The Southborough Rod & Gun Club, Incorporated, came into being at the first annual meeting held at the Fayville Village Town Hall on January 20, 1946. A small group assembled to witness the reading and official signing of the charter, constitution and by-laws.
The first project was to find a suitable location in which to develop the plans and objectives agreed upon by the membership, namely, build a clubhouse, skeet field, rifle range and trout pond. Having searched the Southborough township thoroughly but unsuccessfully, a parcel of property was located nearby in the neighboring town of Hopkinton in an area known as Rocklawn. It was ideally located since the property was bounded on one side by the Sudbury River and it was, at that time, remote from the rest of the community. A portion of the property owned by the MDC was leased to the club for an indefinite period of time and the lease requires that the property be maintained in its natural state. An additional 79.5 acres was purchased from a local farmer. The first phase was underway.
An existing foundation located on the existing property although filled with debris and tree growth, was found to be in excellent condition. Work parties soon cleared, cleaned out and capped the foundation which served as the first official permanent quarters for the infant club.
Lacking a heating system, the meetings were held at the Fayville Village Hall during the winter months and returned to the club grounds during the spring and summer. Eventually a heating system was installed and a very rustic fireplace was built which served to take out the chill. Lacking proper kitchen facilities, annual meetings and hunter stew suppers were still held at the village hall.
To finance itself initially the club started with personal contributions. As the membership grew, a sinking fund was established. All projects were done with volunteer resources and raffles were held to repay the sinking fund contributors. No mortgage was taken out until 1964 when the club required the finances to install electricity and rebuild the road to the skeet and trap fields. Today’s skeet field bears little resemblance to those early years. The high and low houses were obtained from St. Mark’s school, hauled to the top of the hill, and positioned where the current concrete houses now stand. The traps were loaded by hand and released by a pulley situated behind station 4. Committee members truly earned their privileges in those early days. The skeet team was unbeatable and they went up against some very stiff competition. Many of the trophies can be found in the main clubhouse today. Next came the outdoor rifle range. This became the envy of many benchrest shooters who came from all over the eastern seaboard to compete. Arriving on weekends, they would set up camping facilities and loading benches and begin making their precision loads for the following days shoot. Zeroing in a 100 yards with a hole smaller than a dime was not uncommon with this breed of shooter. A wonderful bygone era. In recent years, beginning about 1980, the rifle committee has picked up the spirit of those early sharp shooters and have made significant improvements to the range and to the shooting sport at large.
Membership increased and requirements for additional activities and facilities increased accordingly. It became evident that a central facility, a clubhouse was required and so plans were laid to erect a clubhouse over the existing foundation. Because finances were somewhat limited, the construction was planned in phases, the first phase to build a shell including siding, roof and windows was initiated in 1957 and as additional financial resources became available additional work was performed. During regular club meetings, members would arrive an hour or two early with saw and hammer in hand. Finally a knotty pine interior and ceiling were in place and we had a clubhouse of which we could be proud and in which we could hold social events. Additional fund raising events were conducted which helped defray expenses and pay the tax man.
In 1957, a small group began to carve out a trap facility from the side of the hill adjacent to the skeet field. Lacking sophisticated equipment and the funds to afford it, all excavation and grading was accomplished by pick, shovel, wheelbarrow and the sweat of volunteer members. Over three years and many blisters later, the trap field opened on annual field day, 1960. It was somewhat crude compared to todays traphouse. Constructed of railroad ties and oak boards from donated pallets which were nailed horizontally in an effort to protect the trap boy from shotshell pellets it served us very well. Similar to skeet, the procedure for a round of trap was complicated as compared to todays equipment. At the beginning of each shooting day, the trap had to be firmly bolted into position on a podium. The trap boy would cock the arm by hand and position the clay target. He then listened for the shooter to call , pull, and released the clay target in what ever angle he chose. The trap was unbolted after each day’s shoot and transported home by the committee person on duty.
In 1967, we were blessed with a marvelous event. We were incorporated as a “Rod & Gun” club and had made great strides with respect to the shotgun, rifle and handgun, not so with the rod. Through the generosity of one of our members who requested to remain anonymous, a trout pond was constructed which finally lent true meaning to the name, Southborough Rod & Gun Club, Incorporated. Final selection of the pond site resulted from a study and recommendation of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service.
Again volunteer labor from the club members came into play. Preparing the site by cutting down trees and clearing brush, the pond was excavated, stocked and ready the following spring for fishing. Today it is the site of an annual fishing derby specifically for youngsters twelve (12) years of age and under.
Since those humble beginnings, the club has made a great deal of progress, both with respect to improved facilities and sociologically as well. A new skeet registration house was erected by the members in 1985. Concrete walkways for the trap fields (there are now two) were built in 1986. Also in 1986 the by-laws were revised which permitted women to become full privileged members of the club. The trap registration house was expanded to twice its original size in 1987. Automatic trap machines were installed and spare machines purchased to keep us in business. A major undertaking was initiated in 1984 to improve and expand the outdoor rifle and handgun range to 200 meters. This required the removal of hundreds of mature trees, movement of tons of earth and boulders, much planning, but mostly toil and sweat from the membership. A trailer was donated and completely refurbished which serves as a field house for the rifle range.
In 1986 the parking area was paved and the old flooring in the clubhouse was retired after serving underfoot for over 25 years. A new floor was installed and a special tile floor was laid in the kitchen. At the same time, ceiling fans were installed in the clubhouse to exhaust cigarette smoke from the main meeting hall adding to the comfort of the non-smokers.
The clubhouse kitchen became a focal point for some of the finest dinners this side of your mother’s kitchen and a tradition was underway which may well add a knife and fork to the rod & gun. Gourmet dinners including smoked fish and game were commonplace.
The club became well known throughout the state for its proficiency in providing hunter safety courses for the state of Massachusetts. Many members became trained as certified NRA instructors and courses are provided as a service to the general public.
During this time frame, the club was forced to make some very difficult yet key decisions which could have but did not destroy the social fabric of the club population. The Southborough Rod & Gun Club has emerged as a shooters club, an organization dedicated to sportsmanship, training and education of young people in the shooting sports, and above, all, an organization composed of men, women, boys and girls, in fact, families, who truly like each other and are proud to be a part of the membership. This particular history brings the reader only through 1988. There is much yet to be done. Improvements not only to the club but to the immediate community at large.
The philosophy initiated by those early club members to do the work ourselves, has continued through the years and is an important element to the success of this fine organization. The evolution of the club into a family type social order and a cornerstone in the community has been interesting to note. As land development continues to close in around us it becomes extremely important to maintain a close relationship with and to recognize that we have an important part in the growth and development of the surrounding community.