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  • Skating Party at the Tavern

    January 30 was a very cold Saturday with temperatures only in the teens at noon.  But the Historical Society skating and bonfire party went on as planned.  A little before 1:00 p.m. we set fire to the pile of wood, put out hot chocolate, marshmallows and donuts, and waited to see if anyone would show up.  Show up they did!  In total we had over 40 people brave the cold weather.  Adults, kids, dogs- all enjoyed the skating, toasting marshmallows and the warmth of the blazing fire.  Photographers for three local newspapers were on hand to record the fun.


    Over the past several years we have contemplated a nice winter event at the Squire's Tavern, and the bonfire and skating seemed to be a nice combination.  So starting in mid-January we built a skating rink on the grounds of the Tavern, filled it with water and waited for it to freeze.  Well, it wasn't all quite that easy.  A lot of work was done by a lot of volunteers.  Thank you Riverton Fire Department for your help with the water supply!  Fifty degree weather less than a week before the scheduled day raised the stress level some, but that warm spell was followed by frigid weather and all was well.


    We were very pleased with this event and plan to make it an annual happening.  It gave us confidence to have such a great turnout when it was this cold.  New people came to the Tavern, and we even lured some inside to look around.  Thanks to all our volunteers who helped make this possible, and we look forward to a repeat next year.


  • Center Schoolhouse Sees Many Visitors

    Sunday October 25 concluded our open house series at the Center Schoolhouse on Route 181 in Barkhamsted. This year we decided to open up the building one day each month from May to October. On the last Sunday of each of these months, Mike Day opened up the building and set out special displays.

    Mike has a wealth of knowledge on country schoolhouses, the textbooks used in early American schools as well as curriculums, games and school life in general.

    Our open houses were very successful, drawing not only local residents but also people from distant towns who saw our publicity in the newspapers. Mike showed them items from his textbook collection, discussed life in one room schoolhouses and even demonstrated games and toys enjoyed by kids long ago.

    He also discussed the history of the Center school. The building was constructed in 1821 as a two story school. Some sixty years later, with a much reduced population and in disrepair, town fathers decided to remove the first floor and lower the second floor. The building was used as a school until the 1930s, when students from the Barkhamsted Center area were sent to a consolidated school in Pleasant Valley. BHS had the building moved in 1980 from its location on the west side of the Barkhamsted Reservoir to its current location. Here it is accessible to the public, including an annual visit by Barkhamsted third graders during History day.

    The Historical Society will continue to open the school on the last Sunday from May to October again in 2010 so please visit this historic building and see the latest exhibits that Mike will have for your enjoyment.

  • First Annual Antique Show

    The Barkhamsted Historical Society, in partnership with the Riverton Merchants Association, successfully planned, organized, and conducted our first Riverton Antiques Show on Friday, September 18 to Sunday, September 20. This event is significant for BHS because we hope to build it up as our primary fund raising effort.

    The show is a juried event, meaning that we select only serious dealers offering high quality antiques and collectibles. Funds are raised by charging the dealers a fee for a booth, and by charging admission to the public.

    We were very happy with the results of the show. We were able to draw enough dealers to fill about two thirds of the largest barn at the Riverton Fair grounds.

    The event was kicked off on Friday evening with a well attended champagne preview followed up with the main portion of the show
    on Saturday and Sunday. Historic Riverton is a great location for the antique show, and we are very fortunate to be able to use the fairgrounds facility, allowing the event to go forward regardless of weather.

    Thanks so much to volunteers from the Historical Society and the Riverton Merchants for help with publicity, booking dealers, setting up, parking cars, collecting admission and the many other tasks necessary for a successful show. We gained valuable experience which we hope to apply to make future shows even better.

    Watch for this event next September and stop by to check out the fine quality antiques offered for sale, as well as a wide variety of
    other fun activities that are also scheduled at differentlocations throughout the village.

  • Historical Society Given Lighthouse Grant

    The Barkhamsted Historical Society has been awarded a $5,800 grant from the State Department of Culture and Tourism to produce a booklet on the Barkhamsted Lighthouse.  The booklet will cover the history and significance of the famous Lighthouse community and its occupants.  The Lighthouse site has been declared an archaeological preserve by the State of Connecticut.  We hope to have the booklet completed before June 2010. 

