June 25th, 2011
Mass Moments, the electronic almanac of Massachusetts history, reminded us that yesterday was the 336th anniversary of the start of King Philip’s War which, when measured by the percentage of population killed, was the deadliest war in the history of North America. Although the fighting broke out in Plymouth, it eventually spread to the Merrimack Valley. In the spring of 1676, Groton had been burned and Chelmsford and Andover had experienced raids by native warriors. Eventually, the colonists prevailed and either killed or drove out of southern New England almost all of the indigenous people. Ironically, the consequences of King Philip’s war played a major (if little understood or appreciated role) in the subsequent founding of Lowell 150 years later.
The first English settlers came to this vicinity in 1653 when a group of 29 men from Woburn and Concord petitioned the General Court to grant a charter for the town of Chelmsford on six square miles “of upland and meadow” bordering the Merrimack and Concord Rivers. The parcel sought by these settlers (which included what is now downtown Lowell) was already occupied by the Pawtucket Indians who called their settlement Wamesit. Fortunately for the Pawtuckets, a minister named John Eliot had began visiting them annually in 1647 and had converted the tribe to Christianity.
Because Eliot was committed to the actual as well as to the spiritual well-being of the Pawtuckets, he intervened in the Chelmsford petition and requested the General Court to grant the Indians a charter for the land which they had long occupied and cultivated. The legislature did just that, granting the Pawtuckets 1000 acres on the west bank of the Concord River (downtown Lowell) and 1500 acres on the east bank (Belvidere) for a town to be called Wamesit while also granting the Chelmsford petition albeit for land farther west along the Merrimack (shown on the 1650s sketch map that appears above). read more »
June 25th, 2011
Frequent contributor Jim Peters shares his thoughts with us . . .
I promise to have an article about Native Americans in this area in the next installment. I have been doing quite a bit of thinking lately, mostly about my father who is wrestling with cancer, mesothilioma, if I am spelling it right. It is asbestos-induced cancer affecting the lungs. I do not know how to watch a healthy, bright man get sick and then sicker without losing a little piece of myself to him. I want to know just what to say when I call on the telephone. I want to know that all of my pictures are in order, and do I have enough of them to capture the essence of the man? All of these things keep crossing my mind as time ticks away.
Death, which is imminent, is really something we have no control over, nor should we. It is intensely personal. My father has fought the good fight. Three years plus ago, he was given four months to live. Then, when four months passed, it became eighteen months. When eighteen months passed, it became two years. Now, it is three plus years later and I am struck by the easy way he has of conversing even today. Picking up the telephone is solace to his kids. Hearing him talk, albeit with a certain tiredness in his voice, is uplifting to our mutual souls. We all know he is getting too sick to have long conversations but he keeps asking about old friends in Lowell. “How is Dick Howe doing?” Senior and Junior seem to be doing well. “How is Armand LeMay?” He is well, Dad, I saw him last summer and he said he was well. His memory for names is not great, but he remembers a lot of people in Lowell.
They remember him, too. For his 84th. birthday, it was our intention to send 84 birthday cards from various friends. He easily surpassed that. Last year he got me a subscription to a magazine from my home state of Iowa. That’s right, I am an Iowan. I tell my kids that their heritage includes Irish, German, Norwegian, English, French, and other nationalities but that really they are half Greek, after their mother, and half Iowan. So he got me a subscription to “Our Iowa,” which includes sections of the state that I have never visited. read more »
June 25th, 2011
Last night, when New York became the sixth state in America to legalize same-sex marriage, it was an event of great historic import, but from this Massachusetts perch, it was a bit anti-climatic. Contrary to all the predictions of Western Civilization as we knew it collapsing back in 2004 when SSM became law in the Commonwealth, the only consequence I’ve seen is a positive one; gay friends and acquaintances have been able to make the legal commitment of marriage to partners, just as heterosexual couples were always able to do. That’s true equality. For those who still maintain that SSM poses a threat to the institution of marriage, I invite you to drop into any Probate Court session, but most especially the one that sits at Lowell Superior Court every other Friday. An hour of observing the business transacted there will not calm your fears of the enormity of the threat to the institution of marriage; quite the contrary, your fears will be magnified. But you will also realize that its other societal forces and not the gender of the spouses that make that so.
For a riveting account of the behind-the-scenes process that resulted in last night’s historic New York vote, check out THIS article on the New York Times website.
June 25th, 2011
The Globe’s writers have stepped up their game for the crime saga unfolding in real time in Boston. In today’s paper, commentators James Carroll and Kevin Cullen have their say about the James Whitey Bulger horror show. Carroll has a masterful essay that puts the crime story in perspective, both in Boston and more broadly in human experience. Cullen’s heart and mind are on his sleeves as he evokes the turmoil beneath the skin of the survivors who lost people close to them, fathers and husbands and sisters. . . .
Read James Carroll here, and get the Globe if you want more.
Read Kevin Cullen here.
June 25th, 2011
In today’s NYTimes, opinion writer Charles Blow thinks about poverty. Read his column here, and get the NYT if you want more.
I’ve never heard of unemployed people voting to limit how many weeks they’ll be eligible for unemployment checks or people without medical insurance voting to deny themselves access to affordable coverage. The “haves” tend to be the “deciders.”