July 4th Trip to Boston

We all know what the July 4th timeframe meant to John Adams.  July was, in general, full of activity for the Adams family all their lives.  MB’s blog of a couple of weeks ago highlighted those events.  So, what better time to do some Adams research than the 4th of July weekend?  And, so, we decided to grab a few days off and make the pilgrimage to Massachusetts.

We didn’t have a lot of time and the drive was very long.  In addition, a Massachusetts Turnpike mishap cost us more than half a day, but, we won’t dwell on that.

Our first stop was the Adams National Historic Park, which contains three houses:  the house where John Adams was born, the house where John and Abigail lived and where John Quincy Adams was born, and the “big house” – Peacefield — where John and Abby lived out their days after his presidency was over.  The Park is located in Quincy, Mass., the north end of what was then called Braintree.  While all the houses were rural in the 18th Century, today all three houses are inside the city limits and Peacefield is on what we would consider a busy suburban street.  John Adams wouldn’t recognize the locale today.  All of the homes are open for tours, but only Peacefield contains actual Adams furnishings – and what furnishings there are!  There are four generations of artwork and furniture in the house, because the Adams’s seemingly never threw away anything (we even saw the chair John was sitting in when the end came)!  The old stone library is still on the grounds and packed with thousands of volumes collected by the Adams’s over a century.  From Peacefield, we drove to Weymouth, Mass. to see the birthplace of Abigail Adams.  The house wasn’t open, and it isn’t even in the correct location, but it gave MB and me a perspective on the times.

The following day was devoted to Boston.  I’d been there twice before, but it was the first time for MB.  No visit to Boston can be complete without taking the self-guided walking tour called the Freedom Trail.  Like Philadelphia, Boston has preserved much of its 18th Century heritage, buildings where history actually happened – places like Faneuil Hall, the Old North Church, Paul Revere’s shop and the wharf where Old Ironsides still sits.  Guidebooks recommend taking two days for the entire trail, but we didn’t have two days, so we just hoofed faster.

Because it was July 4th weekend, there were lots of street attractions.  We saw redcoats and continental troops, musicians and camp followers, all in period dress and all in a festive mood.  At the Bunker Hill memorial, we saw a musket firing demonstration.  We also met many costumed interpreters and found all the presentations informative and entertaining.

The next day was devoted to the Lexington/Concord area, where the revolution began.  We saw both village greens and got a real sense of what it must have been like for the colonials to face overwhelming odds.  The statues and monuments were most inspiring.

On July 4th, we had to depart, due to teaching commitments.  So, we didn’t get to see the fireworks over Boston.  Instead, we had another traditional experience.  We chanced to stop for the night in Batavia, New York, where we were told the fireworks would happen at the end of the game for the local minor league baseball team, the Batavia Muckdogs.  We hurried to the small stadium, got seats, enjoyed a baseball game and a hotdog and a beer, and then watched a wonderful fireworks display.  As the rockets exploded overhead, my mind was taken back to the tumultuous time in 1776, when some brave men (and women) decided to turn away from their colonial existence toward a democratic way of life.  And, of course, I thought of John and Abigail Adams, whose lives helped shape that destiny.  As many know, John was invited to an event celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Declaration on July 4, 1826.  His son was in the White House.  Illness prevented the former 2nd President from attending (indeed, he would die on that day), but he had prepared his toast for the gathering:  “Independence Forever!”  So say we all.

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