HENRY WILSON HISTORY TRAIL
by Steve Evers, AIA, and A. Richard Miller
13233 visits since 080205; last updated  080728.

The Natick Historical Commission, chaired by Steve Evers, wants to join other Town groups and Mass. DCR to build a very interesting new trail around the east side of Fisk Pond, in a corner of Cochituate State Park. This description is a modified version of a February 2008 grant application by the NHC in coordination with the Natick Conservation Commission,  Natick Open Space Advisory Committee, Cochituate State Park Advisory Committee and the Dell Park Cemetery Association. 

News and video coverage of
the Henry Wilson History Trail!

Friday, July 24th, 2009- A week before, I took the Metrowest Daily News for a walk in the woods to publicize this new trail and its continuing neglect. I got more than I bargained for.
The article appeared in last Friday's Natick Bulletin and Tab, where it was the page one lead article!
    
Reporter Charlie Breitrose and photographer Allan Jung delighted me with a good and complex treatment of U.S. Vice President Henry Wilson and this memorial project. Plus, lush photos of the trail and Fisk Pond, and even a surprise video to welcome you to our new trail!
     Curiously, the newpaper article did not mention their video, give driving directions, or link to this web page that does. So spread the word, that it's now online (here) at:
http://www.millermicro.com/HenryWilsonHistoryTrail.html

Saturday, April 25th 2009- At last, a successful trail-building day! The Henry Wilson History Trail has bridged its brook and is open for business - but without signage, without fanfare, and with inattention to tilting trail surfaces and obstructing trees. Help is needed, if we are to realize the fine trail that was planned.

Map of Henry Wilson Trail1872 Election Poster for Ulysses Grant and Henry WilsonNew York Times of Dec. 2, 1875
Trail MapHenry Wilson Biography (U.S. Senate)

Henry Wilson's Funeral (New York Times of Dec. 2, 1875)


Description of Project: The Proposed Henry Wilson History Trail will create a beautiful and final link in a trail system connecting downtown Natick to the final resting place of U.S. Vice President Vice President Henry WilsonHenry Wilson, “The Natick cobbler.”

Henry Wilson (1812 – 1875), 26th Vice President of the United States, lived in Natick most of his life. Although he started life as Jeremiah Jones Colbath, an indentured servant without formal schooling, he rose to become a leader in the local and national abolitionist movement, a U.S. Senator, campaign manager for Abraham Lincoln, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Military Affairs throughout the Civil War, and finally Vice President to Ulysses S. Grant. He died during that term and his remains were brought to Natick for burial.

Long in discussion has been the creation of a trail on Cochituate State Park land along the eastern end of Fisk Pond, smaller adjacent water to our large Lake Cochituate, which in 1846-48 became the first public drinking water reservoir for the City of Boston. The trail is listed in Natick’s Open Space Advisory Committee’s Master Trail Plan. Recent improvements to Route 135 (West Central Street) provided a new parking lot and crosswalk at this proposed trail head, connecting to the existing Middlesex Path (the former Boston-to-Albany rail line until 1895) and across the present railroad tracks from Pegan Cove Park (a known pre-colonial Native American encampment site). It is also the western end of the local Henry Wilson Historic District, where his home is preserved.

The “ten-footer” Henry Wilson Shoe Shop, where Henry Wilson learned to make shoes, is approximately one-half mile further west on Rte. 135, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The proposed trail will also pass through the Old Dell Park Cemetery, where Wilson, his wife and son (a Civil War officer presiding over a black army regiment) are buried. In addition, the trail’s connecting Middlesex Path passes by a known entrance to an Underground Railway site, a reminder of Wilson’s abolitionist movement in action in Natick.

From Old Dell Park Cemetery the trail will connect with Campus Drive, providing access to Dug Pond, our High School, recreational fields, beach, skating arena and golf course. An additional parking area exists at the entry to Campus Drive. Parking areas at each end of the Henry Wilson History Trail serve favorite fishing spots at both ponds and on the southern shore of Lake Cochituate.

In conclusion, we believe that this trail proposal is unique in its connections to existing trails and pathways, to local and national historically significant places and events, and is fittingly named for Vice President Henry Wilson. We have great momentum and support throughout town administration and committees. As representatives of our local history, we urge your support of funding for this project. It will benefit our community by encouraging the use of continuous walking trails that are destination oriented and will educate users about the life of one of our most prominent citizens.
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