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A tale of two villages … one community

JANE MERRILL, WHO HAS LIVED  IN BOXFORD FOR 56 YEARS,  SAYS THERE HAS ALWAYS BEEN  A “FRIENDLY COMPETITION”   between the two sides of town.  Those in West Boxford are known for carrying on the area’s rich farming tradition. The east side of town is more developed, although strict town ordinances and a vocal preservation contingent haven’t let that detract from its natural tranquility.

Boxford attracts many families because of its three-acre minimum for residential lots. People who live here have the luxury of spacious backyards with plenty of privacy for family activities and entertaining friends.

Merrill’s shop, the Boxford Community Store, is located in East Boxford Village. Known to the locals simply as “Wayne’s,” the pristine blue building houses a casual restaurant, post office, and bank. On any given day, a visit to Wayne’s offers a perfect snapshot of life in this traditional small New England town. Friendly greetings pass between the locals, many of whom grew up here and have known each other for decades.

Former Town Selectman Charlie Killam is one of those lifelong residents. Sipping his coffee at the counter at Wayne’s, he talks about his grandfather, who at one time owned 600 acres of farmland in town, and  about the tight knit sense of community that exists here.

“If there’s ever a tragedy or a need, people are there,” he says, “They come out of the blue.”

On the West side of town, West Village Provisions is the counterpart to the community store in the East.  A barn red house converted into a store is home to discussions ranging from various topics Monday through Saturday mornings. Also in West Boxford, Tina Benson of Benson’s Ice Cream agrees that the essence of Boxford is found in the people as well as the landscape. She describes it as a place with “big white churches, small businesses, and town meetings where everyone has a voice.” Her father, Alan, the town administrator, says there is a real emphasis on keeping that sense of community and simplicity in Boxford.

“We want to provide people with an escape to the way life used to be,” he says, “We work very hard to promote that essence in our town.”

Keeping it simple is the recreational theme in Boxford as well, with outdoor activities in the forefront. Residents and visitors alike flock to Stiles and Baldpate ponds to swim or fish.  Ingaldsby Farm is another draw for visitors who like to feed the animals or stock up on seasonal flowers, plans, and fresh produce. The people of Boxford know about Ingaldsby’s sugared doughnuts and other freshly baked goodies, made on the premises. Boxford also has miles and miles of nature trails that attract hikers, bikers, and riders on horseback.

Nancy Merrill (no relation to Jane),  chairwoman of the Boxford Trails  Association/Boxford Open Land Trust  (BTA/BOLT), has spent the past 30  years dedicating herself to preservation of the trails, a cause that started  when her children were avid horseback riders.

“My kids rode almost every single day. Then in 1978 we saw a 4-H trail close down,” she explains. “That’s when we decided to forge a line of communication between trail users and trail owners in order to preserve the land.”

While the spread of Boston commuters reaches farther and farther outward, unleashing endless development in its path, Boxford continues to be a truly unique suburb, celebrated and preserved by the residents who love it. A day spent here is a breath of fresh air, in every sense of the word.

Boxford ID

Date of Settlement: 1645

Date of Incorporation: 1685

Area Code: 978

Zip Code: 01921

Population: 2,358

Total Area: 24.6 square miles

Board of Selectmen: Stephen A. Davis, chair; Charles J. Costello;  Barbara G. Jessel; Barbara A. Beardsley; Peter C. Perkins

Median Home Price: $691,800

Median Household Income: $125,500

Colleges: none

Schools: Harry Lee Cole School, Spofford Pond School, Masconomet Regional High School Private Schools: Boxford Academy