This is a serialization of the new book written by Carl Flowers, owner of Silveus Plantation, the subject of "Groton's Anonymous Mistress." The 300-year-old home is accessed by Kemp Street near the boundary of Groton and Dunstable.
By Carl Flowers
With the Mistress substantially restored and the garden established, significant renovations were started on the barn. New sills and posts had been installed as well as a new roof.
Then, disaster struck during the spring of 1962. Someone deliberately set the barn on fire. Barn burnings in the late 1950s and into the early 1960s were a common occurrence in the Groton, Dunstable and Pepperell area. Rumor has it that these fires were set by a Groton volunteer fireman. Fortunately, the Mistress was saved, but the entire barn and the shed including the outhouse where I encountered the porcupine were leveled.
Bill Simmons reported the fire. His nephew, visiting from out of town, was returning home one evening at about nine o'clock. When he saw the fire, he cranked his car up the driveway blowing the horn and yelling, "Fire, fire." When Mr. Simmons looked out of his bedroom window, he first thought it was his barn that was on fire. This shows how advanced the fire was at the Mistress, because she was just a little more than a quarter of a mile away. The Dunstable fire department arrived first. According to Jerry Simmons, all the hoses from the Dunstable trucks brought water to the Mistress from Unkety Brook.
When fire trucks from Groton, Pepperell, Tyngsborough, and Hollis, New Hampshire arrived they tapped into the Dunstable trucks while they pumped water on the Mistress to keep her from catching on fire. After the fire seemed under control, Groton Fire Chief Bob May announced Groton would be pulling out. Walter Savill, the Dunstable Fire Chief informed May the Mistress was in Groton and not in Dunstable. Dunstable would be leaving.
Sometime in the early 1950s Esther and Elmer lived at the Mistress full time. After they purchased their Bay State Road house in Boston, they only spent weekends and vacations at the Mistress. They had originally intended to end their days at the Mistress, but that didn't happen.
In time, old age overtook Esther and Elmer Carlson just as it did the Fitzpatricks. The Mistress began a retreat into her earlier decrepit condition. The fire had certainly been a contributing factor that worked on Esther and Elmer, relative to the upkeep of the Mistress. It was hard for them to believe someone would deliberately set the barn on fire and jeopardize the Mistress. By the late 1970s, the only visits the Carlsons made to Groton occurred when a friend offered to bring them. Locals noticed their absence. In 1979 the Mistress was broken into and severely vandalized. Esther and Elmer died eight days apart in February 1980. Their nephew, Carl Flowers Jr., became the Mistress' new owner. That, of course, is me.
Farming is something I always wanted to do, but when I inherited the Mistress and her domain, no open land was available for growing crops of any kind. During the summer of 1980, I met with a state forester from Carlisle, a representative from the United States Department of Agriculture out of Westford and a consulting forester from Lunenburg. This get together wasn't a fifteen minute meeting, but was instead, something like three or four hours.
The major consideration was my time and the appropriate crop relative to the amount of time I could spend on it. I still lived in Fort Lauderdale where I taught American history. I wanted to grow food crops, but no one agreed with me. All three advised me to grow Christmas trees.
I had the summers off and Christmas trees could grow anywhere. I was asked if I had ever seen a tree grow out of a crack on the side of a mountain. The answer was yes. I figured the soil in the Mistress's domain was far superior to any crack on the side of a mountain. By having the summers off, I would be able to do most of the required work. Planting in the spring and herbiciding in the fall could be done by the consulting forester.
The decision was made. It was Christmas trees.