A crew of AmeriCorps volunteers and several Falmouth residents worked yesterday clearing brush from around a 100-hundred-year-old dairy barn foundation in the Dupee conservation parcel at the head of the Coonamessett River.
The group also reclaimed an overgrown field that used to be pastureland and then a garden plot.
“We knew that [field] as Uncle Ned’s garden,” said Donna Dupee Jewett, 70, granddaughter of the original Dupee owner, Norman E. Dupee. Ms. Jewett was one of the volunteers helping to clear brush yesterday.
Wearing a light fleece jacket, Ms. Jewett stood in the warm sunshine at the edge of the field and explained that the land was first developed as a dairy farm by the Boston wool merchant George St. Amant.
Mr. St. Amant bought 123 acres on Coonamessett Pond in 1915. He raised purebred Guernsey cattle in the highlands of property and set up a hunting and fishing camp down on the shores of Coonamessett Pond.
When the depression hit, the property went into foreclosure.
“That’s when my grandfather, Norman E. Dupee, came on the scene,” Ms. Jewett said. Mr. Dupee, also a Boston wool merchant, bought the 123-acre property for $20,000 in 1938.
Mr. Dupee did not keep up the dairy operation, but his son, Norman (Ned) Dupee Jr., tried his hand at various agricultural ventures on the land, Ms. Jewett explained.
“My Uncle Ned was a want-to-be farmer,” she said.
First, Uncle Ned kept some hay fields. “That didn’t work out.”
Then he tried farming cranberries in what is now the Matt Souza conservation parcel. “That didn’t work out either,” Ms. Jewett said.
He also planted a Christmas tree farm that has since grown into a forest. “The [trees are] now 40 to 50 feet high,” Ms. Jewett said.
Ms. Jewett and her husband, David N. Jewett, live on the shore of the Coonamessett Pond on a three-acre plot that abuts the Dupee conservation parcel. Their house used to be Ms. Jewett’s mother and father’s summer home.
“This whole area could have been a subdivision,” Ms. Jewett said as she ducked under an oak branch and into the woods adjacent to the overgrown field. A large piece of rusted farm equipment sat under a stand of pitch pines.
“As a kid, I never really walked along these trails, I spent my time down by the water,” she said.
But when she and her husband moved full time to Falmouth in 2000, she said, the woodlands and the history of the Atamannsit dairy farm began to interest her more.
The town purchased the Dupee parcel in 2002 for $1.5 million dollars from Ms. Jewett’s cousin, Paul R. Dupee Jr.
Ms. Jewett said her cousin considered selling the land off for development, but the family “had a fit” and was able to convince him of the “wisdom” of preserving the woods, and the privacy they afford. Mr. Dupee has a summer house on the southwestern shore of Coonamessett Pond off Atamannsit Road and adjacent to the Dupee conservation parcel; his immaculately kept lawn slopes down to a small beach and hosts two canvas coyotes and a plastic snarling fox to scare the geese away.
The 300 Committee plans to highlight the Dupee parcel dairy barn foundation with an interpretive sign that explains the land’s agricultural past.
The 300 Committee stewardship coordinator Alexander B. Etkind organized yesterday’s work day.
By noon over half the one-acre field was cleared of its blanket of invasive plants. “We’re getting [the field] into a state, where, if we wanted to, we could do an annual mow” to keep the field from getting overgrown again, Mr. Etkind said.
Open fields and meadow lands are now a rare type of habitat, Mr. Etkind said, so reclaiming the field makes sense from a conservation stand-point.
North Falmouth resident William R. Clarke and his daughter Chelsea K. Clarke, 29, were among the day’s volunteers. Mr. Clarke stood near the barn foundation under a pair of towering Norway spruce that looked out of place in the middle of the mostly pine and oak forest. The trees were probably planted when the barn was built, Mr. Clarke guessed.
Mr. Clarke thought that clearing around the barn foundation and keeping the field open were great ideas. “Part of the challenge of preserving open space is getting people interested,” he said. “And so the history is another way to draw people in.”
Anja L. Hogan, 24, was one of the AmeriCorps volunteers. “It’s surprising to me that a building would have been abandoned like that,” she said.
Ms. Hogan is from Minnesota, where it is common to come across abandoned barns. “But on Cape Cod,” she said, “with such valuable real estate, it seems unusual.”