Volunteerism may be a new concept to some Americans, but there is nothing new about volunteerism in Ashfield. For more than two centuries, Ashfielders unselfishly have volunteered their time and skills for the benefit of the community. The generous volunteer spirit has characterized the Ashfield Historical Society during its 25 years. In 1961, a group of citizens came together on their own initiative to establish the Society. Since then, more than 200 people have devoted a great deal of time, labor and love to build the Society into the valuable community institution that it is today. The individuals are so numerous that it would be misleading to single out only some of them who have made special contributions. We do list the charter members and officers in this booklet who have served the Society so well, but there are many others who have played an indispensable role. At its beginning, the Society had no building and no collection of historical objects. Today it has a fine museum with more than 5,000 articles related to Ashfield's history. As many as 1,500 people visit the museum during its season.The building has been acquired, restored, repaired and maintained by Society volunteers. Most of the items in the collection were donated by members and other Ashfield citizens. Each year, some two dozen members serve as museum guides and gift shop attendants. Out of town tourists and townspeople alike appreciate the changing museum window displays throughout the year, each of which is arranged by volunteers. The Society's work is not confined to the museum. The Ashfield Historical Society has gained national recognition as the repository of the remarkable Howes Brothers photographs. Some 23,000 of the glass plate negatives produced by Ashfield natives Alvah and George Howes between 1882 and 1907 are now owned and preserved by the Society. Collecting, cataloging, microfilming and publishing these photographs has been a major project. The Society has also reached out into the community, each year offering programs, lectures, films, demonstrations and other public events. A special effort is made to involve school children. Since 1974 the Society has published a newsletter for its members. Two research papers on Ashfield history have been published by the Society, in addition to the reprinting of the two volumes of the town history. Historic sites have been surveyed and marked with signs, including the mounting of two millstones from Ashfield’s earliest history in the l740s. >Financing has come from concerts, auctions, food sales, dues and special donations. In its 25 years, the Society has kept its finances in sound condition. Outside subsidies have not been necessary, except for a large grant for the Howes Brothers project, which the Society more than matched after an intensive fund raising campaign. There follows a chronological account of the Ashfield Historical Society's first 25 years.
Compiled by Russell Fessenden
On February 21,1961, 25 persons met in the home of Norma Harris for the organization meeting of the Ashfield Historical Society. The next meeting, held May 2,1961,was attended by 78 people, of whom more than half had already become members and had contributed a total of $500. On September 12, the first annual meeting adopted bylaws setting forth the purposes of the Society: To stimulate the interest of the people of Ashfield in the history of their town; to provide a common meeting ground for those willing to explore the past; to assemble and display mementos and documents of historical value in some central place where all may enjoy them; and to acquire, by purchase or lease or rental, not in excess of the amount permitted by law, such real and personal property as the trustees may deem advisable.
Incorporation papers were signed October 31, 1961, and the Society came fully into existence. By year’s end, there were more than 200 members.
Members began immediately to arrange the programs which have marked the work of the Society ever since. In July a program on old-time music in Ashfield was presented to 250 people. Leslie Guilford in September gave a talk on Ashfield and the Civil War. Reminiscing parties were held at which members exchanged stories about Ashfield's past.
A major project during the first year involved searching for an appropriate place to house the Society’s growing collection of historical materials. Sites considered included the former village hall in South Ashfield, a room in the Belding Memorial Library, and even the barn of one of the members.
The kindness of the trustees of Belding Memorial Library in 1962 yielded a small room in the basement of the library for the Society's collection. The exhibit was on view to the public Friday afternoons.
In January, senior Ashfield residents held a program on old time
social life, telling what people did for entertainment in earlier days.
In April, Roland Bourne, a retired engineer and inventor, gave
a talk on Alvin Clark, Ashfield's well known inventor and telescope
maker. In May, 40 people
took part in a tour of Ashfield's early forts, mills, houses, and other
sites. In July, a very
successful exhibit on childhood was held in the Town Hall, attended
by 450 people from 65 towns and 14 states.
An equally successful auction in the Town Hall raised over $1,000.
At the September annual meeting, Florence Hacberle exhibited
some of her antiques.
The Society decided in 1962 to mount the millstones from Ashfield's
first mill. One of the
two round stones had lain deep in the ravine for many decades.
To save them required moving them to appropriate sites. The Society also formed committees to take inventory and install
markers at historic sites and houses in town.
