HENRY WILSON HISTORY TRAIL
by Steve Evers, AIA, and A. Richard Miller
visits since 080205; last
The Natick Historical Commission,
chaired by Steve Evers, wants to join other Town groups and Mass. DCR
to build a very
interesting new trail around the east side of Fisk Pond, in a corner of
Cochituate State Park. This description is a modified version of a
February 2008 grant
application by the NHC in coordination with the Natick Conservation Commission, Natick Open Space
Advisory Committee, Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee and the Dell Park Cemetery Association.
News and video coverage of
the Henry Wilson History Trail!
Friday, July 24th, 2009- A week before, I took the Metrowest
Daily News for a walk in the woods to publicize this new trail and its continuing neglect. I got more than I bargained for. The article appeared in last Friday's Natick Bulletin and Tab, where it was the page one lead article!
Reporter Charlie Breitrose and photographer Allan Jung delighted me
with a good and complex treatment of U.S. Vice President Henry Wilson
and this memorial project. Plus, lush photos of the trail and Fisk
Pond, and even a surprise video to welcome you to our new trail!
Curiously, the newpaper article did not mention their
video, give driving directions, or link to this web page that does. So
spread the word, that it's now online (here) at:
Saturday, April 25th 2009- At
last, a successful trail-building day! The Henry Wilson History Trail
has bridged its brook and is open for business - but without signage,
without fanfare, and with inattention to tilting trail surfaces and
obstructing trees. Help is needed, if we are to realize the fine trail
that was planned.
Description of Project: The Proposed Henry Wilson History Trail will create a
beautiful and final link in a trail system connecting downtown Natick
to the final resting place of U.S. Vice President Henry Wilson, “The Natick cobbler.”
Wilson (1812 – 1875), 26th Vice President of the United States, lived
in Natick most of his life. Although he started life as Jeremiah Jones
Colbath, an indentured servant without formal schooling, he rose to
become a leader in the local and national abolitionist movement, a U.S.
Senator, campaign manager for Abraham Lincoln, Chairman of the Senate
Committee on Military Affairs throughout the Civil War, and finally
Vice President to Ulysses S. Grant. He died during that term and his
remains were brought to Natick for burial.
Long in discussion
has been the creation of a trail on Cochituate State Park land along
the eastern end of Fisk Pond, smaller adjacent water to our large Lake
Cochituate, which in 1846-48 became the first public drinking water reservoir for the City of Boston.
The trail is listed in Natick’s Open Space Advisory Committee’s Master
Trail Plan. Recent improvements to Route 135 (West Central Street)
provided a new parking lot and crosswalk at this proposed trail head,
connecting to the existing Middlesex Path (the former Boston-to-Albany
rail line until 1895) and across the present railroad tracks from Pegan Cove Park
(a known pre-colonial Native American encampment site). It is also the
western end of the local Henry Wilson Historic District, where his home
The “ten-footer” Henry Wilson Shoe Shop,
where Henry Wilson learned to make shoes, is approximately one-half
mile further west on Rte. 135, and is listed on the National
Register of Historic Places. The proposed trail will also pass through
the Old Dell Park Cemetery, where Wilson, his wife and son (a Civil War
presiding over a black army regiment) are buried. In addition, the
trail’s connecting Middlesex Path passes by a known entrance to
an Underground Railway site, a reminder of Wilson’s abolitionist
movement in action in Natick.
From Old Dell Park Cemetery the
trail will connect with Campus Drive, providing access to Dug
Pond, our High School, recreational fields, beach, skating arena and
golf course. An additional parking area exists at the entry to Campus
Drive. Parking areas at each end of the Henry Wilson History Trail serve
favorite fishing spots at both ponds and on the southern shore of Lake
In conclusion, we believe that this trail proposal
is unique in its connections to existing trails and pathways, to local
and national historically significant places and events, and is
fittingly named for Vice President Henry Wilson. We have great momentum
and support throughout town administration and committees. As
representatives of our local history, we urge your support of funding
for this project. It will benefit our community by encouraging the use
of continuous walking trails that are destination oriented and will
educate users about the life of one of our most prominent citizens.
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