Oral History Cover Sheet
Narrator: Penelope Grant
Interviewee: Robert Steck
Tape # 72 A & B
Place of Interview: The Scoville Library
Summary of talk:
Relatives coming to Salisbury, places of interest, Maple Shade. Barackmatif Farm.
Meaning of the word Barackmatif, Hessian soldiers, village up on MT. Riga. Dutch first settlers down by Dutchers Bridge. Indians settling in 1700 by Weatogue Road. Ore Hill Mine discovered in 1731 by colonial prospectors. Swiss and French came, history booklet, family history. Andy Fox, Fox Hunter bottled water. Hunter photos donated to the Scoville library. Salisbury stores and horse carriage shed, childhood memories, play concerts at the Town Hall, summers in Salisbury, the Grove owner. Raggie meaning, her education, teaching, volunteer work, influencing teacher, financial assistance groups in Salisbury.
Date: April 14, 1989
Property of the Oral History Project
The Salisbury Association at the Scoville Memorial Library
Salisbury, Conn. 06068
RS: April 14th 1989 Scoville Library, Salisbury
RS: Let’s start with your name, your full name.
PG: Alright I’m Penelope Grant of Salisbury.
RS: Your maiden name was what?
PG: My maiden name was Penelope Hunter.
RS: You go ahead with what you want to…
PG: Ok, well I was thinking back almost a hundred years ago to the time when my grandmother had came to Salisbury from New York City. I thought she really started a trend in 1900, the New Yorker coming to Salisbury because she had heard it was so beautiful. She brought with her, her fifth and youngest child her only son who was the only child of her second marriage. She had been twice widowed. By her first marriage to a Mr. Robert Temple Emmet she had four daughters.
RS: Robert Temple Emmet can you spell the last name? Yes EMMET.
PG: She had four daughters who in 1900 were all in their early twenties. They were Mary, Rosina, Ellen and Leslie. Ellen and Leslie had been art students and were at this point painters, starting out their careers, as painters. So these girls were pretty much on their own, but my grandmother didn’t want her youngest child a boy of eight to grow up in New York City. She came here stepped off the train in Salisbury, and went to the nearest Inn which was The Maple Shade. It’s now The Ragamont. From that day on she didn’t leave Salisbury very often. She liked it so much she bought a farm which she named Barackmatif Farm.
PG: Matif from the mountain
RS: Would you spell it?
PG: Yes there are different spellings but one is BARACKMATIF or two Fs .That is a common spelling of it. Her farm was the first house on the Taconic road when you turned off route 44 going towards Taconic. It’s still called Barackmatif Farm. She
sold it to a Mrs. Scoville of the Scoville family. Now Mrs. Scoville’s great granddaughter lives in it. Olena Firuski Gigeaux lives there. There’s been a great deal of discussion about the origin of the name Barackmatif because no one has any real…
RS: Just before we leave your grandmother I just want to get a couple of, your grandmother’s name was what?
PG: Oh yes my grandmother’s name her maiden name Ellen James Temple. She married Christopher Temple Emmet, and they were first cousins. Her second husband, Mr. Emmet died: the second husband was a George Hunter of Glasgow Scotland. He came to this county. He designed golf courses. He was the first American golf champion, but he didn’t like the United States. After a few years he went back to Scotland. So my grandmother was on her own.
RS: She came to Salisbury approximately what date?
PG: I think it’s in 1900’s.
RS: In the 1900’s?
PG: She left New York,
PG: In 1900 she left New York in 1900 as I said almost a hundred years ago.
PS: Then you mentioned that she took a train to Salisbury?
PG: Yes from Grand Central Station to Salisbury, the station you know where it was. It was right down behind the Congregational church. She could walk just a few hundred feet to what is now The Ragamont Inn. It was then The Maple Shade Inn.
