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'Once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked
other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own
thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one
generation vanishing after another, gone as utterly as we ourselves
shall shortly be gone like ghosts at cockcrow.'
G. M. Trevelyan

'Here on the edge of the forest where the red man once held his dominion,
Roving the westering hills in the pride of his unbroken might,
Came long ago the pale faces, his brothers, seeking for freedom, adventure
New fields for his flocks, new hearth-fires to light.
List then to the stories of deeds that are bold and romantic; or simple and homely and kind,
Befitting the scions of sturdy New England; intrepid of spirit; high-hearted, untrammelled of mind.
Tales of the breaking of homelands, of winning a charter of rights,
Of traffic with Indian brother, road-building, house-raising
Days of grim toil against long winter nights.
Then in the pride of achievement grew the town to fairer proportions,
Cupped by the shadowing hills, and the far line of wooded lakeshore,
From the valley rose the church, school and tavern, music of anvils and mill-wheel.
Good cheer for the stranger, and largess of store.
Mark now the life of frugal yet prosperous household,
"Where dwelled no perfect man sublime,
Or woman winged before her time,
But with faults and follies of the race
Old home-bred virtues held their rare and not unhonored place."

But sharply breaking the harmonies, clashing with discord comes war,
Reddening the lowering hills in the lurid glow of its wake.
Guns toll like bells, sorrow unfathomed is borne in its train.
With hearts that refuse to be vanquished and spirits that know not surrender.
By the flame of liberty's torch and a vision no carnage can stain,
On pressed this people, our fathers, seeking for right and for justice,
Oft missing perfection, from failure and loss wresting gain.
Strenghtend by incoming stock from far nations, varied in gifts of mind and hand,
So through the passing of years shall we see them, while science and art fresh wonders unfold,
Until old orders changing, past merges in present,
Like dreams that are ended and tales that are told'
Josephine H. Batchelder, 1924. From Holliston, A Good Town by Joanne Hulburt
 


Some of my friends and family ask me; "so why is all of this important anyway? Why do you want to know all this stuff?"
Does it really matter who our great grandmother was, or that our great uncle served in the Revolutionary War?
Most of us living today would probably say that we feel as though our existence really doesn't make much of a difference in the general scheme of political events and history making achievements. We might say that our individual actions really don't amount to anything worthwhile.
Our ancestors probably felt as we do.
They did what they had to do to survive, to further their species and to please their God. They had no idea that their actions, their thoughts and their ideas, would change the world forever, and would today be called History.

 17th and 18th century America was a much smaller place. Families, neighbors, and friends migrated in groups to new locations, intermarried among themselves, made the laws and set the precedents that we live by today. Each individual's actions, like a ripple turning into a wave, affected their family, their community, their church, and ultimately their government. These individuals, our ancestors, directly or indirectly, were involved in every major event in American history. These same events would in turn eventually affect the rest of the world and how we now live our lives.

The individual did not realize how important he would become, how his life would affect all those who came after him. How his life would turn into our history. We need to understand the history in order to understand ourselves and why we are who we are, how far we have come, and where we might yet go.
Like our ancestor, we probably don't realize how our actions, our thoughts and our ideas may ultimately change the world.
Just as it was with our ancestors, what we do today, the lives we touch, will someday be another person's history.


"I've never been afraid of ghosts. I live with them daily, after all.
When I look in a mirror, my mother's eyes look back at me; my mouth curls with the smile that lured my great-grandfather
to the fate that was me.
No, how should I fear the touch of those vanished hands,
laid on me in love unknowing?
How could  I be afraid of those that molded my flesh,
leaving their remains to live long past the grave?
Still less could I be afraid of those ghosts who touch
my thoughts in passing.
Any library is filled with them.
I can take a book from dusty shelves, and be haunted
by the thoughts of one long dead,
still lively in their winding sheet of words.
Of course, it isn't these homely and accustomed ghosts that trouble sleep and curdle wakefulness.
Look back, hold a torch to light the recesses of the dark.
Listen to the footsteps that echo behind, when you walk alone.
All the time the ghosts flit past and through us,
hiding in the future.
We look in the mirror and see the shades of other faces looking back through the years; we see the shape of memory,
standing solid in an empty doorway.
By blood and by choice, we make our ghosts; we haunt ourselves."
Diana Gabaldon, Drums of Autumn, 1997



 
 

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