As errors go, it was really of no consequence. But in the 1940s, a map of Wilmington was printed with an error. It showed a stream that apparently flowed uphill.
Quite obviously, no stream can flow uphill. That would be defying the law of gravity.
Call it a printer’s error, or a cartographer’s correction. Someone looked at the map to be printed and saw two lines that almost met. So they were connected. Did the error occur as a joke or a correction?
What those two lines represented, though, were two separate streams, each commencing on opposite sides of a ridge in northernmost Wilmington. One flowed east, eventually reaching the Ipswich River. The other went to the Shawsheen River. The map only shows the easterly connection. The western stream is shown ending just beyond the town line. That ending became the beginning, and the stream was upgraded and connected.
In the hands of the local newspaper editor and a poet, though, the stream that flowed uphill became a river. Capt. Larz Neilson would forever joke about the stream that flowed uphill.
Sixty years ago, the Wilmington Crusader published a poem about the stream, credited to Louie. Occasionally, the Crusader would publish a line of wit entitled “Louie sez.” It is quite probable that Louie was Louie Elfman, who owned a gas station and oil business in Wilmington.
The Crusader could be called an ancestor to the Town Crier. Capt. Neilson was editor of the Crusader from 1951 to 1955, when he quit and founded the Town Crier. Some of the elements of the Crusader migrated into the Town Crier, including a column called Town Notes and the awarding of the Mythical Golden Pea Spoon. The Crusader went out of business in 1964.
Crusader, August 5, 1953.
There is a town in our state
It wears a tax rate on its sleeve
That is so awfully smart
Where others wear a heart.
Ten years ago in this fair town
A map was made for all to see
And those who spoke for one
Received it, free.
Now on the map there was a brook
Oh Wonder to relate!
For there was not another such stream
Throughout our whole wide state.
From a swamp in a northern part of town
This stream with right good will
Set off to find the sea
By flowing straight up a hill.
Years rolled by, the stream rolled on
The town a new map did make
And for ten cents, one could buy
A copy of that mistake!
Now the year is fifty-three, and
For seventy five cents upon the till
A brand new map can be bought
Of the river that runs uphill!
Crusader, Town Notes, Aug 12, 1953
Readers of this paper last week were able to read about the river in Wilmington that runs uphill, in a poem of sorts, written by our friend Louie. This is to report that the large new map on the town manager’s wall, still has that river. Someday, we suppose the tide will change, and someday our river will run downhill, as a proper river should.