Archive for the ‘Pioneer Valley’ Category

Greetings fellow historians and local history enthusiasts…welcome to the Pioneer Valley History Network’s blog. You will find postings here that range from exhibit reviews to comments about life in a small museum. This is a forum to share thoughts and ideas, collaborate on events and ask advice from our neighbors throughout the Pioneer Valley. We hope you will take the time to explore our blog and add to it with both comments and postings.
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Submitted by:  Barbara Pelissier, Westhampton Historical Society 

What do 19th century churches and lunatic asylum’s have in common?  Both had dedication ceremonies that included the placement of a cornerstone either at or near the entrance or within the facade of the structure. Often accompanied by music and a simple Masonic ritual involving corn, wine and oil, sometimes not, the placement of a sealed rectangular box (usually copper) within the hollowed out cornerstone of the new edifice was common.  What was in the box?  Current issues of the local newspapers, copies of town reports, state reports, church reports, city directories, lists of members, contributors, directors or local politicians. Frequently, a few coins of various denominations or medallions were included. Sometimes there were historic and moving letters addressed, literally, to posterity.  They had every confidence we would recover their words and artifacts.  I’m not that confident.

The closing of state hospitals and the recent consolidation of many Catholic churches in the Pioneer Valley has left the fate of these cornerstone boxes in jeopardy.  Dedication dates are easily found in printed church histories, state asylum reports, or municipal reports.  A simple search of local newspaper databases or microfilm on the day of or the day following a dedication ceremony will provide current town/city planners with valuable information about any endangered historic documents or relics that may be lost to demolition or private sale.

I would like to see demolition delay ordinances amended to allow for implementation routinely on all 19th century public or religious structures slated for demolition until a determination is made as to whether any boxes lie within. If so, contractors can be instructed to carefully dismantle the specific sections of buildings that typically contain cornerstone boxes and be on the lookout for them.  Some know exactly where to find them. Boxes should be recovered from structures slated for sale by a municipality or church.  What can you do?  Make a copy of any cornerstone information you discover in your collections or research and send it to the planning department as well as the historical commission of that town/city.

For a description of a Masonic cornerstone laying ceremony, visitPhoenixmasonry.org.

A general history of cornerstones can be found at:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornerstone

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Northfield River Boar

Northfield River Boar

By Betsy McKee

 Earlier this summer we booked a tour on the Quinnetukut II, which is supposed to be a replica of the boat from the old movie “African Queen.”  Our captain took us on a tour down the Connecticut River to Turners Falls, with a guide telling us facts about the river, the geology, the wildlife, the power plant and local history.  The boat was comfortable and spacious. We saw great blue herons and swans, though the bald eagles made themselves scarce.

Riverboat bridge

Riverboat bridge

The Quinnetukut operates Friday through Sunday from late June to mid October. The tour takes about 90 minutes, and you can charter the entire boat for a special event.  The main building includes a parking area, classroom, displays and restrooms.  A short distance up the road in Northfield you can find treats and ice cream. 

For more information, check out their website:  www.firstlightpower.com/northfield/riverboat.asp

River Heron

River Heron

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By Barbara Pelissier

Did the individual you are researching perform a heroic deed or even die while trying to save the life of another?  If so, there’s a possibility that a Carnegie Hero Award was bestowed upon that individual or, posthumously, upon their surviving family members.  Such was the case for Patrick O’Connor of Southampton, Massachusetts.

 

In the winter of 1908 Patrick died while attempting to save two young brothers who had fallen through the ice on a mill pond in the neighboring town of Northampton. With Christmas approaching, the Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper established a fund for Patrick’s widow and two young children.  As contributions from readers and Valley residents poured in, theGazette’s editor wisely pursued long-term relief for the surviving family through the Carnegie Hero Fund. By early spring, Harriet O’Connor was awarded a monthly allotment of $35 for life . Both children received $5 per month until the age of 16.  The Fund also sent Mrs. O’Connor a Carnegie Hero medallion, which Patrick’s grateful grandchild now treasures. A Carnegie Hero gravestone marker will soon adorn his final resting place. In the meantime, the descendants of Mr. O’Connor recently gathered at his grave site to honor his sacrifice: Patrick O’Connor of Southampton Honored by Family for 1908 Rescue Bid

 

Locally, Longmeadow’s W. Howard Aureswald, Florida’s Chester A. Burdick, Northampton’s Ubald A. Arel and, posthumously, Springfield’s Cirlo Achille were all Carnegie Hero Awardees.

Because heroism never goes out of style, the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission keeps busy with their investigations and awards.  Their inspirational centennial book, A Century of Heroes, can be requested by phone or online.  Their newsletter, imPULSE, is also free of charge.  The June 2012 imPULSE featured 19 year old awardee Nathan Yassen, from Brockton, Massachusetts. Fortunately, Nathan recovered from the effects of smoke inhalation after saving his 97 year old neighbor when her house caught fire one night last year.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, based in Pittsburgh, PA, is a private foundation established in 1904 by Andrew Carnegie.  Contact them at (800) 447-8900 or email: carnegiehero@carnegiehero.org Search for awardees or learn more about the Carnegie Hero Fund at: www.carnegiehero.org

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