The major achievement of 1963 was the acquisition of thousands of glass plate negatives of photographs taken between 1882 and 1907 by Ashfield brothers Alvah and George Howes. Over two tons of the glass plates were turned over to the Society. Collecting, cataloguing, microfilming and publishing these remarkable photographs has been a major project of the Society since 1963. Finding a proper building for the museum also preoccupied the Society this year. Mrs. Mina Curtis generously offered to donate her large home near Chapel Falls as a museum and headquarters. The trustees, with great regret, declined the offer, fearing that the upkeep of such a large building would be beyond the Society's means.
In January and February, an exhibit of antique lighting was shown at the library, with antique lanterns, street lamps, and candles on display. In late February, Miss Virginia Green and Miss Myrtle Percy showed slide photos of old time Ashfield. In June the Society presented at I' own Hall "Fashions and Fancies of Yesterday. Thirty five Society members modeled clothes worn by Ashfielders in the past, some garments more than 100 years old. In July, the Society sponsored an old fashioned sugar on snow supper, the first since the 1930s. At the annual meeting in September, Edward DeRose gave a talk on the Indians of the Connecticut Valley. Requests for genealogical information from California, Wisconsin, Illinois and other states were directed to the Society in increasing numbers, and the Society appointed a genealogical correspondent to do research and answer such requests.
The program for placing markers on historical sites began with signs placed on the Field Tavern in the center of town, on the round brick school house in South Ashfield, and on the site of the old fort.
The eve of Ashfield's Bicentennial was a milestone year in the history of the Society. First of all, the museum building was purchased. The property, owned by Walter Graves, was located in the center of town on Main Street. Originally built in 1830, the lower floor had been used by merchants until 1900. It was from this building that many Ashfield peddlers had been fitted out with the trunks full of notions and baskets of essences which they peddled throughout the country. The upstairs of the building had been used as a meeting place for the secret societies which flourished in the mid 1800s. Round peepholes in the doors of some rooms were probably used to verify the identity of those who knocked. The building had obviously played an important role in Ashfield's history and was all the more appropriate for the Society's museum.
After long debate, the decision to purchase the building was reached at a meeting of the full Society on July 6, 1964. Funds for the purchase price of $6,200 came in part from $1,600 of the Society's own savings. Before the summer was out, an intensive fund raising had provided the balance. Because of these volunteer efforts, the Society bought the building outright, avoiding the need for a mortgage.
A second major project of 1964 was the recovery and mounting of the two millstones in the Whitney pasture and ravine. The millstones had been used for 90 years after construction of the mill in 1743. One of the stones lay half buried at the bottom of the ravine. Volunteers raised the stone to an appropriate place above the ravine. A second stone was mounted at the entrance to the cemetery, and plaques were placed on both stones. In October of 1964, 75 people attended a dedication ceremony.
In February, an exhibit displayed the pottery made in South Ashfield in the mid 1800s. Of two types, the plain brown and the gray with blue trim, the pottery is highly prized today and examples of it may be seen in the museum. The pottery industry came to an abrupt end in 1878 when the flash flood of that year washed away the entire industry.
In April, Harold LeVanway, managing editor of the Greenfield Recorder Gazette, reminisced about Ashfield as he had known it as a boy. On July 31, the first of the Society's summer concerts raised money for the museum purchase fund. Local musicians participated, as well as students from the nearby Greenwood Summer Camp. Other programs included field trips to South Ashfield and Watson Spruce Corner, conducted by Leslie Guilford and Linwood Lesure. A presentation on one room school houses was given by Dorothy Gray and Myrtle Percy.
On September 24, the Society moved its collection from the Belding Library to the newly acquired building, with transportation and labor provided by volunteer help from the membership. Members also made and hung an attractive sign over the entrance.
The new space made it possible for the Society to acquire new gifts. A church organ dating from the mid 1880s was brought from the attic of the Town Hall. A snow roller came from Watson, where it had been used for 30 years to flatten the snow on roads.
In the year of Ashfield's Bicentennial, the Society played a central
role in the summer celebration. A large model of the Town Hall steeple
was loaned for display in the parade. The Society entered a float, with
members representing the Richard Ellis family, Ashfield's first settlers.
Howes Brothers photographs were displayed for the first time.
The Society assembled a large collection of the paintings of
Edwin Romanzo Elmer, a well known Ashfield artist, and exhibited them
at the museum throughout the three days of the celebration.
