In the June edition of the Granby Drummer, I wrote about Eva Dewey, the curator and archivist for the Salmon Brook Historical Society from 1959 to 1986, who saved much of Granby’s history. In her final nine years she had an invaluable assistant in the archives—Carol Laun, who would go on to transform the Salmon Brook Historical Society into what it is today. Carol, who passed away two months ago, was a dedicated historian and archivist at the Salmon Brook Historical Society as well as a visionary who led projects that would revolutionize how Granby history is preserved and celebrated.
When Eva Dewey died in 1997, Carol wrote a eulogy for her: “She was my mentor, my teacher, my friend. She got me hooked on genealogy and I never knew to thank her or blame her. Recently when I visited Eva, she said it had been a while since my last visit. I replied, I’ve been busy doing your work. She laughed and said, ‘I knew you’d say that!’ But to me, she was the symbol of the Salmon Brook Historical Society.”
Carol would go on to become as much a symbol of the Salmon Brook Historical Society as her mentor was. Carol was already writing her monthly column, Historic Footnotes, for the Granby Drummer before she teamed up with Eva. She was a dedicated student of Granby’s history, collecting oral histories from long-time residents James Lee Loomis, Helen Green, George Tuffin, Bill Hart, Tudor and Laura Holcombe, Seth Holcombe, Mary Edwards and others. She spoke with descendants of notable Granby families such as the Dibbles, Holcombes, Hayes, Cases and Shattucks. As she researched genealogical information for others at the society, she absorbed more and more knowledge.
As conveyed in her monthly column, Carol was always enthusiastic to educate others on Granby history as well as learn it herself. For 47 years, Carol’s Drummer column shared the town’s history on topics ranging from colonial medicinal practices to local school systems. In addition to these written histories, she also delivered talks to local organizations such as the Men’s Breakfast and the Civic Club.
At the Salmon Brook Historical Society, Carol served on the Tobacco Barn Museum committee. In 1984, the society started raising money to make the old Colton barn a museum to demonstrate to visitors what Granby looked like during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Carol and the committee divided the barn into sections, creating small scenes of what a general store, a kitchen and washroom, a hospital and a harness maker’s shop would have looked like, along with displaying other artifacts. The Tobacco Barn Museum took 10 years to complete and tours were given to the public starting in June 1994. Once the Barn Museum was up and running, Carol started on her next project, an Archival Barn.
The Archival Barn had been Carol’s idea since 1987. She originally worked out of the Enders’ house doing her research and knew there had to be a better way to store the documents and artifacts. Her goal was to properly store them, protect the numerous textiles collected over the years, and create a library, to welcome others conducting their own history projects of Granby.
Carol headed a committee to start planning the possibility of an Archival Barn. After securing an architect, the committee planned to create a metal structure with air-controlled rooms to protect the fragile artifacts from damage. In 2005, the SBHS Board approved the project and, two years later, the Preservation Barn was opened. The Preservation Barn houses many of the historical books, artifacts, and textiles that the society owns. The quilts and clothing that the society owns are well cared for, as are the antique books and papers we have. The Preservation Barn was Carol’s vision come to life and for the next 14 years, she would spend hours upon hours in the archives she helped build, continuing to learn, research and educate.
Over the past couple of decades, one could drive by and see Carol’s red Ford Escort parked at the Preservation Barn or the Enders’ house and confirm her presence by her license plate “9Carol.” She spent countless hours at the society researching genealogy, setting up exhibits or writing articles.
All of us at the Salmon Brook Historical Society deeply respected and admired Carol for her knowledge and dedication to Granby and its history. While Eva Dewey saved much of Granby’s history and archives, it was Carol who was able to use that knowledge to teach and inform others.
To learn more about the legacy of Carol Laun, become a member of the SBHS by calling 860-653-9506 or go online at salmonbrookhistoricalsociety.com