Monday, May 16, 2016

Shays Rebellion Monument Restoration and Arbor Day Tree Planting

Shays' Rebellion Monument 

The Shays’ Monument was increasingly listing to the south and many AT and local folks were interested to see it properly straight with a good foundation. The Sheffield Tree Project had long been interested in planting some trees in the same area on Arbor Day.  So a combined project was planned over 2 years to both straighten the monument and plant some trees. Adam Brown of ATC and Tom Ingersoll local landscaper, AT friend and member of the Sheffield Tree Project co-led the tree job and Adam and Steve Smith co-led the monument straightening.

Because the monument is on National Park Service Appalachian Trail lands, there were extensive planning and permitting tasks to complete.  The monument indicates the site of the last battle of Shays' Rebellion, and thus required some attention from the Park Service Archeological Office before it could be moved or the surrounding area excavated.  Additionally, it was important to ascertain that the work would not disturb any rare plants or habitat prior to beginning work.

Day One, April 27

  Starting at 7:30 AM, David Lanoue, a contractor funded by an anonymous local donor, and Jeff Collingwood, a volunteer Civil Engineer, were busy with their crew laying out the steps to success.  First, a “cradle” had to be created behind the current location of the monument to safely hold it while the foundation was being prepared.  An excavator driven by Kyle Wilkinson was used to dig the hole, place crushed rock as a bed, and then lift a large concrete manhole section into place. 

  Then the crane was moved into position and the monument was lifted carefully into its new home, guided by Terry and Kyle Lamphere, stonemasons.  Their skills were such that the giant stone was removed, stored and re-installed without a scratch.

After cement was poured and troweled, the monument was in place and all was ready for next steps.  Backfill soil was piled on tarps and saved aside waiting for archeological evaluation.


Day 2 and Day 3--

NPS Archeologist Joel Dukes and Steve Smith begin the metal detecting of the soil for backfill plus digging test holes where trees were to be planted.  More extensive metal detecting, eventually covering 20 acres over 3 days, yielded two bullets, a button and a buckle potentially stemming from the original 1787 battle.

Hannah Chamberlain, and Jim Pelletier to continue hand moving dirt and landscaping the monument.   Joel concludes the archeological search and testing.  At the end of Day Three, all is in readiness for the Arbor Day Tree Planting.

Day 4--Arbor Day

 Setting up food for folks was done early by Sheffield Land Trust volunteers. 

 Tom Ingersoll and crew, which included Whalen Nursery, used a tractor to assist with the planting of 30’ high trees.  White Oak, American elm, Sycamore, and Red Maple were among the 6 trees planted.  Three were placed around the monument, three near the kiosk and trailhead parking area.
 Tom also offered an impromptu seminar to folks about the art and science of proper tree planting and care of transplanted trees.

  Caleb Turner, arborist, restored an old apple tree near the parking area.   

At 11:00am, Tom Ingersoll led a dedication ceremony.  An Arbor Day Proclamation was read, the Shays’ Rebellion history was recited, and short speeches were given by the partners: Tom for the Sheffield Tree Project, Joel for the National Park Service, Adam for the ATC, Steve for the AMC and lastly a director of the Sheffield Land Trust spoke. 

When these trees mature in the next 10 years or so, this area will provide a bit of welcome shade to hikers crossing the 5 miles of the Housatonic valley--reputed to have the worst mosquitoes on the entire A.T.

Photos and text for this post were provided by Steve Smith, Cultural Resources Coordinator for the Mass AT Committee.

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