Bicentennial plates were procured and sold at the museum.
A large and successful auction was held August 21 on the steps
the Town Hall, netting $1,000 for the Society.
Earlier in the year, on May
15, the newly acquired museum officially opened.
Before the opening, more than 300 new gifts had already been
received, as well as a number of other items loaned for the Bicentennial.
By the opening, Norma Harris, the curator, and her committee
had arranged five rooms and a barn full of displays containing 900 catalogued
items. Of special importance
was the installation of the organ of the First Congregational Church,
which had been brought from the Town Hall.
Built in 1812 and 1813, the organ required many months of work
by Society volunteers to mount it for display in time for the Bicentennial. In the spring, the Society viewed Miss Myrtle Percy's collection
of the 200 slides of Ashfield at the turn of the century. In late summer,
a house and garden tour was conducted.
And at the annual meeting, Carrolle and Millard Markle presented
a lecture and slide show, "America the Beautiful," with photos
taken by the Markles in all 50 states.
received many new articles from the closing of Sanderson Academy as
a high school in 1966. Displaying historical exhibits in the museum
windows became a regular practice. In the fall, there was a window exhibit
of tole ware and wooden articles, examples of ornamental painting
which flourished in New England toward the end of the 17th Century.
Later in the fall, early kitchen utensils were displayed. At Christmas,
the windows featured early candles, candle making equipment, and toys.
A field trip was conducted in the spring to the Briar Hill section.
At the annual meeting in September, Raymond Reniff and Leslie Guilford
presented a slide and movie show on Bicentennial highlights.
participated in the Conway Bicentennial during the summer 1967 with
a float, "An Alvah Howes Portrait," with a man and woman in
costumes of the Howes Brothers period. the annual meeting, the Society
heard Dr. Audrey Duckert on the theme "Hunting for New England
Words," a study of dialects in New England. The Society also arranged
a house and garden tour of some of Ashfield's historic homes.
Some 500 people visited the museum. Two hundred new articles
were added to the collection. Window displays included antique dairy
and creamery items, fashions for men and women, early bottles, artifacts
of early settlers homes, and early fans. The museum began the practice
of six different window displays a year, requiring a great deal work
by the curator and the many members who participated.
In the spring
of 1968, about 100 people attended Donald Fitzgerald's slide lecture
on the origin of glass. In July, Arthur Schrader, a ballad singer from
Sturbridge Village, presented a program of historical songs. In October,
Arthur Wolfe, from the Monsanto Chemical Company, demonstrated glass
collection by 1968 comprised some 1,600 items, and attendance during
the year reached 350. Window displays included articles from dump digging,
South Ashfield pottery, weddings of long ago, summertime fun, early
automobiles, and school items.
At the spring
meeting in May 1969, seven Sanderson honor students presented the results
of their research of Ashfield's past under the guidance of two graduate
students from the University of Massachusetts.
Ashfield school reports going back to 1855 were presented to
the Society by Professor Halpern of the University. In July, the Society
joined with the two churches in an auction in Town Hall which netted
$500 each for the three organizations.
The September annual meeting program was on "Ashfield Pottery,
Old and New." South
Ashfield pottery of the mid 18th Century was displayed and described,
while present day Ashfield potters demonstrated their craft.
350 visitors came to the museum and over 300 new articles were catalogued. Window displays included antique canes, Indian artifacts, musical
instruments, scenes from long winter evenings, women's hats, writing
materials, and lithographed tin boxes.
In May 1970, Mrs. George Eldridge of Conway showed wool from
different breeds of sheep, colors from natural dyes, and spinning equipment.
She demonstrated carding and spinning.
Later, Mrs. Eldridge demonstrated her work at the national craft
show at the Washington Monument in the nation's capital. Also in May, Mr. William Streeter of Cummington exhibited antique
tools and lectured on his work in tracing houses in Cummington, which
became a model for similar programs in other towns.
In August, the Society organized another concert in the Congregational
Church with local musical talent participating. About 200 attended and
nearly $400 was raised for the Society.
In September, members presented historical sketches on various
sections of Ashfield.
acquired about 100 new items and 400 people visited.
The large up and down saw was a major acquisition.
Window displays were numerous and varied: Christmas at home,
scenes from Winnie the Pooh, typical woodshed items, spinning articles,
hand planes and tools, military items and flags, washing and ironing
in the past, a farm scene and an apple harvest.
the Society participated with a float in the bicentennial celebrations
of two nearby towns, Whately and Williamsburg.
