SANDWICH —The Sandwich Historical Society made as much history as it preserved this year, and members celebrated several successful projects during a recent gathering.
Within this past year, the society and an army of volunteers relocated the historic Quimby Barn to the new Quimby Park; Society Trustee Boone Porter and his wife Maggie championed an effort to restore the Niobe statue and the “Great Wall of Sandwich”; artist and interim director Adam Nudd-Homeyer restored the statue which was unveiled at a well-attended gala this spring; and the society opened the Transportation Museum inside the Quimby Barn to house the town's historic antique carriages.
The town's Concord Coach, built in 1850 and maintained well enough to drive, will be on permanent display in a new addition located at the rear of the museum.
“After 100 years, that coach is going to have a proper house,” said SHS President Geoff Burrows during a ceremony on Sunday, Aug. 12, when members, trustees and their guests celebrated these accomplishments at its 93rd Annual Excursion and Picnic.
“In all the time I've spent involved in a historical society, (the Niobe unveiling) was the best and biggest day I've ever witnessed — 300 people showed up that day and it's a memory all of us will remember for the rest of our lives,” he told the crowd.
Burrows said another cause for celebration is the restored Quimby Barn on the former Beede/Frost lot. “Once the barn was set on the foundation, we spent nine months rebuilding,” he said.
Guest speakers included Burrows, member Bruce Montgomery, who gave a talk on the town's gold mine; Porter who talked about the Niobe and the Great Wall of Sandwich restoration, and Nudd-Homeyer.
The town had a gold mine? The presentation included highlights from Montgomery's informative article published in the society's newsletter on the town's Diamond Ledge Gold Mine Company.
“One of the most exciting bits of news to hit Center Sandwich in the 19th century involved the Great Gold Rush on Diamond Ledge. Many locals were skeptical, but the rush was real, and reports of major quantities of gold circulated up and down the state,” said Montgomery. Newspaper reports from 1877 reported the discovery of gold on what was known as White Ledge. Crews worked the mine until 1878, when it was reported to be in a state of collapse. Mining began again in 1903 under the direction of Henry Pasco, a mining engineer.
Montgomery said approximately $50,000 in gold was mined from the location, extracted from chunks of quartz. He said there was much excitement at the time. “You would think we were Sutter's Mill,” he said. According to Montgomery's account, all existing field evidence of the mining operations is on private land. The society does have some remains of a small cart with steel wheels that could have ridden on the rails used at the mine, and they possess some original crucibles for melting gold.
In his remarks, Nudd-Homeyer stressed the value of sharing and preserving history.
“Finding the 'bottle in the wall' is an image that I have. Very often I've lived in older houses … in my own life there have been things that people have tucked into walls of older homes. It's something that at some point someone tucked in the wall as a relic or memento or keepsake. This idea of 'bottles in the wall,' the predominant action when they find that is to say, 'hey Joe come look at this.' The next five or 10 guests that come to your house you'll share this 'bottle in the wall,' thing that you've found, this story from the past.' “We have our speakers and writers sharing their own 'bottles in the wall they've found.' It might have been shards of a statue or pieces of local lore. We brought them out and said 'look at this wonderful thing we've found.' We don't all have a 150 historic landmark in our barn. We may not have a gold mine up a hill, but we all have memories and experiences in us we can share,” said Nudd-Homeyer.
“Heritage is the sharing, what that bottle meant to that person. That heritage gets shared with the town and fostered perpetually,” he said. “And that has happened so many times in Sandwich — that's what makes it such a great community,” said Nudd-Homeyer.
Approximately 100 guests turned out for the event, where many anticipated the arrival of the historic Concord Coach. The society had raffled off a seat on the coach for Sunday's ride, and winning passengers included Robin Dustin, Marshall and Jude Davis, Fran Mauch and Edie Nixon.
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Larissa Mulkern may be reached at LMulkern@newstote.com.