“The entire history of the Winchester Country Club is fraught with evidence that it
was founded, and has continued, on the proposition that among the durable
satisfactions of life, the chief is human relationships at their best.”
These words from club president Ralph Bonnell, on the occasion of the club’s 50th anniversary in 1952, continue to
resonate today. As Bonnell referenced for members, the land on which the club resides
has long brought together people of many walks to share in the blessings of
life, nature, and each other.
In the early 1600s, the present-day towns of Winchester and
Arlington belonged to the domain of the Massachuset people and their leader,
Nanepashemet. He was so highly regarded that he was often referred to as the
“Great Sachem,” indicating his prominence among the people of the eastern
woodlands. His name is translated as “New Moon” or “Moon god,” and it is in his
memory that the club displays a crescent moon in its seal. However, by 1617,
the Massachuset numbers had dwindled due to disease, and in 1619, Nanepashemet
was killed by the attacking Tarratine tribe. It then fell on his widow to hold
together the remnants of a people who had been decimated by both disease and war
and now had to face the arrival of European settlers.
While, she initially approached these immigrants with
caution, with time, she learned that despite their differences, there was ample
opportunity for cooperation and friendship. As sachem, she shrewdly forged
alliances that would result in the founding of much what is now Greater Boston.
However, for the land west of the Mystic Lakes, what was said to be among her favorite
and is also the present-day home of Winchester Country Club, she reserved a
special gesture. In 1637, she willed 480 acres of this land to the young son of
Edward and Margaret Gibbons, noting that her generosity was in recognition of
the “many kindnesses” the family had visited upon her and her people. It is in
her honor that the club’s seal features a teepee, symbolizing a temporary
shelter, as she would seasonally visit the land.
Upon her death in 1650, the land transferred to the Gibbons, and over time, it fractured into several independent parcels through inheritance
and purchase. One of those parcels became the property of the Swan family, who
began farming the land in the 1700s. It was the Swans who built the structures
that would eventually form the heart of WCC’s clubhouse. According to local history,
the family would continue to welcome the descendants of Nanepashemet, who would
visit and camp on the land in the summer months. However, by the mid-1800s, the
Massachuset had vanished, most dying off and the remainder being assimilated
into the culture of the day.
In 1897, a small group of residents formed the Winchester
Golf Club and leased land near Winter Pond in Winchester. However, by 1902,
much of the membership was looking for a more accommodating location. On May 5,
1902, the Winchester Country Club was formally incorporated and initiated the
purchase of about 60 acres of the old Swan Farm. Over the next dozen years,
the club acquired 115 more acres, reassembling a large portion of what
Nanepashemet’s widow had first provided as a gift to a young boy.