is an interview series to highlight and celebrate Essex Heritage’s diverse community of partners and supporters. This fall we asked Anne Wilson, retired teacher, Commissioner since October 2015 and Essex Heritage member since 2005 (!) to share her view of Essex Heritage and why she loves the Essex National Heritage Area. Interviewed October 2015.
Are you an Essex National Heritage Area (Essex County) native? If not, when and why did you move here?
I grew up in Lexington and always loved the North Shore, perhaps partly because my mother was from Newburyport. During my 35 years working in Saugus I came to love the area even more, discovering many family connections to early settlers in the area such as Macy, Carr, Coffin, and Hovey.
What do you find most inspiring about the Essex National Heritage Area?
Despite nearly 400 years of settlement there are still wide swaths of land which remain virtually untouched and remind us of the beauty and wilderness the early settlers discovered here. The appreciation for our heritage over the centuries is palpable here.
What is your favorite place in the Essex National Heritage Area?
To choose one place is like choosing a favorite child--impossible. However, any one of the coastal towns is a favorite destination; wandering the old, crooked streets of Marblehead or Salem and enjoying the homes there, or checking out the river in Essex, Ipswich, or Plum Island for boats and wildlife, or walking the harbor and State Pier in Gloucester to check on activity there--it’s always enriching.
When did you first become involved with Essex Heritage?
As I said, I’ve always loved the area, and when the Essex Heritage National Heritage Area was established I knew about it. I probably joined as an Explorer [member] the first year. I certainly was active on the first Trails & Sails weekend, promoting it as much as I could in my elementary classroom.
What is your most memorable Essex Heritage moment, event, or program?
I like to think that it is still to come as there are endless aspects to this region. Despite many years of exploration, I still have new discoveries and adventures to make here. Most recently I had the jaw-dropping experience of seeing the magnificent Methuen Memorial Music Hall. I never knew it even existed until about 2 years ago.
Essex Heritage is important to me because…
It feels like home, a home I have a longtime connection to.
Essex Heritage is important to our region, our state, or our nation because…
So many of our national values, history, and character were formed or questioned here. The influence of an organized religion on government policy (still an issue to some) was questioned here with Roger Williams in Salem and Thomas Macy (and others) deploring the extent of governmental persecution of Quakers, both Williams and Macy being forced from the area. The foundation of Lawrence and Lowell as early mill towns led the state and country into the Industrial Revolution. Thank goodness we can remember from the Salem Witch Trials that spectral evidence is not the best evidence in legal cases. John Greenleaf Whittier and William Lloyd Garrison were leaders in the fight against slavery. The dangerous fishing industry can trace its roots to the 1623 settlement of Gloucester. The steel industry, now central to the U.S. economy, started here in Saugus at the Iron Works. Although we may not claim the earliest colonial settlement here, the Essex Heritage area has been the seed from which the American culture has grown.
Help us continue to connect people and the places that make our Heritage. Become an Essex Heritage Member.