Since I was a young child, I have enjoyed hearing stories from friends and relatives about our ancestors and the experiences that they had. My maternal grandmother would say “I am going to tell you, Linda, because someone has to remember” and then would go into great detail about the people and events that were long-gone but stored in her memory. She would also have me repeat words to the Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian, line by line until I had the proper pronunciation. It was obvious that she believed she had a legacy of stories to pass on to me and the generations to come.I adopted grandma’s respect for family history and, over the years, have used an old briefcase to house obituaries, cards, photos and notes that I jotted down after interesting conversations. The briefcase has become more and more full over the years and now it is hard to close.When my mother died, I inherited boxes of photographs. Many of pictures show smiling faces of nameless individuals who I realize I might never be able to identify. I know that each photo is a key to the past but also realize that I might not be able to use them to unlock doors that are now locked.And through the years, I have had a growing feeling that, like my maternal grandmother, I have something of value to pass on to the generations to come.Sometimes I would write or tell family history stories to my grandchildren who were interested because of school assignments. Often I would share ancestral tales with my children during casual conversations. Frequently, they would respond with comments like “How do you know all that?” or “How can you remember all those details?” and my reply is always the same “This is important.” You see, knowing the past helps us understand ourselves and how our identities were formed.We have all learned so many lessons from the story of my paternal grandfather who, as an orphan, came from England to Canada when he was ten years of age and never saw his family again. His courage reminds me to carry on when things are difficult. My maternal grandmother’s family also emigrated from England but pioneered in Ontario before moving to the bald prairie which became my birthplace. They taught me that life is a series of choices that lead us from one life situation to another.The healthy pride that my maternal grandmother had in her Norwegian roots reminds me to treasure the culture that shapes us. Her husband’s family, who originated in Germany and settled in the eastern United States before grandpa came to Canada, is a testimony to ongoing relationship. The family continues to have strong links through the dozens of individuals who continue not only to communicate with each other but also to share the historical nuggets they possess of those who came before.But I have learned so many other things about life through my hobby with genealogy – like the values that were commonly held. Respect for others, the importance of honesty and the way that spiritual faith can sustain in times of trouble were evidenced in the lives of my ancestors. I have been shocked by how strong they were during times of loss and how they moved forward into the unknown with faith and hope.I don’t want to live in the past – especially when the future offers such interesting possibilities, but, at the same time, I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to examine the past through the lives of my family members and cause their stories as inspiration.When people ask me “Where are you from?” I can confidently answer “A good place”.Where are you from?
Located on the scenic Connecticut River on the northeastern edge of Hartford County beside the Massachusetts border is the city of Enfield. Originally home to the Native American Pocomtuc tribe who had two villages here, Scitico and Nameroke, Enfield’s first Europeans settlers were John and Robert Pease who arrived in 1679 from Salem, Massachusetts. The two brothers spent the first winter camping in a shelter dug into the side of a hill before sending for their families.Although first considered part of Massachusetts when Enfield was incorporated in 1683, in 1749 it was determined that a surveyor had mistakenly marked the State’s boundaries and Enfield seceded and joined Connecticut.Undoubtedly the single most historic event that took place in Enfield’s early days was what is widely regarded as the most famous sermon ever delivered by Jonathan Edwards “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Lord” in 1741. A revival movement had begun in Massachusetts in the 1730′s called the Great Awakening that had spread to the Connecticut River Valley where Edwards was an American Puritan theologian and delivered the quintessential fire and brimestone sermon.”The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked. His wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else but to be cast into the fire. He is of purer eyes than to bear you in his sight; you are ten thousand times as abominable in his eyes as the most hateful, venomous serpent is in ours”Throughout the sermon Edwards was repeatedly interrupted by people moaning, shaking and crying out “What shall I do to be saved?” However, his preaching style so focused on fear and hatred of damnation – together with the lamentations, trembling and convulsions of his audience were criticized by many conservative Puritans who said Edwards was leading his congregation into fanaticism.Several people became so profoundly shaken and depressed convinced of their own damnation by the Great Awakening revivals that they committed suicide – including Edwards’ own uncle Joseph Hawley who was a member of his congregation. Edwards wrote that “Multitudes” had been so compelled – presumably by Satan – to kill themselves.He became embroiled in controversy regarding the “bodily effects” of the holy spirit’s presence in his congregation’s swooning and fainting, and the resulting “Suicide Craze” effectively killed the first wave of the Great Awakening revival in Connecticut.For years Edwards continued to preach his message to the Mohicans. Jonathan Edwards died at 52 as a result of a smallpox inoculation he had specifically requested to serve as an example to the Indians he ministered to to follow.He is buried beside his Son-in-law, Aaron Burr Vice President of the United States. On a side note, Burr is probably best known as the person who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel after Hamilton intentionally discharged his pistol into the air to settle their dispute honorably, after which Burr took aim and killed him. Today, Hamilton appears on American ten dollar bills – and most people remember Burr as the person who killed him because he was rigid and couldn’t back down in their dispute.Many of Enfield’s historic homes dating back to this era can be found in the 1106-1492 blocks of Enfield Street and King Street which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.Modern Enfield was formed by the union of Enfield, Thompsonville, and Hazardville, named after Colonel Hazard who manufactured gunpowder in the Powder Hollow section of town. The factories were built so that if one section of the mills exploded it would not set off a chain reaction and the walls could be set back up almost intact. Men who worked keeping the powder wet when it was being milled sat on one-legged stools so that they would fall over if they fell asleep rather than allowing an explosion.Hazard was the biggest single manufacturer of gunpowder during the time of his products biggest boom – the Civil War. However, Hazard’s gunpowder factories blew up repeatedly over the years, killing over sixty workers – including one of his sons. The ruins of these buildings and the dams that powered the mills are open to the public. Powder Hollow Park in Enfield Hazardville neighborhood district has baseball fields and hiking trails.Today, Enfield’s range of housing includes single-family homes, apartments and condominiums set in historic neighborhoods like Hazardville, North Thompsonville, Shaker Pines that was the location of an early Shaker community, and Southwood Acres.Thompsonville in the center of Enfield has more of an urban environment with old Victorians and boat launches on the Connecticut River. Headquartered in Enfield is LEGO, the plastic building toy manufacturer and is also the town’s leading employer. There are numerous shopping centers, including Enfield Square Mall off Interstate 91 and Stateline Plaza.North Thompsonville is primarily a residential section of Enfield with several parks and schools. The Presidential Section consists of streets that are all named after former presidents of the United States. Scitico named after the former Native American village is located in the eastern end of town is a suburb with scenic winding roads, a park, and quite cul-de-sacs.Enfield is located in the region commonly referred to as the “New England Knowledge Corridor” due to the 27 colleges and universities. Enfield is centrally located on the major north south, Connecticut River Valley transportation corridor and the east west New York to Boston overland routes. Bradley International Airport is approximately ten miles south of Enfield and is a primary transportation hub.The combination of friendly neighborhoods and close proximity to major metropolitan areas makes Enfield one of Connecticut’s best cities for your home and family.