Perhaps more than anyone else in this country, New Englanders are aware of history. We flock to museums and historic places, thrilled with the tales of lives once lived and places once active with people far different from us.
But for those of us fortunate enough to live in these Nashoba Valley towns, we don’t have to travel far to experience history. It is evident in our neighborhoods and in the environment that brought us here and keeps us here.
As the amount of open space available for development starts to diminish, developers are going to start looking at existing structures to determine if what they would consider a better use of the land is possible. In many cases, buildings that have long stood the test of time will be lost.
Towns like Groton and Shirley have long debated the need to stop the destruction of historic buildings. Demolition-delay bylaws have been enacted that require would-be developers to consider all options before choosing the destructive route.
In Pepperell last week, the Board of Appeals was faced with the town’s loss of an 18th century home because of a zoning regulation that, if adhered to, would endanger a historic home.
Pepperell Historical Society President Susan Smith spoke on behalf of the home’s preservation. In a letter to the board, she wrote that the house is one of the few 18th century structures left in Pepperell.
As detailed by staff writer Don Eriksson, Smith wrote that the house was probably built by Isaac Wood, who married Tryphena Parker of Groton. She died in 1756 of the mysterious Pepperell Fever, at age 20. The couple had at least two children. Isaac later married Amy Willard, who also died from the fever at the age of 27. Wood then married Mary Wood, with whom he had nine children.
“During this time he was a member of the local militia and held the position of captain,” Smith wrote. “Further research may reveal that Isaac Wood and his son, Isaac, were with Colonel William Prescott at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
“This is the home of one of this country’s earliest (if not famous) patriots. The variance requested is a minor consideration compared to the demolition or removal of this piece of Pepperell history,” Smith wrote.
The Board of Appeals agreed and the variance that will enable the house to stand was allowed.
It is through the knowledge and commitment of people such as these that our region’s history will be preserved.
Despite the speed at which our 21st century lives travel, our history is still important. It is the sum and total of who we are.
Respecting it keeps us humble.
It reminds us of the accomplishments of those who went before us, and challenges us to preserve for those to come, a responsible measure of that which was left for us.