As we left Boston, we visited two towns which were steeped in early colonial history: Watertown and Sudbury. But in both towns there was no visitor center, no historical museum, and the staff at the public library was woefully ignorant of the town's history.
In Watertown, there is a huge monument to the founding fathers in a downtown park. It has two large bronze plaques depicting the settlers' purchase of the land from the Indians, and is topped by a statue of Saltonstall. The monument is perhaps fifteen feet high and as wide, with two side panels listing the names of the hundred or so townsmen who founded the city under a grant from Watertown Founders monument the Colony. The librarian was able to show us a photograph of this monument in a book, but could not tell us where the monument was!
We had a similar experience in Sudbury. After wandering around we discovered the Goodnow Library, named after a nineteenth century philanthropist. Again the librarian produced a book, which showed photographs of the seventeenth century graves of one of the town's founders, Edmond Goodenow (an ancestor of the library donor) and his wife, Anne. But she couldn't direct us to the old cemetery!
All the midwestern towns we've visited were well equipped with museums, visitor centers, and librarians who could give directions to local places of interest. Every Canadian town had a local tourist center and museum. Here in Massachusetts, where history stretches back 381 years, there is little local interest, it seems, in the colonial period. Instead of colonial history, Autumn in New England features Fall Foliage, Craft Fairs, Country Inns, Town Churches, Covered Bridges and Shopping for Antiques.
The forest colors are truly amazing -- it's as if an artist were to dab a splotch of bright yellow or scarlet across the tips of the branches, leaving most of the leaves a dark green. And of course New England is blessed with a mostly deciduous forest; the great expanses of Canadian evergreens don't display such colors. The white New England farmhouses and plentiful lakes and brooks give the whole scene a picture postcard appearance.
We've been spending our days in libraries and courthouses, not at all unwillingly! We are both so engrossed in the detective work of uncovering family secrets that we keep up our research until our heads start to swim; then 17th century graves in Sudbury we return to our motel and type up a log of the day's work so we don't forget what we just learned. We have an ever-increasing backlog of work - photocopies that by now fill up most of a banker's box. We'll probably still be typing them up and entering the information into our databases next spring!
In the Berkshires last week we took a country ride, finding three cemeteries with family tombstones. But a front was passing through, with moisture laden clouds interspersed with bright blue fall skies. At each cemetery the weather was clear when we parked the car, but by the time we were standing among the gravestones, Mother Nature unleashed a blistering wintry wind and a mixture of rain and light hail to dampen our clipboard! Almost as soon as we piled back in the car the sky turned blue and sunny. The temperature dipped below 40 that day, but two days later in Boston again it was over 80. Go figure!
We don't want to leave New England, because we have so many ancestors who lived here, and it's fascinating to discover the stories of their lives. We're learning a lot about American History, too, in a way that makes much more sense than just studying rulers and wars. But soon the weather will turn cold enough to be uncomfortable, and then we'll say, "We're retired! We can head south where it's warmer!" And so we will.