Canceled. Will reschedule. The Battle of the Bulge – 75th Anniversary

Due to predictions for snow this event will be rescheduled. Christian W. de Marcken an American who grew up in Belgium will recall his memories about the greatest battle of World War II, The Battle of the Bulge. Mr. Marken’s wife, Jeanne will accompany him and share her personal journey traveling through dangerous territory. Join us at the Grafton Community Barn, 37 Wheeler Rd. North Grafton, at 2 pm. All military and their families are welcome to share stories from there service days as well. Mr. de Marcken will share some details of Grafton’s own Chuck Wenc’s service. This program is free and refreshments will be served.


Chronology for William Lewis

William Lewis Chronology of Residence and Work

Born February 14, 1819, in Wardsboro, Vermont, son of William Lewis and Deborah (Smith) Lewis.  His father dies December 31, 1831, and his mother dies April 24, 1833.

March 11, 1836, Rindge, NH until Nov. 18, 1837; Begins keeping his journal.  He is 17 years old, and apprenticed to his uncle, Charles Mixer, learning tanning and currying; – he may have begun his training when he was 13. A journal entry April 20, 1837, notes he came to Rindge 5 years ago that day: April 20, 1832.

Nov. 22, 1837, Brattleboro, VT until April 18, 1838; Working for Mr. Goodhue tanning and currying

May 1, 1838, Milford, NH, until June 3, 1838 Working for Mr. French tanning and currying

June 6, 1838, Hillsboro, NH, until June 11, 1838; Tanning and currying

June 16, 1838, Brattleboro,VT, until September 20, 1838; working for Goodhue & Chapin tanning and currying

September 26, 1838, Northboro, MA until October 25, 1838; working for Mr. Davis tanning and currying

October 29, 1838, Dorchester, MA until November 2, 1838; working for Mr. Ball tanning and currying

November 8, 1838, Brattleboro, VT until Dec. 11, 1838; working for Goodhue & Chapin tanning and currying

December 12, 1838, West Brattleboro, VT until April 14, 1840; working for Mr. Beal tanning and currying until Dec. 11, 1839; then out of work , earning some income sawing wood.

April 14, 1840, Templeton, MA until November 29, 1840; Working for Mr. Swan @ $15/month tanning and currying

Dec. 2, 1840, Woodstock, CT until March 24, 1841; Working for Mr. Albert A. Payne tanning and currying

March 24, 1841, Leicester, MA until June 10, 1842; Working again for Mr. Payne tanning and currying. Out of work 12 weeks, Jan. 16 to April 11, 1842, after breaking his arm in a horse and wagon accident

June 13, 1842, Millbury, MA until February 24, 1843; Working for Francis H. Rice tanning and currying. At first is living in a boarding house; then July 18, 1842 goes to board with Mr. Pierce.

February 25, 1843, until September 6, 1843 out of work. Spends time in Leicester and Spencer, Millbury, Brattleboro

May 4, 1843,  goes to Wilmington, VT – is without work and recovering his health – tries to earn money by selling magazine subscriptions without success. Living on his uncle Jabez Smith’s farm in Wilmington – Helps with his uncle and his cousin Reuel Smith with farm work.

September 6, 1843, goes to Worcester, MA to work for Mr. Watson tanning and currying, but business is bad and work runs out September 12.

September 14, 1843, Hubbardston, MA working for Harvey Brown, tanning and currying

August 14, 1845, marries Abby Louisa Kemp in New England Village, [North Grafton] MA and they live in Hubbardston. William is still working at tanning and currying for Brown and for himself.  Abby earns money at sewing / mending, doing laundry, and sewing bed ticks

January 17, 1848, son Collins Winslow Lewis is born.

Gap in Journals Nov. 26, 1850 to Jan. 26, 1853.

September 9, 1850 U.S. Census finds him still in Hubbardston

April 1851 William gives up tanning and begins selling books and Yankee notions.

Sometime c. July 1851 wife Abby’s niece Abby Louisa Bigelow, age 7, comes to live with          them.

The Lewis family is living in Barre, MA by May 19, 1852 as documented in Book/Notions Sales accounts .

Journals resume January 26, 1853. The Lewis family is living in Barre, MA, renting from Mr. Atwood;  April 4, 1853 “moved into Br. Atwood’s new house”. He now works primarily at selling books and Yankee notions and at seating chairs. Abby is sewing ticks, braiding straw, making Shaker hoods. They earn income from “bating” peddlers and horses as well.             

Gap in Journals May 14, 1853 to May 18, 1855. Accounts/Receipts books provide information about his life during these years. Income continues as per 1853.

1855 Mass. Census shows the Lewis family living in the household of Moses Mandell, farmer, age 62. William is listed as “Pedler.” 

