Today’s Salmon Brook Historical Society (SBHS) began modestly, humbly housed in the basement of the old Granby Public Library (presently the Granby Food Bank operated by the Farmington Valley Visiting Nurses Association). Seventy-five years ago, in 1945, a group of residents began meeting in the library’s Historical Room under the leadership of Ethel Robinson Linnell, professional genealogist and historian.
Mrs. Linnell, the organizing force behind the fledgling group, took on the role of curator, in charge of keeping records and cataloging acquisitions, planning exhibitions, and researching objects and collections.
She led a committee that included Miss Ever Green and Judge Theodore G. Case. The following is taken from one of her early typewritten reports, entitled The Granby Historical Room.
“The purpose of the Historical Room is to preserve material relating to Granby History, which will show its origin and the part played by its people in making it the town it is. To bring happiness to older citizens, by recalling memories of the past. To show children the ways of another day. To help the newer residents of the town, who wish to learn something of Granby’s history.”
There was popular support for such a group; Granby’s older life long residents were generous in their gifts of artifacts, books and documents of historical import. Mrs. Linnell established reference and research centers. Exhibits and displays gradually filed the room. Residents came to explore and to add contributions to their town’s history.
When Linnell retired in 1958, she turned her energies toward ensuring the long-term sustainability of the group. She and Jessie Guay began the process required to form a nonprofit organization with tax-exempt status. Incorporation was achieved in 1959 with the legal help of Granby native, Judge William M. Maltbie, former Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. The position of curator then passed to Eva C. Dewey who was subsequently designated curator for life. She served from 1959 to 1986, when the position passed to Carol Laun, who holds it to the present day.
Current Mission Statement
Revised and approved by the SBHS Board of Directors on 22 August 2005.
The Salmon Brook Historical Society is an organization of volunteers dedicated to procuring, preserving, presenting and celebrating the history of Granby.
The society is committed to educating the public on the importance of preserving the town’s heritage and its historic buildings and landmarks.
208 Salmon Brook Street, Granby, CT
A permanent home for the society was established through the gift of the Abijah Rowe House by sisters Mildred Colton Allison and Carolyn Colton Avery in 1966.
The Rowe House is the oldest structure left intact in Granby from the time of the original Salmon Brook Settlement. It was probably built by Nehemiah Lee who sold it in 1750 to his son-in-law Peter Rowe, who sold it to his brother, Abijah Rowe, in 1753. The Rowe brothers were both blacksmiths, and may have made some of the hardware presently seen in the house. Abijah Rowe lived there with his wife, Deborah, and 11 children until his death in 1812.
The home is a 2-1/2 story wood frame structure, with central chimney and clapboarded exterior. The paneling and corner cupboard in the south parlor are original to the house while the corner cupboard in the north parlor exemplifies early 19th century remodeling.
The Rowe house was restored to an early 1800s appearance through use of items from the Bunce Collection, which consisted of artifacts from the Granby area accumulated by Laura Dibble Bunce (1838-1916). The Bunce Collection was donated by Mrs. Bunce’s granddaughter, Miss Mary Edwards, in 1975 and accounts in large part for the authentic ambiance of the house. Edwards recollects that her grandmother “…was an enthusiastic collector of antiques in the Granby area from 1890 on, going to auctions and watching porches and woodsheds for pieces, buying ‘things’ for pennies (broken or not).” Mrs. Bunce eventually raised the roof of her home, making an attic room for her “things”: “…spinning wheels, warming pans, wrought iron items of all kinds, quilts and baskets.” (from notes of Curator Eva C. Dewey, 1975)
Moses Weed built his home in 1790 in the hills of West Granby where his family cleared and farmed the land. It was eventually used as a hunting cabin by John Enders who purchased it in 1924. Following the establishment of Enders State Forest, the Weed-Enders House was rescued from demolition through donation to SBHS by the state of Connecticut.
In comparison with the Rowe house, it is a modest single story wood frame structure with central chimney and a parlor finished in Victorian style. Upon its move to SBHS property, it was attached to the Rowe house by means of an attractive architectural plan, allowing access to both structures from within the society entrance without sacrificing the character of either.
Of the 13 one-room schoolhouses in Granby, Cooley is the only one which has not been renovated into a private residence or fallen victim to deterioration due to lack of maintenance. It was built in 1872 on the corner of East Street and Cooley Road in North Granby. An interesting aside: although the schoolhouse itself was in Granby, the boundary “notch” wherein Massachusetts dips down into Connecticut abutted the backside of the building, necessitating students to use an outhouse located in Southwick, Mass.