RS: Right, right now you wanted to go on with the Barack
PG: People are interested in the name Barakmatif. Quite a bit of mystery surrounds it. Some people say it must be of Dutch origin, but Winifred Van Dail, who lives here and is Dutch, says she can’t see any connection either in the word Barack or Matif to the Dutch language. I am very interested in the theory of Ronald Solan who lives here in Salisbury, went to school here. He wrote about the origin of the name recently in The Lakeville Journal. I am going to read this. I think it’s worth preserving. Just North of Salisbury along route 44 there is an elongated bridge known locally as Barackmatif by some and Bartmitif by others. The name has been obscured by time; the suggestion that the name is of Dutch origin is not correct.
Mountains or mountain systems incorporating the word Barack are common through- out this region from the Catskills to Long Island Sound, which suggest more than ordinary significant to the word. Since the word is the key I assumed the word could be researched and I scoured dictionaries of Cymrick and Gaelic which would have been languages presumably spoken and understood by members of British exploration parties several hundred years ago. Now I could digress on that because at the time of the Revolution the Hessian solders were encamped on that flat field right below Barackmatif. Well of course they were German, but still they were British fighting for the British. There were camps below the mountain. Now to continue with Ron Solan he said in McAlpin pronouncing Gaelic dictionary I found the word Beorlock, pronounced Barick, an adjective meaning pointed or perameter. It is interesting that every terrain feature named Barik in part from the Baricks in the Catskills to Barackmatif and Barik Mountain across from the Housatonic Valley Regional High School contained within its system one or more hills distinct from mountain peaks which are definitely of shape bases in a valley. These peramital hills are all located although routes of travel such as the Hudson River, Housatonic River, or valley which would have been the route of travel when no roads existed. These hills would have made excellent reference points for exploration parties and travelers. Due to their unique characteristics they would not be confused with mountain peaks such as Bear Mountain. One could confirm this by observing Barackmatif from Route 44 north of Salisbury. Go look out point from the regional high school. As a dramatical conflict between noun and adjective would not have been the first time adjective became a noun.
RS: You mentioned the Hessians one of the things I picked up that other people have mentioned is that the Hessians perhaps had subsequently or even during the war had settled on Mt Riga. Do you know anything about that?
PG: Yes I have heard during the Revolution Hessians were around here. They hid out here and also on Mt. Riga because that Taconic range, Mt. Riga is part of the Taconic range, really made a barrier between the Oblong Valley which runs north from Millerton. They felt safe here.
RS: Were they the first settlers there?
PG: No they say the first settlers here were Dutch who came over from the Hudson River. On route 44 going to Canaan that flat land there below the Housatonic three Dutch families lived there. They called it Dutchman’s Bridge or Dutchers Bridge so they say. The Dutch were the very first.
RS: In that connection are you acquainted with stories about an “Ancram Screamers” or scream of Ancram?
PG: No I’ve only read about it.
RS: Oh you have read about it.
PG: I read about it .1 heard about the “Ancram Screamers” in Mt. Riga stories, but that’s all. I just heard those stories.
RS: What is the essence of the story?
PG: I’d have to look it up. I think it’s in someone’s oral history.(l#19A Harris Rossester, # 21B Mt. Riga stories) I think Lou Burgess would know about it she’s done a lot of research in this “Highlights in the History of Salisbury, CT” It says in 1700 it was a wilderness destined to become 38,761 acre town of Salisbury. 1720 Dutch settler Ruluff Dutcher purchased land from Indians along western bank of Housatonic River and called it Weatogue. Weatogue is at the foot of Smith Hill.
That was an Indian tribe. 1731 Ore bed discovered by colonial land prospectors. It’s all in this small booklet “Highlights of the History of Salisbury Conn. 1700- 1981.”
PS: Very good, you mentioned that your grandmother had four daughters. I assumed one of them was your mother?
PG: No, no my father was their younger half- brother. This is my father’s son. My grandmother had four daughters and a son.
RS: Oh I see
PG: They were his older half sisters
RS: So that the son is your…
PG: My father
PG: My grandmother’s son is my father. No my mother was Canadian; she came from Toronto. My mother was born in Winnipeg.
PS: But could you trace her history? Did you know your grandmother on her side or grandfather on her side?
PG: Yes I could. She had Huguenot ancestors. There was a Lord Enjelbert.
RS: Could you spell that?
PG: ENJELBERT My mother’s middle name was Enjelbert. There was a Lord E. and Huguenot from France who went to Canada.