The floats, carrying the large model of the Town Hall steeple,
led to Ashfield's being honored by Whately with an award for the best
float in its parade. The
Society also received a letter from the Ashfield board of selectmen
expressing appreciation on behalf of the Town and commending all who
had worked on the float. At
the spring meeting, Leon Howes read a paper on the history of Spruce
Corner and recounted some of his experience.
In the summer, another successful concert by area musicians
was held, bringing in $300. At the September annual meeting, the Society
hosted Gordon Abbott, director of the Trustees of Reservation, who
presented slides on the historical and natural sites throughout Massachusetts
which are owned and managed by the Trustees.
Two of the Trustees' sites, Bear Swamp and Chapel Brook, are
located in Ashfield. In
November, the Society held a joint meeting in the Grange Hall with
the Shelburne Historical Society.
The speaker of the evening was Ernest Pettit of
Wyantskill, New York, the author of two books on antique tin ware.
people visited the museum during the season, among them a descendant
of Richard Ellis, the first settler.
Window exhibits were varied During the winter Ashfield industries
were featured. Research has uncovered the that there have been nearly
50 different industries
since the founding of the town. In the spring, Ashfield birds were featured, including
the remarkable birds carved by Walter Curtis.
This was followed by items from the Ashfield House from the
time when it served as a hotel.
Another exhibit featured Mary Lyon and the part she played
m the town's history.
program of 1972 was another presentation by Myrtle Percy of 150 slides
on "Ashfield of Yesterday."
Raymond Reniff in September exhibited clocks and gave a talk
on "The Evolution of Time." In midsummer, a food sale earned
$120 and became a custom for the Society each summer thereafter.
A special exhibit was also held in the Town Hall in August
on Ashfield's heritage of wood.
Over 70 people, both members and non members, were involved
in the preparation of this exhibit, including craftsmen, lumbermen,
Department of Natural Resources personnel, Boy Scouts, 4H Dairy Club
members, and owners of antique wooden articles from Ashfield.
displays covered an even larger variety of themes than usual: blacksmith
made articles, evenings at home, bread and butter, Christmas in the
Post Office, a Nativity scene, needlework, 1867 items from the Church
and Wait store, vases and pitchers, a ladies' window, and money containers.
programs began with a talk by Linwood Lesure on "Conservation,
Then and Now." The
July food sale custom was continued.
In August, Miss Hope Packard spoke on "Ashfield on the
Move," covering the former Ashfield custom of moving houses,
barns, and other buildings, often for considerable distances and up
and down steep hills. Window
displays at the museum exhibited blue and white china, Christmas arts
and crafts, teapots and teacups, baskets, and Ashfield's water supply
In 1974, the Society took the important step of inaugurating a newsletter, which has been issued on an average of twice a year ever since its first appearance. The purposes of the newsletter, as stated in the first issue, have been: (1) to report on the Society's business activities; (2) to inform members of coming events; and (3) to provide historical information about Ashfield. The first issue in the spring of 1974, contained an article on the important role which horses played in Ashfield life before 1900. The second issue contained an article on ice houses and ice ponds. At the spring meeting, members displayed over a dozen objects they owned which were connected with Ashfield's past. In May, a large turnout of 70 people took part in the Society's Apple Valley tour. The participants visited the homes of Society members Kay Tanner, Theodore Pease and Ralph Townsley, each of whom addressed the group with accounts of Apple Valley's history.
food sale in July brought in $150. At the annual meeting in September,
Dr. Michael Coe lectured and showed slides on the excavation of
Massachusetts frontier forts, especially nearby Fort Shirley in
Heath. In 1974, the
Society, in cooperation with Mohawk Regional High School, initiated
an oral history project in which young people conducted taped interviews
of older citizens of Ashfield in order to record their recollections
of Ashfield's past. Total
museum attendance over ten years passed the 5,000 mark.
The museum registered nearly 400 new acquisitions during
the year, the largest number since its establishment.
Window displays during the year included wooden splints,
carnival glass, flowered plates, Bibles, and horses.
in 1975 began with a talk in the spring by Grace Friary, director
of the school program at Historic Deerfield.
At the annual meeting, Professor Robert Maloy lectured on
Shay's Rebellion of 1786 in which as many as 40 Ashfield men are
said to have taken part. At
the annual meeting, the Society agreed to use $525 from the treasury
for the repair and preservation of cemetery monuments.
