Times Past: Shelburne’s 250th anniversary a good time to reflect


  • Students at Foxtown School, taken in November 1905. Back row, left to right: Ruth Chapman, Lawrence Wholey, Louise Bardwell and teacher Bertha Smith. Front row, left to right: Eliot Taylor, Charles Chandler, Sarah Williams, Edna Wholey, Viola Williams and Clarinda Dole. Contributed photo/Prudence Wholey

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Sometimes it pays to ask questions.

When I was a kid back in the fifties and early sixties, I guess I thought my family was going to last forever. My Aunt Edna, who lived in her Shelburne family home, was surrounded by pictures. There were the Victorian posed ones of grandparents, great aunts and cousins. She also had photos of the Foxtown School where she, my father Lawrence, Uncle Fred, and neighboring children went to school in the first through eighth grades. High school-aged students from Bardwell’s Ferry mostly went to high school in Greenfield, traveling by train from Bardwell’s Ferry or South River Station.

One of the students at Foxtown School was Bea Bardwell. Her desk was a fixture in our kitchen, usually piled with our own school work. By this time, the old school building had been converted into a home where the Kings lived. Several of the original eight district schools in town are now homes. Most have disappeared.

Many photos were passed along in time. But who were these people? Where did they live? There are a few of them identified, but many remain a mystery. One good thing about Auntie Edna, she did label a couple of the pictures, including the one above, taken in November 1905.

There are a few descendants from this photo who still live in town. Gordon Taylor is Eliot’s son. Clarinda Dole was George and Bucky Dole’s aunt. Three of Lawrence Wholey’s children live almost within walking distance of Foxtown School, with John living just over the bridge in Conway. His eldest daughter, Rebecca, died three years ago, but her son lives in Shelburne Falls.

As Shelburne celebrates its 250th anniversary, it’s good to get out those old pictures, and pass them around. Maybe somebody will come out of the woodwork and shed a little light on some of these folks who lived in town long ago.

In the meantime, if you’d like to learn some history about the Shelburne schools, including Arms Academy, you can join the Shelburne Historical Society — located in the old Arms building at the corner of Church and Maple streets in Shelburne Falls — on March 11 from 1 to 3 p.m. for a panel discussion. Bring your old photos and stories, and share them with us.