Monday, September 27, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 73: Duxbury, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 73:  Duxbury, Mass.
August 26, 2010

            Sitting only ten miles north of the Holy Grail of history, Plymouth, the town of Duxbury surprised me with how much history of its own it has inside its borders.  Plymouth may have the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock, but Duxbury may have just as much of a connection to the original Pilgrims.  It is here that many of those who arrived on the Mayflower were buried, and it is here where perhaps the most famous Pilgrim, Myles Standish, lived as well.
Powder Point Bridge leading to Duxbury Beach
            Yes, there is an overwhelming amount of historical significance throughout Duxbury there are also many other places to see as well.  The major attraction in this amazing South Shore town has to be Duxbury Beach.  It is made even more magnificent by the fact that it is accessible only by a drive across the narrow, wooden Powder Point Bridge.  The beach is very narrow at most points due to its exposure to any and all rough seas.  The Powder Point Bridge is popular for fishing and when I passed over it to go to the beach I had to make sure to go slowly. 
John Alden House
Gurnet Light
            As you travel south along the dirt road of Duxbury Beach you reach a point where it turns into the private Gurnet.  A twenty-seven acre peninsula The Gurnet is only accessible if you own a house at Gurnet Point, or if you are lucky enough like me to know someone who does.  My friend Steve’s family has a summer home on Gurnet Point and I was able to go out and take in the amazing views across Plymouth Harbor.  There is also Gurnet Light sitting high above the cliffs.  Originally there were twin lighthouses in this spot until one was torn down in 1924.  This lighthouse is difficult to see from the mainland and I was very glad that I got the chance to see it up close.
            My trip into the history Duxbury holds began at a cemetery called the ‘Myles Standish Burying Grounds.’  The oldest maintained cemetery in the United States it is here that many of the famous Pilgrims were laid to rest.  The most obvious name buried here is the one for whom the cemetery is named.  The grave of Myles Standish is unbelievable.  There are four cannons facing outward from the rock wall the surrounds the gravesite.  The ‘headstone’ is a large boulder with the name ‘Standish’ engraved on it.  I do not know how far beneath my feet the legendary Pilgrim was buried but it was an awesome feeling to be so close to someone so important to the beginnings of our country.
The grave of Capt. Myles Standish
            Not to be forgotten are the graves of John and Priscilla Alden which reside along the edge of the cemetery bordering Chestnut Street.  However there is a much better way to get a taste of what life was like for the Alden’s by visiting the John Alden House on Alden Street.  Dated 1653, the house is one of very few in the country from so far back to never have been renovated with such improvements as plumbing and electricity.  There is also the archaeological site of the original 1632 Alden Homestead on the grounds.  Archaeological pioneer Roland Wells Robbins excavated the site in 1960 and found the remains of the foundation of the original Alden house.  The house is now a museum and is open for tours throughout the summer months.     
Captain Myles Standish has a monument dedicated to him which located a short drive from the cemetery that bears his name as well.  On the way to the monument is the home of Standish’s son, Alexander.  Built in 1666 the house was occupied by Alexander and his wife Sarah Alden who was the daughter of John and Priscilla until 1688 when Sarah died.  Alexander then married Desire Doty.  Unfortunately the house is on private property and try as I might I was not even able to find a good vantage point for a shot of it.  I will have to take the Duxbury Historical Society’s word for it that it is there.
Myles Standish Monument
The Myles Standish Monument is located on Crescent Street atop the 200 foot Captain’s Hill, the 116-foot granite shaft is topped by a fourteen foot statue of Standish.  Myles Standish was hired to be a military adviser for Plymouth Colony and served as Plymouth’s representative to England.  He also helped found Duxbury and named it after Duxbury Woods in Chorley, Lancashire, England.  During the summer, mostly June and July, the monument is easy to get to, you can drive up the hill and park at the base of it.  However, on both of my trips up to the monument the gate was locked and I had to walk up the hill.  It is not a long walk and it should not dissuade any visitor from seeing this amazing tribute to an American legend.
            The monument itself can be seen from miles around as it rises high above the trees.  During the summer months there are opportunities to climb it, although it is wise to have a group to go and to call ahead.  For those who do get to climb they are rewarded with an amazing view of Kingston Bay as well as Duxbury Bay and Clarks Island.  The forest surrounding the monument is beautiful and the sweet pine scent filled the air.  I made sure to take my time and enjoy the site of this towering granite structure. 
            Although it may tend to be overshadowed by Plymouth to the south Duxbury can hold its own as far as history goes with any other town in the state.  After taking some time to relax at Duxbury Beach make sure to enjoy some of this history by visiting the Myles Standish Burying Ground and Monument.  Don’t forget the 350-year old John Alden House as well.  Have fun and happy traveling!

