Local history will come alive on Sept. 6, when public television’s popular series, “History Detectives,” focuses on cryptic handwritten notes on a 1775 almanac and its ties to Milton and the Suffolk Resolves. The episode airs at 8 p.m. on WGBH, Channel 2.
"We're trying to get the word out to everybody to watch it,'' said Eleanor Fusoni, a member of the Milton Historical Society who handles its publicity.
The Suffolk Resolves was a precursor to the Declaration of Independence. Shep Williams, a descendant of William Taylor, a signer of the resolves, inherited the almanac containing the margin notes of his ancestor. It has been in his family for 200 years and, judging from those notes, is far more than a dusty reference manual, according to local historians.
The scrawled notes give “History Detectives” host Elyse Luray rare, intimate insight into how conflicting loyalties may have strained personal relationships during the Revolution, local historians say. She sets out to learn who wrote the diary and what role Taylor played in the Revolutionary War.
A portion of the episode was filmed at Milton’s Suffolk Resolves House where the document was signed in 1774. It is now the headquarters of the Milton Historical Society at 1370 Canton Ave.
The house was originally owned by Daniel Vose, who at his marriage had combined two existing buildings to make one house, according to historical information. To prevent its demolition in 1950, Dr. and Mrs. James Bourne Ayer moved the building from its original location on Adams Street to its current location. It was restored by William Morris Hunt and later donated to the historical society.
According to Fusoni, Milton, Randolph, Dedham, and several other communities were once part of Suffolk County, which now encompasses Boston. Pre-Revolution, Joseph Warran, John Adams, and others were looking for places to meet outside of Boston and landed in Stoughton, Dedham, and finally in Milton where the document of claims was finalized.
"Days later, Paul Revere was sent to the Frist Continental Congress to present it,'' she said.
“History Detectives” reveals the fascinating and often surprising stories behind seemingly ordinary objects from the past. Each investigation begins with a contributor’s tantalizing questions about an object, structure, or place, whether a piece of family memorabilia, a possible national heirloom, or a neighborhood legend.
Viewers join the detectives’ journeys as they sort through conflicting evidence, and evaluate the clues, question established presumptions, and track unexpected connections between long-ago events. As the investigation moves forward, the personal inquiry expands to illuminate surprising aspects about life as a nation, past and present.
Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.