Horses and houses and floods: Traces of Concord’s agricultural past remain 

By Anne O’Connor  anne@theconcordbridge.org
November 11, 2023

The past few decades have seen change, lots of change. Open fields, which once corralled livestock or grew crops, have become housing lots. 

Old buildings like homes, sheds and barns were torn down after repairs became impractical. Other structures appeared in their places. 

Traces of Concord’s agricultural past remain even as society’s needs have evolved. 

Along Monument Street approaching Carlisle, land, houses and farms exemplify both old and new uses. Horses still reign supreme at Fox Meadow Farm, new homes are tucked into the countryside and Sarah Lawrence can point to the window of the room where her father was born well over a century ago. 

Lawrence is the keeper of the Lawrence family memories. The family has been living on the land for centuries, in different houses around the farm. After arriving from England around 1630, family members moved to Watertown, then Groton, before arriving in Concord, where a son was born in 1768. 

Sarah Lawrence points to homes owned by J. Lawrence and J. Lawrence Jr. on a map first publisSarah Lawrence stands above the brook overflowed the culvert this summer, flooding the driveway which is level with the road and several feet above the waterway. It was all back to normal within an hour. Photo by Anne O’Connor hed in 1830. They are next door to the house she now lives in. Photo by Anne O’Connor

The Lawrence family’s land stewardship continues. Sarah lives in the house built by her parents in 1948. 

An 1830s map shows two Lawrence homes side by side on land that sloped down from about Two Rod Road, past what was then the Lower Carlisle Road and down to the Concord River.  

Sarah Lawrence points to homes owned by J. Lawrence and J. Lawrence Jr. on a map first published in 1830. They are next door to the house she now lives in. Photo by Anne O’Connor

Ditches, dug by the early farmers, and brooks carry water down the hill through culverts that go under Monument Street. This past summer was the first time that Lawrence saw brook water rise into the driveway of her home.  

Only once before, during Hurricane Edna in 1954, had the brook overflowed. Her father took a picture of the unusual event. 

Lawrence has seen more alterations to the land and its water.  

While this year’s flood was out of the ordinary, in general there is less water, perhaps because of the homes that were built up the hill, she said. 

“The brooks used to be raging,” Lawrence said. The fields across the street from her home were covered in water each winter, enough so that she could usually ice skate.  

As she drove through acres that used to be part of the family farm, she pointed to changes, some older than others. 

The Works Progress Administration dug a pond uphill from the farm, allowing for gravity-fed water. The WPA provided employment as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal starting in the mid-1930s. 

Her grandmother spent each February in a cabin by the pond and celebrated her birthday there.  

As a Boy Scout, her father planted around 1,000 pine trees. They remain, tall and skinny, lining the paths where she, a member of the first girls’ cross-country team at Concord-Carlisle High School, used to run. 

Lawrence painted the Fox Meadow Farm sign and the large horse barn across the road that is now owned by another family.  

She knows where the old wells are that once supplied her family. They are covered over now, but if someone needs to locate them, she is a dowser and can help. 

The celery pit is gone, as are the fields of corn and other produce that her father and uncle drove into the markets of Boston during the years they attended college. 

Not so long ago, she spotted a bit of asparagus still growing by the river. 

Produce still holds its own in the neighborhood. Hutchins Farm, just down the road, grows and sells organic produce. 

And, while the cows and hens are gone from the former Lawrence land, Fox Meadow Farm has horses.  

“It’s been just a joy to have them here,” Lawrence said of her next-door neighbor. “They’re keeping it farmland.”