Tuesday, August 3, 2010

ON HOME ~ What I've Learned About My Adopted Hometown...

A while ago Tami of Just One More Thing -blogger friend, librarian and wife of a grain elevator operator - shared a few days in the life of her family during wheat harvesting season which I found to be extremely interesting. It got me to thinking about how all of us in the blogosphere hail from all corners of this Earth. What may seem common knowledge and boring, everyday happenstance to me could be very interesting to you out there from some entirely different region of the world.

I happen to live in a historically rich area of the United States. A place where many of our current rights and freedoms were born and fought for. The oldest spots of the USA are found near our home. Our house is older than cities throughout the country. This is something I often take for granted until I travel somewhere else and get a chuckle over how "old" some cities are. Then again, I suppose people in Europe have a real belly laugh when they see Bostonians and Philadelphians touting their age.

The weather, personality and cross section of New England is very different than other places of course. So I thought it might be interesting to share small tastes of our town with you here and there. I find Natick, MA (pronounced NAY-tick) to be quite friendly and vibrant. Natick is a big rival of Andy's hometown of Walpole just a few towns away. So he is conflicted when the two high schools meet up for competition. Natick recently bowed to political correctness and changed their high school team name from the "Redmen" to the "Red & Blue" (which I personally find to be very lame and awkward).

Natick is an Indian word, meaning "Place of Searching" according to the Native American Indian Tribe based here. It has also been defined as meaning "Place of Many Hills." Natick was founded in 1651 as the first praying Indian village - meaning it was a safe place for local Indians to gather who had converted to Christianity under Puritan missionary and Englishman, Rev. John Eliot.

The spot of their church now holds the Unitarian Eliot Church and is right down the street from our old apartment when we re-located to South Natick a few months before our wedding. It looks very much like a classic New England church with an old cemetery. I had no idea until now that it was originally a place for native Indians to worship. Their services were called not by church bells but by drums. Rev. Eliot worked for several years to translate the Bible into the language of the Natick Massachusett tribe and it became the first printed Bible in America.

The King Phillip War rounded up all the Indians in Natick Praying Village and sent them off to Boston's Harbor Islands where most of them perished. Rev. Eliot continued to support them and eventually brought survivors home after King Phillip's death. The Natick Praying Indian people still have a foothold in this community and like all Native Americans, they are conflicted. However, these particular Praying Indians are looked upon differently by their Native American people because they have Christian beliefs, but are also looked upon differently by the descendants of their former captors - the white people who converted their beliefs and then shunned them altogether.

All this time I thought of Natick as the home of NFL star and Boston College "Hail Mary" champion quarterback/Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie. I knew that it was home to the first baseball factory. And I know that it is a part of the Boston Marathon's route. But I had no idea it was created as a place for Indians converting to Christianity to gather under their own culture and government. I had no idea it was home to a shoemaker turned Vice President - Henry Wilson, under Grant's administration. And to continue the Civil War theme, I found it interesting to learn that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" author Harriet Beecher Stowe's husband grew up in Natick and she based several of her other stories on her time here in the summer with his family.

As I explore more of our town and share images and stories with you in its modern state, I'll keep my eye on the historical foundation too. Living only 15 miles west of Boston, you get used to the American Revolution seeds and sites all around you. Which shows how easy it is to overlook other stepping stones in this region's (and the country's) history.

What do you know about your town's history? Ever considered sharing it with all of us?


Matty said...

The entire area around Boston is full of American history. It doesn't surprise me that your town has it's own stories to tell. I've always had an interest in American history and I like to think I know my fair share. But here I am learning something new about Natick.

The area I grew up in has it's share of roots, both from the Revolutionary and Civil war eras. And of course, the ladder found resting against the wall of the Lindbergh house after the kidnapping, was made right here.

Unknown said...

What a great history your town has. We're practically neighbors, and I had no idea about any of that. But you've given me an idea about writing up brief town histories for the cities and towns in RI for the iheartrhody blog. There's only 39 of them, after all. Great job!

stacybuckeye said...

Great post! I love the history of places. It's what I loved most about our two trips to Europe.
Being so close to Boston (I've never been but when I was in my early teens I decided I wanted to move there because I loved the Celtics) I imagine the area is rich with stories. Thanks for sharing some of them with us. I might have to do this for Cleveland. Surprisingly it has a very rich history too.

Margot said...

I REALLY enjoyed this post Molly. These are all the facts of our various hometowns that I find so interesting. You brought out the good as well as the bad and I like that. As my husband and I have traveled around we like to visit the little museums in towns. They are usually full of information about a place that's not found in books. I'll have to do the same thing on my blog. I've lived so many places that I don't know which one to pick.

Sandy Nawrot said...

You are definitely living in one of the coolest places in the country, history wise. Probably more going on there than you could fit into ten posts (hmmm...emergency post ideas!). Our town is all about Disney...he pretty much made us. But interestingly, there is some less known stuff ala Zora Neale Hurston that is really interesting. I may pursue this angle at some point. Great post!

kayerj said...

that was very interesting and well written. all of your historical information was new to me.

Janet said...

such an interesting insight to Natick! I always thought of it as the town a former boyfriend lived in...he was in a band and loved to go shopping for girl's clothing to wear onstage LOL!

Tami said...

Love this post. The history of towns here on the plains starts 100+ years later than yours - my home town celebrated their centennial in the late 1960's/early 70's. A tour of New England historical sites is on our empty nest to-do list.

Thanks for the plug. I hope more bloggers will follow your lead and share what is unique about where they live.