Wednesday, November 29, 2023

"The Ammo Dump" Maynard, MA

Wildlife Refuge visitors touring one of the bunkers
The Ammo Dump is the title of a 2023 book co-authored by Paul Boothroyd and his sons Paul Boothroyd, Jr. and Todd Boothroyd. In the spring of 1942, the U.S. Army seized by eminent domain some 3,100 acres of land spanning Maynard, Stow, Sudbury and Hudson. The purpose was to create an munitions storage facility at a distance from Boston harbor, so that if German battleships appeared off the Massachusetts coast, the munitions facility would be too far inland to be shelled from the sea. An extensive network of railroad tracks and widely spaced 'bunkers' (earth-covered warehouse buildings) would hold munitions until ships docked at harbor to take on supplies for transportation to Europe. 

The book is for sale at Russell's convenience store, Main Street, Maynard, for $21.99.

The book is broadly divided into three chronological eras; first, from Native American occupation through the colonial and post-colonial settling by European colonists; second the taking of the land by the U.S. Army for use during World War II and after; and third, turnover of the land from the Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for the majority of the land to become the Assaber River Natural Wildlife Refuge. 

The land was mostly flat, with a few hills, bodies of water either contained or bordering (Puffer Pond, White Pond, Willis Pond, Bottomless Pond, Taylor Brook and Assabet River) and wetlands. On the eve of the taking, more than 80 families owned land, predominantly operating as small farms and pasture. Over years of research, the authors contacted scores of the evicted families to gather their stories, and in many instances acquire use of photographs of the homesteads and people. One odd fact: Henry Ford - of automotive fame (1863-1947) - owned 140 acres at the time of the land seizure. He also had purchased larger amounts of land in Sudbury, including Wayside Inn, for planned construction of a reproduction of a 'colonial village'. The property within the seized land may have been meant to provide food supplies for the village. 

Bunker blueprint of what the U.S. Army call 'igloos'
Occupants - some of them third and fourth generation farmers - received notice of their land being taken by eminent domain, giving them up to a month to as little as a week to find a new place to live and move out. They were paid what the federal government calculated as far market value for the land. This harsh disruption is documented in interviews of people who had been the children of landowners at the time. Farmland was replaced by a network of rail lines and 50 munitions storage bunkers. There were vague promises of being able to buy back the property after the war but that came to nothing when the Army decided to keep the land for testing of new equipment and training facilities. Testing included munitions, so Maynard residents became used to hearing the occasional explosions. The abandoned houses had long been demolished, and the fields and pastures reverted to meadows and forest.

The third act for the land, documented in Chapter 8, was the turning over of the land from the Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department in 2000 so that two-thirds could become the Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge (ARNWR) in 2005. The delay allowed for some of the worst polluted land to be remedied as a Superfund clean-up site. A volunteer organization - Friends of ARNWR - provides educational programs at the visitors' center and does tasks such as combating invasive plant species. Maynard residents find the Refuge a beautiful place to walk or bicycle in all seasons. Dogs not allowed. Deer hunting is allowed to prevent over-population. 

Other books by Paul Boothroyd, Sr., with Lewis Halprin:

Assabet Mills, Images of America. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia, 1999.

Maynard Massachusetts, Images of America. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia, 1999.

Maynard, Postcard History Series. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia, 2005.


  1. A good summary of the book. A lot of facts in the book. This is a good start

  2. Does anyone know what sort of gps format was used in the book? I am sad that the gps formats used are completely wrong. There is no known format i could find that allows seconds to be anything greater than 59, yet, the book uses values like 97" etc.

  3. You could try contacting the authors.