, Newburyport, MA

November 30, 2012

A walk to the past on Crow Lane

Bill Plante's
North Shore

---- — I was enriched during Thanksgiving week by a letter from Betty Cooper Nason Amirault, a lifetime resident of Newburyport’s North Atkinson Street, in response to a column I had written on a walk taken together with those seeing to the preservation of Crow Lane woodlands and pasture.

I have written about the lane several times over the years, but nothing has been more definitive than what she has written of what it meant to those who brought cows to pasture there lifetimes ago.

I thought it should be shared, so, with her permission ...

“Bill brought back many memories as a young girl growing up in a farm family,’’ she wrote.

“I am a Cooper, daughter of George and Louise.

“Many would think ... a farm in Newburyport?

“I have to tell them there were many while I was growing up. Our farm was small — more land than animals. Our land on Crow Lane — all the way to the old Route 95, and (easterly) across to Hale (Street).

“Unfortunately, it was sold to NAID in hopes of use after my father died.*

“The land still sits dormant.

“Back then, we would daily take our cows down North Atkinson Street across Low Street and down Crow Lane, past the dump to our pastures.

“It was a beautiful country lane and the view from the top of the hill on part of the pasture overlooking Newburyport was always my dream to built a house out there.

“Of course this never came to be because of increasing regulation in the dairy business and the main barn and outbuildings surrounded by the city on all four sides — having the school behind us, increasing housing in the area, the Poor Farm torn down to make for the elderly housing, the Country Manor Nursing Home on the corner, and much more traffic on Low Street.

“Everyone knows how hard it is to come out of Crow Lane after dropping their leaves off. It’s surprising on that corner no one has been killed — let alone driving cows back and forth.

“We eventually sold the herd in 1963.

“I then started with one, and slowly with my brother, we built a small herd up again ... taking the cows out to Crow Lane pasture.

“Because of the remote area and the wildlife out there, we had to make sure our herd was in the barn before fall because they looked too much like deer.

“We joined the Whittier 4-H Club and showed our pride and joys.

“But again, we grew up. Times change, and I got married in 1970. The barn was torn down for fear of someone torching it, and the last animal on the farm was in 1971.

“One of my fondest memories is of going out to the pastures to retrieve an Angus heifer of ours.

“Several stayed out there all summer, she being one.

“Well, I found her calf and now it was more of a pet than a cow.

“Her name was ‘Wabbit’ — named by my dad as she was so tiny when she was born. She was more of a pet than a cow. Well, I found her calf and, if born in the wild, they are feisty. I had to get them home, but how?

“I used to ride Wabbit, so I got her calf up onto her back and led them both home.

“Another time, Bill caught a picture of my brother and me in the back of my parents’ station wagon with a calf in our lap and the mother tagging behind, coming back from pasture.

“There was our hut that kids had built where we played cowboys/cowgirls and Indians.

“Always wanted to sleep out there — never did. Picking blueberries and wild berries. Target shooting with Dad. Riding our bikes out to the pasture.

“It is sad that beautiful area is not known to the public for nature walks, cleaned up and made accessible.

“I know it was a lover’s lane, drinking, hang-out place to throw trash not allowed in the dump.

“It has been years since I have been down there as it hurts to see how neglected it has come to be.

“Bill just brought back some very fond memories of my childhood. Thanks the memories.

“There are still some undeveloped land in this city that should not go unnoticed.

“Betty Cooper Mason Amirault — always a country girl living in a city.”

*NAID no longer owns the Low Street meadow that is likely to be the major access to the Crow Lane preserve. B.P.


Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and staff columnist. His e-mail address is