     My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available through Schiffer Books!

DirectionsMyles Standish Monument: From Rt. 3 take Exit 10, turn right at Rt. 3A.  Turn right at Chestnut St., right at Standish St.  Take slight right onto Crescent Street.  Parking area for monument is on a hill on the right, if gate is closed road must be hiked to the top. 
John Alden House:  From Rt. 3A heading north turn right at Alden Street.  Follow it .3 miles to house located on right.
Duxbury Beach:  From Rt. 3A heading north turn right at Alden Street.  Turn right at St. George St., turn left at the end and bear right onto Powder Point Avenue.  Follow it across the Powder Point Bridge to the beach. 

            John Alden House
            Duxbury, Ma. - Official Town Site

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 72: Weymouth, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 72:  Weymouth, Mass.
August 26, 2010

            Sitting at the top of the South Shore and sporting a spectacular view of Boston, the city of Weymouth is a great destination all its own.  Whether you like the natural beauty or historic significance there is something for everyone here.  Named for a coastal town in England, the connection to the sea is apparent as soon as you enter Weymouth.  There are stretches of amazing beaches on the north side facing Boston to the northwest and Hull to the northeast.
Webb Memorial State Park
            Ironically Weymouth was one of the first settlements in the New World by the English in 1622.  The original colony called Wessagusset failed within a year and the original inhabitants were forced out by the Massachusett tribe of Native Americans.  They fled to Maine where they were taken back to England by fishermen who came every summer.  It would not be until 1630 that another colony was attempted, this one succeeded.
View of Boston from Great Hill Park
            There are two tremendous parks where the views of the surrounding area will take your breath away.  The first is Webb Memorial State Park located on River Street at the northern most tip of Weymouth.  There is a nice green strip of land that juts out into Hingham Bay and is perfect for walking.  I found another area though that piqued my interest a little more.  There is a small hill called ‘Mary’s Point’ which gives a great view.  The path leading up to the top, maybe thirty to forty feet high, winds around until you reach a set of benches at the ‘summit.’  The views of Hingham and Hough’s Neck in Quincy are well worth the short walk.
            The other park in Weymouth with an amazing view is Great Hill Park which is only a mile or so away from Webb Memorial Park.  There are two entrances, Bradley Road which is a nice easy ride, and there is Baylee Drive, a rough ride with chunked pavement.  This of course was the route I chose.  Despite the fact that I drove up the wrong road the view of the Boston skyline was perhaps the best I have ever seen.  I enjoyed just standing at the top of the green hill and staring off toward the bustling city, I might have stayed all day if not for the fact that I had many other sites to see.
Abigail Adams Birthplace
            Unknown to me before arriving in Weymouth was the fact that it was the birthplace of Abigail Adams, wife of President John Adams and mother of President John Quincy Adams.  The house where she was born in 1744 still stands on Norton Street.  There was not a place to park in front of the house so I ended up parking in a cemetery located just behind the house and walking through it to get to the house.  On the premises there is also a marker showing where a time capsule was buried in 1976 to be opened in 2076.  I doubt that I will be there to see it, but I’d be interested in knowing what is in it.  Only a short walk away from the Abigail Adams House is the small but very pretty Abigail Adams Village Green.  There is also a state park bearing her name along Bridge Street.
            The next spot I visited today is nothing more than some trees and scrub brush, it was what used to be there that was why I stopped at the intersection of Middle Street and Washington Street.  Here where only trees and brush stand was the site of the original Weymouth Town Hall.  It was built in 1852 but burned to the ground in 1914.  There were no remnants of the old building, or anything that would give you a clue as to what stood there but for the sign post nearby.  It was also near the spot of the old Town Hall where the last major Indian attack during King Philip’s War took place.  This attack, on April 19, 1676, was as close as King Philip’s forces got to the city of Boston.  It made me wonder after seeing these historic markers how many people that drive through that intersection everyday have no idea how important it is.
Weymouth Great Pond
            The final spot I visited was the Weymouth Great Pond on Randolph Street.  Located in the southern part of Weymouth this pond serves as the main source of drinking water for the town.  Randolph Street which runs close by the pond used to be called the ‘Bay Trail’ and was one of the most important in the region long ago.  The pond is easy to reach from trails along the road.  I found an amazing spot on the north side of the pond which was filled with large rocks.  The pond was calm and that combined with the rocks in the water gave this area the feel and look of someplace in Northern Canada rather than Massachusetts.
            Amazing views and awesome historic sites, this is only a small part of what the town of Weymouth has to offer.  The view of Boston from Great Hill was simply spectacular, it was not what I expected and that made it even more special.  The connection throughout the town to Abigail Adams is a reminder of just how much history has occurred in this region.  There is even history on what looks like just another street corner like Washington and Middle where the old Town Hall once stood.  There is so much to see in Weymouth, something for everyone.  Have fun and happy traveling!

