Jenkins Quarry Reservation
The Jenkins Quarry Reservation is a small property comprised of two parcels off of Douglass Lane, totaling 10.64 acres. The area is primarily covered by emergent and open wetlands, which provides habitat for countless plants and animals ranging from beavers to kingfishers. The trail through Jenkins Quarry connects to the abutting Harold Parker State Forest, a 3,300-acre property managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.
In addition to protecting valuable natural resources, the acquisition of this property by the Andover Conservation Commission helps preserve the site’s rich history. It was in this same neighborhood where internationally renowned abolitionists, artists, and activists lived and fought for equal rights. As you enjoy a serene walk through the wooded trails of Jenkins Quarry and Harold Parker State Forest, you are likely walking the same paths once traveled by enslaved people seeking freedom through the Underground Railroad.
The Jenkins Family and the Underground Railroad
William Jenkins, Andover’s foremost abolitionist, was described by one Andover historian as an “idealist, very aggressive and obstinate, not unlike William Lloyd Garrison, whose friend he became.” His large house, with spacious barn and outbuildings, became the principal Underground Railroad station of the area from the 1830s onward. Fugitives fleeing bondage in the Southern states typically arrived at the Jenkins farm from Reading and were driven to Lawrence on their journey to safety in Canada. Jenkins’ daughter Belle (born 1838) recalled several fugitives living in a cabin and working on the farm with relative impunity as they gathered strength to resume their journey. After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1851, precautions were taken should guests need to hide , such as a concealed room behind the house’s central chimney and a hollowed-out space beneath a large rock in the yard. Jenkins was elected to the Massachusetts Legislature in 1854 and, with his wife, frequently hosted large meetings of regional Anti-Slavery societies. Famous visitors to these gatherings included journalist William Lloyd Garrison, Andover resident and author Harriet Beecher Stowe, writer and speaker Frederick Douglass, and the singing Hutchinson family.
In the 1830s, William Jenkins also converted an existing sawmill on the Skug River to cut blue soapstone quarried on his property. Soft and easily worked, the architectural-grade stone was used for gravestones and monuments, building ornaments, and because it retained heat well, kitchen sinks, fireplace surrounds and warming stones. The business was initially successful, but failed in 1841 when its Boston bookkeeper absconded with the funds. The Jenkins family then turned to the lumber business, specializing in the production of “ship’s knees,” or right-angled structural construction pieces milled from an oak tree’s lower trunk and roots. Mr. Frank Jenkins (1860-1933) remembered spending his 20th birthday hauling a load of lumber with a team of 20 oxen to Middleton on their way to Danversport. Remnants of Jenkins’ sawmill can still be seen in the Harold Parker State Forest.
Special thanks to Jane Cairns for her assistance researching and sharing the history of Jenkins Quarry.
Image courtesy of Gail Ralston.
This reservation is open to the public for non-motorized recreation such as hiking, trail running, leashed dog walking, and birdwatching.
Jenkins Quarry can be accessed from Douglass Lane, where there is roadside parking.