The Boston Globe West has a story from the Newton History Museum at The Jackson Homestead focusing on the impact of the Charles River on Newton: Pages From Newton’s History.
The City of Newton is defined by the Charles. It has the river on its borders in the south, west, and north, and it was on the river’s banks that the city got its start — not as one unified town, but at first as a string of villages that grew up along the watercourse that provided abundant power for mills and manufacturing efforts. Improved transportation — first roads, then rail — gave those factories better access to markets. It also tied together the villages of Newton and brought the 18 square miles of farms and woods bounded by the Charles into a closer relationship with the metropolis at its doorstep, Boston.
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The Charles today is slow and civilized, tamed by dams that have turned it into a series of elongated, picturesque lakes that make the river a marvelous resource for recreation and natural beauty. The original purpose of those dams was almost the opposite. They made the Charles a very hard-working river.