The Recorder – New Salem Resident Presents North Prescott History
NEW SALEM – Standing among the trees outside Gate 20 of Quabbin Reservoir, it’s hard to imagine that there were once two general stores and a church just a few feet away occupying land now covered in forest.
New Salem resident Don Flye gave a historical presentation on North Prescott, a village in the disintegrated town of Prescott, which was abandoned to create the Quabbin Reservoir.
Flye’s presentation focused on the history of Prescott Church, which he said was sold by the Metropolitan District Commission in 1947, preserving it by changing its location.
“On January 8, 1947, the MDC sold it to the Prescott Historical Society for $ 5 with the stipulation that it be removed from the property by December 1, 1948,” said Flye. “The church was then dismantled and moved to Orange.”
The church remained in Orange until 1985 when the Prescott Historical Society merged with the Swift River Valley Historical Society. At this point, the church was moved a second time to its current location in New Salem. Due to its multiple relocations, the Swift River Valley Historical Society website indicates that the church is “arguably the best-attended church in the country.”
Flye also noted the presence of two general stores, one next to the church and the other across the street. In a discussion with one of the audience members, they concluded that people would buy items from the store that they couldn’t get from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog – the mail order service. from the 19th century from current retailer Sears.
The presentation was the fourth of its kind, along with further data from the villages of Puppyville and Millington, both of which are mostly submerged in the reservoir. A significant portion of North Prescott is still above water, but the city’s disintegration required every building to be razed or moved.
The Quabbin Reservoir was created between 1930 and 1939 because Boston and other cities in the eastern part of the state needed a larger water supply. It reached full volume in 1946 and the project cost more than $ 50 million, according to the 1991 book “Quabbin Facts and Figures” published by the Friends of Quabbin and the Metropolitan District Commission.
Flye, a mechanical engineer by training, has lived in Petersham and New Salem all his life. He said he loved history and hearing the stories of people losing their homes had inspired him to go deeper into the construction of the Quabbin Reservoir.
“Prescott was the first city taken,” said Flye. “The city was mostly made up of old people and couldn’t fight too hard. They took the money and moved. Most of the area’s farmers in the 1800s moved west.
He started giving these presentations as a way to add another event to Old Home Day in New Salem, as it allowed people to “know the history of the area”. Old Home Day is an annual city-wide event celebrating the city and history of New Salem. Flye said the celebration had to be canceled this year due to a lack of volunteers.
“This is the first time without volunteers,” said Flye. “Small towns are changing and losing that sense of community. ”
New Salem resident Jerry Schone, who lives near Gate 20, stumbled across the presentation as he stepped out to pick blueberries and strawberries. He said he enjoyed learning more about the city and its neighboring reservoir because of its unique qualities.
“I love the story, in part because a lot of it is preserved in place, it doesn’t change,” Schone said. “It’s the combination of houses that still exist that stand next to cellar holes.”
Schone said the history of New Salem is “more accessible” than other places and that it is “fascinating” to learn more.
“We find stability, a sense of place and local history,” said Schone. “It’s a smaller, slower world.”
Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.