Journals resume May 19, 1855. Still renting from Mandell, selling books, seating chairs, and working at haying for Mr. Atwood and others. He is haying and planting potatoes on his rented farm, pig butchering November 1856. Abby is sewing bed ticks.

On his 38th birthday Feb. 14, 1857, William tries to buy a farm, but the deal falls through.

He continues renting the Mandell farm, buys his first cows and begins farming. He stops his book selling route, but continues seating chairs and boarding peddlers. Abby is still sewing bed ticks. He begins carrying milk October 1857. His “old horse” dies May 20, 1858.

1860 U.S. Census lists William’s family and the Mandell family still in same dwelling .

November 13, 1860 he buys a farm on West St. in Barre with 34 acres, and moves there April 1, 1861. William Lewis’s income is now his milk route and milk sales to the cheese factory, selling eggs, poultry, fruit and vegetables to neighbors and local stores. Abby is sewing bed ticks until 1867.   Income for “shakering” (bonnet making) is recorded in 1862-’63 – may include niece Abby’s work. 

In April 1871 C.H. Osgood builds William’s first greenhouse, and a second greenhouse in 1874. William adds sales of plants and flowers to his other farm income from 1871 to c. 1887.

In his later years (1880 – 1895) his income is primarily from sales of eggs and poultry.

Abby Lewis dies February 6, 1894.  William Lewis dies February 5, 1897

William’s Wedding as recorded in his Journal, August 13 – 16, 1845

Wednesday August 13 Fair and comfortable in the morning, but warm in the afternoon. Went to New England Village in the forenoon. I have been waiting with considerable feelings of anxiety for this day, and it has at last appeared and all things seem to work pleasantly with me thus far, but how the next day may pass off with me is yet unknown. 

Thursday August 14 1845   Well this eventful day of my life has dawned upon me, and so far as weather is concerned I am favored far above my fears. This will be one of the days that will be long remembered by me if life is continued, but I can only have the opportunity at present to state the facts in the case without comment.

          At nine o’clock this morning I was married by Rev. I.W. Sargeant of the Baptist church, to Miss Abby L. Kemp of New England Village and started immediately for Hubbardston – got home between five and six this afternoon.

Friday August 15 1845 Another warm and pleasant day. I have spent this day in doing just nothing at all and I cannot find any leisure time for any other business.

Saturday August 16 1845 Continues pleasant, but considerable cooler and very comfortable weather. I am obliged to put down one more day of lost time. Well the close of one more week has appeared, and I have the comfort of feeling that the scenes of this have passed off as pleasantly as I could have any reasonable hopes of.

          I am now a married man and I am placed under new obligations.

Abby Lewis Obituary Barre Gazette  Friday, February 9, 1894.

Mrs. Wm. Lewis died at her home, a half-mile west of the Common, Tuesday noon, of heart disease. She had prepared dinner and, with Mr. Lewis, sat down at the table; after pouring the tea, she helped herself to some bread and was eating when her head suddenly fell on her breast, and almost instantly she was dead. Deceased was a most estimable woman, a kind neighbor, and, in years past, an earnest and efficient worker in the M.E. Church. Especially in the Ladies’ Aid Society was her influence felt. She was a great lover of flowers. Her house abounded with choice plants in winter, and in summer her garden was one huge bouquet of loveliness. Mr. Lewis has the sympathy of the entire community in his irreparable loss.

William Lewis Obituary

Barre Gazette  Friday February 12, 1897, under Barre Items:

“Wm. Lewis, an old resident, died last Friday night, after a long, and, at times, painful illness.  In many ways Mr. Lewis was a unique member of our community; he was very methodical in his habits and work, and everything about his premises bore evidence of his peculiar traits of character.  Mr. Lewis was born in Wardsboro, Vt., in 1819.  His father, whose name also was William, was a native of Dedham, Mass., born in 1789.  Mr. Lewis lived for some years in Hubbardston, after he was married, and it was there his only son, Collins Winslow Lewis, was born in 1848.  After coming to Barre, Mr. Lewis engaged in the peddling of Yankee notions, which he carried about the neighboring towns in a covered wagon drawn by a large chestnut horse.  Taking fright one day, the horse ran and completely demolished the wagon and contents.  Mr. Lewis thereupon determined never to have anything more to do with the horse family, personally, and right well did he keep his resolve.  More than forty two years have elapsed since then, and no one has ever seen him driving a horse although he has carried on a farm of some thirty acres, or more, nearly all that time.  Occasionally he would hire some team help in the spring and at haying time, but as a rule the wheelbarrow and Lewis was all the team he would drive and he drove this steadily and regularly twice each day over a milk route of some five miles.  No matter how stormy, he never failed of being on time, and this business he faithfully followed for more than thirty years.  During the great blizzard of ’88 he nearly perished in the storm, as he would persist in going his regular round to his customers.  Early and late he strove to get a living and pay for his farm.  A few years after the last dollar of encumbrance had been removed he retired from the milk business and busied himself in attending to his poultry and growing small fruits, at which he was very successful.  Both he and his wife were fond of flowers, and their premises were always fragrant with their perfume.  His son, who was an eccentric character, left home over twenty years ago and no trace of him was ever learned by his parents, who long ago gave him up as dead.  Besides his farm, Mr. Lewis left some personal property.  In his will he made special provision for the perpetual care of his lot in Glen Valley and cutting in of his age on the stone which he erected some time previous to his death.  During his last sickness and in fact since the death of Mrs. Lewis, Mr. and Mrs. J.N. Patterson who were very intimate friends of the family, have looked after Mr. Lewis’ comfort and for several months past Mr. Patterson has been in constant attendance upon him.  E.B. Richardson, another life long and valued friend, has also been very kind in his efforts to make the old gentleman comfortable in his declining years.  It was his custom to keep a written account of his daily life and actions, and after his death his executor found a small trunk in which was nearly one hundred small pass books each closely written, and covering the every-day life of this singular man for nearly fifty years.  The funeral was held at the house Tuesday p.m., at 2 o’clock.” 


