Letter: Sheffield must keep history in mind


To the editor of THE EAGLE:

As a resident of Sheffield, I am disappointed that some in our community segment residents into two groups -- those who have lived here for a long time and those who have not -- as if the degree one cares for Sheffield can only be measured by the length of time one has lived here. This deeply divisive conviction has other messages: You don’t belong. Only we can make good decisions for Sheffield. Thank you for your tax revenue, but go away.

Our community has welcomed newcomers since before 1733 and would never have become the great community it is if our forefathers and mothers followed that conviction. Sheffield is better than this!

n The Sheffield Declaration or Resolves, approved by our town on Jan. 12, 1773, was a petition against British tyranny and a manifesto for individual rights, and predated Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence by three years.

n Sheffield was the home of Mumbett, the slave woman owned by Col. John Ashley, who walked four miles from Ashley Falls to the Sedgwick house on Main Street (the white house with columns set back across from the town green) to ask Theodore Sedgwick to represent her in court as she successfully fought for and in 1781 gained her freedom.

n On Feb. 27, 1787, Sheffield was the site of the bloodiest (and last) battle of Shays’ Rebellion, the armed uprising precipitated by financial difficulties brought about by a post-Revolutionary war economic depression, credit squeeze and fiscally harsh state government policies.

n Sheffield produced the famed Civil War general, John G. Barnard, who served as chief engineer of the Army of the Potomac, the Department of Washington and the armies in the field in the Civil War.

n Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard, his brother, was a long-time educator and president of Columbia University and namesake of Barnard College in New York City.

n George Frederick Root, born in Sheffield in 1820, was named after the German-born British composer George Frideric Handel. He was a gifted songwriter who found particular fame during the Civil War, writing such tunes as "Tramp! Tramp! Tramp!," "The Vacant Chair" and "The Battle Cry of Freedom." The clock tower of Old Parish Church is dedicated to him and his accomplishments.

The list of revered people and important events goes on and on. We are all part of a very distinguished, proactive, essential community. We owe it to our community, to its historical and cultural significance, and to our children to act better than this.

This is just an election. On the great continuum of Sheffield it is a minor blip. Please don’t make it into a major, divisive issue that will take a generation to heal.




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