A History of Lake Attitash

In this day and age of our fast paced and turbulent world it's sometimes worth taking a longer view to put things into perspective. We live in a place of natural beauty and a place where the pace of life gives us the opportunity to slow down, and enjoy the simple pleasures of the moment. As you will see by reading this historical record of Lake Attitash, there have been times of challenge and times of pleasure, entertainment and enjoyment. A special thanks to Hillary Snook, who produced much of this historical record from the Amesbury Library newspaper clippings (*), and from others with a depth of knowledge about the lake, and lastly, from the internet, of course.

Below is a highlight of historical events around Lake Attitash.  Click here to read a more detailed history of Lake Attitash.


1712 – Dam constructed

The dam was constructed at the north side of the lake by John Wadliegh, adding 3 feet to the maximum water level of the lake. The added water capacity was needed to maintain water flow in the Powow River during dry spells so that water-powered mills along the river in Amesbury could continue to operate. (Source: History of Essex County)

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1750 (Approx) – Archbrook culvert connects Meadowbrook to Powow River

“Caleb [Pillsbury] and family removed to Amesbury in 1727, and he became a leading citizen of that town. He and Orlando Bagley devised a plan to tunnel Pond Ridge in order that the waters of Lake Attitash might flow more directly into Powow river, and also drain a large meadow north of the lake so that its crop of hay might be more valuable and more easily harvested. It is said that the two men who dug this very successful Isthmian canal received as their pay a barrel of rum.”  – From Historic Homes and Places, Volume 2, by William Richard Cutter, 1908.

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Late 1800s – Kimball’s Pond renamed Attitash

The name of Kimball’s Pond was changed to Lake Attitash, which means “blueberries all around.”  The original name of the lake, Kimball’s Pond, is shown on colonial period maps and originated from the name of the family who owned the surrounding lands. Writing in an 1885 issue of The Bay State Monthly, Frances Sparhawk seems to attribute the new name of the lake, Attitash, to local poet John Greenleaf Whittier and his poem, “The Maids of Attitash”: At Pond Hills, between Amesbury and Merrimac, is lake Attitash, which, before Mr. Whittier took pity upon it, rejoiced in the name of Kimball’s Pond. … In the “Maids of Attitash” is described the lake where “In sky and wave the white clouds swam, And the blue hills of Nottingham Through gaps of leafy green Across the lake were seen.” All these are still here, but one misses the maidens who ought to be…

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1876 – Lake Attitash divided between Amesbury and Merrimac

On April 11, the section of Amesbury called West Amesbury became the Town of Merrimac. “Division line runs from Merrimac river to south side of Lake Attitash, thence obliquely to state line.” From Chronological Record of the Principal Events That Have Occurred in Amesbury by Emily Binney Smith, 1901.

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1893 – Strathmere Club founded

From Chronological Record of the Principal Events That Have Occurred in Amesbury by Emily Binney Smith, 1901: “In 1893, the Strathmere Club ‘was founded to improve Lake Attitash.’” Strathmere Club was incorporated in 1896, according to incorporation papers at the Registry of Deeds in Salem, Mass. The club still exists on the northern shore of Lake Attitash as a parcel of land with several private homes.

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1903 – Lake Attitash and Attitash Park promoted by trolley line

From “A Delightful Trolley Trip” essay on a 1903 timetable published by the Haverhill & Amesbury Street Railway: “At the northern limit of [Merrimac], and but a short distance from the track, Lake Attitash nestles among the surrounding wooded hills, already a popular summer resort for Merrimac and Amesbury people. This is a most delightful place, its groves and lake breezes being enjoyable in summer, and well worth a visit. On the southerly side and immediately on the line of the railroad lies Attitash Park, which is being extensively promoted by Lynn and Haverhill parties. A large number of house lots have been sold and this promises to be one of the most popular resorts in this vicinity.” Attitash Park includes land near today’s Attitash Ave., Lake Ave., Bisson Lane, and the state boat ramp in Merrimac.

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1905 – Fire destroys cottages and stables

“Fire, supposed to have been of incendiary origin, destroyed eight summer cottages and two stables at Lake Attitash, Mass., Friday, November 24, with a property loss of $5,000, partially covered by insurance.” From The Standard, an insurance newspaper in Boston. Issue covering July 1, 1905 to January 1, 1906.

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1907 – Ice company borrows money for railway to Merrimack River

From the December 1907 issue of of Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal: “The Lake Attitash Ice & Transportation Company has given a mortgage for $225,000 in favor of the International Trust Company of Boston. It covers all the real, personal and mixed estate owned or to be acquired by the company, and it secures an issue of 6 per cent, bonds amounting to $225,000. Daniel H. Fowle, of Newburyport, has conveyed several parcels of land in Merrimac to the company. One measuring 160 by 820 feet is located near Lake Attitash, two containing buildings are on the River Road, and one containing…

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1908 – Attitash ice company marketing stock and bonds

From the February 1908 issue of Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal: “George W. Eldridge, vice-president of the Lake Attitash Ice and Transportation Company, has been marketing the company’s stock and bonds, and, incidentally, on May 14, he delivered a “private” lecture at Music Hall, Newburyport, his subject being: “The Lake Attitash Ice and Transportation Company; what it has done and what it intends to do.” He gave a history of the company and described its proposed plant as published in Cold Storage And Ice Trade Journal of November and December,…

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1908 – Ice company buys land for saw mill

From the February 1908 issue of Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal: “The Lake Attitash Ice and Transportation Company has bought some woodland near its Lake Attitash property, where it has installed a portable saw mill, which will be run until it has cut enough lumber to build its ice houses, carrier railway to the Merrimack River, and other buildings needed in its ice business. “As stated in last month’s letter, the company proposes to cut what ice it can this winter…

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1931 – Camp Bauercrest established

From wdonline.biz. Camp Bauercrest was founded in 1931 by four Jewish community centers north of Boston. The land occupied by the camp was purchased from Ralph Bauer, who was the mayor of Lynn at the time. (His name is incorporated into the camp name.) President Calvin Coolidge, a friend of Mayor Bauer, frequented the camp according to a plaque on the grounds.

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1993 – Lake Attitash Association Formed

Lake Attitash Association formed to improve and maintain water quality of Lake Attitash.  Labor Day weekend “Illumination Night” celebrations start again along with “Boat Parades”.

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