History Bites – the Todds of Amherst

History Bites – the Todds of Amherst

This week on History Bites, Dr Julie Dobrow will talk about the Todd family in Amherst. David Todd was the Amherst College astronomer and world traveler, his wife Mabel brought the first three editions of Emily Dickinson’s poems to publication, and their daughter Millicent chronicled the publication effort, as well as the relations between the Todds and the Dickinsons. Join us at noon on Friday, November 5.

Julie Dobrow is Director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at Tufts University in Medford, MA. She is the author of After Emily, a Tale of Two Women, which tells the story of the collaboration which led to the publication of Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

The Fall 2021 History Bites series is being given over Zoom, with technical support from our friends at Amherst Media. The Zoom link for the lecture is https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84485731584

And next week, at noon on November 12, we will host Dickinson scholar Aife Murray, who will talk about her new show, The Slave is Gone. ‘The Slave Is Gone is the show that talks back to Apple TV’s DICKINSON. Acclaimed poets Jericho Brown (Pulitzer Prize 2020) and Brionne Janae (Cave Canem Book Prize 2020) join forces with “rogue scholar” Aífe Murray for a podcast that celebrates what works and breaks down what doesn’t in this award-winning and popular series. And in every episode, they bring it back to the poems that continue to intrigue, attract, and inspire.’

The History of Pelham

The History of Pelham

The town of Pelham, Massachusetts, was part of the Equivalent Lands compromise, and was first settled in 1738 by mostly Presbyterian Scotch-Irish immigrants. It was officially incorporated in 1743, so it is older than Amherst by 16 years. It is perhaps best known as the home of Daniel Shays, the Revolutionary War captain who gave his name to Shays’ Rebellion in 1786, but in the 19th century its western slopes were the home of the Montague Fly-Rod Factory and of the Orient Springs Health Spa.

An eastern region of Pelham was annexed by the town of Prescott, and later submerged by the Quabbin Reservoir. 

In the 19th century, the town was home to the Orient Springs health spa and the Montague Fly-fishing Rod Mfg Co., and was a stop on the Amherst electric trolley line.

In the twenty-first century, Pelham holds the distinction of having the oldest town hall in continuous use in the United States.

Join us at noon on Friday, October 22 as Pelham resident Joe Larson tells us more of the stories of our neighboring town.

The Fall 2021 History Bites series is being given over Zoom, with technical support from our friends at Amherst Media.


New Haven to Northampton Canal

New Haven to Northampton Canal

On Friday, October 8, we hear Mr Robert Madison talk about the New Haven to Northampton Canal.

After the success of the Erie Canal, which opened in 1825, people in several states were seized with the idea of building canals to transport goods. In 1804, Amherst businessmen had already built a short canal on the Connecticut River to circumvent South Hadley Falls, but in 1825 ground was broken on the 80-mile long New Haven to Northampton Canal. The canal was finished in 1835, but by 1848 it was getting competition from the new Connecticut River Railroad.

Author Bob Madison talks about his rails-to-trails book. The Canal Greenway takes the bicyclist or hiker on a historic trip through sixteen towns into the interior of Western New England – – from New Haven, CT to Northampton, MA. His rails-to-trails book is a comprehensive guide which includes trail maps, trailhead descriptions, original watercolor paintings by the author, attractions, distances and a little history of each of the sixteen towns along with the history of the canal and the railroad as the modern rail trail works its way along some 81 trail miles or 87 mile canal length.


Archaeology at the Strong House

Archaeology at the Strong House

The Amherst Historical Society is applying for a grant so we can commission a professional engineering/structural analysis of the Strong House and grounds. Surprisingly, such an analysis has never been done before. But since we hope to soon have approval for our amendment of the Emerson will, we will need the analysis in order to be able to make the changes to the building required for handicap accessibility and HVAC installation.

We did have an analysis of the grounds, using ground-penetrating radar, and some archaeological work was done in 2016 by field supervisor Tim Barker, of UMass, and some students. We have a video in which he describes his approach to this kind of archaeology, but he never gave a follow-up talk to describe his findings.

Join us at noon on October 8 for the History Bites lecture on the New Haven – Northampton Canal.  The Zoom link for the lecture is    https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84485731584


The Museum needs volunteer docents! We are open from noon to 4 on Saturdays, and you can sign up on Sign Up Genius here, or send an email to info@amhersthistory.org.


Remember to register here for the Brutalism Symposium at UMass, October 22 – 23.
Brutalist Architecture at UMass

Brutalist Architecture at UMass

  Last spring, the Amherst Historical Society hosted a series of four Zoom lectures (‘Brut Bites’) on Brutalist architecture at UMass. You may view the lecture videos here:

April 12: UMass Then/Now
    Speakers: Ron Michaud and Ludmilla Pavlova-Gillham
April 19: The History and Cultures of the Southwest Residential Complex
    Speaker: Timothy M. Rohan
April 26: Unbuilt UMass: A History of Campus Master Plans
    Speaker: Ludmilla Pavlova-Gillham
May 3: The History of the Randolph W. Bromery Fine Arts Center
    Speakers: L. Carl Fiocchi and Margaret Vickery
  And now this fall the University is hosting a 2-day symposium on Brutalist architecture:
  ‘The main campaign event will be a two-day symposium entitled Brutalism + the Public University: Past, Present and Future to be held at UMass Dartmouth on Friday, October 22nd and at UMass Amherst on Saturday, October 23rd, 2021. The symposium will include nationwide industry professionals, as well as faculty, students, and staff of all backgrounds with an interest in Brutalism.   Presenters will share their experiences working with Brutalist structures especially in the public realm. The goal of the symposium is to create a dynamic, cross-disciplinary conversation among all participants on how we may conserve and provide stewardship of our buildings for the future.’

  For more information, and to register for the symposium, click here and here.

The Black Cats of Amherst

The Black Cats of Amherst

Jim Hamilton’s April 23 lecture on the Black Cats of Amherst is now online.

Shortly after the United States declared war on Germany in April of 1917, a group of Amherst residents, including townspeople, students, and professors, enlisted in the U.S. Army to serve in an ambulance unit supporting French soldiers. Driving Model T and Fiat trucks, this unit, nicknamed the Black Cats of Amherst, served with distinction in France and Belgium during the last year of World War I. Jim Hamilton described their exploits using contemporary photographs, newspaper articles, diary accounts, letters, and quotes from their unit history.  You may view the video here.


Coming up on Friday, October 22, at noon, we will hear Mr Joe Larson talk about the history of our neighboring town of Pelham.

The Zoom link for Friday’s lecture is    https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84485731584