The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, June 18, 2004


Where in Carlisle? The Tunnel

photo by Ellen Huber

No, it's not an abandoned mine or an empty tomb. It's a tunnel, it's in Carlisle, and to most of you, not a mystery at all. We received more responses on this particular subject than any other we've featured in "Where in Carlisle's" (short) history.

One of our favorite responses was presented as "an educated guess" by Kelly Ann Robbins of Maple Street. "The tunnel was used by runaway slaves as they made their way to freedom," she wrote. "Harriet Tubman helped lead slaves through that tunnel."

It's a great story, but unfortunately not true — at least not for this particular tunnel. Keith Asarkof of River Road did an excellent job of summing up the tunnel's true purpose when he wrote: "The photograph the Towle Field cow tunnel. It runs under Westford [Street]. The tunnel was apparently used at a time when cows grazed on both sides of the road and the only safe way to move them to the other side was via the tunnel. When one walks (at a sharp stoop) through the narrow tunnel, it is apparent that the cows of earlier times were much smaller than Mr. Duffy's Holsteins at Great Brook State Park. The massive stones used to create the tunnel must have required an amazing engineering feat at the time the tunnel was built. Today, the tunnel is an interesting historical landmark and a place to briefly escape the heat of summer or a sudden downpour."

In an e-mail, resident Leslie Kmiec added: "Before the sheep grazing, the field was neatly mowed and the surrounding area maintained, making it a nice place to walk and picnic with our young sons. A visit to the old cow tunnel was a highlight."

One of the readers providing the correct answer was a man who can vouch for the story first-hand. Ninety-nine -year-old Raymond Dutton observed the cow tunnel in use when he was a young boy. "I was born in Carlisle on East Street on June 1, 1905, and moved to Russell Street in 1914," wrote Dutton, who now lives with his daughter in Brookline. "My parents were Herbert and Emma Dutton."

Identification of the cow tunnel was also offered by alert readers Claire Wilcox, Jean Q. Bates, Thomas Wester, and Meg Parson (age 10).

The cow tunnel (also called a "cow pass") itself was built in October of 1914, when the new Westford Road — as it was called then — was being constructed. As for where "Towle's Field" got its name, it originated with Dr. George P. Towle, a physician and surgeon who came to Carlisle in 1912 and raised Herefords and western cow ponies on 150 acres spanning both sides of Westford Street. (Thank you to Ginny Mills and Conni Manoli-Skocay, who provided this information.)

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito