A Tough Day for Southborough

The ice storm of November 29th, 1921, probably the worst in Southborough’s inhabited history.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I write this, half the Town is still without power after last night’s 15″ dump of the wettest snow I have ever seen. Trees are down everywhere, and the cleanup will take weeks. Last night I listened in horror as major specimen trees in my garden, including several of those I planted here 25 years ago,  collapsed amidst bursts of snow thunder and lightening.

Let’s all agree that it wasn’t a fun night.

However, we have seen worse. Take for example the picture above. This is probably the most damaging ice storm ever to hit the region, November 29th, 1921. This is the view from the center of 85 looking down Cordaville Road towards the south. To the right, you can just see the house at 3 Cordaville Road, which still stands. The first Woodward school would arise to the left in another 30 years.

We at the Society are privileged to house  10 historical images of this incredible storm, which reside safe and sound in our archives, despite the current weather!

From all of us at the Historical Society, our best wishes to you and yours for a safe and speedy recovery!

Michael Weishan,
President

 

 

More Treasures from the Basement

 

As I hinted last time, the basement hasn’t finished yielding up its social history treasures, for along with the Franklin Institute minutes, two weeks ago we also rediscovered the accounts of the Young Mens Lyceum.  As a document of social history, it is impossible to underestimate the value of this remarkable record.

The Lyceum was a debating society, much like the earlier Franklin Institute.  But this time, the notation covers the years between 1840-1861, perhaps one of the most turbulent periods in United States history, often referred to as the “Silver Age.” For in addition to the much debated Mexican-American War, our  expanding nation was dealing with the growth of  industrialization, a rapid rise in immigration, and the slow fragmentation of the Union over the issue of slavery. You might think that the inhabitants of agrarian Southborough would  have worried more about the local weather than the political clouds in Washington, but thanks to this record, we now know that wasn’t at all the case.

Here’s a look at some of the debate topics, with a bit of historical context added in, to give you a better understanding of just how up-to-the-moment our citizenry was:

29 November 1842: Which is the most beneficial to the United States: commerce or agriculture? (Voted 6 to 2 for commerce)
This is a very interesting result for what was then entirely agricultural Southborough, and shows that the rising tides of industrialization were beginning to spread out along the lines of the new railroad. Within the next decade, in fact, Southborough would have its first large-scale mill at Cordaville.

The mills at Cordaville originally produced cheap cotton cloth for the Southern slave markets, and only later turned to woolen blanket production,  highly ironic considering the fierce abolitionist stance of many Southborough inhabitants.

21 March 1843:  Have females the right to active part in public affairs? (Voted yes) The Lyceum, unlike the Franklin Institute, also seems to have had  a female “editress,” whose job appears to have been gathering news-bits of the day for presentation to the members.

22 February 1844: Is it right or expedient to prosecute vendors of spirituous liquors? (Voted 5 to 4 yes.) 
Massachusetts was technically dry during this period, but sellers of hard liquor weren’t hard to find, and the close vote is indicative of the popular stance — publicly opposed but privately for.  The state would try various solutions until eventually agreeing to license liquor vendors in the 1870s. Southborough remained officially dry even longer, and our thirsty citizens needed to cross the river to Hopkinton, where  those in search of  liquor, cards and other pleasures could find several famed houses of mixed repute.

Henry Clay, the “Great Pacificator”

23 September 1844: Can abolitionists consistently vote for Henry Clay? (Voted 2-6 against)
1844 was a presidential election year, and Henry Clay, the Whig candidate, was running against Democrat James Polk. Polk, from Tennessee, was a slave owner. Clay, from Kentucky, had also owned slaves, but was considered “soft” on slavery as he decried the institution and favored gradual emancipation and repatriation of slaves to Africa — a view shared at the time by Abraham Lincoln. Southborough, however, was a hotbed of abolitionists, and true to their convictions, the Lyceum members could not bring themselves to support Clay, despite his carrying the rest of the state.

24 December 1844: Are rewards of merit conducive to the best interests of our common schools? (Voted 4-5 against)
Corporal punishment was still a favored means of discipline in our schools in 1844. This practice would change markedly over the next twenty years, as Southborough formed a school committee and introduced semi-permanent female teachers, as opposed to the previous system of interim male tutors. Note, too, the date: 24 December. Christmas as a major holiday was still decades away, to be popularized by Queen Victoria’s German consort, Prince Albert.

3 March 1847: Ought the so-called free states remain in the Union? (Voted not to remain.) A very hot topic, this question was debated again on October, 6th, 13th and 20th. The vote taken on the 20th, 9-1 to remain in the union, reversed the previous opinion. Still not settled, the question was taken up once more, on November 16th and 22nd, this time the results being far closer, 8 to 6 to remain. This back-and-forth is truly fascinating, as it reveals that Southerners weren’t the only ones contemplating secession — something that’s never mentioned in our history texts — and that the residents of Southborough were more or less divided on the question. Imagine if the North had seceded and left the South to its own devices!  Alternate historians have speculated that lacking the industrialized north, the Southern states would have looked to the Caribbean and Central America for resource markets, extending slavery throughout the region.  A very different world indeed….


4 November 1848: Can a true patriot vote for Cass or Taylor for President at the coming election?

1848 was another presidential election year, and this time the candidates were even less palatable to the Lyceum members. Taylor, though nominated by the Whigs as the hero of the Mexican-American War, shared none of their values. Cass, a Southern Democrat, (though he was born in New Hampshire) was equally unacceptable. That left former president Martin Van Buren, who

Results of the 1848 election

ran as an independent.  The record of the Lyceum says it all: “The question was discussed for an hour and half but with little earnestness owing to the fact that there being no one to oppose from principle, and it was then decided 4-1 in the negative.”  This result should give some heart to modern day residents: it appears that the 2016 election wasn’t the first  where voters went to the polls holding their noses.

24 January 1849: Which contains the greater evidence of a supreme being, nature or the bible? (Voted Nature 5-1)
Given the Pilgrim founding of Southborough, this is another really interesting result, as you might have expected  more traditional religious views, but it seems that our Lyceum members shared more than a little streak of transcendentalism.

28 February 1850: Which has been treated worse, the Indians or the Negros? (Voted 7-1 for the Indians)

20 February 1850:  Is it probable that the country will be benefited on the whole by the discovery of gold in California? (5 to 4 against)
Southborough wasn’t immune to the call of California gold, and the Society possesses a fascinating series of letters from a former resident who left to try his luck — but that’s a story for another day.

23 February 1850: Which is worst, the slanderer or the thief? (Voted 4 to 2 for the slanderer)

16 October 1850: Ought Massachusetts sustain the Fugitive Slave Bill? (Decided unanimously against)
The Fugitive Slave Act, part of Henry Clay’s Great Compromise of 1850, allowed anyone suspected of being a fugitive slave to be arrested on merely the claimant’s sworn testimony of ownership. The law was widely despised and resisted in the North, as the residents of Southborough clearly reveal here.

31 March 1852: Is a monarchical or republican form of government better adapted to the promotion of the arts and sciences? (Voted  3-10 for the republic)

Great Britain has just hosted the Crystal Palace Exhibition showcasing British industry and arts, and this question is undoubtedly the result of some nationalistic chaffing.  Americans would have to wait until the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876 to see something similar.

22 December 1852: Should the annexation of Canada be encouraged? (8 to 6 for)
There was serious discussion in both the US and Canada (especially Quebec) about annexing all or part of Canada to the US, which wasn’t as far fetched as it sounds to us today. The Dominion of Canada had yet to be formed, and many viewed the territories to the north as ripe for acquisition, as the Alaska Purchase would confirm in 1867.

27 December 1859: Is the reading of fiction beneficial to society? (Voted no)
So much for Dickens! Interestingly, the Society, in conjunction with the Library, possesses the 1852 founding documentation (including book lists) for our Library, and its one of our future projects to study and digitize these records. It would be interesting to see exactly what books were considered “beneficial.”

