Brewster’s Woods: A New Sanctuary with Old Roots
This article was featured in the Spring 2019 issue of Explore, our quarterly magazine for members.
When Harriet Hemenway and Minna Hall were seeking a president for their newly formed Massachusetts Audubon Society, they immediately set their sights on William Brewster. The well-known ornithologist served from 1896 until 1913, all the while living in his own slice of paradise along the Concord River.
After his passing in 1919, his land was divided and sold to different owners. But then something remarkable happened. One owner, Charlene Engelhard, pieced as much as she could back together, resulting in the 143-acre October Farm.
Meanwhile, nearby neighbor Nancy Beeuwkes shared Engelhard's vision for returning to Brewster's roots. After all, she and her husband, Reinier, were living in the very home Brewster once resided in. When the time came for Engelhard to sell October Farm in 2018, Beeuwkes couldn't bear the thought of the land being developed.
The Beeuwkeses sprang into action and put in a bid on the property. But they didn't want to keep this land for themselves—they wanted everyone to experience the beauty of Brewster's landscape. So they worked with Mass Audubon's president and Concord resident Gary Clayton and proposed the most generous offer in the organization's 122-year history: Nancy and Reinier would donate all 143 acres, provide an endowment, and leave their home to Mass Audubon in their life estate.
This new wildlife sanctuary, named Brewster's Woods, now joins the more than 1,700 acres of nearby protected land, including the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge just across the river. And while not yet ready for the public to enjoy, the opportunities for birding, hiking, and nature-based education will be endless!
→ Follow along as our plans for Brewster’s Woods unfold at massaudubon.org/brewsterswoods.