RS: Your family on both side settled quite early in the Unites States or Canada?
PG: Yes, yes fairly early. My mother’s father was a Canadian pioneer. He went west with the railroad to the pacific coast then came back in Canada. Yes, they were quite old settlers.
RS: And on the other side your family were also early settlers? You mentioned that your grandmother had come from New York. Do you know anything prior to that time?
PG: Well, my grandmother’s family the Temples go way back in English history. I’ve never really followed it back. Then there was a Lord George Grenville of Stamp Tax fame. My father was Grenville his name was Grenville that came down through the family. Then my grandmother’s middle name was James she was related to Henry and William James the writers.
PG: My father grew up here, and he loved Salisbury. He had a wonderful life as a young man because they hunted and fished and rode horses. He lived only a half mile from the Salisbury School so when that was founded by Dr. Quaile. My father went there for his high school years. Below Barackmatif Farm in the valley where the stream runs down from Fisher Pond and becomes Moore Brook. Before the village it becomes Moore Brook and goes on toward Lime Rock. As it gets towards Lime Rock is slopes down the hill. There was a spring of beautiful fresh water on his farm down in that valley. He had a neighbor named Andy Fox He and Andy Fox bottled this water and sold it. They called it Fox Hunter Spring Water, (see #3J Parker Sylvernale) until laws appeared saying they shouldn’t just be bottling it and selling it. They did that; then they gave it up, but they say it is still wonderfully pure water.
RS: Now your father was he the photographer or was it your grandfather?
PG: No my father was the photographer. Grenville Hunter and he in the 20’s. He said, “I would like to take as many picture of old characters and interesting people who live around here and assemble them and keep them.” Unfortunately he died very suddenly when he was forty, so he never finished that project but he left about 800 negatives. He was a self- taught photographer, but he had a good camera. He left all his negatives. A few years ago we picked out 50 of them and gave them to the Salisbury Association to keep in their archives: pictures of old characters and old fields.
RS: Of all the things that were mentioned in some of the oral history was the Shay’s Rebellion which touched in this area. Were you around?
PG: No, because they didn’t come here until 1900. My grandmother didn’t come here until 1900. Those 50 photographs of the Grenville Hunter collection belong to the Salisbury Association.
PS: There in the Scoville library?
PG: Yes in the Salisbury Association.
RS: People can see them there. They were published in the Lakeville Journal when?
PG: This Winter we had a show of here in the gallery in the library and the Lakeville Journal wrote it up. Then we had at show in Noble Horizon. At the moment 10 of them are hanging in the Town Hall. Charlotte Reid wanted to put them in the Town Hall.
RS: Alright now we’ll move into your growing up here
PG: My parents were married in 1914.1 was born in 1915 when they were living in what is now Robin Leech’s house across from St. John’s Church. My earliest memory is of the Maple Shade Inn which was across the road from us. In 1918 when my father was in the service, we lived at the Maple Shade. It was owned by an elderly woman named Ida Russell and her son Will Russell. My earliest memory is Will Russell used to take me buggy riding in it, and that was very exciting. I remember how the village looked when I was very young. The stores are still there, but it’s now the Conn. Yankee (Passports, 2011) where George Clarke’s grocery store was. Next to it a small building was a barber shop.
RS: I noticed in one of the photographs that your father made that. The Clark store is now the bank where I go to bank.(SB&T)
PG: Two stores, two stores The Conn. Yankee (Passports, 2011) was his grocery store and what is now the Salisbury Bank was his dry goods store. There was a barber shop in between small buildings.
RS: There were open spaces between the buildings.
PG: Buildings that don’t join; they don’t touch. Yes the building now the bank was his dry goods store. The pharmacy was the pharmacy and the post office was incorporated; it was attached to the pharmacy. Sam Whitbeck was the owner
during my childhood. I will always remember over the front door of the grocery store it said “oleo margine sold here” but it never occurred to me to ask anyone what oleo margine looked like. It made a big impression on me. Behind all those buildings in the village were carriage stalls for people who came into town in their carriages. Those are very picturesque. Where Shagroy (LaBonne) now stands, there was a ring of carriage stalls where people could leave their horses and carriages during the day. So many of the roads at that time were dirt roads. We lived half way up Selleck Hill. In the spring there were times when people couldn’t, simply couldn’t get out without walking. The farmers had rubber wagons that they could use, but those dirt roads made a big difference in your life. I remember we had kerosene lamps in my childhood on Selleck Hill. I remember Miss Julia Pettee. Miss Pettee who lived on the top of the hill always walked.
