Stafford Historical Society plans 50-year celebration

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Fri., Feb. 17, 2012
Stafford Historical Society members (L-r) Dave Bartlett, president; Frances Thibeault; and Marilyn Scussell, secretary, are planning the society's 50th anniversary events and coordinating a membership drive to recruit new and active members. Photos by Lauri Voter.
Stafford Historical Society members (L-r) Dave Bartlett, president; Frances Thibeault; and Marilyn Scussell, secretary, are planning the society's 50th anniversary events and coordinating a membership drive to recruit new and active members. Photos by Lauri Voter.

Did you know that Stafford Springs was once a popular vacationing community? Were you aware that travelers came from afar to stay at a beautiful Stafford hotel, often to experience the town's mineral springs? Did you know that one of Stafford's prominent historical visitors included John Adams? And Grant's Country Store, which was located on Stafford Street, did you know that it is now part of a collection of historic buildings at Old Sturbridge Village?

If you answered "yes" to any or all of these questions, then you may already be one of Stafford Historical Society's 90 members. If you answered "no," but want to find out more, the SHS may have some interesting historical information to share with you.

Members of the SHS say that the society is a significant source of the town's history, and in conjunction with Stafford Town Hall, should be a primary stop for researchers seeking genealogical links, vital statistics, historical house and cemetery data, and insight into Stafford's businesses.

A prominently displayed banner on Stafford Town Hall announces that the Stafford Historical Society is celebrating its 50th anniversary throughout 2012. During the SHS' open house on Sunday, Feb. 12, society members – Dave Bartlett, president; Frances Thibeault, member; and Marilyn Scussell, secretary - discussed some of their plans to observe the occasion and mark the society's own place in history.

Residents should stay tuned, as summer approaches, for a series of ongoing SHS-sponsored, 50th anniversary events. Activities are still in the planning phase, but Bartlett said that he has tentatively scheduled a vintage baseball game in June, when players from a Hartford-based league will play two games - one depicting the 1860s and one depicting the 1880s - complete with historical costumes. The games will take place in Hyde Park, with activities for kids available between games, while players interact with the audience.  

Bartlett said he has seen some of the games in Hartford. “They really are a lot of fun. These players really assume the role of  the old ballplayers, and the umpire is an old-fashioned umpire.” 

Society members are also hoping to add a Civil War encampment to the schedule, as well as a special open house and town-wide, guided tours. Bartlett also wants to schedule a “railroad day” or some sort of railroad exhibit to display Stafford's rail history. A team effort with the Stafford Conservation Commission might result in narrated walking tours of hiking trails.

In the meantime, “we are doing a big membership drive,” said Bartlett. “We are hoping to get some new members, some energetic people, new ideas.” Membership categories and their respective fees are individual, family, business and lifetime. Information and forms are available at the society.

The society also functions as a museum, and is open to the public for a few hours each month. From September through June, the SHS museum is open on the second Sunday of each month from 2 to 4 p.m. During July and August, it is open each Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m.

Society members say that since the society has acquired its current space at 5 Spring St., they have made excellent use of that resource. “There is a core group that comes every Tuesday night,” said Thibeault. That group will accept acquisitions from community members and conduct museum collection workshops to prepare the society's exhibits.

Current displays feature Stafford's connection to the Civil War, World War I and baseball. Visitors can see an impressive exhibit of seashell buttons manufactured by a Stafford button factory that operated from 1917 through the 1960s. The button lathe is also part of the exhibit. Other curiosities include a turn-of-the-century milk sleigh with information about the town's dairies, a showcase of pharmaceutical items from Stafford's many pharmacies, bottles from the mineral springs bottling company, vintage apparel and accessories, furniture, wooden signs, business advertising memorabilia and photos and ledgers from Stafford's old hotels.

The SHS museum gift shop sells postcards and many historical publications written by local historians. In addition to its weekly Tuesday workshops, the society also conducts a brief business meeting on the second Tuesday of the month, followed by a presentation to which the public is invited. On March 13, the presentation, “East Coast Greenway Alliance,” will be held at the Stafford Community Center at 7 p.m.

SHS members encourage visitors; they enjoy answering questions about Stafford's history and welcome new members. For more information, stop by one of the open houses at 5 Spring St., or call 860-684-7978.

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