The first settlement in the Norton-Mansfield area occurred in 1659.
Beginning in 1723, about 15 farms were established in the Great Woods. Their wells and foundation holes, stone walls, wagon roads, stone culverts, huge cairns of boulders, excavations and other remnants remain scattered about the woods.
One of them, the 27-acre Drake Farm, was settled in 1768 in the middle of the woods on what later became the Mansfield-Norton boundary. The nearest public roads, Mansfield Avenue to the east and Oak Street to the west, were each nearly a mile away and, to either the north or south, the woods extended two miles. Drake and later occupants cleared much of the land, built the one and three-quarter miles of stone walls, including a double wall six feet wide that runs through the woods for 500 feet, nearly two miles of road and two small bridges.
Drake Farm was owned later by Judge Samuel Morey of Norton and then by his son-in-law Laban Wheaton, the founder of Wheaton College. George and Marberry Barker moved to the Drake Farm in 1828.
There are many markers in the woods, delineating what once were woodlots.
(photo be Lou Andrews)