Where history meets

Do you ever wonder why it is that some places have so much history attached to it. Why one little part of the world, should have so many history making events or attract those that make history.

I understand why so much happens in great cities, but when you stumble across a small (and beautiful) little part of the world to learn that such momentous moments have happened here and the lonely house that stood and watched it happen has also housed those that have gone on to make history themselves.

On a beautifully sunny New England day we visited Concord (pronounced Con-kid) Massachusetts. Starting off at the Old North Bridge where the British met the famous Minute Men on April 19, 1977. The colonials living in the area of Lexington and Concord had been warned the “the British are coming” by those who has been warned by Paul Revere.

It was at the Old North Bridge that the local militia (the Minute Men) defeated the British, sending them back towards Boston and setting the stage for the Siege of Boston. So it is said that this was where the American Revolution began. Like so many other battle sites that we have visited on this adventure, such a beautiful site for such a momentous occasion and sadly watched over by the “Old Manse”.

It is un-nerving to think again just as at Gettysburg, such a battle took place around or within sight of a home. The Old Manse that stood beside this battle was home to the Emerson family. The Manse was built in 1770 by the grandfather of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who in later years also lived here and where he wrote his work “Nature” and the Concord Hymn about the battle on the North Bridge which contained the famous line “and fired the shot heard around the world”.

The Manse must have been such an inspiring place to live or visit at that time, as not only did Emerson live here, but the newly wed Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne moved in on their wedding night and lived here for 3 years. It was here that Nathaniel and Sophia left messages by scratching the glass in the windows (which are still there to be read) with Sophia’s diamond wedding ring.

They Manse would have seen so many great literary minds pass through it. As Henry Thoreau is known to have planted a vegetable garden here. The neighbours were the poet William Ellery Channing and exciting for me the Alcott family.

The house that the Alcott family lived in was not far from the Old Manse and it was here in 1868 that Louisa May Alcott wrote one of my favourite books when I was growing up, “Little Women”. Louisa May Alcott wrote in her journals of spending time with her father’s friends, including Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. If only we could roll back time as I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall to the conversations, debates and discussions that must have taken place between these great minds.

Louisa came from such a strong family, her mother Abigail May Alcott was one of the first paid social workers in Boston while they lived there, they were active in the Underground Railway (helping the slaves to travel north to freedom in Canada), but she was also an early suffragette and wrote for a women’s rights periodicals. She was the first woman in Concord to be registered to vote, when in 1879, the State of Massachusetts passed a law that would allow women to vote in local elections on anything involving education and children. The Nineteenth Amendment giving them the vote was finally ratified until 1920, some 32 years after she died.

After such a wonderful day and as the temperature drops we ended with a wonderful family evening around the fire making s’mores. We roasted the marshmallows over the fire, in the living room! As I snuggled back into my seat and watched everyone else eating these gooey delights I am feeling blessed to have been able to spend time with such special people.

Concord Hymn
By Ralph Waldo Emerson

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and thee.

Written for the dedication of the Battle Monument, July 4, 1837

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