Lansing Bennett Forest
(formally known as Trout Farm)
The town conservation area formerly known as Trout Farm, was dedicated in 2005 to the memory of Dr. Lansing Bennett, chair of the Duxbury Conservation Commission from 1967 to 1979. Dr. Lansing Bennett sought to preserve the rural charm of Duxbury and its wetland resources by developing the greenbelt plan of land extending along the river watershed throughout the town. During his time on the Commission, he helped obtain more than 1,200 acres of conservation land within the greenbelt and secured the passage of the Wetlands and Watershed Protection District Bylaw. The 344 acres that comprise the Lansing Bennett Forest was one of his most satisfying acquisitions. The renaming of this parcel is a fitting tribute to a dedicated public servant.
Lansing Bennett Forest was purchased by the Town in July of 1970 from the Lot Philips Company, a wooden box manufacturer formerly located in Hanover. This large parcel made up of three contiguous lots to form one large wooded lot of mixed upland and wetland. The Phillips Brook watershed occupies about 25 to 30 percent of the parcel of the land and is maple swamp considered to be wetlands. The remainder of the parcel is a largely pine-oak mixed forest. The terrain is made up of kettle holes, the pits or depressions left by the melting of isolated blocks of ice, leaving several hills and valleys with some steep-sided hills. It appears that today's topography is just as the glaciers left it upon retreating many thousand years ago. There are several hiking trails throughout the property, including a portion of the Bay Circuit Trail, which runs through from Union Bridge Road to Summer St. on its way across Duxbury.
The Last Mill in Duxbury
Built circa 1830, Howland's Mill was probably the last mill built in Duxbury. It was situated on the east bank of Phillips Brook, southeast of Franklin and Union Street. These two streets were old Native American trails, turned later into cart paths, that allowed access to the Mill. It was originally built as a gristmill but was later changed to a sawmill. This mill had many problems with too little water. A ditch was dug through a hill bringing water out of Black Friars Swamp across Franklin Street to the stream. This ditch can still be seen alongside the bank of the brook. The old mill foundation can also still be seen. The granite foundation sides still hold. The mill faced Franklin Street and had a large wheel several feet below the dam. Water was funneled over the dam and dropped on the wheel to power the mill. From there, the water ran under the street through a culvert.
Vegetation and Wildlife
The vegetation along Phillips Brook is characteristic of wetlands habitat. The understory along the edge is made up of sweet pepperbush and high-bush blueberry. The primary species tree is the red maple constituting a typical maple swamp. The upland areas are a pine-oak mix, the primary trees being eastern white pine, red oak and white oak. In some spots, there is a small population of eastern hemlock. In the pine-oak upland forest there is very little understory vegetation. Some of the kettle holes have typical maple swamp vegetation and some standing water in them. In both the uplands and along the brook there is poison ivy, so please be careful.
The Lansing Bennett Forest uplands mixed with wetlands provide a diverse habitat for a wide range of inhabitants. Small mammals include mice, chipmunks, both red and grey squirrels, opossum, raccoon, and possibly otter. The only large mammals that inhabit these woods are white-tailed deer. In the wetlands, the reptiles and amphibians dominate. There are painted, spotted, and box turtles in both the wooded and brook front areas. There are a number of salamanders and frogs living under rocks and logs along the brook. The most common are the redback salamander, wood frog, and the American toad. There are a fair number of woodland bird species such as black-capped chickadee, white-throated sparrow, blue jay and an occasional woodpecker, red-tailed hawk, and great horned owl. However, these are not the only species that inhabit these woods. The trout in Phillips Brook are what give this conservation land its name.
The Trout of Lansing Bennett Forest
Flowing south to north, Phillips Brook is a 1.8-mile long tributary of the South River. This brook was known to contain trout. After the Howland's sawmill closed, Phillips Brook was used as a trout farm. The fish were transported by train to the markets and restaurants in Boston. The upper section, above Union Bridge Road was the site of the farm. Evidence of fish ladders once developed here, can be seen at the edge of the stream. Trout prefer areas in which they can hide such as deep pools, whirlpools, and the covered edges of stream banks. The brook continues to contain good wild brook and brown trout populations. A study by the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (DFW) was done in 1997 to determine the health of the trout population. DFW discovered both adult and juvenile brook and brown trout indicating that the brook contained reproducing wild populations of brook and brown trout.
The Charcoal Pit
Along the trail leading from the parking area is a former charcoal pit. After the American Revolution, the ship building industry required charcoal for the smelting of bog iron ore. Trees were cut and piled in a circle twenty feet in diameter and dirt was piled over this pyramid after the fire was established. After several days, the dirt was pulled off and the charcoal removed. The process created a circular mound containing the charcoal which is still visible more than 100 years later..