Athol resident produces 2023 Quabbin History Calendar

  • The cover of the 2023 Quabbin History Calendar, the 38th annual limited edition by Athol resident J.R. Greene. SCANNED IMAGE

  • The photograph for March in the 2023 Quabbin History Calendar, produced by Athol resident J.R. Greene, depicts the flag station at Soapstone in the former town of Prescott. The Athol branch of the Boston and Albany Railroad connected Athol with Springfield through the Swift River Valley from 1873 to 1935. Only a mill and a few houses were located in the eastern end of Prescott, which is why passengers who wanted the train had to raise a flag signal to request that a train stop for them. SCANNED IMAGE

  • The photograph for April in the 2023 Quabbin History Calendar depicts a creamery in Millington, which was a New Salem village that was flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir. The New Salem Creamery operated there from 1894 to 1912, making butter from farmers’ surplus milk. SCANNED IMAGE

  • J.R. Greene, of Athol, has crafted his 38th Quabbin History Calendar. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 12/5/2022 6:49:16 PM
Modified: 12/5/2022 6:48:54 PM

J.R. Greene makes his living as a collectibles dealer specializing in ephemera, or materials that were written or printed without the intent of being preserved or collected, such as letters, postcards, booklets and pamphlets. Another type of item that falls into this niche category is calendars, which Greene also knows a thing or two about.

The Athol resident recently released the 2023 Quabbin History Calendar, his 38th annual limited edition. The calendar includes photos of the towns and villages that were flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir in the late 1930s.

“It looks good,” Greene said of his latest work. “A lot of these (images) are from old photographs or postcards or whatever.”

The calendar, published by Highland Press in Athol, retails for $16.95 and is available at outlets throughout Franklin County and the North Quabbin region, including World Eye Bookshop and Federal Street Books in Greenfield. Anyone interested in purchasing a copy can also send Greene an email at jrg01331@webtv.net.

The bound calendar’s cover includes a photo of Enfield Town Hall, the site of the Farewell Ball on April 27, 1938, when some residents danced the night away before their four towns — Dana, Prescott, Enfield and Greenwich — were disincorporated at midnight by way of an act of the state Legislature.

An infamous and devastating 1872 fire in Boston prompted discussion about how the city was in need of better access to water. The Quabbin region was seen as a perfect location because it averaged 44 inches of annual rainfall and there are hundreds of small streams that flow into the valley. All 1,100 structures (including 650 homes) in the disincorporated towns were removed so the valley could be flooded to make the primary water supply for Boston and some other communities. South Hadley, Wilbraham and Chicopee also get water from the reservoir.

The disincorporation displaced 2,500 people, and 34 cemeteries — consisting of 7,613 graves — were removed, as were 31½ miles of railroad. Thirty-six miles of highway were relocated and 242 miles were abandoned.

Greene said his favorite photograph in the 2023 calendar is probably the one for March — the flag station at Soapstone in Prescott. The Athol branch of the Boston and Albany Railroad connected Athol with Springfield through the Swift River Valley from 1873 to 1935. Only a mill and a few houses were located in the eastern end of Prescott, which is why passengers who wanted the train had to raise a flag signal to request that a train stop for them. Greene said the flag signal was more like a wooden paddle of sorts.

“If they did not see the paddle thing, they would just keep on going,” he said.

Greene said he is also fascinated with April’s photo, which depicts a creamery in Millington, a New Salem village that was also lost during the reservoir’s creation. The New Salem Creamery operated there from 1894 to 1912, making butter from farmers’ surplus milk. The somewhat blurry photo shows two workers packaging slabs of butter for shipment. Greene said Joe Mitko, a retired Athol Daily News reporter who lives in Barre, digitally helped him make some of the low-quality photos more print-friendly.

“And I think it came out of pretty decently,” Greene said.

He is also partial to June’s photo depicting the Greenwich farmhouse owned by Cyprian Uracius. A Lithuanian immigrant, Uracius arrived in Greenwich around 1913 and became a prosperous farmer, owning nearly 100 acres in the southeast part of town. He served on the Selectboard and held 13 government positions when the town was disincorporated. Greene said he interviewed Uracius shortly before he died in the 1980s.

This year’s edition brings the number of photographs published in Quabbin History Calendars to more than 450 over the past 38 years.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.


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