Northeastern Section - 53rd Annual Meeting - 2018

Paper No. 50-4
Presentation Time: 9:05 AM


WEEDEN, Lori, Environmental, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Univ. Massachusetts Lowell, 1 University Avenue, Lowell, MA 01854-2827

Along the path of the Merrimack River are several cities that can trace their origins to the colonial era. Lowell, Massachusetts is one of those cities. English settlers came to the area in the mid to late 17th century and initially had a positive partnership with the Indigenous population. This relationship deteriorated after King Phillips War and the subsequent expansion of European settlements. In nearby Lowell-Dracut Tyngsboro State Forest are numerous rock walls that were used to demark agricultural lands. Neighboring Chelmsford provided abundant boudoins of marble—part of the Nashoba Terrane. These calcium carbonate rocks were mined and baked to form lime, a material added to the soils to increase pH, and used for plaster used in the interior of houses. Sutured to the Nashoba Terrane at the Clinton-Newbury fault is the Merrimack Terrane, outcropping along the Merrimack River in Lowell as the rugged Merrimack quartzite, a metamorphosed, calcareous sandstone of the Berwick Formation. Pawtucket Falls, also located on the Merrimack River in Lowell, represents a 32-foot change in elevation over a little less than a mile. This cascading water, created a hazard for the logging industry in the 18th century. To resolve this issue, the Pawtucket Canal was completed in 1796 and still runs from above the Falls and into the Concord River shortly before the Concord joins the Merrimack downstream. The Pawtucket Canal paved the way for a series of subsequent interconnected canals making Lowell the perfect location for numerous mills reliant on the abundant and cheap power of water. Lowell and its mills were at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution. The geology of the Lowell area created the perfect conditions for the industrial revolution through water power, building materials, and agriculture.