   My first book, In My Footsteps: A Cape Cod Travel Guide, is now available at,, and, in stores everywhere!  Follow me on Twitter!

DirectionsWebb Memorial State Park:  From Rt. 3A heading north take a right at Neck St.  Turn right at River St. which becomes Back River St.  Follow it to the park.
            Great Hill Park:  From Rt. 3A heading north take a right at Lovell St.  Follow Lovell St. which becomes Bradley Rd., this leads you up to the top of Great Hill. 
            Abigail Adams House:  From Rt. 3A heading north turn left at North Street.  Follow it for about a mile, turn right at intersection with Norton St.  The house in on the right immediately after.  Parking is tough and it may be better to park in cemetery behind the house.

            Weymouth, Ma. - Official Town Site
            Webb Memorial State Park - Mass DCR

Thursday, September 23, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 71: Grafton, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 71:  Grafton, Mass.
August 18, 2010

            All good things must come to and end and for me my trip to the awe inspiring Blackstone River Valley ended in the sweet little town of Grafton.  It is the home of a genuine Native American village belonging to the Nipmuc tribe.  It is known as the Hassanamisco Reservation and that name has sometimes preceded the Nipmuc tribe in Grafton.  They are also known as the Hassanamesit or Grafton Nipmuc as well.
Looking across the green at the Grafton Inn
            Originally settled in 1718 the town is named for Charles FitzRoy who was the second Duke of Grafton in Wales.  Much like the other towns I visited in the Blackstone River Valley, Grafton has a classic small town feel and is filled with beautiful scenery wherever you look.
            Though there are many spots to see I found that a great way to get a feel for what Grafton is all about is to take a walk around Grafton Common.  I was lucky to find a parking spot facing the small town green which made my walk that much easier.  The Common is like something out of a postcard or magazine, to me it was as if every building and every home had meaning and significance.  This also explains why I basically took photos of every building and home as well.
Grafton Country Store
            At the southern tip of the Common is a statue of 19th century inventor and Grafton native Jerome Wheelock.  He generously left a large gift to the town in his will.  The Lovell Stowe house is actually a pair of identical homes built in 1830 and separated by a narrow driveway.  I found it unique that despite being two unattached dwellings they kept the same name for both.
            As I walked northeast around the Common I passed the Grafton Public Library, a beautiful brick building set back a little from the street.  The 200-year old Grafton Inn comes up next as you head north.  It still holds on to its colonial-style inside and out.  Not only is it a very popular restaurant the Grafton Inn also doubles as a Bed & Breakfast.  
            Most of the old buildings around the Common still house what they were originally built for, however, there are a few that contain newer businesses.  One such building is the Civil War-era brick building which was the former Town Hall.  It currently holds the Grafton Historical Society and Museum but is also home to a few newer businesses including a wine shop and boutique.  Although I find old buildings that have stayed the same for long periods of time interesting there is a part of me that is just as fascinated with buildings that retain their appearance but house different occupants. 
Incredible scenery of the Blackstone River Valley.
            Perhaps the best known spot around the Grafton Common is the Grafton Country Store.  The store, its location mostly, can be traced all the way back to 1733-34 and a man named Jeremiah Barstow who opened a shop on the same spot.   Although the building was erected in 1806 the Grafton Country Store as it is known today was opened in the early 1980’s by the Mahassel family.  If you did not know the dates you would swear that it had been open for at least a hundred years.  The store sells a variety of items including candles, children's toys, jams and jellies, and of course homemade chocolates.
            Of course if taking a walk around the Common is not your thing you can always sit in the shaded green area and watch the cars and people pass by.  There is even a stubby little traffic light at the Worcester Street entrance to the Common area.  It was very different from anything I’d seen that I had to watch for oncoming traffic as I stopped to check it out in the middle of the street.
            After leaving the Grafton Common behind I took a trip out to Willard Street and the Willard House Clock Museum.  The irony is that my GPS took me past it and to the Tufts Hospital for Large Animals.  I was able to check out several horses wandering around on the premises and then turned to the east to catch an amazing view of the Blackstone River Valley.  The vast green hills stretched out before me, I don’t think I could ever get used to such scenery where it became just a part of life.
Willard House
            The Willard House & Clock Museum is named for the Willard family most notably Benjamin Willard who began making clocks in his workshop in 1766.  Eventually three generations of the Willard family would lay claim to the same trade.  The Willard House is the oldest building in Grafton, built in 1718 by Joseph Willard, father of Benjamin.  Another of Joseph’s sons, Simon, patented the very famous and historically significant ‘banjo’ clock in 1802.  It was called a banjo clock because of its similarity to the instrument in shape.  Today more than eighty Willard clock are on display.  The museum opened in 1971 and is open year round.
            My time in the Blackstone River Valley may have ended with Grafton but I will take with me the memories of what an amazing area of New England this is.  The Grafton Common is a must see as are the many historic homes, buildings, and shops in the surrounding area.  Make sure to drive out to the Willard House & Clock Museum, but don’t be upset if you pass by it at first.  There are some incredible views of the Valley just north of the museum on Willard Street.  You need to make time to see as much of the scenery as possible.  It will stay with you for a long time.  Have fun and happy traveling!

