William Lloyd Garrison Trail Opens on Whittier Bridge


(Cover Photo Source: http://etc.usf.edu/clipart/24300/24372/garrison_24372.htm)


At precisely 3 p.m. on Oct. 18, 2018, the William Lloyd Garrison trail was opened along I-95 North by the newly finished John Greenleaf Whittier Bridge. The trail, named after 19th century Massachusetts journalist and abolitionist who was a friend of Whittier’s, will run fittingly alongside the Whittier bridge connecting Route 113 in Newburyport to the Amesbury/Salisbury Route 110 (Newburyport News).

Garrison was an important figure in the abolitionist movement in America, starting right in Massachusetts with his anti-slavery newspaper, The Liberator. Born in Newburyport in 1805, Garrison was a local inspiration and advocate for equality. According to PBS, Garrison wrote editions of his newspaper for over three decades. Beginning in 1831, Garrison never quieted his public voice until the Civil War was over and his purpose was achieved. Garrison also played a part in creating both the New England and American Anti-Slavery societies. These organizations were open and welcoming; Garrison sought to keep them separate from political parties and to allow women to participate as well (PBS).

Many here at Pentucket and in Massachusetts believed that Garrison deserves greater recognition for the role he played in the abolitionist movement. In 2015, students from our own Pentucket Regional High School as well as from Amesbury Innovation High School worked hard to name the entire bridge after both Whittier and Garrison. Mrs. Erin Cherry, a ninth grade history teacher at Pentucket who was a leader of the Garrison Bridge Project, states that she wanted Garrison to be recognized justly for the critical role he played in the abolition movement. Cherry, along with Pentucket history teacher Mr. John Siegfried, lead approximately 25 students to meetings in all three district towns as well as in Amesbury and Newburyport to convince stakeholders in the naming process that the bridge should bear not one name but two. In addition, almost all members of the current senior class of 2019 were involved in this project as well.

Cherry, Siegfried, and their students worked hard along with Amesbury Innovation School students to name the bridge after local abolition hero, Garrison. According to Newburyport News, despite gaining all votes necessary to name the bridge after Garrison and Whittier, the state decided that it was too late to change plans and add Garrison’s name. Thus, the adjacent path by the bridge was named for Garrison and the bridge was named for Whittier.

Although calling the path a “victory” for the Garrison Bridge Committee, Cherry believes that Garrison “deserves the bridge span” for his role in the abolition of slavery. She wishes the bridge could have been named for Garrison as well, for it would have been a better way to recognize his vital contributions to abolition.

Senior Tia Zanardi, a past member of the Garrison Bridge Committee, remembers writing a letter to the Whittier Birthplace Historical Society, as well as attending a meeting at the River Valley Charter School in Newburyport. “I remember sending out and signing petitions and people were even creating posters to be hung up around the area to spread the word about this project,” Zanardi notes.

About Garrison, Zanardi describes, “He was an abolitionist from Newburyport and he was actually friends with Whittier as well. He played a role in the effort to end slavery and we thought it was fitting to have his name alongside Whittier’s.” The dedication of Zanardi along with many other current seniors and current juniors of the class of 2020 as well, was able to make a difference in the community and recognize the impact Garrison had on our state and country before and during the Civil War. The students involved in this project were, of course, let down when their initial goal was not reached; however, the path is still a positive, for it shows well-deserved physical appreciation of Garrison.

According to Newburyport News, on Oct. 30 Mass. governor Charlie Baker will lead a ceremony officially opening the John Greenleaf Whittier bridge and the William Lloyd Garrison trail to the public.