Sunday, August 6, 2017

Waushakum Farm Community: A new name for District 8

“Waushakum Farm” is a fitting name for the newly formed neighborhood community, once fields and pastures. A farm was established in 1867 with 200-acres of grazing cattle and fields of corn purchased by Edward Lewis Sturtevant. In the nineteenth century the name, Waushakum Farm, became nationally famous for agricultural experiments by Dr. E. Lewis Sturtevant and his two brothers.

Aerial map of South Framingham (1898). It was at this time that Waushakum Farm
As a collective group of neighbors, we have the ability to make changes to improve our community. We can sponsor neighborhood events, block parties, crime prevention activities and upgrading public spaces and making Waushakum Beach more accessible. We can influence town government to correct traffic concerns as an example. Be informed and involved, meet your neighbors and let’s work together to preserve and enhance the unique beauty and residential character of our neighborhood.

-- George Lewis, Founder of Waushakum Farm Community

History of Waushakum Farm

Edward Lewis Sturtevant (1842-1898) and Waushakum Farm – Framingham farmer, botanist, physician and author, was one of the giants of his time in the science of agriculture. In 1867, E. Lewis Sturtevant together with his brothers, Joseph N. and Thomas L. Sturtevant purchased 200 acres at Waushakum Pond in South Framingham, Massachusetts. The farm soon became famous, under the name “Waushakum Farm,” for a series of brilliant experiments in agriculture.

The immediate concern of the Sturtevant brothers, however, was the development of a model dairy farm of Ayrshire cattle. Waushakum Farm soon became the home of this breed. Several scientific aspects of this work with Ayrshires are worth noting. Milk records of the herd and of individual animals, covering many milking periods, were kept and still constitute, according to dairymen of our day, a most valuable contribution to dairying.

But even in these first days on Waushakum Farm, the Ayrshires did not occupy all of his time. Indian corn attracted Sturtevant from the first. No sooner had he settled on Waushakum Farm than he began a botanical and cultural study of maize which he continued to the time of his death. The first fruits of his work with corn was the introduction of an improved variety of Yellow Flint, the new sort being called “Waushakum.” Breeding this new variety was a piece of practical work that brought Waushakum Farm more prominence in agriculture than any of his scientific work, “scientific farming” at that time not being in high repute with tillers of the soil.

One of Dr. Sturtevant’s Ayrshire cows.
Dr. Sturtevant kept meticulous breeding records of each of his cattle.
Click on photo to read his historic book, “The Dairy Cow.”
To Sturtevant is given the credit of having built the first lysimeter in America. This instrument, to measure the percolation of water through a certain depth of soil, was put in on the Waushakum Farm in 1875.

As the years advanced, he put more and more energy in the rapidly growing field of agricultural research until finally experimentation came to claim most of his attention. His eminence in research on Waushakum Farm brought him many opportunities to speak and write on agricultural affairs, in which work his facile pen and ready speech greatly enhanced his reputation as an experimenter.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Summer 1944: Life along Waushakum Pond

The fact that World War ll had been raging for the last three years and that the decisive battle of D-Day at Normandy had just occurred didn’t seem to really affected us much. We were kids. Even when the brother of one of our playmates was killed in action, the reality of it all was still obscure. We saw our share of war movies and watched the newsreels between feature films to keep up to date on how the Allies were beating the crap out of Hitler as well as the progress of the fierce fighting going on in the Pacific. But we were far more interested in Bud Abbott & Lou Costello, and those wonderful serials where the hero’s life was put in peril, if not wiped out for sure each and every Saturday. No matter how much it appeared that our hero could never get out of the situation the writers put him in at the end of each episode, he always found a way to triumph. In many ways we lived in a sort of make-believe world, where we could have adventures just by mutually inventing them. We often made up situations and pretended that we all believed the nonsense, allowing our active imaginations to entertain us, sometimes to the point of scaring ourselves.
Excerpts from “A Creative Odyssey – the Story of Floyd and Richie Walser” written by Richard L. Rotelli:

CHAPTER 1 – Summer 1944

It was summer again. Time for my friends and me to find new mischief and adventures. We were good kids. Kind of simple-minded and naive, especially compared to the high- octane, precocious youth of today. We didn’t have TV quite yet and the world certainly seemed simpler and slower paced.

Home for me and my Mom and Dad was the top floor of a two-family house on Dow Street in Framingham, Massachusetts. What a great location this was! What kid could have asked for a better place to grow up? Just down Nipmuc Road, which came right off Dow Street across from our house, was the sandy beach of a good-sized pond known as Lake Waushakum. Pronounced Wah-SHAKE-um, its name in the time of the Nipmuc Indians who had lived along its shores, had variously been recorded as Washakamaug or Shakum. lt meant “eel fishing place” evidently due to the abundance of those snake like fish that could be caught there. Over the years, for a variety of reasons, the eel population had dwindled so there were not too many of them squirming around in there. It was small compared with other lakes, at just under 90 acres in size, and really was classified as a pond. We always called it, “The Lake”. It was about a three-minute slow walk past Fair’s lce house; a place loaded with ice packed in hay. It was amazing that the ice could last all through the hot summers. We still used ice in those days in our iceboxes. Not too many folks had refrigerators yet, although this was just about to change dramatically, making the demand for ice diminish significantly. Unfortunately, Fair’s lce house burned to the ground one exciting night. I remember watching the inferno from the front porch of our house, feeling the heat on my face even from that distance, and wondering how a place loaded with frozen water could burn so ferociously. My folks were watching the spectacle with me, and my Dad said something about having seen this same fire I2 years earlier. I didn’t understand that at all.

If you walked along Dow Street at a right angle to Nipmuc Road, you would very soon come to Lake Avenue, which paralleled the lake. This street made a sharp right turn parallel to Dow Street, and became Cove Avenue, so named because the lake curved around into a cove just out behind this street. The concrete foundation of all that was left of The Cove Ice Company’s icehouse alter it met a similar fate as Fair’s, marred the view and gave us a place to roam around playing war games. If you ventured out behind the concrete pillars which used to support the Cove Ice Company’s long- gone icehouse, you came to the smallest part of the lake, not too surprisingly known as “the cove”. Out a little way from shore was a small island, which, for reasons that were never known to us was called “Monkey Island.” I once overheard a teenage boy say to his girl friend, “Let’s swim out there and monkey around.” But I’m sure they never did because the water was way too full of weeds, snakes, snapping turtles and lots of other stuff you wouldn’t want to tangle with. Continuing on Cove Avenue, you came to Winthrop Street, which headed off past the other end of Dow Street and got you to The Memorial School, where we went from first grade through Junior High, and to Hollis Street. From there, downtown Framingham (and the Hollis Theater) was easily within reach of a few more minutes of spirited walking. So that was our block, our turf, the area where we could play at practically anything.