History of the Society

The Heath Historical Society (HHS) is one of the oldest historical societies in Western Massachusetts.  The history of the Heath Historical Society is indelibly linked with the Old Town House built in 1834 by David Snow as a result of the Massachusetts Legislature’s passing the 11th Amendment to the State’s Constitution separating church and state. Town meetings were held in the Town House until about 1897. In 1898 and 1899 there were proposals to sell the Old Town House, but some of the townspeople, led by Flora and Mary White, wanted to establish a historical society.  

At a Town Meeting on November 7, 1899, the Heath townspeople voted to perpetually lease the Old Town House as a proposed historical society site as soon as such society could be formed. With this incentive, the Heath Historical Society was founded on August 11, 1900, with ten Charter Members.​

The Town then leased the Old Town House to the Society on August 31, 1901, for a period of 199 years. The Society filed for incorporation with the State and on August 18, 1902, the application was approved. An organizational meeting of the Heath Historical Society was held at the home of Mary White on June 23, 1902, to adopt a Constitution and Bylaws and to elect officers. The Constitution provided that Annual Meetings were to be held in July or August, a practice continued to the present day. The first Annual Meeting in the Old Town House occurred on August 21, 1903.

Flora White

Organization and Purpose

The Heath Historical Society, Inc., is a 501 (c) 3 not-for-profit corporation and is staffed entirely by volunteers. The purpose of the Society is the to preserve the history of the Town of Heath  
  • by maintaining significant buildings and historical sites (i.e., the Old Town House, the Center Schoolhouse, the Solomon Temple Barn, and the Fort Shirley site);
  • by maintaining the collection of any and all articles of historical interest connected with the Town of Heath; 
  • by acquiring, protecting, identifying, and marking historical sites and homes in town;
  • by encouraging historical research and the publication of its results;
  • by cooperating with the public schools for educating the youth about the history of the town;
  • by preserving documents, relics, and individual records of the patriots and early settlers of the town; and
  • by maintaining a place where relics, documents and historical records related to the town may be seen and studied by the public.

President Ned Wolf

BOARD OF DIRECTORS - 2020-21

President – Ned Wolf

Vice President – Claire Rabbitt

Treasurer – Bob Viarengo

Secretary – Nina Marshall

Curator – Christine Luis-Schultz
Directors – Kara Leistyna, 
Heather Hathwell, 

and Jack Estes (Webmaster)

Museums and Historical Sites

Today, in addition to the Old Town House, the Society’s properties include the one-room Center Schoolhouse, built in 1867 and purchased from the Town in 1970 for the sum of $1.00;

 

 

 

 

 

the 18th-century Solomon Temple Barn, donated by the Rev. & Mrs. Richard Gary, moved from Avery Brook Road, and reassembled at the Heath Fairgrounds in 1994-5;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and the site of Fort Shirley, located on Hosmer Road. The Fort was built in 1744 to serve as headquarters for the Line of Forts during the French and Indian War. No visible signs of it remain, except for a small marker on the grave of the military chaplain’s seven-year-old daughter Anna Norton, who died there in 1748 of an unidentified illness. The fort ceased operation in 1749. The land was purchased and donated to the newly formed Society by Felicia Emerson Welch in 1910. Today the actual site of the fort is bounded by a split-rail fence and there are informational signs and benches to accommodate visitors and picnickers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The Society’s three museum buildings are open by appointment and at various announced times. For more information please use our contact form, email us directly at heathhistoricalsociety@gmail.com or call 413-337-4778 and leave message.

Note: The Solomon Temple Barn Museum is open during the three days of the Annual Heath Fair in August. It could also be opened for special groups or historians who would like to look at the artifacts it houses. For more information please use our contact form, email us directly at heathhistoricalsociety@gmail.com or call 413-337-4778 and leave message.

 

Collections

 

The Society’s museum buildings house a wide variety of artifacts and farming implements reminiscent of Heath’s long agricultural background. On display in the Old Town House are a pewter flagon and plate donated to the town by the Revolutionary War General William Heath, for whom the town was named. In addition, there are manuscripts, fragile documents, photographs and drawings of early Heath families.

 

The Center Schoolhouse contains school artifacts and furniture and even a small library of genealogical and historical information available to researchers.

 

The Solomon Temple Barn Museum exhibits hundreds of farm tools, equipment, and machinery as well as trapping gear. A fine collection of looms and other weaving accessories are also on display on the upper floor of the Barn; many larger artifacts, including a wide variety of harvesting devices, are located on the lower floor.

 

Approaching the Fort
Anna Norton's Headstone
Gravesite of Anna Norton

The Heath Historical Society is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization.

We are primarily supported through donations and membership dues and through the sale of our note cards, publications, etc.