RS: How do you spell her name?
PG: She wrote the history of Salisbury PETTEE her father or grandfather was a well- known ironmaster. I suppose it was her father but I’m not positive. Joseph Pettee was a famous ironmaster up on Mt. Riga. I remember on Selleck Hill there was a unique spring, which bubbled out of the ground, called Boiling Spring. It was right where the woods near the pasture land going up Selleck Hill. We knew where there was this spring. It boiled up through the grass. It was quite a sight, whether it’s still there or not I don’t know. It was hard to find.
PS: It was not a hot spring was it?
PG: No it was a cold spring. It came up right through the sand. It was utterly pure just boiling up through the sand. It wasn’t in a pasture so it was it was clean. We didn’t live here after we became older. We didn’t live here in the winters because my father went in the advertising business. First he was in Schenectady with the General Electric, and then we moved to New York City. Though our schooling was in New York City, we spent our summers here. This is where our roots were.
RS: About how old were you when that had started where you didn’t spend the full year here?
PG: I was about 8 years old. We were really summer people at that point, but this was the place that we loved. I remember as a child here how important the library was, and now it was really was the most exciting place in town. That big reading room as you come in was the meeting room, the hall. It had a stage where were sitting now. They had lots of performances here of all kinds.
RS: Amateur or professional?
PG: It depends all kinds lots of amateurs, concerts, plays that local people put on. There was a stage in the Town Hall as we all remember before it burned. There was a stage there; and there was a stage here. It was a very nice those windows were on either side. I was thinking back to my childhood how simple our lives where compared to the lives of children now. We were just left we were just left to amuse ourselves.
RS: Describe a typical day as well as you can.
PG: Well we lived outside the village on Selleck Hill. We were just turned loose to amuse ourselves.
PS: What time did you get up in the morning?
PG: Oh Bob I suppose when our elders got up, we got up. pretty early. I would think, probably eight o’clock, something like that.
PS: Did you have chores to do?
PG: We had little household tasks. Yes, we had, but we didn’t have any animals. Now when Frank and I had children, we had animals because we thought it was good for the children to take care of them; to take care of different kinds of animals.
PG: It was summer vacation I think we had a pretty easy life, but we were left very much to ourselves. We really played in the brooks and the streams, I remember that vividly. We played up and down streams.
RS: Did you play any particular games of any kind?
PG: No, we built little miniature houses and docks and had little boats. It was a very simple life when you think about it. We had bicycles, but we walked or biked almost everywhere we went. I do remember our parents took us to Lakeville Lake every afternoon. There were bath houses. What is now the Grove was called Timmons. It was owned by a man called Timmons. I think George Timmons owned the Grove. He had wooden fishing boats, and canoes and bath houses so Timmons was the swimming place.
RS: When did it become a public place?
PG: I don’t remember; we’d have to ask. I think that’s when it was given to the town by Mrs. Belcher, Mrs. Roy Belcher. She bought the Grove and gave it to the town, but I imagined the land originally was owned by the Rudd family. I would think so because Hollywood at the Rudd place a joins it so I don’t know when it
RS: When you say we played together is that brothers and sisters or friends?
You had friends in the area?
PG: Oh I had one sister and friends I had one sister Emma; and I had cousins. I realized that our social life was revolved mainly about our family. It was very family oriented, but I remember in the evenings we just played games, charades.
RS: What kind of games?
PG: Well Charades, different kinds of drawing games, and people games writing different things. We had a wind up Victrola and we had a magic lantern.
PS: Oh magic of course
PG: You remember magic lantern? That was big stuff.
