Evidence at Breakheart Reservation suggests that this was once a Native American campsite. Often tribes living in this area would spend their summers near the coast and then move inland during the winter months for protection of the forests. The Saugus River provided easy access for them during these seasonal migrations. 

Early European settlers cut down the original pine forest to grow crops, and also to keep down surprise attacks by the former inhabitants, the Native Americans. According to legend, during the Civil War Breakheart was used as a training field for local soldiers, who found the place “remote and very dull,” and named it Camp Breakheart Hill. 

Originally this area was common land used by many families. Benjamin N. Johnson, a prominent Lynn attorney and historian and fellow businessman Micajah Clough, president of Lynn Gas & Electric, bought the land piece by piece from the heirs of the original owners and made it into a private game reserve, Breakheart Hill. For more than two decades these two gentlemen maintained this great sporting place. During this period few people living in the surrounding neighborhoods were aware of the beautiful woodlands in their midst.

In 1933, the state bought Breakheart Farm and the Breakheart Hill Forestry Company, a total of 600 acres, for $40,000. Almost immediately the land was leased to the federal government and a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) Camp was established here. Between 1933 and 1941, hundreds of men lived and worked here, paid $30 a month, out of which they kept $5 and sent the rest home to their families. It was the CCC who helped develop this land into a recreational area with bridle paths, trails, and picnic areas. Since then, the MDC (Metropolitan District Commission) and its successor, the DCR (Department of Conservation and Recreation) have continued to add parcels of land from adjoining properties in an effort to protect the Saugus River and the surrounding wetlands. In August 2003, the Breakheart Reservation Parkways were accepted by the National Park Service for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.     

© Anita Murray 2011