OUR OPEN SPACES: Looking back at Ware Pond

Ware Pond has been a town-owned  conservation area for almost 60 years, but appreciation of its natural beauty extends much further back in history. The earliest records of the Ware Pond area indicate that on May 2, 1636, the neighboring town of Salem granted 500 acres known as the Plains Farm to John Humphrey of Marblehead.

Ware Pond from the viewing platform and boardwalk built by the Marblehead Conservancy in 2005.

As one historian put it, Humphrey “was given this land to improve and to sell to approved inhabitants of Marblehead.” The land, adjacent to Salem and in the southeastern part of Marblehead, was described as having spring-fed ponds, rich meadows and thick woods. Much of this area was very desirable property as for many years before it had been the summer camp site of the Naumkeag tribe.

In 1645, the Humphrey land was divided and purchased by residents of Marblehead as intended in the earlier grant. Records at the Historical Collection of the Essex Institute reveal that Captain James Smith purchased 100 acres of the Plains/Humphrey farm and his land was primarily used to graze cattle and raise crops.

In 1831, Erastus Ware purchased the land around what is today called Ware Pond.

“Erastus saw the possibilities of good husbandmanship upon the worn-out land and ably seconded by his son, Benjamin, Ware commenced work in good earnest to repair the waste places and bring back this neglected soil to a much better than its primitive condition,” according to the book “The Spirit of ‘76 Lives Here.”

Scan this QR code for a trail map of the Ware Pond area.

Benjamin Ware was one of the staunchest advocates of development in the area around Ware’s pond and was a man who wanted to see extension of the railroad in Marblehead. The purchased farmland remained in the Ware family through 1872, the year that saw a branch of the Eastern Railroad opened from Marblehead through Swampscott. Marblehead assessor records indicate that the Ware Pond area had been passed down to Horace Ware, son of Benjamin, with the entire Horace Ware estate eventually divided and sold by the family later in the 1870s.

Clifton Village, formerly known as “The Farms,” developed in the territory south of the railroad and west of Rockaway between 1879 and 1880. The Ware Pond of today is located in the Clifton area. Clifton Heights was settled several years before 1870 by summer residents of Peabody who established a colony of tents. Houses displaced the tents within a few years and the area grew as a summer resort for the railroad, bringing travelers from Boston in just 40 minutes.

Ware Pond as it appeared in the “1884 Walker Road Map of Essex County.” Clifton Station on the Swampscott rail line was just steps away from the pond, as was Clifton House, a well-known hotel at the time. COURTESY PHOTOS

In the early 1900s, the open farms surrounding Ware Pond were bought by developers and formally sectioned off with streets. Marblehead assessor records indicate that Ralph Sevinor of Chelsea purchased a considerable amount of land in the Clifton area in the 1920s, land that was under foreclosure at the time. It was during this period that most of the open space vanished with house lots created and filled with private, single-family residences.

“With the density of population and home construction, the ecology of Clifton has been altered with the loss of marshy wetlands and by (the addition of) underground drains,” according to “The Spirit of ‘76 Lives Here.”

In 1965, the Sevinor family donated land including and surrounding Ware Pond to the Marblehead Conservation Commission. The town purchased an additional three acres in 1969 from other owners, and another adjacent 10,000 square-foot lot on Wilson Road was donated in 2021, creating the Ware Pond conservation area enjoyed by many today.

Joan McDuff
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