Commemorative calendar celebrates 300 years of Ashford history
By Kitty LeShay - ReminderNews
Ashford - posted Thu., Feb. 27, 2014
Barbara Metsack, town historian and treasurer of the Ashford Historical Society, and Kay Warren, secretary of the AHS, are busy helping to plan the year’s events which will commemorate the 300th anniversary of the town. They and AHS President Joan Bowley, John Ference and Linda Gardner have kicked off a year of festivities with the creation of a 40-page desk calendar which Warrens likens to a little history book. Other members of the 300th Anniversary Committee are working on the numerous events to be held this year or have already transpired.
The calendar is a window into the history of a community of 4,400 people.
In 1774, when Ashford was part of Eastford, the population was 2,241. In 1989, at the time of the 275th anniversary, the population was 3,767. While the town has not grown as rapidly as others in Connecticut, the character of the community has changed.
During the mid 1800s, there was as much manufacturing as agriculture. There were several mills and factories, one of the most famous being the Westford Glass Works. “The ’38 hurricane took all the mills out and that was the end of the Mill Era,” Warren said. Today, businesses range from home-based to international, with agriculture representing a significant slice of the pie.
Warren did the layout of the calendar which features the winners of the 275th anniversary coin contest on the cover, one being a familiar face on Channel 3 weather, Michael Cameron. “I enjoy the graphic design work. The committee and AHS gave me free reign for the layout,” Warren said.
Metsack, Bowley, Ference and Gardner were instrumental in gathering the pictures of town notables, historic buildings, mills, historic artifacts and celebrations of the past. “I enjoy gathering the information," Metsack said. She has been at the Town Hall for more than 40 years finishing her work career as town clerk. Her interest in town history began at that time. “The selectman would start talking about something historic and it would pique my interest and I would do research,” she said. The result is that Ashford now has a very knowledgeable town historian.
Prominently featured in the calendar are pictures of the portraits of Daniel Fitts, born in Ashford in 1776, and his wife, Abigail. These valuable paintings were found in a closet by Metsack. After considerable research by Bowley and archivist John Regan, they traced the paintings to James Jones Sawyer, an artist who was commissioned by notable men throughout New England to paint them and their families. “We knew we had something special because of the quality of the paintings. We were detectives for six months and found that Sawyer has paintings in the Smithsonian,” Bowley said.
These Ashford historians, along with other residents, make up a 300th Anniversary Committee of more than 70 people. “We have fun when we work together,” Warren said. A lot of work and fun is in their future, as the committee is hoping to have an event each month in 2014. There is already a tea party scheduled for Sunday, May 4, and a parade which will be held Saturday, Oct. 11.
The calendar is being sold for $10, and is available at the Ashford Town Hall.