GROTON — The Conservation Trust acquired 143 acres of agricultural land in 2006 as its portion of a successful joint venture with the town to protect the 265-acre Surrenden Farm property along Farmers Row from development.
Research conducted on the history of the area reveals that early Groton inhabitants referred to land in that general vicinity — near Farmers Row and south of the current site of Groton School — as “the General Field.” In keeping with the historical use of the land for agriculture and acknowledging those early references, the trust has decided to name its portion of the Surrenden Farm land The General Field.
Two local sources of Groton history led the trust to select the name. In her book, “A Plantation Called Petapawag,” Virginia May includes a rough map of the area that indicates The General Field.
Dr. Samuel Green reports in his book, “The Early Records of Groton, Massachusetts, 1662-1707,” that in 1670, soon after Groton was established, the selectmen voted to lay out a road leading to Lancaster, which was an earlier, more established settlement in the area. He describes that road (which ran alongside the now-protected area) as being laid out next to the “general field lots.”
He also noted that, “The ‘general field’ frequently mentioned in (certain land grants) refers to land owned in severalty by a number of persons who turned it into one field, for reasons of mutual advantage.”
Today, under the terms of the conservation restriction on The General Field, the trust is to manage the property primarily for agricultural use.
The soil maps prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicate that most of the land is a glacial till consisting of sandy loam well-suited for that purpose. During the past year, the trust has worked to find farmers whose practices would be suitable for the property and who would find it useful for their needs. The portion of The General Field adjacent to Farmers Row is now leased to a local farmer to be used primarily for hay production, and the land adjacent to Shirley Road is leased to another for raising cattle.
Owned by the Conservation Trust and subject to a permanent conservation restriction held by the town, The General Field is once again dedicated to a use that is designed to serve the common good “for reasons of mutual advantage.”