Old Hawley Town Commons Redux

April 24, 2011 § 2 Comments

Last October, I wrote a piece on the Old Hawley Town Commons in Massachusetts.  Hawley is a tiny and sparsely populated township in the hills of Western Massachusetts. There isn’t more than 350 people in Hawley and there is no actual centre to the town, residents rely on neighbouring Charlemont for services.

The hills of Western Massachusetts are fascinating from an historical perspective, the landscape is dotted with abandoned homes and farmsteads. Up the hill from our home there, there is an ancient stone fence, designed to demarcate one farm from the next. Surrounding this fence is nothing but trees, there is no clearance, no evidence of there ever having been any agricultural, or for that matter, any human, activity there. At the bottom of our hill, there is an abandoned farmhouse, said to be haunted by the ghost of an old farmwife who lost her mind.

As I noted in October, when we think historically about the landscape, we tend to think of cities, of the archaeology of settlement and industry in urban centres. But the Old Hawley Town Commons reminds us that the wilderness also has stories to tell us. I am revisiting the Old Hawley Town Commons because of a comment I received on the October post from John Sears, the historian of the site. You can visit the website here, and you can take a virtual tour.

John also reports in his comment that:

Recently, the Sons & Daughters of Hawley received a new grant from MassHumanities to carry out an archeological dig at the site of the Sanford Tavern at Hawley’s Old Town Common in collaboration with Mohawk Trail Regional High School. Students from the school will participate in the dig under the supervision of an archeologist and a teacher. We hope to learn something new about life in Hawley 180 years ago!


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