Created By: University of Massachusetts Boston
You are now standing on the edge of Farm Pond, which was called Washakamaug (“eel fishing place”) by the Nipmuc people. Take a moment to look across the pond and reflect on what this place would have been like before English settlers arrived. In many ways, this pond gave life to the Nipmuc people of the area and is of great importance.
By the mid-1800s, this pond had been transformed. Nipmuc people would be forced away from the pond when settlers made their homes along its shores. As the industrial revolution came to Framingham, soon railroads and factories would follow. By the 1800s, Framingham would sit at the intersection of 6 different railroads. This pond, and a section called "Harmony Grove," was not far from the Framingham train station. In 1846, Edwin Eames (a descendent of Thomas Eames) purchased a strip of land near the railroad which included a house with a piazza and platform. “He cleared lawn areas for games, set up swings, built a dancing pavilion and a boathouse, and called it Harmony Grove. He also cleared a natural depression in the ground [which formed an amphitheater] and put in a platform and benches to seat a thousand [plus] people for public rallies and meetings.” The area became quite popular for picnics. However, it became too much for Eames and he sold it.
In the 1850s, the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society started holding its 4th of July rallies at Harmony Grove. It was easily accessible by train from Boston, New York, Providence, Hartford, Springfield, and elsewhere. Sadly, we cannot visit the actual site of Harmony Grove, as it is now surrounded by the Framingham rail yard. However, from here, if you look directly across the pond where you see railroad cars, that is where the abolitionists held their meetings (today, there is a commemorative plaque at Franklin and Henry Streets).
The most controversial event that took place at Harmony Grove was on July 4th in 1854. Well-known abolitionists Sojourner Truth, Wendell Phillips, Lucy Stone, Henry David Thoreau, and William Lloyd Garrison were in attendance that night. Garrison, owner of anti-slavery newspaper The Liberator, concluded his speech by burning a copy of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and the U.S. Constitution in front of 2,000 people. Garrison proclaimed that the Constitution was a “covenant with death, and an agreement with hell." The Grove erupted with both cheers and boos, and word of this speech spread around the country.
Meetings at Harmony Grove lasted for about 10 years after the end of the Civil War, but their focus shifted from Black rights to temperance and women’s suffrage. In 2021, the city of Framingham renamed Woodrow Wilson Elementary School as Harmony Grove Elementary School to honor the abolitionists who met there.
How should we remember Harmony Grove? How did Framingham contribute to the abolition of slavery and freedom?
To learn more about Harmony Grove, read this: https://framinghamhistory.org/harmony-grove/
To learn more about William Lloyd Garrison's speech, read this: https://www.masshist.org/object-of-the-month/objects/a-covenant-with-death-and-an-agreement-with-hell-2005-07-01
This point of interest is part of the tour: Framingham Local History Walking Tour