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Old Home Day at Barkhamsted Center - September 10, 2000

Town Diary - September 2000

Old Home Day at Barkhamsted Center - September 10, 2000

Old Home Day celebrations kicked off at Barkhamsted Center on the lawn of the Barkhamsted Center Congregational Church at 11:00 on Sunday, September 10, 2000.  Some 35 people gathered on a beautiful sunny and warm day to recognize the 221st anniversary of the founding of Barkhamsted.  Old Home Day is a celebration honoring the anniversary of the birth of the town of Barkhamsted and those early pioneers that established new homes, new lives and a new town.  Barkhamsted was incorporated as a Connecticut town on September 10, 1779.

Old Home Day pot luck lunch - September 10, 2000 at Barkhamsted Center.

The day started with an invocation by Rev. William Hillman of the Center Church and was followed by welcoming remarks from Barkhamsted First Selectman Mike Fox.  Two clowns were in attendance to provide stories and entertainment to the young and old.  All gathered on the steps of the Church for a group photo for posterity, a tradition which extends back many years.  A pot luck lunch followed and everyone enjoyed the good home cooked food spread out on several tables. 

Old Home Day group photo on the steps of the Center Church.

Old Home Day - good food and good friends, September 10, 2000.

The mother of all Old Home Day celebrations was the 100 year anniversary event held on September 10, 1879.  This seems to have been the first organized celebration, and was it ever organized!  Meetings to plan for the event started in May 1879 and continued on through the summer.  Organizers did all they could to contact the many former residents who had moved West.  The invitation read in part:

"While we know that they are scattered far and wide, we feel sure that memory often fondly turns to the pleasant scenes of by-gone years. Acting in behalf of  the old town, we invite you to join with us in our celebration."

Perhaps this is how the label "Old Home Day" eventually got started, as locating and encouraging former residents to come back home to the old town was a big part of many of these celebrations.


The Centennial event drew some 4,000 people (estimates vary) which is just amazing.  Barkhamsted's population was only about 1,300 in 1879, so the task of getting former residents back to town was evidently very successful.  Many of the visitors were put up in the houses of current residents.  By all accounts they had a wonderful time when the big day finally arrived.  Cannons were fired at sunrise, and a cannon was fired each half hour up until the processions started.  There were three processions that marched through town, one coming up from the Hollow, one from the Pleasant Valley and one from Riverton.  All arrived at Barkhamsted Center on the lawn of the Center Church where there were speeches, band music, poems, a historical address and of course food.


The organization that planned the 1879 event carried on as the Barkhamsted Centennial Association and continued to organize spirited if more modestly attended annual celebrations of the town's anniversary.    The invitation of 1915 encouraged attendees to "array themselves in clothes of ye olde fashion".  A 1922 Old Home Day group photo shows 94 people on the steps of the Center Church.  The 1929 celebration, being the 150th anniversary of the town, was larger than usual.  Master of Ceremonies Orville Ripley started things off that day with his opening comments which included: "The 10th of September is a red letter day in the annals of Barkhamsted.  For upwards of fifty years, we have gathered here annually upon the 10th of September, in honor of our town."  David Gidman (who was present in 1929) recalls that the land opposite the Center Church (east of the present MDC house) was a field then, and was filled with tents and displays.  This was in addition to the lawn around the Church itself.  Box lunches were served from the Town Hall building adjacent to the Church.


Old Home Day celebrations continued through the 1930's but died out during World War II.  For decades, few if any were held.   During the 1960's the Center Church revived a type of Home Day observance and this was bolstered when the Barkhamsted Historical Society was organized in 1968 and began supporting the revival.  By the 1990's few if any years were being skipped as residents, former residents and friends gather to honor Barkhamsted's birthday and the early pioneers that first here arrived over two hundred and twenty one years ago.  

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Published Sep 10 2000, 05:59 PM by Paul
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