There hasn't been a place called Dana, Mass., for a half-century except in the hearts of former residents like Florence Avery, who still bicycles down to the deserted Common now surrounded by empty cellar holes.
But for five hours on Sunday, Dana, which now stands on the east shore of the 38-square-mile Quabbin Reservoir, will flicker back into existence in a special homecoming of those who lost their homes so Boston could have drinking water.With the Petersham Brass Band holding forth on the new-mown common, and old photographs of their homes set up on the surrounding cellar holes, the survivors and children of the 500 people that once called this place their own will celebrate happier days.
Four little central Massachusetts towns died at midnight April 27, 1938, on order of the state Legislature to form the reservoir after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down their appeals. Three - Enfield, Prescott and Greenwich - now lie under 413 billion gallons of water. Only the Dana Common, on the high ground on the east side of the Swift River valley, escaped the inundation.
"It's the one place left where people can touch what was formerly there. Everything else is under water," said Terry Campbell, who runs weekly teas for former residents, many now in the 70s and 80s.
Gov. Michael S. Dukakis declared 1988 a Year of Remembrance for the 2,500 people who lost their homes to the reservoir. Many of those who moved away decades ago have returned this spring and summer to attend events local historical societies have sponsored on the 50th anniversary of the taking.
"I was just 10-years-old when we had to go. It was hard," Avery said. "I remember them digging up the bodies in the cemetery. And my grandfather's house."
Avery, her five brothers and at least one of her five sisters, as well as her 90-year-old mother, Jennie Belle Cooley, plan to go home to their cellar hole on the Common.
Their former neighbor, Marion Johnson, 91, will be honorary president of the town for the day, just as her grandfather, Nathaniel Johnson, who owned the local hat factory, was in 1901, when the town, settled in 1763, cheered the centennial of its incorporation.
"We've kept in touch over the years," Mrs. Avery said. "She and my mother are still close friends."