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 1690s.
Development of the land for farming and industry began in the early 1700s. In 1746, Jedidiah Willis built a house in Easton and 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 foundation.
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.
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