DirectionsGrafton Common:  From I-495 North take Exit 21B for Upton.  Take W. Main Street which becomes Hopkinton Road, this becomes High Street which then becomes Hartford Ave North.  Turn right at Rt. 140 and follow it into the Common area.
Willard House & Clock Museum:  From I-495 take Rt. 9 west to Rt. 30, turn right at Willard Road next to the Tufts Campus, house will be on the right.

            Grafton Country
            Town of Grafton - Official Site

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

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 69: Upton, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 69:  Upton, Massachusetts
August 18, 2010

            The Blackstone River Valley is one of the best places in Massachusetts to visit if you want to be nearly overwhelmed with breathtaking beauty.  Many of the twenty-four towns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island that make up the Valley area are rural and this allows for seemingly endless miles of amazing views.  Upton is one such town.
            Settled in 1728 Upton was originally the home of the Nipmuc tribe of Native Americans.  It is also the spot of the first ever performance by Aerosmith in 1970 at Upton-Menden Regional High School which was then known as Nipmuc Regional High School.  I got a great feel for this amazing little town upon arrival at the town center.
The view across Pratt Pond
            I particularly enjoyed the view I got while standing near the porch of the Ezra Nelson House which is situated up on a hill.  From this point I got a great look at the Town Hall, Library, and the small green which housed a very nice Civil War monument.  I found myself snapping photos of the view so that I could remember the feeling as well as the beautiful buildings.  I made sure to take a walk around the town center and really enjoyed the small town feel.  This was driven home by the nice ladies at the Town Nurse’s Office on Grove Street who let me use their bathroom.  Thank you!
            I next visited Pratt Pond which is a short drive from the town center on Hopkinton Road.  There were many exquisite views but in a sort of twist these sights were best seen from the edge of the adjacent Lakeview Cemetery.  Yes, in order to get some great shots of the reflections of buildings on the water I spent some time wandering around a deserted cemetery.  Still, it was worth it as the views of Kiwanis Beach across the pond and the homes on Hopkinton Road reflecting on the water were sights I will remember.
A building built by the CCC at Upton State Forest.
            Upton State Forest is filled with amazing sights and even the drive through it was spectacular.  It is 2,660 acres of hiking and walking trails, as well as places for horseback riding and snowmobiling in the winter.  One thing I found particularly interesting was found at the main entrance.  There you will find a plaque with a photo in front of a rectangular wooden cabin.  The photo and words on the plaque tell of the contributions that were made to the Upton State Forest by a group called the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Sweetwilliam Farm Country Store
