History is replete with people performing extraordinary acts that change the course of the future. Rarely does one town have two people who, in the course of their ordinary lives, make such an extraordinary impact on their town as to change its history. Alice Buck and Harold Rafton were two such people. Amazingly their efforts as early environmentalists were similar in effect and separated by nearly 60 years. Each one’s actions were initiated in response to dramatic changes taking place in their community.
Alice Buck was born in 1842 in New York City where her father, Edward Buck, was a successful lawyer. Mr. Buck, with his wife, daughter and son, moved to Andover when Alice was 1. Her father had been elected a trustee of Abbot Female Seminary and had taken a new position with a law firm in Boston, Mass. The family moved into their new home at 19 School St.et in Andover, directly across from the seminary entrance. Alice Buck received her early education at the “Fem Sem,” but attended a finishing school run by Mrs. B. B. Edwards located on Main Street.
As a consequence of her educational freedom, she developed an interest in botany at a young age. With her father and her brother, she pursued an “outdoorsy” lifestyle with frequent carriage rides to hilltops, and walks in nearby woodlands. Alice Buck never married, and she developed an interest in aiding others, particularly male students of Phillips Academy and female students of Abbot Academy. As the popul
ation of mill workers grew in town, she assisted in education efforts for this largely immigrant population in Andover.
Alice Buck was an early supporter of the efforts at village improvement. When the idea of a women’s club was suggested, she took a lead role in organizing committees. From her mother’s keen interest in literature, she developed an abiding interest in reading and discourse. She chaired committees that featured readings of great classical works. She was an ordinary woman pursuing her varied interests and social connections in a somewhat typical life in the late 1800s. In her 55th year, that would all change.