Thanks to all who joined us for a lively, thought-provoking and fun day at the Hilltowns History Fair & Conference! We’ll be posting photographs on facebook soon!

The Hilltowns History CONFERENCE will be held on Saturday, September 19th  at the same time as the FAIR (for information about the FAIR, click here).

8:30 AM– 3:30 PM       FEE—see below
Mohawk Trail Regional School
, 24 Ashfield Rd. (Rt. 112), Shelburne Falls, MA
After reviewing the PROGRAM details below, click here for REGISTRATION information and instructions (pre-registration recommended).
Students and Teachers FREE; Seniors and Early-Bird Registration $25; On-site $30 or $10 per session (for keynote and/or breakout sessions)



WELCOME AND KEYNOTE     9:00–10:00 am
What Happened Here? ~ Barbara A. Mathews, Ph.D., Public Historian, Historic Deerfield Barbara Mathews’ keynote will introduce the themes of continuity and change through local agrarian and industrial histories, emphasizing the ways in which we can “read” current landscapes and built environments to interact more directly with the experiences and choices individuals and their communities have made and continue to make, while linking these local histories to broader national and international historical narratives and themes.

BREAK     10:00–10:30 am
Enjoy the FAIR―vendors, demonstrators, food, music and activities for all ages!

BREAKOUT SESSIONS: 10:30–11:30 am; 1:00–2:00 pm; 2:30–3:30 pm
There will be three sessions with time in between to connect with other history-enthusiasts at the FAIR, check out resources offered by a variety of vendors, and enjoy great food and music.

1st BREAKOUT     10:30–11:30 am
1. Performing a Sense of Place ~ Leo Hwang, Dean of Humanities, Greenfield Community College ~ We are on the cusp of a generational shift as farmers, shop owners, civic employees and volunteers, teachers, and librarians—the very anchors of our communities’ collective knowledge—are preparing to retire or enter new phases of their lives. This is an opportunity to redefine a sense of place where individuals can have a great impact on the legacies of the past, the experience of the present, and directions for the future. Participants will experiment with recording individual histories that intersect with place and how they define that place, and learn how to be ethical researchers in choosing which histories to preserve. Different ways to archive histories will be discussed including digital storytelling; audio files and podcasts, public static and interactive displays, written articles, poems, stories, and songs as well as how to utilize existing historical societies and public collections.

2. From the Plainfield Aquaduct Company to WiredWest Cooperative: Commonly Held Utilities in Plainfield from the Nineteenth to the Twenty-first Century ~ Pleun Bouricius, Ph.D., Curator, Plainfield Historical Society; Leslie Rule, Plainfield Delegate, BOD, WiredWest Cooperative ~ How do we get water and power to our homes when there isn’t a company readily willing and/or able to provide them? Once a common issue to resolve and now a bit more complex, Pleun Bouricius and Leslie Rule explore how the citizens of Plainfield have and have not banded together for the common good to bring utilities to their houses and town during the past two hundred years.

3. Gravestone CSI: Causes of Death Found on Gravestones ~ Betsy McKee, President, Longmeadow Cemetery Association ~ Visit some of the Connecticut River Valley’s historic cemeteries during Betsy McKee’s PowerPoint presentation on the causes of death found on old gravestones. Death came for one simply by “the kick of a horse,” another “fell by the rage of the Barbarous enemy,” while another “expired in horrible agonies” by “the bite of a mad dog.”

4. Frankton and Shelburne Street Railway ~ Edward Gregory and Muriel E. Russell, Local Historians ~ Edward Gregory and Muriel Russell will present a short history of the Frankton Mill site which was located beside the North River on the Colrain Shelburne Town Line. This presentation includes a visual trip along the Shelburne Falls & Colrain street Railway route, with pictures of sites all along the trolley line to Colrain Center.

5. Colonial Asheries ~ Ralmon Jon Black, Amateur Historian/Genealogist, Williamsburg Historical Society ~ Ralmon Black will present his extensive research for his published monograph, Colonial Asheries, about potash, the standing cash crop the first settlers harvested everywhere in the 1700s―how it was harvested, the economic effects, and the changes to the land.

6. Hands and Hearts to Cloth ~ Mary Boehmer, Hawlemont Regional Elementary School Library Manager; Bambi Miller, Retired Tyler Memorial Library Director and Independent UGRR Researcher ~ Charlemont librarians Bambi Miller and Mary Boehmer will trace the role of quilts handcrafted to generate funds for the support of the Underground Railroad Movement. Following in the footsteps of the 19th century Ladies Abolitionists, discussion will revolve around the efforts of one hundred contemporary women and their quilting participation, bringing to light our community’s past.

LUNCH & FAIR     11:30 am–1:00 pm
Lunch will be available from food vendors with time to see demonstrations, exhibits, enjoy history-related activities and listen to music! Local favorites, BrightLines, will perform from 12-1 pm.

2nd BREAKOUT     1:00–2:00 pm
7. Oral History and Getting It Recorded ~ Polly Anderson, Program Director, Buckland Historical Society ~ Polly Anderson will share her processes of recording local oral histories: Oral History Events―a program with a panel of Senior Citizens; interviews filmed and aired live with the Falls Cable Corporation public access television for Buckland and Shelburne; working with Shutterfly and Microsoft PowerPoint to record oral histories; and discussion of the questioning process, using photographs, and making your subject comfortable.

8. By Hand and Hammer: Metalsmithing through the Ages ~ Steve Smithers, Master Silversmith ~ Steve Smithers will discuss the early history of metalworking, and the first metalsmiths of the Pioneer Valley, including a demonstration of the tools and techniques which they employed.

