The Thoreau Society eNewsletter: Winter 2009-10
- Founded in 1941, The Thoreau Society, Inc. is the oldest and largest
organization devoted to an American author. The Society exists to
stimulate interest in and foster education about Thoreau's life, works,
legacy and his place in his world and in ours, challenging all to live
a deliberate, considered life.
Welcome to the second issue of our eNewsletter. We will feature excerpts from our publications: The Thoreau Society Bulletin and The Concord Saunterer: A Journal of Thoreau Studies in this and future issues. From The Thoreau Society Homepage, you can click to view our eNewsletter archive.
If you live in the area
or will be traveling in Concord, you are cordially invited to attend
two special programs at Walden Pond this weekend and next. The
Thoreau Society's Window on Walden authors series (See In This Issue) is free and open to
the public: Saturdays (1:30 PM) at the Tsongas Gallery at The Thoreau
Society Shop at Walden Pond, located at the Walden Pond State
Reservation across the street from Walden Pond. Sponsored by the
Friends of Walden Pond (an activity of the Thoreau Society), and DCR.
The Thoreau Society Online Auction Opened Wednesday, February 24, 2010. Everyone is invited to participate in this exciting event, profiling many items offered by Thoreau Society members. You are welcome to donate or bid on any of the items available in the auction catalog. Tell your friends and pass the word along!
Finally, you are invited to The Thoreau Society Annual Gathering this July 8-11, 2010. The AG, as it is commonly known, has been taking place in Concord since 1941 and has inspired countless individuals to explore Thoreau's ideas and New England Transcendentalism.
Executive Director, The Thoreau Society
"We are surrounded by a rich and fertile mystery."
Henry D. Thoreau, Journal, Sept. 7, 1851
The Thoreau Society Bulletin
Excerpt from p. 10-12
ISSN 0040-6406 Number 262 Spring 2008
Hubbard's River Tract and "Our Portion of the Infinite"
J. Walter Brain
"We are surrounded by a rich and fertile mystery."
Henry D. Thoreau, Journal, Sept. 7, 1851
The following article, published originally in The Concord Journal on April 3, 2008, dwells on a significant tract of land in Thoreau Country, in Concord, Massachusetts: Hubbard's River Tract, a parcel of which, Hubbard's Grain Field, Thoreau Society Bulletin, Number 262, Spring 2008 11
came on the real estate market in the fall of 2007. A local
conservation organization has since endeavored to raise funds and
local support to preserve in perpetuity one of Concord's oldest
farm fields in continuous agricultural use, a parcel that proves
keystone to the integrity of the Hubbard tract and, as I attempt to
render true, to the very pith of Thoreau Country.
"We are receiving our portion of the infinite,"1 Henry Thoreau
enters in his Journal for September 7, 1851, inspired by the
beauty of the fields he had crossed that day in Cyrus Hubbard's
Farm, a riparian tract much of whose extent in the mid-nineteenth
century has been spared from development, and whose fields lie at
the core of what may be called today Hubbard's River Tract in the
landscape geography of the Concord region and of Thoreau
Country. Extending over both sides of the present Route 2
highway, the tract affords large open fields, pasture, mature upland
woods--Hubbard's "Groves"--a sizable wooded swamp, a large
river meadow known as Hubbard's Great or Broad Meadow, and
what Thoreau called the Hubbard Shore, which stretches for one
and one-quarter miles along the right margin of the Sudbury River,
from Hubbard's or Heath Bridge to Willow or Lily Bay. Hubbard's
Brook, rising at the Boiling Spring on the lower slopes of Fair
Haven Hill, crosses the old Hubbard Farm fields in its lower
reach, and flows through the great swamp and meadow to empty
into the Sudbury River.
