Athol Daily News – Museum surprises from A to Z

Published: 04/25/2022 11:37:38

Modified: 04/25/2022 11:36:13 AM

PHILLIPSTON — April 12 was the day museum curator Jane French presented her special “Museum Surprises” program for the Phillipston Historical Society meeting. She said it would be based on 26 things from A to Z that were represented in the museum. It looked like a unique company, but I couldn’t imagine anything in the collection that could start with Z.

When we arrived at the meeting, we saw four tables covered with sheets. The lumps in the spreads told us that the surprises lay below. A sense of mystery reigned as we all settled in for an evening of surprises.

One by one the surprises were unveiled and French told us fascinating stories about the objects by holding them up or showing pictures of objects too big to bring to the program. Here is a sample of some of the letters:

A is for archaeology. The Historical Society building was formerly the Methodist Church built in 1849 on State Road. In 2014 it was moved up the road to its current location and dug under the old location to uncover artefacts from the old church.

This is for an 1896 check writer. Records show that GW Todd & Co. of Rochester, NY, made 85,000 in 1910. This was the first effort to protect check security.

F is for Massachusetts’ fifth toll highway. It was a rugged mountainous toll road through Phillipston. Route 2 follows its path quite closely today. Interestingly, the guns from Fort Ticonderoga were transported to Boston on this route in 1775 for use in the Battle of Bunker Hill. After this event, the road was called Military Road, and the section on 2A through Templeton continues to bear that name.

G is for grants. Phillipston was settled by grants given to men who volunteered to fight in the Indian Wars.

K is for keeper. The town’s ammunition keeper was the church, then called the church. In 1774, each district had militia units. Gatherings were held to prepare men to fight in the Revolution. The men used their own weapons but ammunition was provided. We were surprised to learn that it was stored on the balcony of the church.

L is for lunch boxes. Two unusual ones are in the collection, one slides on the side instead of opening from the top.

M is for missionaries. There was a great missionary movement in New England to bring Christianity to various parts of the world in the early 1800s. A couple from Phillipston served in Turkey.

P is for parachute. Much to everyone’s surprise, the Society has a World War II silk parachute of the type used on D-Day in Europe.

Q is for the quiz. The French had several good historical questions which allowed for good audience participation.

S is for stencil. Phillipston had a chair factory in the late 1800s. Metal stenciling was used to paint the manufacturer’s name onto the wooden crates that were made to pack them for delivery. The Company is proud to have three chairs from the Parker factory.

V is for voting. There was a contentious issue in town that upset the ladies, and 22 women stormed City Hall demanding to register to vote in the local candidate elections. That was in 1910. Women’s suffrage wasn’t granted until 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment, but the women of Phillipston voted.

W is for Washington. Most of us didn’t know there was a penny. President George Washington provided the money for the first strike in 1837. From 1837 to 1873, there were 48,470.

Y means annual. Past annual reports have provided the Society with much of its historical information.

Z is for zero. We’ve all wondered what Z could mean. The Frenchman said it was zero hour, time to go home.

French turned out to be a good storyteller. His love and enthusiasm for the museum is contagious. She put a lot of creative thinking and research into the program and everyone enjoyed a fun and informative alphabet presentation. We all learned new things and enjoyed our story even more. We are grateful to her for all the time she has devoted to creating a beautiful museum in just 22 years. And, we are grateful to the townspeople who have so generously donated family rooms to be preserved for us and future generations to enjoy. Maybe one day we’ll even have an article for Z.

Occasional writer Carole Gariepy of Phillipston is the author of seven books, all non-fiction. A recent one is a travel book, “Why go there? In her youth, she was a teacher.

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