Giving Tuesday December

#GivingTuesday observed 12/1

Seven Hearths Campaign

The Kent Historical Society has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. The Society is encouraging donors to support the re-clapboarding project that is currently underway at the Seven Hearths Museum.

If you’ve driven north of the Kent village center on Route 7, you’ve probably noticed a lot of work being done to the exterior of the Seven Hearths Museum. The Kent Historical Society has hired a firm, Cenaxo, to replace all of the clapboards on the building.
This is a big job and we were thrilled to be awarded a $15,000 grant from the 1772 Foundation through the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation. However, the grant is a matching grant and we are fortunate that some people have already stepped up to help with our fundraising.
We are taking advantage of #GivingTuesday Dec. 1 with the goal of raising 10 percent of what we’ll eventually need to satisfy the requirements of this grant. In a 24-hour period, we hope to bring in $1,500. We hope that you’ll take a few minutes and donate through PayPal to help us with this project. Of course, we are always willing to accept checks as well.

#GivingTuesday is held annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and this year will be Dec. 1. We all recognize the shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick-off the holiday giving season and #GivingTuesday has been designed to inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to the charities and causes they support.

We hope you’ll choose to support the Kent Historical Society!

2015: A year of progress

2015: A year of progress

The Kent Historical Society held its annual meeting Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015 and it included a look back over the previous year and a look ahead.

President Lynn Mellis Worthington presented a brief synopsis of many of the accomplishments of the Kent Historical Society over the past year. It should be noted that the fiscal year begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30. Here is a detailed list. She also noted that the Society has experienced a great increase in memberships – with 285 total. We had 230 renewals and that represents an 85% renewal rate, which is fantastic.

A slate of officers was presented to the membership and elected:  Michael Everett as President, Lynn Worthington as Vice President and Bruce Whipple as Treasurer, and Melissa Cherniske as Secretary. 

Mike thanked our outgoing officers, Vice President Beth Dooley, Treasurer Richard Lindsey and Secretary Charlotte Lindsey. He presented each of them with a token of thanks to honor their years of service and commitment to the Society and the Board of Trustees. He also took time to thank the trustees who are stepping off the board. The Lindseys have decided to retire from being board members, as have Jennie Rehnberg and Patti Case. 

Five trustees were re-elected for two-year terms: Roger Gonzales, Tim Good, Nancy Schaefer, Bruce Whipple and Lynn Worthington.

Mike also spoke of some of the upcoming projects that members and residents will be seeing in the upcoming year. A re-clapboarding project is currently underway at the Seven Hearths Museum and the Society was fortunate to receive a $15,000 grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation and the 1772 Foundation, but additional funds need to be secured for this large-scale project. He also noted that George Laurence Nelson’s art work was removed from the museum while the construction work is underway and is in temporary storage. A plan is underway to obtain grant funding and create a permanent storage area in Tallman, which houses the Society’s office, archives and collections storage.

Also at the meeting Marge Smith introduced the new Kent  Quilters Group project a signature quilt that they are offering as a fundraiser for the Kent Historical Society.

Jeopardy delights onlookers

Jeopardy delights onlookers

The Kent Historical Society hosted a game of Jeopardy focused on history Sunday, Nov. 15. The program was created by Bruce Adams, a KHS member and Kent’s first selectman. As a former Social Studies teacher at Kent Center School, Adams said he used Jeopardy-style games with his students as a way to study for tests or just a fun activity.

The three contestants were Ed Epstein, Michael Ward and Kasey Clark. Each had his own cheering section in the crowd as they answered the questions, which were quite difficult at times. The first set of categories included Notorious Firsts, Presidents and Veeps, Oddities, Who Said It? and Wait A Second.

“It is very difficult to make up questions for something like this,” Adams said. “I wanted it to be something interesting to you as you sit there and try to figure out the answers in your head and please don’t say the answers out loud.”

Adams said it is a real balance to get the questions right.

“You don’t want to make them so easy that everyone in the room knows the answers, but it is no fun for anyone if nobody knows the answers.”

He said he had fun putting together the event. He also had two quick special rounds in between the two regular rounds. The special recognition round was “Kent According To Susi,” in honor of Kent native and former Kent Historical Society trustee and president Mary “Susi” Williams. Adams borrowed former KHS newsletters and he put together five questions from what Susi had written.

