The town of Bellingham was founded in 1719, and all year we have been hosting events throughout town to fit all sorts of folks’ interests as we celebrate the 300th year since the town’s founding. Early settlers who were instrumental in the founding of the town were the Baptists, and it turns out the first Baptist meeting house was on High Street.
We are also in the process of writing the book celebrating the town’s founding, which will be out next spring. In researching the book we learned a lot about the town and it’s earlier days. We will be sharing lots of that information in the soon-to-be published book, but during our walk at High Street we drew on that knowledge to help folks get a better picture of Bellingham in days gone by.
but the fallen leaves added to the challenge of our footing, especially once we reached the extreme sloping ground right at the river’s edge. We had hoped to take the walk last month in the midst of foliage season, but at that time the threat of EEE virus was great, and thus we headed out in mid-November instead.
In all, we were joined by thirty humans, and three dogs.
We gathered around the trail kiosk built by Sean Boddy for one of his eagle scout projects. As we headed out, I pointed to the bridge over apparently nothing. But I explained that what flows under the bridge is an intermittent stream.
Come spring, the ground is quite muddy, and visitors will be grateful for Sean’s other eagle scout project, the bridge over this stream.
We followed the red arrows along the trail, Sean’s third(!) eagle scout project. Multiple trails branch off into flood plain areas, and I am always grateful for the work Sean put in helping travelers along the way to find the path to the river.
As we walked, we stopped on occasion to talk a little about the area, point out where we needed to turn, and noted the absence of stone walls. The lack of walls this close to the river suggests either that this area was not farmed because it was flood plain, or that whatever walls there were have been removed for building materials by later generations.
One participant asked me to be sure everyone was stopped before sharing additional historical tidbits of information. “We make so much noise walking through the leaves we can’t hear you till everyone has stopped moving,” she explained. Leading large numbers of interested folks through the woods is always challenging, but we had great fun on a bright, sunny day, sharing this special place with many who never realized the trail was here, right in town.
We checked out the stone foundation built just uphill from the river, near the end of the trail. We were left to speculate about what the structure might have been that used this foundation.
A small dam just downhill from the foundation, in the river, led us to talk about the myriad small dams to be found in woods throughout New England that had been used for seasonal power sources for various enterprises.
I wore blaze orange as an example to encourage and educate folks about safe attire for woodland walks in fall and early winter months. This brought up more questions, and since the laws are somewhat complicated, I pointed people to state websites for most dependable information about dates and types of hunting allowed in Massachusetts throughout the season. Different states have different dates, so know what state you are walking in when checking for information.
Everyone returned still smiling, and assured us they had learned something, and clearly had a good time. I was grateful for those who supported us on the walk, especially my fellow book committee folks Bernadette Rivard, her partner Chris, and Cecily Christensen. The anniversary year is nearly over, but it was a joy to be part of the celebration, and help neighbors and friends understand a little more of the town that many of us call home.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, More Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd edition, and editor of Easy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed. Just out is her latest book, Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. She has been a freelance writer for numerous local, regional, and national publications for the past 20+ years, has helped numerous families to save their stories, and has recorded multiple veterans oral histories, now housed at the Library of Congress. She is a co-author of the recent community history, Bellingham Now and Then.