Ashfield's many cemeteries are a major historical asset,
and the Society has taken the lead in their restoration.
The Society participated in the State Historical Commission's
survey of historical assets, approving a list of 12 buildings, both
public buildings and private dwellings, for inclusion in the inventory.
The purpose of the inventory is to safeguard historic buildings
against anything which would impair their historical value.
displays during the year included dolls, a mailbox scene, bowls,
pattern glass, weighing devices, one room schoolhouses, and, on
its tenth anniversary, a Bicentennial window. The Howes Brothers
collection of glass negatives became an increasingly important activity
of the museum. The
photographs, it became apparent, were the Society's most important
possession. There was increasing use of the photographs in national
publications, and the task of organizing the two tons of glass plates
would be a giant job. The
Society's newsletter carried research essays on one room schoolhouses
and on South Ashfield industries.
The article, "South Ashfield: Industrial Heartland,"
described the network of canals which once existed in South Ash
field, powering a variety of mills. Among them were wood working shops where furniture, splints
and wooden faucets were made; the pottery works; a tannery producing
leather boots, a fulling shop for
processing wool; and a shop making wooden planes.
renovation was a chief activity in 1976.
The purpose was to recreate a typical country store in the
front room. A large
volunteer crew launched the renovation in February, and the sound
of hammers and wrecking bars reverberated in the two front rooms
as old ceilings and walls were taken down.
By the end of spring, the work was finished and the museum's
front room was completely redecorated.
New shelving and a new bookcase were built and better storage
areas made for the collections. The work was done completely by
volunteers and financed by the contributions of members.
The February meeting featured quilts and quilt making, although other early crafts were demonstrated by Society members, including spinning, weaving and basket making. The spring meeting featured a film, "Up the Valley," narrated by Society member Charles Stark, which portrayed historic sites in the Pioneer Valley. A special exhibit was presented in July for the Sanderson Academy reunion. The annual meeting was addressed by Mr. Henry West of Greenfield, an authority on early tools and the area's important role in their manufacture. The Society carried out its cemetery restoration project in 1976. The state wide Bicentennial Fund provided matching grant of $525, complementing the amount provided by the Society. Repair and resetting work was done on a total of 76 monuments in eight cemeteries.
displays in 1976 included arts and crafts, flags, Girl and Boy
Scouts, and baseball equipment from a the time Ashfield had a
town team. The newsletter
carried an article on Mrs. Nancy A. Guilford, a life long resident
of South Ashfield who died in 1930 at the age of 101. In her later years she gave a remarkable interview on life
in Ashfield 150 years prior. Her recollections, through her family,
went back to the very beginnings of Ashfield history.
The newsletter also carried a study of what an Ashfield
store was like 75 years ago, complementing the restoration of
the front of the museum as a country store.
the spring meeting, Miss O'Donnell's fourth grade class from Sanderson
Academy performed skits depicting the early settlers.
In the summer, Mary Priscilla Howes and Frances Gray lectured
on the history of St. John's Church, which was built with lumber
cut in Bear Swamp and has played an important role in Ashfield
life. In July, David
Miller of Amherst lectured on the architectural history of the
Town Hall. In August,
Douglas Sackman of Amherst presented a program on reading in Colonial
days. At the annual meeting, Alan Dater showed his documentary
film on "Farm and Land."
museum's windows in 1977 showed the ambulance and firemen, school
day memorabilia, food molds, and a typical preserving kitchen
of former times. The
newsletter's essay was on school life 80 years ago, drawing on
a collection of the letters of Miss Dora Crafts, who was the teacher
in the one room school in the center of Ashfield for many years.
on the Howes Brothers negatives was the major accomplishment in
1978. Application was made to the National Historical Publications
and Records Commission for a matching grant of $25,000 for the
important work which needed to be done. A grant of $450 from the Massachusetts Council of Arts and
Humanities enabled the Society to begin organizing, printing and
cleaning some of the Ashfield views as a pilot study.
Much more substantial grants were to come the following
year. William Streeter
of Commington spoke in the spring on "Using Documentary Evidence
in Dating Old Houses " At the annual meeting, Harriet Pike
and Claynegaton Craft presented an informative program on the
history of Currier and Ives.
