Thursday, April 26, 2012

Town Reports: A Book Can Be Judged by Its Cover

When librarians shelf the annual town reports for the state of Massachusetts they can learn a lot of fascinating facts about a town. Many towns use the front cover of their town report to dedicate that town report to someone that has died during war; they put long time town employees or longtime town residents on the cover, and well known people from that town. Many town reports have scenic covers or covers that remind us of that town’s history. The Hingham town report has a Victorian scene at a railroad station on its 2003 annual report.

 The 2009 cover of the annual town report for Charlton has a picture of the grave of Grizzly Adams. The inside cover explains that he was an outdoorsman born in the town of Charlton with the name of John Capen Adams (1812-1860). According to the town report Adams was a premier bear hunter who earned the dubious distinction of greatly contributing to the extinction of the California grizzly bear. He worked at times for P.T. Barnum and captured some bears live giving them to zoos, exhibits, and cruel animal fights. His 1860 gravestone “is illustrated by a scene of Adams walking side-by-side through the woods with one of his bears.” The Charlton Historical Society put up a stone marker in front of his gravestone in 1976 that is labeled “Grizzly Adams.” There was also a motion picture and television show about Grizzly Adams that aired in the mid 1970’s.

The Sandwich town report of 2010 has a beautiful cover of the town hall. Inside there are some facts about the town and two pages entitled: Sandwich Town Hall 1834 Significance & History. The 2010 town report states on page two:
“In July 1847, the last wolf in Sandwich was killed by George Brailey, a teamster and wood carter for the furnaces of the Boston and Sandwich Glass Factory, then becoming one of the largest glass factories in America. The wolf was brought to the Town Hall and the body hung between the columns for exhibition. Bells were rung, and there was much rejoicing among Sandwich farmers for their loss of sheep had been great.”
The town was incorporated in 1639 according to the inside cover of the 2010 Annual Report of the Town of Sandwich; it is the oldest town on the Cape; the town hall was built in 1834 and renovated in 2009.

The State Library has a list of the town reports that we own.

Naomi Allen,
Reference Librarian