3 January 1860: Is John Brown to be justified in his conduct at Harper’s Ferry? (Voted yes)
The 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry was an effort by abolitionist John Brown to initiate an armed slave revolt by taking over the United States arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. It was put down by the US Marines, and Brown, a long-time resident of Springfield Massachusetts, was tried and hung for treason. That the residents of Southborough would support this violent action is indicative of just how fiercely anti-slavery many of the Town residents had become.

24 January 1860. Is one nation justified in forcing civilization upon another? (Voted no)
An astoundingly modern view, given the nationalism of the Victorian age.

26 March 1861: Should foreign immigration be encouraged? (Voted 15-6 no)
Hardly surprising in Southborough where the founding Yankees were beginning to feel the pressure of Irish immigration.

9 April 1861: The very last entry of this incredible record. The Civil War was about begin and soon many members would be putting courage to the same convictions they had earlier professed at the Lyceum.

“Owing to the small number present,” reads the record,  “it was thought best to have no discussion. Voted to adjourn sine die.”

And thus the golden age of Southborough’s debating societies came to a muted end, drowned out by the drums of civil war.

Neither the Town, nor the Nation,  would ever be quite the same again.

 

 

Newly Discovered Treasures from the Basement


So yesterday, as I was moving a pile of  boxes in the basement, still struggling to produce some semblance of order after our forced removal last year, I spied an uncatalogued carton labelled “School Papers.”

I eyed it dubiously, wondering if I should stop to look inside. It is SO easy to get sidetracked here for hours, and I was on a tight schedule.

But curiosity got the better of me, so I cleared off a spot on the basement table, and pulled up a chair. Amidst crumpled notices of 1950s Fay/Peter’s  graduation exercises and an early brochure for Algonquin Regional, I pulled out two cloth bound-books,  ledger shaped, roughly 6″ x 14″. At first I thought they were more store account-books (of which we have many) but then I opened one and began to read the flowing script on the front cover:

“The diffusion of moral intelligence and scientific research upon the exalted principles of Philanthropy is, or ought to be, the anxious desire of every heart devoted to wisdom…”

No ledger this!

Instead,  as I read further (and became totally sidetracked as I had feared) it turned out to be the meeting record of a group formed on New Year’s Day, 1828: the Southborough Franklin Society, with the soon to be famous Col. Francis B. Fay (the future founder of our town library) its first president.

So what was the nature of this club? Intrigued, I continued reading the spidery cursive. HOLY SMOKES!!  It was a debating society! Like Oxford, England, but here in Southborough!

It seems the  the group assembled twice a month to debate a chosen topic. Members were assigned to argue for and against, and then after both sides had made their cases,  the assembly voted yea or nay.  On the page I’ve chosen to illustrate above, the question for January 18, 1829, was: “Is the intelligence of man superior to that of woman?”

Hmmm. We’ll get back to that in a moment, But first, why all these exclamation points in my description?

I cannot begin to describe to you what a valuable social history document  this book is!!!!

Instead of just dry old financial figures, or land deeds, it contains the well reasoned thoughts and opinions of  actual inhabitants of 1820s Southborough! And, as it turns out, these people were hugely sophisticated thinkers at a very cosmopolitan level — all the more surprising  for a remote farming village that at the time that was a  grueling day’s travel from  anywhere of consequence.

Just read some of the debate topics:

  • Would an equal distribution of property have a tendency to increase the happiness of mankind? (Voted: yes)
  • Is a savage (Indian) or civilized life more happy? (Voted: civilized)
  • Would an increase on duties of domestic or foreign spirits have a tendency to avert the evils of intemperance?  (Voted: yes; then the group voted to ban “ardent spirits” from their meetings, but then voted to hold their next meeting at Mr Winchesters tavern. Go figure!)
  • Do mankind ever perform an act of disinterested benevolence? (Voted: no)
  • Are mankind by nature more prone to vice than virtue? (Voted, after two two-hour meetings: vice)
  • Would a railroad passing through this town from Boston to Albany be advantageous to this vicinity? (A prescient majority delcared yes, but the railroad would be another 9 years in the future.)
  • Are mankind free agents? (Split vote.)
  • Are capital punishments right, just or salutary? (No decision)
  • Ought the dissection of human subjects be sanctioned by law? (Tabled after an hour-long discussion)
  • Would the abolishment of all laws for the collection of debts be salutary? (Voted: no)

Wow! Wow! WOW! This is the equivalent of receiving a time-warp message from an 1828 focus group!!!!

