Lines and Boundaries

It’s amazing when a group of people with a shared interest get to talking, what interesting turns a real and virtual conversation can take.

It all started last month, when Bob Brooks of Maynard, sent us a great winter photo. It was of Track Road in Stow, the future location of the ARRT, buried deep in the record-breaking snowpack of this winter. The Assabet River is in the background, with Russell Bridge in the distant left. He closed out his e-mail with a question about where exactly was the Stow-Maynard town line in this photo. The short answer is that it straddles the center of the bridge, with Stow in the foreground and Maynard behind it.

ARRT secretary Duncan Power decided he wanted a more exact description of the town line and found a book in the Massachusetts online archives.  It’s a 54 page leather-bound atlas that covers 8 towns in Middlesex County.  There were 26 of them printed by the state in 1904. When Maynard was created in 1871 by carving up parts of Stow and Sudbury, an irregular 5-sided pentagon boundary was created. Each of the 5 corners was marked with a granite post. Most of these markers are in obscure locations, deep in the woods. The towns are required to periodically confirm the existence of the markers, by painting the year it is checked, on the side of the marker.

At that point, myself and David Mark were off on a quest to find and photograph the 5 Maynard markers. David is the ARRT’s Maynard director and a columnist for the Maynard Beacon-Villager newspaper. Over the next week, I found 3/5 of the markers and David bagged all 5. The photo on the right is the Sudbury-Maynard marker. You can see that Sudbury last certified their side of the stone in 2010. But Maynard hasn’t checked this stone since 1981, as marked in black paint on the backside of the marker.

Probably the boundary with the best story is the SW corner, which is deep inside the new Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge. When the army took over the land in 1942 for a huge ammunition depot, they needed to build 10 railroad spurs, so that the ammunition could be shipped out of the bunkers by rail. One of the new RR tracks was going to pass right over the 1871 granite post.

So the army pulled out the marker and replaced it with a small square one, set flush to the ground. It was so close to the rail it is claimed that the RR wheels would clip the corner of the new marker.

The old marker was simply thrown down the embankment and can still be seen lying in the leaves if you know where to look. With the RR tracks long gone and the boundary right in the middle of a new  refuge trail, maybe now is the time to put the old one back in its proper place.

So here is a Google map that sums up the whole adventure, 5 boundaries, 4 pictures, 5 people and lots of stories.

About AssabetRiverRailTrail

Tom Kelleher is the president of the Assabet River Rail Trail 501(3)(c) non-profit and a 25-year resident of Acton MA.
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