Lantern walk illuminates South Hadley’s history

by Town Reminder

PVPA students to perform as historic residents

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer

SOUTH HADLEY – Residents can take a stroll though South Hadley’s history Saturday, Oct. 27 during an evening Historical Lantern Walk through the Village Cemetery.
The lantern walk, serving as a fundraiser for the South Hadley Historical Society, will offer an oral peek into the town’s past as six students from Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School perform as six of South Hadley’s most historic residents, giving five-minute monologues near their respective gravestones all the while dressed in clothes from the time period.
“It’s basically a fun night going out and learning about your history in a fun and entertaining way,” said Historical Society Board Member and Trustee Desiree Smelcer.
Helping residents greater understand South Hadley’s history was her main goal when creating the informational but fun event. “By understanding who these people are, they become more real to residents and in turn, history becomes not just alive but part of them and not just part of the town,” said Smelcer.
Walkers will meet:
Josiah Barwell, born in 1778, a salt seller in South Hadley. He was the first to agree on water usage for the first paper mill in the area. He died in 1845.
Joseph Carew, born in 1807, the son-in-law to Josiah Bardwell. He worked at a general store and negotiated with officials in Washington on behalf of local paper mill owners. He and his wife built the First Congregational Church on North Main Street. He died in 1881.
Ariel Cooley, born in 1756, a veteran of the Revolutionary War. He owned the Taylor Mansion on North Main Street. He died in 1822.
Daniel Lamb, born in 1735, a private in the Revolutionary War for three years. He owned nearly 1,000 acres of land in town and participated in the Shay’s Rebellion. He died in 1819.
Mary Lyon, born in 1797, founded Mount Holyoke and Wheaton colleges. Oral lore has it that only half of her body is buried at her Mount Holyoke College gravesite, having been stolen by the girls from Wheaten Seminary. She died in 1849.
Bessie Skinner, born in 1872, the daughter of Thomas Skinner. She taught in South Hadley schools until 1941.
Their names familiar as many a South Hadley street has been labeled after them, Smelcer said the six historical figures were chosen for their significance around town, their interesting backgrounds and the contributions they gave. “We wanted a real history,” she said.
The Historical Society Board Members offered their recommendations and eventually narrowed down their list to these six. Smelcer said she made sure to include two women on the list.
The student-guided lantern walks will begin every 15 minutes, starting at 5 p.m. and last for a total of 45 minutes each. The walks end at 8 p.m.
Residents are instructed to park at the Beachgrounds parking lot and walk across the street to Spring Street where the Village Cemetery is located. Tickets to the Historical Lantern Walk can be purchased on-site at a booth.
Girl Scouts will be selling apple cider and hot chocolate following the walking tours to benefit the South Hadley Historical Society. Food and drink are not allowed inside the cemetery.
Smelcer said the historical lantern walks are both funny and serious yet appropriate for all ages, classifying the event as PG.
She encourages participants to bring lanterns or flashlights with along with them. They should “come with their listening caps on and expect a fun and very interesting night,” she said.
A rain date has been scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 3 from 5 to 8 p.m. in the same location.