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: J. Douglas Webb Speaks On Changes In Town Government  ( 1849 )
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« : August 23, 2005, 07:46:11 AM »

This past Sunday evening, 83 year old J. Douglas (Doug) Webb, shown above, who has been involved in local politics here in Fairfax for the past 40 years spent some time with the Fairfax Historical Society discussing some of the changes that have taken place in Fairfax Town Government he has seen and been involved with.

Doug is the first U.S. born child of immigrant parents, Sam & Bertha (Brookes) Webb, who came here to Fairfax from England.  As you might guess by now, the Sam Webb Road, where they first moved was named after his parents.  Doug's older brother Bill, now deceased and older sister, Ivy (Webb) Ovitt were both born in England while his younger sister, long time Westford Town Clerk, Frena (Webb) Phillips, like himself was born here in Fairfax.

Doug married Nellie (Burnor) Webb back in 1948.  Nellie passed away in 2003, having spent their life together on the Webb Farm in Buck Hollow.

Doug started off speaking to us stating that he has found that for some reason, individuals who immigrated to this country often try to dedicate themselves to some sort of public service as he mentioned things of this nature done by his two sisters and older brother Bill.

He has always tried to be fair and get along with people.  He sometimes wonders if it might not be better for more younger people to get involved in public service to the town.  (My own personal comment here on this point is that there is much learned knowledge through personal experience, that would be lost if we didn't have some of our old timers giving input on individual situations).

Doug said he thought that maybe why some of our young people did not choose to run was because they were afraid of losing.  He said that he has found that he certainly was not always right, but that is to be expected and no one should worry about that.

As many of you know, Doug's wife Nellie was afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease for a number of years before her death.  These were tough years for Doug as well and he said that during her illness and since her death, he has learned a lot about housekeeping.  He spoke of making baked beans and the disaster that occurred there.  He didn't par-boil them and his son complained they were a little hard.  He also spoke of making some pea soup and boiling down a ham bone, maybe just a little too much, but perhaps the most important lesson he said he has learned that Nellie never complained about was how he never really worried if he was late for meals.  This he says really bothers him now, when his son doesn't show up on time and he tries to keep things warm without ruining them.  The women in the group all seemed to understand what he was talking about.

Doug took over on the select board after Paige Maxfield.  He was not elected to the job the first time.  Back in those early days there were 340 voters on the checklist.  He asked us if we were aware how many voters were on the checklist now.  We all took guesses, but none of us were right.  The answer, in case you didn't know is 2,550 and growing.

Reminiscing about his childhood, riding the horse drawn school barges and traverse sleds in the winter, traveling through the meadows because in those old days there were stone walls on both sides of the road and the roads were impassable, because they just filled right up with snow.  He mentioned the building on the corner of Meade Road and Buck Hill where Henry Nichols kept the old bulldozer with the snow plow on it that was the only thing that would get the roads cleared at times as well as the first six wheel drive grader purchased by the town to plow the roads here in the 1950s.

Art Webb, shown above, who was also on the select board in those years mentioned how they gave the grader a real workout before purchasing it and that Ed Barkyoumb was the Road Commissioner back in those days.  If I remember right, Art said that the select board members took turns riding with Ed Barkyoumb night and day while they made a decision.  There were three members back then and it was a 2 to 1 vote for the one they got, as they tried two different ones.  Again not everyone agreeing, which is not unusual according to both Art and Doug.

Doug said he is not sure whether having five members on the select board is good or bad, but one thing is sure, everything in the town is growing.  He said that the Development Review Board presently has about 120 homes/condos on the drawing boards.  With these additional residences we might even have to think about enlarging the school.  When asked about the water and sewer system, he mentioned that the condos planned up by Minor's Country Store would have to have their own community system.

I asked Doug about the old overseer of the poor job.  Both Doug and Art were overseers of the poor at one time.  Fairfax was associated with the Bakersfield Poor Farm.  I mentioned that I had seen names of people in the old Town Reports for the Poor Farm or money for food, clothing or a few cords of wood.  Doug said that yes they did do that, but he never felt that it was right to put their names in the Town Report.

What were the biggest issues back in those early days for the selectboard??

Two words, "Roads and Dogs."

Another thing that has changed over the years - "The Shepardson Hollow Road."  Back in those early years when I moved here, there were no houses on the Shepardson Hollow Road except for the "Old Log Cabin" and Elaine Kirkpatrick remembered Carol Lavelle asking the selectboard as to why they kept setting the dump on fire.  She said she will never forget Doug fielding that question, "It just catches fire sometimes," he said.

By the way, that is exactly what happened too and the fire department made many trips up to that old dump.  It was explained that the trash was pushed over into the ravine and spontaneous combustion was the culprit.

Doug mentioned that back when Fairfax bought the six wheel drive grader, it was though to be a lot of money and asked if anyone had any idea how much the new truck we just bought cost.  The two-wheel drive truck was purchased for a mere $94,000.  Unbelievable he said.

Comments were made regarding how fortunate we are here in Fairfax to have such a young fire department.  One town was mentioned where no new young people were joining the volunteer fire department making it difficult to maintain a viable fire department.  Mike Cain stated that we only had a couple of individuals considered to be in the upper age bracket here in the Fairfax Fire Department.

Long about this time we were getting close to 9 p.m.  Even though questions were still rolling out, we were all getting a little tired and thanked Doug for coming over to speak with us.

For photos of others attending the meeting and enjoying the program and picnic, you may click on the following link:


The above information is what I heard and understood and even though much more was talked about, hopefully it is fairly accurate.

A special thanks to Doug for taking to time to speak to all of us and respond to our questions.

Henry Raymond
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