Scout project revives history at Frost Farm

Union Leader Correspondent
October 11. 2017 11:48PM
Vernon Thomas helps his son Devin complete his Eagle Scout project Saturday morning at the Robert Frost farm. Kevin constructed a bench and sitting area in between two pine trees where Frost's wife, Elinor, come with the family for picnics. (CHRIS GAROFOLO/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

DERRY — An Eagle Scout project has brought a favorite hideaway of Elinor Frost, the wife of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Robert Frost, back to the family farm.

Devin Thomas, a 17-year-old Eagle Scout from Derry, finalized his community service project by placing a replica of the family’s bench between two pine trees — the same two trees where Robert Frost installed a 24-inch board for his wife to sit and watch her children play — in an area known as “The Bower.”

“That was her special space,” said Vernon Thomas, Devin’s father, a scout leader and captain in the Derry Police Department.

Frost, one of the most well-known poets in American literature, owned the small farm from 1900 to 1911. He taught at nearby Pinkerton Academy and farmed the land in Derry once owned by his grandparents.

Having grown up near the historic site, Devin Thomas recalls his first hike as a young boy on the trails behind the Frost farm.

“There’s a lot of heritage here, there’s a lot of history here. It’s nice to do something, give back a little to the people who use this place every single day,” he said.

This project gave him an opportunity to get his hands dirty. The Bower was overgrown with weeds and ferns — Devin said you couldn’t even tell the old bench was there. With the assistance of some local historians, the troop was able to find the exact area where Elinor Frost would relax with her children; they marked off the spot and installed one free-standing bench near the Hyla Brook and another in the pine trees, paying homage to the first structure there.

“We wanted to restore it because it was kinda of a forgotten piece of history,” he said. “It feels pretty good, it makes me feel like I’ve done something.”

Thomas and his fellow scouts from Troop 98 would gather on weekend mornings to clear brush and sweep away the pine needles and dead leaves.

The area raked clean by the scouts was a special wooded place where the family would picnic and Frost would teach his children about nature. He even built a small bench between two pine trees, which Devin has now restored.

Devin Thomas, 17, completes his Eagle Scout project on Saturday morning at the Robert Frost Farm, replicating a bench used by Frost's wife Elinor. (CHRIS GAROFOLO/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

“Devin is very much into outside stuff, he’s cut paths at our house in the woods and he likes to do that, so this was right up his alley,” his father said. “We have an option to do a service project and we get to pick where; the Robert Frost farm came up as a place where we could do some work.”

While just a trickle in the fall, the nearby Hyla Brook flows during the spring and summer. Frost wrote a poem titled “Hyla Brook.” He named the brook for the peepers, or tiny tree frogs of the genus Hyla.

Before the completion of his project, Thomas and the rest of Troop 98 were given a private tour of the Frost homestead. 

Randee Martin, park manager at the farm, praised the scouts for their volunteer work. And it’s not just the scouts, she said, listing all the Derry-based service organizations who aid in the upkeep of the historic farm.

“Just as farm manager, I couldn’t do all this,” she said. “It’s a remarkable place to work. If it wasn’t for the trustees, if it wasn’t for the Derry Village Rotary, the scouts, the garden club, this place would not be in great condition.”

After the tour, Martin said “You now know more than most of your teachers do about Robert Frost,” causing a round of laughter from the young scouts.

Human InterestHistoryOutdoorsDerry

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