Vol. IV No. 6 3/15/2023
Editorial: Making a Village
Where there was land available, people came. Where there was clean water to drink, moving water for power, and arable soil, people stayed. It was a beautiful land but unforgiving.
In 1749, a traveler described it as, "A wilderness of forty miles on the east, a wood of twenty miles on the west, and a great and terrible wilderness on the north which reaches Canada."
Between the vast stretches of dark and uninhabited land were tiny settlements. They lived close together to watch over and help one another. They were a hardy and resourceful people and yet they were a settlement not an incorporated village.
To incorporate, that is, to be self-governing, collect taxes, and be given a name, the General Court in Boston had requirements. From day one, there were absentee owners and settlers, but the Court required more settlers. On every land grant, the Court demanded acres be cleared and cultivated, so, there had to be enough year-round residents to work the land.
The General Court required that the people come together, and as a cooperative body with pooled resources, build roads, a village square with meetinghouse and school. Only then could they apply for incorporation. Sheffield was the first to be incorporated in 1733. In 1739, Stockbridge was the second.
Unmaking A Village
We live in interesting times. We are presiding over the undoing of all the original requirements. No one need argue that change is inevitable and as times change so must we. We know that. Still the moment is worthy of a pause to consider, a nod to the inevitable, and a doff of the hat to what was.
We gave up our school to regionalization and are regionalizing town services. We are 60% part-timers. We built affordable housing in clusters away from the unaffordable — separating neighbors.
There is a coming apart as folks form closed email/chat groups. The real tragedy is that anyone in the group who shares the emails with anyone outside the group is called a traitor. In that way, neighbors become combatants. We are too small to absorb all that and survive. Heck the United States of America is too small.
There are problems to solve. There are many ideas. On whichever side of whatever issue, those so convinced they are right that they can push, and secretly plot, will do more harm than good, because, win or lose, it really, truly, is how you play the game.
Settling this land required strength and ingenuity — we need both now.
Photo: Lionel Delevingne