So enough exclamations: I’m sure you now share my excitement at finding such a rare piece of Southborough history.  But to return to the beginning: what do you think was the answer to the first question, the one about the superiority of man or woman?

Well, it turns out the men of 1820s Southborough were truly savvy: having invited  guests of the gentler sex to that particular meeting (not their normal practice), they very wisely opted to let the women present decide. Result?

The women decided by ballot that the intelligence of woman is equal to that of man.

You heard it here first: women equal to men, Southborough 1829!

Oh, by the way. I earlier mentioned TWO books….

Stay tuned. It gets even better…

 

Mourning Paul Doucette

The Southborough Historical Society is tremendously saddened to learn of the death of Paul Doucette earlier this week. Paul was a long time member of the Southborough Historical Society, having served on its Board of Directors for many years. Paul was especially interested in the history of the Burnett Family’s Deerfoot Farm, which at one time was the largest employer in Southborough. He wrote and published a history of both the Burnett family and Deerfoot Farm. In 2004 the society honored Paul by dedicating the Deerfoot Farm exhibit and Burnett family collection located at the Historical Society Museum to him. His vast knowledge of this part of Southborough’s history as well as his keen wit will be sorely missed.

Farewell, Paul.

Christmas, 1863

Recently I set myself the task of rehousing and cataloging the Francis B. Fay papers in our collection. I’ll be telling you more about these documents another time, as Francis B. Fay was one of Southborough’s more remarkable native sons, who among other notable deeds donated the money to start our  library, which for many decades bore his name. But, I digress… back to the papers.

Cataloguing is not exactly a mile-a-minute roller-coaster ride of fun. It can be tedious, because there is a lot of minutia involved, but it’s critical if we really intend to take effective stewardship of our Southborough history. Most of the Fay papers were pamphlets of one type or another — very early sermons (some dating back to 1820), political tracts, speeches, and various other bits and pieces saved during a productive life of public service spanning 7 decades. But tucked away in one of these pamphlets, carefully folded up but literally rotting away with age, was the auction notice you see above. These broadsheets were never intended to be preserved; they were printed on the cheapest of paper, and generally thrown away afterwards. But somehow this one survived, and despite its damaged state,  caught my attention because of the  line below “CONDITIONS OF SALE”:

The property will be sold without reserve as the subscriber is about to leave for the seat of WAR.”

“The seat of WAR”  Wow!

It’s not everyday you find a notice of someone auctioning their possessions in order to go fight in the Civil War. There are so many questions here. We know from the historical record that Marshall Whittemore lived on the corner of Boston Road and Framingham Road, in a Greek Revival cottage that is remarkably little changed. We know too he was married with children, and his profession was listed as farmer. So why was he selling his animals and farm equipment? To make provision for his family? How were they going to live while he was gone? What motivated him to enlist in the first place? He was not at all young — 41 — and the war had been raging for over two years. Something, though, prompted him to sell his precious goods the day after Christmas, and shortly thereafter, leave his home, wife, son, and daughter to fight for the Union.

Can you imagine how difficult that parting must have been? Heading off in a cold, dark December to god-knows-what fate?

Fortunately, thanks to other records in our collection, we know that our story has a happy ending.  Marshall Whittemore, now a private in a heavy artillery regiment, survived the disastrous battle of Newport Barracks where Union troops were overwhelmed 3-1 by Confederate forces. At the conclusion of hostilities, he was mustered out of the Army, returning to farm and family in Southborough where he lived peaceably for decades. He died in 1902 and is buried in the Rural Cemetery.

So the historical record is all neatly tucked up, but it leads to a final nagging question: why did Francis B. Fay decide to save this seemingly random broadsheet? Were the two men friends? Friends of friends? Distantly related? Or did Francis Fay simply admire the courage of a man who sold his most precious possessions, left his family, and headed off to war with the courage of his convictions. We’ll never know, but it’s something to remember as we fuss with ribbons and wrappings, fret over last-minute shopping, fume over holiday traffic, and worry endlessly about menus and decorations, that once upon a time, in a Southborough long, long ago, a certain courageous man named Marshall Whittemore gave up his home and hearth at Christmas, so that we of future generations could enjoy ours.

