Saturday, January 6, 2018


On February 3, 2018 the Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation (NCCHP) will re-create a small scale ice cutting on the pond at 42 Water Street, off of Route 189, in Granville, Massachusetts. The event is being co-sponsored by the Suffield Historical Society, the Suffield Land Conservancy and the Granville Cultural Council. It's been a c-o-l-d winter so far and if the trend continues ice conditions should be excellent.

Dennis Picard, former director of Storrowtown Village Museum, will organize the harvest. Picard owns a complete collection of antique ice cutting tools. During his presentation he demonstrates the finer points of ice cut­ting and explains how to use the specialized tools. Visitors will also have an opportunity to join Mr. Picard on the ice to use an ice-saw or pike pole and learn first-hand about a harvest that provided an extra cash crop for local farmers.

The program will run between 12:00 PM and 3:00 PM. Visitors may participate anytime between those hours. A video on ice harvesting in New England will also be shown continuously in the NCCHP Museum. The museum will be open for tours that focus on the skills and art of drum making. We hope to bring people together to rekindle the community spirit of the farm communities and industrial villages that were common in most of New England. The Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation invites everyone with an interest in “living history” to join us at the museum.

Plan on visiting the ice harvesting demonstration on Saturday, February 3rd. There is no charge for the event but donations will be gratefully accepted. For pictures of last years event CLICK HERE.

For last minute information on ice conditions and status of the harvest visit the museum website ( ) or call 413-357-6321 on February 2, 2018.

Additional historical information:

This area of New England has a long history of ice harvesting and produced a great deal of natural ice during the early 20th Century. Commercial ice harvesting in Southwick and Suffield began right after the Civil War ended. Prior to that time the Hudson River was the major source of ice. For several years the polluted Hudson produced poor harvests and the ice companies looked around for a new source. The Congamond Lakes, favored with good rail transportation on the nearby New Haven-Northampton railroad line, offered a unique business opportunity. The spring-fed Congamond Lakes produced a pure, high quality ice that found a ready market. It wasn't long before the ice harvesters were cutting big blocks and loading them into boxcars for shipment to New York. The Congamond operation became the largest ice harvesting operation in New England from 1900 to 1925.

In addition to the large commercial ice operations, many local farmers harvested ice from their ponds for personal use or as a source of extra income.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Deacon Allyn's Last Ride- January 4, 1860

Today we travel back 158 years to look in on James P. Cooley, co-founder of Noble & Cooley, as he recounts the day's events in his Journal. Typical daily entries make note of the weather, crops, Granville social events, and life as a local farmer/entrepreneur. But a quick glance out the window of his home on Maple Street (now Main Road) turned the day into anything but ordinary (transcript provided below the original image):

"Wednesday, January 4, 1860. 16 above zero... Snows some. About 3 PM Deac. Allen [Allyn] of Montgomery stopt at Rev. Mr. Mills a few moments and started for W. Granville. When he passed our house his head was leaned back over the sleigh. Horse was trotting along. The horse was stopt near the school house, the man taken out. Did not breath but once, was carried to Treats at 7 AM in morning."

"Thursday, January 5, 1860...Mr. Allen's [Allyn] corpse carried home today."

"Deacon Allen" referred to in James Cooley's Journal was Deacon David Allyn, Jr. (1791-1860) of Montgomery, Massachusetts. Married in 1813, he was a farmer and the head of a large family. Deacon Allyn owned over 200 acres of land and left an estate valued at nearly $4000 which was a goodly sum in 1860.

Deacon David Allyn, Jr.
(Photo from
The good deacon's father, David Allyn, Sr. (1759-1841) was a Sargent during the Revolutionary War, first serving as a Minuteman immediately after Lexington and Concord. His militia marched from Colchester, CT. in April 1775 to join in the Siege of Boston which eventually drove out the British forces. Allyn enlisted in the Continental Army when Washington arrived in Boston from Philadelphia with the news of the formation of the Army.

Allyn, Sr. was also serving under the traitor Benedict Arnold when Arnold betrayed his country and joined the British. According to his pension documents Allyn and his fellow soldiers received word from Washington of Arnold's act of treason, countermanding Arnold's battle plan. One can only imagine the shock, dismay and disgust Allyn and his fellow patriots felt at Arnold's despicable act of betrayal.

"History is a big bowl of spaghetti" (having just made that up) with so many stories and histories intertwined, and as if we need proof, consider that at the same time Deacon Allyn's father was marching from Colchester to Boston, Silas Noble (1733-1775, the great-grandfather of Noble & Cooley co-founder Silas Noble, 1824-1888), was also a Minuteman marching to Boston from the Westfield area of Massachusetts. Sadly, Silas Noble died in July, 1775 at the Siege of Boston shortly after Washington's arrival.

James P. Cooley continued writing in his Journals almost daily until his death in 1889. He died in the office at Noble & Cooley with his wife Celia by his side. His business partner and company co-founder Silas Noble died a year earlier in 1888.