PS: Magic lantern that’s where you put a slide…
PG: You could project into the light. You could project at a wall I can imagine pretty well. My aunt had a stereopticon camera which when the films were developed, they were side by side. The image was side by side, and when you looked at it through a special holder, the lenses it produced one three dimenional image and we found that very interesting, three dimensional pictures. We spent a lot of time on Mt. Riga because my father had helped the Warner family build their camp which was called Lotus Lodge.
RS: Lotus Lodge right?
PG: That’s what made me think of Lotus. It was called Lotus Lodge after the lotus eaters because if you ate the lotus, you became forgetful and forgot all your cares and relaxed.
RS: Like Ulysses you didn’t get home for twenty years
PG: Exactly, exactly. Mt. Riga was very wild in those days in my early childhood. We would go in buggies and wagons up to Mt. Riga, but the road was the same then as it is now, very steep and difficult. I remember the Memorial Day loomed large in our life at that time I particularly remember that lilacs were always in bloom. Children carried in one hand an American flag and in the other hand a bunch of lilacs to put on the graves. Now lilacs are usually gone by Memorial Day which may show a change in climate. In those days we didn’t have mocking birds or cardinals
or blue birds in the winter, here, now of course we do. On Mt. Riga there was a
beautiful low growing plant called trailing arbutus, which was even then quite rare and protected. It grew low under leaves. It blossomed in March and had a wonderful scent. It was very exciting plant.
RS: It was called what?
PG: Trailing arbutus, ARBUTUS trailing arbutus. One man who lived on Mt. Riga every spring would send us a little bunch of it in the city, packed with wet cotton. If there is any more Arbutus it was an endangered species, but it was a lovely, lovely plant. I also remember the gravel path that ran between Salisbury and Lakeville which made it easier for people to walk.
RS: Along the main road?
PG: Along the main road, this side of the road.
PS: Did you attend school at all in this area?
PG: No I never did; I never attended school here.
PS: Now you talked about the Memorial Day Parade. Is there any one experience that sticks out above all others?
PG: Well I don’t remember any big event you know; a fire or an alarm of any kind.
RS: There was a fire in 1903 and 1913 but that was before…
PG: That was before my time. I have heard about those fires. I don’t remember any really big event. Going on Mt. Riga was the most exciting thing we did because it was still very wild and remote.
RS: Still very wild and remote. You mentioned the carriage place as a…
PG: Carriage shed
RS: Were there any behind the Congregational Church?
PG: I think so, but those houses were there.
RS: Oh there were houses there,
PG: I think they probably had to walk over from there.
RS: You mentioned that someone, was responsible for the iron production up on Mt. Riga.
PG: Oh the Iron Master Joseph Pettee was a famous iron master.
RS: Was the furnace operating up there? The one that is still up there at the time?
PG: No, that was shut down in the middle of the early 1800’s. It was in its heyday during the Revolution that furnace. They had to bring the iron ore up the mountain; then they had to take the finished product down. During the Revolution they made part of the chain that was stretched across the Hudson River, took it down the New York side. They made the anchor for the U.S.S. Constitution and the Constellation and the Constance those big sailing ships, the Constitution and the Constellation. They made the anchors for them. The original village of Salisbury was on Mt. Riga. Lakeville was called Furnace Village in the early days because there was a furnace.
RS: Furnace Village
PG: Furnace Village because of the furnace there which was owned by Ethan Allen’s brother Thomas Allen. The Allens were a big family. Ethan Allen lived at the north end of Salisbury and so did Mr. Moore of Moore Brook. Samuel Moore II was a surveyor and Alexander Hamilton came to Salisbury. When he first arrived in this country he went to Columbia University; (King’s College) but he came up here and lived with Mr. Moore, and studied surveying.
RS: Now this was pre-revolution?
PG: No Alexander Hamilton, wasn’t he in the late 1700’s? (1/11/1755 to 7/12/1804)
RS: Well, he participated in the Revolutionary War he came from Saint Croix right?
PG: He came from Saint Croix I didn’t know that he was in the war. When was he supposedly shot by Aaron Burr?
RS: That was after 1800. (1804)
PG: But he lived here for awhile. The first village was on Mt. Riga. They had a school, a store and a burying ground, but they never had a church so people came down to Salisbury to go to church. There was a church here, Congregational.
