Finding ourselves in this ‘lovely, quiet spot’

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

As always with our annual Labor Day festivities approaching, the time, energy, and commitment of those who make it all possible, exemplify the sense of community those of uswho live in Francestown cherish.

Historically, Francestown like many other rural communities in New Hampshire experienced a sharp decline in population during the early 19 th century with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. Many young people began to flock to the industrial cities along the Merrimack River seeking employment when the family farms could no longer sustain them. As a result, the loss of many members of the younger generation created not only a decline in population, but may also have caused a decline in the sense of community as families and friends became separated geographically.

In John Schott’s 1972 edition of Francestown’s history, his research suggested that the declining population and sense of community continued well into the 20th century. He felt this loss of community was exacerbated by the “… combination of social mobility and ease of transportation which fragmented both family and community by providing a wider geographical arena within which the townspeople could cultivate friendships, find employment, and obtain an education.” Schott believed that Francestown was, “… becoming de-organized and that as a result, the good conversation and social entertainment which had required organization and careful planning, not just a switch of a television dial in one’s living room, was lost.”

According to Schott, it was also quite possible that the ever increasing number of summer residents, as well as those who traveled to and through town for recreation, and who ultimately settled here, would compromise “Francestown’s excessive blessings.”

This would purportedly “lead to Francestown’s ruination by encouraging the intrusion of others whose very numbers might contravene the style of life which they had come here to find; and which present residents consider themselves and their forebears so privileged to have led in ‘this lovely, quiet spot.’”

Like many who live in Francestown, I am one of those who traveled through town for recreation and traveled to town for the same. My husband and I chose to retire in this ‘lovely, quiet spot’ for just those reasons. We have never been made to feel unwelcome nor like “disruptive invaders.”

But it is much more than the beauty of this location and the recreational opportunities that keep us here; it is the sense of community provided by the people we’ve come to know and continue to meet. Being able to walk into the library, choose a great book to read, and have animated and amusing conversations about the books I’ve just returned is a treat. Conversations at the library are always interesting; and if one has the time or inclination to engage in these lively discussions, one might learn something beyond the scope of the books selected. The time and effort it took to keep our library “in business” while it was being revamped, and engage the community to pitch in when needed is a testament to the library staff and Francestown’s sense of community. The jingle from the sitcom, ‘Cheers’ comes to mind each and every time I walk into Winslow’s Tavern. At the Inn, as at the library, there is always an opportunity for stimulating conversation and many laughs. The intimacy provided by the atmosphere there truly exemplifies the word inclusion. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and strangers alike all have the opportunity to chime in if they so desire.

Prior to its closure, by merely walking into the Village Store I found myself discussing a variety of different topics, and ultimately forgetting what I meant to purchase. It has been my experience in the nearly 20 years I’ve lived in Francestown, that the evolution of technology has definitely not replaced the art of conversation, but in many cases has enhanced it.

The social mobility and ease of transportation have allowed new people to move to Francestown while at the same time allowing those whose families have lived here for generations to continue to do so. The new residents bring the diversity of their experiences to the town and share them with those who were born and raised here. I believe it is this blend of the new, along with the experiences of those whose roots are deep, which creates and defines the unique character of our town; and provides each of us with a sense of community that enriches the lives of all who live in Francestown.

And as we celebrate our 100th Labor Day Parade this year, the time and energy involved in pulling together Francestown’s annual Labor Day weekend extravaganza is but one example among many which suggests there is a tremendous amount of “organization and careful planning” going on in our town. This event along with many other events happening regularly throughout the year, provide a variety of social, recreational, and educational forums for both young and old to enjoy. These community events allow residents and nonresidents alike to feel the sense of community which is alive and healthy here in town.

I think John Schott would be pleasantly surprised and very pleased to see that those of us who live here in Francestown, 45 years after his history of Francestown was first published, realize that there is a place in this community for each of us to give as well as receive its “excessive blessings.”

Deb McGrath is a Francestown resident.