When she visited Elizabeth Taber’s Acushnet grave with her three-and-a-half-year-old twin brothers in tow, Greta Agnew wanted to know why they called Elizabeth Taber “Marion’s Fairy Godmother.”
The seven-year-old, rising second-grader from Winwood, Pennsylvania, had many more questions spurred on by a growing fascination for history while riding her bicycle around Marion. With little in the way of town events and programs amidst the lingering coronavirus pandemic, what is a child to do all summer but wear out her bicycle tires?
Greta Agnew did more than that. She created the “Kid’s Historical Bike Tour of Marion, Massachusetts,” an online, virtual tour of historical and interesting sites that can be seen from a kid’s bike.
A longer-than-usual summer visit made it all possible.
“We usually stay for two weeks at a time, but we didn’t this summer,” said Greta, who spent from June through August visiting her grandmother, Marion Historical Commission Chair Meg Steinberg.
Greta’s mother, Julia Agnew, is a teacher, and the next generation didn’t fall very far from the tree.
According to Julia, Greta “was in charge of everything. She made the maps, she picked out the houses that were most important to her, especially the ones in the underground. She wanted to make (the tour) accessible for all little peddlers.”
And on safe streets, too.
“We spent a lot of time bike riding,” said Julia. “We (made the website) as a family, used a web-building (application). It was quite easy.”
The product is interactive, educational, and entertaining, but mostly it demonstrates how our overly stimulated world silently robs most children of the opportunity to breathe in more important things right around them.
“When you notice telltale signs… it’s fun,” said Julia. “Kids are looking for shapes and patterns and designs. Making those real-world connections is such fun.”
From historical homes connected to the underground railroad to one-room schoolhouses, a summer spent enjoying exercise in fresh air became site seeing and, ultimately, a learning opportunity.
The best thing in Marion? “I would say Sippican Hotel because we know the people who live in the house where the Sippican Hotel is,” said Greta, who won’t forget her trip to the Taber gravesite in Acushnet. “It was sort of big. We also saw the church and her husband’s graves. We also went to Minister’s Rock.”
Marion is a historical goldmine.
“Marion has many historic buildings and sites with unique histories and architectural styles,” said Town Administrator Jay McGrail in a press release about the Kid’s Bike Tour. “We are excited that Greta took an interest in our town and its history. We appreciate the time she took to learn about and share information about these sites by putting together this guide so others can enjoy biking in Marion while learning about its rich history.”
While known for an occasional celebrity sighting, Marion’s sweet spot for the more famous was in the early part of the 20th century. Some of the summer homes constructed in the era remain to this day. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, President Grover Cleveland, Mark Twain, and Ralph Waldo Emerson are among them.
Greta’s tour takes a young bike rider to the garden on Main Street by Sippican Historical Society to some long-standing houses that display various architectural styles going back as far as 1680. Sippican Hotel, Marion Art Center, Marion Town House, Elizabeth Taber Library, the Music Hall, Marion General Store, and a view of Bird Island Lighthouse highlight the 19-stop tour.
Greta and her mother made brochures and brought them to the Sippican Historical Society. “We were there and asked, ‘Would you mind if we dropped these off?’” said Julia.
Naturally, Marion officials are flabbergasted and thrilled by Greta’s effort. And it looks like this bike-tour won’t be her last.
“I want to do a tour here, too,” Greta said of her hometown just outside Philadelphia. “We stay in our neighborhood, on our street sometime and sometimes other streets. And I also like to look at the pretty houses … looking at turrets, too. And there used to be a mill across the street in the park.”
Last week, Greta was busy getting ready for second grade.
“We picked out my computer and my workbooks for school this morning,” she said.
For a look at Marion from the eye of a kid on a bike, visit: kidsbikemarion.wixsite.com/mysite. For more information on Marion, visit marionma.gov/historical-commission.
By Mick Colageo