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First hilltowns history fair on Saturday

Submitted image
First flag-raising at an American School, 1812” by Frank E. Schoonover is the artist’s rendition of the Colrain event. The 1940 oil painting is being used for the event, with the permission of Schoonover’s family

Submitted image First flag-raising at an American School, 1812” by Frank E. Schoonover is the artist’s rendition of the Colrain event. The 1940 oil painting is being used for the event, with the permission of Schoonover’s family Purchase photo reprints »

COLRAIN — How much do you know about eccentric scythe inventor Silas Lamson, Colonial forts in Colrain, Heath or Charlemont, or how to research your ancestors’ West County “roots?”

These topics and more of the local history will be explored in a new event called the “Hilltowns History Fair and Conference” which takes place Saturday on the grounds of the Colrain Central School, Jacksonville Road, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Old-fashioned festivities and workshops by local historians will be highlights of this event, which is sponsored by the Mary Lyon Foundation, Catamount Hill Association, Colrain Historical Society, Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and the Museum of Our Industrial Heritage.

A children’s tent will include vintage clothing from “grandma’s attic,” and an interactive archaeology dig for children, led by Colrain archaeologist Aaron Miller. Children will be able to discover real artifacts and discuss their role in history. Children will also get to meet characters from the past, including Mount Holyoke College founder Mary Lyon, minutemen from the Sturbridge Co., a Stockbridge Indian scout, an 1812 farmer, an itinerant blacksmith and many others.

The “Big Top” tent will provide fairgoers with experts in many fields, and a chance to ask them your own questions about genealogy, textiles and other topics.

Historical societies from Rowe, Buckland, Heath, Leyden and Colrain will be represented and old maps, books and ephemera will be available.

There will be several food vendors.

Besides a day of free events, a conference inside Colrain Central School will begin at 9 a.m. with a keynote speech on Shays Rebellion by University of Massachusetts Professor Emeritus Leonard Richards. Conference participants can sign up for three of the following workshops. The daylong conference fee $45 for general attendance; $35 for senior citizens, Mohawk, Hawlemont and Rowe educators, and for “early birds.”


Beginning at 10:30 a.m.:

∎  “The Line of Forts.” Retired Yale anthropology Professor Michael D. Coe discusses frontier archaeology and forts in local communities.

∎  “Robert Strong Woodward: the Life and Work of a New England Painter,” led by Polly Anderson and Lee Toy-Goodman of Friends of Robert Strong Woodward.

∎  “Letters from Maud 1905-1909,” love letters and photos from Maud Purrington of Shattuckville to her future husband Frank Johnson of East Charlemont gives a glimpse of rural life.

∎  “Father Silas Lamson,” the eccentric by forward-thinking inventor whose sons founded Lamson & Goodnow Cutlery.

∎  “Finding your Ancesters in West County and Beyond,” with Buckland genealogy volunteer Tina Peters.

∎  “Riding the Rails, Past and Present” with Alden Dreyer of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society.

Starting at 1 p.m.

∎  “Revisiting Native American History in the Deerfield River Valley” with Professor Margaret Buchac of the University of Pennsylvania anthropology department.

∎  “Window on the Wider World” one-room school houses, with Timothy Neumann of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association.

∎  “Hilltown Life 200 Years Ago,” with Catamount Hill Association President Sarah Johnson.

∎  “Sanford Tavern, Hawley” with John Sears, Aaron Miller and Ivan Grail.

∎ “Reminiscences of a Barefoot Boy” a dramatic reading of reminiscenses by Dr. Ammon Davenport of growing up on Catamount Hill during the 1830s.

∎ “Franklin County & the California Gold Rush.”

Workshops starting at 2:30 p.m.:

∎ “The Families of Catamount Hill.

∎ “Shays Rebellion: with Barbara Mathews of PVMA.

∎  “Shelburne Falls and Colrain Street Railway: Then and Now” with Marie Bartlett, author and illustrator of The Little Yellow Trolley car, a True Story.

∎  Artist Edwin Romanzo Elmer, with Polly Anderson, an art teacher who grew up in Elmer’s home in Buckland.

∎  “Hands and Hearts to Cloth,” with librarians Bambi Miller and Mary Boehmer, on the role of handiwork and quilts used during activities in the Underground Railroad movement.

∎  “The Creation of the Quabbin Reservoir: The Death of Swift River Valley,” by J.R. Greene, area historian.

Conference participants will receive a book with historical tidbits about Massachusetts, and a certificate of attendance. To register online, go to:


You can also call Executive Director Sue Samoriski at 625-2555 or email her at:


You can reach Diane Broncaccio at:
or (413) 772-0261, ext. 277

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