Why isn’t the Lily Pond a pond?

The Lily Pond was once a pond with an outlet to the harbor running along the present Chester Street. In the 1660s the English settlers built an earthen dam across the outlet to control the flow and power a water mill located approximately where American Seasons Restaurant is today.

One evening in the 1720s an eleven-year-old girl named Love Paddack, who lived on nearby Sunset Hill, dug “a little gutter” to watch the water spill over the dam. Then she went home. Overnight the gutter became a stream and then a torrent, and when dawn broke, it was discovered that the pond had been let out, causing damage to boats that had been pulled up all along the stream running to the harbor.

The pond, which was originally called Wesco Pond and later was named the Lily Pond, has never completely refilled, although it often seems it wants to. Nowadays there are drainage pipes and culverts to drain rainwater away, so the Lily Pond is a wetland, but not a pond.

Love Paddack kept her secret until she made a deathbed confession in 1792. Historian Obed Macy wrote in 1842 that there was not the slightest doubt that her confession was genuine, “as she was an aged woman and her character without a blemish.”

To learn more about the Lily Pond and its environs, see Frances Karttunen’s book, Nantucket’s North Shore: A Neighborhood History, available from the NHA Museum Shop and from Spinner Publications of New Bedford.

The Nantucket Historical Association preserves and interprets the history of Nantucket through its programs, collections, and properties, in order to promote the island’s significance and foster an appreciation of it among all audiences.

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