Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Essex Happenings November 29. 2011

ESSEX HAPPENINGS-November 29, 2011

Massachusetts Bay Colony Tercentenary Signs

I have received more information as I continue to gather facts on the 1930 Historic Marker program to learn if there is a possibility of developing a new program , that Essex Heritage could support that might positively impact this historic marker program. The mission of Essex Heritage is to preserve the historic, cultural and natural resources of Essex County. It is my belief that the Tercentenary Marker program meets all of the criteria of a historic resource. The signs were erected in 1930, and they highlighted the most significant events and resources identified at that time that spoke to the history of the first three hundred years of the Colony celebrated that year. We are also coming up quickly on the four hundredth anniversary of the establishment of the colony in 2030, and that presents an even greater reason to preserve the historic marker program.

The material that was provided to me this week was delivered from the office of the Town of Danvers Archivist, Richard Trask, and his help with this program is most appreciated. Dick is a Commissioner who has helped represent Danvers at Essex Heritage for many years and has served in many capacities during those years. The material provided contained a copy of a scholarly paper titled Remembrance of History Past prepared a decade ago for The Essex Genealogist in February 2002 by Ms. Brita Karlberg of South Hamilton, MA. The paper she prepared confirmed substantial information that I had previously obtained like the fact that there were a total of 275 signs erected across 96 communities in the Commonwealth in 1930 at the start of the Great Depression., but I certainly learned many new facts from her presentation. The signs were large 36 by 45 inches and were printed on both sides of the markers so that they were easy to read and were erected at different levels depending if they were roadside or needed headroom for pedestrians to pass under. The markers were sturdy and heavy as they weighed about 200 pounds. The markers designated events and persons from the period preceding 1750. The markers survived many ravages of time including the depression and the famous hurricane of 1938 and iron scrap drives of World War 11, but over time many of the signs suffered from the weather, snow plows etc. and many have now disappeared.

One very important fact that I learned was that the signs when created and erected by the Commission established by Governor Frank Allen, and the program came with a mandate to “ the commonwealth’s Department of Public Works, that these signs and markers shall be maintained by that department from appropriations made for the maintenance of the highways.” It seems that this mandate might be a good way to convince the Commonwealth that funding should be provided to maintain and replace signs where missing and appropriate.

Essex County was a great beneficiary of this program as it should have been with our rich history. As noted previously, there were 275 signs erected in ninety-six communities, across the State, and in Essex County, twenty-three of the thirty-four communities in this region received a sign, and in total eighty-three of the total number of signs were placed in this region. At the time the research provided to me that was completed in 2002 noted that there were thirty-four of the signs still in their original locations, three have been moved but are still in the communities where they were first erected. Three of the original signs have been lost but have been replaced with wooden facsimiles, and forty-three of the original signs are missing. Later, I will provide additional information on the signs that have been moved and are still standing.

The communities and the signs designated to those communities and the number of signs missing are identified in the chart that follows..

Community Signs Erected Missing


There were no signs designated for Boxford, Groveland, Lawrence, Lynnfield, Nahant, Swampscott, and West Newbury. The three communities where signs were moved are in Beverly, Gloucester and Wenham, there are three communities where signs were lost and replaced with wooden signs. They are in Danvers, Rockport and Topsfield. The status of the signs is varied, as of the communities that received a single marker, and only Amesbury and Georgetown have the original marker still on display. There are several communities that had multiple markers in place and only Wenham that had multiple signs has all markers still in place although one has been moved. No. Andover and Peabody that had a single marker are both missing. Four communities that had multiple markers in 1930 now have nineteen of the forty-three markers missing.

It is possible that the inventory that was completed in 2012 by Ms. Karlberg has seen even additional losses in the last decade, as road repairs, takings and improvements has no time for history, and progress might have disrupted more of the markers. It certainly appears that we are approaching the time when this project might be presented to the region for approval as an active initiative, for many to be concerned with as a preservation issue. At the same time we are prepared to send the information to our local legislative delegation for their information about the proposed legislation, that we spoke of earlier, that seeks funding for the maintenance of the markers. Someone will also have to complete an up-to-date inventory, but this project seems to me to be a project that demands the attention of all in the region. With all of the demands on the resources of Essex Heritage, it will be very difficult for them to play a lead role in this activity, but they certainly can play a supporting role in however this might play out in the future.

Salem Groups Collaborate to Address School Issue

The city of Salem, after several weeks of positive news, received some serious, sobering news last week when it learned that one of its elementary schools was characterized as failing and in danger of a State takeover. There were several other schools in danger of failing as well. This news has mobilized many in the City, and several organizations have pledged to help the City to reverse this unfortunate trend. Meetings have already been scheduled and the city administration the school Superintendent’s office has already started to plan a series of action steps to correct the deficiencies. Organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, Salem State University, The YMCA, the Salem Partnership have already pledged their commitment to help correct any deficiencies identified. We are confidant that the leadership of the City of Salem will come together and will develop a plan to turn this situation around as fast as is possible,

Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem to Close Peabody School Unit

Unsettling news regarding the termination of a youth after school program at a subsidiary location in Peabody was announced by the leadership of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Salem last week. Because of difficult financial conditions the Salem club has had to make a difficult decision and shut down a very successful subsidiary program that they have been offering in the Peabody Middle School for a number of years. The program started four years ago as an idea offered by former Boys and Girls Club employee and Higgins Middle School teacher Greg Passeri was serving 170 students when it was ended this past week. The program in Peabody had grown each year since its inception and had been credited with many achievements such as better school attendance and steadily improving grades. During the years the program operated, hundreds of youth in Peabody were beneficiaries of the activities offered. The program was offered five days a week during the school year and a dozen staff and volunteers were available daily to offer help to the many students served. The decision to bring this program to an end was a plain and simple financial one. The program was costing the Salem club $35 to $40 thousand each year to operate, and with growing membership demands in Salem, the club had to focus on locations where the bulk of its financial support was garnered. The club that has an annual budget of $900,000 could no longer afford the cost of the subsidiary operation in Peabody, regardless of the benefits to the students served. In these difficult economic times, overall contributions and grants, federal, state and local funding to the Club have decreased, and decisions had to be made to keep the Club’s budget balanced. The club operates two locations in Salem and currently serves over 1100 youth members, and while they sincerely wanted to keep the Peabody program functioning, the lack of financial support from Peabody entities made the decision to continue to support Salem members first made a great deal of sense. Certainly, if financial support from entities in the City of Peabody were to become available, I suspect that the Club board might feel inclined to restore the valuable program at the Higgins Middle School if specific program funding could be identified. In any event the Salem club thanks Greg Passeri for his idea and initiative and certainly appreciate all he had done for his students and his school. He should be congratulated for his thoughtful work for his employer, and wish him well in the future.

Community Project being Overseen by Chief Paul Tucker and his Salem Police Department this Month

The Salem Police Department is collecting personal care items this November that will be given to local shelters to distribute to their guests and clients. This certainly appears to be a worthwhile project to consider, and I am certain that contributions can be dropped off at the Salem station on Jefferson Avenue in Salem.

MIAA Football Participants

We now know that Lynn English, Marblehead, Hamilton-Wenham and Newburyport High Schools will represent the region in the upcoming MIAA Super Bowls, and we wish them well in their future contests

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