Harmony Grove; Framingham’s Historical Meeting Place

Written by Erin Gagnon

April 10, 2024

Have you ever walked by Farm Pond and wondered about the history hidden beneath your feet?

This area in South Framingham was a once-thriving community hub that became known as Harmony Grove.

A Long History

Harmony Grove’s history stretches far back before its recreational use. Before European colonization hit, Harmony Grove was a region known as Washakamaug. Populated by the Indigenous Nipmuc people for thousands of years, they lived prosperously off the land’s resources. As colonization swept through, the Nipmuc were dispossessed of their land, and it would eventually be purchased and transformed to fit a more Europeanized vision. This vision transformed the area into Harmony Grove; a gathering place cherished by attendees and utilized by changemakers in the nineteenth century. Many activist and Republican groups rallied here for slavery abolition, and one could find various community events such as Women’s Temperance Unions, school-wide picnics, and massive family parties all hosted by Framingham’s community.

 

What Was Harmony Grove Like?

Let’s take a quick stroll back in time…The year is 1871, and this is what visitors of Harmony Grove see: 

“The grove itself consists of several acres of tall, majestic pine, oak, maple, and chestnut-trees…A depression in the grove affords an amphitheater in which a speaker’s stand and seats for several thousand people have been erected. Near by, there is a commodious hall for dancing. On the left of the main entrance to the grove, a green…lawn spreads out for the erection of booths and tents, and for athletic sports and games… On the west, a broad and placid lake extends to the distance of a mile or so for bathing and for boating…The grove itself is beautiful; the surrounding country teems with charming villas, gentle knolls, and sunny glades, verdant meadows, orchards and gardens, forming landscapes which a Claude Lorrain might love to put on canvas.”

Why is it Important?

In its evolution during the nineteenth century, and the major reason that we believe this location is essential to Framingham’s history, this space was utilized by the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. The meetings and events hosted by this activist group brought groundbreaking speakers like Sojourner Truth, Charles Remond, Wendell Phillips, William Lloyd Garrison, and many others, who collaborated to affect change in the advancement toward emancipation. The most notable meetings involving these key speakers occurred every fourth of July to send a strong message for true liberation that included Black folks.

 

After 1860

Post-Civil War, Harmony Grove continued to attract crowds seeking change. Women’s temperance groups, and religious and spiritual community events, took place along with personal gatherings until the use of space began to fade. Ultimately, Harmony Grove was overtaken by housing and railroad developments, turning this vibrant area into a ghost of the past.

In the early 2000s, Edwina Weston-Dyer and others formed the Harmony Grove Research Center for the African Diaspora and attempted to rectify Harmony Grove as a community destination. They promoted awareness of its historical significance and held a community event there, but progress halted after this. In 2019, Downtown Framingham Inc. collaborated with Framingham High School students to create an arch in honor of Harmony Grove, but the area has been continuously overrun.

Moving Forward

When we look at Harmony Grove today, there is a small, hardly visible plaque, although right beside it is land that holds an incredible history for the Indigenous Nipmuc people and the Black community. Our goal is to reclaim Harmony Grove’s legacy for the Framingham community and restore the monument to ensure its rich history continues to inspire our present and future.

Stay tuned for more information on our project! 

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