Thank you, Marshall. Thank you indeed.

And Merry Christmas.

Just Another Random Day in 1742


The more I get acquainted  with the Society’s collection, the more astounded I become. Here in tiny little Southborough, we have a world-class collection of items! Take the above, for example. This wonderfully preserved tome contains the Massachusetts Charter of 1691 that formally established the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Issued during the reign of William III and Mary II, the charter defined the government of the colony, whose lands were drawn from those previously belonging to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Plymouth Colony, and portions of the Province of New York, and included all of present-day Maine, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia! The book also contains all the subsequent laws governing the province up to the date of its publication, 1742 — which makes surprisingly fascinating reading, with all the little do’s and don’ts of life in Colonial Massachusetts.

My point in showing this to you today is to point that we have many volunteer opportunities that grant hands-on experience with incredibly historic material just like the charter. It’s a volunteer experience really unparalleled anywhere else, as most other institutions keep volunteers well away from the actual collections.

We are currently looking for volunteers to:

• help catalogue our book collection
• help organize and re-house our collection of objects
• help catalogue and re-house our paper and photo archives, and prepare this material for online presentation

No previous experience is necessary, other than a general knowledge of Mac operating systems, and a love of history.  If you’re interested in helping out, let us know.

Plenty to Be Thankful For! Our Annual Appeal

Dear Friends of the Society,

As the holidays draw near, almost inevitably I find myself re-watching Irving Berlin’s Holiday Inn, starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. If you haven’t seen this 1942 classic, or haven’t seen it in a long time, you really should. Not only are Bing and Fred in their prime, but it’s also the film that launched the timeless carol “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” There’s nothing like Der Bingle boo-boo-booing his way through that soulful song, tree aglow and fire crackling in the hearth. There’s another tune, too, which I particularly like, though it’s far less known: “I’ve Got Plenty to be Thankful For.” And with only a slight change in the pronoun from “I” to “We,” this catchy melody could be the Historical Society’s anthem for 2017, for indeed we at the Society have so much to be thankful for! For example, over the past year:

• the Museum building reopened to the public after four months of flood remediation.
• work on rehousing and re-cataloguing the collections began in earnest.
• our brand-new website launched, continually updated with new material.
• our digitization program commenced, with hundreds of new images now available online.
• the voice of the Society began to be heard in real-time preservation advocacy for Southborough.
• our membership doubled, and we successfully competed for and won several funding grants designed to help stabilize our collections and expand the Society’s outreach.

Now, however, 2018 dawns and work begins in earnest: over half our paper collection is still not properly housed; thousands of historic photographs remain to be documented and digitized; and the renovated museum space is just yearning for new exhibits, all of which have to be researched, designed and constructed. Plus, we are determined in 2018 to expand our educational outreach to the Southborough Schools — as a start, this past September we hosted a specially designed afternoon for all seven of Southborough’s 3rd-grade classrooms, an event which received highly enthusiastic reviews from students, parents and teachers alike.

So, this is where you come in. For the second year in a row, we’ve received a 10K grant from the Southborough Community Fund designed in part as a challenge grant to spur outside giving. In essence, every dollar you contribute to the Southborough Historical Society before the end of the year is doubled in effectiveness. I so hope you’ll be able to help us. If you do, we promise to keep the chorus going, making sure we preserve the best of Southborough’s past for its future.

Michael Weishan, President

You donate safely and easily on line by clicking the button below.




Or, by check to the Southborough Historical Society, 25 Common Street, Southborough, Massachusetts  01772

The Southborough Historical Society is a 501(c)3 public charity and your donations are deductible to the extent allowed by law.

Board of Selectmen Deals Major Blow to Historic Preservation in Southborough

The Moses and Elizabeth Fay House at 135 Deerfoot is now threatened with demolition.

