Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Jordan Freeman- The Fight to Set a People Free

On October 19th NCCHP presented Kevin Johnson as Jordan Freeman, an African-American servant of John Ledyard and the body servant of Col. William Ledyard in the Revolutionary War. Jordan Freeman was an actual person, a native of Old Lyme, Connecticut. He witnessed and participated in key events of the war while with Col. Ledyard.

Jordan Freeman was a hero at the Battle of Groton Heights, one of the bloodiest battles of the Revolutionary War. To give you some idea of the scope of the bravery of the patriot militia defending New London, they were approximately 150 in number under the command of William Ledyard, facing a total invading force of 1700 British regulars, 800 of whom were directly involved in the attack of Fort Griswold at Groton Heights under the command of the traitor Benedict Arnold.

Kevin Johnson as Jordan Freeman
Kevin Johnson's moving portrayal, his 151st performance as Jordan Freeman, was brilliant. The audience was completely absorbed in the moment, breaking into applause several times during the performance.

Historians estimate the number of black soldiers in this war to have been about 5,000 men who served in militias, seagoing services and support activities. Some enlisted because they felt it was their duty; others because they were offered their freedom in return for satisfactory completion of a set period of service.

Mr. Johnson recommended several additional resources:

The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution, by William C. Nell (1855), available in reprint from Amazon and other sources.

"The Colored Patriots of the American Revolution" by Wm. C. Nell, 1855

Facsimile of document signed by George Washington granting freedom to a former
slave in return for service during the Revolutionary War (Wm. C. Nell book)

Connecticut's Black Soldiers 1775-1783, by David O. White (1973), available from Amazon and other sources.

Other black patriots mentioned during the presentation includes Granville's own Lemuel Haynes, Venture Smith, Crispus Attucks and Prince Estabrook.

The Jordan Freeman presentation is based on extensive research in the collections of the Connecticut State Library and the Museum of Connecticut History at 231 Capitol Ave., opposite the state capitol in Hartford.

Kevin Johnson is an employee of the State Library's History and Genealogy Unit. In addition to portraying Jordan Freeman, he has been presenting as Pvt. William Webb, a soldier in the Civil War, for more than 18 years and has given more than 500 presentations.

So concludes NCCHP's 2016 Living History series. It was an outstanding year of wonderful presentations. If you missed this year please resolve to join us in Granville for the 2017 series, and if you joined us in 2016 thank you for supporting NCCHP, dedicated to keeping the drumbeat of history alive.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

2016 Granville Harvest Fair Joins the History Books

The Harvest Fair wrapped up yesterday after three days of fun and festivities, despite a bit of uncooperative weather on Sunday. OK, basically a washout Sunday, but Monday brought us a cool, crisp, bright, classic New England fall day. Everyone who decided to come to Granville for their Columbus Day holiday made a great choice, as confirmed by the cheerful voices and laughter of the fair-goers as they congregated at the various Fair venues, including NCCHP.

The major fair location was in on the green in Granville Center but a regular bus schedule to the Noble & Cooley and NCCHP location at 42 Water Street meant there was a regular stream of visitors throughout the 3-day fair.

NCCHP museum tours were very active, keeping Matt, Liz and Jay hopping. Several people even asked for a tour of the archives project and seemed fascinated by the amazing historical documents and artifacts we've been gathering and organizing.

One item conspicuous by its absence was the huge American flag that is traditionally on display. The flag pole has deteriorated over a period of many years so we'll have to come up with some fundraising ideas to remedy that problem.

Thanks go to the small cadre of volunteers who oversaw various displays, the raffle, and so on. The Cummins diesel and the Lister Bruston were on display and running thanks to engine restorers Bob Alden and Cal Pixley, and a local friend of the museum brought his 1923 Model T which was a big hit, resulting in many smiles and cheers as it arrived. The help of all the NCCHP volunteers is very greatly appreciated.

Fairgoers visit with blacksmith Eric Krusz, who specializes in handmade iron work.
His handmade iron puzzles had everyone entertained and entirely bamboozled.
Engine restorer Cal Pixley has the Cummins diesel fired up. It didn't like the chill in the morning air but
as the day warmed up the engine was happy as a clam.
The Ryder Erickson hot air motor developed a problem later in the weekend but engine restorer Bob Alden was on the case and it should be sorted out soon. The hot air motor runs on the Stirling Cycle principle.

The '23 T was a popular display on Monday afternoon.
Westfield River Brewing Company was one of several vendors on hand.
A QUICK REMINDER- NCCHP will be winding down for the winter season by the end of November so be sure to plan your visit SOON. Fall foliage it at its peak so now is the time! For museum hours go to 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

NCCHP Hosting Harvest Fair Attactions, Oct. 8-10, 2016

The Southwick News published a nice recap of NCCHP's Harvest Fair attractions in their September 23rd edition; see below for the full article (click on the image for a larger version):

If you haven't put the Harvest Fair on your calendar now is the time to make plans to come to Granville and NCCHP!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Gettysburg Address: New Addition to Civil War Exhibit

Jeff Rowley has been kind enough to provide his family's copy of the Gettysburg Address to NCCHP to be exhibited as part of the Civil War exhibit, on a long term loan basis. According to family legend the address was given to his grandmother, Anna Schusler, when she was a small child (very early 1900's). She had recited the Gettysburg Address at her school in Hartford, CT and the document was presented to her at that time.

