The Kent Historical Society is hosting the third of our series, Our Town: The Village, A Look at “Urban” Life in Kent May 20 at 2 p.m. in Kent Town Hall.
During March, we had a lively, interactive discussion about the once thriving dairy industry in Kent. Many local farmers came to share their memories and swap poignant stories about farming with an intrigued audience, some of whom knew little about the subject. We hope for the same interaction with this next subject.
Do you remember life along Main Street in the 1940s, ‘50s and ‘60s? It was a vibrant place, with a mixture of homes and businesses. Today, many of our unique Main Street businesses struggle for survival, and we want you all to come join in the conversation about The Village – share your own memories and talk about how to keep it healthy and happy. With your help, it will be as fun and exciting as the first two. Join Us!
A look at ‘Kent Back Then’ in the mid-20th Century
The award-winning curator of the Kent Historical Society (as well as the Sharon Historical Society), Marge Smith will take a nostalgic look at Kent life in the mid-20th century, including farming, the village, moving to Kent, and the role that three private schools have played in the town’s life.
“Kent Back Then” will be presented by the Kent Historical Society, as part of its Sunday Series lectures in the Kent Town Hall Sunday, January 21, at 2 p.m.
The depth and breadth of Ms. Smith’s knowledge of Kent is the backbone of the Kent Historical Society, and in this interactive discussion with the audience, she will link the past with today using a series of images and old advertisements from Kent’s iconic local newspaper – The Kent Good Times Dispatch, known fondly as The GTD. In its heyday, The GTD had its finger firmly on the pulse of the town, with reporters submitting stories from every corner of town. So, search your memory banks and plan to join us for a fun afternoon.
This Sunday Series lecture inaugurates the theme for the Historical Society’s 2018 events, “Our Town: A Sense of Community in the Mid-20th Century.” One goal for the year will be to celebrate the memories of those who lived through the dramatic changes that took place in Kent before and after World War II.
The Kent Historical Society sponsors the Sunday Series in March, May, July, September, and November. Free admission for members; $5 suggested donation for non-members.
A glimpse into the religious life of colonists in Connecticut prior to the Revolutionary War was provided by Thomas Key of Salisbury during the Sept. 17 Sunday Series. He shared how the First Great Awakening shook up the religious foundation in the 1730s and disrupted the life of those living in Connecticut and other New England states. Traveling “itinerant” preachers stirred up local residents and caused younger generations to question long-held beliefs.
Key is an instructor for the Taconic Learning Center and vice president of the Salisbury Association. He is also a speaker at the Scoville Library and has given over 75 lectures on a number of historical topics.
He led participants through a timeline of history of “British North America,” which is how he referred to the Colonies. Key highlighted the wars that were fought in the 1600s and 1700s and said that this constant state of unrest impacted the colonists.
“Death was right at their door all the time,” Key said.
The Great Awakening began in 1734 and continued until 1745. It was about religion, but it was also about a changing society.
They were operating a “young capitalistic society” and men and women were marrying later, with young men staying at home much longer than before. The lived under a strict moral code in a what Key called a “pressurized society.” There were three generations since the Pilgrims arrived in 1620 and it was getting harder and harder for younger people to accept the strict rules being imposed by religious leaders.
Jonathan Edwards, who was living and working in North Hampton, Mass., stimulated his congregation and started challenging people to think in different ways. A young man died suddenly in town and it got people thinking about life and death.
“Jonathan Edwards was a really devout person,” Key said. “He was a good preacher.”
His sermons got people so worked up that they became hysterical, Key said. Eventually, he was asked to leave the church and took a position in Stockbridge, Mass. He ultimately ended up as the president of Princeton.
Sunday Series focused on
“The First Great Awakening — Fervor and Ferment“
In the 1730s, a wave of religious revivals, sponsored by the established clergy of the Reformed Churches, swept the Thirteen Colonies. The fervor disrupted the connection between church and state in New England. These revivals involved extreme emotional displays by the thousands of people who heard the sermons of Jonathan Edwards and various itinerant preachers. Though there was little lasting impact on the religious commitment of the colonies, the ideas presented probably moved the colonies closer to declaring independence from Great Britain.