Despite  recommendations to the contrary of every relevant board and commission — the Community Preservation Committee, the Historical Commission, the Open Space Committee, and the Planning Board (not to mention the Southborough Historical Society!) — the Southborough Board of Selectmen last night declined to allow Southborough voters the chance to decide whether to acquire the historic Moses and Elizabeth Fay House with its 27 acres in order to save it from demolition and development. The vote was 3-2, with Dan Kolenda, Brian Shea and Bonnie Phaneuf in the majority, and Lisa Braccio and Brian Shifrin dissenting.

Shame on Misters Kolenda, Shea and Ms Phaneuf!

Not only have these three decided of their own volition to doom one of the last remaining historic farm properties in town, but in a single vote they have raised our taxes, crowded our classrooms, and increased infrastructure congestion. If you are unclear why that’s the case, please read the full explanation here.

Otherwise, here’s the short review: Every new single-family home built on former agricultural land takes money right out of your pocket and degrades the quality of life in Southborough. It’s about time the voters, not three individuals, made those kind of decisions, particularly on 61A agricultural properties whose sellers have been receiving huge tax breaks for decades — funded by us, We-Who-Pay in Southborough.

We-Who-Pay need to make it clear to our Selectmen that we want to PRESERVE our historic structures and open spaces, not DESTROY them. At the very least, We-Who-Pay want a chance to decide their fate.

To that end, I think it’s time We-Who-Pay make ourselves heard.

First of all, please email the selectmen and tell them how disappointed you are with their decision. They need to hear from you, the voters.

Then, help us place a referendum on the upcoming April Town Meeting docket that makes it clear to the Selectmen how the people of Southborough feel about preserving our remaining open space and historic fabric.

Candidates Preservation Forum: November 2017

Dear Friends,

As you know, we have a special election tomorrow for Selectman, and as is now our custom, the Southborough Historical Society asks the candidates questions relevant to historical preservation in Southborough.  Two responded: Sam Stivers and Doriann Jasinski.

NB: Tomorrow’s voting is at Trottier gym only.


Responses from Sam Stivers:

What is your position on the 61A parcel on Deerfoot Road? Should the voters be allowed to decide whether or not to acquire the parcel at town meeting?
Yes.

Would you support placing the decision on acquiring all future 61A parcels automatically in front of the voters?

I support the preservation of open space in the Town. I believe that there should be a process for consideration of all Chapter 61 parcels (including not just 61A parcels) when the Town has the option to exercise a Right of First Refusal (ROFR). This process could include the Open Space Preservation Commission (OSPC), the Planning Board, the Conservation Commission, the Historical Commission and other Town committees with interests related to this issue, to assess the value of such parcels and determine if the limited resources available for such purchases are aligned with the Town’s prioritization of available properties. In fact, such a process is in the final development stage by the “Chapter 61 Working Group”, and I support this. I do not support “automatic” Town Meeting consideration of purchase of such parcels, as the new Chapter 61 process will provide broadly based expert input to determine which possible acquisitions should go to the voters. Additionally, I support the preservation of open space in the Town via methods other than Chapter 61 ROFR—such as outright purchase of development rights as we did for the Chestnut Hill Farm. The challenge is to find ways to fund these acquisitions.

Study after study has shown that taxes on single family homes don’t cover their cost to the Town, and each new build actually contributes to higher rates for everyone. Given that, what would you propose to limit further development and increase the quality of life for current residents?

The Advisory Committee did such a study several years ago, confirming that additional residential development likely results in a net cost to the Town. Because development is largely controlled by the Town’s zoning bylaws (managed by the Planning Board), modification of the development process is something that starts with the Planning Board. I support a Planning Board initiative to update the zoning bylaws, which can address growth and other issues. The Selectmen can collaborate with the Planning Board on such an initiative. However, I do not support outright restricting or limiting development. We need to find a balance between preserving what we value in Town – open space and historic resources – while allowing appropriate new development for both residential and commercial uses at a scale and rate that the Town can support. Our Master Plan can provide guidance relative to these questions, and our Master Plan should be revisited and updated as necessary.

