National Geographic : 1959 May
A Massachusetts banker grows prize blossoms where his colonial ancestor fought for freedom HISTORY AND BEAUTY BLEND IN A Concord Iris Garden By ROBERT T. COCHRAN, JR., National Geographic Staff Illustrations by National Geographic Photographer M. WOODBRIDGE WILLIAMS T HE PLANKED BRIDGE beneath my feet and the statue of a minuteman on the riverbank lifted a proud chapter of American history out of the schoolbooks and brought it to life before my eyes. Then a man touched my arm, and history spoke. "My forebear, Maj. John Buttrick, led the minutemen down that old colonial road across our fields." He pointed to the ghost of a road running through the marshes beyond the Concord River. "British forces falling back toward Concord halted beyond the bridge," he said. "They fired, and my ancestor shouted to the advancing Americans: 'Fire, fellow sol diers, for God's sake. fire!' Then he aimed his own musket and pulled the trigger. "Historians have never sorted out that morning's confusion, but I believe his was the first shot of the Concord fight." In the engagement three British and two American soldiers fell mortally wounded. Stedman Buttrick, my companion on that bright June day. pointed again. "There is our house," he said, "and there, on the hillside, is the garden." I looked to our right and saw his magnificent irises blooming along the river. Flowering shrubs and majestic trees, their peaceful beauty the product of 30 years' plan ning and hard work, climbed an easy slope between the house and the gently arching bridge where we stood. MIr. Buttrick lives on familiar terms with Concord and its historic past. His family settled beside the river in 1635. Twenty-eight years earlier, the first permanent English settlement in North America was founded in Virginia. Fifteen years before, the Pilgrims landed from the Mayflower at Cape Cod. Since these early days, Buttricks-ten genera tions of them-have lived on the same land. Few families in the United States have such enduring roots. "Our irises bloom at the edge of the battle ground." Mr. Buttrick told me. "Only But tricks have farmed, fought, and gardened on this riverbank." Irises Crowd History for Attention When I visited the Buttricks, I saw a steady stream of tourists pour through Concord's historic battleground. They crossed the 20th century copy of Old North Bridge to admire Daniel Chester French's heroic bronze statue, and paused to read Ralph Waldo Emerson's immortal stanza, carved on its granite base: By the rude bridge that arched the flood, Their flag to April's breeze unfurled, Here once the embattled farmers stood, And fired the shot heard round the world. Emerson's last line measures the importance of that rattle of gunfire on April 19, 1775. It touched off the American Revolution, which ended six and a half years later at Yorktown. The Buttrick irises vie with historic land- "The Shot Heard Round the World" Echoed Along This Quiet Stream Colonial America's quarrel with George III flared into war on April 19. 1775. when Maj. John Buttrick rallied "embattled farmers" near Concord. Massachusetts, and hurled them against a column of British soldiers at North Bridge. Today Stedman Buttrick raises prize-winning irises above the battleground where his brave ancestor fought. Only Buttricks and Indians have owned this land. the Buttricks since 1635. Susan Murray. the head gardener's daughter, admires irises at the peak of their June magnificence. Distant bridge spanning the Concord River copies the original. KODACHROMEBY DAVID S. BOYER. NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSTAFF © N.G .S .