Musicale and Spirited Tea Party

Musicale and Spirited Tea Party

Join the Kent Historical Society on a trip to the 19th century to experience a Musicale and Spirited Tea Party on Sunday, April 17th at 2:30 p.m. at the Kent Community House.

There will be glorious tunes played by the Rosewood Chamber Ensemble on antique instruments, including flutes made in neighboring Litchfield harkening back to the 19th century, and a guitar of the same make and model played by Mark Twain. And, to accompany the lively songs and dances that one would have heard at an American “musicale” party during that period of time, there will be an amazing array of glorious treats, both sweet and savory, researched and presented under the direction of our “Food Angel,” Patsy Stroble.

In keeping with our time travel to the 19th century, there will be other surprises awaiting as well. We are delighted that author and former BBC broadcaster Frank Delaney, who has a home in Kent, will be performing selected readings from the 19th century.

Proceeds from the benefit will go toward the restoration of Seven Hearths Museum. While exterior work is already underway, we must raise funds to match a generous grant from the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation to help complete the exterior phase of the Museum’s restoration before other work can take place. We hope you will join us in support of this endeavor.

This special event will showcase musicians Barbara Hopkins on flute and Judy Handler on guitar. Hopkins will be playing period flutes, including her wooden Asa Hopkins flute made in Litchfield, CT, in the 1830s. Handler will be playing a Martin parlor guitar that is the same make and model that Mark Twain owned and played.

The Rosewood Chamber Ensemble’s musical repertoire ranges from familiar Stephen Foster songs to lively dances and newly rediscovered music of the 19th century. Particularly interesting are the background stories they tell about the period, the music, and the flutes. One of the flutes is made from rosewood, and that combined with the rosewood in Handler’s guitar inspired the name Rosewood Chamber Ensemble.

Interested in the Baking Workshops with Patsy Stroble? Click here for more information.

Our thanks to our Committee Members:


Reserve your tickets by filling out the form below and selecting which ticket package you prefer. Tickets will be held at the door. If you have any questions, email If you are going to be a table host and do not have your guest list available at this time (or it changes), please email us with the information.


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Frank Galterio and the Moravians

History on Foot:  Frank Galterio and the Moravians

By Brian Thomas

Some people learn a landscape by reading a book about it. Others must walk its length and breadth over many years. Still others, like Frank Galterio, do both.

A longtime friend of the Kent Historical Society, Galterio has been walking Schaghticoke Mountain since the 1970s when he came here camping from Long Island. Eventually he moved to Kent. He explains, “I hike all over the place, all day long. And I usually don’t follow trails.”

On one walk, he had a conversation with Alan Russell, chief of the Schaghticoke Indian Tribe.  Russell showed Galterio a copy of a map of a gravesite that had 68 graves in it. Later, around 2010, Galterio found two volumes about the Moravian missionaries who lived in Kent from 1743 to 1767 among the Schaghticokes– translated and edited by Corinna Dally-Starna and William Starna, called Gideon’s People: Being a Chronicle of an American Indian Community in Colonial Connecticut and the Moravian Missionaries Who Served There.  Galterio has read this account five times.

Galterio explains what makes these Moravian diaries so interesting. The missionaries had to write day by day diaries of everything going on, from the weather to earthquakes, and especially their ties with the Native Americans. “The Moravians were really truthful in their diaries,” Galterio says. “They didn’t lie. It was a sin.” Many Schaghticoke Indians became Moravians during this period.

The history was checkered, since Connecticut expelled the Moravians during the French and Indian War. Many of the Moravians, in addition to a number of Moravian Indians, fled to the main site of the Moravian church in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the order welcomed them and provided land for them to farm. Eventually it became possible to return to New York and Connecticut.  Galterio says, “They said they wanted to return where the land was most beautiful and the people were the most peaceful. And that was here in Kent.”   

Galterio’s research is ongoing, but a high point came in 2012, when Frank brought Craig Atwood, director of the Center for Moravian Studies to Kent and led him to the gravesite on the map. He introduced him to Alan Russell. The Schaghticokes and the Moravians “hadn’t been together for 269 years,” Galterio said. He filmed them together, standing among the graves of their ancestors.

Birdsey Grant Northrop, Tree Hugger Extraordinaire

By Wendy Murphy

July 18, 1817 marks the birthday of Kent’s own Birdsey Grant Northrop. Few Americans know his name today but over the eight decades of his very productive life he was revered not only in New England but in places as far away as Japan, Australia, Turkey and Germany. Farmer, teacher, preacher, educational reformer, world traveler, prominent writer/lecturer, town planner and diplomatic envoy, his greatest and most lasting work was on behalf of planting trees and beautifying small towns, two causes that he believed were essential to the happiness and vigor of democratic society. He is the often-unsung “Father of Arbor Day” in many countries.

Birdsey’s life began modestly enough. His parents moved to Kent from New Milford around 1800, buying Azariah Pratt’s homestead near the intersection of Route 7 and Cobble Road and enough acreage to establish a typical subsistence farm of the day. Like his four brothers and sisters, Birdsey’s boyhood days were divided between attendance at the district primary school, farm chores, and church.

Kent, like most of Connecticut in those years was largely denuded of trees as farming and the charcoal industry claimed the state’s once resplendent forests, which probably explains his particular affection for trees. He would always remember the joy he took as a boy of six helping his mother plant a young maple tree in their front yard, then watching it grow in size and beauty as he grew to manhood.

