UMass Graduation

UMass Graduation

Happy Graduation to all UMass seniors!  We wish you the best of luck in these uncertain times. You may remember that UMass was founded, as Massachusetts Agricultural College, in 1863, when times were even more uncertain. And ‘Mass Aggie’ became Massachusetts State College in 1931, when times were, again, uncertain.

The Massachusetts Agricultural College was founded under the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862; in 2013 WGBY made a film of the history of the land grant colleges in general, and of UMass in particular; you may view their video here. And in 2016 the late Dr Robert Cox gave a talk about diversity in the agricultural college’s early days; you may view the video here

Historic Trees of Amherst

Historic Trees of Amherst

The Amherst Historical Society is pleased to announce that we have been awarded a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) “Heritage Tree Care Project” for the cabling, pruning, lightning protection and root care of our beloved “Groom” sycamore tree.

The “Groom” tree is over 260 years old. It was one of two trees planted in 1761 by Nehemiah Strong for his son Simeon Strong and his bride Sarah Wright to honor their marriage; the two sycamore trees were known at the “bride and groom” trees.

On Sunday, May 8, at 2:00pm, you can learn more about the history of the “Groom” sycamore tree and what happened to the “Bride” tree on a Tree Tour hosted by our friends at the Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee. The tour will meet in front of the Jones Library, 43 Amity Street.

Springfield Armory

Springfield Armory

This Friday, May 6, our last History Bites of the spring 2022 season will feature Park Ranger Susan Ashman, of the Springfield Armory.  She will discuss her historic research, to determine the history of a single Civil War rifle. The program is at noon in the Woodbury Room of the Jones Library. 

Program Synopsis: We’ve all heard the expression if walls could talk, but what about historic firearms? What would they have to say about the battles they were in and the soldiers who used them? Join Park Ranger Susan Ashman as she examines just one of these rifles — an 1856 British Enfield, used during the Civil War, with the initials R. H. Weakley carved into the stock. Through in-depth research, find out more about the tragic story of Pvt. Weakley — one more soldier who could have been lost to history.
 
Biography: Susan Ashman is the Lead Parker Ranger and Historic Supervisor at Springfield Armory NHS. She previously worked at Old Sturbridge as an historic interpreter and was an aircraft mechanic for 8 years in the U.S. Air Force. Susan has given many presentations to Civil War Round Tables, the Civil War Institute in Gettysburg and multiple locations in New England. 

Historic Sycamore Tree

Historic Sycamore Tree

Save the Date:

The Amherst Shade Tree Committee is conducting a tour of our town’s trees this Sunday, May 8, starting at 2PM. They will meet at the Jones Library and begin with a consideration of the Historical Society’s 260-year-old sycamore tree, right in front of the Strong House.

Stay tuned for more details.

Charles Eastman and Elaine Goodale Eastman

Charles Eastman and Elaine Goodale Eastman

Julie Dobrow’s presentation on March 25 described the lives of Elaine Goodale, born in the Berkshires, and Charles Eastman (Ohíye S’a), born on a Sioux reservation; she discussed their marriage and eventual separation.

Elaine and Charles and their six children lived in three different houses in Amherst for 18 years, from 1903-1921. When they first arrived in Amherst, Elaine and Charles were already both well-known figures from their respective careers as authors, public speakers and reformers of Indian policy, as well as from their unusual interracial marriage which was frequently written about in the press of the day. But the early promise of their marriage dissolved during their time in Amherst, along with their union, itself, the victim of personal tragedies, professional failures and the ongoing tensions of a changing America.

The lecture is now online; you may view it here.

And next Friday, May 5, at noon, we will host the final History Bite of the season, as park ranger Susan Ashman shares her historical research into the provenance of a single Civil War rifle: Finding R H Weakley,

History of the Mount Toby Meeting

History of the Mount Toby Meeting

Quakers, members of the Religious Society of Friends, in Western Massachusetts have had an interesting and complicated history over the decades. On Friday, April 22, at noon, in the Woodbury room of the Jones Library we will review some of the steps along the way as the demographics changed during the 50s and 60s and large Friends meetings (congregations) were formed in this more rural region of the state.

The first recorded monthly meeting in the ancestry of Mt. Toby was the Northampton Meeting, which organized as an independent Meeting under the Friends Fellowship Council in Philadelphia in 1939. There had been other occasional worship groups of Friends in the Valley – in Amherst in 1924 and in Northfield in the 1930’s. A meeting in Amherst was revived by Francis and Becky Holmes when they came to the University of Massachusetts in 1954. When more Quaker families came to the growing University in the next decade, Amherst became the largest meeting.

They eventually accepted a gift of land on the farm of Ethel Dubois on Long Plain Road in Leverett, and broke ground in 1963. In 1964, a meetinghouse designed by architect Elroy Weber opened. The Meeting was renamed Mt. Toby after the nearby hill.
Next History Bites: On Friday, May 6, at noon, we will host Susan Ashman, a NPS park ranger from the Springfield Armory, who will talk about a historic rifle and her search for its owner: Finding R H Weakley.