What happened to Bonney Hill? A history mystery solved

Jan 11, 2022

(Connie Esbach of the Rochester Historical Society turns detective as she ponders the fate of a once popular sledding spot in town.) 

At one time, my husband's favorite TV show was “History Detectives.’’ 

Viewers sent in questions and the show's cast, using the many resources of their network, searched out answers. 

In a previous article I asked the question, "What happened to Bonney Hill?" The hill, a great sledding spot, had been mentioned in an older poem. Without network resources, I relied on readers of our local media to help me find an answer.

The first response posed a possibility that the earth of the hill could have been taken by the state during one of the expansions of Logan Airport. Apparently, there was a period of time when the state was taking earth from Middleboro, Lakeville and perhaps Rochester to compete the project.

When earth is removed from a town, it is supposed to be paid a depletion allowance. In the time frame of Logan's expansion, Rochester was charging 5 cents a cubic yard, which is 27 cubic feet.

At this point I realized in addition to not knowing what happened to Bonney Hill, I wasn't sure where it had been, especially since the name Bonney is associated with more than one area in town. I sent some emails to those I thought might have an answer and on Sue LaFleur's advice, I turned to the historical museum files. 

Sure enough L.C. Humphrey pinpointed the site when he wrote about having a cabin with a few other boys. The cabin was located on Bonney Hill not far from “the 1st District School and the Green.’’ The District One School, also known as the Town or Centre School, was at that time located where Town Hall is today.

Further responses connected the demise of Bonney Hill not to Logan Airport but to the creation of Plumb Corner Mall. This area was once owned by the Hartley Sawmill with a portion belonging to Anna White. The Sawmill sold the land to Mrs. Bray, who lived at one time at 7 Marion Road. 

In the late 1980's, the Brays sold the land to Walter Garvey to build the mall. The earth and sand that had comprised the hill was hauled off at this time. That area is also part of the current construction of a condominium complex which has further changed the landscape.

I want to thank Joe, Bill, Henry, Sue and of course L.C.  for helping me solve my local history mystery.