            The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a group put together by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as part of his ‘New Deal’ in 1933.  At its peak there were three million people working for the CCC.  There were some very famous people who at one time were associated with the CCC, they include names like Walter Matthau, Chuck Yeager, Archie Moore, Raymond Burr, and Stan Musial.  All in all the Civilian Conservation Corps planted more than three billion trees, built more than 800 parks that were the start of the state parks, developed forest fire fighting methods, and created a network of thousands of miles of public roadways.  The CCC program ended in 1942 but its legacy lives on in other conservation groups still active today.
            I began by mentioning how seemingly everywhere I looked in Upton, and the entire Blackstone River Valley for that matter, there were incredible views as far as I could see.  This fact came to a perfect head when it was mixed together with a few farms located to the north and west of Upton State Forest.  There are others such as Stefans Farm on Mechanic Street but I stopped at Sweetwilliam Farm on North Street and was in awe of the view.
Sweetwilliam Farm, a magnificent view.
            The farm land sloped out before me and then the greens of the forest took off and rose up as far as I could see.  I felt as if I was at a point in the Blackstone River Valley where I was on a high point in the middle and was able to be sort of at eye level with the other high points.  I mean the valley sloped down away from me and rose up to meet my eye level at a distance several miles away.  It was amazing!
            Sweetwilliam Farm itself is not a gigantic farm, at least as far as I saw, but I really enjoyed my time there.  Though there were lots of chickens and horses on the grounds there is a lot more that goes on at Sweetwilliam Farm.  There is a beautiful country store which they call a ‘little piece of Vermont,’ the farmhouse sports the name Ephraim Whitney Jr., an uncle of Eli Whitney the inventor of the cotton gin in 1794.  The house is dated 1780.   There are yoga and Native American classes on the grounds as well as live music Friday nights during the summer.  There are so many reasons to make a stop at Sweetwilliam Farm.
            Upton is a small town with as many beautiful views as any other town I have visited.  This became even more evident as I traveled throughout more of the Blackstone River Valley that I was in a very special area of Massachusetts.  I believe that Upton is a great way to introduce yourself to the breathtaking beauty of the Blackstone River Valley; although to be honest every place I visited there was incredible.  Check out the history of the CCC at Upton State Forest and immerse yourself in culture, history, and delicious treats at Sweetwilliam Farm.  Have fun and happy traveling!

DirectionsUpton State Forest:  From I-495 south take Exit 21B for Upton.  Turn right and drive 3.5 miles.  Turn right onto Westboro Road, entrance is 2 miles up on the right.
            Sweetwilliam Farm:  From I-495 south take Exit 21B for Upton.  Turn right and drive 3.5 miles.  Turn right onto Westboro Rd.  Travel 1.3 miles and make a left onto North Street.  Sweetwilliam Farm is 1.4 miles up on the right.

ReferencesSweetwilliam Farm
            Upton, Ma. - Official Town Site
            Upton State Forest - Mass. DCR        

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In My Footsteps: Trip 68: Sutton, Mass.

