by Sheila Mason Gale
A Canterbury Story by Sheila Mason Gale Can you imagine holding the same political office for sixty-three years? We have such a man in Canterbury. He has been a Justice of the Peace since 1938 and his name is Linwood Tracy.
The first time I met Mr. Tracy he was a teacher at Calvary Chapel's Vacation Bible School. He was outgoing, had a big booming voice and a hearty laugh. Having a shy nature, I was a little bit afraid of him, but there was nothing to be afraid of, Linwood encouraged all of his students to be themselves.
The Tracy family has been in Canterbury since it was founded in 1703. In the 1800's his Grandfather, Lucius, operated Canterbury's pauper's farm. This farmhouse is the one story building located across the street from the post office. Some of the residents were the Quinebaug Indians. Linwood has lived in Canterbury his whole life except for two or three years when the family moved to Woodstock where his father, Herbert, ran the pauper's farm there. At one time, Herbert bought a team of horses and worked for Arthur Bennett who operated a sawmill and filling station. As a young boy, Linwood would trap skunks and muskrats and sell them to Mr. Bennett for some spending money. The skins were probably dyed and used as hand muffs, which were popular at the time.
Hanging May baskets was once a popular fun event. In the spring, children would put some penny candy and flowers in a basket, hang it on the door of their favorite girl or boy, knock on the door, and hide. The child would then come out and try and find the gift giver. Linwood had a crush on Truman Hart's daughter, Helen, and she was the recipient of his May basket.
Being a farm town, many families in Canterbury belonged to the Grange. The Tracy family belonged and one of their favorite activities was singing. Linwood's father formed a quartet and Linwood and Anna Herr would sing duets. All of Linwood's four children play an instrument or sing.
Linwood graduated at age thirteen from the Green school (Canterbury's library today), but couldn't get working papers so he had to go back to Frost school (on Lisbon Road) for one more year. Linwood had several hobbies. In the winter you could always find him skating, in the fall he would hunt and trap. In the spring, he and a buddy would sometimes come down "sick" and be sent home from school, but would make a miraculous recovery on the way home and be able to go fishing.
Fourth of July celebrations were a big event in Canterbury when Linwood was a boy. Linwood's father ran the clambake at the grange hall; there were fireworks and lots of activities. Linwood and several other boys would sneak into the church on the Green and ring the bell at midnight on July 4th. This went on for about three years until they were caught, by Merritt Hawes and persuaded to stop.
As children, Linwood and his two sisters and two brothers didn't have any transportation and the only way to get around, was to walk. They walked everywhere and thought nothing of it. Linwood does remember the first paved road in Canterbury about 1922. It came from Brooklyn and was paved up to the intersection of Route 169 and Route 14. Then it turned on Route 14 toward Scotland until it reached what is now Creative Interiors. It was 1928 or 29 before the road was paved from the Routes 169/14 intersection to Lisbon.
In 1938 a group of young Canterbury residents, comprised of Rudy Nikkonen, Nelson Carpenter, Lillian Frink and a few others, formed the young Republicans Club and they each decided what office they would run for. Linwood choose Justice of the Peace. He is very proud that most of the couples he has married over the years have stayed together. Another part of his job was to be a judge over family matters, traffic violations, fish and game violations, etc. The courthouse was in the building next door to the Frink & Wright store and was in operation until 1959. One case that came before him was a man arrested for shooting deer out of season. The minimum fine was $100.00, so Linwood fined the man $100.00 and then returned $95.00. The game warden who arrested the man was very upset at this decision, but Linwood felt that since the man had seven children, he should be able to hunt venison to feed his family no matter what time of year it was.
Formerly on land where St. Augustines Church is located, there was a hoop shop. This was a place that made oak hoops for ship masts and yardarms. The oak was steamed and bent into shape and tacked with copper nails. Linwood's grandfather worked for the shop owner who was the grandfather of the woman who later became his wife, Althea Williams. At first Linwood was interested in Althea's sister, but he discovered that Althea was a fun person and she was the one he decided to marry. In August of 1933, they ran away and got married and kept it a secret for four months. Althea was a kind and gentle person, but she had a very strong constitution and would not be moved from what she believed.
Linwood is a coin collector. When he was attending the Green school, he decided to pick some violets along the side of the road for his teacher, Cornelia Lovell. While doing this he found a two-cent coin (which he still has today) and from that time on coins have fascinated him.
Linwood still has that big booming voice and that hearty laugh especially when talking about his childhood. I'm not afraid of him any more, instead, I have great respect for him and think of Linwood as a pioneer, of sorts, strong, hardworking, no-nonsense and ingenious.