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
The decision was made. It was Christmas trees. I had too many years in the Broward (Florida) school system to leave, but not enough to retire. From 1980 until my retirement in the summer of 1998, the Mistress didn’t sit vacant. Instead, she was looked after by three different housesitters who were willing to keep her safe and secure.
One of the sitters was Mary Becker, who had actively protested against Groton Electric Light Company’s interest in the Seabrook Nuclear Power Plant. At a selectmen’s meeting held on the evening of March 18, 1985, the selectmen, while they were in session, dispatched the police to the Mistress. The selectmen demanded Mary attend the meeting that evening because of a letter to the editor Mary had sent to the Groton Herald. The letter simply questioned whether the town’s interest in Seabrook was due to certain elected and nonelected officials protecting personal Seabrook investments in stocks and bonds. If this were the case, the conflict of interest damaged the integrity of town government.
The selectmen’s use of police intimidation failed. Mary refused to attend the meeting. Interestingly, the Mistress has never received electricity from Groton Electric Light Company, even though the Mistress is in Groton. Instead, the Mistress gets her electricity from National Grid.
After 32 years in the Broward School System, I retired to the Mistress full time in 1998. I enjoyed my years as a teacher and received many awards and honors. I was a 1966 teacher of the year in the Harriman, Tennessee, city schools, and again in 1987 in the Broward County school system. In 1977, I received an honorable mention for the teaching of economics by the Joint Council on Economic Education, which won me a free trip to California. My undergraduate work was done at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, and my graduate work was at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. I belonged to Phi Delta Kappa. In fact, the Broward County Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa recognized my teaching of Advanced Placement American History. In addition to teaching, I was actively involved with the Broward County Classroom Teachers Association.
Since my guardianship of the Mistress began in 1980, some interesting people have come to the Mistress. Margaret Young is one of them. She was named Miss Scotland in the mid 1950s and has been to the Mistress on several occasions. In the mid 1990s the Royal Bell Ringers came to the Mistress while on a summer tour of the United States. They had a scheduled performance to ring the bells at the Groton School. The Groton School’s bells are among some of the best to be found in the United States. One of the older members of the group helped ring the bells at Westminster Cathedral for Queen Elizabeth’s 1952 coronation. Each member of the group had their own set of hand held bells, which were used for the Mistress’ own private concert.
In 2005, Douglas Gillespie, the Massachusetts Commissioner of Agricultural Resources, came to the Mistress to cut the ceremonial first Christmas tree of the season. Several distinguished state and local individuals were present for the cutting. All three of Dunstable’s Selectmen were present. None of Groton’s five selectmen showed up, even though they were invited.
The Massachusetts Christmas Tree Association has held meetings at the Mistress. So have the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers and the Middlesex County Bee keepers associations, due to my being a member of both organizations and being a beekeeper.
Among the most interesting groups that have come to the Mistress are school children. You never know what they are going to say or ask. Toward the end of one particular visit, a five year old asked if the queen bee lays her eggs from her poopee hole. Thank goodness the teacher was nearby with an appropriate answer.
Now, a little more than thirty years after Esther and Elmer died, I’m still clearing land to get the acreage up to where a living can be made by growing Christmas trees. This would require about twenty-five acres. I’ve also made the discovery that soil quality is essential for a great Christmas tree. The amount of time it takes to grow a tree to maturity relates to the quality of the soil. Ideal trees are six to seven feet tall and take between eight and ten years to grow. In some fields where the soil is poor, trees have been growing for 16 to 17 years to reach their ideal height. A rotation this long is unacceptable.
In just the last couple of years, I’ve been bringing in manure to enrich the soil to shorten the growing time. On every newly cleared field and all the old fields that have been harvested, I have been composting with manure and then planting with 100 percent Dutch white clover, which doesn’t grow more than five inches tall. This reduces the need for gasoline to cut grass and the need for herbicide for weed control.