Reading Between Lines Finds Thoreau in Billerica
BILLERICA -- For one night, Henry David Thoreau called it home.
A small rise on the banks of the Concord River in Billerica is a former campsite of the famed Massachusetts author and naturalist, according to new research by town resident Marlies Henderson.
“It was like an epiphany,” Henderson said.
She will present her research and describe Thoreau’s travels through Billerica at Barrow Bookstore in Concord at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Henderson believes Thoreau camped at a small, privately owned patch of land in the Great Meadows Wildlife Refuge on the Concord River, south of Route 4. In the spring, the area is an island, though it is connected to the bank the rest of the year.
Henderson said Thoreau called the spot Fox Island in “A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers,” which describes the night he camped there on Aug. 31, 1839.
She said she first suspected the island could be his former campsite this winter.
She was leading a group walk through her series Hike Beautiful Billerica when she realized her description of the view was similar to Thoreau’s description of the campsite.
“All of a sudden I realize ‘low sandy rise’ -- that’s how Thoreau describes it,” she said.
Henderson started researching the island through land records, satellite images and Thoreau’s text. She came to believe Jug Island, an island in the Concord River long described as his campsite, was the wrong spot.
“Putting all that together is like putting all the evidence together,” she said.
She said she has been working with the Thoreau Society on an article describing her discovery for their quarterly publication, the Thoreau Society Bulletin.
Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins