VISITING 1838, AND HOW IT CAME TO BE – 10-12 October 2017

My adventures do come about via circuitous routes. Last September I attended a Road Scholar program learning about “everything Dutch in the Hudson Valley.” When at Washington Irving’s Sunnyside I became entranced with The Legend of Sleepy Hollow thinking I could do an October production of that to replace A Christmas Carol as a fundraiser. I bought seven books on Irving and his Legend of Sleepy Hollow, only to decide it would be hard to stage a production since it was mainly narrative with little dialogue, unlike Dickens’ classic. But, I gathered lots of information, filing it away. Early this October I found in my “future trip” folder the 2016 Sleepy Hollow Experience at Old Sturbridge Village. Checking the website, all 40 performances were already sold out for this year. But, needing a break, and not having been to Old Sturbridge Village in nine years, and finding I could stay in the 1789 Oliver Wight House with Rufus Porter Murals — a three day, two night trip was hatched – Tuesday October 10 to Thursday the 12th.

But first I stopped in the early 18th century – Old Deerfield Village in Massachusetts, and went down the Main Street first seeing this display.

how can you not like 18th and 19th century architecture?

I left home in time to be at Memorial Hall Museum when it opened (remember last post I arrived there as it was closing?), the home of the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PMVA), and opened in 1870. Separate from Old Deerfield Village, the museum documents the area, and well worth a couple hours. A key relic is from the 1704 Indian Raid – The Door – and saved with the Old Indian House was sadly demolished in 1848. Prominently visible are the hatchet scars and holes.

this gallery, if you open and read, gives a history of the raid, and the Native American occupation in the area.

Something fun I learned in one room, the difference between Relics, Curiosities, and Momentos. Several definitions were presented, but here succinctly:

RELIC – An object invested with interest by reason of its antiquity or associations with the past.
CURIOSITY – An object of interest; any object valued as curious, rare or strange.
MOMENTO – Something to remind someone of a past event, an object kept as a memorial of some person or event.

So much more I could share, but just plan a visit. And, also plan a visit to Old Deerfield Village. I plan to purchase a membership there soon.  So, it was off back roading on Route 47 (not been on this section before – worth the trip) to US 202, to Route 181 to US 20 to head east to Sturbridge, and my inn for two nights.

Checking in I met Courtney who had been so helpful on the phone. I told her that I had hoped to attend the Sleepy Hollow Experience, but it was sold out. She said I should check Craig’s list because tickets that cannot be used show up there, and often people arrive and surrender tickets purchased for which people back out. I told her my plan was to wait at the gate the next night. I only needed one person of 250 not to show up I thought.

The main hallway adorned by Rufus Porter years ago, this time is black and white.

And, upstairs my room was spacious, bright and clean with some original woodwork and flooring.

“On the List” has been to attend one of the Colonial feasts and events at the Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, MA. Off I went, on a round-about way, of course. The restaurant and tavern, opened in 1961, is built around the old restored 18th century home on 600 acres.

but it has many sprawling additions, all tastefully done in and out.

Until a tour bus arrived, I was the only guest for dinner. Dinner was great. I had Onion Soup Gratinée and Cedar Plank Salmon. Worth the trip and dinner experience, but learning the seating capacity in all rooms comes to 400, I believe I will pass on going to one of the large dining events – I “don’t do crowds.”

And, then it was back to the Oliver Wight House.

The plan was to arrive at Old Sturbridge Village when it opened, and I did. I like to do preliminary research to know what I will be doing, and also to learn why something is where it is, and how it came to be. Learning that history led to the fascinating Wells family (I had read of them before, but forgot), and where their money and inspiration came from. I encourage you to read the history – on this link — and hopefully it will lead you to repeat what I did on Thursday.

I like to start an experience with an introductory video – there was none in the visitor center, but there was a great exhibit on the Wells family. But, I read of horse-drawn carriage ride through the village and farm area, and arrived in front of the Asa Knight Store (relocated from Dummerston, Vermont, just miles from home) just in time to join George and his team for an overall view and history.

his tour, history, stories,, were wonderful, and I went around one and a half times. In chatting with him, yes it is a small world, he knew Walpole, and we knew some of the same people.

Here are some of the views around the village, which hopefully you have visited, or will. If you read the detailed history, you will learn the Wells began recreating the village in the late 1930s, but war delayed completion and opening until the summer of 1946 (a very good year). There were 81 visitors, each paying $1, on opening day.

