By RACHEL RAPKIN
Sunday, June 21, 2015
CHARLEMONT — This past weekend, Charlemont celebrated its 250th anniversary and received a memorable surprise commemorating the town’s history.
According to the event’s co-chair and long-time resident, Kim Blakeslee, the town received the best birthday gift that could be asked for — the original town charter, in as pristine condition as possible.
“I looked and I looked and I looked and I couldn’t find the Charlemont Proclamation anywhere,” Blakeslee said. “I asked the state representative, Paul Mark, if he could get this for us, and he got it. It’s a beautiful gift and will hang in the selectmen’s office in the Town Hall.”
Both state Rep. Mark and state Sen. Benjamin Downing spoke in recognition of the town’s accomplishments and the honor it’s been to serve the residents.
“One of the great privileges Paul and I share in representing (Charlemont), is that special sense of community that you just don’t get in bigger towns and bigger cities,” Downing said.
To kick off the celebration, Mark read the proclamation that was established all those years ago on June 21, 1765.
“Be in hereby is erected into a town named Charlemont and that the inhabitants thereof shall be invested with all the powers, privileges and immunities which the inhabitants of the towns of Providence do enjoy,” Mark read out loud.
The town was also recognized and congratulated by the state with the presentation of an official citation.
“Be it known that the Massachusetts Senate hereby extend a congratulations to the citizens of Charlemont Massachusetts in recognition that the joyous and auspicious occasion of Charlemont semiquincentennial anniversary and be further known that the Massachusetts Senate extend best wishes and continued success …”
Residents of the town are proud to call Charlemont home, and that feeling was represented by Doug Johnson, who has lived in town for 15 years and dedicated a song to the place he and many others hold dear to their hearts.
“I just researched a little bit of the history and looked at where town’s going,” he said. “It starts from the beginning and looks forward to the future.”
To best look back at the town’s 250 years of history and culture, one headed to the museum located on the second floor of the Town Hall, which was full of artifacts dating back to the Revolutionary War. Here, visitors could imagine the lives of their town’s ancestors through the displays of dusty sepia photographs, small wooden desks for the school children, everyday household items such as a hand-crank wooden washing machine and vacuum cleaner among many other artifacts tucked into every available nook and cranny.
“It’s amazing that people saved all of these things, and I’m so glad they did,” Town Historian Joanne MacLean said. “I believe just about everything here came from families in Charlemont.”
MacLean said there are some objects with similar equivalence represented in the museum, but each one has its own backstory that makes it unique. There were a few sewing machines on display, but one in particular, epitomized the hard work of the women in the top floor of Avery’s General Store. It sat by an unfinished men’s suit.
“Men would be able to look at pictures and choose a suit and the ladies on the second floor in Avery’s store would make the suit,” she described. “I wasn’t going to take the sewing machine because I already had a few, but once I heard the story, of course I had to take it.”
To continue sharing the history of the Charlement, MacLean said, “I started thinking, we should start saving what we have now, for future generations.” Museum hours are by appointment only.