The tract's physiography encompasses numerous places
frequented by country walkers and lovers of river haunts and
riparian scenery; places often praised or sung in Thoreau's
writings and that have become part of Concord's historic
landscape. Among these sites, we may recognize, besides places
mentioned above, Hubbard's Grove, where some of Concord's
most ancient white pines rise to lofty heights; Hubbard's Second
or Further Grove, a mature oak wood lying also on high ground
and that reaches to the river; and Cyanean Meadow, or the watery
heart of Hubbard's Great Meadow. Down the Hubbard Shore on
the right margin of the Sudbury, the boater drifts along riparian
sites such as Arethusa Meadow, named after the shy and rare
Arethusa orchid; Clamshell Bend, where the Sudbury turns in an
easterly direction; Sunset Reach, or Cyanean Reach, "where the
river flows," as Thoreau describes it in his journal entry for
February 12, 1860, "nearly from west to east and is a fine
sparkling scene from the hills eastward at sunset."2 Hubbard's
Bend and Hubbard's Bathing-place follow as the river resumes its
northerly flow, with Hubbard's Fishing Place by that same spot.
The stream then picks up pace along the Swift Place, where the
river channel narrows, only to expand at Willow or Lily Bay. All
these places loom large in Concord's telluric soul and inviolable
The old farm fields, strung between the river woods and
Sudbury Road, have been in agricultural use since the eighteenth
century, formerly part of a larger farming area and community
centered on a cluster of farm houses at what was known as
Hubbardville, where several generations of the Hubbard and
Potter families and a Wheeler family branch lived and farmed.
Land ownership passing to other hands over the years, much of the
farmland around Hubbardville became developed, although the
land at the old Hubbard Farm, which at one time reached to 125
acres, has been spared to a great extent, with the farm fields
remaining productive to this day.3
The Hubbard fields consist today of three tracts: one, a field
for crops in an eighteen-acre parcel, currently on sale, lying to the
southwest of Hubbard's Brook and fronting on Sudbury Road;
two, a field or pasture of approximately equal size lying to the
northeast of the brook and fronting on Sudbury Road and the
Route 2 highway, formerly calledHubbard's Pasture but known
today as the Bigelow Field, after former owner, Dr. Henry B.
Bigelow, whose heirs bestowed the field and adjacent woods and
swamp to the Concord Land Conservation Trust; and, three, the
thirty-seven acre town-owned South Meadow, partly in woodland
and wetland, extending west from the old Hubbard farmhouses in
Hubbardville, this section of the Hubbard tract separated from the
other fields by the intrusion of Route 2 and by intervening
development along Sudbury Road.
The eighteen-acre parcel highlighted above, currently on the
market, one of Cyrus Hubbard's farm fields that Thoreau called
"Hubbard's Grain Field,"4 becomes key and critical to the history
and integrity of the entire Hubbard tract. The field, to go into more
detail, fronting on Sudbury Road (the old "Corner Road"), extends
southeast to northwest, diagonally across the compass, as it were,
southwest of Hubbard's Brook and into the woods at Hubbard's
Second Grove. It was this "grain field," in particular, that inspired
Thoreau's thoughts in a fairly early journal entry on September 7,
1851, in which he defines his "profession" and "business," that is,
his life's "errand," and in which he ranges poetically in the
description of the field's scenery and ambience at the close of the
day. "The scenery, when it is truly seen," Thoreau observes in that
entry, "reacts on the life of the seer. How to live. How to get the
most of life...," defining his life's own terms with "That is my
every-day business... I ramble over all fields on that errand... My
profession is to be always on the alert to find God in nature, to
know his lurking places...," or, as Thoreau also puts it in the same
journal entry, to exercise "the art of spending a day."5
On that foray, to "Conantum via fields, Hubbard's Grove, and
grain field...," Thoreau describes the hour's scene on that
September day at Hubbard's Grain Field itself: "I hear no larks
sing at evening as in the spring, nor robins... In Hubbard's grain
field beyond the brook, now the sun is down. The air is very still.
There is a fine sound of crickets... The heavy shadows of woods
and trees are remarkable now... I hear only a tree toad or song
sparrow singing as in spring, at long intervals. The Roman
wormwood is beginning to yellow-green my shoes, intermingled
with the blue curls over the sand in this grain field. Perchance
some poet likened this yellow dust to the ambrosia of the gods.
