This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of "Groton's Anonymous Mistress." This 300-year-old house is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.
By Carl Flowers
The first map showing a road to the Mistress is Caleb Butler's 1828-29 map of Groton. Butler referred to the road as the, "Road to John Woods." It began at a fork in the road by Jonas Gilson's house.
After crossing over the brook from Martin's Pond, the road passed by the houses of Noah Shattuck, Artemas Wright, Luther Shattuck, the widow of Joseph Bennett, Aaron Corey, Joshua Parker, William Blood, John Johnson Jr., John Sawtell, Jacob Drake, and ended at the Dunstable Town Line on the west side John Woods House. Butler's map had little to do with the bounds of specific town roads as originally approved by town meeting vote. Instead, many town roads were combined into a single road beginning and ending at bounds of Butler's choosing. If it were any other way, the road to John Woods or to the Mistress would have begun at the fork in the road near John Johnson's house and ended on the west side of the Mistress at the Dunstable Town Line. John Johnson's house is where Oliver Fletcher lived in 1772.
Twenty-five of the roads shown on Butler's map were classified as primary roads, while forty-four were secondary roads. Roads on which no one lived were not always shown; however, roads can be found on the map with no one living on them.
Whatever might have been going on at the iron mine was over in 1829. The malt house and barn had to be responsible for the road to the Mistress being classified as a primary town way. Relative to the number of residents along the 1772 layout, there probably wasn't anymore than five or six households. Caleb Butler received eighty-six dollars from the town for his survey. He certainly would have been knowledgeable of the town's roads due to his being the town clerk and a selectman. Today this might be called a conflict of interest.
By 1835 condition and usability of the 1772 road was nothing less than rough in the vicinity of the Mistress. To remedy the conditions, Isaac Woods petitioned Groton and Dunstable on August 7, 1835. He wanted a new town way to begin from Cummings Bridge over Unkety Brook in Dunstable to the old town way in Groton. The problem was the hill the road crossed over. It was frequently impassable during the winter. With a new road, the farm could become more efficient and productive. The old town way over the hill could be discontinued once the new road was in place. As requested, Dunstable's selectmen laid out a new road. The new road was rejected at town meeting because the selectmen didn't request the discontinuance of the old road. Dunstable's action compelled Isaac to petition the Middlesex County Commission. They met with Isaac at John Cummings' house and evaluated the need for a new road.
When the commissioners had their meeting in Concord the third Tuesday of September 1836, they concluded a new road was not of common convenience and necessity. The commissioners charged Isaac eleven dollars and forty cents for coming to Dunstable.
Twenty-seven years after Isaac's death, his request came to fruition exactly as he wanted, but went a lot further. In addition to relocating the old road, a new one was built. The changes had nothing to do with making the farm more efficient and productive. It was all about the Nashua, Acton and Boston Railroad, officially chartered by Massachusetts in 1871 and New Hampshire in 1872. The railroad was frequently called the Red Line on account of heavy operating losses. When news about the railroad became known, Ruben Lewis and twenty others from Dunstable and Groton petitioned the two towns.
Relocating the old 1772 road was one objective. The second objective was a new town way called Raddin Road.