The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, August 12, 2005


Carlisle 100 years ago
“In some respects Carlisle is a town of envy”
Among the papers in the collection of the Carlisle Historical Society is an article entitled "The Home of the Carlisle Pines, a Short History of Carlisle," written in 1905 by Elizabeth Robbins Berry. Mrs. Berry was born in Carlisle in 1854. She was a descendent of old Concord and Carlisle families, among them Willards, Bloods and Healds. She was associated with several newspapers and publishing companies and served as the managing editor of the Republic Magazine, based in Washington, D.C., where she became a close friend of Clara Barton,
Elizabeth Robbins Berry
founder of the American Red Cross. She wrote extensively on historical and patriotic subjects and was deeply involved with a number of patriotic organizations. She died in 1934 and is buried in Green Cemetery. For more information about her life and work, see The Mosquito of April 5, 2002.

In the article from which these excerpts are taken, she not only briefly recounts the history of Carlisle, but also describes Carlisle as it was in 1905 — a glimpse of the town on its 100th birthday. (In the excerpts below the punctuation and spelling have been left as they appear in the original.)

Carlisle 1905

" 'Where is Carlisle?' Previous to the discovery of the now-famous Pines, and their acquisition by the Appalachian Mountain Club, this query almost invariably followed the announcement by a native of the town that he was to revisit the place of his birth. Yet Carlisle is but eighteen miles from the Massachusetts State House, and lies upon the northern border of the historic old town of Concord. Carlisle has its history, too, and in some respects it is unique among the towns of the Commonwealth. It is charming in its quaintness, and represents a type of New England life which is fast becoming obsolete.

"It has become isolated because of lack of railroad facilities, and because of the general tendency of the townspeople to remain upon land which has become theirs by inheritance, — in some cases from seven generations of ancestors, — thus preventing the advent of strangers. Another explanation [for its being generally unknown] is the entire absence of manufacturing industries. With few exceptions the people combine tilling the soil with milling or mechanical employment.

Comfortable old dwellings

"Few houses have been built in the last fifty years, and those mostly upon old foundations. Yet the comfortable old dwellings are so well kept up that only their ancient architecture and the noble elms which overshadow many of them betray their great age. Some of the old houses antedate the town by nearly or quite a century, and their well-preserved interiors are exceedingly interesting with huge fireplaces, brick ovens, and quaint corner cupboards, and treasures of rare old furniture and china, and many articles of utility and beauty spun and woven by bygone generations of housekeepers. The early white inhabitants of the town were possessed of comfortable means for their day and generation, and builded substantially..."

Mrs. Elizabeth Robbins Berry in the composing room of the Christian Science Monitor, Boston, where she worked for some time. (Photo courtesy of the Carlisle Historical Society)

A population of 500

"In 1825 the population of Carlisle reached a total of 625, which since has declined until it is not but about five hundred.

"There have been few changes in the holdings of land, many families still living upon the land of their first ancestors in this country. There has usually been at least one son in each generation who resisted all temptation to roam, and those who wander afar in search of a livelihood almost invariably find rest in the quiet cemetery of the town, a majority of the interments being of non-residents. Some families who have not been represented in the town for fifty years still bury their dead in Carlisle..."

"Carlisle has an honorable record in the past, of which its people are justly proud, but what of the town of today and its possibilities for the future? It has been peculiarly unfortunate in being ignored when the railroads of the county were laid out. A branch of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad touches a small corner of the town but the station is two and a half miles from the centre, in another town. The service is infrequent, and connections with trunk lines poor. Communication with Boston is easiest by way of Bedford, four miles distant. An ancient mail carrier also makes the trip twice each day, and for a moderate sum will carry passengers. To one who has leisure and enjoys a reminiscent chat about the old town a trip with him is delightful, but in these busy days a quicker and more frequent mode of transit would be a boon, to the townspeople, as well as to those who might be attracted to make homes there, and the natives of the town and others who reside elsewhere. Some of the spirit manifested by their ancestors when better church privileges became necessary, would no doubt accrue to the benefit of the town today, yet much of its charm would disappear.

A town of envy

"In some respects Carlisle is a town to envy. With the single exception of transportation facilities, it has progressed wonderfully, when the sparse population is considered. Evidences of thrift are abundantA visitor to the town notes the neatness of the highways and the good condition of the roads. At night the streets of the village are well lighted, though necessarily by lamps..."

"A large portion of the town is now covered by woodland, less land being cultivated than formerly. In its quiet shade much small game finds shelter, and the red fox is a frequent visitor to the poultry yards of the more remote farms. During the summer of 1902 a deer was frequently seen, at times in close proximity to the village.

"The only considerable stream is the Concord river, which forms the eastern boundary, stealing quietly along through verdant meadows, and is the home of several species of fresh-water fish. For miles its banks are lined with white water lilies, and an early morning paddle among them is a delight. Several brooks meander through the town, and an occasional trout may reward the patient angler. A considerable tract of unreclaimed land is known as Tophet Swamp. Few have explored its depths, but many rare plants are said to flourish there.

A low tax rate

"With the hum of the trolley, which in the march of progress is sure to come, many changes will occur in Carlisle With rapid transit an impetus would be given to building in the town. At present Carlisle has no bonded debt and a low tax rate. Such conditions could not be expected to continue, yet more activity would be a matter of gain to the present inhabitants. But to those children of the town who have wandered far, yet who delight at intervals to return to the sleepy restful old town, it would be bereft of much of its charm. Yet it is too much to expect that it will exist much longer under present conditions. It is not beyond the limits of reason to predict that it will sometime be absorbed by the Greater Boston, or that the busy manufacturing city, Lowell, but nine miles distant, may intrude upon its present quiet."

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito