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
Maybe loss of the family farm isn't a problem. Just about anything, including food can be imported from outside of Massachusetts. That could mean more money for the state from gasoline taxes. While endangered species, green building laws and political ambitions threaten the existence of timber harvesting, the greatest problem to the Mistress's domain might be the inheritance tax.
If the old system returns, it will be back with a vengeance. Rates could be as high as fifty-five percent. It would force the separation of the Mistress from her domain. In 1900 James Fitzpatrick only had to deal with his brothers and sisters. If James lived today, he would first have to deal with the tax man, and then his brothers and sisters. Let's not forget that I had to cough up a few bucks to keep the Mistress off the auction block when Esther and Elmer died. If I didn't, the Mistress and her domain would have been a developer's delight and the cry would have gone out, "The farms, the farms, they're disappearing."
It's not surprising the family farm is being replaced by corporate farms. They never have to pay any inheritance tax because they never die. They just grow bigger and bigger while the small family farm shrivels away as they're ruthlessly squeezed out of existence.
The family owned farm is forced into accepting whatever a corporation's wholesale price happens to be because everything is about the corporation's bottom line. In the case of Christmas trees, it's the artificial tree made from petroleum, waiting to contaminate the air when it's burned or the soil when it's buried. Thousands of miles away on another continent, Christmas means nothing to the foreign manufacturer who makes the fake tree.
ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES
Living in a house as old as the Mistress, I've often wondered about all the births and deaths the Mistress has seen. Back in the day, there wasn't any 911 number to call. No hospitals existed in Groton until the early nineteen hundreds. The only place for having children was at home. It appears as though some twenty-three children were born in the Mistress over an eighty-six year span that began in 1769 with the birth of Oliver Woods and ended in 1855 with the birth of John B. Fitzpatrick. No children are known to have been born in the Mistress during her first 47 years. The same is true for her last 157 plus years.
Besides births, an additional sixteen children may have grown up in the Mistress, but were born elsewhere. When Samuel Bowers moved into the Mistress in 1724, all seven of his children had been born between 1710 and 1722. The same is true of James Fitzpatrick, Jr.'s daughter. Her father moved into the Mistress in 1877 when she was just a year old, following the death of her mother in Pepperell.
Among the sixteen children who grew up in the Mistress, but who were not born in the Mistress, only one was conceived before marriage. For the period, the average number of pregnancies occurring outside of marriage was around 20 percent. Among the 23 babies born in the Mistress, none appear to have been delivered before marriage. All totaled, 39 youngsters began their early years in the Mistress.
The average age at marriage for males living in the Mistress during the 1769-1855 period was 26, the oldest being 31 and the youngest 21. For females the average age was 25, with the oldest being 28 and the youngest, 20.
After having the first child, women living at the Mistress continued to bear children and nurse them into their early forties. If a woman could survive her childbearing years, it wasn't unusual for her to out live her husband. Isaac and Eliza Woods had the biggest family with nine children. The first five were born in Dunstable and the last four were born at the Mistress. The least number of children a couple at the Mistress had was seven. Seven to nine children was average for the period, and many families had a lot more. Benjamin Franklin, whose picture is on the one hundred dollar bill, was one of seventeen children. In Groton, Robert and Deborah Parker had sixteen. Joseph and Abigail Parker had fourteen, but their grandchildren boosted their progeny to nearly 200 in just two generations.