Helping to preserve Shrewsbury’s history
By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Erik Larson, president of the Shrewsbury Historical Society, believes he inherited his passion for history from his mother.
“My mom’s a teacher and she especially loves history,” Larson said. “We spent a lot of time going to places like Old Sturbridge Village, Mystic Seaport and historic Deerfield. My parents were excited by these places. And as a kid, I got interested, too.”
But Larson became particularly interested at about age 10, when his mother took him to an attraction closer to home.
“I took a tour of the Artemas Ward House [in Shrewsbury],” he said. “I remember my mother telling me that he was the first commander-in-chief of the continental forces. At that age, it was like, ‘Wow! This happened right in our hometown.’”
Understanding the impact history can have on children, Larson dressed in period clothing and visited third-graders at Paton Elementary School last school year.
“I talked at Paton School with a PowerPoint presentation, showing lots of the old buildings in town and explained Artemas Ward to them,” he said. “Also, every year in June, we have all the third-graders in town come to the society. Members give a brief lecture to the kids and take them on tour around the building.”
When visiting the third-graders, Larson showed them a beam he got from a historic Shrewsbury home that was recently demolished.
“Unfortunately, this year we’ve lost three homes from the 1700s to 1810,” he said of the demolished buildings. “I go and take as many photos as I can of them taking it down. I try to grab a piece of the structure.”
At its annual meeting in May, the Historical Society presented the Restoration and Preservation Award to Carl and Lisa Danielson.
“They have a beautiful house that was built around the late-1790s to 1800,” Larson said. “We wanted to recognize them for preserving another piece of Shrewsbury history.”
Also presented was the Spirit of Shrewsbury History Award, given this year to Paul Gustafson of Shrewsbury Public Access Cable for videotaping and airing the society’s monthly programs.
For the eighth year, Larson and other society members will portray some of the town’s historical figures in the “Walk Through History Tour,” to be held Saturday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 p.m. The rain date is Saturday, Sept. 22. The starting point is the society’s headquarters, the 1830 Brick Schoolhouse at the Town Common. The tour, which costs $5, will proceed to the Mountain View Cemetery.
This year, Larson will portray Henry Snow, a surveyor and mapmaker.
In character as Snow, Larson explained, “I surveyed a lot of the big properties in town around the 1820s, 1830s. I was the first person to successfully survey Lake Quinsigamond. And I made the first map of Shrewsbury in 1832.”
As part of the Spirit of Shrewsbury Fall Festival, the society will host an open house Saturday, Sept. 29, from 10 a.m. to noon. Larson will speak with a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation at 10:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. The presentation is titled “Stagecoach and Tavern Days of Shrewsbury.”
“Shrewsbury had over a dozen taverns at one time,” Larson said. “Levi Pease, the first to carry mail by stagecoach from Boston to New York, would come through Shrewsbury. A lot of times his first stop overnight was the Pease Tavern. The building is still there today and Selectman Jim Kane lives in it.”
The Shrewsbury Historical Society offers monthly programs September through May.
“We try to keep the history of Shrewsbury alive and pass it on to other generations, so they can appreciate their heritage,” Larson said.
For more information, visit shrewsburyhistoricalsociety.org.
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