Sunday, June 24, 2018

A letter to Friends of the CHS

June 21, 2018

Dear Friends of the Colrain Historical Society, ​

​We think you will be interested---perhaps concerned—in the sequence of decisions over the past year that have changed the status of the society related to its longtime home at the G. William Pitt House property. As of this month, the society, and the public, are barred from these buildings.

​As you probably know, the house and outbuildings were left to the town in 1976 under G. William Pitt’s will. The society was to maintain and have the use of the property, where it might store and maintain the growing collection of donated historic artifacts, farm equipment, textiles, photographs and documents. The town voted to accept this property.

​Nearly 30 years ago, with money from a bequest and donations, CHS had built another building on the site, the Stacy Barn, in which we stored large artifacts and in recent years held meetings and popular free programs for the public, mostly about local history. And we paid to have the old Hose House, the town’s historic fire station, moved from the old town lot next to the Brick Meeting House to behind the Pitt House.

​The house and attached barn are in need of costly repairs, including some foundation work. The select board has decided to “dispose of” the property if the state Attorney General rules that permissable under the terms of the will---either to the highest bidder or to CHS for $1. We believe a sale will need a majority vote at the annual or a special Town Meeting.

​Meanwhile, the town has decided that due to a “change of use” classification from residence to business/museum, the buildings now require a Certificate of Occupancy, which has been denied for lack of designated repairs and updates. Consequently, none of the buildings can be used. In fact, for decades the house and attached barn have been used as a museum, storage for the collection, and a meeting place. The only change is in bureaucratic classification in recent years.

​We will move our monthly meeting place across the street to Joan McQuade’s barn beginning Thursday, July 12, when we will have a wonderful program about a prize collection item, Ross Purrington’s red covered meat wagon. This is a slice of the social history of Colrain.

​ ​If we lose the use of the Pitt House property permanently, we will likely need to give up Ross’s red meat wagon, along with about 2,000 other items in the collection: antique farm and home equipment, photos of long-gone homes and residents, documents, diaries, business records, uniforms worn by Colrain natives in two world wars---the material history of Colrain. That’s what worries us now. ​

​As the visible history of the town disappears---Memorial Hall, the Tin Shop, the historic Griswold mill buildings, the Blue Block, ---we have to wonder what kind of future to expect in a town that gives up its history.

​If you are worried too, come to our meetings second Thursdays of the month, write your concerns to the Select Board and/or the Greenfield Recorder. ​

Belden Merims, for the Colrain Historical Society Board of Directors ​

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Program postponed

The program on the Hollister Collection, previously scheduled by the Colrain Historical Society for Thursday, June 14, has been postponed due to lack of a Certificate of Occupancy for the Stacy Barn. However, CHS will have their regularly scheduled meeting, without a program, at the home of Joan McQuade, 7 Main Road, on Thursday at 7 p.m.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Colrain Remembers William Apess

Pequot minister, author, and activist William Apess is arguably one of Colrain’s most significant historical figures. Yet there is no record of his legacy in the town’s histories or landscape.

Professor and author Drew Lopenzina is leading an effort to correct that invisibility with the creation and placement of a new historical marker in Colrain. Please consider making a donation to the cause!
Proposed historical marker

To learn more – and to contribute – go to You’ll find a sneak preview of the historical marker itself, as well as information on Apess’s life and work.

Drew Lopenzina was the guest speaker at the Colain Historical Society's June 11, 2015 meeting.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Taverns in the 18th Century Connecticut Valley

David Lyon's tavern in Lyonsville.
Photo credit: A History of Colrain, Mass. by L. M. Patrie.

Taverns in the 18th Century Connecticut Valley, and in Colrain, provided essential services for travelers, as well as meeting places in which to socialize, transact business, pick up mail and get the latest information.

Anne Lanning, Senior Vice President at Historic Deerfield, will offer a presentation on these taverns, drawing on travel accounts, diaries, newspapers, probate records and account books to recount the experiences of the men and women who operated taverns as well as those who frequented them.

The presentation will be at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10, at a meeting of the Colrain Historical Society in the Stacy Barn behind the Pitt House at 8 Main Road. The business meeting will be at 7:00 p.m. Refreshments will be served, and the program is open to the public. For information call Belden at 624-3453.

18th Century Tavern Table Raffle
 This 18th century tavern table is in the Pitt House. Colrain cabinetmaker and Board member Ken Noyes will make a copy of this piece to be raffled as a CHS fundraiser. Stay tuned.