Editor’s note: As Newburyport celebrates its 250th anniversary this year, The Daily News is publishing a series of stories that looks back on the city’s history. Today we focus on two unique parks in the area, Maudslay State Park and Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
Newburyport has almost two dozen parks, and most of these are small, municipal resources. But in the area, there are also two large parks — a riverside retreat run by the state and a wildlife refuge managed by federal authorities. Each has its own compelling history.
Maudslay State Park, a 483-acre park on the banks of the Merrimack River, was created by the Moseley family. The word Maudslay is derivative of “Maudsleigh,” the family’s ancestral home in England, historians say.
A key donor was Edward Strong Moseley (1813-1900), who was one of the largest ship owners in this city. When shipping declined, he went into banking and was president of Mechanics National Bank (now Eastern Bank) and the Institution for Savings, according to Ghlee Woodworth, author of “Tiptoe Through the Tombstones” (Journeyman Press, Newburyport, 2008).
In the 1860s, the Moseley family began acquiring land along the Merrimack River on the western edge of Newburyport. The first purchase was a 20-acre stand of “naturally standing mountain laurel,” according to state historians. In the late 1860s, this was the site of “literary festivals” attended by John Greenleaf Whittier, Ralph Waldo Emerson, William Lloyd Garrison and other leading figures of the day.
Edward S. Moseley began the creation of an elaborate compound, including a 70-room mansion that was finished just two years before his death. He donated a fountain to the Frog Pond at Bartlet Mall in 1891, and later in that decade, he helped raise $18,000 for the public library, according to historian Jean Foley Doyle in her text, “Life in Newburyport” (Peter E. Randall Publisher LLC, Portsmouth, 2007).