The Preservation of Lake Nipmuc: 1893 - 1896

    The sparkling, pristine water of beautiful Lake Nipmuc was a source of
    controversy and hard feelings in the mid 1890's.  The people of Mendon and
    Uxbridge had high regard for the clear, pure water of the spring-fed lake, but
    when it came to how it would be used, it created such bitterness that legal action
    had to be taken.  The peaceful stillness of the lake turned to turbulence when
    Uxbridge approached its mother town for help in dealing with a devastating
    problem that it had inherited as a victim of the Industrial Age.  Its water was unfit
    for drinking, and it wanted to use Lake Nipmuc as its town water supply.

    Mendon residents regarded the lake as "Nature's beauty spot," a natural
    paradise for swimming, canoeing, picnics, and concerts.  Its history included two
    Nipmuc Indian villages on its southern and western shores and the homestead of
    Robert and Sarah Taft in 1679 on the southeastern shore.  The newly
    established Nipmuc Park was growing in popularity in the 1890's.  Many people
    came to the park on weekends for family recreation.  Plans were being made for
    an electric railway to be constructed that would bring people from other towns
    and boost Mendon's economy.  Proud of its history, pleased with its use as a
    natural health and recreational resort, and optimistic about the benefits of its
    economic future, Mendon was well aware of the value of its treasured lake.

    The Blackstone, Mumford, and West Rivers provided Uxbridge with an
    abundance of water, but years of industrial use rendered them polluted.  In
    1893, the reservoirs of Uxbridge Water Works went dry on two occasions.  The
    following year, the company predicted a water famine, as levels were so low that
    the water became stagnant.  Several cases of malaria were reported.  Some
    people died because of it.  Health conditions were so bad that the state board of
    health intervened and declared Uxbridge water unfit for drinking.  It requested
    that a legislative committee be formed to study and solve the crisis.

    To the surprise and shock of the people of Mendon, the Massachusetts
    legislature passed a law that allowed Uxbridge the right to use Lake Nipmuc as
    its town water supply.  Mendon's response, under the leadership of Selectman
    Julius George, was to hire two law firms and an engineering company to prevent
    the law from being enacted.  Residents were upset fearing that their neighboring
    town would drain their eighty-five acre cistern.  Feelings were tense between the
    two towns, and a poem by Marcus Aldrich in 1896 focused on Mendon's plight.  
    Sensing their neighbor's anger, Uxbridge residents decided it was not worth the
    bad feelings that had been created.  They voted that they would no longer
    pursue the coveted Lake Nipmuc.  Mendon residents dropped their lawsuit, and
    the Legislature became aware of what can happen when it meddles in
    controversial issues between towns.

    Within a short time the anger subsided.  Relations improved.  Bygones were
    bygones.  By 1904, Uxbridge had dug two wells on Charles A. Henry's property
    that adequately provided for the town.  Mendon's prosperity improved in 1901
    when the Milford-Uxbridge Electric Railway opened and brought hundreds of
    people to Nipmuc Park every weekend.  It became the most popular resort in the
    region. The storm clouds that had hovered over Lake Nipmuc in the mid 1890's
    were gone.  The turbulence had eased.  Lake Nipmuc was preserved.
                                                        
    Richard Grady  
    Mendon, MA                  

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