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A Pantheon to Honor the Pilgrims

Edited by Mrs. Paul H. Walker

Our forefathers are again in the news. On Thursday 22 August 1996, a Maine Superior Court ruled that $2 million left by the late James Phinney Baxter rightfully belongs to Boston where, according to Baxter's bequest, a "pantheon" is to be erected in honor of New England settlers.

The decision apparently took Boston by suprise becuase officials interviewed by the press have no idea how such a memorial might look. In fact, few people in Maine knew the money was sitting in Boston until a Maine college student "discovered" it while doing research on the Baxter family 13 years ago.

In 1931 Baxter (as in Baxter State Park) left $50,000 to Boston, hoping that the city someday might use it to build a memorial on the scale of Westminster Abby to teach "diseased and feeble" immigrants an appreciation for American history. Tolerance for immigrants was a challenge for Baxter, a four-time mayor of Portland and descendant of Mayflower immigrants.

Percival Baxter was the late son of James Baxter and a governor of Maine who subsequently added $200,000 to the pot.

When attorneys in Portland learned of the money, they demanded it back saying that under the terms of the trust, Boston should have started construction on a memorial or handed the money over to Portland parks. Attorneys for Boston said the city did not need to act until the total fund (the gift plus interest) had grown to $2 million.

Judge Leigh I. Saufley of Cumberland County Superior Court ruled on 22 August 1996 in Boston's favor, for the creation of a truly lasting monument to the founders of New England.

Some of the off-color ideas put forth by those of supposedly dignified professions, such as the arts and srchitecture, follow from Boston Globe interviews (since the city doesn't have any ideas yet).

Fir example: a 100-foot tall ice structure of Cotton Mather--a severe and intolerant clergyman--on Dorchester heights in South Boston, coldly demanding that everyone go away. Good for one season. A pantheon of everything and everyone ever banned in Boston. A giant bronze structure of a gaggle of smallpox viruses--introduced into the native Indian population by Europeans--that emit coughing sounds. "Sonic Mayflower," a full-scale replica anchored on City Hall Plaza with sails made from various sports banners and voices of noteworthy citizens emanating from the near and distant past.

All Tim Marsters from Marsters, Sargeant, Rivers Architects, Inc. could suggest was "How about just taking a part of Boston and returning to its pristine state." Not very bright thinking for an architect, even on the spur of the moment, since his profession is to create, not restore.

And he is completely ignoring Boston's Emerald Necklance, created by Frederick Law Olmstead, our famous landscape architect, who has already done that.

Fortunately, Edward Collins, the city's chief financial officer said: "I need some time to look into all of this." However, there is not much time, and he may appoint a committee for this responsibility in haste because unless Prtland appeals the decision, BOSTON MUST BEGIN CONSTRUCTION IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS.

For the moment, the form it will take is anyone's guess. Your editor has sent him the Fall 1995 issue of The Pilgrim News-Letter showing him how the monument to Christopher Jones came into existance. My hope is that some similar organization to "Memorials by Artists" will be found, a contest sponsored, and a worthy monument built to honor our founding fathers and educate the public about their legacy to us.

ALL YOU PILGRIMS OUT THERE--TAKE AN INTEREST! The man to contact about this project is:
Mr. Edward Collins
Chief Financial Officer of Boston
Finance Commission
152 North Street
Boston, MA 02109

Hearing a lot of us, with positive suggestions, will show him many people have a great interest and concern about this, and he may be guided in a good direction.

[From an article in the Boston Globe of 24 August 1996, entitled "Tributes with touch of whimsy."]

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