PG: First the iron ore was discovered in 1730 and in 1732 the land was surveyed and divided up. The first town was on the mountain and had everything a town needed. It was a thriving community. The Swiss, and the French, and French Canadians came because they understood charcoal burning and how to farm. I’ve heard accounts of a ball that took place in the ironmaster’s house which was quite grand: balls at which Hessian soldiers danced. After the revolution better ore was discovered in other ore beds in other parts of the country. The difficulty of getting stuff up and down the mountain closed the mine down rather early. A lot of people were out of work. Many people moved down to the valley, but some stayed on Mt. Riga. Here we have the origin of the people who are called today “the raggies” That was not a derogatory term . Mt. Riga is not called Mt. Rega because some people say it was named by Latvian’s who came from Rega in Latvia. Others say it was named by the Swiss who came from a department in Switzerland which had a mountain called Reegee different spelling. The Riga spelling is the same as Rega. Nobody really knows why it’s called Riga. Therefore if you were called a raggie, it simply means you lived on Mt. Riga. It doesn’t mean you’re a ragged person, or a bum. True raggies here, the old families, are very proud of their heritage. Many of them stayed up there hunted, fished, and trapped. They didn’t get much schooling probably. I don’t think the school closed down until sometime in the 1900’s. So to be a raggie was a very proud thing.
RS: Yes I had learned that. Now you were coming here summers and did you continue to do that until you came here back here permanently?
PG: My father died in 1932 when I was in high school. I went to college and then I married. I didn’t live here until we came back in 1979. My mother had stayed here, so I always came here but didn’t spend a great deal of time here…
RS: What is your educational background?
PG: Well it’s not very interesting. High school in New York it was a very good school; it was an awfully good school.
RS: It is
PG: Bryn Mawr College and then I went into teaching.
RS: You taught in?
PG: I taught in different cities.
RS: But you had a specialty didn’t you?
PG: Yes I taught children who had difficulties with learning language disabled or dyslexic children.
RS: At when did you come back here?
PG Frank and I meet here. It was here he used to visit my cousin. We came back in 1979.
PS: Is Frank a native from here?
PG: No, he was born in Texas; his father was an army career.
PS: Oh that’s right.
PG: But we did meet here.
PS: Now do you recall by changes that you found when you came back. Did anything strike you that you could note?
PG: The one thing that struck me 10 years ago was that it didn’t seem to have changed a great deal. It still had its flavor of a country town. It still had a lot of what you might call old families, families that had been here a long time. It’s a great feeling for the town, but of course I am very much aware of what we call weekend people, part time people that is bringing, great change to the town.
RS: Well did you note any physical changes in the town that struck you particularly?
PG: I don’t really think so. Everyone liked it in the days when there were quite a few shops in Lakeville. That was nice. Most of them were useful shops grocery stores.
RS: Where you could get s spool of thread.
PG: Yes exactly. It’s remarkable at first glance how little it really has changed I mean Hotchkiss School certainly got bigger, but they were there. Some hotels have disappeared .There was a hotel called The Wononsco House. The real name of Lakeville Lake is Lake Wononscopomuc. There was a summer house, three stories Victorian summer hotel called Wononsco House at the top of the hill in Lakeville looking towards the Gove. It’s not there now, next to the Holly Williams house. It was a large Victorian summer hotel.
RS: When you grandmother started coming up here, this was kind of a resort place wasn’t it? Lakeville?.
PG: Well I wouldn’t think so. Norfolk was more of a resort. People came from Boston, but they didn’t really seem to come here. I guess the train came from Boston. Of course it came from Hartford.
RS: Now the train here to Salisbury came from New York?
PG: New York but it went right on. You could go to Chicago. You could connect with the whole country. It came up from Grand Central it was the Harlem Valley Line. It came up to Millerton and went on to Pittsfield and North Adams, but there was branch coming to Salisbury. What struck me was how little it seemed to change, but when you lived here, you’d feel the changes. I find the countryside very wild still. You can get lost.
RS: Good walking places good hikes. Do you have anything in your notes you want to add?
