Thursday, October 27, 2016

When Halloween Comes to the Museum........

It has been said that if you listen carefully enough to the many drums in the NCCHP Archives collection on Halloween you will hear the faintest of sounds, "rat-a-tat.... rat-a-tat.... rat-a-tat-tat-tat" very slowly at first, then louder and louder until at the stroke of midnight, like thunder, "BOOM!" from the bass drums, followed again by the soft "rat-a-tat" of the snares fading into silence by the break of dawn.

Some say it is the spirit of Phil Collins haunting the place where his famous Noble & Cooley snare drum was created but his new memoir "Not Dead Yet" reminds us he is alive and well. Perhaps the spirits of the old Noble & Cooley Drum Makers Band are having some fun after hitting a case of hard cider, just to take the chill off of course. But in some parts of the world the explanation is simple: talking drums. Each drum finds its voice.

Our NCCHP blog theory on the matter is this: The Archives collection includes not only a wealth of books and documents, but hundreds of toy drums that never left the Noble & Cooley factory. They were never a birthday or holiday gift so have existed for the last 100 years, more or less, as orphan drums. Every year at Halloween the spirits of children who wished for a toy drum but never received one come to the museum and treat themselves to a night of fun, while tricking we mortals with the mystery of the drums. Why else would some claim that the last thing they heard coming from the building with the break of dawn was the mischievous, fading laughter of children?

Just imagination? Maybe. But before writing the story off as fiction consider the photo below, taken of what had been a plain drum prior to Halloween and discovered the next day to have been painted with an eerie Halloween scene, well and truly tricking and perplexing we grown-up mortals. Pretty scary!

The mysterious NCCHP Halloween Drum
(Photo courtesy of Robert Watrous)

Monday, October 24, 2016

1918 Draper Loom Arrives at NCCHP

NCCHP welcomed a new addition to the collection of manufacturing equipment: a 1918 Draper loom. Noble & Cooley President Jay Jones and museum member Tom McCabe took on the task of transporting the loom from Hopedale, MA. to Granville. Matt Jones, NCCHP President, pitched in with unloading it and placing it in the building where it will be displayed once a suitable exhibit can be put together.

L-R: Matt Jones, Jay Jones, Tom McCabe. Unloading at NHHCP.
If the Egyptians could use rollers to build the pyramids, why not? (Carol Jones photo)

Here comes the modern technology! (Carol Jones photo)
The 1918 Draper loom typifies the beauty of late industrial revolution equipment design.
(Carol Jones photo)
Joyce Jones with the 1918 Draper loom. (Carol Jones photo)
Stand by for a future article about the history of the Draper loom. We are seeking contributions to support the creation of a suitable exhibit to feature the loom. As always, your contribution would be most welcome. Better yet, become a museum member! NCCHP is a 501(c)3 charity. For more information go to

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 under the command of the traitor Benedict Arnold, 800 of whom were directly involved in the attack on Fort Griswold at Groton Heights.

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