Merrill Clark donated Cooley schoolhouse to SBHS in 1972.
After 1948, when the one-room schools in Granby were closed, they were auctioned off; the desks, chairs and stoves were sold. Merrill Clark’s father acquired the schoolhouse which represented a piece of family history: he had attended the school, his wife had taught 15 years there, and Merrill himself had attended grades one through nine.
Following the building’s move to SBHS property, a 19th century schoolroom was recreated, complete with wood stove, water bucket and dipper, an 1855 Connecticut map, and the mandatory portrait of George Washington. Granby’s second graders visit SBHS every year. They tour the Rowe and Weed houses and the Tobacco Barn. They play with reproduction old-time toys and games and get to write their names with a quill pen dipped in ink. In the schoolhouse, they sit at vintage desks, open vintage readers and geography books, and write in chalk on slates once used in Granby District schools.
The Colton-Hayes Tobacco Barn, built in 1914 by Fred M. Colton, was given to the Society by his daughters in 1976.
Within the 30×128-foot structurelives a microcosm of Granby’s past: the vast space is divided into sections, each highlighting an aspect of bygone days: an exhibit of local Indian artifacts; a collection of early quilting, spinning, and weaving tools; recreation of an early Meeting House (ecumenically created from parts of Granby’s early churches); a village store; a dressmaker’s shop; a shoemaker’s shop and a kitchen equipped with apple-peeler, iron stove and ice box.
Granby’s rural farm heritage also resides here: farm tools and machinery; sleds and sleighs; hay rakes and hay forks; carpenter tools; items used in cider mills and grist mills, in blacksmithing and maple sugaring, in bee keeping and ice cutting; and a tobacco production exhibit.
The mail for the Bushy Hill-Barn Door Hills neighborhood was delivered to the Mail Hut, a diminutive shelter resembling an outhouse during the 1860s and into the 1900s before Rural Free Delivery functioned fully throughout America’s farmlands. Mail was left in a bag which was hung on a hook. There was a shelf and whoever got there first looked through all the letters and postcards as they searched for their own.
The busybody matrons of the area kept a close watch on correspondence and used to criticize young Addie Holcomb for writing to too many soldiers during the Civil War. Addie complained about the nosy neighbors in her diary (property of SBHS) in 1862.
For years members of SBHS had dreamed of having a multi-purpose building. This was not to be a typical building with office, storage room and a bathroom. The perfect structure was clearly defined in members’ minds.
It would provide climate-controlled rooms for textile storage and for archival books, documents and photographs. It would also include large open spaces into which presently-crowded barn exhibits could move; additional room would be designated for items that needed repair, for those used in rotating and future exhibits, and for artifacts taken on traveling exhibits.
Donations were sometimes being refused for lack of space: such a building would solve that problem. A staff room would have kitchen facilities and be large enough to accommodate tables and chairs for a group of 20. A library would hold books, genealogy files and historical research files. There would be handicapped-accessible bathrooms, which could be used during Flea Markets.
The dream became reality when, in 2005, a Building Committee was formed. It was chaired by Curator Carol Laun and included Jean Potetz, Charlie Dickson, Seth Holcombe, Brian Whiton, Dave Laun and Bill Vibert. At the April 2007 Annual Dinner, Laun announced that the building was nearly complete, and by fall of 2008 the building was in full use. It has three levels on a 40×80 foot foundation and contains 7,000 square feet.
The Wilcox House, barn and 45-acre property is located in West Granby at 147 Simsbury Road. It is the only 18th century house in Granby which has been continuously lived in by descendants of Sadoce Wilcox (1737-1776) who built it. Steve Wilcox Hastings (1938-2020), the last owner, sold it to the Granby Land Trust which will preserve the 45 acres while SBHS preserves the house.
It is a typical center-entrance, center-chimney Colonial. The second floor and attic are unchanged since 1787. Water and electricity have been added but it has never had heat save that generated from three fireplaces and several stoves. One bathroom was added in the mid 1930s. This is a prized addition to the society’s properties with proposed uses including tours and theme exhibits, such as a loom and weaving room.
Since 1959, 20 persons have served as presidents of the society. Terms of one- and two-years were common, but many of the seven women and 13 men held the position for four years. William Vibert, active in myriad Granby civics groups, is notable as having served three separate terms, for a total of 10 years.
