Sometimes the most mundane errands can turn into a lovely adventure. My Dad lost his faithful companion, Yankee this past spring, and he’s really been missing the companionship and fun of a dog. We accompanied his wife and him to check out some Golden Retriever puppies in Carver, MA, a town an hour or so away from our winter escape on Cape Cod. The litter of 6-week olds consisted of five girls and two boys. Seriously, is there anything cuter than puppies? Dad fell in love immediately with the adorable, larger male, and made an appointment to return to pick him up when he’s old enough to leave his mom and had a first visit to the vet, around 8 weeks. We stuck around to find out more about what’s going on in Carver.
Carver, MA is located in southeastern Massachusetts, about 38 miles from Boston. It was named for the first governor of the Plymouth Colony, John Carver. Though it was settled much earlier, the town was incorporated in 1790. With its historically abundant water supply, there were many sawmills here originally. Iron ore from the swampy lands was the real moneymaker for early residents, though, and you can still see mansions built with the proceeds of successful businesses. Today, Carver is best known for cranberries and the Edaville Railroad, one of the oldest heritage railroads in the US and a New England holiday tradition. I remember visiting this attraction at Christmastime as a kid, for its amazing Festival of Lights.
Cranberries have been an important part of the economy in Carver, MA since the beginning, and even more so with the decline of the iron ore industry. In the 1940s, the town of Carver produced more cranberries than anywhere else in the world! Through the 1800s, immigrants, many from from Cape Verde and Finland arrived to work on the cranberry bogs, and added their cultures to the mix. Many became prominent members of the community, and went on to own their own bogs. Influences are still evident today. (Finnish sauna anyone?) For more history and a detailed account of the Cape Verdean role in building the bogs and the industry, check out this great article by Querino Kenneth J. Semedo. The bogs are beautiful any time of year, but the most vibrant photos come from late fall and are mostly taken during the wet harvest, when all the bright red berries float up to the surface as the bogs are flooded. There is a big annual harvest festival, and opportunities to tour and take part in the activities. Our visit was in late December, so the bogs are dormant and mostly dry. They were still very pretty though! Some farmers try to protect their bogs by flooding them and allowing the water to freeze. I remember ice skating on Cape Cod bogs as a youngster, when it was cold enough for them to freeze solid.
Union Church and Cemetery
In the historic Union Cemetery, behind the pretty Gothic style Union Church, we saw graves of prominent early families. Several family names kept popping up, so we checked out whether we could find any more information on any of them. There were many Atwood’s. Ellis D. Atwood was the founder of Edaville Railroad. The name comes from his initials, “E.D.A.” Albert T. Shurtleff, of the Shurtleff family, was the first man in town to enlist in the Civil War. Though he lost an arm at Bull Run, he went on to serve as Town Clerk and town Selectman. The Savery family also had some impressive monuments. William Savery created the first divided highway in the US (more on that below). Union church itself was built under Savery’s direction in 1855, though the cemetery dates back even further. It was associated with a meetinghouse originally located on the other side of the cemetery which was built in the late 1700s. Union was the first non-denominational church in the country.
Carver, MA is home to the first divided highway in the US. William Savery opened the road to the public in 1861. You can still drive down it today. The trees in the middle, and along the sides were left untouched to provide “shade and ornament for man and beast.” It is still indeed a lovely shaded lane. We wonder if it was originally any longer than the 1/4 mile or so it is now.
Whether Carver is your destination or you are en route to another locale Carver, Massachusetts certainly has some great history to offer anyone who takes the time to look for it. We will have to make a second trip out to see the cranberry harvest. Have you discovered any hidden gems while on a completely different mission?