Boylston’s photos emerge from history with family stories
BOYLSTON — Historical figures, collected in photo albums more than a century ago, quietly bided their time at the Boylston Historical Society.
They recently emerged from the past to share their stories, detailed in “Early Settlers of Boylston, Massachusetts.”
The photos were not all hidden, some having been reproduced for the walls of the Sawyer Memorial Library, otherwise known as the Boylston Public Library. But most were hidden.
It took a team of residents, dedicated to researching each individual’s story, to delve into the story and track down information from a range of sources.
The effort began during the pandemic, according to Nancy Filgate, museum curator at the Boylston Historical Society and member of the Historical Commission.
The question then was “how can we involve the people of the city? »
It turns out the answer lay in the archives, photo albums that were donated to the library in 1905 and then donated to the Historical Society when it was founded in 1971, Filgate said.
With the collaboration of the Society and the Commission and the volunteering of residents, the project moved forward, using remote meeting options during the pandemic and tools such as online resources to supplement information in museum resources. historical.
The albums “hadn’t been touched,” Filgate said. “We didn’t know who they were, only that they were on an album together.”
Having photos of Boylston residents in their archives, researchers were able to identify many of the people in the photos.
“Each photo was identified using other photos” the researchers had access to, Filgate said. “The second part was to find out why different people were grouped together in the albums.”
It turned out there were connections, from family to friends, for those who compiled the original albums. They included many Boylston names, those who lived, worked and socialized in the community.
The photographs, and therefore the stories, were based on the mid to late 19th century, but researchers have explored family histories dating back to the founding of the city, and even earlier as well.
It helped that they got help from posts on Facebook and other sources that spread a very wide network, across the country and in the past.
Filgate even designed a training program for new researchers, with two research groups tackling parts of it.
In August 2020, five people initially started the work. The support allowed the projects to expand to document two of the albums.
Tahanto Regional High School students also worked on a subsequent publishing project focusing on Civil War veterans who emerged from the scrapbooks.
“The research project was made possible through the voluntary efforts of townspeople who came together to uncover Boylston’s past through a creative and collaborative effort of public and private organizations. As researchers, we have enjoyed learning about the history of our early settlers and are thrilled to have created this publication that uncovers the life stories of these early settlers,” Filgate said.
By 2021, “we’ve decided to expand the work and think about publishing, because we’re connecting the dots here,” Filgate said.
“It was really fun to do,” contributor Patricia Bartram said, noting that there were three big city families included in the scrapbook.
“It’s been an extremely exciting journey,” Filgate said, “getting to know the people of Boylston and collaborating with a wonderful group.”
“What’s better than your own (story). This is our city,” Bartram said.
Bartram is not originally from town, but since moving in 27 years ago, she has made some of her own family history and developed her research skills. Once retired in 2021, Bartram ended up looking for a whole new set of families.
“Nancy said ‘How about getting involved?’ Her involvement prompted her to join the Society and she was recently appointed to the Commission.
“Once we were done, it revealed everyday people and amazing stories,” Bartram said.
Of note, Edward Moore. Bartram and Filgate gave a colorful account of its history, from Boylston to the Midwest and finally to Seattle. He achieved some fame – or infamy – on the West Coast before his return, although he suffered from his near-death experience. He appeared in a story about Seattle homelessness where he was described as Seattle’s first homeless person, they said.
Others had elusive, albeit more mundane, but equally important stories of their lives.
Much of the work was detailed research, Bartram said, but added, “I love the hunt. It was really fun to think about what was going on in their time.
The project added local resources, including in the Society’s photo release, including local farms and homes that families lived on.
“It was interesting and a lot of fun,” said Bartram, working with other researchers, contributors, and those like Judy Haynes who helped revise the work and “rewrite after rewrite” as the book came together in an effort to collaboration.
The book is fully indexed, but the stories tell stories that bring people to life, the details behind the simple vital statistics that often describe a person’s time on the planet.
The published work was made possible through contributions from the Society, the Commission and the Boylston Cultural Council.
It was a bonding experience that may not be over for the researchers. There is so much more history to explore.
“Personally, it has been a privilege and an honor to work with each of the researchers over the past two years and it is very exciting that he has come to this amazing conclusion for them,” Filgate said.
“The fully indexed publication ‘Early Families of Boylston, Massachusetts’ documents the lives of the people of Boylston and uncovers the struggles and victories of those early pioneers who settled in the wilderness to raise their families. Some of the individuals led what we would probably call a normal average life while others have definitely chosen a more colorful route.
“Everyone’s stories are well documented in this publication. As a member of the Boylston Historical Commission and director of the Boylston Historical Society and Museum, I am delighted to be able to share their research with our residents, researchers, historians and genealogists,” said Filgate.
Among those who contributed were Filgate, Bartram, Haynes, Nadine Ekstrom, Victoria Triolo and Nathan Rollins. Others included students from Tahanto Regional High School: Leah Withers, Elise Poretsky, Julian Baldwin, Paige Money, Jordan Money and Isabella Uva.
Their effort on Civil War veterans is slated for publication in the fall.
Hard copies of the book can be obtained at the Historical Society Museum, 7 Central St., open Monday through Wednesday, 8 a.m. to noon, with a donation to the Boylston Historical Society.
The library also has a copy for its archives and a resident can borrow. But just take a stroll to historic City Hall to pick up their own copy for a relaxing, interesting, and informative read.