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History

Farrar Pond was created around 1900 when Ed Farrar first dammed Pole Brook (AKA Halfway Brook as it marks the midpoint between Wayland and Concord) where it enters the Sudbury River. Here’s why, and here is a sketch of the area as mentioned in the writings of one notable local:

Thoreau map

–and again with Farrar Pond, three other dammed sites and a small kettle pond overlaid:

Thoreau map 2b

(Water bodies per MassGIS. Source of map unknown, to be duly credited if someone can provide a reference.) Another view, from an 1886 survey:

Framingham 1886_1929 NE corner 2

When the first dam washed out in the 1940s, it was rebuilt by the senior Guilbert Winchell, who then owned that area.  The dam was replaced by a more robust structure in the 1990s, now including a concrete spillway and manual floodgate.  More recently, returning beavers attempt to raise the water level by plugging the outflow, threatening the basements of abutters. Carefully designed and assiduously maintained “beaver deceivers” help to maintain an optimal water level,  and permit the pond to be partially drained every third year to help control invasive vegetation. At these times, stumps of trees cleared from the original meadow are still visible.

Ed Farrar

The construction of Farrar Pond entailed raising the grade of South Great Road between Beaver (or “Beaver Dam”) Brook and Lee’s Bridge, the latter also improved around the same time, then rebuilt completely following collapse of the center span in 1999, perhaps due in part to extensive WWII-era tank traffic from Fort Devens:

Lee's Bridge Then and Now

Courtesy Harold McAleer

This provides seasonal benefit to travelers, as the spring floods that still inundate much of the adjacent Nine Acre Corner area now leave the road dry (mostly).

Ownership around the pond ca. 1930 looked like this:

DSCF4882fp

Local lore holds that there were no dwellings on the south side of the pond at that time, and that the indicated “improvements” were logging camps. The current state of freeholds and conservation restrictions is as shown here and on Lincoln’s GIS site.

The trail and conservation lands along the southern shore of the pond were permanently preserved when Winchell land was developed in the 1970’s as part of the first cluster-zoning development in the Town of Lincoln. This allowed the Lincoln Ridge and Farrar Pond Village condominia to be built while preserving the natural attributes of about half of the pond’s margin to be enjoyed by all, including a rich variety of wildlife. (It is widely hoped that like-minded landowners along the north shore will eventually supply the last easements needed to permit a trail to circumnavigate the entire pond.) For an engaging social, environmental, technical and economic perspective on the forward- and outward-looking planning/negotiation process that enabled this evolution, see Robert A. Lemire’s inspiring book Creative Land Development: Bridge to the Future.

DSCN6868fp

Appeal to the Great Spirit – Cyrus Dallin

Many will recognize the statue that welcomes visitors to the Huntington Avenue entrance to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. (Other casts reside in Muncie, Tulsa and Dartmouth.) It is said that Dallin, then living in Arlington, was a friend of the Farrars. On a visit to Lincoln, Dallin encountered Charlie Foreman, the Cherokee handyman who had helped the Farrars to build the dam that created the new pond, and asked him to stand as model for that statue. So the man is twice immortalized for his efforts.

Some believe that a small pocket now known as Flying Squirrel Hollow was a stop on the Underground Railway between slave states in the south and freedom in Canada. The Bay Circuit trail now crosses the Farrar Pond dam.

More recently, Nike Ajax/Hercules anti-aircraft missile launch site B-73 (AKA BO-73) was active here from about 1955-70, served by a radar group on Hathaway Hill above Drumlin Farm. The Army long retained the right to fell trees on intervening properties: “[Fire control] had to be within the line-of-site so the radars could see the missiles as they launched.” Though passers-by might watch in fascination as the missiles were erected for drills, no-one hereabouts ever saw one take its next step heavenward, and a peaceful condominium complex now sits over the rubble of bunkers where dragons once slept.

Lincoln for many years provided fresh produce and dairy to city-dwellers, brought to market by cart, sleigh and train before trucks came on the scene. The eminently tillable sandy loams gracing gardens around the pond played their part—as with an asparagus field off Farrar Road recently reborn as Breton Meadow Farm, home to a colorful and playful flock of rare Ouessant dwarf sheep. Another relic is the well drilled beside the pond to provide backup water for the Town in the early 1980s. Initially delivering excellent quality at high flow rates, its purity (for reasons yet unknown) declined, and it was mothballed in 1986.The pond and its environs now constitute a more-or-less stable ecosystem. Challenges persist with development, landscape management, pollution and sedimentation, trail maintenance and (especially) invasive plants that could turn this beautiful expanse of water back into a muddy meadow if not controlled. Participation by all—in keeping the pond and trails as they are, and making ongoing improvements to access and other aspects—is ever welcome.

For perspectives both more personal and carefully researched, see this informal video, Gordon Winchell’s reminiscence “Growing Up On Farrar Pond” and Harold McAleer’s Farrar Pond History; the latter and another by Gordon appear in the collection Lincoln by Lincoln.