To be, or not to be?: Mason Historical Society considers closing

MASON – The Historical Society has reached a point where some hard decisions must be made about the future of the organization. Should it continue to exist, and if it does, in what form? And what will happen to the collections if the group decides to disband?

“We haven’t tried to hold meetings (this year)” Member Virginia Rafter said on a recent Wednesday afternoon, the time when the Historical Rooms at the Mann House are open to the public. “We’ve just given up.”

Active members are down to about a half-dozen, she said, although there are about 25 on the membership list, some of them “life members” dating from the founding of the society who now live elsewhere. “I don’t even know if they are still alive.”

To arrive at some answers, the society will hold four meetings this year. The first will be on Saturday, April 17, from 1-4 p.m., at the society rooms.

A meeting June 19 will include a walk to Wolf Rock, scene of one of the town’s popular Colonial stories.

On Aug. 21, the group will visit the burial place of the first white child born in Mason.

The annual meeting will be held Oct. 16.

“We have to make a decision about the future of the society,” Rafter said, adding there was some confusion about what would happen to the collections, whether they would go to the state archives or some other organization. The group’s charter and the bylaws do not agree on that point.

The Society was founded in 1972, an outgrowth of the town’s 200th anniversary celebrations in 1969. Members have amassed a large collection of historical information and artifacts, which has been housed upstairs in the Mann House since about 1985.

On Wednesday, Rafter was looking for family information for descendants of a former resident. Her husband, Arthur, was filing some recent gifts, and Barbara Schulz was sorting and storing pictures and documents in folders.

“We get a lot of interest in families,” Rafter said. “We are trying to keep information on families up to date.”

The society is still accepting artifacts, pictures, letters and documents.

“I wish I had more time to read some of this stuff,” Rafter said. “I’m always so busy looking up things for other people. We’ve met people from all over the country,” she added, noting that such visitors are recorded in a guest book. “We had two (descendants) of Ebenezer Hill,” she said, the town’s first minister.

Conversation on Wednesday was wide-ranging, from “Uncle Sam” Wilson, to a former schoolhouse the society would like to acquire, and the present school controversy in town. Schulz said she had attended the Village School when it was one room and eight grades.

The historical rooms are full of the usual type of artifacts: china, toys, a few tools, baby dresses and other items connected with the town. On the walls are portraits, photographs and several paintings of horses done by the late author C.W. Anderson, for whom Andy’s Summer Playhouse is named.

The rooms are open Wednesdays, from 1 to 4:30 p.m.

Jessie Salisbury can be reached at 654-9704 or