Like many ancient temples, it’s a bit run down.
Mason Back 100 – Old building foundation holes
It’s not uncommon to come across human-placed or human-made items deep in the forest. While the forests in Groton may seem like pristine natural oases isolated from people or their impacts, multiple indigenous tribes have inhabited the land currently known as Massachusetts for thousands of years through to the present. Then, following European colonization, large acreages of land in Groton and much of Central Massachusetts were deforested for agriculture and pastureland. But around the mid-1800s, the economy shifted away from farming to industry, homes and farms were abandoned, and farmlands were allowed to grow back to forests. The dense and quiet landscape you experience now is actually a fairly young forest, a recent regrowth of what was homestead and pasture land only a few generations ago.
There is a substantial home site on this property including cellar hole and barn foundation. The house was likely built sometime in the 1800s. Do you see the chimney from the trail? The chimney is a relic of a summer camp that was located on the property in the 1920s, called the Jewett Camps. The camp may have constructed other buildings around the old house, without much in the way of foundations. If you look closely at photographs of the house from 1907, you will not see this chimney anywhere, making it very likely that it was constructed for the camp’s use around the 1920s.
Because historians sometimes have to rely on old records or even peoples’ memories to track down information about history, sometimes other clues are used to figure out how old something is, or where it came from. One tool we have to date older properties is to look at trees growing in foundation holes. This house foundation has a red oak that is 13.5 inches in diameter. We can multiply the diameter by the “growth factor” (for red oaks it’s 4) for that species to determine the approximate tree age, in this case approximately 54 years old. That dates the seedling back to the mid 20th century. The bigtooth aspen growing in the foundation is 14.2 inches with a growth factor of 2 is approximately 30 years old.
We are grateful for the research of local historian Joshua Vollmar, who generously shared his research about this property with Groton Conservation Trust. His research on the former Blood Road area of Groton is detailed here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jBS-PfnCyW0XqmmeexyBTGNC3OyXWyasFV6i_Tse-7E/edit
An oral history from Bob Gamlin, whose brother Edward worked at the Jewett Camps can be found at this link: https://gusongroton.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/robert-gamlin-ch-5/
We also thank local conservationist and Groton Conservation Trust trustee Michelle Ruby for her assistance with this project.
More information on the Mason Back property can be found here: https://www.gctrust.org/archives/1802