This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of “Groton’s Anonymous Mistress.” The 300-year-old home is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.
By Carl Flowers
Even though the Mistress’s chance at fame was dashed in 2003, you would expect her to be mentioned in a study made between 2006 and 2008 by the Groton Historical Commission. The study was funded by the Community Preservation Act to identify Groton’s historical resources, at a cost of about $40,000.
According to the survey’s final report, “All properties built prior to 1960 were considered by the survey with a focus on Colonial and Federal Period examples.” Boundaries of the project area were the boundaries of the town of Groton.
Surprisingly, the Mistress is not mentioned in the 13-volume study. Maybe the town’s more recent maps had something to do with the omission. The 2002 Groton Precinct Map fails to show a road going to the Mistress, even though the Groton selectmen on June 4, 2001, accepted a re-precincting plan that named the road passing by the east side of the Mistress as Dan Parker Road. Obviously, someone altered the plan by deleting Dan Parker Road after the selectmen gave their approval.
The same is true of the 2004 Massachusetts Jurisdiction of Roads Map for Groton. No Dan Parker Road is to be seen. Information for the two maps was supplied by the town of Groton, according to state officials. Maybe the 2005 Groton Street Map approved by the Groton Board of Selectmen on March 7, 2005 is right up there with the precinct map and jurisdiction of roads map. The 2005 street map shows only those roads that physically existed and had general usage. This didn’t mean all the roads shown on the street map had to be public roads because several of them were not. Raddin Road is shown on the map and appears to pass by the east side of the Mistress, which is a distinct change in comparison to the 2002 precinct map and 2004 jurisdiction of roads map. None of the houses on Raddin Road were built before 1960; thus, there was no need to look at any of the houses on Raddin Road.
Amazingly, no one on the Groton Historical Commission had any recollection of the Mistress’s potential listing to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Is it possible no one on the Groton Historical Commission bothered to read the 13-volume study the town paid for out of our tax dollars?
Chapter 2: The Hook
So, why should it matter to me that the town’s histories don’t tell the Mistress’s story or mention her caretakers? It goes back to my childhood and the lasting memories that can’t be erased. As an eight-year-old, meeting up with the Mistress and hanging out with her for the first time drew me to her. Appearance had nothing to do with it. In fact, looks didn’t really matter. After all, what would an eight-year-old know when it came to these kind of things?
Instead, it was all the activity going on around her that enchanted me. My mother and grandmother cooking on a woodburning stove, all the uninvited critters living in and around the house, doing without electricity or running water were the enticements. Being with the Mistress was like going off to summer camp. Even after I began shipping out for eight weeks at a time to a Wisconsin camp, I never missed spending a little quality time with the Mistress in the summer.
My first encounter with the Mistress was in June of 1949. On arrival with my parents, I initially found the Mistress to be unfit. We would not be spending the night, so I thought. My conclusion was based on my mother’s reasoning and watching her in action. Anytime we traveled in the car and had to spend the night in a motel along the road, my mother meticulously inspected our room. The bathroom had to be clean. She would pull back the bed covers to be sure the sheets had only creases, with no wrinkles. There couldn’t even be any dust under the bed. Back then most of the motels were mom and pop operations. Not many of the big name chains we’re all familiar with today existed.
I didn’t understand my mother’s concerns about sanitation and cleanliness, but it didn’t take a genius to know the Mistress wouldn’t pass muster with her. There was no running water and no bathroom. You had to drop a bucket down the well to get water, and the bathroom was an outhouse.
To my surprise, I was absolutely wrong about the Mistress. We were spending the night. Not only would be we spending the night, we would be spending the entire summer. My parents had some serious explaining to do that night. The most compelling argument they gave was that my Aunt Esther was a physician. If the Mistress wasn’t safe, my Aunt Esther wouldn’t allow us to stay.
One of my obsessive interests was the old three-holer in the northeast corner of the Mistress’s wood shed. I had never seen such a thing. You could see all the deposits left behind by earlier visitors. It was everything, plus a whole lot more, of what my mother wouldn’t tolerate at a motel, but at the Mistress, it was just fine. How could this possibly be? Again, It turned out that my Aunt said it was okay.
Moreover, it was assumed anyone could walk into the outhouse at anytime and sit down beside you. The seat was a bench with three holes. There was no door. Not until several years later did I understand the holes and the absent door. The holes were all about baby bottoms, little boy bottoms, and big boy bottoms. It was the standard family outhouse. The missing door was the forerunner to all our modern-day air fresheners that neutralize obnoxious odors. The outhouse certainly had some of these. Sharing the outhouse with someone else didn’t turn out to be the great adventure I thought it would be. One night just before bedtime, I headed out for my last pit stop when…
Continued next week.