Wednesday, July 27, 2011

History: Stories, Memories, Details, Discoveries ...

I've placed the opening of Dr. Harris's history of the town into the frame of this blog on the right-hand side. Notice the doctor's list of founding settlers, geographically located. These names are found in Waterford today -- we have long family lives and long memories.

It's important to me to point out that there are no women's names in Dr. Harris's opening statement. Nor is there mention of the generations of Abenaki who resided along the river banks of Waterford before European settlers arrived. Every generation sees things differently.

As I look back now, I unfold the history and stories of each founding family through a man, a woman, their children, their relatives, the "hired man" or extra woman living on the homestead, the products of the farm or shop, the records left behind. In the Riverside Cemetery not far from the White Village of Lower Waterford is a marker stone for Mary Lewis, who "died in California" in 1870; she was the wife of Curtis Lewis, born in Littleton, New Hampshire, closer in those days than it is even today -- "Waterford" was of course named for the multiple fording placed on the Connecticut River, where you could cross relatively easily from the village to the large town of Littleton, New Hampshire. Families mingled geographically, and in terms of trade -- what we now call "the economy."

Nor were state boundaries the only ones that people passed across. Trudy Parker's great-aunt Sarah, a noted Abenaki basketmaker, traveled with her family across the national borderline into Canada. We draw lines on the map, but our lives are larger and more wonderful than what we can capture in our drawings.

"Full disclosure," as they say: I'm a writer, digging through the historical evidence -- which to me always includes the stories of the people in a place and from that place -- and writing novels to capture the sense of life in other times. The Darkness Under the Water, set in Waterford in 1930, offers a view of being a young woman growing up in the town, with a heritage rich in Abenaki ways and French Canadian habits, witnessing one of the biggest landscape changes of the Waterford's 20th century: the time when Upper Waterford vanished under the massive lake created from the waters of the Connecticut River, held partly back by Commerford Dam.

What stories and history can you share with us here? As this space opens, there are close to a dozen of us already sharing our wealth of resources and our questions. You might as well join in! We welcome photos of Waterford "then and now," reminiscences, data, discoveries. We'll be adding details about the town's 12 cemeteries this summer, and hope to also explore its heritage of neighborhood schools (a dozen!), meetinghouses, faith, flood, hurricane, blizzard, and joyful survival.

Come visit us often. -- BK

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