“Lou Bull and an in-town farm next to the town hall. The Old Town Hall is now this,” Adams said and Epstein responded correctly when he said, “What is the Randall antique place?” and Adams said, “yes, RT Facts. “

Epstein was the final winner displaying his knowledge of history and his knowledge of town after living here for almost 50 years.



Rescuing the Past with Marie Camp

Rescuing the Past with Marie Camp

by Brian Thomas

(Marie Camp passed away quietly on April 15, 2016. )

Marie Camp thumped the arms of her easy chair. She said, “All of a sudden, I’m 96 and I don’t know how.” Along the way, she has become an accomplished watercolorist, a skilled genealogist, and — especially important for the Kent Historical Society — a meticulous recorder of her own past and others.

It’s a complex story. On her mother’s side, her great grandfather owned a tavern in Bonn, Germany. He drew the attention of the authorities by helping emigrants. Worried for his safety, he deeded the tavern to Marie’s great grandmother to sell and emigrated to the United States, and then she followed him to America. His name was Peter Anton Joseph Hittorff, and had a number of children.

Her mother, Matilda Caroline Hittorff, was one of a pair of twins. Nine years older, Marie’s father Gus Neels (Gustave Adolph Neels to the family) worked at the Post Office. “I was a girl in the Bronx,” Marie says, where she attended PS 23. Gus retired young on a pension as part of a New Deal program to make room for younger workers. They moved to Birch Hill in Kent and he sold real estate for a time. They had summer houses: “no insulation,” she recalls.

During the Depression, Marie was working at the Kent Inn, where the Patco station now stands, for about a year, but she didn’t like it. She also attended Kent High School for her final two years. There were 11 people in her class. She met her future husband there. She also completed Crandall’s Secretarial School course and went on to work for the town and South Kent School.

Marie married Phil Camp, a farmer, in 1942. He was five months younger than Marie. He was ordered to stay on the farm for his wartime service, which was called “frozen on the farm.” The young couple had a boy (Bill, who now lives in Myrtle Beach) and a girl, Dianne, in whose house Marie now resides.

Phil was proud of his registered Holsteins. His wife used to grouse that the cows got more care than the family – a chronic complaint in livestock circles. Marie remembers that the First Selectman at the time had a way of showing up a little before dinner time and not leaving, to wangle an invitation.

A shoulder injury forced Phil to give up the cows, and he took several jobs in Wassaic at the mental hospital. To occupy himself, he began writing memoirs of his life as a farmer and submitting them to the Kent Good Times Dispatch. These are vivid firsthand memories of a vanished life, sold as a series of booklets by the Kent Historical Society.

Throughout the years, Marie chronicled the life around her. In fact, she has been keeping records in one form or another since she was 12 years old, asking her uncles and other relatives questions and writing down their answers. “That’s how I got started. I’ve got quite a lot of material. I keep finding connections.”

As younger generations married, Marie’s circle of research expanded. She amassed information on numerous other families in Kent and New Milford. She filled over a hundred of loose-leaf notebooks and boxes with clippings, maps, documents, records, all meticulously organized. In fact, her personal archive is so large that it’s important for more than just Marie’s immediate or even extended family. Marie also acknowledges that her lovingly tended archive needs professional care. That’s why she has agreed to slowly transfer her trove to the Kent Historical Society. Curator Marge Smith said, “We couldn’t be more grateful to have this priceless record. We will make it readily available to all, which will help keep Marie’s project alive for everyone.”


Curators’ Tour & Talk recap

Curators’ Tour and Talk on “Camps of Kent: Memories of Summer”

The curators of the Kent Historical Society’s 2015 Exhibit, “Camps of Kent: Memories of Summer,” gave a special tour and talk about this popular show on September 19, at Seven Hearths.

In a nostalgic, varied exhibit that closed September 27, the Kent Historical Society explored the town’s camping past. During camping’s peak in the 1950s and 1960s, a surprising number of camps were tucked into the hills and hollows of Kent. Exhibit curators Marge Smith (the curator of the Kent Historical Society) and board member Melissa Cherniske gathered the material for the exhibit.

Co-exhibit curator Melissa Cherniske said, “Working on the ‘Camps of Kent’ show was a gratifying experience for all of us. It was such a pleasure to be able to bring a piece of the past alive for everyone.”

