NEW SALEM, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Historians know all about it—but some Bay State residents may be surprised to learn that Massachusetts once included several communities that have since been wiped off the map.
In 1938, land in the towns of Enfield, Greenwich, Prescott, and Dana was burned and flooded to make way for the Quabbin Reservoir, a new source of drinking water for the growing Boston region.
You could call it the Atlantis of Massachusetts.
WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe toured the Swift River Valley Historical Society in New Salem, where the history of those four towns is preserved.
About 2,500 home and business owners were paid for their land, and forced to move.
Historian Eleanor Pierce said that some of the homes and buildings were relocated.
"A lot of them were taken down piece by piece and moved," she said. "Anything that was left was burned."
At one point, there were several mountains in the valley, but the mountains and everything else are now under water.
"Everything but the tips, the tips of these mountains show," Pierce said.
One of the artifacts in the museum is a poster for a "Farewell Ball" thrown by the Enfield Fire Department in April 1938. The event was held to allow residents from the four towns to say goodbye.
Susanne Cooley-Martin's 94-year-old father lived in Dana with his family as a kid.
"They were the last ones to leave," she said. "They only left because the hurricane of '38 came through. They were cut off from everybody else in the world."
She said the move had a lasting effect on the family.
"That's what killed his grandfather, he was so depressed—even his mother was very depressed when they had to leave the valley," she said. "This was their life. It still hurts my father to think they lost that. It was mostly how they were losing their way of life. Everything was changing, they're losing everything they ever had."
Bodies in the towns' 34 cemeteries were removed and placed in the Quabbin Park Cemetery.
While the lost towns are gone, their footprint still remains in the minds of those who lived there.
"All there is is memories, and lots of those," Pierce said.
WBZ NewsRadio's Kim Tunnicliffe (@KimWBZ) reports