I woke up early this morning to the sound of a train passing through the valley. The roar of the engines and the whistle as it passed through Charlemont sounded as if it was right in the center of town. It’s a common phenomenon – when the wind is just right it sounds as if you could walk to the tracks.
It made me think of a time in Rowe’s history when people were almost completely dependent on the railroad for travel or commerce. Summer visitors would board the train in Chicago or Boston to come to Rowe to take in the fresh air. The visits were long and quite relaxing I’m sure. Many households took in boarders, some enterprising individuals build cabins or camps to accommodate vacationers. Other families built or bought homes that were only used in the summer months.
There were people in town with a good horse and buggy that would drive to Zoar to pick visitors up for their stay or residents coming back from bringing butter to North Adams to sell. Arrangements were made and the train was on schedule. It was a slow motion Uber if you will.
Summer is the most glorious of times on Fort Pelham Farm. It’s lush and green. The gardens are in full bloom and the birds sing you awake in the morning. You can take a little walk and see all sorts of wild animals – some visit that aren’t always as welcome (bears) but are still a thrill to see. It’s not just Fort Pelham Farm though, a drive about town gives a sense of why people want to come here. It’s slower, cleaner, calmer.
There are still spots in town where you get a glimpse of what was once great views of the valley. Diaries speak of taking walks in the evening up the road by my house to take in the sunset. There are photographs of these vistas.
The cool brooks and pools were always a welcome spot on a hot day and people took advantage of not just the big pond but those little ponds scattered about town as well.
There was a big difference between the people in town working everyday of the year and the summer people arriving in June to wile away the summer months. I always fancy myself as a visitor sitting in the gardens, picking fruit as it came in. Reading a book, playing croquet or lawn tennis, eating a meal that someone else has grown and prepared.
These are the photographs we see at the museum. The pictures of people relaxed and enjoying their days here. There are very few taken in the winter and fewer still of the day to day life in the very early 20th century here. Photographs, especially of a candid nature, were more of a luxury. We are fortunate to have the collection we do at the historical society. It gives a small glimpse into what we all know to be a most wonderful time of the year even if we don’t get to ride a train to get here.