Visitor Information

Museum location

The museum of the Ashfield Historical Society is at 457 Main Street (Route 116) near the center of the Ashfield Village, just across from the town common.

Hours

The museum is currently open on Saturdays (please see the calendar page for hours) and by appointment. If you would like to tour the archives, please contact either the President, Alden Gray, or the curator, Grace Lesure.

Exhibits

The following are among the items on display at the museum: (You can click on the small pictures for a larger view and more information.)


History of the building

The building was originally opened as a store in 1830 Tintrunk.jpg - 7967 Bytes by Alvan Hall when it was located on Baptist Corner Road (North Street) behind the Field-Williams Tavern. Jasper Bement acquired the store in 1832 at a time when Ashfield had a thriving essence industry. At least ten distilleries made essences from the oils of peppermint, spearmint, spruce, tansy, wintergreen, and other native plants. Jasper Bement bottled these essences and each year as many as a hundred local young men set out from Ashfield wearing a strap yoke with a basket or tin trunk, to peddle the essences and other wares. Jasper Bement's son, Joseph, moved the building to its present location in about 1850.

A hall upstairs was used for meetings, and in the 1850's the secret political order of "Know Nothings" gathered there. The peephole where members spoke a password to gain entry can still be seen in one of the second floor doors. The original building was enlarged, and during the remainder of the 19th century was used by a succession of merchants, including Moses Cook, the Flower Brothers, Church and Wait, Asa Wait, and Henry Higgenbotham and Co. For a time at the beginning of the 20th century the Post Office was set up in a corner of the store. Later, the building housed the Rice Meat Market, Dodge's Plumbing shop, and then a snack bar and notions store.

In the winter of 1989-1990, some discoveries were made about the building during the construction work to correct some rotting sills and joists. The intention had been to reinstall the existing floor after the repairs. However, underneath the top layer was an older floor dating from about 1850. As old shelving and counters were removed, some of the paint colors from the circa 1850 were discovered, as well as bits of wallpaper.

During the removal of the flooring, a few old coins turned up that apparently had been dropped and managed to fall into cracks between the boards. The coins found were an 1835 ten cent piece, an 1834 five cent piece, an 1807 English coin, and an 1845 half dime.

The building was purchased by the Ashfield Historical Society in 1964. Since that time, the original purchase price has been dwarfed by the cost of repairs to correct structural deficiencies. In 1988 a fire resistant concrete vault was added to protect the Howes photographic negatives. The vault is equipped with a climate control system that keeps the negatives at an ideal temperature and humidity.

The museum buildings are considered a part of the collection, and the bylaws of the Ashfield Historical Society dictate that "The historical aspects of the buildings shall be considered by the Trustees and Curator before any alterations are made."