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Hop Brook, a tributary of the much larger Sudbury River, played a crucial role in the development of the town  of Sudbury from its very early settlement in 1638. Grist Mill at Wayside Inn From that time and into the 18th century, Sudbury was on the perimeter of the western expansion of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The area was a wilderness isolated from civilization because of the slowness of horse-drawn travel and also because of the formidable spring flooding of the Sudbury River.

The inhabitants had to become self-sufficient both to survive and to develop and prosper. Local establishment of mills for the grinding of grains, sawing and planing of wood and processing (falling) of cloth was essential.
Grist Mill at Wayside Inn
The Sudbury River was not suitable for the siting of mills because of the broad wet meadows that surround it. A major tributary, Hop Brook, that originates on Sudbury's western border with Marlborough and winds its way through more upland areas was chosen.  From 1656 when the Thomas and Peter Noyes' mill was first chartered until today, at least seven mill sites, under numerous proprietors, were established along the 9.4 miles of Hop Brook.  The last of the mills operated on Stearns Mill Pond until the middle of the 20th century. All the mill buildings on Hop Brook are gone, but if one looks carefully, the old mill sites may be found by their remaining dams, spillways and stonework. Old photographs, deeds and written records still survive.

Supplying waterpower for operation of mills was a major function of Hop Brook for several centuries.  Another indispensable function of the brook was undoubtedly the supply of water to the farming population, their stock and crops. This contributed to making Sudbury one of the largest towns in the area before and during revolutionary times.

There are also indications that, for undetermined ages, the Native American population used fishing weirs at numerous places on Hop Brook before the white man arrived. Such is certainly evidence of abundant fish and excellent water quality in earlier times.

TodayMartha Mary Chapel, from its headwaters in Marlborough, Hop Brook flows through Hager Pond in Marlborough, then into Grist Mill Pond at the Wayside Inn in Sudbury and wends its way through the grounds of the Wayside Inn. The brook complements the irreplaceable charm of a well-kept early 18th century hostelry once used as a stagecoach stop on the Boston Post Road. The Wayside Inn was restored by Henry Ford in the 1920's and is now operated under the supervision of the Wayside Inn Trust. The inn itself is listed on the Register of Historic Places. The  Wayside Inn Historic District was established by an unanimous town meeting vote 1988 in order to protect the area around the famous inn. Food and lodging are offered at the oldest continously operated inn in the country to travelers from all reaches of the US as well as worldwide.  Visitors are encouraged to tour several other interesting features on the grounds, among them the one mill still operating on Hop Brook, a reproduction of the original mill and located on an adjacent site.
Martha-Mary Chapel
A well-informed miller demonstrates the old way of grinding corn and wheat using grinding stones and a wheel powered by water stored in the Calvin Howe dam.Wayside Inn Historian Summer visitors are greeted by a heavy algal surface growth in the millpond and a strong odor of decomposing algae, the result of nutrient pollution emanating from the Marlboro Easterly Waste Water Treatment Plant whose effluent flows into Hop Brook upstream.

Our more sophisticated present day resident finds it imperative to maintain a clear, clean, free flowing Hop Brook. These needs have been observed in the protection of land surrounding Hop Brook by Sudbury Conservation Commission lands and by private organizations such as the Sudbury Valley Trustees, the Wayside Inn Trust and the Massachusetts Federation of Women's Clubs and the Hop Brook Protection Association, a citizens' environmental group.

It is hoped that the past history of Hop Brook and its long service to the townspeople may help to promote an effective solution to the current
nutrient pollution and the restoration of the Hop Brook system to Class B water standards.