Lion’s Club visits Society – Wed. Oct 23rd, 7 pm.

Update: The Grafton Historical Society hosted the Grafton Lion’s Club members for a brief business meeting with refreshments and a tour of the museum. Everything went well and visitors learned about town history.



Finding William Lewis, Sunday, November 17th

If you could go back in time to March 1836 would life be much simpler? Join the Grafton Historical Society at the Grafton Community Barn, 37 Wheeler Road, North Grafton on Sunday, November 17th at 2 pm for “Finding William Lewis” The diaries Mr. Lewis penned between March 1836, when he was 17 years old, and December of 1895, thirteen months before his death reveal his life as a tanner, currier, and farmer. Bruce Craven and Christie Higginbottom, employees of Old Sturbridge Village, will share the interesting stories using William’s own journals and over 200 account books and farm records. They will tell the tale of a young man born in Vermont on February 14, 1819, moving through New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Connecticut who took on numerous jobs along the way. By the 1850’s he was traveling throughout towns surrounding Barre, MA peddling books and Yankee Notions. In their Power point presentation we also meet his wife Abby who lived in North Grafton, MA. Thanks to William’s devoted friends, Mr. & Mrs. James N. Patterson along with their descendants these detailed documents have been preserved. Their research project is ongoing and they hope to publish William’s story. This event is free of charge. Refreshments will be served.



September 15th Book Signing for “Electricity”- Canceled

Due to an unfortunate accident where author Claire Gem has broken her arm the book signing will be rescheduled at a later date.


The History of Pies, 2 pm Sunday, October 13, 2019 Capacity for this event has been reached!

Come and sample a piece of pie with us.

This event has reached full capacity. On Sunday, October 13th at 2 pm, Mr. Robert Cox, author of “New England Pie: History Under a Crust” will be at the Grafton Community Barn, 37 Wheeler Road, North Grafton, MA. If its fall in New England perhaps its time for pie? He will share with the audience his unique look at New England through its baked goods. This free event will include taste testing of actual pies following the presentation. Coffee and water will also be available. Mr. Cox is the head of Special Collections and University Archives at W.E.B. Dubois Library, University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Mr. Cox’s interest is in the history of the early national period and the 19th century. The Grafton Historical Society is a non-profit 501(c3) all volunteer organization. For more information about this show, or to reserve a spot please call 508- 839-0000 or email Reservations are suggested.


Women in the World of Frederick Douglass

“Rising Towards Unity … when not all voices were equal” presents Women in the World of Frederick Douglass on Sunday, June 2nd at 2:00 p.m. at the Grafton Community Barn in North Grafton.

Most people know about Frederick Douglass, the former slave, abolitionist, and freedom-fighter whose autobiography remains a monument in nineteenth-century American literature. But, what about the women behind the man who made his life and legacy possible?

Leigh Fought, author of the award-winning Women in the World of Frederick Douglass and professor of history a Le Moyne College, will tell the story of the important women who created and supported Frederick Douglass, including his mother and grandmother, slave-mistresses, two wives, and the many activist women who kept the movement for human right alive.

This is part of a series of events that seeks to raise awareness of the influential role our history of slavery continues to play in the United States as we struggle to achieve a more equal, just, and peaceful society.

Rising Toward Unity will culminate with the Friday, July 5th “Reading Frederick Douglass Together” on the meaning of the fourth of July to a slave.

The Grafton Historical Society, Grafton Public Library, and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton are proud to present these fantastic programs.  For more information visit


52nd Annual Antiques and Arts Show – Saturday June 15, 2019

Saturday, June 15, 2019 the Grafton Historical Society is holding its major fundraiser on the picturesque Grafton Common. Our 52nd Annual Antique and Arts Show will offer a wide variety of vendors selling unique Antiques and Art. Each year we have a few booths demonstrating their craft.

