Greenfield’s most infamous characters to feature in upcoming history book

  • Henry Atwood lands his homemade plane on the White House lawn in 1911. Courtesy image—

  • Yankee Siege's trebuchet tosses a VW Beetle. Courtesy image—

  • The Greenfield Historical Society building. Courtesy image—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 6/3/2021 12:08:44 PM

The Greenfield Historical Society is fundraising to write a book focusing on the town’s most famous and infamous residents throughout history, with the working title “Shocking but True: Revealing Stories of Greenfield’s Unknown History”.

“We’ve got all these stories about all these characters in town, some are quite funny, and others are quite mysterious, or quite scandalous,” organizer Amy Lowell said. “But nobody knows about them except for us.”

A new history book highlighting some of Greenfield’s more intriguing characters seemed like a good solution for a number of issues facing the historical society, Lowell said. The town’s last history was published in 1977, she said, and it’s a bit of a dry read. “If you grew up in Greenfield, you might find some of it interesting,” she said, but there was certainly room for more exciting ways to present the bizarre, scandalous, suspenseful, and mysterious stories in the archives.

One goal of the book is to aggregate and digitize information that currently only lives in residents’ memories, or in the newspaper clippings, letters, and family photo albums in the GHS archives, Lowell said, delicate paper documents that only the directors can currently access. Another goal is to stir up interest among younger generations. “Like most nonprofits, we rely on volunteers,” Lowell said, and most current members are over 60 years old. The book’s tone is intended to appeal to children and adults, she said. 

Featured colorful characters include Harry Atwood, who landed a homemade biplane on the White House lawn in 1911 and had lunch with President Taft, former USDA Chief Botanist Dr. Fredrick V. Colville, who cultivated high bush blueberries on Crotched Mountain and  was responsible for most of today’s commercial varieties, as well as some current residents, such as Steve Seigars, Yankee Siege trebuchet visionary. Also included are lesser-known stories about eccentric inventors, a con artist who faked his own death, gold seekers, murderers, thieves, train robberies, whose stories all played out in Greenfield. Board members intend to write and self-publish the book, Lowell said. There’s potential for multimedia components in the future, such as video interviews with residents with firsthand accounts, or folklore they’d heard in their time around town, she said. At some point, the Greenfield Historical Society will reach out to residents for input, in hopes of corroborating stories and presenting as accurate a narrative as they can, she said.

The book project is featured in next week’s 24-hour NH Gives online fundraising event, which runs from June 8 at 5 p.m. to June 9 at 5 p.m. Donations to “GreenfieldNHHistoricalSociety” via the nhgives.org website will go to the book’s publication.


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