labor to make them fit for the plough. There is reason to believe that a part of the Winchester west side, which lies level beneath the slopes of Andrews Hill, was one of these open, grassy areas. There were also clearings which the Indians had made for the growing of corn or other purposes. Thomas Morton of Merrymount remarks that " the savages are accustomed to set fire of the country in all places where they come, and to burn it . . . at the Spring and at the fall of the leaf.... Otherwise it would be so overgrown with under-weeds that it would be all a coppice wood and the people would not be able to pass in any wise through the country out of a beaten path.'' (1) Yet the prevailing aspect of the country was that of a great forest wilderness, "an uncouth wilderness," yet "full of stately timber," as the first settlers of Charlestown described it.
While we are speaking of the return of vegetation to the plains and hills that lie within the borders of Winchester it is interesting to note that little Winter Pond is remarkable for certain very rare plants that are found growing upon its shores. These plants are southern species nowhere else found as far north as the latitude of Winchester, while one of them, at least, has not been found any nearer to our town than northern Georgia or central Illinois. Among these plants are the Coreopsis Rosea, the nut rush (Scleria Reticularis), the rattle box (Crotalaria Sagittalis) and the wild sensitive plant (Cassia Nictitans). All of these are rarely seen farther north than Cape Cod and Rhode Island, and never north of Winter Pond. The most exceptional specimen of our Winchester flora, one that is so unusual that it apparently has no common name, and is known only by its botanical name, Scirpus Halli, grows near Winter Pond, but nowhere else within a thousand miles. (2)
All these plants are believed to be of preglacial origin, driven southward by the advancing ice, and not sufficiently hardy to regain a foothold in their former territory when the glacier retreated. Why Winter Pond should prove so much more hospitable to these declining species than many hundreds of ponds similar to it in every observable respect is a question even the botanists cannot answer.
The time came at last when the land was again fit for human
(1) New English Cansan.
(2) Lyman B. Smith, instructor in botany at Harvard. Article read before the Winchester Historical Society, 1934.
Return to History Page