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What is it like to live in Rowley?

Location, Location, Location
Cyclists take a morning ride in Rowley.
Cyclists take a morning ride in Rowley. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Frank Todd’s family has owned Todd Farm in Rowley since before the Civil War, but left the dairy business in the 1920s because big companies could sell milk for less. On a trip to Europe in the early 1970s, Todd’s parents enjoyed the flea markets and decided to start one of their own, thinking it was a good way to keep their land. The Todd Farm Antiques and Flea Market has been a local institution ever since. (The flea market is open on Sundays from spring to fall.)

Todd, 84, says he can’t recall the last time he and his wife took something home from the flea market. “I’ve got enough stuff,’’ he said with a laugh. As an 11th-generation Rowley resident, he has plenty of history to tend. A longtime member of the town’s Historical Commission and its Community Preservation Committee, he’s as active in the community as ever.

Rowley once extended from the Atlantic Ocean to the Merrimack River, encompassing present-day Boxford, Georgetown, Groveland, Bradford, and part of Middleton. The town was carved up, Todd explained, as settlers in those enclaves petitioned to break away. Today, with a population of roughly 6,000 (nearly twice that of 1970), the town retains its rural, old New England feel.

Though Rowley is still small and neighborly, Todd said, many of the residents are new to town. He said his own relatives were considered newcomers once: His ancestor John Todd didn’t get here until 1648.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

3.3

The number of acres at Mill Valley Winery, located on the site of what was the landmark Dodge’s Cider Mill. Launched by two partners, one a chemist, the other an amateur winemaker, the business got off to an auspicious start in 2010 when it took home the American Wine Society’s silver medal for its signature Naked Chardonnay.

1963

The year the beloved Agawam Diner moved to its location at the intersection of Routes 1 and 133. The classic stainless-steel dining car, built in 1954 by the Fodero Dining Car Co. of New Jersey, is known as “Car Number 4.’’

$1,000

The money (in dimes) that a bag discovered in the vault of a shuttered Rowley bank in 2007 held, according to a stamp on its canvas. What was actually inside turned out to be much more precious: a long-lost book containing the official records of the First Congregational Church of Rowley, dating to the mid-1600s.

PROS & CONS

Pro

Preservation

2013, the town spent $2.5 million to purchase a roughly 200-acre parcel of land from the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts. According to Frank Todd, the purchase preempted a development of nearly two dozen houses. The town also recently purchased interconnecting pieces of land on its salt marshes. “Rowley is still rural,’’ Todd said. “We didn’t want a house on every little hummock down there.’’

Con

The water system

Residents have been frustrated by several years of turmoil in the town’s water department, including charges of misappropriation of funds and allegations of improper executive sessions, which distracted from efforts to replace old pipes and address issues with the new water treatment plant. Residents launched a successful effort last fall to recall the water board chairman.

Savignon Blanc at Mill River Winery

A conductor signals the engineer at Rowley Station, a commuter-rail stop. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Main Street —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Donna Martin, co-owner and wine maker at Mill River Winery —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Mass Audubon’s Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Agawam Diner —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Ava Twomey has a meal at Agawam Diner —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Rowley Town Library —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Young patrons leave the library with their selections. —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff
Town Hall —Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

James Sullivan can be reached at jamesgsullivan@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.