In 2022, Concord Academy will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. As much as it is a reason to envision the future, the Centennial is also an invitation to reflect on the past—that is, the history—of the school. For teacher Kim Frederick’s US Public History elective, this history is of the very land that the CA campus is built upon. In this upper-level research seminar, 12 juniors and seniors conduct rigorous, open-ended research to explore the history of Musketaquid—Algonquian for “grassy plains”—the land now known as Concord, Massachusetts.
Collaborating with the Concord Museum, the Concord Public Library’s Special Collections Department, the CA Archive, as well as other local institutions, the class aims to retell the stories of the land that Concord Academy now sits on and to generate a blueprint for a mobile app that will be developed by students in the Computer Science Department’s “Mobile Apps for History” course. The plan is to prime and polish the app for CA’s Centennial festivities in the fall of 2022, so that celebrants can use it to explore the history of the school. Since this is a year-long project, students are encouraged to enroll in both courses. “It’s really cool because people who help develop the content will also help make the app,” Kim Frederick commented. “This continuity will be vital to the success of the project.”
To engage with the geographical and anthropological history of Concord is to delve into the lives of residents who lived as far back as 10,000 years ago, since the area has been inhabited for at least that long. With infinite possibilities for discovery, this historical endeavor is no simple compilation of “facts” and figures. There is no preordained narrative to vivify or substantiate. “We’re focusing on making this history accessible and participatory, as we want to be able to update the tour in the future,” remarked Cozette Weng ’23, who is currently enrolled in the course. “The stories we know now may not be the ones we know in five or ten years.”
Recently, students made a discovery centered around the land on which Bradford House stands, once owned by Elnathan Jones Jr. (1829-1904), who inherited wealth that enabled him to live in 19th century Concord with a whopping 500 acres of land. It turns out that the Joneses’ generational wealth was not the fruits of a successful trade or business venture, passed down from fathers to sons. Instead, it was a powerful Nashoba woman named Sarah Doublet who, bound by decrepitude at the time, granted the rights to this expansive plot of land to Ephriam and Elnathan Jones Sr. by way of payment for her care. Doublet was the last survivor of a group of Nashoba people that was forcibly rounded up and shipped to Deer Island in Boston Harbor, a well-established internment camp for Native Americans.
This case, despite its painstaking specificity, spawns a million more questions. Where were Sarah Doublet’s family members? Why were the Nashobah people able to reclaim some of their land, but not able to retain it within their own community? These are questions we have to reckon with as a society due to the long history of displacement, dispossession, and disenfranchisement of countless Native American communities.
An ever-evolving narrative, the history of the land of Concord—and by extension, Concord Academy—is integral to the understanding of our school’s past, present, and future. The CA community looks forward to learning from the history students’ fruits of thought!