The Society had received recently a generous gift of Currier
and Ives prints from the estate of Leslie Guilford.
attendance was up, with 500 visitors and 40 Society members acting
of as volunteer guides.
Window displays included a school scene, commemorative
plates, items from "what not" shelves, iron articles,
kitchenware and medicine bottles.
newsletter in 1978 featured articles by Helen D. Ranney, "Down
Memory Lane via Steady Lane" and by Alice Whitney, "The
on the Howes Brothers photographs went into high gear in 1979.
Alan Newman was appointed project director and Dee Edwards hired
to assist on all aspects. The Society successfully matched the
$25,000 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records
members participated in a large‑scale fund drive, canvassing
a great many individuals, businesses and organizations.
The project officially began on July 2, 1979. Eugene Ostroff,
photography coordinator at the Smithsonian Institution, visited
the collection and advised on the proper cleaning and storing
of the glass negatives.
By 1979 almost 15,000 negatives had been cleaned and placed
in acid free envelopes with numbers and codes recorded. This represented
a good part of the more than 23,000 negatives for which the museum
is the repository.
Specially constructed steel cabinets were purchased for
storing the negatives, and work began on an environmentally controlled
storage vault. Working
with the Peabody Museum at Harvard, the Society began microfilming
the negatives to create a positive film record.
The Society's collection became the first major photographic
collection in the United States to have tried this process.
for 1979 were many and varied. In February, William Streeter spoke
on operating and maintaining an historical museum.
In March, David Proper spoke on "Sundials, Sand Glasses,
and Time Pieces." In April, David Newell addressed the Society on "The Baptist
Shaker Encounter: Religious Dissent in Ashfield, 1779 1784."
In July, Mrs. Sheldon Howes spoke on "My New England
Attic." At the
annual meeting in September, Ray Cassidy spoke on "Timber,
Cannon, and Sail," the story of ships of the Revolutionary
museum volunteers had a busy year with the Howes collection, but
found time during the summer to put on a special exhibit on antique
cars for the Sanderson Academy reunion and to arrange a demonstration
of basket making by Mary Tilley.
Attendance at the museum increased over previous years
to some 700 people, due in part to the museum's increasingly active
participation in the Fall Festival, which had become a major Ashfield
Growing interest in the Society, enhanced by the Fall Festival,
brought 95 new members in 1980, bringing the total to 340.
The 1980 programs began with a walking tour in May conducted
by Carrolle Markle in which participants examined the trees and
plants which were used for a variety of purposes by the earlier
inhabitants of Ashfield.
In June, a bus tour took people to Cummington and the William
Cullen Bryant house, followed later in the summer by a walking
tour conducted by David Newell to the Shaker and Baptist sites
in the Beldingville area.
At the annual meeting, Professor Robert McFarland of the
University of Massachusetts, who wrote the introduction of the
Howes Brothers book, described the great value of the Society's
work on the project.
window displays included a fall harvest scene, a replica of the
Howes Brothers studio, a bottle exhibit, and a hunting and trapping
scene. The museum
again participated in the Fall Festival in October. In a novel
demonstration, the staff of the Howes Brothers project, Alan Newman
and Dee Edwards, photographed festival visitors in the manner
used by the Howes Brothers.
attention began to focus on the Society's Howes Brothers project.
In April, the book of Howes photographs, New England
Reflections: Photographs by the Howes Brothers, 1882-1907, appeared
and was widely praised in reviews. A busy schedule of Howes
Brothers exhibits began, including those at the University of
Massachusetts Fine Arts Center, Dartmouth College, the Old State
House in Boston, and Neikrug Photographical in New York.
Further grants came from several sources, including the
National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for
the Humanities, and the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and
Society's program season began in January with talks at the
South Ashfield Library by Susan McGowan on South Ashfield industries,
and by Harriet Pike on tin ware. In March, Martin Cornman and
Don Fitzgerald presented biographical sketches of four outstanding
Ashfield men of the last century: psychologist and president
of Clark University, G. Stanley Hall; Dr. Knowlton, pioneer
in birth control; Alvan Clark, inventor and telescope maker;
and William S. Clark, pioneer in agriculture and teaching who
had a great influence in Japan.
In May, a tour of Bear Swamp, owned by the Trustees of
Reservation, was conducted by Phil Steinmetz and Russell Fessenden.
In June, a very successful Mohawk Trail Concert was held.
At the annual meeting in September, professor John Maki
spoke further about the important role played by William S.