The actual age of the document, which measures approximately 19" by 24" is unknown but it is interesting that it is not titled as "The Gettysburg Address" but rather "President Lincoln's Great Speech." It was later framed by Jeff's grandfather, Levi Rowley in 1910 (based on a copy of the Hartford Times newspaper that was used as backing during the framing process). Levi Rowley's ancestors were from Granville, many of whom had worked at Noble & Cooley.

The first display of the Address at NCCHP coincided with the "Letters Home During the Civil War" presentation and triggered a number of impromptu memorized recitations from those of certain generations who were in attendance (do school kids still memorize the Gettysburg Address?).

Everybody knows "Four score and seven years ago..." but reading the speech today with the benefit of age and presumably wisdom, the most remarkable portion of the speech is the final paragraph and Lincoln's uncanny sense of the importance of being "dedicated to the great task remaining before us" that the nation "shall have a new birth of freedom." His call to action could just as well be in response to the events we still see nearly every day on the news.

After more than 150 years it is still "for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work... for which they gave the last full measure of devotion." Isn't it time to remember those who gave the last full measure of devotion and rededicate ourselves to achieving the new birth of freedom Lincoln dreamed of and for which our ancestors died?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Digitization Project Update

On September 22nd NCCHP hosted Nichole Shea and Jake Sadow to discuss and kick off our first Digital Commonwealth digitization project. Nichole and Jake work at the Boston Public Library, which is the headquarters of Digital Commonwealth and a major service hub for the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). Digital Commonwealth focuses on digitizing collections held by Massachusetts institutions; DPLA is the national platform.

Once the material we select has been digitized it will be hosted on a dedicated Institution Page within the Digital Commonwealth site. To see what institutions are already in Digital Commonwealth, you can click on this link to see a list, then you can click on any institution to see their on line collections.. Caution: The content is fascinating so it may be habit-forming!

NCCHP's first collection will be our Noble & Cooley catalog collection, which currently covers approximately 1890 to 1935. We believe the material will be of interest to collectors, researchers, etc. and will provide information that has been unavailable outside NCCHP until now. We expect the first collection to be available within 3 months or so. After that we plan to add more content and collections on a regular basis.

Until then here a few examples (as always, you can click on an image for a larger version):


Letters Home During the Civil War, Living History Presentation

On September 21, 2016 NCCHP's Living History series hosted Carolyn Ivanoff's excellent program, "Dear Sarah - Letters Home During the Civil War." The program featured excerpts from Army Private Friend H. Smith's letters home to his wife Sarah, in which he described life in the Union Army, his feelings about the war, and the Emancipation Proclamation.

Using actual letters, photographs and historical records the presentation provided a vivid picture of Army life, major battle engagements, and family life during the Civil War. The program's remarkable insights into the significance of events to the future of the country not only brought history alive but underscored its direct connection with and relevance to our times. A packed house was not disappointed and listened intently throughout the amazing presentation.

 We are grateful to Carolyn Ivanoff for coming to Granville to share this wonderful history and the lessons that remain important to us today. We hope she will return to share more living history with us.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Massachusetts State Historic Records Advisory Board (SHRAB): A Second Grant Success!

The Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation is very pleased to announce that the Massachusetts State Historic Records Advisory Board (SHRAB) and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission have awarded it a second $1,000 preservation grant.
NCCHP will use this grant to continue the work of cleaning, organizing and preserving our massive paper archives that date back to the late 1800’s. These records provide a rare glimpse into the Granville people who managed Noble & Cooley and the workers who manufactured everything from drums to toys and the machinery on which they were made.

Since receiving the first grant we have discovered many hidden gems that were stored in dilapidated boxes. Thanks to the SHRAB grant funds these important records have now been more safely preserved for future generations.
Among the many treasures we have unearthed are an incredible collection of 19th century manufacturing equipment catalogs, complete Bulletins for the Toy Manufacturers of America documenting business developments and challenges during the Great Depression of the 1930's, payroll records from the 1890's, records for the Lister Bruston electric plant and many other catalogs and correspondence relating to much of the equipment on display in the museum. Even the 1925 registration for the Noble & Cooley Model T Ford turned up.
Registration for Noble & Cooley Model T truck
(last 3 digits of engine number not shown)

Noble & Cooley Time and Pay Roll for May, 1889
(Click on image for larger version)
We wish to express our appreciation to SHRAB for approving our grant request and once again thank Rachel Onuf, SHRAB's "roving archivist" who has guided our preservation path, as well as University Products of Holyoke, MA. for helping us get the most out of the grant funds.