PG: I don’t think I really have Bob.
RS: I was interested in a town hall meeting participation.
PG: Oh yes. Well speaking of the Town Hall it was the perfect home for the town. I suppose it still is. It had that large meeting room, and they use to have theater performances because it was a big hall.
RS: They had those when you were growing up?
RS: But when you came back, they were no longer had meetings?
PG: They had meetings, yes. Do you remember they had talks. I remember in my growing up years that all of us participated in plays. We talked of being in them. As a child I wasn’t too aware at the time the town hall was very important.
RS: That’s interesting that they had all those activities.
RS: It would be good to have them today.
PG: Yes I don’t want to denigrate the new town hall, but I think it’s a shame there is no big meeting room to hold enough people.
RS: Tell us something about the organization and how you got involved in the library art and those wonderful art showings.
PG: Let me just go back a few years.
RS: Yes please do.
PG: At that time in the town everyone participated in something. It was a cohesive town. You knew everybody and everyone seemed to participate in something. Now I fear it’s much too big a line perhaps between the haves and the have nots. I don’t think as many people go to church. There are a lot of churches here. Churches were quite a focal point in our lives. Perhaps because there are so many new people here you don’t have that feeling of cohesion in the town where everyone knew everybody and probably everyone helped everybody.
RS: The population is weekenders.
PG: Tremendous extension
RS: The two focal points by cohesion you call were the town hall and the churches and the attendance of both you seems to indicate…
PG: I feel perhaps the attendance of churches has fallen off or though maybe.
RS: I want to know how the library art showing were organized. How you got involved?
PG: We came back in 1979, and he had just designed the gallery in the library. It had never had a gallery before with walls to hang things and good lighting. At that time they were looking for someone to perhaps organize the shows. They asked me to do it, I was doing it; I am giving it up now so
RS: You’re giving it up?
PG: Oh I’m giving it up.
RS: Who’s doing it?
PG: Well I had done 86 shows consecutive shows. I said I thought it was time for change. I thought it was important to have someone who worked at the library be on
that committee just to be involved so the library is more intimately involved with the shows. I suggested a new the committee. The committee I had, hadn’t been very active; they were artist, charming, and interested, but not willing to work.
PG: The library had been designed, but there was no one putting on a show. This was my last year of it. There is a committee two people who worked at the library Holly Daboll and Ibba Williams and Martha Plat from Taconic. That’s the new committee.
RS: Now when you were asked to start it, how did you go about starting it? What did you do?
PG: Well they had, had some shows. It was sort of casual by good artists. It just landed in my lap. The first show was December 1980 and then there was no show for January for the next year. The North West Connecticut Committee for Nuclear Disarmament, the NCC& D, was being formed. One of the organizers had a marvelous show that he knew about; about the dangers of Nuclear Warfare so that was the first show. Who was that guy, Robin Banderson?
RS: Gary Chasmen
PG: Gary Chasmen had marvelous panels that he was able to get. They were very professional portraying the dangers of Nuclear War. That was our first show .The Danger of Nuclear War, and we just went on from there. We have a record of the shows we’ve had.
RS: They were outstanding.
PG: Some of them were yes. The artist should have some connection with Salisbury life some connection. If a person wants to show, we don’t want to say no, you’re work isn’t ready, your work isn’t good enough. We have never had to turn anyone down for any reason .We don’t want to because it is a community thing a community service.
RS: Valuable, very valuable
RS: Also you do volunteer at Noble as well, what do you do there?
PG: Oh yes, many hours at Noble. They have a large print library at Noble. There is an organization at Noble called the Auxiliary to which people belong. They do it for love. They look for volunteers from the auxiliary. The library has volunteers one morning a week, many of us take turns. It’s well organized by way. The library had had about 500 large print volumes. I volunteer Wednesday mornings. They have
two church service a Catholic mass and Episcopal communion. So many people in wheel chairs and can’t walk; they have to be taken to the services. I visit, and I work in the nursing wing and just do what’s needed to get to know the residents. I try to bring the outside world into their lives again.
RS: I know that on occasion you also read with Martha Briscoe?
PG: Oh yes I did yesterday, yes a wonderful woman.