Additionally, the Selectmen can help manage the Town’s exposure to “unfriendly” 40B housing projects by smart planning to meet our Housing Plan objectives. Using funds in the Housing Trust Fund and CPA housing reserve accounts (which currently total over a half-million dollars) we can work with developers and/or nonprofits to create “neighborhood friendly” small-scale 40B housing projects so we can meet our housing obligations through a process the Town controls, instead of reacting to developer proposals.

If the majority of home-owners in a particular area of Town favored the creation of an historic district, would this have your support?

I support this concept. I would need to see the specific details before I can support a particular proposal. I strongly favor preserving the Town’s historical qualities that make us uniquely Southborough. That identity adds value to our homes, our community and our businesses.

What other ideas do you have to promote and protect the historic nature of Southborough?

As a Selectmen I will support the Historical Commission and the Planning Board as they develop a plan for historic preservation and priorities.


What plans might you suggest to revitalize the Main Street area economically and aesthetically once the road improvements are done?

The Town could consider creating a zoning overlay district to permit mixed-use structures in the downtown area. This could provide additional commercial/professional space as well as residential use. A key issue related to this process is transportation and parking. If we want to have more businesses and residential development in the downtown area we must consider parking. Towns with vibrant downtowns typically have municipal parking capacity out of the public view but within easy walking distance to downtown businesses. We need to address this issue as part of downtown development.

The Selectmen can also work with the Economic Development Committee to leverage the downtown development work they are doing. 

Finally, with St. Mark’s School becoming an owner (through the Golf Course land arrangement) of property with frontage on Main Street, planning and coordination with St. Mark’s development plan is desirable.

If plans were developed for a cultural corridor linking the Library, the Old Burial Ground, the Museum, the Town House, St Marks church and the cemetery, would you be generally supportive of such an idea?

I support of this concept. I would need to see the specific details of such a proposal before I can support a particular proposal.

The office of selectman is a low-paid, demanding, and time-consuming position, which often requires attendance not only at selectmen’s meetings, but also at meetings of other boards and committees. Recently, it has been noticed that a certain member of the Board has had an unusually high absentee rate, which obviously is not ideal. Are there any factors that would limit your commitment of time and energy to the Board of Selectmen?

No. My record of attendance at over 100 Town committee meetings each year demonstrates my commitment to devote the time necessary to fulfill my Town obligations. I will continue to devote the time to meet my responsibilities as a Selectman.

 

Responses from Doriann Jasinski:

What is your position on the 61A parcel on Deerfoot Road? Should the voters be allowed to decide whether to acquire the parcel at town meeting?

My position on the Deerfoot property is simply this: the voters should decide whether they want to purchase the property.  I would also hope that the voters take into thoughtful consideration how the neighbors feel about the purchase by the Town.

Would you support placing the decision on acquiring all future 61A parcels automatically in front of voters?

I don’t believe that placing any restriction on future 61A properties is a good idea. I do believe that the taxpayers have the right to vote on whether they want to assume the tax liability for the purchases. The value of all 61A properties are not the same and need to be looked at on an individual basis.

 Study after study has shown that taxes on single family homes don’t cover their cost to the Town and each new build contributes to higher taxes for everyone. Given that, what would you propose to limit further development and increase the quality of life for current residents?

I would not limit development for several reasons.  First, development helps us meet our future needs as a community. It provides jobs which help boost our economy.  Property owners have the right to develop their land as they wish, providing they follow our town by-laws.  I am against taking away property owner rights or stopping development.

Southborough loves its Open Space. One way to increase the quality of life for current residents is to value our Open Space.  Communities need open space to provide passive recreational areas such as walking trails.  I am in favor of protecting our Open Space and purchasing more as time goes on to help enhance the charm and character of our Town.  Our Open Space Commission is a very productive group of individuals who have a prioritized list of parcels for future purchases which would enhance our community.

If the majority of home owners in a particular area of town favored the creation of an historic district, would this have your support?

I would absolutely be in favor in the creation of a historic district in our Town.

What other ideas do you have to promote and protect the historic nature of Southborough?

