Northfield memorials create ‘a collective memory’

  • President of the Northfield Historical Society Susan Ross gave a presentation Friday at the Northfield Senior Center about the town's historic monuments, many of which were dedicated during the 1897 Field Day meeting of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and the Northfield Village Improvement Society. The meeting program, featuring images of many of the monuments, is shown. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

  • Dickinson Memorial Library, located at 115 Main St. in Northfield, is one of the town’s historical memorial structures. RECORDER STAFF/SHELBY ASHLINE

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/26/2016 10:52:32 PM
Modified: 9/26/2016 10:52:22 PM

NORTHFIELD — For many travelers, Northfield’s historic monuments are just a part of the town’s scenery, nestled on the edge of picturesque cornfields and on rolling hilltops.

But Susan Ross, president of the Northfield Historical Society, explained the significance and stories behind the town’s monuments during a presentation at the Senior Center Friday morning.

“Memorials are important in a community because they create a collective memory,” she said. “Very often, the people who set up the memorials want future generations to know the struggles, to know what people sacrificed so we can live freely.”

Indeed, the town has had its share of struggles. During the presentation, which is this year’s sixth installment of the Senior Center’s “This is Your Town” breakfast series, Ross said many of the monuments are dedicated to residents who died during the French and Indian War.

For example, a monument on Millers Falls Road represents where Capt. Richard Beers and his 36 mounted soldiers were ambushed by 150 Native Americans in 1675. On South Mountain Road, another monument marks Beers’ burial place, as he was killed in the attack.

Often, Ross said, a memorial’s language can be as telling as the historical facts, as past generations spoke differently and used different words than those commonly used today.

“Reading the inscription on memorials is a window into how people thought at the time,” she said.

Other memorials commemorate more joyous occasions, like the construction of Northfield’s first settlement fort or the dedication of a community meeting place, both in 1673. The first public religious services in town were held at the meeting point, a cluster of oak trees on lower Main Street, and while the last oak tree burned down in 1869, the memorial remains as a permanent reminder.

Larger memorials include the Dickinson Memorial Library and Schell Memorial Bridge.

Ross invites residents to consider what historic moments they would like to see memorialized and preserved for future generations.


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