This writing is by no account an attempt to glorify the Hastings family name. My New England ancestors would have none of that. Quite to the contrary, it is born of the desire to commit to writing an answer to an often-asked question: Where did I come from?
I am fortunate that some of what you will read in this narrative comes from oral history around the family supper table and what I remember from listening to my brother and sister and aunts and uncles and neighbors reminisce. Most of this story is derived from hours of research into deeds and land records dating back to the 1600s. Many hours were spent with old books, newspaper articles, and interviews.
A humble mildewed cardboard box that stayed in our basement for countless years was filled with treasure. The water-stained documents and faded pages contained therein stimulated my imagination. The box of old photos of people I didn’t know was kept in my parents’ bedroom dresser drawer where the winter woolens were stored. The pictures of grandfathers, grandmothers, and those who came before them still smell of the mothballs.
Fortunately, many of the old buildings I write about here remained standing during my sister’s, brother’s and my young adulthood. The descriptions of old roads, streams, and ponds derived from my memories add further texture to this writing. During my childhood Boylston remained a rural community to the extent that many of the old roads were dirt cart paths with grass sprouting in the center. Rusted horse-drawn farm implements were scattered in overgrown fields. An ancient, giant Fordson iron-wheeled tractor lay abandoned where it belched its last breath. Small trees, more like brush, penetrated the metal driver’s seat. Old decaying and weathered barns still stood.
My early ancestors were not diary keepers or writers of letters. They were farmers, men and women working from sun up to sun down, leaving little time for leisure. Details of their personalities are sketchy and anecdotal, but crafting this narrative allowed me to differentiate among them and to learn how they lived, who they married, and about their offspring.
Many of the old photographs included here are cause for both joy and concern. The joy derives from the thoughtfulness of those who placed these old and earlier studio portraits in safekeeping. The concern comes that in our digitized world, family photographs may disappear with a discarded cell phone or an accidental deletion. Who in today’s digital world is a designated keeper of the sacrosanct cardboard box?
If you are a casual reader of this narrative, I hope that you take from this family history urgency to write yours. Don’t rely on “File Save,” but rather click “Print” and gather the pages. Download selected family photos from your cell phone, have them professionally printed and do not forget the captions. Find a large box with a fitted top, and fill it with these treasures. Over the years the mildew will only add to the thrill and authenticity of someone someday discovering your family history.
I encourage you to embark on this endeavor for your family.
THE HASTINGS OF BOYLSTON, MASSACHUSETTS IS AVAILABLE AT AMAZON.COM