asakiyume: (feathers on the line)
I was at an informational event on sanctuary cities and the Massachusetts Safe Communities Act this afternoon, and before it started, I was chatting with Cliff McCarthy, a wonderful local historian (I've shared one of his other stories in the past--a tale of poverty, murder, and arson). This time he told me the extremely dramatic story of Angeline Palmer, a free child of color "hired out" by the town of Amherst (Angeline was an orphan and ward of the town) to work for the Shaw family in Belchertown in the late 1830s. "Right in that house over there," Cliff said, pointing out the window to the house next door to where our event was happening.

You can read the full story at Freedom Stories of the Pioneer Valley, Cliff's history website, but here is the outline--and some highlights. Mason Shaw, known as "Squire Shaw," had gotten swept up in western Massachusetts' "mulberry craze"--he was investing in mulberry trees, with the hopes of making a fortune in the silk industry. He was also trying to *sell* mulberry trees--in 1840, he traveled to Georgia to try to interest farmers there in buying them. While there, he sent a letter to his wife, telling her to bring twelve-year-old Angeline south, where Shaw reckoned he could sell her for $600.

will Angeline be sold into slavery?? )

The story was so dramatic, so empowering, and--at least briefly--had a happy ending. There are no pictures of Angeline! I wish there were--as it is, we'll just have to imagine her. Visit Cliff's page on Angeline to see a sketch of Henry Jackson and a photo of the house from which Angeline was rescued.





asakiyume: created by the ninja girl (Default)






Yesterday afternoon this dramatic sky was up above the Aquavitae portion of what's known as the Great Meadow of Hadley, Massachusetts.



I had always wanted to go down Aqua Vitae road--I remember when last the Connecticut River rose and flooded it. Some of the houses down there are on stilts (wise move).

While I was there, I noticed the narrow fields. You can see them clearly in this satellite shot, courtesy of Google maps:



The whole Great Meadow is laid out that way--a style of farming known as open meadow farming. It was common in eastern England in the 1600s, and the earliest settlers in New England brought it with them, but by and large it disappeared as a land-use pattern in the 1700s. But it survived in Hadley--in 2007, 136 parcels of land in the Great Meadow were farmed or maintained by 87 owners.1


(Image from Patricia Laurice Ellsworth, Hadley West Street Common and Great Meadow: A Cultural Landscape Study, 2007.)

Just think: 350-plus years, these fields have been tilled. Can you see the different colors of the ground? Those are the different fields.



Back in the earliest days, the Aquavitae area was planted in hay, and other parts of the Great Meadow were planted in wheat, oats, rye, and corn, as well as peas and barley. As you can see from the cut stalks, corn is still grown there. Tobacco, a crop that caught on in the area in the 1800s, is still grown there, too.

These horses haven't been here anywhere near as long. See the Connecticut River behind them? The horses were frisking with each other until I came up.




1Patricia Laurice Ellsworth, Hadley West Street Common and Great Meadow: A Cultural Landscape Study, 2007, p. 10.


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