In June 2021, we travelled to Massachusetts to meet with several of my Colby College friends and their spouses. Our 50th college reunion had been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the Covid pandemic. But we were all vaccinated, healthy and feeling safe if we followed precautions.
Our destination was the 300-year-old Old Wayside Inn in Sudbury, Mass. This State (1967) and National (1973) Historic Landmark and Historic District. It was first established in 1716 as an Inn along the Old Post Road. It is now the oldest inn operating in the United States, nestled in the center of an idyllic 100-acre property that is pure New England countryside. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the tales that made the Wayside Inn famous (1863).
The food was outstanding as were our walks along the grounds. Nine other historic buildings are preserved there, including a Grist Mill (which still makes cornmeal and flour); the Martha-Mary Chapel; one-room red school house (believed to be of Mary Had a Little Lamb fame); three period style museum rooms with objects related to colonial life in a rural farming community, artifacts of the How family who managed the inn from the 1600s to 1861. It was called How’s Inn or Red Horse Tavern, in deference to its logo and became The Wayside Inn in 1863 after Longfellow published his tales. It was purchased in 1897 by Edward Rivers Lemon, a wool merchant who set out to operate the inn as a “retreat for literary pilgrims” and a mecca for artists.
In 1923 Henry Ford bought the inn, and surrounding acreage. Shortly before his death in 1946 it was placed into a non-profit with a Board of Trustees made up of Ford family members. The property transitioned away from the family and now is managed by a nonprofit organization by the Ford family to be preserved for posterity.
On our second day of the mini-reunion, Debbie Hawks Kelly, a native of Concord Mass, arranged a tour of the Minuteman National Historical Park. Among the highlights where we stopped for picture-taking was the Minuteman Statue, perhaps one of the country’s most recognizable. Here we find Revolutionary history. The Minute Man is prominently located at west side of the North Bridge crossing the Concord River, the site where 500 militiamen defeated three companies of British soldiers.
The statue is an 1874 sculpture of a farmer-soldier in three-cornered hat and carrying a musket in his right hand and touching a plow with his left, was created by Daniel Chester French. French was a relatively inexperienced artist who live in Concord, at the time. French went on to create many other famous figures such as the figure in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC., the Melvin Memorial in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, seated John Harvard at Harvard University, the equestrian statue of Joseph Hooker at the Massachusetts State Capitol and one of Commodore George H. Perkins at the New Hampshire State House, The Longfellow Memorial in Cambridge, Wendall Phillips in Boston Public Garden, and Head of Victory at Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mass.
The statue was commissioned in 1871 by the Town of Concord for $1,000 (from a bequeath of Ebenezer Hubbard) to replace a granite obelisk which was moved. Originally intended to be made of stone, and loosely based on the Apollo Belvedere statue, French’s clay model was cast in plaster, sent to the Ames Foundry in Chicopee, Mass and cast in bronze from melted down Civil War cannon.
It was unveiled at the centennial celebration) April 19, 1875) with President Ulysses S. Grant, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Ralph Waldo Emerson in attendance.
The seven-foot-high granite base has carved the first stanza of Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” for the 200th anniversary celebration.
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood,
And fired the shot heard round the world.
Following a bomb-threat, a mold of the statue was commissioned in 1975 by the National Park Service to Cascieri and diBaccari Studio of Boston as a precaution against loss, destruction or other harm. However, the mold was never created; rather, plaster of paris casts were made consisting of the torso and musket lock, as well as the plow are stored for safekeeping. Smaller casted pieces include the musket butt, barrel, hands and other items.
A similar figure is found in Lexington, Mass known as the Lexington Minuteman stands at the town green. It is the creation of Henry Hudson Kitson and was installed in 1990 at the 125th anniversary of the battle.
The Army National Guard, considered citizen soldiers, like the minutemen, sought to duplicate the minuteman statue from the casts by making a silicon mold and to place it at the National Guard Joint Force Headquarters at Defense Supply Center Richmond, Virginia. The town of Concord turned down this request because they felt it would weaken the strong bond between the statue, the place, and the singular battle. Broader use of the symbol would be inappropriate. Instead, a different statue was made, modeled on a guardsman and unveiled on May 14, 2018.