Lake Maspenock History

North Pond also know as Lake Maspenock, is a raised Great Pond 
with a surface area that occupies approximately 234 acres. It is 
bounded by the towns of Hopkinton, Upton and Milford. Its depth
ranges between eight and 20 feet, its shoreline is privately owned
and use of the pond is high. The lake is located at the headwaters
of the Mill River with its main portion being located in Hopkinton. 
It is approximately two miles long, it is about 2,000 feet wide
at its widest point and it has a north-south orientation. At
itsoutlet, the lake drains an area of approximately 1,813 acres.
From its outlet in Milford, Mill River eventually flows into the 
Blackstone River (called the Nipmuck River by the Indians)
and into the Atlantic Ocean.

The name Maspenock comes from the Nipmuc dialect of Eastern 
Algonquin, and is written as MASSIBENOKIK, which means, 
'The Waters At The Base Of The Great Hill', a direct reference
to the steep rise of Peppercorn Hill on the shoreline in Upton.

In its original and natural state as shown on an 1831 map of 
Hopkinton, the lake probably had 30 or 40 acres of surface area,
which made it a Great Pond. The fact that the surface area of
Lake Maspenock is considerably greater that the natural pond
was due to the construction of a dam at it's southern tip in 1833
or 1834 and it being raised to its present height in
1901-seven feet higher than the dam that was here in 1833.

A 400-500 foot long dam which retains the lake is located in
Milford approximately 600 feet downstream from the 
Hopkinton-Milford town line. It consists of a 15 foot high earthfill
structure with masonry walls. The principal spillway is granite
block weir about 30 feet long together with a granite block
 spillway also about 30 feet long and there is a gate
controlled spillway on the right abutment.

The major use of the lake is for water-based recreation. There
is a public beach on Sandy Island and a public boat launch
area located off West Main Street.

Lake Maspenock, or North Pond if you wish, has served as a
source of non-contact cooling water, process water and sanitary
use by the Draper and North American Rockwell corporations. 
At one time, its waters were considered as a potential drinking
water supply but conflicts with the its recreational use have
resulted in no further consideration of its use for that purpose.

A physical study of the lake indicates the presence of islands,
now or at one time bearing the names of Sandy Island, Woody
Island, Twin Island, John Flanagan's Island and Piney Island. 
Many years ago, the town of Hopkinton filled in an area in order
to join Sandy Island to a shoreline of the lake. This land now serves
as a parking lot for automobiles whose occupants use
the town beach facilities at Sandy Island.

Earl Cronin, 34 Church Street, has recalled that during the 1920's
when Sandy Island was an island, he would swim from the beach 
to the island carrying his clothes on his head. It is believed that 
at on time, a small well located near Sandy Island, furnished water
to a number of homes at the lake. its actual site has not been
determined and so far, no information about the well had been
located. A dam at the southern end of the lake is indicated on
town maps published as early as 1794 and it is believed that
this was the site of one of the earliest mills constructed in colonial

Records dated October 16, 1833 found at the Worcester Registry
of deeds and supplied to the writer by John J. Deneen, 71 Oakhurst
Road, reveal that at that time, nine owners of mills starting at a 
privilege just below the dam and running down Mill river to
Woonsocket, RI where Mill River joins the Blackstone River,
associated themselves "for the purpose of constructing and
maintaining a reservoir to raise and preserve a head of water 
to serve the mills on the Mill River " during dry periods.

According to the document, these individuals had expended
$2,100 in the purchase of the right and privilege of flowing
certain lands in and about the reservoir and in the construction
of a dam. This dam is believed to have been located about 
150 feet south of where an earlier dam had been installed. 
A total of 44 shares in this enterprise were possessed by Smith
Arnold and Waldo Earle (the firm of Smith Arnold and Co.),
Luke Aldrich, Joseph Roy, Seth and Eli Kelly, Clark Fiske,
Pearly and Ebenezer Hunt (owners of a woolen factory near
the reservoir). These shareholders then acquired title to land
which would be flooded by the new dam and deeds were
recorded during 1833 with the Middlesex South District Registry
of deeds. It is interesting to note that this land sold for five to 
ten dollars per acre. In one instance, land owned by three of
the original nine shareholders was conveyed to one Macfarland.
By these actions it appears that the rights to what now is 
Lake Maspenock were acquired by purchase by the original share
holders or their successors.

At some undetermined early date, land on which the dam and
a half mile long roadway had been constructed was purchased
by the Lawton Spinning Co. and Manville-Jenckes Co. who also
acquired rights of flowage. Later, the predecessors of the Draper
Corporation, by reasons of proximity, attended to the closing and
opening of the gates. They paid a share of the general
expense but they were not a member of the original associates. 
During a legal search made 20 years ago, it was determined that
at least 30 of the 44 original shares were owned by the Draper
Corporation and as such, the company controlled the upper seven
feet of the lake. However, the use of water which could be draw
off could only be used to serve the mills located
downstream on Mill River.

