With the Fourth of July just around the corner, patriotism swells wonderfully around here in New England, right? I mean, we lay claim to some of the most important events that marked the colonies’ march toward independence.
If you think about it, every student in America learns about Paul Revere’s famous ride to alert the Massachusetts Minutemen of the advancing British soldiers. And what New Englander hasn’t been taught about the Boston Tea Party? My husband’s absolute favorite film to watch this time of year is The Patriot (2000) because it brings the romanticism of the pre-colonial era to life on a grand scale, thanks to Hollywood’s deep pockets.
What I recently came to really understand, however, is that these “historical facts” are not just words in a book or scenes in a film. Living in Northborough, we are actually surrounded by history in our own back yard that is likely hidden to our modern eyes. Have you ever driven on Brigham Street and noticed the first burial ground that dates back to 1727? Probably not, as I didn’t notice it until I went out for a run one day and spotted four lonely gravestones at the rear of the parcel.
Did I mention I was a genealogist? I felt the need to know who they were.
Long story short, I am today doing research on all the families who lived here at the time this land was settled in the late 1600s. Who were they? Where did they settle in town? What in Heaven’s name brought them to the wilderness to brave the daily dangers? How did Northborough transform from densely-wooded hills to the almost-suburban town of 2011?
To start off my research, I am focusing on the Who's Who of the family of one particular founding father of Northborough, Adam Holloway. To date, I uncovered a wonderfully large family full of intriguing stories. There are promising lives lost to Indian terrorism, young love cut short by war, widows left to build new lives in new places...and the brave men that took risks to plant the seeds of our country's strength. All of this well before 1776!
While there are many more places to peek for clues to this family's adventures, the one little tidbit that keeps cropping up is how my modern life crosses their old paths every blessed day. I found Adam's burial place quite out of curiosity, nothing else. But I have also discovered that he and his family are a lot closer; they owned the land on which my house was built. That can only mean one thing; the meadow I gaze across every morning with my cup of coffee and the nearby hillside I fall in love with all over again with every changing season has taken on another facet which I’m thinking can only be explained by serendipity.
The Holloways story stays fresh in my mind, and I can only hope to gain an empathy and understanding of their experiences as I continue on with my research.
Now that summer is upon us and the Fourth of July cookouts are on the calendar, it’s time to ditch the car in favor of a pair of sneakers. Walk out your front door and just go. When you pass by an old stone wall or a clearing in the woods, take a moment to think of our early pioneers...and just imagine what is was like to be them. Eye opening, really. And it will add a little spice to your day.