Booths abound with demonstrations and antiques for sale

You can stop by and see Elaine Koleskis canning her chairs or visit with Joanne Beller to watch her weave a beautiful Nantucket Basket. Ken Klapproth will be back with his amazing wooden shaker boxes. There will be hot dogs, chips, pastries, coffee and drinks for you to satisfy your appetite. The Kelly Clark Trio is always a favorite source of leisure music as you stroll along the paths looking for that just right item to take home. The show will run from 9 am – 3 pm and will be held rain or shine. If the weather prediction is for heavy rain we will move our location to the Millbury Street Elementary School, 105 Millbury Street.

Your $5.00 admission fee helps the Society bring you great programs throughout the year.


“Sarah Sartell Prentice: The Immortalist” April 5, 2019 1-3 pm

Join us at the First Friday Tea April 5, 2019 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm at the South Grafton Community House at 25 Main St in South Grafton to hear author Amy Belding Brown tell the story of Sarah Sartell of Grafton.

Illustration of colonial life in New England

Sarah Sartell Prentice was quite a character. According to F.W. Pierce’s History of Grafton, when her future husband Solomon Prentice “courted” her, they sat on the trunk of a tree in the woods, and he proposed to her in the language of Naomi to Ruth, and she accepted him with Ruth’s reply. Never a dull moment in Sarah’s life. The Historical Society holds a piece of her wedding dress as well, woven in the late 1600’s, one of the oldest artifacts at the museum.

The author of the presentation, Amy Belding Brown, lived in Grafton from 1994 to 2011, and wrote her first historical novel, Mr. Emerson’s Wife, there as well as doing the research and early drafts for her 2014 novel, Flight of the Sparrow.  She became interested in the story of Sarah Sartell Prentice while doing work with the historical records of the Grafton Congregational Church.  Sarah lived at a time of great religious ferment and was an important figure in the Separate Congregational Movement in Massachusetts at the time of the Great Awakening.  Hers is the remarkable story of an independent woman who defied her religious traditions and lived a radical life that scandalized her neighbors.

Irish breakfast tea, pastries, fruit, cheese, and gluten free items will be provided, along with fancy teas served in beautiful antique porcelain teacups – it’s a tea after all!

$5.00 and RSVP: make a reservation by calling 508-839-0000 or email Brought to you by the Grafton Historical Society.


RESCHEDULED: Rising Towards Justice – Abbey Kelley Foster, Sunday March 24, 2019

Sunday, March 24, 2019, 2 pm at One Grafton Common Great Hall, actress and activist Lynne McKenney Lydick will bring abolitionist Abby Kelley Foster to life in her inspiring one-woman play, “Yours for Humanity — Abby”.  NOTE: the snow date of Sunday, March 24th has been triggered due to the snow on the original date.

The play is based on the letters and speeches of Foster in 1854, during a time of many social and political differences in our country. Hear Foster  deliver her powerful orations against slavery and prejudice, which helped to change the views of many.

Early Abolitionist

Abby Kelley Foster (1811-1887) was a radical abolitionist, women’s rights activist. Her first National Woman’s Rights Convention in Oct of 1850 was held in Worcester, MA where she lived along with her husband Stephen and their daughter Alla.

A member of the Western Anti-Slavery Society, she dedicated her life to social justice, spending nearly 20 years traveling across the nation as a lecturer for the American Anti-Slavery Society. It was through the membership of this society that Foster knew Sarah and Ridgeway Haines, of Alliance, OH who were also dues paying members of the Western Anti-Slavery Society. She and her husband, Stephen S. Foster, also an abolitionist, would stay at the Haines House in OH when they were speakers.

The society’s annual meeting in the 1850s was held alternately in Salem, OH and Alliance, OH. The Haines land would temporarily house a tent that accommodated large crowds. A report from the Anti-Slavery Bugle said that 3,000 attended over a three-day weekend. 

See how one person can effect extraordinary changes in society by sheer determination, perseverance, and hard work. Abby’s House, a shelter for women opened in Worcester, MA in 1976 is named after this influential woman.

First of Four Programs in the “Rising Towards Unity” Series

The first in a four part series, “Yours for Humanity – Abby” has been funded by Mass Cultural Council. The sponsors of this four part series are: The Grafton Historical Society, The Grafton Public Library, and the Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton & Upton. The Grafton Public Library will coordinate this spring’s Community read with related books from March through April.

For further information please call 508-839-0000 or email us at Look for future information about our additional “Rising Towards Unity” programs in 2019:

  • April 28 (Sunday) – The Life of Frederick Douglas
  • June 2 (Sunday) – Women in the World of Frederick Douglas
  • July 5 (Sunday) – Reading Frederick Douglas Together

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Grafton Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.