Acton’s Trail Through Time
An unusual heritage trail
The Trail Through Time (TTT) is a heritage trail in the conservation lands of North Acton, Massachusetts, which offers visitors more than a journey into the past. The two-mile loop trail meanders through hardwood forests and beside wetlands alive with birds and frogs during the summer. Two footbridges offer picturesque views of the Nashoba Brook as it rushes past mossy banks and through Colonial sluiceways. Above the floodplain, the Trail connects a series of twelve sites on both sides of the Brook where remains of stone structures from two distinct cultures, excite archaeological interest.
Here, Native Americans, who lived in this region for at least seven thousand years, conducted ceremonial practices along a swath of sacred landscape that extends from present-day Lincoln through these Acton lands and on to Littleton, Westford, and Carlisle. Though modest, many small stone structures central to these ceremonies remain scattered through the woodlands.
European farmers began to establish farms along the Brook in the second half of the 1600s. After King Philip’s War, from 1675–1676, the Native American influence on Colonial affairs gradually became less powerful. By the 1700s, the new “Americans” were raising beef and dairy cows, vegetable crops, and apples for cider where formerly the Indians had hunted, raised corn, squash, and beans, and fished in the many abundantly supplied streams. By the 1800s, two mill complexes along this stretch of the Nashoba Brook were grinding grain into flour, sawing locally cut logs into lumber, and manufacturing pencils.
Rock quarries, rock-strewn sluiceways, stone enclosure walls, and enigmatic stone piles remain as evidence of early bi-cultural activities and excite interest in children of all ages. A dry-stone chamber, built into a hillside, beckons visitors to explore its dark interior. A double-roomed stone foundation is thought to have been a rumored “pest house”. Sites sacred to Native Americans, but hidden for centuries by the encroaching forest, are located just off the Trail, and are accessible via short side paths.
Educational panels mark each site and offer factual information about what each site represents. Three kiosks provide additional background. Well-marked trails, sturdy bridges and boardwalks, guide visitors through this ancient and peaceful landscape to view the intriguing remains of a once-vibrant focus of human activity. Parking is found at the end of Wheeler Lane, and off Davis Road.