  • May 2009 - Busy month for The Barkhamsted Historical Society

    The Barkhamsted Historical Society was very busy during the month of May 2009.
    May 8th was the culmination of this years educational outreach lecture series. Local historian Paul Hart gave an excellent oral presentation on the history of Barkhamsted Center. Mr. Hart described the history of what was, not only, the geographic center of Barkhamsted, but also the municipal and community center of town. Combined with a Power Point slide show, Mr. Hart described many of the historic buildings and places that collectively made up the Barkhamsted Center. Some of these included the Town Hall,  Merrill Tavern, Center School, Center Church, The Cash Store and Hotel, The Constitution Oak, Animal Pound, Cemetery and the Militia Parade Ground. Mr. Hart also describe some of the many historic events that took place in Barkhamsted Center such as the Barkhamsted Centennial celebration and the impact the construction of the Saville Dam had on the community and town center. The program was well received and well attended with about 40 people in attendance.
    Paul Hart - History of Barkhamsted Center Program

    History of Barkhamsted Center Program - Barkhamsted Senior Center

    On May 16th, The Barkhamsted Historical Society participated in Barkhamsted's first volunteer day. Barkhamsted Volunteer Day was sponsored by the Barkhamsted Lions Club and was designed to provide an opportunity for Barkhamsted organizations to solicit and recruit new volunteers. The event was held at the Elementary School on Saturday, May 16th 2009. The Historical Society is in need of volunteers in a number of areas. Our most pressing need is for docents, or museum tour guides for Squires Tavern and the Center School House. Complete docent training is available. Docent trainees will be paired with experienced docents until they are comfortable on their own. Volunteers are also needed to participate on the two archaeological digs the society is involved with this summer. Opportunities also exist for researchers, education outreach coordinators, website maintenance personnel and writers.

    Charlie Lynes and Bob Judd staff the booth during Barkhamsted Volunteer Day


    May 17th marked the opening day for the much anticipated Legend of the Barkhamsted Lighthouse Exhibit. The exhibit features the facts and the legend behind the famous site where James and Molly Chaugham's cabin once stood. Molly a woman of European decent and James a Narragansett Indian man, married and then fled to the northwest hills of Connecticut in the late 18th century.  The Lighthouse and the community that grew up around it was located on East River Road between Pleasant Valley and Riverton and was excavated in 1990 by Dr. Kenneth Feder, an archaeologist from Central Connecticut University.  In December 2008 the Lighthouse was designated as an Archaeological Preserve by the Connecticut Historic Preservation Council. 
    A full house was on hand for the unveiling of the exhibit. Archaeologist Ken Feder presented a lecture and slide show on the background of the Lighthouse community. After the presentation Dr. Feder led the attendees on a tour of the lighthouse community and described the various sites and the community life that existed at the time. The exhibit opening and tour were very well received with over 40 participants in attendance. BHS would like to thank the LeGeyt Bus Company for providing the transportation and also Selectmen Bill Downes for driving the bus. The exhibit is open to the public for the remainder of this year during regularly scheduled hours at Squires Tavern, 100 East River Road.

    Archaeologist Ken Feder presented a lecture and slide show on the background of the Lighthouse community

    Archaeologist Ken Feder

    BHS would like to thank the LeGeyt Bus Company

    Dr. Feder led the attendees on a tour of the lighthouse community
    Friday May 29th, the Barkhamsted Historical Society hosted the Barkhamsted Elementary School third graders for an all day Barkhamsted History Day field trip. The students were divided into small groups and rotated between various historic locations around town and participated in a number of activities. Squires Tavern was the location for several activities. Students were taken on a tour of the Tavern by local historian Paul Hart. They learned about life at the Tavern as well as the early history of Barkhamsted. Each student also took part in two different craft projects. A sewing project and a tin art project, both of which were sent home as a reminder of the day.
    The Center Church was the location for several other activities. Students created potpourri bags and played games outside. The students were allowed to shoot sling shots and rolled large hoops using sticks. There was a lot of laughing and fun happing at the church. Students were also shuttled over to the Barkhamsted Center Cemetery where they were told about the history of the cemetery and the Soldieries' Monument which is located there.
    One of the highlight of the day for the students must have been the authentic one room schoolhouse lesson at the Center Schoolhouse by professional schoolmarm Susan Webb. Mrs. Webb did an outstanding job describing and illustrating what a typical school day would have been like for children in the 1800's.