The Salmon Brook Historical Society is staffed solely by volunteers. A core group of approximately 20 gather every Thursday morning. There is always a working list of repair and maintenance projects for Dave Laun and his crew. Several women, under the direction of Textile Curator Jean Potetz, clean, repair and research donated vintage clothing and other textiles. Donated articles, referred to as accessions, are recorded on index cards. If it’s flea market time, Ellen Cunha and helpers are sorting, cleaning and pricing contributions. Curator Carol Laun and Assistant Curator Martha Korostynski field phone calls, meet with prospective donors, and deal with never-ending piles of paperwork.
On a periodic basis, the Thursday group gathers around the table in the kitchen, in assembly-line formation, to prepare the newsletter for mailing. At 10:30 a.m. sharp comes the welcome break—time for goodies and camaraderie. The kitchen becomes like a home full of noisy children, competing conversations resounding across the community table. It’s the SBHS family.
Recipients of the Ethel R. Linnell Award
Each year the society presents the Linnell Award, named for the first curator, Ethel Robinson Linnell, at the annual meeting in April. Fifty-five persons who have made outstanding contributions have been honored.
Due to the corona virus, the May Spring Flea Market and the two events scheduled for June—the Car and Engine Show and the Ice Cream Social—have been cancelled. Sunday Tours, which would have commenced on Memorial Day, have been suspended until further notice.
The Fall Flea Market to be held on Oct. 17 remains scheduled at this time.
Todd Vibert, President
Richard Zlotnick, Vice President
Roger Hayes, Treasurer
Carol Laun, Archivist and Curator
Martha Korostynski, Assistant Archivist and Curator
Board Members: Karen Antonucci, Howard Berg, Ellen Cunya, Peg Giles, Diane Hernsdorf, John Horr, Whitey Johnson, Lynn Lochhead, Kathy Morgan, Bill Ross
Jean Potetz, Textile Director
Virginia Wutka, Education and Tour Director
Five great reasons to join the Salmon Brook Historical Society
1. To act on your belief in the importance of preserving the past
2. To pass on your belief to your children and other young people
3. To feel that sense of community belonging
4. To take part in social opportunities with those who share your values
5. To get in the holiday spirit at the annual members-only Wassail party
Presidents of the Salmon Brook Historical Society
1959 Sandra Barnes
1960-61 Brewer Dean
1962-63 Ethel Wilson
1964 Robert Spear
1965-66 Brewer Dean
1967 Herbert Chittendon
1968-69 Polly Hall
1970-71 Marge Gracey
1972-75 Harry Lanser
1976-79 William Vibert
1980-83 Dorothy Lockwood
1984-87 George Tuffin
1988-92 Carol Reid
1993-96 William Vibert
1997-2000 J. Holden Camp
2001-2005 Carol Bressor
2005-2006 William Vibert
2007-2009 Charles Dickson
2009-2010 Robert Schrepf
2011-2012 Ken Kuhl
2013-2014 William Ross
2015-2018 Rich Zlotnick
2019-2020 Todd Vibert
Ethel R. Linnell Award
1976 Eva Dewey
1977 Mildred Colton Allison
and Carolyn Colton Avery
1978 Helen and Brewer Dean
1979 Ethel Wilson
1981 Mary Edwards
1982 Carol Laun
1983 Warren Whiton
1984 Helen Green
1985 Leila Hawken
1986 George Freese
1987 Polly Hall
1988 George Tuffin
1989 Dorothy Lockwood
1990 Edward Rosier
1991 Mac and Bill Wilson
1992 Seth Holcomb
1993 Carol Reid
1994 Tim and Carolyn Leach
1995 Jim McDermott
1996 Bill Vibert
1997 Russ Covell
1998 Evelyn Hildreth
1999 Grace and Dick Ayer
2000 Ed Wells
2001 Ruth and Ronald Robinson
2002 Rusty Kniffin
2003 David Laun
2004 Bob and Tica Jones
2005 not awarded
2006 Bill Haslun
2007 Fred and Melba Griffin
2008 Jim and Nancy Olsen
2009 Carol Bressor
2010 Pat Vibert
2011 Jane Ann and Bill Pease
2012 Chris and Cheryl Klemmer
2013 Jean Potetz
2014 Paul and Lorraine Dewey
2015 Sally Markey
2016 Roger Young
2017 Jim Oates and William S. Hart
2018 Roger Hayes
2019 Todd Vibert and family