Letter: It is past time to update historic signage 

November 30, 2023

Being an historic town, Concord is filled with signs and monuments that explain the history that went on here, from the pre-Colonial times through the 19th century and up to the 20th century including wars that our fellow Concordians fought and died in.  

Like history itself, the research and teaching of history is fluid. What was once acceptable in the early 20th century is no longer viable; for instance, the use of the word “Indian” to describe native peoples. Or only naming schools after long-dead white men. These are the two issues the town of Concord now faces.  

It’s well past time to update the tercentenary signage on the Milldam, especially the sign honoring Jethro’s Tree; it’s offensive to the Native people that lived here and is historically inaccurate. It’s time to properly honor the Indigenous tribes that lived here before the Puritans arrived.  

While we’re at it, it’s time to finally honor a Concord hero who gets almost no attention: educator and social activist Ellen Garrison. The new middle school that is being built would be a fitting tribute to Ellen. The Ellen Garrison Middle School would give her equal footing with her contemporaries, Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, and Peabody. She was as radical as any of them.  

These two issues are connected. Concord likes to pride itself on being a forward-thinking, progressive town. Changing signage or renaming a school are small but important steps in educating our visitors about some of our history that’s been whitewashed, marginalized, or forgotten. 21st century sensibilities need to be used to educate the public (and ourselves) about the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.  

Richard Smith  

Concord Public Historian  

Black Duck Road