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Thursday, January 26, 2012

Smith Elementary, Danvers -- January 27

N 42 ° 35' 10"
W 70 ° 57' 14"
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The EarthView team is pleased to be making another North Shore visit, this time to the Ivan G. Smith School in Danvers. We are even more pleased to find that the Smith School has a newsletter with a perfect name: The Globe.

This is an interesting community in terms of its land and water connections to the entire region. Bordered on almost all sides by waterways, Danvers is criss-crossed by major, historic highways, including Route 1, Route 128, and Interstate 95. 

Our visit comes on January 27, the 124th birthday of the National Geographic Society. The entire EarthView team is looking forward to the Massachusetts portion of the National Geographic Geography Bee this March 30 in Worcester.

Many do not realize that the first president of National Geographic was none other than Alexander Graham Bell -- some of the EarthView team members have visited his personal office in the National Geographic Headquarters in Washington. The second president was his son-in-law, and every president since then has been a descendant.

Danvers was part of Salem during the 1692 Witch Hysteria, and the home of victim Rebecca Nurse still stands in the town. The wife and daughter of EarthView team member Dr. Hayes-Bohanan are among her direct descendants (and distant cousins of at least one Smith School student).

Danvers has something in common with far-away Weslaco, Texas: both originated a specific variety of onion. In the case of Danvers, the onion is named for the town, and vice-versa (Danvers Onion and Onion Town, repsectively). In the case of Weslaco, the onion is named for the road along which it was developed, FM 1015 (Farm-to-Market Road 1015). It is simply called a 1015 onion.

Post-event update: The EarthView team often learns as much as we teach, and the Smith School visit was no exception. The Danvers Onion, it turns out, is among the most commonly sold yellow bulb onions, and Danvers once supplied most of the onions in the surrounding region. Onion Town is also known for the Danvers Carrot, a short variety bred especially for the clay-rich soils found in Danvers. These carrots are known as "half long" and are among the most popular baby-food carrots.

The clay soil deposits that make short carrots easier to grow than long ones are also good for an industry that Danvers historically shared with Bridgewater. In both towns, the glaciers left clay behind that was good for making bricks.

As we left Danvers, we noticed a fine example of what geographers call "sense of place." The owners of this restaurant have a geographic sense of humor: its function room is named for the famous onion of a town in Georgia.

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