HISTORIC NEW ENGLAND
TRAVEL BACK TO A SIMPLER TIME...
The mountains and lakes, rivers and bays, cities, towns, and villages of New England have always been a favorite of travelers, and from the early days of America people have explored the New England landscape and enjoyed its scenic beauty.
NewEnglandTowns.org brings together historic accounts of New England places that not only tell us about times gone by, but also offer hints and revelations for the modern visitor. Searching for a scenic getaway? Want to visit ancestral towns and villages in search of genealogy and family history? Looking for the best fall foliage? Like the bustle of city life? Or cottages overlooking the ocean? Need a place nearby for an inexpensive "staycation"? New England has had all these things and more for generations.
The historic descriptions brought together at NewEnglandTowns.org are fully-interlinked transcriptions from John Hayward's New England Gazetteer, published in Boston in 1839 and for many years one of the most popular reference works in New England. Hayward capitalized on the growing commercial consciousness of America, and his Gazetteer educated the citizens of the new republic about their history, landscape, population, geography, and commercial potential. Travel back in time with John Hayward and see what early America was like.
How much do you know about historic New England?
- What town is the birthplace of celebrated mathematician Zerah Colburn?
- Where did the celebrated Methodist preacher George Whitefield die?
- What town yielded 2000 pounds of trout in a season?
- Where would you find the headwaters of the Cumberland and Oxford canal?
- What town manufactured linen as fine as any imported from Ireland?
- Where was the distinguished stateman Rufus King born?
- Off what point of land in Rhode Island are you likely to get a bit seasick?
- The factories of what New England town consumed 350 tons of barilla in one year?
- Where would you find a celebrated deposit of novaculite?
In presenting the public with a Gazetteer of New England, it has seemed proper to make a few introductory remarks of a general nature on the character of its inhabitants. They may with great propriety be called a peculiar people; and perhaps New England and Pennsylvania are the only parts of the new world, which have been colonized by a class of men, who can be regarded in that light. The whole of Spanish and Portuguese America was organized, under the direct patronage of the mother countries, into various colonial governments, as nearly resembling those at home as the nature of the case admitted. The adventurers who sought their fortune beyond the sea, in those golden tropical regions, carried the vices and the virtues with the laws and manners of their native land, along with them, and underwent no farther change than was unavoidably incident to the new physical and political condition in which they were placed in America. The same remark, with nearly the same force, may be made of the Virginia colonists: they differed from Englishmen at home in no other way, than a remote and feeble colony must of necessity differ from a powerful metropolitan state. Pennsylvania was settled by a peculiar race; but its peculiarity was of that character which eventually exhausts itself; and would speedily perish but for an amalgamation, necessary though uncongenial, with the laws, the manners, and institutions of the world. If all mankind were Friends they might subsist and prosper. A colony of Friends, thrown upon a savage shore and environed by hostile influences from foreign and colonial establishments, would perish, if not upheld by forces and principles different from its own. In the settlers of New England alone we find a peculiar people;—but at the same time a people whose peculiarity was founded on safe practical principles; reconcilable with the duties of life; capable of improvement in the progress of civilization, and of expanding into a powerful state, as well as of animating a poor and persecuted colony.
Had not America been discovered and a tract upon our continent reserved for English colonization;—nay, further, had it not been precisely such an uninviting spot as furnished no temptation to men of prosperous fortunes, the world would have lost that noble development of character which the fathers of New England exhibit. A tropical climate would have made it uninhabitable to Puritans; or rather would have filled it up with adventurers of a different class. A gold mine would have been a curse to the latest generation. Had the fields produced cotton or sugar, they would not have produced the men whom we venerate as the founders of the liberties of New England.
To say that the fathers of New England were not faultless, is merely to say that they were men; to say that they established no institutions, the object of which was to bind the consciences of their successors is praise as just as it is high. If they adhered with undue tenacity to their own opinions, and failed in charity towards those who differed, they at least left their posterity free, without the attempt to secure before hand the control of minds in other ages by transmitted symbols and tests. Humanity mourns over the rigors practised towards Roger Williams, the Quakers, and the unhappy persons suspected of witchcraft; but let it not be forgotten that, as late as 1749, a witch was executed at Wurzburg, and that even in 1760 two women were thrown into the water in Leicestershire, in England, to ascertain by their sinking or swimming whether they were witches. Above all, it may deserve thoughtful enquiry, before we condemn the founders of New England, whether a class of men less stern in their principles and austere in their tempers, could have accomplished, under all the discouragements that surrounded them, against all the obstacles which stood in their way, the great work to which Providence called them,—the foundation of a family of republics, confederated under a constitution of free representative government. There is every reason to believe, great and precious as are the results of their principles, hitherto manifested in the world, that the quickening power of those principles will be more and more displayed, with every leaf that is turned in the book of Providence.