During the early 1850's, some inhabitants of the town were 
displeased withthe raising of the water level which, in turn, 
flooded a town roadway. Proprietors of the North Pond Reservoir
were successful in a law suit to prevent the objectors from lowering
the height of the water. This resulted in the town selling 
flowage rights over the way to the proprietors for
$1,200 as reported in a grant to the Social Manufacturing Co.
of Rhode Island. Records kept by a former Hopkinton Town Clerk
named Joseph A. Tillinghast included a certificate to the Selectmen
that was signed in 1859 by William F. Ellis, and engineer. In the
certificate it is stated, "This may certify that on the 29th of
August 1859, I took some levels from the site of the old dam
about 150 feet below the present North Pond dam in
Milford commencing on the bed of the stream and ending on
top of the banks of the wasteway.

"The top of said bank is 14 feet higher than the bed of the
stream at the starting point. "An iron bolt was inserted in a rock
on the east side of the pond about 150 feet above said dam, 
said rock being in front of a very large boulder.

"Another iron bolt was inserted in a rock on a headland 
by the west side of the pond which will be an island at high
water and is about 200 feet northerly from the west end of
the dam, both said bolts being on a level with the top of the

"An iron bolt was also placed in a rock below the dam, 
10.8 feet from the south east corner of the wasteway, said bolt 
being 3 feet, 4 inches belowthe level of the wasteway." 

Around 1890, the dam was found to be unsafe and the
gates were left open. Around 1900, it was decided to rebuild 
the dam to its original height and construction work was completed
during 1901. Costs of the work were met by contributions from
the Lonsdale Co., Manville, Co., Lawton Spinning Co. and
the Draper Corp. Smaller contributions were received from a
few companies below Woonsocket. The Milford dam was maintained
for many years for power, water and as a means of reducing the
possibility of floods. As long as they remained in business, the 
Draper Corp. attended to the opening and closing
of the gates and the making of incidental repairs at the 
request and under the direction of the owners of the privilege.

According to H.A. Billings, Work Manager at Draper's in 1929,
in a communication to a property abuter, the company had no
ownership of the water or the dam. Necessary repairs were made
to the dam in 1928. Billings said that the main purpose of 
maintaining the dam was to store water during the wet season
for use later when it was needed. This involved drawing the 
water down.

"The effect of the existence of the dam and the use of the 
water impounded is not to reduce the natural water storage at 
any time, but its effect is to produce most the year a larger pond than 
would otherwise exist," Billings once stated.

On October 1, 1929, it was decided by a vote of the Massachusetts
Public Works department to have a survey made of the lake. 
This was done under the direction of the late Francis L. Sellew, 
district waterways engineer. His report was that the area of this
natural lake determined it to be a Great Pond of the Commonwealth.
During the early 1930's, there was a lot of development at the lake,
especially on its eastern side. A large unknown number of small 
house lots were laid out with many being sold. 

A 1933 map on file at the Land Registration Office shows a lot
of these lots being located on streets bearing the names Chester 
Street, Keeby Road, Fisher Road, B Street , D Street, Laurel Avenue, 
Columbia Road, Harvard Road and Old Town Road. Names like
Hillcrest Camp lots which were sold by Newll D. Atwood, Bridgham
Spring, Doris Spring and Lake Shores Realty Co. which
was owned by William E. Schlusemeyer are still remembered by
residents of the area.

In January 1959, the Draper Corp. aligned with Normandy 
Realty of Woonsocket and took over operation of the dam. During 
the spring of 1966, the town of Hopedale submitted a bill to the state
legislature declaring Lake Maspenock for town drinking water. After
a period of spirited and aggressive oppositions by numerous 
townspeople and organizations, an act was approved
by the state legislature in 1967 which limited the quantity of water
to be withdrawn from the lake. 

Commencing on the first Monday in October each year and ending
on March 31, the following year, water may be taken to a depth 
of two feet below the brass marker located at the site of the dam. 
During the months of July and August, if the Draper Corp. required
water from Mill River, it was taken from Fiske Pond, Mill Pond or 
Hopedale Pond. If Draper required water during September, 
it was taken from Lake Maspenock, but no more than a foot. From
all outward appearances, the lake appears tranquil and silent, which
it is most of the time. The exceptions being when unwanted growth
tests wereconducted a year or two ago and more recently, it is
understood that borings are being made as part of a program which
is believed to be a search for contaminated areas.