Our history is tied to some of the unique natural features of this 47 and half acre property. Most of it is a hill – a glacial drumlin of sand and well worn river rock – deposited here during the last ice age. The hill slopes down through the woods into Johnson’s Pond. The pond provides an 80 acre body of fresh water with an undeveloped shoreline. There’s a creek that flows from the pond which drops 75 feet on it’s way to the Merrimack River, and then to the Atlantic Ocean. The hill, it’s self also has many fresh water springs along with open meadows and lawns. This combination of features means it can support micro-habitats for a wide range of wild birds, plants, insects and small mammals.
There is some evidence, that thousands of years ago, Native Americans used this area as a seasonal fishing spot. The European settlers later cleared the land for farming and built mills downstream along the creek. The modern part of this property’s story revolves around the these mills, operated for many years by the Hale family of Haverhill, and later by the Veasey family.
Around 1873, a 19-year-old Arthur D. Veasey began working for Benjamin Hale as his carriage driver. Mr. Veasey was bright and ambitious, and eventually worked his way up through the company and bought out his boss. Although he worked very hard, he also fiercely enjoyed the out doors. He would spend many rustic holidays with his friends and family in Maine. Mr. Veasey also built his bungalow style cottage near the top of Reservoir Hill, at the edge of a field used by an enterprise known as Wabenauki Dairy. The small shingled cottage at the entrance to Veasey Park is all that is left of the dairy.
The bungalow was constructed in the Arts and Crafts Style by mill workers during slower times at the mills. The Arts and Crafts movement was somewhat of a reaction to the excesses of the Victorian period, and incorporated a number of tenets that guided architectural design as well as the manner of construction. Homes were smaller, designed to fit well with the land, used local material and labor, as well as included built-in furniture and other practical features.
Meanwhile the mills were very successful, having been a major supplier of blankets to the Union Army during the civil war. Henry Ford even came here to purchase the fabric to cover the seats of his early cars. But as time went on, the mill machinery was less suited to produce the fabrics demanded by evolving tastes and industrial requirements. The mills eventually closed. At that time many improvements had been added, such as Lucile’s Cottage, a tennis court, the carriage paths and the gardens. Soon after Arthur passed away, the Veasey’s sold the property.
After changing hands multiple times, in the late 1950’s, it was purchased by the Little Missionary Sisters of Charity, an order of Italian nuns with the local Catholic archdiocese. Their original plan was to establish a novitiate here, but during the turbulent early 1960’s it was difficult to convince young women in Italy that this was a quiet and serene location. The sisters searched for a new mission. A large state mental hospital in Danvers, Massachusetts closed and left a group of women with no where to go, so the sisters welcomed them here.
Under the ownership of the nuns, a number of changes were made to the property. Not only was an “east wing” added to the main building, some of the larger rooms in the bungalow were converted to dormitories. A swimming pool and a large vegetable garden were also added. The addition of the “east wing” included a new dining room, a small and large chapel and a function hall with a large kitchen. The sisters hosted many events for families and children, and operated Camp Fatima here for during summers. The sisters also added the Good Shepherd’s Cottage, as a residence for visiting priests. With quiet consent, the steep hillside along Washington Street became a favorite sledding spot for local children. It is now affectionately know as “Nun’s Hill”
After 35 years went by, due to the aging population of the special-needs-women in their care, the nuns decided they could no longer provide proper care. It became necessary to place the women in other facilities. The sisters decided to sell the property to raise funds for future missions. Town of Groveland was an eager buyer. The process took over two years, and because it required collaboration with the state that was unprecedented in Groveland, it drew some controversy. On October 30, 1996 the sale was consummated at the cost of $954,000 (only $160,000 came directly from the Town of Groveland, the rest was raised through grants and conservation liens, and a very generous donation from the Veasey family) The family requested that the name of the park be the “Veasey Memorial Park.” The town was happy to comply in recognition of not only their financial contribution but also the historical relationship between the Veaseys, the mills and the Town of Groveland.
Whether you are inside or outside, Veasey is a peaceful and welcoming spot for friends and family to gather and to explore.
Click our “Trails Map” to enlarge it and you can see just how much the property has to offer.