For a town its size — 8,560 residents as of the 2010 Census — Monson has confronted more than its share of natural disasters.
But there is an upside.
“When things happen, we pull together,” says John Morrell, the town’s highway surveyor and tree warden, who moved to Monson in 1954, when he was 8. He still remembers the back-to-back hurricanes (Connie and Diane) and rainstorm that flooded or washed away all of the town’s bridges in 1955.
More recently, on June 1, 2011, a tornado ripped right through downtown, uprooting trees, destroying homes, and damaging a number of municipal buildings and the First Church of Monson, among other structures.
Under these circumstances, “it’s unbelievable how people worked together,” Morrell said. Townspeople looked after one another, handing out supplies to workers trying to restore power and telephone access and to remove debris. Morrell was busy, too, clearing roads.
From an infrastructure and housing perspective, Morrell believes the town has largely recovered from the tornado. A replica of the original steeple was placed atop First Church in 2013, symbolizing the town’s restoration, and a new town hall and police department have emerged as well.
Despite all this, Morrell still sees the town as largely unchanged. “All these years, the downtown area has kept its character. Even in residential areas, there’s not a lot of buildup,” says Morrell, who began working for the highway department in 1970 and is also a selectman. “It’s a beautiful town to live and work in,” he says.
Morrell and his wife, Nancy, who was the town clerk for 23 years, raised two daughters here, and live on East Hill Road, down the street from Westview Farms Creamery and a popular microbrewery.
Want to be Morrell’s neighbor? Not so fast, he warns. “There aren’t many houses for sale. It’s not like everybody wants to move out of here.”
By the numbers
Number of Monson homes damaged in the June 1, 2011, tornado, which displaced about 75 families and caused at least $29 million in damage
Tons of granite shipped in 1887 from Monson’s Flynt quarry,
in operation from 1825 to 1935
Elevation of Peaked Mountain , from which you can see the Quabbin Reservoir and even glimpse New Hampshire’s Mount Monadnock
Pros & cons
The Monson Arts Council brings theater performances, art shows, craft fairs, and other events to town.
Lack of local jobs
Monson used to be home to major employers that included a granite quarry, mills, and a center for the developmentally disabled — all have closed.
In late October, the average listing price was $261,385 (Trulia.com).
Rachel Lebeaux can be reached at email@example.com.