Warners Pond

History of Warner’s Pond

By Lydia Rheinfrank - Correspondent

Warner’s Pond is a human-made impoundment, created over 300 years ago by the damming of Nashoba Brook.

Prior to Warner’s construction, Nashoba Brook flowed cool, clean, and undammed from what is now known as Littleton. Fed by many smaller brooks (Vine, Butter, Conant, Nagog, Fort Pond), the brook bubbles through twisty hornbeam and cedar woods and bumps around 500 million year old gneiss outcroppings as it collects and descends like frayed green lace to the Assabet River and on to the Concord, the Merrimack, and, finally, into the big ocean at Newburyport.

Shad, herring and salmon once made their way from the salty sea up through unblocked rivers and streams to spawn in the woodland waters of the Nashoba and other inland streams. Freshwater mussels, otter, mink and beaver were plentiful. The Nashoba people (or Nashobah or Nashope), a small band of Native Americans related to the Nipmucs, lived within the area’s complex water network. The Algonquin-derived name Nashoba means “land between the waters.” The families thrived on the area’s bio-diverse bounty.

In the 1670s or 1680s, Edward Wright, an early immigrant from England, dammed Nashoba Brook two logs high for a saw mill to supply lumber for the influx of settlers into Concord and surrounding areas. Soon, Wright pivoted to a fulling mill to process sheep wool. Warner’s dam harnessed Nashoba Brook’s force to drive double wood mallets that alternately pounded the wool’s loose fibers, smashing out fat and pulverizing material into a hardy, weather-strong fabric.

Later a lead pipe works was built on the same site where Nashoba Bakery now stands. Eventually, it was converted to sheet steel, cranking out over 300,000 pounds of metal annually.

In the mid 1800s, entrepreneur Ralph Warner raised the dam higher to power the newest iteration of the property: a wooden bucket and tub company. He processed the equivalent of 28,000 mature pine trees a year for the next 40 years, selling his wares across New England and Europe.

By the late 1800s, post Civil War, the three small towns (Concord Junction, Reformatory, Damonville) that would combine to become West Concord were booming. 120 trains came through daily bringing trade goods in and out from the area’s mills and businesses. Both small residential mills and larger commercial works (Damon, Pratt’s Gunpowder) churned on Concord’s waterways.

The dammed brooks made popular ponds: Icehouse Pond in Acton. Kennedy’s, Macone, Hutchins, and Fairyland, all in Concord. Warner’s shores became a popular summer spot called “the Grove ” with a picnic area, swimming beach and boats. Skating parties and ice fishing adventures took place in Winter. Ice houses for cutting clean blocks stood at the Northern side of the pond where The Reformatory, Concord’s new prison, stood.

 Warner built a bridge to the largest island to which Thoreau had earlier walked across the ice and marveled at some greasy, dried berries that he had found on a leafless shrub. To his delight, they stained his hands yellow for three days. Thoreau anointed the place Myrica Island, named for the native shrub he had observed: Myrica gale or “sweet gale”. Later it became known as the Isle of Pines.

 For the next hundred and fifty years, Warner’s continued to attract nature-seeking residents and outdoor enthusiasts. Prisoners were allowed to swim in the pond. In 1944 the Girl and Boy Scouts of America took possession of Isle of Pines and sent generations of troops to camp under starry summer nights on the new Scout Island. Hockey pucks slapped ice. Toddlers took swim lessons in the 1970s and people brought their dogs to romp the shores.