Thanksgiving Pie

Thanksgiving Pie

Pies have an ancient history — the ancient Greeks and Romans enjoyed pie. But the first (and second) Thanksgiving feast in New England likely did not include the fruit or squash pies we are used to — the first recipe for pumpkin pie was not written down for a cookbook until 1675. But over time, pie has become an integral part of the classic Thanksgiving dinner.

The Amherst Historical Society is fortunate to have a video of our friend, the late Robert Cox, in which he talks about his book, New England Pie, and some of the history and culture around this iconic pastry.

Coming up next week, at noon on Friday, December 3, we will host a Zoom presentation by Ms Jacqueline T Lynch on her novel of the Swift River Valley as it became the Quabbin Reservoir. The Zoom link for Friday’s lecture is

And Tuesday, November 30, is Giving Tuesday. Don’t forget the Amherst Historical Society!

Mass Humanities Grant for Amherst History

Mass Humanities Grant for Amherst History

We are pleased to announce that Mass Humanities has awarded a SHARP (Sustaining Humanities through the American Rescue Plan) grant of $13,000 to support the Amherst Historical Society and Museum.  

The SHARP grant will make it possible to create new AHS programs and exhibits that reflect a diversity of views and include the history of all Amherst residents.  Grant funds will support a part-time Consulting Curator whose exhibit and programming expertise will help bring this vision to life.

The Historical Society is extremely fortunate to receive Mass Humanities’ support, especially since Mass Humanities grant proposals are subjected to a rigorous review process. AHS believes that presentation of local history helps people understand the difficulties of the past and shows that it is possible to make changes that will make a positive impact on our town.

The Amherst Historical Society is an all volunteer organization that relies on membership contributions, grants, and local business sponsors.  Visit for a list of upcoming free events.  New members are always welcome!

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

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


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


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