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The Road to Dana

A short walk along the Road to Dana from the main road at the eastern edge of the Quabbin Reservoir and one arrives at a broad clearing where the road divides around what was once the Town Common of Dana in central Massachusetts. In the early 20th century, political pressure began to build in Boston to the east as the city searched for additional water resources. Dana, and three additional towns, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott in the Central Massachusetts Swift River Valley, were eventually taken by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for the construction of a reservoir to quench the thirst of the growing city. The Valley, during the waning years of the 19th century, was comprised largely of farming communities with little leverage among the political power brokers to the east. Much as the early settlers to this valley had displaced the indigenous Nipmuc populations some 200 years earlier, the river valley would once again be the scene of displacement. From the early years of the 20th century and for the ensuing 30 years, the pressure to take the towns and their surrounding river valley was slowly but relentlessly applied until the last of the four towns was disincorporated in 1938. Land had already been cleared; homes and outbuildings were moved or razed; town halls, churches, schools, and store fronts, all were scrubbed from the valley floor in preparation for the rising waters.


The flooding of the former towns and the filling of the Swift River Valley began in August of 1939. As with so many others who have since visited and walked the remaining old roads and lanes around the Quabbin, I have come away with an enduring sense of the places and the people who once lived in the Swift River Valley. The Quabbin has long attracted me not only for the natural beauty that is so much a part of its acknowledged vistas, but also, and perhaps more importantly, for the families and the lives that were uprooted and displaced for the construction of the reservoir itself. Much has been written about these displacements and a walk along the remaining former roads and trails of the valley quickly recall what life must have been for its residents. The Quabbin first reached its capacity in June of 1946. Of the four towns taken, Dana was the only one whose town common remained above the final water line.

The Maple, Oil on Canvas, 44_ x 66__edit
Road to Dana - Early Evening_edited.jpg
Road to Dana - Midday_edited.jpg
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