(HOST) In anticipation of Town Meeting, commentator Edith Hunter has been perusing her town report – another New England tradition for nearly two hundred years.
(HUNTER) I have a complete collection of Weathersfield town reports. The first printed sixteen-page report was for the year
1852. Although we had been having town meetings since 1773, apparently, in Weathersfield, reports were not printed annually
and distributed to all citizens for another seventy-nine years.
I thought it would be interesting to draw a few comparisons between the report for 1905, just a hundred years ago, and this year’s report. The 1905 report is an eight and a half by six inch booklet of just twenty-two pages. The 2005 report is an eleven
by eight and a half inch book of 192 pages.
On page one of the 1905 report are listed among the taxable property with their values: “682 horses, 1,263 cows, 47 oxen,
724 sheep, and 345 swine.” I wish the 2005 town report listed such specific information, even though it is no longer taxable property.
Two and a half pages in the 1905 report concern the “poor department.” This was still the day of the town poor farm (voted out in 1931). There were only two residents at the time. There is no equivalent in the 2005 report.
Five pages in the 1905 report are dedicated to school matters.
The 2005 school report takes fifty-one pages. In 1905 seventeen teachers had been employed in the eleven district schools,
with 206 pupils at a total cost of $3,500, and a per pupil cost
of about seventeen dollars. The 2005 report lists close to fifty teachers, aids etc., for 244 pupils in k through eight for a cost
of about $3,000,000 and a per pupil cost of well over $10,000.
Vital statistics in 1905 (population 1,089) list twenty-five births, seven marriages and eighteen deaths. In 2005 (population 2,788) eleven births, twenty-one marriages, two civil unions, and forty-six deaths are recorded. This is a popular section of the report. Now there is a federal law that may keep vital records completely out
of the report, for security reasons.
Makes me wonder if we’re better informed today than we were a hundred years ago.
This is Edith Hunter on the Center Road.
Writer and historian Edith Hunter lives in Weathersfield Center.
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