Whittier Birthplace Trustee Jay Cleary discusses plans to restore the Whittier Trail throughout Haverhill (WHAV News photograph.)
Whittier Birthplace Trustee Jay Cleary said he was inspired by a familiar Haverhill figure to seek grants and re-establish the trail.
“Barney Gallagher, who was such an integral part of our group and such a promoter of Whittier, and I had a number of conversations over the years about this Whittier Trail, and Barney was always pushing ‘new ideas, new ideas, new ideas,’” Cleary said.
He provided an overview of the trail, as it had been established in 1965 by the Haverhill Historic Trails Committee, comprised of the Haverhill Historical Society, Haverhill Whittier Club and Trustees of the John Greenleaf Whittier Homestead; Haverhill’s 325th Anniversary Committee and interested citizens of Haverhill.
“The Whittier Trail was signage located at a number of locations in Haverhill that were paying respect to legacy and life of John Greenleaf Whittier and his writings. Over 50 years ago, they were posted throughout the City of Haverhill in various locations that were all significant to John Greenleaf Whittier,” said Cleary.
The original trail signs were designed by Arthur Foss, city arts director and the trail booklet was written by former Whittier Trustees and school Superintendent Donald C. Freeman. Over the years, the trail was gradually neglected. “As with many things over time, signs fade, they get damaged, they might be taken down, they fall down, and sooner or later they are out of sight and then they are out of mind and forgotten.”
Learning of the Essex National Heritage Area’s 2017 partnership grant program back in January, Cleary believed his idea met the criteria for a $2,000 award. “(Projects) That demonstrate their ability to preserve or promote the region’s nationally significant heritage. Well, that’s Whittier in my book.”
Sites on the original Whittier Trail were Buttonwoods Museum, site of the “The Sycamores;” Pentucket Cemetery; the original Haverhill Public Library, dedicated by Whittier; Haverhill City Hall; Haverhill Academy, Winter Street; Kenoza Lake, named by Whittier; the old schoolhouse on Whittier Road; home of Lydia Ayer from the poem “In School Days;” his birthplace; Country Bridge Pond, Middle Road; Suicide Pond; Walnut Cemetery, where Ayer is buried; Greenwood Cemetery, resting place of Countess Mary Ingalls; Peaslee Garrison House; and Ingalls’ birthplace.
Learning of the Essex National Heritage Area grant in April, Cleary set out to find money to match the award. Haverhill Whittier Club President Margaret Toomey cheered on the task, giving the new trails effort $500. The money will pay for new signs and trail booklets, possibly including an interactive version.