Autumn in the North Cemetery.

Sixty miles west of Boston, Massachusetts there is the small New England town of Sturbridge. Located at the junction of I-90 (The Mass Pike), and I-84 it has become known as the "Crossroads of New England". The town was first settled over 300 years ago, and like other small New England towns it has grown just enough over the years to be in a difficult place today. How do we embrace the future without forgetting how we got to our present? How do we attract the right kind of growth, and maintain who we are? And, what about our culture out here in Central Massachusetts?

These pages will cause one to think about how to protect what we have, our future direction, and how to move on in the very best way.

Those thoughts, and other ramblings, will hopefully inspire more thought, conversation, action, and occasionally a smile...

...seems to be working so far

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Learning About Our Yesterdays

Yesterday afternoon I went to the library. I haven't been in a few years, but at one time I went fairly regularly to snoop around the Historical Society archives, and the other printed artifacts on the second floor balcony.

If you have ever desired to know more about this town we live in in, this is a great place to start. Many people over the years have contributed their time and a great deal of effort to research different aspects of Sturbridge. The work is quite detailed, and the photographs show a much different town.

One photograph in particular was stunning. Taken from the high hill south of the Quinebaug River up behind Dunkin' Donuts and looking down into Fiskdale it shows a well laid out village along the river. The tree covered hills to the north of Main Street are meadows with several stone walls running though them as is the hill the photograph was taken from. Along the banks of the river are grasslands. A much different landscape than today, although man made at the time, the meadows are now all overgrown, and our landscape has reverted back to as it must have looked 300 hundred years ago. The species of tree has changed since then, of course, but the open, large tracts of land the settlers cleared, and were worked till the early to mid 20th century are long gone.

It's sad in a way. Part of leaving our mark on the land is the building of homes, stores, factories, and roads, and clearing the land for timber, farming, and grazing land. The roads and houses remain mostly intact, but the land that they were built on is no longer the same. I'm not sure if this better, nicer, or prettier, but it certainly is much different.

In a number of the photographs many of the older homes are shown in their earlier days. For most of them, little has changed. Many of the homes were either torn down, burnt down, or left to fall down. One home was a fine old two story federal home on Kelley Road off of Haynes Street (Old Route 15). The home was a fine looking specimen 30 years ago, but was abandoned and left to fall into disrepair. It was torn down a few years ago. We lost a bit of our history on that day.

Another remarkable thing about this place in the library is the number of people photographs. Placed in loose leaf binders, and printed from negatives archived at Old Sturbridge Village, the 100 plus year old images show an assortment of people, and activities. From businessmen beside their horse drawn wagons with their names emblazoned on the side, to family portraits on the front lawn of their home, children standing outside the Center School on Main Street across from the Town Hall, workers at the Fairgrounds, and ladies in all their Victorian finery standing on the observation tower at the park that was once behind JC Pennys these images show a place that is so far removed from todays village that is hard to imagaine it being the same place.

Which is the reason I am writing this morning.

The town may have the same name as it did one hundred years ago, and in many sections of the town, it may still have some of the old homes, and buildings, but it ain't Old Deerfield, and isn't the Sturbridge of old either. We have lost much of what made this town what it is. Old roads, bridges, buildings, meadows, and homes have been lost forever.

We need to stop the bleeding of our history.

Take an hour out of your day, and take the kids to the Joshua Hyde Library. Go to the rear of the main room, and there, in a wooden cabinet against the rear wall is a treasure trove of pictures and written information that will astound you. Look them over, and show them to your children. Once you have a feeling for what once was, you will see why it is so important to keep what we have left.


  1. I hope that the last paragraph of this posting is one that people take to heart. It was very well stated, and an important message more of us need to hear. The "I want more, give me, give me”, attitude by a few, sometimes drowns out the message of “appreciate and learn more about what you have, before you make knee jerk reactions to get what you THINK you want”. I have the vision, in my head at this moment, of the evangelist-like man at the last town meeting. I can’t help but sit and wonder, why the heck he moved to Sturbridge, if he truly wanted everything he was hoping to shove down the throats of the townspeople at that town meeting.

  2. I feel like treasuring what we have has been made to feel like a crime in this town. Does treasuring our town mean we don't want to see us prosper? Of course not!

    Isn't the Joni Mitchell lyrics fitting?

    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot
    With a pink hotel, a boutique
    And a swinging hot SPOT
    Don’t it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you’ve got
    ‘Til it's gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    They took all the trees
    And put them in a tree museum
    Then they charged the people
    A dollar and a half just to see 'em
    Don't it always seem to go,
    That you don't know what you’ve got
    ‘Til it’s gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot

    Hey farmer, farmer
    Put away that DDT now
    Give me spots on my apples
    But LEAVE me the birds and the bees
    Don't it always seem to go
    That you don't know what you’ve got
    ‘Til its gone
    They paved paradise
    And put up a parking lot


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