A dozen or so apple trees remind me of a once thriving community near the Ashland – Holliston town line. Known for its apple orchards and Morgan horses, Waseeka Farm was as much a part of Ashland’s history in the 50s and 60s as General Electric, Whitney Beef or Romeo’s Shopping Plaza, just to mention a few.
To preface today’s story we need to travel back to 1952. Mrs. Elizabeth Power, her adopted daughter Susan, or “Sue” as she was known, and her husband E. Keene Annis, hired a professional trainer named John Lydon to raise and train champion Morgan Horses on their summer farm in Ashland known as Waseeka. Mrs. Power had purchased saddle horses in the past from Sales Stables in Brighton where Lydon was previously employed, and was impressed with his capabilities.
The alliance proved successful. By 1953, Waseeka’s colt Nocturne was the premier horse in the Morgan show circuit winning 80% of the classes over the next 12 years, and often referred to as “the best show horse of his time.” Lydon trained Saddle Horses too. Among them were horses name Tiger Lily, Gilded Lady, and his favorite Blue Slipper.
Lydon continued his employment at Waseeka until 1968 when Mrs. Power decided to limit her show activities. He left Waseeka to train Morgans at Stonecroft Farm in Pennsylvania. Too bad, by all accounts it appeared both Morgan horses and Waseeka Farm in Ashland was no longer synonymous.
OK, enough of the history lesson. My favorite part of our story is the recollection of people who either worked there or visited Waseeka Farm. Everyone I interviewed or e-mailed had a favorite story. My good friend and high school buddy Steve Lewis recalled his experience working at Waseeka:
“The summer work day started early at 7:00 am at the corner of Fruit and Eliot where 10-15 teenagers loaded onto the back of an old, smoky, and loud unregistered flatbed farm truck sent over by Waseeka. No seatbelts; no seats for that matter, just a thrilling bumpy ride to work to hoist ladders to thin peaches in the never-ending orchards. Early in the morning, and repeated several times a day, the work would be interrupted by someone starting a hilarious peach throwing fight from one tree to another. These would continue until Marge, the adult supervisor, finally got things under control. On occasion, someone would get fired for back talking in an effort to establish a truce. The mid-day heat and humidity was usually unbearable and the work was exhausting but we were allowed short breaks which usually included swims in the wonderful Ashland Res. The work day ended around 3 or 4, depending on the level of heat and sunburn pain. Pay was a whopping $.90 per hour (no overtime differential) and we were paid by check. For me, and many a friend, this was our 1st official pay check and our 1st real brush with the world of hard work, but we were thankful for the jobs. It was truly an early incentive to be the first in my family to go to college.”
Steve’s experience was shared by many. Most recalled the Morgans, or the apples, and for the most part had a pleasant memory to share. They all felt welcome at Waseeka. Flo Dancause, our Secretary at the Ashland Historical Society, remembers the barn with the “velvet chairs for the spectators to watch the horse shows.” And the wine and cheese that was served in the big house every day at 4 PM. With a smile, she said she “In the late fall we picked out our Scotch Pines for Christmas that were grown below the fields, and in December they were cut and brought up to the house so we could pick them up.”
Others mentioned the hot apple cider, the openness and availability of Waseeka, and the sense of community that seems to have diminished a bit over the years. But that was then, and there is little left today. A bit maybe, as I recall the barn was moved to Glen Maura on Olive Street many years ago and is still standing.
But the legacy of Waseeka lives on. You can visit their website at www.waseeka.com. Many thanks to Morgan Show magazine, Waseeka.com, and the many contributors for information supplied for this Story of Ashland.
Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions