Local History and Why We Need It

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Local History and Why We Need It

Mackenzie Sweet, Student

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All too often local people take the places where they live for granted. It is easy to grow indifferent towards the everyday scenes around us. Passing the same streets and landmarks that we have almost every day of our lives can make their beauty and history fade in our eyes. However, this is an unfortunate habit, especially for those of us who live in Cape Ann. From Steel Derrick to Good Harbor Beach, there is so much beauty all around us. The places we see every day are filled with rich history and great beauty. It is important to be reminded of that. While taking Mrs. Herrmann’s History of Cape Ann class at Rockport High School, I was surprised at how much I did not know about the place I was born and raised in. I’m sure that I am not the only one who was shocked by how much they never noticed about Cape Ann’s history. Once our eyes were opened, we were hooked. Never again will we pass the Fisherman’s Statue and not know what it was dedicated to or wonder how the quarries came to be. We feel more connected to our home now and are proud to tell our friends everything that we have learned. This class has shown me the importance of local history.

Rockport Harbor from Granite Pier

I believe that local history should be taught at every school. In some ways, it’s even more relevant than world history. The students learning it will be able to more readily see the actual sites of events and understand the landscapes on a personal level. There are many traditions and stories to tell about the towns we live in. The cultural heritage of these places should be passed on to the next generation and preserved. It is interesting to learn about past events that affect your own community. It is fascinating to learn why streets are named what they are and why immigrants choose that place to call home. Holidays and sayings suddenly make sense when you learn their origin. All of this adds meaning to the things around us. Learning local history can bring the community together by inspiring pride in where we live. Instead of just sharing the same beaches and parking lots, we share the same past.

Cape Ann’s history, in particular, is incredibly interesting because of its uniqueness. Our history began long before any European colonist came. Native Americans lived and fished here for many generations. By the 17th century, John Smith named the area around Gloucester Cape Tragabigzanda as tribute to a Turkish princess he had encountered. Soon after, Cape Ann’s harbors were becoming bustling fishing communities. Centuries later our local culture still revolves around fishing. For example, the annual St. Peter’s Fiesta is named for the patron saint of fishing and the Fisherman’s statue was built in honor of the 10,000 Gloucester fisherman who have died at sea. There are very few families here that don’t know someone or have a relative who had something to do with the fishing industry. These are all events that we see the aftershock of every day. They mean something different to everyone who lives here in Cape Ann. It is truly riveting to learn the history of where you live.

Good Harbor Beach

Local history should be apart of every curriculum and is incredibly beneficial to students everywhere, especially Cape Ann. With our inexhaustible history and intriguing tales, Cape Ann has much to offer. I have learned so much from this class and hope that one day my children will also learn about our home. It should be our goal as a community to come together over our history and to stop taking the wonderful place where we live for granted.