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A new plaque installed by a Baptist group marks the accomplishments of the Rev. John Leland, one of Cheshire's most important historical figures.
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The park is not far from the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail.
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The town wants to replace the two deteriorated benches at the site.

Cheshire Gains John Leland Plaque

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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CHESHIRE, Mass. — A new and informative plaque about town father the Rev. John Leland was placed last week in Leland Park.

Selectwoman Carol Franesconi told board Tuesday night that the ribbon cutting was a quiet and quick affair last Friday.

The Baptist Heritage Revival Society, which installed the plaque, contacted her Friday for the event.

"One guy drove here from Ohio, one guy drove here from North Carolina, one guy flew up from Kansas City and they installed the sign," she said. "We had a ribbon citing ceremony at night."

The Baptist group has been in contact with the town for some time now about erecting a monument of some kind for Leland, a historical figure and important Baptist minister.

Leland was an early settler of Cheshire, founded its Baptist Church, and delivered the giant block of cheese the people of Cheshire gifted to his friend President Thomas Jefferson in 1802.

The group has placed monuments around the country for Leland, an abolitionist, and activist for religious liberty. They had initially sought to place a memorial near his grave, but when the rules did not allow that, opted for Leland Park where a replica of the cheese press is located.

Francesconi said the sign cost $4,500 and the money was collected from Baptist churches throughout the country.

She added that the group toured the Stafford Hill Monument, a memorial to Joab Stafford who raised local militia to fight at the Battle of Bennington, and were quite interested in the town.

"It was nice for Cheshire to be recognized ... it was a nice bit of history for us for that day,” she said. "It was nice of them to do it, and it looks nice.”

The plaque outlines Leland's life and his influence on the First Amendment, which prohibits the establishment of a single religion and guarantees religious liberty.

Department of Public Works Director Peter LeFebvre said now that the sign is up, he plans to install two new benches to improve the site.

"We have two concrete benches there now. One is falling apart where the wood is secured and the other one, I can't get the screws out right now so I thought it would be best to replace them,” he said.

He said the new benches will be similar to the ones at Cheshire lake and will be pretty heavy duty.

"There was one concrete and metal one that looked really good but it was only 200 pounds," LeFebvre said. "A lot of kids, even grownups, will get up and sit on the back, and I don't want it to tip over. These are quite a bit heavier, like 400 pounds."

This summer’s block parties will be July 13 and Aug. 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. Church Street will be closed down to traffic and there will be live entertainment and activities.

LeFebvre said he installed two new "children playing" signs on Stafford Hill Road by request of a resident.  

Tags: historical figure,   monument,   ribbon cutting,   

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