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Rindge

REVEALING PORTRAITS OF THE PAST

Revolutionary War: Rindge resident’s past comes to life on film

  • Filming for Revolutionary Voices at the Rindge Meetinghouse<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Filming for Revolutionary Voices at the Rindge Meetinghouse<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Filming for Revolutionary Voices at the Rindge Meetinghouse<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Filming for Revolutionary Voices at the Rindge Meetinghouse<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Filming for Revolutionary Voices at the Rindge Meetinghouse<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Filming for Revolutionary Voices at the Rindge Meetinghouse<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Filming for Revolutionary Voices at the Rindge Meetinghouse<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)
  • Filming for Revolutionary Voices at the Rindge Meetinghouse<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Alyssa Dandrea)

Unearthing the journals, photographic portraits and prized possessions of the young adults who fought in the American Revolution has led a group of New England filmmakers on an unforeseen and yet rewarding journey into the past. And at the center of their discovery is a Rindge man whose abundance of wartime possessions now tell a story all their own.

For more than 10 years, historian Maureen Taylor of Providence, R.I., has been in search of rare Revolutionary War portraits of people who lived during the conflict and survived into the photographic age. With Cambridge-based Verissima Productions, Taylor is now working to bring the stories of more than 200 revolutionaries to life.

Among them is Revolutionary War Sgt. Eleazer Blake who enlisted at just 18 years old and fought through the duration of the war. Blake was born in Wrentham, Mass., but after the war he moved to Rindge, where he raised a family and earned a living as a wheelwright and farmer.

In late February, the Verissima production team began seeking donations through an online Kickstarter campaign in order to begin shooting “Revolutionary Voices: A Last Muster Film.” As of April 10, they hoped to raise $27,500 — a goal they exceeded by more than $3,000 thanks to 416 donors.

The success of the campaign has since allowed the filmmakers to return to Rindge and Fitzwilliam, where last week they spent 12 hours on the trail of Blake and his descendents. In the film, Taylor interviews local historians, including Ken Raymond of Rindge and Terri Sillanpaa of Fitzwilliam, both of whom have extensively researched the Blake family.

The filmmakers will use the footage to create a professional trailer they will use to seek more funding to complete “Revolutionary Voices,” Content Director Pam Cooper said on scene at the First Congregational Church in Rindge on May 14. The trailer will include Blake’s story, as well as the stories of two other revolutionaries: a free-born African American and a Quaker woman.

“The film will primarily be a documentary with a good dash of reality TV,” said Director Rob Cooper of Verissima Productions. “We work in the present tense to show Maureen on the trail and in search of these photographs.”

And the filmmakers are keeping some exciting new discoveries they’ve learned of during a recent location scouting from Taylor, only to later reveal them to her while the cameras are rolling.

At the Fitzwilliam Historical Society last week, Taylor said she was shocked to learn that the original photograph of Blake lay tucked away at the society’s museum . She said she only knew of reproductions on display at the Rindge Historical Society and had been searching for the original for a couple of years.

“It is always great to find the daguerreotype,” Taylor said of the first commercially successful photographic process in which a direct positive is made in the camera on a silvered copper plate. “Often times they’ve been misplaced or mislabeled.”

Through the course of her work over the past decade, Taylor said she’s learned of many more daguerreotypes of revolutionaries from people who have either read the first of her two-part book series, “The Last Muster: Images of the Revolution” or heard about the film.

Blake’s bible and wooden cane, which local historians say is made of either pitch pine or chestnut with an ivory handle, are also a part of Fitzwilliam’s collection. Blake is holding the cane in his portrait, which makes the artifact even more sacred, according to Sillanpaa.

The original photograph of Blake, as well as other artifacts, were passed down through the generations and eventually purchased by the founders of the Fitzwilliam Historical Society at an auction in the 1960s, said Sillanpaa.

Blake’s grandson, Amos J. Blake, purchased a house in Fitzwilliam in 1865 and set up the front rooms in the home to use as a law office. The house was inherited by his son, Leroy, and remained in the Blake family until 1966 when it was gifted to the historical society.

“The Blake family members did live long lives and were quite accomplished,” Sillanpaa said. “When you have roots that go that far back it’s important, especially in a growing country.”

Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 228 or adandrea@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @alyssadandrea.

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