Many of Kent’s camps may be gone, but they often have alumni networks that help former campers and counselors stay connected. Through various social media outlets, the Kent Historical Society has been in touch with the alumni associations for Camp Francis, Geer Mountain Camp, Camp Kent, Kenico, Camp Po-Ne-Mah and Leonard/Leonore. This has proved crucial for the exhibit, because many past campers provided the artifacts and memorabilia that are on display. Many Kent camp alumni associations held reunions and attended camp-themed hikes over the summer, and the Kent Historical Society dovetailed its programming with these warm, heartfelt gatherings.

Curator Marge Smith said, “This exhibit succeeded because of the tremendous response we received from former campers, counselors, and camp owners, who shared their artifacts and memories with us. One of the most rewarding aspects has been hearing former campers express such depth of emotion about their camp experience and their time in Kent, and its lasting importance in their lives.”

The Society is grateful to the Exhibition Sponsors: Kent School, The Marvelwood School, South Kent School, Victor Fink in memory of Camp Leonard-Leonore, Nicholas/Tobin Insurance, Union Savings Bank, Bain Real Estate, Ira Goldspiel and William Pitt/Sotheby’s International Realty, and Barry Labendz & David Birnbaum of Kent Falls Brewing Company.

Brass Valley, the Fall of an American Industry

A Photo Essay on the Brass Valley, and the fall of an American Industry

Emery Roth II, of Washington, CT, gave a richly illustrated talk on the legendary history of the Naugatuck River Valley’s brass industry as part of the Kent Historical Society’s Sunday Series, on September 20, 2015 at the Kent Town Hall. The talk was drawn from Roth’s newly released book, Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry.

The Brass Valley began in 1802, when two metalworking families joined forces to manufacture brass. Business soared during the War of 1812 with the demand for buttons, and soon brass parts became essential in the age of steam and electricity. As large-scale brass manufacturing grew across what became known as Brass Valley, mill towns along the river, such as Torrington and Waterbury, developed into thriving cultural centers. This continued until 2014, when the last plant closed.

Emery Roth II earned degrees in architecture and literature from Carnegie-Mellon University. After 40 years living and working in Connecticut’s Northwest Hills, he became fascinated with the old mill towns of the Naugatuck Valley. This poignant elegy captures the glowing metal flying through the air at the Ansonia foundry in its final days as well as abandoned opera houses and train tracks, the vestiges of a dying infrastructure and American way of life. Roth’s photographs evoke an entire way of life that has vanished from the region.

This event was presented in collaboration with the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association

The Kent Historical Society sponsors the Sunday Series every other month September through May. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.

The Kent Historical Society’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage. For more information, see or call 860-927-4587.


Annual Fund

 Why does the Kent Historical Society need an Annual Fund?

The Kent Historical Society is embarking on something brand new this fall – the Annual Fund for the Kent Historical Society. Many of our members are probably asking why the organization would need this and why they should donate, when they already pay membership dues.

You’ve probably recognized that recently the Society has increased its public programming and expanded what it offers to both the town and the region. The Board of Trustees has consciously been planning to increase the financial backbone of the Society.

About a year ago we hired fundraising consultant Nancy Baker, a longtime resident of the Northwest Corner and the former Director of Development of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston.  She has been guiding us through the process of developing a more sophisticated fundraising program that includes funding from a variety of sources. We’ve revamped our membership renewal process so that your membership is now on an annual basis, rather than based on our fiscal year. For example, when you become a member in July, your membership renewal is due in July.  I’m pleased to report that 22 members renewed at a higher membership level than they had the previous year.  

Fund raising for a non-profit must come from many different sources and we are cognizant of this and are working hard to expand the income streams. We have increased our contacts with state and local foundations and applied for multiple grants.  We have been successful with two during the past year. We hope to hear in the upcoming months on at least two more.

The new Annual Fund is another important source of funding for the Society. The purpose of these donations will be to support the mission of KHS through donations to augment our operating budget: “Our mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage.”

In the next couple of weeks you’ll receive a letter encouraging you to give to the Annual Fund. I hope that you will consider the important work that the Kent Historical Society does for the town as well as the region and decide to make a gift in support of the organization, in addition to your annual membership dues so we can continue to add new programming, exhibitions and events to our calendar.  Your support is deeply appreciated.