9. The Narrow Escape of Angleline Palmer ~ Cliff McCarthy, archivist, Stone House Museum, Belchertown, and President of the Pioneer Valley History Network; Jacqueline Walsh, author of The Narrow Escape of Angeline Palmer ~ Angeline Palmer was a 10-year-old African-American girl whose Belchertown employers in 1840 plotted to sell her into slavery. Why would Mason Shaw, a lawyer and upstanding Belchertown citizen, turn to the girl cleaning chamberpots and washing floors in his house and suddenly scheme to make her a slave? The answer is found in long-forgotten newspaper articles, court documents and the census. Facing the same future that Solomon Northup endured when kidnapped in 1841 (which he wrote about in 12 Years A Slave), Angeline was rescued by the bold and courageous actions of some members of Amherst’s African-American community. Come hear this remarkable, little-known story in which Colrain plays a crucial role.

10. Sleigh to Sail: Fidelia Fiske’s Journey from Shelburne to Persia ~ Elizabeth Antaya, MS, Director, Shelburne Free Public Library; Linda Callahan, MA, Department of Art and Art History and Williston Memorial Library, Mount Holyoke College (Retired) ~ Born and raised in Shelburne, precocious and devout student of Mary Lyon, educated at Mount Holyoke Female Seminary, Fidelia Fiske (1816-1864) was the first single female missionary to go to Persia (present day Iran) where she founded the Nestorian Female Seminary. After mastering the Syriac language, she worked for 15 years to improve the educational opportunities for the women and children of Urmia, returning to Massachusetts in order to regain her health. She led by example and paved the way for many Mount Holyoke graduates to serve as missionaries.

11. Indigenous Touchstones: Native American Presence in Western Massachusetts ~ Margaret Bruchac, Ph.D., Penn Cultural Heritage Center, University of Pennsylvania ~ This session highlights Indigenous histories in the colonial era by examining the lives of Native American individuals like Indian Doctress Rhoda Rhoades, writer William Apess, and others who lived alongside white settlers in the hilltowns of western Massachusetts. To Euro-American immigrants, these rugged forests, swamps, rivers, and hills were imagined to be wild and uninhabited before “civilization” arrived. Yet, to the original Native residents, this area was not a “wilderness”; it was a rich, hospitable, sustainable homeland, mapped and marked with touchstones and trails that linked to other Native communities across the Northeast and beyond.

12. The Devil Wars―Shakerism in Ashfield, Shelburne and Buckland, 1782-1783 ~ David D. Newell, Hamilton College Communal Societies Press Editorial Board ~ For nearly a year, the American Shakers gathered and then coalesced in Ashfield, led by “the woman clothed with the sun”―Mother Ann Lee. Here, in the first Shaker meetinghouse built in America, hundreds of early Shakers engaged in ecstatic worship, and the casting-out of devils. You will meet the remarkable Bacon family of Ashfield, the pious Matthewsons of Buckland, and the large family of Jonathan Wood who lived near the Falls in Shelburne in a massive house and who believed they would live forever.

BREAK     2:00–2:30 pm
Enjoy the FAIR until 4 pm – vendors, demonstrators, food, music and activities!

3rd BREAKOUT     2:30–3:30 pm
A History of Buckland Schools ~ Polly Anderson, Program Director and Past President, Buckland Historical Society ~ This history starts before Buckland was incorporated. We will travel through the near and far flung areas of Buckland learning how the town provided education for all its children up until the year 1995.

14. Spiritualism: Talking with the Dead in the Nineteenth Century ~ Robert S. Cox, Head of Special Collections, UMass Amherst ~ In the middle of the nineteenth century, Spiritualism became the fastest growing religion in the United States, with millions of believers in the idea that the dead had established a new means of communicating with the living. In this talk, Robert Cox will discuss the origins of the movement and what about it was so appealing to so many Americans, and what about it became increasingly untenable in the years after the Civil War.

15. Gardner Symons & Robert Strong Woodward: Unique Local Artists ~ Deborah Wheeler, Colrain; Janet Gerry, Conway; Lee Toy Goodman, Buckland ~ Artist Gardner Symons (1865-1930) of New York City and Colrain was very influential in launching the professional career of local Buckland artist Robert Strong Woodward (1885-1957). Their unique portrayal of New England landscapes and their passion for capturing the natural beauty of western Massachusetts will be highlighted in this workshop.

16. Fannie Guilford Clary ~ Ralmon Jon Black, Amateur Historian/Genealogist, Williamsburg Historical Society ~ Ralmon Black will present the life of Fannie Guilford Clary of Ashfield, an enduring example to all who would spring to community responsibility or civic duty—an educator, social reformer, farm wife and marvelous hostess.

17. From the Springfield Armory to the Knowledge Corridor: Glimpses of the Connecticut Valley Industrial Culture ~ James Terapane, Journeyman Machinist/Toolmaker, President, Museum of Our Industrial Heritage, Greenfield, Massachusetts ~ James Terapane will examine the Springfield Armory’s role in the establishment of a manufacturing region and innovation “hot spot” and explore the genealogy of some of the Connecticut Valley machine companies and their connections to the armory and the industrial lineage of Franklin County.

18. All Is at Stake: The Civil War through the Letters of Colrain’s Edwin Davenport ~ Liz Sonnenberg, Colrain Historical Society ~ Edwin Davenport was 21 years old in 1861 when he left his family’s farm in Colrain, Massachusetts to travel in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Illinois. But as the Civil War bore on, his sense of duty called him home again to enlist with the Union Army. Joining a regiment of Massachusetts soldiers on an expedition to Port Hudson, Louisiana, Edwin found himself embroiled in the North’s campaign to regain control of the Mississippi River. His early adventures in “the West” and the war come alive in detailed letters home to his family on Catamount Hill. Come hear the story through his eyes.

Click here for REGISTRATION information and instructions (pre-registration recommended).