FORUM FOR IDEAS & DEBATE… The discussions in this section are personal expressions and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of FORUM for Historic Harvard unless expressly presented as such by one of its Officers.  (Click on FOREWORD to read more)

Our Shaker Biographies…

DSCF1922I was delighted to hear from Roben Campbell this morning and to learn that she is continuing her important work of writing the short biographies of those Shakers who are buried in our Shaker Cemetery.

This is also a good time to remind everyone of the Shaker Cemetery map that we have here on our FORUM website. You may find it under our QUICK LINKS (in the sidebar) as “Shaker Burial Map and Biographies”. Here’s how it works.


Karen Dolimount (left), artist who painted the reproduction of the old Cemetery sign, and Pat Pesa (right), the Scout who fabricated the reproduction of the old cemetery gate in 2015. That was his Eagle Scout project.

If you go to the Shaker Burial Map and Biographies, you will find “OUR HARVARD SHAKERS:  their life stories” and the Shaker Burial Map showing the names of the Shakers and their burial locations.

Roben is in the process of writing the short biographies for each Shaker. Those that already have their biographies are shown in bold dark red.

Check it out. It is amazing!

Harvard History in Local Cable Videos

logoJust a brief posting to let everyone know of a meeting that took place yesterday in the Curator’s Quarters of the Historical Society. The meeting was triggered by a call from Bill Johnson a couple of weeks ago, who asked if I could touch base with Anya Zulawnik, the Technical Director for our Harvard Cable TV Committee and arrange an orientation for her on the resources that may be available on the town’s local history.

I thought the best thing I could do would be to include Judy Warner of the Historical Society in our meeting so that we could talk about the Society’s vast collection of artifacts and historical documentation. That meeting occurred yesterday, September 25, at the Curator’s Quarters of the Historical Society.

We asked Anya to describe what the HCTV Committee was looking to do and what kind of help they might need. Anya explained that the Committee, which operates Harvard’s Local Channel broadcasting facility in the basement of the Bromfield High School, wants to broaden its program for the production of videos on local history. This program would involve local volunteers as well as the students from our local schools. They hope to include all aspects of the production including screen play, narration, videography and still photography, etc.

Between Judy and I, we summarized for Anya the gist of Harvard history and its wealth of interesting characters and events including its Shaker history, the Fruitlands Museum, Fort Devens and its relationship with the town during the World Wars and other topics including the history of the Bromfield School itself. We thought perhaps the best way to begin the program would be with a video on the history of the Harvard Common and its early residents as narrated by Miss Scorgie who played a very important role many years ago with her program of walking tours of Harvard.

Judy walked Anya through the Society’s Museum and talked about the Society’s photograph collection which will be an important resource in the production of the videos.

Our consensus was that we can probably help Anya by first preparing a list of candidate video projects and then see what sort of help she would need to make those projects happen.

It was a very optimistic and exciting meeting.



250th Harvard Anniversary Committee

Just looking at the people in this photo sends me on a nostalgic high that brings back so many stories of the good times and their accomplishments. Most of us today are very familiar with them; some have left us but thank God, many are still with us today.

If you don’t know who some of these personalities are, ask around. They are all well-known. These are some of the people on whose shoulders we are riding today.


Just received a note from Judy Warner regarding their plans for a program on ‘HARVARD HISTORY AND THE RAILROADS” by Ed Sterling.

The event will be on Thursday June 14th, 7:00 p.m.

Still River Meetinghouse,  215 Still River Road, Harvard MA 01451

More information/ photos? –contact  


Ed Sterling

Harvard History and the Railroads


Join us at the Harvard Historical Society Still River Meeting House for an armchair train trip on the Central Mass Railway and the Worcester /Nashua Railway line through Still River, Harvard Depot, and on to Ayer during the heyday of train travel.  We will witness the construction of the Clinton Dam and explore the Sudbury Ammunition Bunkers of WW2.  Ed Sterling has studied the railroad system for over 20 years and will share images from his  collection of maps and photos, bringing the era of railroads to life.  Harvard’s history changed with the coming of the railroad.

Free,  $5.  donation appreciated, refreshments and conversation to follow the program.

The Walking Trail to the Springhouse gets a trim.

One of the most interesting trails in the Conservation Commission’s suite of trails is the Shaker Spring House trail off of Old Littleton Road at Greenhill Road. It is a short but very historic trail. Its focal point is of course the Shaker Spring House that was constructed by the Shakers around 1855 when Harvard experienced a severe drought. The Spring House provided crystal-clear water for the Shaker community; water the Shakers claimed was the reason for the Shakers’ prolonged lives. (A majority of Shakers died in their 90’s according to their headstones at the Shaker Cemetery). In fact, one of the Shakers’ largest businesses was selling and distributing the water throughout the country.