“The First Great Awakening: Fervor and Ferment” was presented by the Kent Historical Society as part of its Sunday Series lectures in the Kent Town Hall Sunday, September 17, 2017.
Tom Key studied engineering, was a flight officer in the US Navy and retired as a Commander in the US Naval Reserves. His professional career was with an international engineering firm, designing and constructing nuclear and fossil power plants, steel mills, and chemical plants. He’s also had a career as a landscape painter exhibiting in over thirty galleries and invitational/juried shows from Delaware to Maine.
The lecture, as well as future Sunday Series events in 2017, helps give context to the Kent Historical Society’s exhibit in the summer of 2017, “The Founders of Kent,” on the emergence of one New England town in the 18th century. The 2017 Sunday Series events are sponsored by the Kent Barns and the Kent Lions Club.
The Kent Historical Society sponsors the Sunday Series every other month September through May. Free admission for members; $5 suggested donation for non-members.
Our Sunday Series programs are scheduled for the third Sunday of January, March, May, July, September, November 2:00 PM (usually) at the Kent Town Hall. Since 2010, we have featured a variety of programs and presentations by knowledgeable speakers on topics of historical interest. Free admission for members; $5 suggested donation for non-members. For more information, call 860-927-4587 or email us.
The Kent Historical Society celebrated its accomplishments in 2016 and honored a number of volunteers during its Annual Meeting Sunday, Oct. 16 in Kent Town Hall.
President Mike Everett welcomed everyone to the event and went through some of the highlights of the previous year. He mentioned that three grants have been received for the renovation of Tallman House into an Art and Archives Storage Area. He also explained there has been much work to organize the administrative floor of the building
The Collections Committee has received a number of donations from the late Marie Camp and from her family after she passed away this year. The committee continues to try to assimilate the material into the collection.
He also mentioned a number of the events, including the Sunday Series, the Summer Art Enrichment for children and the Musicale and Spirited Tea in the spring, and thanked those responsible for organizing and orchestrating the details.
One of the major accomplishments was the re-clapboarding of Seven Hearths that was finished and then the siding was painted with a second coat of stain in the summer. Almost all of the trim on the windows and doors has also been painted this year.
Monthly curators’ tours were conducted from July through October that were long detailed discussions of how an old house, like Seven Hearths, is restored. These were conducted by Curator Marge Smith and trustee Jeffrey Morgan.
There was a new version of the organization’s Constitution and Bylaws adopted and ratified by the members. This document was last amended in 2012.
The election of officers and trustees was held:
President Mike Everett, term ends 2017
Vice President Lynn Mellis Worthington, term ends 2019
Secretary Melissa Cherniske, term ends 2018
Treasurer Bruce Whipple, term ends 2019
Jeffrey Morgan, one-year term
Deborah Chabrian, one-year term
Roger Gonzales, two-year term
Kent Freeman, two-year term
Kate Vick, three-year term
Austi Brown, three-year term
Several people ended their tenure on the Board of Trustees and Mr. Everett recognized those who had stepped down and gave them each a hand-created token of thanks. Beth Dooley was honored for her long tenure that stretched back to when Miss Emily Hopson served as president. Zanne Charity, who has been on for five years, was recognized for her efforts particularly in programs and outreach efforts of the society, and for the renovation of the Seven Hearth garage into the Art Barn. Patti Case was thanked for her time on the board and her willingness to continue on as a volunteer for the Collections Committee. Tim Good and Nancy Schaefer were unable to attend but were also thanked for their time on the board.
The Board of Trustees also honored two long-time members with a new designation – Distinguished Member – and Fran Johnson and Ky Anderson were both recognized. Ms. Anderson was able to attend and graciously accepted a hand-crafted certificate from Mr. Everett.
The docents who volunteered during the summer’s Postcard exhibit at the Swift House were also honored for their service to the society and each presented with a small gift.
