DATELINE: Witness to History
Winchendon Springs, Massachusetts, has the worst record for not protecting history that I, as an author and historian, have ever encountered. Over decades, key buildings have been razed, and a cavalier attitude of a somewhat less than helpful historical society masquerades as a town body.
In the latest incarnation of sad anti-historical activity, the new owners of a location going back to the 1820s have routinely ignored the past in pursuit of profit. They have systematically dismantled the area’s past.
The Mill Circle Equestrian Center acts like it has the right to do whatever it wants. It is typically run by people with a chip on their shoulders—and horses to corral.
In the past days, they took down a tree planted by Nelson White in 1850. Yes, the grand maple was 170 years old—and lately some limbs came off in bad wind storms.
We hate to see a living witness to history be taken down, limb by limb. The magnificent tree had some core rot at the top, but it was left standing upright. It deserved care and treatment, not execution.
Perhaps the coming seasons will bring new growth and resurrection. The tree once grew over the famed cold mineral spring that healed so many in the 19thcentury.
It oversaw the notorious murder of a peddler under its shade on the Fourth of July in 1826. It was on the family property, near the gazebo where two victims of the Titanic once played as children.
Now the hulk stands denuded, not quite a stump, not cut to the nub. Yet, it is a pathetic reminder that time fells all—the deserving and undeserving.
Giddy new owners and neighbors seemed to revel in the tree’s demise. We were saddened to see it fall piece by piece. The neighborhood’s beauty has been diminished.