Monday, March 16, 2009

Great News in the Preservation Fight

The Daily Hampshire Gazette ran an article this morning giving details of a federal grant to help create a “heritage corridor” or “preservation road” along Route 47 in South Hadley and Hadley. In the face of continued development pressures, this is great news.

Route 47 already has state recognition as a scenic byway, and efforts are now underway to get it national recognition. Let’s hope that their efforts are successful!

Read the Gazette's article here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Two Regicides Hidden in Hadley

The following is a something I wrote on facebook a few years ago when I was in graduate school studying "early modern" English history. I am reproducing it here because it concerns Hadley--perhaps one of the most interesting parts of its history...

One of my favorite mysteries of history is the question of what happened to two of Cromwell's Major-Generals of the English Civil Wars, William Goffe and Edward Whalley. Its particular interest to me lies in the fact that it connects the period of English history I study with the history of my own family and hometown, (South) Hadley, Massachusetts. Both men were regicides - that is, they cast their votes in favor of the execution of Charles I in 1649. After the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy, the only options open to these men (and the rest of the surviving regicides) was to stay in England and face the extreme likelihood that they would be executed by the (understandably) vindictive government of Charles II, or flee into exile. I'll let the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography explain what is known of their fates:

At the Restoration, Goffe and his father-in-law Whalley, who as regicides were both excluded from the Act of Indemnity, fled to New England. Goffe travelled under the name Stephenson. He and Whalley arrived at Boston in July 1660 and lived initially in Cambridge. They moved to New Haven, Connecticut, in 1661, where tradition has it they lived in a cave in the woods outside the town for three years to avoid discovery by the agents sent from England to capture them. In 1664 they moved on to Hadley, Massachusetts, where they remained until their deaths. All efforts to arrest them proved fruitless as the colonists were generally sympathetic to the fugitive regicides and refused to reveal their whereabouts. A report in the colonial state papers declares that they were held in ‘exceeding great esteem for their piety and parts’ and that they ‘held meetings where they preached and prayed, and were looked upon as men dropped down from heaven’. Another later report stated that they were feasted in every place they visited and provided with horses and guides (CSP col., 5.54, 345). Details of the attempts by the agents of Charles II to apprehend them are also recorded (ibid., letters 45, 80, 81, 96, 160–62, 1103, 1300).

According to legend, in September 1675 Hadley came under attack from Metacom's (King Philip's) warriors, and Goffe emerged from his hiding place to rally the settlers and save them from defeat. This unknown figure appearing out of nowhere passed into local history as the story of the 'Angel of Hadley' (the famous image of which is above), which, from my interest in family and local history, is how I first learned the tale. After this brief emergence from over a decade of concealment, he vanishes again from the historical record, and nothing more is known of him or Whalley. The attack may never have taken place, but the legend remains.

None of the original buildings of Hadley survives (the oldest dates to 1713), but a marker stands on the spot of Rev. John Russell's house (the minister who supposedly sheltered Goffe and Whalley). I remember reading somewhere (I wish I could find it to cite!) that the footprint of Russell's house was once examined and an apparently secret room in his cellar was found. If this is true, then it would support strongly the assertion that Goffe and Whalley hid in Hadley from Charles II's agents.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Purpose of this Blog

Why am I writing this blog?

Let’s be clear: there may be an economic crisis of global scale and new house construction and existing house sales may be at their lowest levels in decades, but Hadley and the towns around it still are not immune from development pressures.

In fact, now may be the perfect time to advocate for conservation since the pressure to sell land and build houses has (temporarily) declined.

Hadley has been losing its rural character steadily since the 1970s, when the “economic corridor” along Route 9 was developed. A 1988 bylaw limiting the development of residential subdivisions in Hadley was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Judicial Court in 2004. The great housing boom of the 1990s and 2000s has scarred Hadley's character deeply. New construction may be down, but it is most likely temporary. Hadley’s historic rural character must be preserved for future generations.

There are many ways to get involved, such as donating (money or land) to a land trust, writing letters to politicians, and volunteering. All efforts have some impact. Future posts on this blog will highlight interesting parts of local history, problems this town and others nearby face today, and what has been, can, or should be accomplished on the preservation/conservation side.