The Old Connecticut Path

I have had a lot of requests to do a story on the infamous “Pout Rock,” but in order to do it justice we need to look at the larger picture. Pout Rock is part of the Old Connecticut Path. A trail originally used by the Indians dating back before the early 1600s, Old Connecticut Path, or The Bay Path as it is commonly known if you are heading towards Grafton and points west, was used by Colonial settlers going to and from Connecticut. During lean crop times in the Massachusetts Bay Colony it also provided a path to the fertile valleys of the Connecticut River. According to a survey by historian George T. Higley that was presented to the Framingham Historical Society in the late 1800s, “This trail, beginning in the easterly part of the state north of the Charles River, came through the towns of Sudbury and Framingham into Ashland and passed on in the direction of Hopkinton and Grafton to the west. Its purpose was to avoid the passage of streams of water and swamps, as well as the climbing of difficult hills. Horses, cattle and foot travelers passed over this trail until the time when roads, broken out by the settlers, or laid out by the towns and counties, superseded its use, and parts of this trail were afterward laid out as public roads.”

Ashland’s portion of the path is documented in land grants by the General Court of 500 acres to Richard Russell dated May, 1657, and 500 acres to William Crowne in October, 1662. In the Crowne grant was a reference to the “road that leadeth from Sudbury to Connecticut.”

In great detail, Higley painstakingly traced the route from South Framingham taking a southwesterly course through Pond Street and Winthrop Street to the south cemetery, on to Union Street (in Ashland it is now East Union St.), across the ford at Cold Spring Brook (that would be Pout Rock), proceeding near the junction of Main Street and Union Street, and then by Union Street (West Union Street today) on to Hopkinton. Along the way, Higley interviewed families whose ancestors lived along the path, to verify its location as accurately as possible.

Permanent signs marking the path are along the trail today. In 1930, the Massachusetts Tercentennial Committee selected the name “Bay Path” and erected three markers reading:

The Bay Path
An Indian Trail before 1630
Pathway of the Pioneers

According to “History of the Town of Ashland” by the Historical Records Survey, WPA, there is a sign at the junction of Union Street and Frankland Road. I am not sure of a sign at that location, but I do know of a sign that is on the right hand side of Rt. 135 just before you get to downtown Hopkinton heading west from Ashland. This may be the one they were referring to. The other marker in Ashland was etched into a large rock along Cold Spring Brook by the Ashland Historical Society in 1917. This is the famous “Pout Rock.” Pout Rock marks the spot that the Indians most likely used as a fording area. A fording area is a spot along a stream or river that generally is both shallowest and of good footing, to allow the safe crossing of people and animals.

OK, so where is Pout Rock? I’ll bet every Middle School student in Ashland has been given the task of finding it. Actually, now is a good time to see it where the trees and bushes surrounding it are bare. Heading from downtown Ashland on Main Street, just at the start of Holliston Hill by Kidde Fenwal there is a cement bridge over Cold Spring Brook. Just after the bridge on the left hand side of the road is a fairly wide pathway cut into the woods that I believe is used by the Ashland DPW for municipal purposes. Follow the path, which is parallel to the brook, for about 50 yards and the rock is down an embankment on the left next to the water. Don’t slip, watch out for poison ivy, and happy hunting!

Steve Leacu for Ashland Directions