Saturday, March 23, 2024

How Maynard Became Maynard - April 6th lecture

"Hidden History of 
Maynard" (2014)
Local historian David Mark will present a talk on this topic at the Maynard Public Library on Saturday, April 6th, at 1:00-2:15 PM. After the talk he will be selling signed copies of his second history book, "Hidden History of Maynard" (2014) for $20 and ONLY IN MAYNARD mugs for $10.  

Maynard author and historian David Mark will speak about the 1871 proposal to create a new town and how the boundaries were set. Prior to Maynard becoming Maynard, land south of the Assabet River was part of Sudbury, north of the river, part of Stow. Growth of the woolen mill and other factories powered by the river resulted in a population explosion near the river and far from the churches and schools of the farmland towns. Petitions were submitted for (and against) creation of a new town. Compromises were made on size. The new town made compensation payments. Given that Amory Maynard owned much of the land and employed most of the people, the town naming vote was “unanimous.”

A reprint of a Beacon-Villager column from 2016: 

The inaugural celebrations marking the founding of Maynard, April 19, 1871, are described in great detail in the 1921 book "A Brief History of Maynard." Drawing on newspaper accounts of the time, the first town meeting, on April 27th, just eight days after the Commonwealth had granted the petition to create the town, met for the purpose of electing key officials, and then ended early, to turn to the celebrations.

The parade included the Eagle Cornet Band, IOGT (International Order of Good Templars), mill representatives, the Amateur Brass Band, St. Bridget Temperance and Benevolent Society, students, and town officials. A Revolutionary War cannon was borrowed from Concord. The Treasurer's Report recorded $13.50 spent on gunpowder.*   

David Griffin and Paul Boothroyd, members
of the Maynard Historical Society, holding the
original of the never-submitted petition.
A note here on the 'founders' of Maynard. Histories of the town list as founder the 71 men who signed a petition dated January 26, 1871. There is more history behind this history. Months earlier there had been a petition with 68 signees to create a town, name not yet selected, to encompass small parts of Acton and Concord in addition to larger portions of Sudbury and Stow. This was never submitted to the state legislature. The second petition gave up annexing the gunpowder mill land from the first two towns.

Subsequent to this official petition there were three additional supporting petitions with 76 more names. All tallied, minus a few who signed more than once. the count came to 211 men who favored the creation of a new town. (Women not achieving a right to vote until 1920.)

Stow and Sudbury were against the idea, as the proposed new town would take roughly 50 percent of their populations. Stow residents circulated three petitions which garnered about 140 signatures. Sudbury held a vote at Town Meeting, 183 against and 88 for. In disregard of this opposition (and perhaps influenced by some undocumented lobbying), the request to form a new town was granted. 

Amory Maynard was not among the signees although he was perhaps the largest landowner and also part owner and manager of the woolen mill. His sons Lorenzo and William signed, and Lorenzo became the town's first Treasurer and Tax Collector. An account of the day, in the Hudson newspaper, had this comment on how the town came to be named: "Mr. Maynard is the chief founder of the community now incorporated in his name. He is a taking man withal, and his personal christening of the new town is a popular acknowledgement of his agency in its birth and breeding."

Milestone anniversaries have been celebrated in various ways. There is no mention in the Town's Annual Report of 1896 about any events to mark the 25th anniversary. Nationally, there was a recession going on, and the mill would go bankrupt in 1898, so perhaps everyone was distracted.

The two major peaks in births represent the influx of young
adult immigrants to work at the expanding mill complex and
the post-WWII baby boom. Present population ~ 11,000.
The 50th anniversary was a huge event. According to the program, church observances on Sunday, April 17th, school observances on Monday, and on Tuesday morning a 50-gun salute and a parade of an estimated 1,000 people down Main, Nason and Summer Streets. Speeches by Governor Cox and Senator Gibbs followed. Local veterans of the Civil War (!), Spanish-American War and the Great War participated. Afternoon activities included Glee Club and choir singing, a band concert and ball game - Maynard versus Concord - at Crowe Park.

Likewise, the 100th anniversary was a huge event. Huge. Celebration was pushed to June, perhaps in hope of better weather? Ten days of celebrations included picnics, concerts and performances, capped by a parade and fireworks on July 4th.  

The book cover states
that the book was a
product of the Committee
but it was actually 
100% David Mark (me)
The 125th anniversary celebration, in 1996, appears to have been a subdued affair. The Maynard Historical Committee published a collection of essays on town history.

In 2016, Maynard celebrated its 145th anniversary as First Annual Founders' Day via various events to be held April 16 and 17, throughout the town. Much of the organizing was accomplished by Maynard High School student Haley Fritz as part of her Girl Scout Gold Award project, in collaboration with the Board of Selectmen, Maynard Business Alliance, and Maynard Historical Commission. Alas, Founders' Day did not become an annual celebration.

The year 2021, in honor of Maynard's 150th anniversary, saw many events organized by a Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, including a parade attended by several descendants of Amory and Mary Maynard, a monthly lecture series and a book "MAYNARD MASSACHUSETTS: A Brief History". 


Friday, March 22, 2024

Trail of Flowers - First Daffodils 2024


First daffodils at Marble Farm
The first daffodils in bloom at Marble Farm Historic Site, appeared March 19, 2024. Looking back to previous years, starting with 2019 (first planting having been fall of 2018), first bloomings have ranged from March 21 to as late as April 10. Timing much depends on how long winter snow cover persisted and extent of warm spells.