From my seat in the wagon back to the Meeting House

A view of the common

The Salem Towne House at the opposite end of the Common.

On the road to the Freeman Farm. Fences are held up by criss-cross pieces when posts cannot be driven into rocky soil

Walking around the farm area I visited with a few of the re-enactors (again, a gallery you can click and open for larger images).

Every old village recreation has a print shop, but I did not realize that here was Isaiah Thomas’ shop moved from Worcester. He was probably the most important colonial printer other than Benjamin Franklin. He had a branch in my town, with a bookstore with over 3,000 books, and the FARMER’S MUSEUM, a newspaper going to all states, including George Washington. With my printing and publishing background, his branch in Walpole, is the most historically significant building in town (you may click on the image for a larger easier to read image)

I then walked back to the farm looking across the colonial created mill pond with a covered bridge moved from Dummerston, Vermont.

If you know me, one of my other loves since 5th grade is water power and waterwheels. In the mill area I joined a small tour of the carding mill, gristmill, and sawmill – each powered by different types of wheels. The Mill Pond above was created by the original property owners in the 18th century by diverting water from the Quinebaug River. By law, that water had to be returned to the river.

In typical “Ray fashion” I closed the village down, but on my way out “voted with my dollars” and purchased a membership. Hey, only two hours away I can attend lectures, events, and continue to explore the area.. I had just a short time to “kill” before heading to the entrance for the SLEEPY HOLLOW EXPERIENCE.

I arrived just before the gates opened at 5:30, and there was Courtney at the ticket booth. She suggested I wait off to the side. After about 38 minutes she came over and said, “follow me, someone has surrendered a ticket.”  Ray’s Good Fortune. I still had time before the 7:30 performance, but no problem, I was in. Earlier in the day I saw in the mill area the production areas set up, so unlike others I had an idea what was going to happen, and that the audience would be moving from spot to spot. The introductory narration and songs began at the Gristmill.

the next location was magical, and you can click this image for a larger one.

another great one (I think) that you can enlarge

then it was off to the party at Katrina’s home before poor Ichabod was chased off.

finally was a walk around the torch lit mill pond to the covered bridge and the ride of the Headless Horseman (sorry, missed a shot of him).

what a great 12-hour day!

In the process of learning of the founding Wells family and their passion for collecting leading to the formation of Old Sturbridge Village, I learned of American Optical in Southbridge, Massachusetts, just a few miles away. With roots back to 1826, at one time more eyeglasses were made in Southbridge than any other place in the world. Now closed, I learned of the Optical Heritage Museum (Proudly Sponsored by Zeiss) in Southbridge. I had to go, and did on Thursday the 12th.


FANTASTIC – a history of glasses, and also optics from American Optical that was in Southbridge for over 180 years. If I understand correctly fiber optics were discovered there, and early lasers. Dick Whitney, Executive Director at the museum, spent his entire working life at AO since his graduation from college, and basically closed the last doors. He saved much from the archives, and artifacts establishing the first museum in the old AO plant. Now in a new location with the establishment of a convention center in the old location, Dick will welcome you at anytime to this unique and historically packed museum. Here is the entryway with Wells and early AO history.

Here are some views around the galleries. Another couple arrived while I was there.

In the museum is much of the original artwork for AO ads. Norman Rockwell did four ads for the firm, but the whereabouts of that original artwork is unknown.

In February on my way back from Connecticut I traveled a scenic road that wound me into Southbridge for the first time. I was taken back when I saw this fabulous facade for the first time – obviously an old mill/factory.

At that time I did not know what it currently was, but Dick filled me in. After American Optical closed, it was economic bust for over 3,000 employees, in a town of now 15,000 people. At the same time there were more military base closures. Bush 41 proposed plans to move Navy training from San Diego to Southbridge, and repurpose the complex here for a training facility. Clinton put on hold, and Bush 43 worked on it again. Now the Southbridge Hotel & Conference Center, it is supported by a 20 year DOD $9 million plus year contract. But the public also uses the facility. Dick told me that the center tower section is original, as is the facade. Everything else, from three feet back from the facade, is new. He said I had to see the original stairwell in the tower. I went in walked around, and was impressed.

In front of the convention center is a park and a pair of spectacles paying homage to the heritage of the area. One of the bronze plaques honors the Milestone of Electrical Engineering and Computing done here is 1961-64 – the building of the first optical fiber laser amplifier.

