Wes Ewell

Have you ever driven County Road and wondered why it turns and winds around so much? It has been realigned and relocated in places over the years, but remains one of the crookedest roads in Bourne.

Not far from its southern end in Cataumet, County Road makes an unexpected turn so sharp that it has probably seen more single-car accidents than any other spot in town.

It then meanders past the old Cataumet Schoolhouse and several 18th-century homes, and through farms and cranberry bogs, before hitting a rare straight stretch near the county complex. It wasn’t always this straight here, but once ducked down to touch the shore of the old Flax Pond, now called Picture Lake. Maybe the road got its name from the county facilities, as it is not actually a county road, but is maintained by the town.

Just past the lights at Barlows Landing Road, County Road dips down between two of the four ponds in the town conservation area, then abruptly climbs again. The crest of this climb was once much sharper than it is now. Driving from the north in his 1947 Plymouth, my father would often speed up over this crest, thrilling my brother and me with the feeling that we had gone airborne.

Two hundred years ago, this was the center of Pocasset, with a school and a church, all within walking distance of the Pocasset Iron Company, a major factory that shipped cast iron pots, stoves, and utensils all over the world. The school building still exists, but was moved to a spot across the street from the Pocasset fire station. The church also exists today, cut in half with its top half moved in front of the rear and now housing the Bourne Water District offices. There is nothing left of the iron works, except for the ponds and dams that were essential to its operations.

Continuing north, County Road winds between and among some of the oldest houses in Bourne before reaching its northern end at its intersection with Shore Road and Sandwich Road.

So, how did County Road get to be so winding? Clearly it was not planned or laid out by a surveyor or civil engineer. More likely, it simply followed a path of least resistance by people traveling on foot with cattle and other livestock.

The origins of County Road predate any written historical records. It appears on a 1626 map of the area, along with Sandwich Road and Turpentine Road, which is now located entirely within the military base. Most likely County Road was originally a trail used by the indigenous people of the area to travel between their inland winter hunting grounds and their coastal summer fishing encampments.

County Road may have existed for thousands of years before my ancestors invaded the region in the early 1600s, and long before there was any need for travel fast enough to require a straighter and more level thoroughfare.

Today it remains an important route connecting four of Bourne’s villages. It might also be considered a historic trail, evoking images of our town’s changing demographics and character over the last four centuries.

Wesley J. Ewell lives in Bourne.

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