The plantings at the Marble Farm site - more added each year - are of early- mid- and late-blooming varieties so as to prolong as much as possible the spring blooming season. Daffodils will still be in bloom well into May. In the fall of 2023 a planting of tulip bulbs was made inside the fence that surrounds the stone foundation that is all that remains of the Marble family home (built 1705, burned 1924). The site was selected to prevent deer from eating the tulips. (Deer don't eat daffodils.)  

To be installed once the 
tulips are blooming
The spring of 2023 had a remarkably poor showing of blooming for several perennial plant species. This was attributed to there having been an extended warm interval in March, causing 'bud break', i.e., initiation of bud opening, followed by a period of hard freeze night temperatures. Throughout eastern Massachusetts there were poor-to-no bloomings for forsythia, azalea, wisteria and other spring-blooming plants. March 2024 has been unseasonably warm and without snow cover, but did experience a night temperature of 20 degrees the night of March 21, followed by snow, freezing rain and rain March 22-23, so the effects of this harsh weather on the daffodils and other plants remains to be seen.

FIRST UPDATE: Late March and early April saw more snow, freezing rain and rain. Daffodils already blooming were knocked down, but most recovered after everything thawed/melted. The Trail of Flowers daffodil plantings in Acton and Maynard are planned to have a mix of  early- mid- and late-blooming varieties in order to stretch the blooming season into May. Unlike last year, forsythia are having a good bloom year. Max blooming appears to be week of April 14-20. 

Interestingly (and sadly), although forsythia is a popular early spring blooming plant, it is not pollinator friendly, as it has minimal nectar and pollen. Likewise, daffodils and tulips - popular spring-blooming bulbs - contribute nothing to pollinators, and thus can be derogatorily be referred to as 'eye candy'. Trail of Flowers ( has had donating town garden clubs request that future plantings include more of a mix of pollinator-friendly plants, with a preference for those native to New England versus overseas imports.   The Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources has developed this list of native plant species commonly available at local nurseries:

More to be added as Spring progresses


Saturday, March 2, 2024

"Water Always Wins" a book review

 Water Always Wins Erica Gies (2022)

Water Always Wins (327 pages, 290 references) is a treatise on how water behaves and misbehaves on our planet, and how our human attempts to control water via dams, channeling rivers, dikes, draining of wetlands, shoreline management, and so on, and so on, fail. The subtitle: "Thriving on an age of drought and deluge" points toward how human-caused climate change has exacerbated the problems we have with out-of-control water. 

The overlying theme of the book is "slow water," meaning that in a nature-pristine state there are mechanisms such as plant cover, porous soil, drainage obstructions (including beaver dams) and so on that slow drainage, and that by doing so lessen flooding in times of heavy rain or snow melt, and also recharge the local and regional surface water and ground water, lessening the impact of drought.

Beaver skull: see that the gnawing teeth are 
separate from the eating teeth, and that the former
have an orange enamel on the outside surface. 
These teeth grow throughout the animal's 10-12
year lifespan. The orange enamel is harder than
the white, so these teeth are self-sharpening. The 
bite force is twice that of a human, but much less
than that of large dogs.
Chapter 4: "Beavers - the original water engineers" describes the impact this species had on North America prior to European colonization and fur trapping, and how the more recent recovery from extirpation (regional extinction) is being accomplished. A rough estimate of 60 to 400 million beavers population North America prior to arrival of the Europeans. Trapping for the fur trade reduced the numbers to an estimate 100,000 mostly in Canada. With government protection, the beaver population has recovered to an estimated 10-15 million.This includes live-trapping of beavers in areas where their activity infringes on human habitat - flooded farm fields and suburban lawns plus gnawed trees - for relocation to ideal habitant is empty. Beaver dams slow water from headland tributaries, and be doing so, mute floods and maintain water flow in times of drought. The water impoundments also stongly support biodiverisity.

Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8 are in-depth case studies of how water was and is and will be managed in various countries, specifically India, Peru, US and China, and Kenya. The common theme across all of these chapters is that deforestation and urban sprawl are contrary to the concept of slow water, and need to be addressed by plans to support slow water, and to also plan for space within and adjacent to cities that are allowed to flood in times of excessive water. The chapters also address that while reforestation in theory can be beneficial, planting the wrong types of trees or only a few species of trees, i.e., monoculture, can be counterproductive. 

Chapter 9: "Sedimental Journey",  describes the best and worst ways to manage the land/ocean interface in these times of rising ocean level. Worldwide, our current practices are mainly the worst. By building to the water's edge, and in places trying to defend that edge with seawalls, we have removed all of the natural coastal ecosystems - salt water marshes, mud flats, mangrove forests, coral reefs, barrier islands, sand dunes, kelp forests - that when in place blunt storm damage and coastal erosion. The chapter adds that building dams on rivers compounds the problem by preventing river sediment from restoring and actually increasing the land height of marshes, beaches and river deltas. Efforts to restore natural waters' edge barriers to San Francisco Bay are described in great detail.

Chapter 10: "Our Shared Future", loops back to the concept first broached in the title "Water Always Wins", To wit,  stop fighting and adapt. Towns, even cities that have a frequent history of flooding have been abandoned, or even moved. Sometimes the catalyst is a refusal by insurance companies to provide flood insurance. Efforts at rewilding coastland and river valleys provides space for water. On the drought side of the equation, limits on development recognize the fatal flaw in allowing population growth in places where water cannot be guarenteed, neither by reservoirs nor pumping ground water in excess of what can be replenished by rain and snow melt. Ditto on water-intensive crop choices in areas with water limits. If water always wins, make peace, not war.