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Peterborough

Patchwork  history

Monadnock Center for History and Culture: Area towns’ artifacts tell their stories

  • A portrait of General James Miller of Temple, along with the shirt he wears in the painting, was loaned to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough for their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, currently on display. Miller was born in Peterborough in 1776 and died of a stroke in Temple in 1851.

    A portrait of General James Miller of Temple, along with the shirt he wears in the painting, was loaned to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough for their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, currently on display. Miller was born in Peterborough in 1776 and died of a stroke in Temple in 1851. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The town of Mason contributed a display of artifacts related to Elizabeth Orton Jones — a Mason resident and children’s author who passed away in 2005 at the age of 94 — including the “little painted chair” Jones references in her book, “A Child’s Prayer.”

    The town of Mason contributed a display of artifacts related to Elizabeth Orton Jones — a Mason resident and children’s author who passed away in 2005 at the age of 94 — including the “little painted chair” Jones references in her book, “A Child’s Prayer.” Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • "The Ark," in Jaffrey started as a large farmhouse, and was eventually transformed into a summer tourist hotel, and then a year-round hotel as tourism grew in the area in the early 1800s. This sign, which hung outside The Ark, shows a winter scene on one side, and the same view in Summer on the other.

    "The Ark," in Jaffrey started as a large farmhouse, and was eventually transformed into a summer tourist hotel, and then a year-round hotel as tourism grew in the area in the early 1800s. This sign, which hung outside The Ark, shows a winter scene on one side, and the same view in Summer on the other. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture presents the regions historical finds in their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, on display now.

    The Monadnock Center for History and Culture presents the regions historical finds in their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, on display now. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A photograph taken by Peterborough resident Robert Swain Morrison is one of several on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough. Morrison took thousands of photos from a period of 1883 to the 1920s, both of Peterborough and the surrounding area.

    A photograph taken by Peterborough resident Robert Swain Morrison is one of several on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough. Morrison took thousands of photos from a period of 1883 to the 1920s, both of Peterborough and the surrounding area. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A friendship quilt, pieced together by friends and family for a Lyndeborough couple's wedding in 1849, hangs on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture. Each square of the quilt is signed by a friend who helped to make it.

    A friendship quilt, pieced together by friends and family for a Lyndeborough couple's wedding in 1849, hangs on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture. Each square of the quilt is signed by a friend who helped to make it. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A mourning picture in memory of John Colby, who died in 1829. He lived on land that is now in the town of Bennington. The stitching references “Society Land,” a land grant in the 18th century that encompassed what is currently Greenfield, Deering, Hancock, Francestown and Bennington.

    A mourning picture in memory of John Colby, who died in 1829. He lived on land that is now in the town of Bennington. The stitching references “Society Land,” a land grant in the 18th century that encompassed what is currently Greenfield, Deering, Hancock, Francestown and Bennington. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture presents the regions historical finds in their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, on display now.

    The Monadnock Center for History and Culture presents the regions historical finds in their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, on display now. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A collection of industrial artifacts loaned to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture by the Antrim Historical Society, shows a variety of old-time kitchen impletments produced by the Goodell Company, which was made famous by its patent for the hugely popular apple parer.

    A collection of industrial artifacts loaned to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture by the Antrim Historical Society, shows a variety of old-time kitchen impletments produced by the Goodell Company, which was made famous by its patent for the hugely popular apple parer. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »

  • A portrait of General James Miller of Temple, along with the shirt he wears in the painting, was loaned to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough for their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, currently on display. Miller was born in Peterborough in 1776 and died of a stroke in Temple in 1851.
  • The town of Mason contributed a display of artifacts related to Elizabeth Orton Jones — a Mason resident and children’s author who passed away in 2005 at the age of 94 — including the “little painted chair” Jones references in her book, “A Child’s Prayer.”
  • "The Ark," in Jaffrey started as a large farmhouse, and was eventually transformed into a summer tourist hotel, and then a year-round hotel as tourism grew in the area in the early 1800s. This sign, which hung outside The Ark, shows a winter scene on one side, and the same view in Summer on the other.
  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture presents the regions historical finds in their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, on display now.
  • A photograph taken by Peterborough resident Robert Swain Morrison is one of several on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture in Peterborough. Morrison took thousands of photos from a period of 1883 to the 1920s, both of Peterborough and the surrounding area.
  • A friendship quilt, pieced together by friends and family for a Lyndeborough couple's wedding in 1849, hangs on display at the Monadnock Center for History and Culture. Each square of the quilt is signed by a friend who helped to make it.
  • A mourning picture in memory of John Colby, who died in 1829. He lived on land that is now in the town of Bennington. The stitching references “Society Land,” a land grant in the 18th century that encompassed what is currently Greenfield, Deering, Hancock, Francestown and Bennington.
  • The Monadnock Center for History and Culture presents the regions historical finds in their "Monadnock Treasures" exhibit, on display now.
  • A collection of industrial artifacts loaned to the Monadnock Center for History and Culture by the Antrim Historical Society, shows a variety of old-time kitchen impletments produced by the Goodell Company, which was made famous by its patent for the hugely popular apple parer.