Finally, the Kent Quilters were honored and thanked for creating and donating the 2016 Signature Quilt to the Society. All attending were called up to the front to stand next to the displayed quilt. Jane Suttell Zatlin, group organizer of the Kent Quilters, shared a little information about the group. The three-panel quilt includes 600 signatures from Kent residents and six different iconic scenes from town. The ceremony marked the official acceptance of the quilt into the Society’s permanent collection. The 25 quilters were thanked and recognized by the society’s members.
The event then adjourned to an entertaining presentation by Nick Bellantoni on “Vampires in New England,” the final Sunday Series of the year.
Sunday Series talk focused on “Searching for the American Dream: Stories of Immigrants”
Imagine the challenges that face immigrants to America, then and now. Those who came at the turn of the century left their homes and entered the United States through Ellis Island to blend into the great melting pot of American culture. On Sunday, September 18, 2016, at 7:00 PM at the Kent Town Hall, award-winning storyteller Carol Birch celebrated the tales of men and women who left behind homes and loved ones to put their faith in the untested promises of America in the early 1900’s. For some, dreams were abandoned; for others, the “American Dream” was made manifest.
Birch, a resident of Southbury, has won numerous awards for her storytelling, including the National Storytelling Network’s Circle of Excellence Award, bestowed upon her by her storytelling peers. She has shared her talents with television and radio audiences, and at events across the country. She is also the author of a book on storytelling, The Whole Story Handbook: Using Imagery to Complete the Story Experience.
The Kent Historical Society sponsors the Sunday Series every other month September through May. Free admission for members; $5 suggested donation for non-members.
Covered bridges that date back to colonial times are an iconic image of Northwest Connecticut, and the Kent/Cornwall area boasts some of the oldest of these structures still in existence in New England. On Sunday, March 20, 2016, these beloved landmarks were explored by an expert who knows their history and their engineering.
Author William S. Caswell Jr. shared many historic photographs and information gathered for his book, Connecticut and Rhode Island Covered Bridges, which boasts rare vintage images and postcard memories of days gone by.
During their heyday in the 1800s, more than 150 covered bridges dotted the landscape of Connecticut and Rhode Island, with many concentrated in the hills of northwestern Connecticut. Since then, fires, floods, and progress have claimed all but three of the historic structures.
Connecticut was the birthplace of two of the nation’s best known covered bridge designers: Ithiel Town and Theodore Burr. Half of the covered bridges currently standing in the United States are supported by trusses patented by Town or Burr.
Kent’s Bulls Bridge is an example of a modification of Town’s lattice truss design, for which he received his first patent in 1820. The covered bridge in West Cornwall is another example of the modified truss design. They are two of the remaining three covered bridges in the state.
Caswell, an engineer for the NH Department of Transportation, is president and historian for the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, and also maintains a website dedicated to gathering and sharing covered bridge photographs and information.
Sunday Series talk focused on Benedict Arnold, Connecticut’s Homegrown Terrorist
Braving the aftermath of a large snowstorm that crippled the east coast, author Eric D. Lehman spoke to a large Sunday Series audience at Kent Town Hall on Jan. 24. He presented a modern view of Benedict Arnold. Lehman noted that when beginning the book, he hoped he could vindicate Arnold, or at least make a case that he had been unfairly maligned, but this hope vanished during this research. “He was a bad man,” Lehman said.
Yet he was also a courageous soldier who had many prominent friends and admirers before his treachery. Lehman presented a modern “social network” analysis of Arnold’s social circle, and showed how connected he was to prominent colonial figures.
Lehman also explored the various meanings of the word “treason,” and how the modern usage does not fit the situation in the colonies during the Revolution. What made Arnold’s treachery stand out, Lehman declared, was that he didn’t just betray his country – he betrayed his friends.
Lehman ended his talk with a haunting story about Arnold encountering Talleyrand, the notoriously slippery French politician who worked for the Bourbons, several revolutionary governments, and Napoleon, among others. At a tavern in Portsmouth England, Talleyrand asked an American stranger for letters of introduction he could use on his trip. It turned out to be Arnold, who refused, saying, “I am perhaps the only American who cannot give you letters for his own country. All the relations I had there are now broken. I must never return.” Talleyrand’s comment: “I must confess that he excited my pity.”
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, please call 860-927-4587.
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.