Much of what we perceive as the “natural” beauty
of Borderland is, in fact, the result of human activity. The
ponds, fields, stone walls, and pathways reflect a long history
of agricultural and industrial use. Without continued management,
the fields would return to forests and the ponds would become
marshes and swamps.
Borderland’s earliest human inhabitants were Native
Americans. The park’s land marked the territorial boundary
between the Massachusetts and Wampanoag tribes, giving added
significance to the name Borderland. Both tribes hunted and
fished here before the first white settlers arrived in the
Development of the land for farming and industry began in
the early 1700s. In 1746, Jedidiah Willis built a house in
a dam and sawmill just over the line in Sharon, on the brook
where Pud’s Pond is today. That stream, a main tributary
of Poquanticut Brook, also powered a nail factory and two mills
that made cotton twine and batting.
Further down the brook, General Sheperd Leach, owner of the
Furnace Village Iron Works in south Easton, cut down a stand
of white cedar and mined the bog-iron ore from the exposed
swamp. In 1825, he built the pond that bears his name to ensure
a steady water supply for his iron works three miles downstream.
That historic industrial enterprise operates even today.
Throughout the nineteenth century, farming was the main activity
at Borderland. Stone walls, now enveloped by woods, once divided
cleared fields. A rambling homestead, established in 1752 by
the Tisdale family, was home to several generations of farmers.
A second Tisdale house, built in 1810, became the first residence
of the Ames family at Borderland. All that remains now is its
Oakes and Blanche Ames began to acquire land here in 1900,
when the small farms that made up the property were no longer
prosperous. The Ameses continued to farm part of the estate,
while creating a wildlife preserve on the rest. By rebuilding
existing dams and constructing several new ones, they turned
swamps into ponds ideal for wildlife and recreation.
Oakes Ames was a leading botanist at Harvard. more…
Blanche Ames was an artist, feminist, author and inventor. more …