The plan to return home was to explore roads I had not been on before on the east side of Quabbin Reservoir. I wanted to explore the cellar holes and abandoned common of Dana which, although not underwater, was taken for watershed protection for the area.

Ends up I mis-read the directions a tad, and the Dana Common was not 1.8 miles from Petersham, but 1.8 miles (plus) from Gate 40 of the restricted Quabbin area.

But, I headed off down the old road to see DANA COMMON, and 25 minutes later met a couple walking towards me. “How much further,” I asked. “About a mile,” they told me. We chatted, and I continued on. She was not impressed with the bramble over cellar holes and told me to forget it. Looking at the sun dropping I checked the time – hum, could be dark on the way back, and then I checked for cell service – NONE. Not a good idea to fall at dusk and be alone, I wisely headed back. Another day I will head on down with my bike (allowed on this road). On the way back I did see one old cellar hole – probably a barn.

It has taken me two weeks to finish this post. I enjoyed the area, and have much more to explore in the region – one of the reasons I bought a membership to OSV. The past two weeks I was busy in the shop, putting the November CLARION together, and staying with Alex while David and Mari were away. So, one day when he was in school (Friday, 20 October) – here is a bonus for you.

I enjoy Concord, Massachusetts – there is so much history in the area – both American Revolution, and literary. I stop whenever possible to gain another experience, or repeat one. Finally, I was going to be there at the right season, and right day to take in the Emerson House. But first I stopped at the Minute Man National Historical Park to again take in the 25 minute multi-media presentation – each time you pick up a new point, or relearn.

Multi-media presentation begins

We know about Paul Revere’s ride, and his capture. But it was Dr. Samuel Prescott who (having joined up with Revere and Dawes) avoided capture and made it into Concord to spread the alarm.

Here is your history lesson (which can be clicked on for a larger version) —

It was then lunch at Concord’s Colonial Inn (third visit) to soak in 300 plus years of history. And, finally Ralph Waldo Emerson’s House for a tour. He lived here from 1835 until his death in 1882). Look at the front closely, and compare with other images I have shared here — see a pattern, and similarity to “44?” The portico would have been added, “44” had one too at one time.

Emerson was considered the “rock star” of the day. People took the stage in from Boston just to see him, and others moved into the area just to associate with him – e.g. The Alcott Family returned from Walpole in 1855 to live across the street. The home is still in the Emerson family, the last Emerson living there died in 1909. It is as it was with the original furnishings except the study where Emerson did all his writing. It has been removed to the Concord Historical Society across the street, but recreated in the home (downstairs room on the right in photo above) pretty much as it looked.

The docents giving the 50 minute tour were great, sharing much information on Emerson and his cohorts. Henry David Thoreau spent much time at the home with his mentor, and you can see items that Thoreau crafted for the family. We were told that it was on Emerson’s land on Walden Pond that Thoreau built his cabin, and the path to the pond started behind the house. When the tour was done, I went to find the path, first passing the side of the house.



Behind the barn I found the path – called the Emerson-Thoreau Amble extending about 1.7 miles to the site of Thoreau’s cabin. The website I found said is a recreation, but probably pretty accurate – now “on the list” for exploration.


Beginning of Emerson-Thoreau Amble

To complete the outing before heading back to be with Alex I drove over to Walden Pond. And, this is a good spot to close until explorations continue another day. RAY



This entry was posted in Day (or maybe two) Trips, Old Sturbridge Village - OSV and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to VISITING 1838, AND HOW IT CAME TO BE – 10-12 October 2017

  1. Bill Reed says:

    Ray! Your wonderful curiosity and sense of adventure never cease to amaze me. OSV and Concord are now on my list. Thank you again. Bill Reed

  2. Carol Crolle says:

    Thanks, Ray, for another informative and exciting vicarious adventure with you. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a personal favorite. I included an author story of Washington Irving and his Sunnyside property for my GIfted and Talented elementary students every Halloween. Sending regards from Chautauqua. Carol

  3. William Moses says:

    Thank you for telling of your travels and rekindling my memories of fun trips I have taken to Old Deerfield and to Sturbridge Village many, many years ago.

  4. Pingback: BOARDING WITH THE BIXBYS – 15-16 SEPTEMBER (1838) 2018 – | Shunpiking with Ray

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