A Brief History of the Ashfield Historical Society

The First 25 Years




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.  

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The museum 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.


The Society 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 blowing.

The museum's 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. 

Approximately 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. 

The museum 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.

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In 1971, 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.

About 400 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.


The first 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.

Window 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.


In 1973, 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 story.  


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.

The usual 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.


Programs 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. 

Window 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.

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Museum 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.

Window 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.


At 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."

The 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. 


Progress 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.

Museum 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.

The newsletter in 1978 featured articles by Helen D. Ranney, "Down Memory Lane via Steady Lane" and by Alice Whitney, "The Wizard Tree”.


 Work 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 Commission.  Many 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.

Programs 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 War.

The 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 event.


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.

Museum 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.  

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Nationwide 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 Humanities.  The 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.


An 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. 

In 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.

Museum 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 Ashfield.  Another 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.   


In 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.

For 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 Photographic Collection."  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 in Providence.

Museum 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. 

The 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.

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