Back in 1927, Wood Hill was so remote that news of a major forest fire there spread slower than the fire. The four-day fire was in its third day by the time many people downtown - or "uptown," depending on your perspective - learned of it, from the Andover Townsman. Folks were offered 50 cents an hour to help the fight the fire.
Wood Hill is just west of Haggetts Pond and Route 495. It's 375 feet high and has towers on it, so it's hard to miss.
Wood Hill Road runs south to north on the east side of the hill. It lies between High Plain and Haggetts Pond roads.
Today, the town street directory lists only three homes on "Woodhill Road," which is now only a short street off Haggetts Pond Road. When Route 495 was built, it cut through and truncated the original Wood Hill Road, leaving most of it north of that highway.
Judy (West) Stevens sent me a description of a walk taken in 1981 on the north end of what had been Wood Hill Road. The description was written by Darcy Kirk. She was accompanied on the walk by Judy's parents. Mrs. Kirk lived at 65 Haggetts Pond Road, and Judy says she now lives with relatives in Connecticut.
Mrs. Kirk's description begins: "It was a beautiful early spring day that Mildred and Howard West and I started at High Plain Road. Armed with cameras, clipboards, etc. we parked my Jeep... and started out." She notes that Wood Hill Road was one of the town's oldest byways, but the town had stopped maintaining it years earlier. She continues, "For 40 years or more no one has lived on this end of the road. Although the road is quite overgrown, you can see at one time it was quite wide and a beautiful old country road."
Only parts of old structures were there in 1981. According to Mrs. Kirk, the first remains they found was a farm that had once been occupied by a Mr. Heneuset, who raised chickens, sold eggs, and walked back and forth to town to do his shopping. She quotes Howard and Mildred West as saying that a forest fire destroyed his home, and the local Red Cross helped him rebuild it. He, in return, held a party at his farm for the Red Cross ladies.
Mrs Kirk said, "Further on down Wood Hill Road, we came to the remains of a brick wall. This was the farm of Mike Saba. Mike worked in the Lawrence Mills, raised chickens, had many dogs and by looking at the rotting and fallen down building, he had a rather extensive farm. Almost across from Mike Saba's farm we found Tom Barron's cellar foundation. Very little was left to identify, but we did manage to pull an old oak post out of the ground, and I now have it proudly in my yard. We only found three dwellings, and, according to Howard, that is all there ever were. I would love to have been there when they were flourishing."
I asked Judy Stevens what the road is like now, and she says, "Wood Hill Road at the High Plain end is more of a dirt path now. On the Haggetts Pond Road end there are some houses at the start of the old road."
Judy remembers what the top of Wood Hill was like years ago: "There was a tower with a beacon to warn planes. My brothers climbed the tower and even my sons did so, long after that beacon was gone. The tower part of it still is in the woods. When I was young, it was very quiet here, as there was no 495 and its hum. Tucked in my bed at night, I would try and open my eyes at the same time as the beacon light would shine in the room. It was very comforting, that light. A plane hit it once, and the plane landed in the woods behind our house. The pilot was not killed."
Judy says she takes her grandchildren for walks to the top of the hill and they love to hear the story "of when their fathers were so brave and climbed the tower."
Bill Dalton writes a weekly column for the Andover Townsman and can be reached at email@example.com.