Clark. In October,
a tour was led by Lewis Black to an ancient stone chamber in
Goshen. The museum had 700 visitors in 1981 and was especially
well attended during the Fall Festival.
Window displays reflected themes of current interest
to the Society: Alvan
Clark, photography, tools made in Ashfield, wooden boxes and
a Thanksgiving table of earlier times.
important new step was taken in May when the Society opened
a gift shop. Items
for sale were closely related to the history of Ashfield.
The Society's book, New England Reflections, enjoyed
great popularity. The
Howes Brothers slide lecture was given in several localities.
The photographs appeared in two major art galleries,
the Clark Institute in Williamstown and the Addison Gallery
at Phillips Academy in Andover. Research on the photographs continued. A printout was completed of the negatives in numerical order
and by geographic location, and by proper name and street address.
January, Norton Juster of Buckland spoke on the role of women
in the three decades following the Civil War.
In February, professor Theodore Belsky of American International
College spoke on oral history projects for local historical
societies. In March,
Mary Priscilla Howes presented a paper on "First Ladies
from Ashfield's Past" relating the story of four outstanding
Ashfield women. Her
paper, very well received, was later published by the Society
as a booklet. In April, Robert Merriam of Conway and Greenfield
Community College spoke on old and rare books. In May, another
nature walk was led by Carrolle Markle and in June another Mohawk
Trail Concert was held.
At the annual meeting in September, Harold
Levanway, former editor of the Greenfield Recorder, spoke
on his 50 years of experience in local journalism and on
the value of newspapers for historical research.
the value of newspapers for historical research.
attendance in 1982 more than doubled, reaching 1,500.
The museum presented a special exhibit, "Ashfield
in Our Day," with photos by Alan Newman depicting contemporary
exhibit concerned George William Denton, "An Extraordinary
Country Man." Window displays included table settings,
Christmas wreaths, winter objects, lanterns, Edwin Elmer the
artist, paperweights, and a harvest kitchen. The newsletter
contained an informative article on Norman Pike's research on
the origins of Ashfield.
the spring of 1983, the Society presented a series of talks,
"Sundays in South Ashfield," held in the South Ashfield
Library. In January,
Society members Franklin and Mary Wickwire discussed Cornwallis,
the British general statesman.
The Wickwires have written the definitive biography of
Cornwallis. In February, Alan Newman and Dee Edwards, director and assistant
director of the Howes Brothers project, presented the first
"hometown" showing of the project's slide show.
In March, Frances Gray spoke on the history of the Ashfield
Grange. In April,
James Corcione of Tolland, Connecticut, discussed the Belding
Brothers Silk Company and the Belding family of Ashfield, who
donated the library and the park at the lake. The summer concert
in the Congregational Church featured the New York Camerata.
Russell Fessenden, Society member and Ashfield observer for
the National Weather Service, spoke on the ever changing subject
of Ashfield weather.
its work on the Howes project, the Society received national
recognition by the 8,000 member American Association for State
and Local History. The
association gave its Award of Merit to the Society for its work
in "preserving and making accessible the Howes Brothers
Carrolle Markle, a long‑time and devoted Society
trustee, was designated by the trustees to receive the award
at the annual conference of New England historical societies
attendance was again high, totaling 1,500 people. Special programs
included summertime exhibits and demonstrations on the theme,
"Remember Ashfield Women."
Window displays featured past and present Christmas trees,
a Belding Silk Company display case, Sanderson Academy photos
and memorabilia, and Victorian ladies of leisure.
newsletter, with four issues during the year, had informative
articles on "Ashfield's Decade of Snow Rollers, 1917-1927"
by Linwood Lesure; "Ashfield's Maple Festivals, 1958 and
1959," also by Linwood Lesure; "The Belding Exhibit
Comes to Ashfield," by Michael E. C. Gery; "The Beldingville
School," by Alice Whitney; and "Two Letters to Ashfield,"
by Mary Priscilla Howes. The last article included letters from
William Cullen Bryant and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., both with
great courtesy explaining why they could not attend the town's
Centennial of 1865. Both
letters were found by Mary Priscilla Howes in a trunk of old
town records and documents in her attic.
The Society undertook a special project in 1983. Volume one of the town history, 1742 to 1910, was reprinted and 500 copies made available to the public. The reprinting was made possible in its entirety by a gift from Harriet Pike in memory of her husband, Norman Pike.