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The Old Squire [Voices of Pondicherry ~ Book Four]

“He sat at his own table that night, a lonely old man, missing the spirit and the laughter that once filled his house—a house he’d built with his own hands all those long years ago. The quiet got to him at night when the wind came blowing strong down from the mountain above. He could hear the beating of his heart, a steady thump, thump, thump. The parlor clock with the family name etched upon its face ticked and tocked, reminding him that his time was running down.”

In the tumultuous years that followed incorporation, Bridgton’s citizens faced wars, famine, tragedy, disease, and weather disasters. Still, their accomplishments during the next thirty years left a lasting legacy for their descendants. From churches to schools to roads to businesses to farms, the little town’s landscape was forever shaped by the sacrifices and dreams of those who carved a town from the wilderness.

At the Perley homestead, the years have taken their toll on the family. Crop failures, illness, heartbreaking loss, and financial troubles beset the family, leaving the Old Squire weary. But still driven by his indomitable will, he is determined to achieve his goals for the town and for all those who follow in his footsteps before he sleeps forever under the trees on the land he so loved.

Based on a true story.

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From the Author

Having spent most of my life walking the woods and fields of Enoch Perley’s homestead, I still find myself awed by the strength and endurance of all those who worked to turn forest to field, wilderness to civilization, and natural resources to human dwellings and commercial enterprises.

As I walk through the apple orchard that grows upon land Squire Perley cleared so long ago, I am reminded of his work and the work of generations who have continued to farm that land. The orchards and woods are bounded by the stone walls he and his sons and grandsons built. And the little graveyard that looks out across the orchards and to the mountains in the distance holds the story of their lives and the troubles they lived through.
But, the homestead on the hill is far from their only accomplishment. The early settlers were builders of towns, governments, schools, hospitals, roads, and businesses. Their names can be found on buildings and street signs in our towns. They are mostly forgotten, their efforts taken for granted. But, when you peel back the layers of moss that soften and dull the memories, you can still see them; struggling to survive, fighting to build something in their lifetimes, leaving behind them the foundations of all those little towns and big cities that we call home.
We are fortunate in our particular New England town to have records of the achievements of our own settlers. We can directly trace the creation of our roads, schools, buildings, and mills to those who sacrificed so much to get the work done. Like many small towns, the residents of Bridgton, Maine, once called Pondicherry, owe a huge debt to the collectors of those papers and artifacts that tell the story of our past. Each town’s small struggling museum or historical society fiercely protects our access to the past, and offers opportunities to learn from our successes and failures. When we understand where we come from, we appreciate more, take less for granted, and find encouragement in our own struggles.
The story of America is complex, far more so than the watered-down version of history that we learn in school. By digging deeper, learning more, questioning our assumptions, we can find the richness of the story; full of joy, despair, triumph, and defeat. But, weaving throughout the gritty day-to-day living is the insurmountable determination to rise up again and again, no matter the difficulty of the circumstances. That is the very best of humanity.
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