In My Footsteps
Christopher Setterlund

Trip 68:  Sutton, Massachusetts
August 18, 2010

            I did not know much about the Blackstone River Valley before my recent trip there.  Now it has become one of my favorite spots I have seen thus far.  The scenic beauty is something that I was not prepared for and it blew me away.  Sutton was very special because of its amazing natural wonder known as Purgatory Chasm which I will delve into later.
The beauty of the Blackstone River Valley
            Though there are many historic sites and some amazing farms to see I feel that as hard as I may try to paint a picture there is no substitute for being there.  Sutton, and all of the towns I visited in the Blackstone River Valley, fall into the category of ‘you have to be there.’  However I will still try my best to detail what a wonderful time I had out there.
            As much as there are historic sites and natural beauties to see in Sutton there are a few other spots that are feasts for your stomach as well as your eyes.  Keown Orchards is a gigantic farm known mostly for its apples but not exclusively.  The 175 acre farm was purchased by Arthur and Alice Keown in 1924 and you can watch the apples get brought in from the fields; not to mention the rows and rows of trees.  The sheer size of the orchard is amazing, teeming with apples, nectarines, apricots, peaches, and more.  The farm stand is open from July through Christmas Eve.  Keown Orchards is definitely a place to stop and pick up fruits and veggies that are as fresh as can be.
            Another delicious stop is Eaton Farm Confectioners.  They make their own homemade chocolates and candies and it absolutely lived up to the hype for me.  The story of the business goes back to 1892 when Ira M. Chute took forty-one dollars he had saved and opened his own candy store called Chute’s Candies.  The store and recipes were passed down from Mr. Chute to his son and eventually to Lynwood Eaton who purchased the store in 1974 and moved it to the Eaton Farm.  I was in awe of the chocolates I saw.  Their most well known creation is the Peanut Butter Lust Bar which includes peanut butter, chocolate chips, cashews, marshmallows and rice crisps.  It is all coated in gourmet chocolate and is as delicious as it sounds.  They are open year round and also sell their tremendous items at their website which is in my ‘reference’ section below.  Eaton Farm Confectioners is a must stop destination in Sutton.
Purgatory Chasm
            In keeping with the farm theme there is also Waters Farm on Waters Road.  This spot was closed when I arrived, closer to sunset.  That did not spoil my time there as the setting sun gave some of the old buildings a beautiful orange and yellow hue that seemed more magical when combined with near total silence around me.  Waters Farm’s origin dates all the way back to 1757 and the historic homestead built by Stephen Waters which overlooks Lake Manchaug.  The farm’s 120 acres of protected watershed land was donated to the town by Dorothea Waters Moran in 1974. 
            So many of these places that I visited in Sutton had an added bonus, that being the drive to them.  The Blackstone River Valley is an amazing area and I found myself losing the road at times as I gazed upon the rolling hills of green that would stretch out behind buildings and homes along my route.
            The final place I visited in Sutton was a one of a kind.  Purgatory Chasm State Park was hyped up to me by my friend Keisha who lives twenty minutes north of Sutton in Worcester.  After seeing and experiencing it for myself I will say that it exceeded my expectations.  Basically Purgatory Chasm is believed to be the result of the sudden release of dammed glacial water at the end of the last Ice Age approximately 14,000 years ago.  It is a quarter mile rock climber’s paradise.  The ‘trail’ through the Chasm is marked by a blue line, but there are rocks of all shapes and sizes littering the path which makes even the marked path a workout.
Purgatory Chasm
            The granite rock faces on either side rise as high as seventy-feet and some of the spots have been named.  I got to see ‘His Majesty’s Cave,’ ‘Lover’s Leap,’ ‘Devil’s Pulpit,’ and ‘Devil’s Corn Crib.’  There were many people climbing the rocks although I would only recommend it if you are in reasonably good condition.   However, that should not stop any and all visitors from taking in this incredible natural wonder. 
            Sutton, and the entire Blackstone River Valley area, is a place that needs to be seen.  The breathtaking views offered nearly everywhere you drive will make even the trips between spots meaningful.  As the fall approaches there will be unbelievable foliage to see but this is an area to visit at anytime.  Partake of the delicious chocolate at Eaton Farm Confectioners, or enjoy the fresh fruits and veggies at Keown Orchards.  Afterward make sure to take the time to visit the incredible natural wonder that is Purgatory Chasm, there is no way you will be disappointed.  Sutton is definitely a highly recommended town in my opinion.  Have fun and happy traveling!

For a short video of my trip to Purgatory Chasm click here: Purgatory Chasm, Sutton, Ma. - YouTube

DirectionsPurgatory Chasm:  Take I-90 to Exit 10A for Rt. 146.  Take Rt. 146 south to Exit 6, Purgatory Road.  Turn right, visitor’s center is ¼ mile on the right.
Keown Orchards:  Take I-90 to exit 10A, take Rt. 146 South to Central Turnpike East, take your second left at Dodge Hill Rd to your first right on McClellan Rd.  Look for Blue Attraction signs which designate the Orchard.
Eaton Farm Confectioners:  Take I-90 to Exit 10A for Rt. 146.  Take Rt. 146 south, turn right at Boston Rd.  Turn right at Burbank Road.  The farm is on the right, Eaton’s Drive.

            Eaton Farm Confectioners
            Sutton, Ma. - Official Site