OUR SOCIETY

We are a community organization in Massachusetts that aims to gather and record knowledge of the history of Rowley, one of the original towns formed in the state and our nation.

We collect and preserve:
– written & printed manuscripts,
– pamphlets of historic interest,
– articles of antiquarian interest,
– tools of the period and region
– colonial furnishings

Rowley_Town_SealMISSION    stated at society’s formation September 10, 1918…

The object of the society shall be the gathering and recording of knowledge of the history of Rowley; the collection and preservation of printed and written manuscripts, pamphlets and other matters of historic interest; also the collection and preservation of articles of historic and antiquarian interest and the preservation and furnishing in colonial style of one of the ancient dwelling houses of Rowley.

 

HOW WE GOT STARTED

Taken from the First Report of The Rowley Historical Society Presidents Report for 1919…

At the commencement of the second year of our existence as a society, it seems fitting that some formal record should be made of its inception and its history thus far.
For years, doubtless, thoughts had floated in the minds of many persons that there should be some organization devoted to historic purposes in this town of ours. But nothing came of it. For “good thoughts are no better than good dreams unless they be executed”. And so, for a long time, priceless relics, records and knowledge of the past held only in the memories of aged people, were slipping away from year to year forever beyond recall.

Nevertheless these thoughts, even though they were but dreams, possessed vitality, they were like good seed in good ground, at length they germinated and now we may trace their growth.

In searching for the very beginning of our organization, it appears to have started from a conversation between two persons who are now members.

“Do you not think,” said one, “that it would be a good thing to have a historical society in our town?”

“I think it would be a good idea,” the other replied.

“And do you not think,” said the first, “that the old Bradstreet House on Main Street would make a good historical house?”

This was met with a laughing reply, that the old house was already sold and about to be taken down, but, if a society could be immediately formed it might be possible to secure it.

From this the work of forming a society began at once. On the evening of September 3rd 1918 a company of a dozen or more persons met at the Public Library with Rev. T. Frank Waters, President of the Ipswich Historical Society, who was present by request, and listened to a talk by him wherein he gave encouraging suggestions and advice relative to the formation of a Historical society.

It was then asked that all present who were willing to join such a society should raise their hands. Nearly every hand was raised.

“There,” said Mr. Waters, “you have your Society.”

And at that moment the Rowley Historical Society drew its first breath.

At a meeting hald a week later, officers were chosen and a committee appointed to consult with the owner of the old house with a view of purchasing the property.
In the meantime Mr. William S. Appleton of the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities had visited and examined the house and strongly advised its purchase. He said this house was of particular interest as exhibiting in its structure changes in the style of architecture from the earlier to the later periods of Colonial history.

From this encouraging advice, emphasized by his promise to contribute one hundred dollars himself toward the purchase price it was decided to buy the property. And soon after an agreement having been reached with the owner, the house and lot came into the society’s possession on payment of one thousand dollars. Previous to the purchase, application having been made, the society was duly incorporated under the laws of the state.

At this time the society was particularly fortunate in finding friends ready to contribute to its immediate needs. At the date on which by agreement payment was to be made, the entire amount of purchase money had been secured and the property came into our possession wholly free from debt or incumbrance of any kind.

The names of donors and the amounts subscribed may be found in the Treasurer’s Report.

Our enterprise now being fairly launched, the refitting of our ship for the long voyage before us was seen to be imperative.

In other words the house was seen to be in such a state of decay that its restoration must necessarily commence at its foundation. Accordingly new sills were purchased and put in place of the old decayed ones on all sides of the house. This was a slow job and when done it was thought best to wait until another season before resuming the work.

The society has adopted the policy of pay as we go and go no faster than we can pay. Hence in the spring of the present year (1919), a plan was devised to raise additional funds for our repair work. This plan was the opening of a Tea Room in the beautiful and commodious house, the “Heigh-Ho House,” so named, which has been recently reconstructed by Miss Elizabeth Billings of New York, who generously gave the use of it to the society for the season.

The scheme has proved very successful and a more extended account of this special enterprise may be found elsewhere in this report.

Another feature of our historical work was the Celebration of an Old Home Gathering on the 30th and 31st of August 1919.

This was proposed and carried out by Mr. Dummer under the auspices of the society. A brief narration of what took place on this occasion may also be found on another page of these records.

In this short sketch of the life of our society from its beginning to the present time many things of interest have been omittted that might be told. But we should take notice of the excellent financial standing which our books show. Over $2400 from all sources have been raised thus far (1919), and though much more will be needed yet for one year’s work this is surely a grand showing.

From the view we have presented brief as it is, we may receive inspiration and courage to go on with our work so successfully commenced. Many years are before us and with every year’s honest efforts we may expect that our society will become of more and more permanent value and may do much to glorify the town in which we live.

May we not (now) repeat the words in the prayer of the ancient writer:

“LORD, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations. A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past.”

“And, let the beauty of the LORD OUR GOD be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us. yea, the work of our hands, establish thou it.”

Charles A. Houghton, President.

Just a passing thought…What do think how Charles Houghton would say if he knew his report from 1919 was being displayed on the Rowley Historical Societies new web site and the world wide web today?

 

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