The Wachusett Dam & Reservoir


Before There Was A Dam

How they built it and what became of the people who lived there




June 20, 2022

Wachusett Dam & Reservoir

The Viaduct

(Updated June 20, 2022)

The Nashua River Valley contained an important commuter rail line running between Barre and Cambridge, through Boylston and the several villages of West Boylston, and it could not just be discontinued. It had to relocated, without interruption, around the new dam and reservoir. An important feature of this operation was the construction of a steel viaduct, 100 feet high and 1,000 feet long, across the Nashua River a bit downstream of the great dam

This study explains exactly how that task was accomplished. Be sure read the Engineers’ Corner at the end of the article for more details in the Chief Engineer Frederick P. Stearns’ own words.




May 23, 2022

Wachusett Dam & Reservoir

Clinton Catholic Cemetery

The Roman Catholic Cemetery of the Irish community in Clinton stood so close to the proposed shore line of the new Reservoir that parts of it would be submerged. In fact, today its former location is in such shallow water (only about ten feet) that it can be seen through the water on Google Earth.

In the end the entire property was purchased from the Archbishop in Springfield (who drove a very hard bargain indeed).

It was the task of the engineers to effect the movement of over three thousand bodies quickly, efficiently and with as much dignity and sensitivity as possible to the new location in Lancaster, a few miles to the north.

This story is told quoting the Chief Engineer Frederick P. Stearns from his own words in his Annual Reports to the Metropolitan Water Board.

Today the site of the cemetery can be seen from the North Dike walking path just offshore at the north end of Cemetery Island.




Habeas Corpus?

Be sure to have a look at the Bishop’s “hard bargain” at the end

Top Ten Posts


Coach & Sandy – the area around the submerged/buried ponds, South Main Street and South Meadow Road cutoffs

Total views



Scar Bridge – This bridge one carried Scar Hill Road traffic across the Nashua River in Boylston but remains today in place

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Channel Velocity Control – it was imperative to slow the water down in the spillway before it could erode the banks of the millpond and, perhaps, topple the reilroad bridge.

Total views



One Man, One Shovel – rarely had so much dirt been moved by hand, a task completed with the most basic of tools…the shovel.

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Get a Horse! – The horse had been around for centuries but was far from obsolete. Here is the story of the horse and its contribution to the Wachusett Dam & Reservoir.

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Clinton Catholic Cemetery – The largest of the cemeteries which had to moved because of the rising waters, its colorful story is retold here.

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The Villages at West Boylston – Four separate villages surrounding the Old Church were submerged. Here is their story presented by students from Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Upper Gate House – Follow the path of the water from the intakes at the very top of the dam all the way down to the base and across to the powerhouse below.

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What Lies Beneath – Boylston – Much productive farmland and a large factory village was submerged by the rising waters.

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Hidden Hydraulics at the Dam – How the engineers performed great feats that are largely hidden from view, even as you walk right over them.

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Source Documents – 8,000+ Images

Explore the wide array of  contemporary photographs, available in the public domain, that were used for the articles presented here.

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