First, I believe we need to educate the residents about the rich history of our Town.  Many people don’t know the history of Southborough.  When we were considering the details of the Burnett House purchase, that is when the history was given.  I would suggest having an annual town wide get together to promote the rich history of Southborough.  Having interactive games and maybe have the children do a play of some sort would make it fun for people of all ages to attend.

What plans might you suggest to revitalize the Main Street area economically and aesthetically once the road improvements are done?

We do need to revitalize our downtown to help promote business for the existing businesses there.  The Economic Development Committee just completed a survey to ask people what they wanted in their downtown area.  The results are detailed as listed below:

90% want more restaurants; 67% want more retail shops.  Aesthetics are important and the Downtown “feel” is essential.  Historic buildings, signage and markers are highly valued.  People want more “public spaces”.

Personally, I would agree that all the above are important and needs a closer look at how to get this done without a major impact on all our taxes.  Better landscaping, benches, adding flowers and containers with plantings is also an idea to add charm to the downtown.  The Southborough Gardeners may be able to help with this idea.

If plans were developed for a cultural corridor linking the Library, the Old Burial Ground, the Museum, the Town House, St Marks Church and the Cemetery, would you be generally supportive of such an idea?

Yes, I would be supportive of that idea.  The area is such an important piece of “Southborough Charm” which we all love and appreciate.

The Office of Selectmen is a low-paid, demanding and time-consuming position, which often requires attendance not only at Selectmen’s meetings, but also at meetings of other boards and committees. Recently, it has been noticed that a certain member of the Board has had an unusually high absentee rate, which obviously is not ideal.  Are there any factors that would limit your commitment of time and energy to the Board of Selectmen?

I have both the time and the energy to get the job done.  I can’t speak for other members of the Board, but I personally have attended the Selectmen’s meetings, a few Conservation, Planning Board, Zoning Board, Personnel Board, Personnel Board Working Group, Public Safety Building, Golf meetings (just to name a few!)

There are no factors which limit my commitment to getting the job done.

On the Indian Trail, Literally

Indian Trails of the 17th and 18th centuries

In preparation for expanding the Native American presence at the Museum, I’ve been reading a wonderful book Indian New England before the Mayflower and I came across a very interesting map: “A compilation of certain recorded northern New England Indian trails and villages of the 17th and 18th centuries.” Something about this looked really familiar, so using one of the online map overlay services, I decided to place the Indian trail map over the modern road grid in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Wow!

Now I have long known that Main Street and Cordaville Roads in Southborough follow Indian trails, but I didn’t realize so did most of our existing major highways. It’s like the Roman roads in Italy!

Some examples from a cursory review:

Rt 1A its entire length
Rt 2 west of Worcester to the NY border
Rt 3 all the way to the Cape, and from Lowell to Nashua NH
Rt 6A entire length
Rts 7 and 8 (in western Mass) their entire length
Rt 10 from Vermont to Connecticut
Rt. 16 between Webster and Watertown
Rt 20 its entire length
Rt 30 most of its length
Rt 44 entire length
Rt 84 to Hartford and New York
Rt 91 through Springfield
Rt 95 all the way to NYC
Rts 110 and 117 majority of route
Rt 126/135­ between Hopkinton and Wayland

I am sure there are others. Take a minute and explore for yourself; just click on any map below to expand.  (Or, you can try the slider version of the map, HERE, using the slider in the upper right hand corner labeled “Indian Map” CAREFUL: IT GETS ADDICTIVE)

I suppose in many ways this should have been self-intuitive, as foot paths became cart-paths that became roads that became highways. But somehow, in our European bias, I think many of us (including me) always imagined the first Pilgrims hacking their way through virgin woodland, creating those paths. But the reality is that the Pilgrims and their successors had stepped into a land that had been tended, cultivated and very much altered by Native Americans for thousands of years. The cleared planting fields were already there, as were the fishing camps and weirs, the tended hunting grounds, even the settlement places. But most fatally for the Indian, the well marked land routes were there too, leading the Europeans ever westward with relative ease — to the eventual doom of their civilization.

Something to think about next time you are stuck in traffic…

Indian Trails with Modern Towns. The circles indicate documented Indian settlements
Indian Trails Superimposed on Modern Roadways
Modern Map