolen Mill.  Originally known as the Luke Taft mill and established in 1851, this mill became the first to fully manufacture woolen garments.  The Stanley Woolen Company began in 1905 and was named for Stanley Wheelock who had helped his father organize the company.  Sadly the company was lost to bankruptcy in 1989 and closed.  Now it is being remodeled and restored for commercial use in the near future.     
Stanley Woolen Mill
            The buildings that make up the mill are in major disrepair and it looks like there is a lot of work needed before they can be used again.  It reminded me of something from a horror movie nightmare with the stoic brick building silently waiting to be put back to use.  It was one part eerie, but yet another part hopeful.  I would love to make a return trip to Uxbridge and see the new Stanley Woolen Mill development when it is open and operational again.
            Uxbridge is filled with the amazing beauty of the Blackstone River Valley as well as some important historical sites as well.  As I said with my other articles from this area, it is almost as if you do not need any specific place to go when you are here, just drive and the beauty will find you.  Come and see the history of the Stanley Woolen Mill and Farnum House, and then make sure to visit the history combined with the natural beauty of River Bend Farm.  Even though I originally did not, make sure to put the West Hill Dam on your itinerary, but keep an eye out for bears!  Have fun and happy traveling!

DirectionsWest Hill Dam:  From I-495 take Exit 20 for Rt. 85.  Take a sharp left at Cedar St., and right onto Rt. 16.  Turn right at Hartford Ave West, turn right at West Hill Dam Road.
River Bend Farm:  From I-495 take Exit 20 for Rt. 85.  Take a sharp left at Cedar St., and right onto Rt. 16.  Turn right at Hartford Ave West which becomes Hartford Ave East.  Turn left at Oak Street, farm visitors center is on the left.

            Uxbridge, Ma. - Official Town Site

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