Bedford Springs/Fawn Lake

About a week before we moved away from Bedford, Mass., we learned from our friend Kristin that Fawn Lake used to be quite the fancy retreat.

People came far and wide to partake in its magical waters of rejuvenation.

All the way back in the 1700s, perhaps even before, the Pawtucket tribe had settlements in the area. According to the bedfordma.gov website, “Mrs. Franklin Stearns of Billerica, born in 1801, recounted that “My mother…told me that she remembered distinctly when the Indians came a long distance to fill their leathern bottles with water from the springs and told her…it was medicine”.

Augustus Pierce owned the lake in 1835. He offered pastures for villagers cattle and noticed that the cows that drank from the springs produced better milk than those in other pastures. Of course, people had to get in on that fabulousness, so Bedford Springs health resort was created.

When the Billerica and Bedford railroad was completed in the late 1800s, the business flourished, but eventually closed down in 1913.

After buying the resort in 1856, Dr. William Hayden established a laboratory for the production of the New York Pharmaceutical Company.

The pharmaceutical company’s business boomed during Prohibition, since the company’s Viburnum Compound was pure alcohol with a pleasant flavor and could be bought over the counter. According to the Bedford Historical Society’s website, the HVC was for “the ailments of women” and didn’t contain any narcotics.

“The 1893 Souvenir Handbook lists the ingredients as viburnum opulus (European cranberry bush), dioscorea villosa (wild yam), scutellaria lateriflora (blue skullcap), and “a combination of aromatics.” However, like many patent medicines of the day, it contained large amounts of alcohol,” says the BHS website.

Production continued until the end of Prohibition in 1933. The town purchased the land from the Hayden family in 1979 for $300,000, half of which was state matching funds.

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