Recalling pioneer of Valley environmentalism
To the editor:
I read with much interest the Gazette supplement on the 50th anniversary of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, but want to comment on the statement that the center moved from Leverett in the mid-1970s because there was no longer enough room for the Long Plain Nature Center. The Board of Long Plain had to move the center because “Dubie” (Ethel Dubois) needed to sell the 120-plus acres and her house and barns, which she had owned since the 1920s and where she ran the center, in order to enable her and her five sisters to move to a Quaker retirement center in Pennsylvania.
The Mount Toby Meeting of Friends (Quakers), whose meetinghouse had been built on a plot of frontage land of Ethel’s farm, given to them by Ethel in 1963, bought about 120 acres of the farm in order to preserve it as forested land which is on the foothills of Mount Toby.
Her house next door to the meetinghouse and barns in which the nature center was housed were sold to a Quaker family, the late Bob and Nan Archer and their five children. Nan had been one of the volunteers who helped Dubie at the center.
The Archers allowed access to the many trails which had been created on the land. But the board of the center made plans to move into Amherst.
The Mount Toby Friends Meeting, still paying for its new meetinghouse, borrowed money to buy the land so it could remain, as Dubie said, “forever wild.” They have put the land under state forest management status and pay taxes on the land to the town of Leverett. Young Friends from all over New England often use the land for recreation when they visit Mt. Toby. The Meeting worships occasionally and hikes in the woods.
Ethel had owned the farm since the 1920s while she worked as a guidance counselor on Long Island. In the summer she came by train to the station in Leverett on Depot Road and walked to her farm. She rented the flat land for growing hay and corn.
When she retired she moved there and started the nature center. After the Hitchcock Center started, Ethel often came back to its celebrations. Her small house at the Pennsylvania retirement center was full of stones and nature samples, as was her kitchen in Leverett.
Hitchcock members know of Dubie as their founder. She also was a pioneer of the idea of saving forest land for future generations.
Georgana M. Foster