THIS IS A HISTORY OF THE PLACE WHERE I LIVE...
For the earliest days of settlement the Highland Lake area, once known as "Island Lake" and later as "Highland Lake Grove", with its copious supply of water power, was always a center of activity and host to a large variety of business operations from saw and corn mills to iron smelters with trip hammers, that processed the ore brought in from Walpole, to paper mills. There was even a 200 yard long covered rifle range, built by Dr. Frank Mann, who had survived imprisonment in the notorious Andersonville Prison during the Civil War, to test special rifle sighting devices.
The natural beauty of the area was also well known and did not go unnoticed. The New York and New England Railway began acquiring property in the area about Highland Lake in the late 1800s. On August 14, 1875 Thomas Watson sold 20 acres of his farm on the south side of the railroad tracks to the railway for $1000. Following shortly thereafter on September 1, 1875 Levi Mann sold 2/3 of an acre to the railroad for $100 and finally on March 7 of the following year 1876, George Campbell sold a little less than 9 1/2 acres for $1000 and thus the seeds were sown for the beginnings of "Highland Lake Grove" and its connection with the New York and New England Railroad. The first railroad station established at the Highland Lake area was called Campbells. It was a very small building covered by yellow stucco and built in the vicinity of the great Arch Bridge on the lake.
In the late 1800s and early 1900s the Highland Lake area, promoted by the Railroad, became a favorite picnicking spot for thousands of city dwellers who, looking to escape the heat and congestion of the city in summer, began to flock to the more healthful environs of this country retreat. On summer weekends the New York and New England Railroad brought car loads of picnickers out to the lake for the day. Many Sunday School picnics were held there as well. As people, in ever increasing numbers began to flock to the grounds for picnics and entertainment a new station was deemed necessary and so built (in later years after the popularity of the grove diminished it was moved to the Seekonk Street crossing area). The Railroad maintained the area as a park with canoes and boats available for all and holding many band concerts at the lake's pavilion.
Mike Deveney ran a training center near the lake, known in later years as the Columbus Outing Club. Many well-known sports figures, mostly boxers and prize fighters trained at the camp. The great John L. Sullivan visited the camp. During the summer months, at Mr. Deveney's expense, or as he preferred to put it, " at my pleasure ", large groups of children from the "slum districts" of Boston were brought out to the lake for a day of games, good food and ice cream.
In 1880 the tax records of show NY&NERR Co. had on site a restaurant, dance hall, 2 auditoriums, a bowling alley, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, a headquarters building, an ice house, stables, bridges and 41 acres of land.
In 1885 there was a restaurant, dance hall, 2 auditoriums, a bowling alley, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, a headquarters building, an ice house, a skating rink, stables, bridges and 41 acres of land.
In 1890 there was a restaurant, dance hall, 2 auditoriums, a bowling alley, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, a headquarters building, an ice house and stables.
In 1895 the location is referred to as "Highland Lake Grove" in the tax records and there was a restaurant, dance hall, 2 auditoriums, a bowling alley, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, a headquarters building, an ice house and stables.
In 1905 there was a restaurant, an auditoriums, a ladies toilet, a ticket office, stables, , a tool house, a lock up, a judges stand, a summer house, a bath houseand a shooting gallery, bridges and 52 acres of land.
The Highland Lake Grove was a site to behold with a long covered wooden bridge spanning an arm of the lake, topped with a cupola flying the stars and stripes and with HIGHLAND LAKE GROVE. painted in large, bold letters from one end of the covered roof to the other. In its heyday at the turn of the century Highland Lake Grove boasted not only the long bridge but also the likes of a bowling alley, check room, dance hall, skating rink, restaurant, 16 lap track, boat wharf, 1/4 mile track, baseball diamond, pavilion, summer houses, and separate swimming holes and spring activity areas, in addition to the picnic grounds. There was a merry-go-round and quite a few amusements and even a saloon "Hovey's at Highland Lake". This was no small operation predating Disneyland by over half a century and even Paragon Park, Revere Beach and Norumbega Park by a few years. Little does one realize in passing the area today that thousands of people once viewed this area as their great escape - an idyllic lakeside retreat where they could enjoy recreational activities or just relax and be entertained.
Even the President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes, stopped at Highland Lake Grove to feast on a gourmet breakfast on his way to Boston on June 26, 1877 - his train stopped there at 8:36 AM at he was greated with loud cheers. His entourage feasted on a breakfast of fish, steak, chicken and lamb before the left for the city at 9:45 AM.