    Paul Hart led students on a tour of Squires tavern

    Tin art activity at Squires Tavern

    Students enter the one room Center Schoolhouse for a lesson

    Professional schoolmarm Susan Webb give a geography lesson

    Old time hoop and stick game at Center Church
    Additionally, Barkhamsted Historical Society also hosted several out of town visitors. Jackie Slade Leach, from Cape Cod Massachusetts, visited to do additional research on the Slade family and to visit the site of a former Slade homestead. Bob Hart, of Avon Connecticut, visited his families old home-site not far from the historic Barkhamsted Center. Mr. Doug Hughes, from Saratoga Springs New York, visited the Tavern in search of gemological information about his Barkhamsted ancestors, Sylvester and Benjamin Andrews. Connie Lizak, of Fort Myers Florida, visited the Tavern with her husband Ed. Connie's father was Raymond B. Church, twin brother of Richard, and brother of Kenneth.  Their father was Frank Jerome Church,  who served as a representative in the CT House, 1921-1923 and 1937-1940.  Frank's parents were Orville Church and Ellen Emily Case.  Connie's uncles Richard and Kenneth both contributed to and published in 1975, The Barkhamsted Heritage. Connie was interested in anything we had in our collection relating to her family.

    Paul Hart (left), Bob Hart (center) and Fred Fenn (right)

    Photo of the "Old Hart Homestead" on location just outside of Barkhamsted Center.


  • Press Release - Archaeological site in Barkhamsted earns State Archaeological Preserve designation.

    Press Release

    Archaeological site in Barkhamsted earns State Archaeological Preserve designation.

    Barkhamsted, CT, January 15, 2009:  

      On December 3, 2008 the Connecticut Historic Preservation Council designated the Lighthouse Archaeological Site, located in People’s State Forest, Barkhamsted, Connecticut, as a State Archaeological Preserve.

      The Lighthouse site is the location of the legendary “Barkhamsted Lighthouse,” home of James Chaugham, a Narragansett Indian, and his wife Molly, a woman of European descent.  They were early settlers in Barkhamsted, probably coming to the town in the 1770s. One version of the Barkhamsted Lighthouse Legend tells of stagecoach drivers on the Albany to Hartford route passing the cabin at night after traveling a long stretch of the journey through desolate forest.  Seeing the faint light from Chaugham’s cabin, they would announce to the passengers, “there’s the Lighthouse, five more miles to port!”  The “port” referred to by the driver was New Hartford, the next stop on the route, where passengers could get refreshment and take a break from the bumpy ride. 

    The Lighthouse site is an important part of Barkhamsted history not only for the popular legends, but also because the community that became established there was a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic group of Native American, African American, and Euro-American settlers that lived a different life than that of most of the other residents of the town.  The Lighthouse community persisted until the mid-1800s.  All that is left now are a few small cellar holes and a tiny cemetery with simple grave markers.          

          In 1990, Central Connecticut University archaeology professor Ken Feder conducted field work at the Lighthouse site and later published the book A Village of Outcasts on his findings.  The site was nominated and approved for the National Register of Historic Places.  Feder was instrumental in initiating the process to designate the site as an archaeological preserve.  The approval of the Lighthouse Archaeological Site as a State Archaeological Preserve is an important development because it recognizes the significance of this historic location and will foster the continued preservation of the site with an additional level of protection, including significant fines for unauthorized excavation or other disturbances.  The site is part of the People’s Forest and is administered by the State Department of Environmental Protection.

     The Barkhamsted Historical Society is pleased that the Lighthouse Community site has been designated as a State Archaeological Preserve.  The Historical Society plans to seek funding for a study and further research at the site.  The goal is to publish a booklet on the Lighthouse Community that will document and enhance the interpretation of this important part of Barkhamsted history.

    For additional information see the Barkhamsted Historical Society website at .

  • German Christmas at the Tavern presented by Patti Kierys

    This year's "German Christmas", an educational and Christmas social, sponsored by the Barkhamsted Historical Society and presented by Christmas expert Patti Kierys was a huge success. The program was both educational and fun. Patti is well versed and well qualified on the subject of Christmas traditions and shared her vast wealth of knowledge with approximately 60 people who were in attendance.


    (photo) Patti Kierys during her presentation of German Christmas at the Tavern.


    Patti's qualifications include designing Christmas trees during the Weiker and Roland years at the Connecticut Governor's Mansion.  She has designed ornaments for the Mark Twain Christmas Tree. Patti created two trees for the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.  Patti decorated the Connecticut Christmas tree for two years that was part of the National Tree ceremony on the Eclipse of  White House.  Patti also took part in the Wasdworth Festival of Trees for several years. In addition to her extensive experience,  Patti is also a featured artist in the book Christmas in Connecticut.


