Story writers

Andover Stories: Early Andover Story Writers | Opinion

The new year marks a 12-year partnership since the Andover Stories series and the Andover Townsman has pledged to publish stories about the town’s history.

To date, this includes over 360 stories written by 44 intrepid writers, all dedicated to sharing insights into the people and events that have made Andover the town it is today.

However, the telling of these stories began long before 2010!

Initially, local history was told in books. A few better known include “History of Andover, Mass. from the Colony to 1829” (Abiel Abbot); “Andover, Mass. in the world war” (Claude Fuess); “Historical Sketches of Andover, Mass.” (Sarah Loring Bailey); and “Andover in the American Revolution” by Edward Mosley Harris.

Other authors have written pamphlets and shorter articles: “Andover: An Illustrious Town” (Rev. FB Makepeace); “Addison B. LeBoutillier: local artist” (Clark Pearce); and “Andover, Massachusetts History” (Scott Paradise).

Annie Sawyer Downs wrote a tribute to Andover for the town’s 250th anniversary. Also that year, the Townsman published a pamphlet on the business history of Andover.

Other publications accompanied City anniversaries such as “Andover 1946-1971”, published by the 325th Board. On behalf of the 350th committee, Eleanor Richardson wrote “Andover: A Century of Change”.

Despite these larger tomes, the Andover Historical Society and the Townsman recognized the value of “telling stories” in short columns; stories that kept townspeople engaged in the importance of their collective history.

The first serial story writer was Kay Noyes. Noyes wrote for the Townsman as one of its “correspondents”. Noyes, a real estate agent, was living with her husband, Tom, on North Main Street when she took on the responsibility of writing a column on Shawsheen Village.

Noyes was from Andover and graduated from Punchard High School in 1940.

The Townsman noted that his efforts “with his frequent pictures and historical data on the old village of Frye” also kept the reader informed of current events in the village.

Noyes wrote a total of 38 stories from September 1955 to June 1956. His subjects often went beyond the village to include historic homes, famous residents and visitors, and tales of disasters such as destructive fires, storm snowfall of 1898 and the relentless flood of 1936.

The headlines of his stories caught the reader: “Lafayette drank grog in the cottage of roses”, “Strict rules of conduct (in schools)” and “Historical legends, center of knowledge in the Blanchard house”.

Another screenwriter is the famous Bill Dalton, former city moderator and coach. Dalton graduated from Andover High School in 1961 and entered the practice of law in 1968.

A few years later – in 1978 – Dalton caught the writing bug when he wrote about two planes that crashed over Lawrence. His passion was noted by the editors of the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune.

Then, in 1983, during his tenure as Selectman, Dalton’s Letter to the Editor turned into a regular column that continued for four years. Several of these stories were published in book form – “Local Touch” – in 1985.

Dalton even wrote a series of “ghost” letters to Townsman’s editor, signed by “Aunt Tilly”, a “cantankerous old lady” who was a figment of his imagination.

By 2004, Dalton was writing weekly for the Townsman under his own name.

Today readers may wonder what motivates these writers. Dalton, speaking before the historical society in 2010, summed it up: “I love writing and I love history.”

But Dalton also considered the writer’s responsibility in his remarks:

“My job as a columnist is to be interesting and informative…I’m basically an artist, although I’m careful with my facts…I leave out facts that might hurt people. I am a descriptor of things, sometimes I have an opinion, and often I am a storyteller of historical events.

Well said, and a philosophy I hope runs through all of our Andover stories.