Lynn Mellis Worthington, President


1772 Foundation Grant

Kent Historical Society Wins $15,000 Grant from the 1772 Foundation

Earlier this year, the Kent Historical Society applied for a $15,000 grant from the 1772 Foundation through the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to replace the clapboard siding on the Seven Hearths Museum. The grant request has been approved.

This grant adds momentum to the extensive program of restoration and improvement that is underway at Seven Hearths, explained Executive Director Brian Thomas of the Kent Historical Society. The new siding will protect the entire building and return Seven Hearths to the way its exterior looked in the Colonial era. The project is scheduled to be completed this fall.

Thomas said the Society owes many thanks to the 1772 Foundation and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation for their generosity in supporting the Society’s quest to improve Seven Hearths, while maintaining the highest standards of authenticity. This year’s competitive grant program awarded $190,000 in grants to 21 local historical societies, museums, and non-profits for maintenance and preservation projects. The entire list is available at

“We are delighted that our grant application was successful,” Thomas said. “It’s a vote of confidence in the care we’ve taken to make sure the restoration is done properly.”

Bruce Whipple is the Chairman of the society’s Building and Grounds Committee and has been guiding the planning for this project.

 “In addition to replacing the clapboards to their original dimensions, the scope of work also includes replacement of beaded edge corner boards, water table boards, the original cornice and moldings. Two doorways, on the southern and eastern facades, that were covered over will be restored and put back in use. Lastly, a window will be moved back to its original location in the back eastern parlor that was supplemented with an additional window in the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.   Hand forged, wrought iron, square nails will be used in the construction,” Mr. Whipple said. “We are grateful to have the accomplished and trained historical expertise of Jeffrey Morgan and Roger Gonzales on our board to supervise the project management of the construction phase this fall.”

The Kent Historical Society’s mission is to collect, preserve, interpret and present the rich history of Kent as well as to provide educational and research material to enrich the public understanding of Kent’s artistic and cultural heritage.

Outpourings of Memory and Emotion

Outpourings of Memory and Emotion

 In putting together “Camps of Kent: Memories of Summer,” Curator Marge Smith was worried that we would not be able to collect enough material to fill an entire exhibit. But Board Member Melissa Cherniske connected with many camps’ alumni associations through social media, and discovered an energetic, active network of former campers and they supplied the KHS with an abundance of material.

 Once these groups learned of the planned exhibit, they began making reunion plans tied to the exhibit. The largest contingent was from Camp Kent, with over sixty people attending on Saturday, June 13. It was standing room only on a hot day. The docents kept boxes of Kleenex in every room of Seven Hearths. Shrieking and yelling rang through the house, accompanied by tears of joy at reconnecting with childhood friends. Several of the attendees were couples who met at camp.

 Campers and counselors from Kenico, Camp Francis, and Po-Ne-Mah also organized their reunions with the Historical Society over the summer.

 Sunny Cohen attended Kenico, from 1965 to 1972, wrote in the guest book: “A million thank yous to all involved in putting this “Camps of Kent” exhibit together.  The memories provoked by photos, and collected artifacts for a time that surpasses [all others] is truly a gift that you have given to me … and apparent love for the special place that these camps held in your town. We were welcomed then and continue to feel welcomed in this cherished tribute exhibit walking down memory lane together.”

 Abigail Ceppos, who also attended Camp Kenico from 1966 to 1972, sent us a package early on that found its way into the exhibit.  She wrote in the guest book: “Going to camp changed my life forever. Developing friendships (that have lasted over 50 years), in addition to skills and life experiences that have shaped my choices and path along the way. There’s so many memories that have been sparked again by visiting this phenomenal exhibit — intercamp activities, ‘community activities’ like going to sing to the seniors at Cour D’Alene, Olympics, Kent Falls day trips, and so much more. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!”

 Abby’s lines in the guest book actually contain an important historical clue confirming the location of Camp Cour d’Alene. It also revealed that it was a camp for older folks that was part of the entire system of Kent camps, not just a private house.

 In all, there were five reunions and each group made the exhibit part of their festivities. Many came from great distances. Some were unwell, but they came anyway and brought spouses, children, and grandchildren. All five reunions glowed with the pleasure of reconnecting with the treasured past, and the Kent Historical Society helped brighten the joy.

 On Saturday, September 19 at 11:00 a.m., at Seven Hearths, a “Curators’ Talk” will summarize the experience of mounting this exhibit.