Neighbors and sweethearts

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(Host) Used to be that the boy fell in love with the girl next door. But times have changed, as commentator Edith Hunter observes with a Valentine’s Day story about neighborhoods and sweethearts.

(Hunter) Our early Weathersfield historian, Ernest Butterfield, put together a manuscript on the early inhabitants of Weathersfield. He used the old town land records, early maps, and family histories.

He drew a map of the town and then drew in the lines of our thirteen school districts. The early state laws governing the location of schools dictated that no child should have to walk more than two miles, so lines were drawn to make this possible. Our six-mile by six-mile town, during most of its early history, had 13 school districts.

Mr. Butterfield’s manuscript is an invaluable resource in my Weathersfield genealogy research. One of the things that I discovered using it is how often men and women found their mates in their own neighborhood; a Perkins in District #6 married a Rice in District #6, a Gregg married a Hackett, both in District #5, and in District #8 Sam Adams married schoolmate Winnie Kendall, also from District #8.

A major factor contributing to this phenomenon was the limited transportation available in the early days. People did not travel far on a regular basis. The old school districts functioned as social units, and although schools only went through eight grades, the little school houses became social centers, with all ages attending. Spelling bees and singing schools, box socials, and Valentine parties, all took place in the district schools.

Human nature hasn’t changed much, and by the eighth grade, boys and girls were beginning to eye one another as possible life-partners. It was natural for former school district classmates to marry and set up their own homes, perhaps on part of the home place, or on a place rented nearby.

How all of this has changed! I think the three major factors in bringing about this change in three generations have been the automobile beginning about 1920; television beginning about 1950; and the computer beginning about 1980, especially with the development of the Internet.

Today, although we no longer know our next door neighbors, we know people half-way around the world. As a Justice of the Peace I recently married a couple, he – 80 – from from Claremont, New Hampshire and she – 70 – from Louisville, Kentucky. When I asked them how they met, they answered – “over the Internet.”

In 2004, “Who is my neighbor?”

This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.

Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center. She spoke from our studio in Norwich.

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