Henniker Historical Society
HHS today, yesterday and tomorrow
This is the text of a talk given by Martha Taylor at the Henniker Rotary Club on June 17, 1999
What the Society is doing now that Academy Hall is renovated and the museum is open.I'd like to read a summary of our mission statement. The Society's purpose is to obtain, compile and maintain records and objects related to the History of Henniker, to make such information available to the public and to support education about the history of Henniker.
In an attempt to obtain, compile and maintain records we have as the first point of entry an Acquisitions Committee that accepts artifacts and archival (or paper) materials. That Committee makes sure that each donation is accompanied by a Gift Agreement, they assign a unique number to each item, that identifies the year of acquisition, what number donation it is for that year and how many items make up that donation. They clean, measure and describe each item. If it is an artifact it is either put on display or put in our storage room. If it is a paper item it goes to the Archives Committee. They determine its proper location and file it. They then let the Acquisition Committee know where it is so that it can be found in the future.
Presently we have no endowment funds to purchase items but if any of you see something you think we should have, let us know anyway, because if it is significant I'm sure we could get sponsors to help buy it.
In order to know what we have, we (meaning the research volunteers) have begun cataloguing every piece of paper. We have completed one full file drawer and 80 acid-free boxes. We've made a 3-ring notebook listing each item. If the Museum Committee wants to put on a display, we can go through this book to find collateral paper items to add. It also means I'm not the only person who knows what we have, and the book helps to identify where the proper place is to put new items. In addition, it helps us find items related to particular families when people come in to do research.
The volunteers have also gleaned vital statistics not recorded elsewhere from old scrapbooks and journals. These entries caught my eye:
"Died May 27, 1894, Miss Ellen Patterson, jumped in the river near the covered bridge and was drowned, when taken out she tied a handkerchief round her neck which caused her to strangle."
"Oct 13, 1898, Mary Whittier, died at the tea table, aged 89 at the home of L.P. Hanson"
There was a great deal of paper and records that we brought from the library. Everything that was in cartons we have recorded and put into 63 acid-free boxes. And we're not done yet.
We were asked to research a buggy accident that happened around the turn of the last century. We pulled scrapbooks of newspaper articles dated 1894-1904 and as we looked for the accident information we found other great articles and decided that we would copy the pages and file each article by topic. We just couldn't let the likes of these disappear:
Henniker Courier, Feb 1, 1894
Every voter young and old should vote to light our streets with electricity...... The young men escorting the young ladies home can take advantage of the deep shadows to give them an old fashioned hug without being detected and girls you don't know how beautiful you look as seen under the electric light, your complexion will look as if made to order. Punch your young man up and have him vote for electricity.
Henniker Courier, May 28, 1904
Herbert Campbell of Worcester came into this village with an automobile, having run from Worcester to Henniker during the forenoon, via Peterboro. Mr. Campbell is an expert runner, and, though he reports roads over which he traveled in bad shape, he can make about twenty miles an hour.
Dec 2, 1904
The town telephone lines are said to be kept busy and are affording some amusement as well as being of much practical use. Some of the patrons are using the wires for a sort of visiting medium, which, so far as we know, does not injure the wire, and causes only slight delay in regular business. Fifty calls per day is not unusual.
Maybe the material will lend itself to another booklet. We have about 120 scrapbooks so it will take some time. We're not even finished the first one yet!
We continue to save current newspaper clippings about Henniker for the future.
We continue to add to our obituary file. This is often the only information we have on some people who relatives are searching for.
Part of "maintaining" in the mission statement means preserving items.
As we go through the boxes and files, we unfold everything we find folded. We try to encapsulate items before refiling them. Original documents and photographs are put in acid-free sleeves before filing.
We have begun to set-aside money in our budget to have one item a year preserved by a professional. This year we chose an early 1800 watercolor. It was a mourning picture of a Twiss family member and was water damaged, with paint peeling off. The expected cost of restoration and re-framing is nearly $700. That's why only one item a year is proposed to be done at this time. When they removed the picture from its frame there was another painting underneath. But it is less valuable than the top one.
In last years fund-raising letter, we mentioned we would like to restore the cupola to its original grandeur. We had such a great response that we began looking for a contractor and the work began last week. Keep your eye on the progress. I'm sure you'll be pleased. [Editor's note: The restoration was completed in July 1999.]
We make all of our information available to the public by being open eight hours a week year-round and by special request.
The "To Educate" part of our mission is taken seriously and we are always trying to think up new ways to reach the broadest audience.
One way is through our museum displays. We now have a display case in the front hall where we put new acquisitions. In the main museum room we have been rotating displays so they do not become stagnant. The 1851 Connor family wedding dress was replaced by Edith Alice Buxton's 1900 Sunday dress. The school work and Ocean Born Mary displays were removed to make room for the team pictures and sports trophies. These will be up through Old Home Days. The family registers were replaced with American Indian artifacts and they'll be on display through Old Home Days.
Another way to educate is to host group visits. The 3rd grade, the 4th grade, the elderly residents of Rush Square and even an NEC College class came to the museum this year. We also have many individuals visitors.
Our newsletters educate and inform. They are published 3-4 times a year. If you are a member you get them all.
We have begun printing a series of booklets. There are six done. Two more are in the works by individuals who have an interest in a particular topic. If you want to see your name in print, we welcome your participation and accept scripts.
Last fall, we published Historic Cemeteries of Henniker, A Detailed Record of Gravestone Inscriptions. It records each cemetery stone in all of the abandoned cemeteries in Henniker. It was a 4-year project, but the book has been well received by libraries, other historical societies and individuals. Recording of the stones in the New Cemetery has begun.
If you own a copy of Cogswell's History of Henniker you should be looking forward to our next publication. It is an index to that book and will be out within 2 weeks. [Editor's note: The Index is now available at the Society.]
Special events are held for exposure as much as for fund-raising. The annual Christmas cookie sale and yard sale are always fun. We had rave reviews about our second Victorian Tea Party. And we'll do another Wedding Gown show in a few years.
We welcome each of you to visit and join us.
If you asked me what you could do to help, I'd say:
be a newsletter editor be someone we can call for minor carpentry work for new exhibits be an ornament painter be an archival filing clerk once a month be a booklet author be the person that installs doors on the shelves that will hold all the china take a scrapbook and copy the pages do minor repairs on the building or co-ordinate a painting party to paint the outside of the building
type lists for us help encapsulate more of our archival material give a talk on a Henniker subject to one of our school groups meet a class at an historical marker to tell them more about it record cemetery stones clean cemetery stones be a body at Academy Hall so that we can continue to be open transcribe a Centennial speech given by LW Cogswell in 1876 sweep a floor paint a bookcase or type signs for the museum
As you can see, not everything needs to be completed at Academy Hall.
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