Letters, photographs, little odds and ends that at first might not seem very significant. But a closer look reveals these objects hold the history of the area, and each one has its own story.

Since the Peterborough Historical Society rebranded itself as the Monadnock Center for History and Culture, its focus has shifted to encompass the entire region . The center’s current exhibit , “Monadnock Treasures,” gives the whole region a chance to shine. And instead of relying on its own collection, the center reached out to neighboring historical societies to help decide what artifacts best tell the story of each town.

“Many of these organizations have been around for a very long time and they have really dedicated people that are researching and preserving and interpreting these objects. We wanted to really highlight that there is all this really great work being done out there that people don’t necessarily know about,” said Michelle Stahl, executive director of the Center.

The region’s historical societies and private collectors have dug into their archives to bring the history of local industries, arts, military histories and just the stories that, together, form the histories of their small towns. Nelson, Temple, Harrisville, Antrim, Jaffrey, Bennington, Mason, Wilton, Keene, Stoddard, Francestown, Greenfield, Marlborough, Lyndeborough, Hillsborough and Peterborough are all represented. And although the local historians in each town were focused on coming up with a single piece to define their town, one town’s history is often related to another’s, Stahl said.

For example, Lyndeborough submitted a “friendship quilt,” that was patched together as a wedding present for the Hadley family by their female friends and family in 1849 . In the center of each square patch of the quilt is the name of one of the friends that helped to put it together. And those names can be traced back to families and residents from all over the region, not just the town of Lyndeborough, Stahl said.

When Stahl first began to curate the show, she wanted local historical societies to have complete, unvarnished say in what they thought were the most significant pieces in their collections, she said. And that meant the exhibit was just as much of a surprise to her as it will be for residents coming to see it for the first time, because she had no idea what each town would bring to the table.

“We really wanted the community, the historical society or whatever it was, to decide what the treasure was and not in any way color it. That was a hard part of doing this,” said Stahl. “Usually, we come up with a concept, research it, and then we have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to look like and what we’re going to have to work with. With this one, we didn’t. We didn’t know what great things were going to be revealed. It was both nerve-racking, but it was also really fun. For six weeks we were getting a phone call or someone walking in the door, saying, ‘I’ve got the treasure,’ and it was really exciting for us, too.”

The end result is as interesting and diverse as if she had handpicked each item herself, Stahl said. Some of the towns focused on the products of the local industry. Whether it was a double-sided sign from a tourist hotel from Jaffrey, or pottery and soapstone wares from Dublin and Francestown, industrial artifacts are a huge part of the history of the Monadnock culture, noted Stahl.

Other towns took a more personal look into their own history, and donated pieces that related to a significant figure in their history. Mason lent the center its collection of artifacts from beloved children’s author and Mason resident Elizabeth Orton Jones, who is commonly known as “Twig.” Not only does the collection include many of Jones’ books, photos of her and her biography, but it also includes a little painted chair that fans of Jones’ works will recognize from the illustration in Jones’ Caldecott Medal-winning story, “A Prayer for a Child,” in which she blesses the things precious to a small child, including her little wooden chair. Born in Illinois in 1910 the burgeoning children’s author moved to the region in the 1940s.

“I think in a lot of ways, it’s not the little chair, it’s not the books, it’s her that’s the treasure,” Stahl said of Jones. “She was so involved and so much a part of the community.”

Jones was a Mason resident from 1945 until her death in 2005, just shy of her 95th birthday. She was the local town historian and expert on Mason resident Samuel Wilson, also known as the figure who inspired “Uncle Sam.” Wilson lived in Mason as a boy, until 1789, when at the age of 22, he relocated to New York.

Temple lent a portrait of and personal items belonging to General James Miller, a distinguished Temple resident who passed away in 1851 . The artifacts include his trunk, a portrait, and the very shirt he was wearing when the portrait was painted. But Miller also belongs to the history of other towns in the region because, though he settled in Temple, he was born in Peterborough in 1776, and practiced law in Greenfield as an adult, making his story a truly regional one.

The Monadnock Treasures exhibit will be on view at the center through Nov. 22. Museum admission is $3, with members and children under the age of 12 admitted free of charge. Members of the region’s historical societies will also be allowed to view the collection free of charge. Stahl will be leading a museum talk on the exhibit on July 27 at 10:30 a.m., and will hold an exhibit party July 12 from 5 to 7:30 p.m., with free admission. The center will also host a series of guest speakers during the course of the exhibit to explore various artifacts and themes on display.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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