(PBS produced a short segment on the Harvard Shakers and their fine water. Here is a posting that I wrote on that experience. It includes the video that was produced by PBS.)

DSCF4776Miss Scorgie who famously created and organized a set of historical “Walks around Harvard, included this trail on her list of walks.  The Historical Commission and the Historical Society in the past have organized walks to the Spring House to tell its story. They will be glad to hear that the trail to the Shaker House has been trimmed and cleaned up. It is easy to walk and is very safe for those not accustomed to the wilderness.

The wilderness around the trail gets overgrown from time to time and requires a little maintenance. I received a call from my friend Carl Sciple inviting me to join him to clear the trail to the Spring House. Carl was recently appointed to the Conservation Commission and so this is one of his first projects.

Today was actually our second session to work on the trail. In addition to cutting shrubs and trees, there is also the need to replace some of the trail markers with new ones to make sure that the trail is clearly marked. With those markers, you don’t have to be a hiker with several hundred miles of Appalachian Trail experience in order to find your way around this trail.

The trail is short as shown on the map above and it is easy to navigate. The Conservation Commission uses yellow markers to mark this particular trail along with other ‘arrow’ markers to make the direction of the trail clear.

Here are some photos of our session today. Thanks Carl for inviting me along. It was total fun.

(Click on the photos to expand. You may also download and save the photos on your computer by right-clicking on each photo and select ‘Save As’.) Photos by J. Theriault. Photos are donated to the public domain.

As a postscript, I just heard from another friend, Marc Sevigny who made me aware of his website in which he presents the rich treasure of trails that we have in Harvard. These are made possible by the Harvard Conservation Trust and the Harvard Conservation Commission along with some very talented volunteers.   Here is the link to Marc’s site:

While we are at it, here is the Harvard Conservation Trust on the subject of our trails:    The Harvard Conservation Commission references the Harvard Conservation Trust on the subject of trails.


It Always Comes Down to Money…


The Harvard Elementary School (HES) Campus

Several times in the past, the FORUM has pointed to our town’s perennial shortcoming of not providing for the maintenance of our buildings, historical or otherwise. One of the reasons perhaps may be that we continue to spend huge amounts of money to restore or replace our buildings. The current such project is the Harvard Elementary School (HES).

While I love to talk about historical preservation and facilities maintenance, I am no expert on finance. But fortunately, we have a few notable town citizens who are. One who came to my attention recently when I was struggling with designing a complex database, is Mark Buell. Mark publishes a personal blog titled “Mark G Buell – an occasional crow”.  Mark posted a superbly developed article a few weeks ago titled “A NO Vote on the new Hildreth School“.  It’s about a 30 minute read.

The article is well-reasoned and develops the argument as to why the town should ask our Building Committee to try again. I highly recommend Mark’s post to your reading as preparation for our next Town Meeting.

Support your Historical Society

A very special group of town citizens quietly work every month to preserve our collection of historic artifacts and our town history. In their dedication to our town, they work as volunteers without compensation. Please consider joining their ranks if only to support them with your annual membership fee but also to actively join them in their work if you can. Recently, the Society sent us yet another reminder of their work in historic preservation:  a letter from Charles Sprague to his sister, Miss Sarah Sprague, part of a series on their collection titled

“Dear Sister: Letters from the Civil War”. 

20180320 Letters from Civil War

Charles Sprague served two separate stints in the Union Army, from 1862 to 1863 as a private, and  in 1864 with the rank of full corporal.  The Historical Society has a collection of letters he wrote  home to his sister during the earlier part of the war.   ” Mr. Sprague lived for many years in Harvard on the Ayer road (313 Ayer Road)  and was widely known in this section. After selling his farm, which he had conducted during his residence there, he went to Rochester, N. Y. where In November, 1910, he was united in marriage to Ida V. Campbell. He had made his home there until his death.” He was 73 and had never been married. She was only 38 and had been married once before.  Charles died in 1914.  He is buried in Bellevue Cemetery.
Information in quotes from the obituary of Charles Sprague.
20180320 charles sprague letter

Here is the transcription of this excerpt:

“Suffolk, VA   Feb 6th, 1863

Dear Sister

It being rainy today i would write you a few lines in answer to your letter which I received last week. We had quite a snow storm here this week about six inches fell but it is about all gone now. We were paid off last week for two months. it made the boys feel pretty happy. some of them have been without money for some time. I sent home twenty dollars by the Capt.  he has gone home on a furlough of ten days. We expect to be paid off again before long.  I suppose you have seen an account of the fight we had…”

Become a member and support the Harvard Historical Society:

We are a nonprofit organization and do not receive any town funding; all our operations are made possible by our members

just go to the members page on our website or mail a check to Box 542, Harvard MA 01451
You can use Paypal or download a membership form: all contributions are tax deductible

Harvard Historical Society
Box 542 Harvard MA 01451
215 Still River Road
978 456 8285