As we return to a very cold and snowy January 4, 2018 it is worth reflecting on the expression, "May you live in interesting times," and consider what must have been truly amazing times. It makes a lot of what we consider "interesting" today look pretty tame. But there has been one constant since 1854: the presence of the descendants of James P. Cooley at the helm of Noble & Cooley.

Saturday, December 30, 2017


For Granville historians, here is a link to Digital Commonwealth's copy of a 1794 surveyor's map of Granville. The map is hand drawn and a little hard to read so use the "enlarge" function to get a close up look. You can also download a copy if you wish.  CLICK HERE



Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation (NCCHP)

Media Contact: Elizabeth Smith, 860-830-1244,

Grant will support Preservation of 19th Century Historical Archives

Granville, MA: The Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation (NCCHP) is pleased to announce that it has been selected by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to receive a 2018 Preservation Assistance Grant. The grant is one of 253 supported projects countrywide, 12 of which are in Massachusetts.

NCCHP's grant will be used to assess and preserve the unique and comprehensive collection of 19th century documents, records and books located at the NCCHP museum in Granville. With well over 100 years of material the collection paints a complete picture of life in the Pioneer Valley as the industrial revolution transformed American society.

"We are grateful to the NEH for selecting NCCHP," said Matt Jones, NCCHP President. "Our mission is to tell the story of Yankee ingenuity in the Pioneer Valley, and we depend heavily on our archives to tell that story in the actual words of the people who came before us. The NEH grant will help preserve this important history for generations to come."

The NEH grant will also bring preservation experts to Granville to provide training in archival preservation techniques. These sessions will be offered to other non-profit preservation organizations in the area. Further details will be announced later in 2018.

CLICK HERE to link to the NEH press release.


About the Noble & Cooley Center for Historic Preservation: NCCHP is a non-profit museum located at 42 Water Street in Granville, MA. Additional information is available at

About the National Endowment for the Humanities: Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the NEH and its programs is available at

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Tucked In For The Winter

Although many old toy drums have been moved to better storage conditions in Building 15, there are still many to go! Throughout the move process it seemed as though the remaining drums were multiplying via some mysterious property inherent in Building 14. We tried leaving money up there but alas the mysterious multiplying force only seems to work on dusty old drums.

Due to the unpredictability of 100+ year old roofs the remaining drums have been covered and tucked in for the winter, protecting them from dust, any possible roof issues, and shielding them from further light fading.

Thanks Zachary and Kyle Cahill for volunteering their time in 2017. With their help we were able to complete the shelves in Building 15. In the Spring of 2018 we will begin again!

Click on the image for a larger version (NCCHP photo)

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Christmas, Toy Drums and The Great Depression

The Noble & Cooley company has survived the challenges of many economic upheavals since it's founding in 1854, whether from wars, recessions or changes in trade policy. Few economic events have tested the country as much as The Great Depression which essentially began with the stock market crash of 1929 and lasted until the beginning of World War II.

One of the more common questions posed by visitors during NCCHP museum tours is, "How did Noble & Cooley manage to survive the Depression years?" Because the tour is usually given by a direct descendant of company co-founder James Cooley, the answer is as much family history as it is company history.

In fact Noble & Cooley did well during the Depression, at least compared to the majority of companies. Christmas had a lot to do with that survival. Parents had very little money to spend on gifts. For many even one gift required a serious sacrifice. There were few social safety nets so "doing without" meant exactly that, right down to the basics of life. At the beginning of the Depression many banks were not part of the Federal Reserve system so when the banking crisis struck people could suddenly find themselves broke. There was no Federal unemployment protection until 1935 so when your job disappeared, your income went to zero.  Unemployment exceeded 20% and for those who were not already unemployed there was constant fear that they would be next. It is unimaginable by today's standards.

The result was that if parents could afford that one gift they wanted it to be something large but inexpensive. They wanted something that would make a big impression when it was wrapped and sitting under the Christmas tree. A toy drum offered the perfect solution. Big, inexpensive, flashy. Not to mention interactive. Kids would be able to make big noise with their new drum! What healthier statement can one make than to happily bang on a toy drum in the face of the gloomy economic conditions and family stresses that surrounded children in the 1930's.

And that's the story of how Noble & Cooley survived the Great Depression. For better or worse the days of giving toy drums for Christmas are pretty much a matter for the history books but N&C still makes a limited number of toy drums at the factory in Granville and there are still kids who enjoy them as gifts. There will always be "future drummers" and those who just want to grin and bang on a drum. As for The Great Depression, we are thankful for "The Greatest Generation" who lived through that time and whose strength and character shaped the best aspects of the world we live in.

For a 1938 photo and list of Noble & Cooley employees CLICK HERE.

Thursday, December 7, 2017


Did you know....?

That the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) has digitized many records and images of Granville buildings and places? Currently there are 174 Granville places listed, with downloadable images associated with most of them.

You can access the MHC "MACRIS" database by CLICKING HERE and following the steps outlined on their web site.

Benson's Store, West Granville (Massachusetts Historical Commission photo)
Did you also know....?

That the project to digitize images in the Granville Library Historical Room is up to nearly 500 images? There are many to go, but to see progress to date CLICK HERE.