The birds are remarkably silent... bats are out."6 This is a scene
that, exactly as described by Thoreau, could be experienced today
at that same field.
Cyrus Hubbard, after whom all of these places in his old
farmstead have been named and are known today, was one of
those wise and sensible Concord farmers that Thoreau much
admired and expressed affection for. "I see the old pale-faced
farmer out again on his sled," Thoreau writes of the man in his
journal entry for December 1, 1856, "now for the five-thousandth
time, Cyrus Hubbard, a man of a certain New England probity and
worth, immortal and natural... like the sweetness of a nut, like the
toughness of hickory. He, too, is a redeemer for me... What an
institution, what a revelation is a man! ... It is a great
encouragement that an honest man makes this world his abode."7
Over the years, Hubbard's Grain Field, one of Concord's
oldest fields in constant agricultural use, has yielded grain,
asparagus, beef, silage, hay, sweet corn and squash, and likely
12 Thoreau Society Bulletin, Number 262, Spring 2008
other farm produce, the field worked and improved over the last
few decades by Mr. Steve Verrill, local farmer.
The Concord Land Conservation Trust, as we are aware, has
risen to the occasion to seek to preserve the field parcel currently
on the market as part of Concord's natural and historical legacy,
much of which it keeps under its custody and care. The Trust
merits our unstinted support in this endeavor. By preserving
Hubbard's Grain Field, we not only preserve a valuable field part
of the agricultural heritage of the town, but spare the integrity of
Hubbard's River Tract, one of the beauty spots in Concord, a tract
much of whose extent lies already under conservation protection.
In supporting the Trust's preservation effort, we also pay tribute to
the memory of an idiosyncratic Concord farmer in Cyrus Hubbard
and to Concord's very own poet-philosopher, Henry Thoreau.
1Henry D. Thoreau, Journal Volume 4: 1851-1852, ed. Leonard N. Neufeldt
and Nancy Craig Simmons (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), 52.
2Henry D. Thoreau: Journal, ed. Bradford Torrey and Francis H. Allen
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1906), XIII:142.
3Concord Historical Commission, Survey of Historical and Architectural
Resources of Concord, Massachusetts.
4Journal Volume 4, 55.
5Journal Volume 4, 52-56.
6Journal Volume 4, 55-56.
7Journal (1906), IX:144.
Window on Walden Authors Series
February 27, 2010 - Black Walden: Slavery and Its Aftermath in
Lemire is the author of "Miscegenation": Making Race in America," in which she
examines the steps by which whiteness became a sexual category and same-race
desire came to seem a biological imperative. She is Associate Professor
Literature at Pace College State University
of New York.
RAIN, SNOW, OR SHINE
March 6, 2010 - Thoreau's The Maine Woods
Jeffrey S. Cramer is the curator of The Thoreau Society Collections at the Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods.
He is also the editor of Walden: A Fully Annotated Edition (Yale
University Press, 2004). A winner of a 2004 NOBA (National Outdoor Book
Award) and a co-winner of the Boston Authors Club's 2005 Julia Ward Howe
Special Award, Walden: A
Fully Annotated Edition has been called a
"handsome, 'all-things-Walden' edition" by the Boston Globe. USA Today
said "Cramer's side notes are like short, illuminating
conversations." He is also the editor of I
to Myself: An Annotated Selection from the Journal of Henry D. Thoreau
(Yale University Press, 2007) and The Maine Woods: A Fully Annotated
Edition (Yale University Press, 2009). He is currently
working on the forthcoming The
Quotable Thoreau (Princeton University Press, 2010), The Portable Thoreau
(Viking Penguin, 2011) and The
Literary Way: Selected Essays of Henry D. Thoreau: A Fully Annotated Edition
(Yale University Press, 2012).
Gathering of The Thoreau Society
All are welcome to register to attend
community-wide events in Concord and Lincoln, Massachusetts, and at the
Walden Pond State Reservation
Then and Now
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