RS: You’re a participant in a peace vigil. You are involved in many interests in the community.
PG: It’s a wonderful life here. I belong to a French group. We work very hard in that; six people with a teacher in the French group, which is very interesting I belong to the Older Women’s League or OWL which is trying to improve the lives of older women, particularly in this country who seem to get the short end of the stick in many ways.
RS: You have a philosophy towards community commitments. Was that something you grew up with, or was there something in your life that triggered this?
PG: Well, I think partly my education it was very broadening .My education was always expressed don’t be narrow in your life; reach out as much as you can.
RS: Were there any heroes or heroines in your life, a teacher or someone that had had an influence this way?
PG: Well definitely a teacher named Millicent Cary Macintosh; she was a niece of a woman named M. Cary Comet who founded Bryn Mawr College and was supposed to succeed her, but she went off on her own instead. Millicent Cary was named after her aunt. Cary Comet, who was an educator, was head mistress of The Bramley School in New York. She married Rusten Macintosh, who was a pediatrician, headed Baileys’ Hospital .They had five children: two very interesting people. She was the head of my school then she became the head of Barnard College, I did not go there, but she was a great inspiration in my life.
RS: What would be your hopes for the future of this town of Salisbury?
PG: I think it’s very important for people to look out for each other. Love your neighbor as yourself, that’s what the world needs, the common good. You must be very aware of the needs of others. I had been so blessed during my life with material things and education opportunity. I’m sorry that so many people are part time residents because to me that isn’t a really viable town. That’s how it is now. The
average person is helpful as much this in this town as in any town. You have the Housatonic Mental Health Center. Public Health Nursing Service and the churches do a good deal. The churches I think could do a lot more. They have The Bissell Fund which helps with catastrophic medical bills. They have “Family Services”. In this town there always seems to be a place to turn for help where you will get help.
RS: Just to pursue that a little what advice would you give to young people who are moving up here? It’s getting so difficult for them isn’t it?
PG: Yes. The sky rocketing real estate prices has made it so. Young people are all too aware of the fact that they can’t live here. They can’t afford to live here unless they have good jobs right in the town. There aren’t enough although for everyone. It’s a resort town I would say an affluent resort town, which I think is too bad.
RS: Yes I would agree with you. Is there anything else that you can think of or that you would like to add?
PG: This is such an affluent community but in a study which was printed in the Lakeville Journal a year or two ago ranking poverty in the towns of Conn. Salisbury and Sharon were near the top of the list as having the most poverty.
RS: As having the most in the Northwest corner?
PG: No in all of Conn. Yes in all of Connecticut.
RS: Let me get that straight.
PG:I better check to make sure on that but ranking the towns the percentage of poverty among
Salisbury and Sharon were very high on the list. Let me check. I think it included Bridgeport, New Haven, maybe not. That was rather chocking in the journal. Phil West was the minister of the Sharon Methodist church and did so much. I have a newspaper article he wrote about Sharon Valley. Salisbury is particularly fortunate in having a full time social worker. Sharon is hoping to get a part time social worker.
RS:Is there a particular area in Sharon?
PG: Sharon Valley, they call it Sharon Station.
RS:In Salisbury is there a particular area?
PG:No, I think Farnam Road has been. Everything has been upgraded. Where they have gone I
don’t know. Ore Hill always was a popular area. I also belong to the Church Women United which is an ecumenical group of all churches. There are 12 churches in this area that belong of all denominations.
RS:When you say 12 churches, are you including Cornwall?
PG:I’m including Cornwall, Sharon, Lime Rock, Falls Village, Lakeville, and Salisbury and the two
Congregational churches. We also have Amenia; they wanted to join, Presbyterians. Our thrust is poverty in this area. What can we do? We put out a booklet to tell you all the places people can get help. Women’s Emergency Services does a great deal. That’s for women who are abused. They are having a very interesting night here. This coming Friday the 21st it’s called “Women as Artists”. WES is putting it on. They have 4 women speaking: Rebecca Dispell, Martha Vinaways, and Sabrina Granberry. They are having short movies by Dora Relfee and different people, just for women.