….An Evening in Old Town….
We have arrived at Old Town, and in particular the Congregational Church of North Attleborough, Mass. It is the end of the first day to the March to Boston, the march of Gratitude. It has been rather damp all day, a chill in the air, with the heavy mist that has coated the entire earth it seems, all about us. The evening’s dark is descending rapidly as we arrive at this place, we know it is almost winter, but the dark is almost a surprise. The wet surfaces of the road show the glare of the oncoming carriages as we alight from our own.
We have just returned from a quick carriage ride to the Slater’s Mill, in Pawtucket, RI, having dropped Norman off at his carriage. He will return in a while to join us in our presentation this evening.
We are met at the door by Ed Clavette, a robust man, of good and kind nature and strong hands. He motions us inside, as the door swings wide to accommodate our equipment…the sleeping gear, the flags, the clothing packs, the wet coats, etc. The warmth of the place is almost unsettling and stops me in my footsteps…a beautiful banner hangs upon the wall, announcing we are now in Old Town…a smile crosses my face as I also note a water closet within 10 feet of where I am standing, this, truly, is Heaven.
Well, perhaps not Heaven, but at the moment it will have to suffice. We quickly shed our damp clothing, visit the water closet and get the rest of our gear inside. It was an odd weather day, with a cold chill in the air and the insistent, but mild, rain of the afternoon. Were it spring time we would have called it a good soaking rain… but now? Well, let’s just say that I think we have another name for it today.
Ed sets about getting a boiling pot of water going for coffee or hot chocolate, our favorite beverages, I suspect, for this march. We enter into the ‘great room’ of the church building, a very large room, comfortably equipped with tables, and chairs, and deep sofas with pillows, and rugs. This is perhaps the most homelike church room I have ever been in. I note the children’s drawing on the walls and a wonderful Church Tree mural, crafted by the folks here, depicting the Tree of Growth of this Congregation, and others, from this First Congregational Church at North Attleborough, established in 1712.
As we are sitting and trying to get the chill out and get the dry in, in comes our gracious hostess, Corey. She is responsible for us being here…you see, the First Congregational is, this year, celebrating it’s 300th Anniversary, so, of course, it was only natural, that since we were walking by the Church doing our own 230th Anniversary March, we should stop in and rest awhile. We now have and are grateful for the invitation…
The Church starts to slowly fill up with members of the Congregation, carrying gifts. The gifts are the food that we shall soon be partaking of. Well, by golly, it is a good ole’ fashioned pot luck church supper, the bounty of which soon spreads across a couple of large tables… the menu too diverse to remember, or mention, other than to say, indeed, we all ate our fill. We have a moment to meet the Church pastor, the Rev. Kelly Thibeault, she of the big smile.
Animated conversation punctuates the table talk about… who we are, where are we going, why are we doing it…? We tried not to give it all away at the first. We have planned, on this march, to give presentations to those folks who were interested and assembled, anywhere we could get to. In this case it was but a short walk, from the warmth of the ‘great room’ to the Sanctuary of the Church. Before dinner was complete, Norman returned to join with us for the balance of the evening, and to help with the presentation.
Soon, the dishes were cleared away and we all moved into the Sanctuary of this place…and a marvelous sanctuary it is, of high colonial style, tall ceilinged, front stage and high alter place, with two large doors flanking the alter. It seems, in an earlier time, there was no sneaking in the rear door to get into the church during a service…if you came in late, everyone would see you. Oh my….
A bit erlioer in the evening, Pastor Kelly was good enough to share with me alok at some of the church artifacts that has been uncovered during several re-doings of the church, old locks and keys, religious artifacts, all nicely displayed in the rear of the sanctuary, under lock and key. Nothing of any real financial value, but certainly of limitless value to the congregation…these artifacts being a connection to the Church of 1712
We started our presentation, and we were able to keep most folks interested for some 90 minutes or more. We don’t work from a prepared script, we just let the evening’s conversation, and questions from the assembled, help take us along…we learn from the folks, they learn from us, fair trade we figure.
Soon enough, it was time for the folks to bid us good night, with many hearty wishes for our safety. The church was soon cleared and Mr. Ed, our ever present host and friend, bid us to set up our camp in the great room. Soon, the litter of four troops, and clothing, bedding, were spread about the ‘great room’, quickly turning it into looking like a comfortable barracks, indeed. Light’s out came early, we were to be on the road again in the morning. Norman has gone home, with a promise to meet us up road at some point in the near future
Morning came early, as David, Retired Navy Chief PO, and our resident roust em’ out person, got us up and moving. The church folks had also been thoughtful enough to make sure we had a full breakfast, before setting out on the road… something we managed to fail doing, just yesterday. Yesterday, the troop had gone some hours and miles before having a meal. Today, that was not to be the case…pancakes, eggs the way you want them, coupled with breakfast meats, coffee, juice, hot chocolate…hmmm, do ya’ think we can just stay here for the week…?
Cory also came in bright and early, after leaving the children at school, with a broadside from the Town, the days news, showing portraits of us, and giving a description of the evenings presentation and so on. It looks likes folks up-road are going to know what we are about, soon enough.
We break our camp and about that time the good Rev. Kelly appears. As is our custom, we brought out our Good Book, gathered all hands (including Cory, Ed and Kelly) and asked the Rev. Kelly to say some good words for us as we were to set about the task of moving out on to the road….she graced us with very good and kind thoughts, and then, gathering by the sign out in front of the church, we shared portraits… with the sun starting to wink it’s way through the clouds, we gather the Colors of this march, The French Regiment Boubannais Flag, the Washington Guard’s flag and the Betsy Ross flag…we started moving North to Wrentham, and points beyond…
Leaving this place seemed a bit sad, we had been welcomed so completely, and so warmly, it had felt like home…but the road, and the adventure, beckon us to continue, to meet other folks, to cross other paths, on our way to Boston…
Shortly thereafter, as we crossed from North Attleborough into Wrentham, we were met along the road, by our friend, Ed clavette, who was making sure we got out of his town safely…
Thanks to you, Ed, we leave your town with a happy smile, on our faces and in our hearts…
Next Post… North Attleborough (Old Town) to Wrentham, the March continues…