    (photo) Christmas in Connecticut - Examples of Patti Kiery's hand-made ornaments 


    Patti shared many stories about the origins of the Christmas tree, Christmas tree decorating, hand made ornaments, gingerbread and other Christmas traditions. It is widely believed that the Christmas tree tradition emerged in Germany in the 16th century. However, the Yule or winter festival celebrated on the winter solstice can be traced to Roman times and also involved the decorating of a tree.1 The Egyptians, even though they did not decorate a tree, would bring a green date palm tree into their homes to symbolize life's success during the solstice.2  One of the stories Patti shared was that during early colonial times, Christmas trees were actually outlawed because of their association with these earlier pagan rituals. The Puritans considered Christmas to be sacred and believed it should only be observed with a religious service.


    (photo) The Christmas tree used during the German Christmas at the Tavern program by Patti Kierys.


    "The pilgrims' second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out "pagan mockery" of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against "the heathen traditions" of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated "that sacred event." In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy."3


    John Ullmann, a former owner of the building we refer to as Squire's Tavern, was one of these immigrants. He and his family immigrated from Germany in 1884 and purchased the former Squire's farm in 1885.


    (photo) Ullmann Family portrait. John and Augusta, Johanna-Oswald and thee girls.


    "Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers of Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier. The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans."


    (photo) Table top Christmas tree used during the German Christmas at the Tavern program by Patti Kierys.


    Patti explained that early American Christmas trees were very often small table top trees. These trees were placed in a room and kept off limits while being decorated. They would not be displayed until Christmas eve. The trees would have had hand made ornaments. Many were figures comprised of paper faces and cotton batting. Sweetmeats and gingerbread were baked and hung on the tree. Guests would have been invited to take these baked treats. Popcorn garlands would also adorn early trees. Some hand blown glass ornaments, imported from Germany may also have decorated these early trees.


    (photo) Hand-made ornament used to decorate the Christmas tree during the German Christmas at the Tavern program by Patti Kierys.


    (photo) Hand-made ornaments used to decorate the Christmas tree during the German Christmas at the Tavern program by Patti Kierys.


    (photo) Hand-made ornaments used to decorate the Christmas tree during the German Christmas at the Tavern program by Patti Kierys.


    (photo) Hand-made ornament used to decorate the Christmas tree during the German Christmas at the Tavern program by Patti Kierys.


    (photo) Hand blown glass ornaments or Kugels, used to demonstrate German Christmas at the Tavern program by Patti Kierys.


    Another story Patti shared was about the origin of tinsel on a Christmas tree. The story goes something like this: A woman was cleaning her house in preparation for the Christmas celebration. She swept her house so well that the spiders had no place to hide. Somehow they ended up hiding in the Christmas tree and when the tree was lit, the webs shone in the candle light. Gold and silver tinsel are meant to represent the spiders web.


    The lighting of the Christmas trees was not without risk. Early trees were decorated with candles and lit for only a short period. A bucket of water would have been kept on hand since the chance of a fire was a very real and a dangerous possibility.


    (photo) Hand-made ornament collection used to demonstrate German Christmas at the Tavern program by Patti Kierys.


    Patti displayed and discussed her vast collection of Christmas ornaments. She also discussed the origins of our modern day Santa Claus and many other interesting facets of Christmas traditions. From Christmas trees atop of buildings and construction sites to the origins and purposes of both the greeting card and calling card.


    If you missed this great and informative program, mark your calendars for next year. You can also head over to Squires Tavern to view the decorations and exhibits until the end of the year.


    Thank you Patty, on behalf of the Barkhamsted Historical Society, for sharing your time and expertise to present a very informative and enjoyable program.


    (photo) Gingerbread replica of Squire's Tavern (front view). Created and donated by Richard, Colleen and George English.


    (photo) Gingerbread replica of Squire's Tavern (rear view). Created and donated by Richard, Colleen and George English.


    The Christmas Tree was donated by Homegrown Farms, Route 44 in Barkhamsted. The wreath was donated by Aerie Mountain, Route 44 in Barkhamsted. Gingerbread houses created and donated by Richard, Colleen and George English, Barkhamsted.



    1. Wikipedia - "Yule".

    2. Christmas Tree Farm Network - "Christmas Tree Tradition has Ancient Origins".

    3. - "Christmas, How It All Got Started".

    4. - "Christmas, How It All Got Started".

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