The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 3, 1999


Author donates 'The Seasons in Estabrook Country' to Gleason Library

"Wherever men have lived, there is a story to be told." This quotation from Henry David Thoreau could serve as a sub-theme on the cover of a 110-page booklet entitled, "The Seasons in Estabrook Country," which is now available for perusal or quiet contemplation at the Gleason Public Library. The author, Stephen F. Ells of Lincoln, calls his eclectic volume "an anthology of place." It contains the writings of 50 people who have lived, worked, played or otherwise experienced the moods and subtle beauty of the 1500 acres we now call Estabrook Woods.

The heart of the anthology is Thoreau's Journal, about which landscape architect Walter Brain has commented, "Although Thoreau never got to writing a book or essay on the Estabrook Country, it was in the Journal that, for over twenty years, he tracked his poetry of place." Also represented are over 100 passages from other individuals who have written or spoken about Estabrook, some as famous as Ellery Channing, Louisa May Alcott or Ralph Waldo Emerson, and others more obscure farmers, naturalists, school children or scholars "who have connected this landscape to its various histories geological, Native American, colonial, early industrial, agricultural, natural, spiritual, ecological, playful, and of course, literary."

This rich compendium can serve many purposes, practical as well as spiritual. A reading of selected passages would make a fine prelude to a family hike along the Estabrook trail, while the many maps assure that the troupe will not get lost as it searches for the Kibbe cellarhole, the old limestone quarry or the site of the Thoreau family mill. As well, people who have grown up in the Concord Carlisle countryside, or whose ancestors may have trod these paths, may meet their forbears or childhood acquaintances in passages covering a period from 1635 to 1999. Obviously, for local historians, scientists or teachers, this volume is a treasure trove.

Asked for the motivation behind the work, Ells, a former New England Director of Environmental Review for the federal Environmental Protection Agency, revealed that in the 1960s, in a book, Law of Open Space in Massachusetts, he used the campaign to preserve Estabrook Country headed by Harvard University, the faculty of Middlesex School and conservation-minded citizens and organizations in Concord, Carlisle and surrounding communities as an example of what grassroots action could accomplish without the need for governmental prodding. Then in the 1980s, when it seemed that Harvard and Middlesex might both retreat from their stewardship of The Woods, Ells undertook the work "as either a celebration or an epitaph" for that effort.

Fortunately, Harvard decided to work with area conservation groups to restore a major portion of the dream, and it is Ells' hope that publication at this time may help to re-engage the Middlesex School family in the effort.

"The Seasons in Estabrook Country" may be purchased in the Concord Bookstore, the Audubon Gift Shop at Drumlin Farm or on

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito