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Groton and King Philip’s War
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GROTON — In the more than 350 years since it was founded in 1655, the town of Groton has become freighted with history, much of it made during the early years of its existence as a raw settlement in the midst of Indian country.

Real life stories of those years are exciting enough but frequently trapped between the covers of nonfiction books that concentrate more on the recitation of dry facts than the thrilling day to day exploits of the real people who actually lived such events as King Philip’s War.

Or at least, that is the opinion of Williamsburg, Virginia-based author Joseph Freitus, who lived in Groton as well as Ayer for 35 and 12 years, respectively.

Freitus’ new book titled “A Place Called Groton,” tells the story of the settlement of Groton in fictionalized terms concentrating on characters Samuel and Rebecca Reed as they struggle to build a life while fighting off the natives during King Philips’ War of 1675-1678.

“Utilizing a nonfiction format is similar to a typical school history book and they tend to be straightforward, pedantic and boring,” claimed Freitus. “I recently published via McFarland Publishing “Virginia in the War Years: 1938-1945.” It is a typical nonfiction presentation of history. I wanted folks to read a history that was interesting and enjoyable.

“I felt that utilizing a fictional format would allow me to introduce two characters that would tell the story as taken from actual records, making the history seem a little more personal,” revealed Freitus. “Folks have told me, by a large number, that they enjoyed the story for just that reason. One reader, a long time resident, told me he could visualize Samuel and Rebecca’s farm as he drove over the Route 119/Nashua River bridge. Another said it read more like a novel instead of a flat history and I told a good story. With those two comments I think I achieved my writing goals.”

The author of many books on history and a consultant for Hollywood historic productions, Freitus graduated Ayer High School in 1951 and attended Fitchburg State College, where he received a degree in science education, and the University of Washington, WA, where he received a master’s in plant physiology.

Landing in Williamsburg, VA, the retired writer never forgot his years in Groton with its rolling farms and unique history.

“It was founded before Williamsburg, Virginia,” noted Freitus, who had always been drawn to Amerindian and Revolutionary War history.

“After retirement, working at Jamestown Settlement, James City County, as the sail maker and ship rigger,” said Freitus of how he became interested in local history and returned to his roots in Groton. “The ongoing attempt by Virginia to place itself in history before 1620 and the Pilgrims interested me. Working in this time period brought me back to my interest in the history of Groton.”

Looking around, Freitus noticed that nothing had really been done to explore Groton’s part in King Philip’s War.

“Despite several excellent books written about King Philip’s War, little has been done about its role in the history of Groton,” said Freitus. “King Philip’s War is central to the early history of Groton. Many of the principle characters that played an important role in the war resided in Groton. All one has to do is stop and read the many historical markers placed throughout the town.”

But to write his book, it took the author more effort than simply reading markers.

“It took me three years of considerable research to write the book,” said Freitus. “It was possible because of the many grand Historical Societies that exist in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts! The Historical Society at Groton was of particular help as well as the ones at Lowell and Boston. I needed to seek written historical data from as many towns and sites involved throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as well as other nearby areas. Few folks in the Groton area are aware Springfield and other western towns were involved with King Philip’s War.

“I don’t know the percentage but my novel is all based on actual history of the time period as it directly relates to Groton,” insisted Freitus. “I utilized Samuel and Rebecca as a device to tell the history. It’s not a new device.”

The more reader friendly-format, however, did not necessarily make finding a publisher for the book any easier.

“My first attempts to publish regionally, Lowell etc., met with the usual failure,” said Freitus. “I went back to my (regular) publisher and was greeted with warmth and the book was published. I was told by a publisher in Lowell that no one would read such a book!”

Luckily for readers, authors need not be restricted to the narrow marketing interests of traditional publishers any more.

“‘A Place Called Groton,’ like so many books these days, can be found in e-reader format or soft cover at Amazon and Synergebooks book store,” said Freitus. “Other outlets such as Barnes and Noble sell the e-reader format.”

“Readers of historical fiction and those interested in the history of Groton and the region will not only find the book informative but an easy read or so I am told,” said Freitus.

“Many readers informed me that they were having their high school-age children read the book to appreciate the history of Groton at that time period,” said Freitus.

“Interesting as it was, that was something I had not counted on but was very pleased about. With that in mind, I placed a copy of the book in the town library of Groton and Ayer as well as the library at the Groton-Dunstable Regional High School. The results have been most gratifying.”

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