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Jesse Rice to have unique birthday celebration

Date: 8/12/2009

By Rick Sobey

Staff Intern

WILBRAHAM Turning 90 years old is quite an accomplishment in itself, but Jesse Rice's 90th birthday on Aug. 11 has an additional element this year.

The Board of Selectmen have issued birthday greetings and a proclamation making Aug. 11, 2009 Jesse L. Rice Day in Wilbraham.

The selectmen were sorry to hear recently that Rice would be discontinuing his service as Weigher of Grain and as Fence Viewer for the town. He was the Weigher of Grain for 53 years and the Fence Viewer since 1982. After learning that Rice would not accept these town positions, the selectmen decided to issue the aforementioned proclamation.

David Barry, chair of the Board of Selectman, believes that Rice definitely deserves this special recognition. "His farm and fruit stand were institutions in this town for decades," Barry said. "He has been heavily involved in the Peach Festival with his fruit stand every year.

"He is one of the more famous and favorite sons of our town, and he is worthy of this acknowledgment," Barry continued.

The proclamation states that Rice was a Wilbraham selectman for three terms and a Veterans Agent for two terms. However, the proclamation concentrates on his more long-time offices, specifically the "ancient offices of this town, which directly relate to the preservation of agricultural standards and practices."

The Weigher of Grain position goes back to when local mills bought and sold grain products (corn, rye and sometimes wheat), which needed to be proofed for weight and content.

Fence Viewers arbitrate disputes over fences intended to keep livestock from roaming. Fence Viewers inspect fences that are inadequate and issue orders to repair and improve the fences so cattle, sheep, llamas or horses will not wander into public.

In addition to these positions, Rice was the Surveyor of Lumber for 20 years. This job was linked to local commercial sawmills. A Surveyor of Lumber determines the volume of board feet in sawn logs.

According to the Board of Selectmen, these three long-time positions were "created in the heyday of our agricultural past and have continued as a matter of historical pride to the present day. Jesse served his town along with other generational farmers, men and women with family names such as Clark, Gore, Merrick, McDonald, Presz, Kinney, Lindsay and Bradway, to mention only a few."

Barry encourages residents to send birthday greetings to Jesse Rice in care of his family at 757 Main St., Wilbraham, MA 01095.