Telegram & Gazette (MA)
tale keeps growing July 24, 2005
Section: LOCAL NEWS
By Karen Nugent
CLINTON - Anthony J. Bastarache set out to take on a
three-week project that would result in a small booklet
about Clinton for the town's high-school students.
But then he discovered what he described as a
certain something that every Clintonian knows, but
doesn't know how to say: That this town is one of a
kind, for a variety of reasons. "I have a sixth sense
about some things - I occasionally get this little
feeling...And I was walking down the street here one
day, and I got this feeling that this place is special.
I felt I could turn this into a tourist town, and that I
could help this town tell its incredible story," he
"The town is a snapshot of 1840 to 1860. Few
towns exist with buildings from that time so
well-preserved," Mr. Bastarache said.
That was three years before the booklet project,
which subsequently turned into an 18-month historical
research, writing, photography, and computer graphics
project that resulted in a 259-page book.
The book, "An Extraordinary Town: How One of
America's Smallest Towns Shaped the World," was recently
published by Dunn & Co. of Clinton.
It sells for $24.95 and is available from
bookstores, and at www.extraordinarytown.com.
The book will also be used as a funding source
for the Clinton Historical Society. Mr. Bastarache said
he had much help from the society, especially from
Terrance P. Ingano, former society president, history
teacher, and now the director of curriculum and grants
at Clinton High School.
The book was such a success, the first printing
sold out within a day, but a second printing will be
available later this week. Mr. Bastarache, a computer
engineer, said he believes his book is different from
other books on Clinton because he was an "outsider" who
came to the project with a blank slate.
"I had no preconceived notions and no biases.
Sometimes ignorance IS bliss," the Michigan native said.
Intending to have the original booklet replace a
older one used at Clinton High, he decided at one point
that he needed to rethink the whole project.
He stopped working on it for two weeks, to ponder
how to bridge the gap between another - frankly, boring
- town history book, to a marketable story of the town
from a newcomer's eyes.
As an engineer with a marketing background, Mr.
Bastarache, the father of three daughters, started fresh
with a scientific approach to his historical research,
creating a grid connecting 350 years, starting in the
mid-1600s, when Clinton was still part of Lancaster.
After 18 months - about 4,300 hours, he
estimates, he had built a grid of thousands of names,
events, products, and patents of all things Clintonian.
For example, while most people are aware that
President Jimmy Carter visited Clinton in 1977, who knew
that John Prescott, the founder of Lancaster (which
included Clinton and many surrounding towns at the
time), was an ancestor of President Bush?
Furthermore, Mr. Bastarache, who moved here in
2000, points out in the book that Mr. Prescott, of
Prescott Mills fame, was the great-great grandson of Dr.
Samuel Prescott, who completed Paul Revere's famous ride
on April 18, 1775.
Another little-known fact is that Miriam Look
MacMillan of Walnut Street was the first female Arctic
explorer, with her husband, starting in 1935. As part of
a crew, she navigated a ship through storms and ice
fields in the Arctic Ocean, traveling to within 660
miles of the North Pole, and then explored Baffin
Island, Labrador and Greenland.
Then there's Mr. Bastarache's newfound
appreciation of Erastus Bigelow, that severe-looking
fellow seen in portraits around town. Erastus and his
brother, Horatio Bigelow, founded Clinton's most famous
business, the Bigelow Carpet Co.
Mr. Bastarache poured over Erastus Bigelow's
personal archives, and discovered that his invention,
the power loom, was described in an 1851 article from a
London newspaper like this: "Bigelow's Brussels carpet
power loom is the most perfect machine yet made in the
"He had a worldwide impact," Mr. Bastarache said.
"I call him the father of textiles."
Bigelow's company, ushering in the Industrial
Revolution, is described in great detail in the book,
along with colorful stories about the building of the
Wachusett dam and reservoir, Clinton sports heroes,
military contributions (a Clintonian, Col. James M.
Ingalls, is called the "father of ballistics) and of
The tale of Carroll L. Gibbons, a composer,
pianist, singer and big-band leader in the World War II
era, recounts when a bomb landed in London's Savoy
Hotel, knocking Mr. Gibbons and his band off the stage.
But there are many more, current stories to be
told; along with large, color and black-and-white
photographs comparing old and new Clinton.
The book is easy to read, with striking graphics,
and photographs of a particular person or place
accompanying each story.
There are even photographs of people and places
seen all the time, such as Joanne Souza and Tracy
Zangarine of Varise Brothers Florists, the interior of
the Clinton Savings Bank, plastics giant Nypro, now
occupying the old Bigelow factory; M. Raymond Grady and
Michael Grady of J.R. Grady and Sons paving, and the tap
room at the Old Timer Restaurant.
The end of the book has several pages of Clinton
notables, firsts, and the very necessary "fact or
fiction" section. For example, it turns out that the
notorious tale about Clinton having the most bars per
capita is not true.
But it is true that temperance leader Carrie
Nation came to town to give a lecture on the evils of
drinking, in 1907.
During the course of his research, Mr. Bastarache
said he discovered two previous undocumented facts:
Clinton's Central Park is the oldest public park in the
country; and Fuller Field, off North High Street, is the
oldest baseball diamond in continuous use in the
Mr. Bastarache said he has not made any money
from the book, and, just hopes to be able to repay loans
he took out to work on it.
"It was truly a labor of love. Hopefully, the
book's legacy will be a new perception of Clinton's
national and international contributions to the world
for the next generation," he said.
"It's not your typical history book. This book
will be fascinating to read if you're from Worcester or
Los Angeles. It's about a small town, and how it helped
shape America," he said.
Mr. Bastarache has a few follow-up plans,
including getting a statue of John Prescott erected in
Central Park, and plaques placed in Fuller Field and
Central Park; submitting Fuller Field to the Guinness
Book of World Records as the oldest baseball diamond in
the U.S., and maybe having some "old-timers" games
played there; and perhaps creating a "Hall of Fame" of
photographs of Clinton's famous people at the high
school, as an inspiration to students.
Besides www.extraordinarytown.com; Mr.
Bastarache's book will be available at amazon.com;
eBay.com; the Strand Theatre, Corner Sports and Leisure
and Duvarney Jewelers, all in Clinton; and at Borders
books in Marlboro.
CUTLINE: Some famous Clintonians, and their
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