Birdsey might well have gone on to become a farmer like his father, but he had larger ambitions beyond Kent. Much to his father’s displeasure he eventually set off for college, graduating from Yale with a degree in theology in 1841 at the age of 24.

Young Northrop took a wife and was soon called to lead a small Congregational church in Massachusetts. But he continued to look for some greater platform for service. When offered the job as director of Massachusetts’ school system and then of Connecticut’s fledgling program, he left preaching to become a champion of free and compulsory public school education. Recognizing that America had much to learn from Europe in those years he read avidly and traveled abroad to investigate both public education and environmental conservation.

Even in those busy years he made time to lecture and write, going from town to town to stir up interest in planting shade trees along thoroughfares, cleaning up front yards, painting aging buildings, and installing gas lights and sidewalks to improve village and community. His
report on tree culture in Europe, published in 1879, so impressed the Connecticut Board of Agriculture that he was asked for advice in reviving Connecticut’s primordial forests.

From this was born Connecticut’s Arbor Day, made into law in 1876 by the State Legislature. As it was the centennial year of American Independence, Northrop urged everyone to honor the
heroes of the American Revolution by planting a tree that “its fruits may survive 1976.” That first year Connecticut’s teachers and students were awarded prizes for planting five trees of specified height and species. Many other states followed Connecticut’s example.

Remarkably, Northrop’s work was particularly influential in Japan, which had only recently opened itself to foreign trade. Invited by the Emperor of Japan to visit in 1872 to consult on modernizing their educational system, Northrop was too busy to make the trip. Instead, he brought over several Japanese girls to educate in the U.S. as a demonstration of what Japan should aspire to. Northrop went on to win lasting admiration as the individual most responsible for resolving the prickly Shimonoseki Indemnity stand-off between the two nations in 1883. Carrying a 40-foot long petition signed by virtually every influential figure in academia and the clergy in the U.S., Northrop successfully petitioned Congress to return some $750,000 that had been extracted 20 years earlier in connection with Japan’s default on its Open Door Treaty.

Northrop finally made it to Japan in person in 1895. He delivered 38 lectures in the short space of two months, mostly focused on establishing Arbor Day in Japan, an annual custom observed ever since. An old man now, he remained committed to his causes, traveling to almost every state in the union to spread the word until his death on April 28, 1898.

Birdsey Northrop’s legacy to Kent continues thanks to the gratitude of a Japanese forester,
Shunichi Kuga, who visited Kent in 1972, bringing copies of his own biography of Northrop and a check for $1,000. The gift, Kuga explained, was in appreciation to the town for what Northrop had done for Japan so long ago. Emily Hopson, town historian, received the unexpected check, promptly depositing it in the Town’s bank account.

In the 1980s the Kuga Fund was tapped once for street tree planting along Main Street, after which it was largely forgotten. Then in 2001 the new Kent Conservation Commission volunteered to take custody of the account, which had grown in value considerably, for tree maintenance in the village. Most recently the Kuga Fund contributed to the planting of eight new shade trees along Elizabeth Street. And come Friday April 29, Birdsey Northrop will also be remembered at the annual Arbor Day ceremonies at Kent Center School. This public celebration of arts, poetry, music and tree planting by children was revived in 2001 with help from the Kent Conservation Commission, the Kent Garden Club, and the Kent Greenhouse. Hometown boy Birdsey would be well pleased.


Northrop’s Enduring Legacy
Arbor Day had more than one father, as the citizens of Nebraska City, Nebraska are proud to point out. In 1872 resident J. Sterling Morton, year after year observing the loss of precious topsoil to wind and water erosion, persuaded the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture to sponsor a statewide program of tree-planting across the treeless prairie.  Morton’s Arbor Day, held in early April on his birthday, was first and foremost concerned with “economic conservation” and the majority of trees planted in those early years were in wind rows to shelter farm fields. By contrast, Birdsey Northrop and his followers were driven by a more aesthetic and “moral” concern for village improvement; his Arbor Day was launched in 1876 in the nation’s centennial year. Over time the efforts and celebration of both movements merged. More recently, growing concerns over oil spills, air and water pollution, loss of habitat, and the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, pushed the broader topic of environmental protection onto the national political agenda. In 1970 the first Earth Day, also in April but one week earlier than Arbor Day, was held in hundreds of cities and towns across the U.S. That same year Congress created the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to protect human health and the environment through the writing and enforcement of environmental regulations in every state and territory.


George Laurence Nelson Art Scholarship 2018


In honor of noted American artist George Laurence Nelson, one of the founders of the Kent Art Association, the Kent Historical Society is offering a very special scholarship of $1,000 to a deserving student intending to further his or her education in studio art or art history.

The George Laurence Nelson Art Scholarship will be awarded to a graduating senior or college student who is a graduate of Kent Center School, or whose family resides in any of the Region One towns (Canaan, Cornwall, Falls Village, Kent, Salisbury and Sharon). The application must be postmarked or received by the Society by May 1, 2018.

Applications have been supplied to the guidance offices of most high schools in the immediate area. Please click HERE for a copy of the application form.

The Kent Historical Society is located at Seven Hearths, which was the home of George Laurence Nelson and has a permanent display of his original art works. This home, at 4 Studio Hill Road, is a reminder that Kent has a rich and diversified historical past. In supporting young artistic talent we hope to keep this tradition ongoing.

For further information or to request an application for the George Laurence Nelson scholarship contact:


Tel: 860-927-4587

Kent Historical Society, PO Box 651, Kent, CT, 06757 (Please reference: Art Scholarship)