June 23rd - 28th, 2015
Westfield State University
AGS holds an annual conference the third week in June. This conference, held in a different location each year, features lectures, demonstrations, exhibits, conservation and documentation workshops, classroom sessions, slide presentations, and guided cemetery tours. The 2015 AGS Conference will be held at Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts from June 23rd - 28th.
REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!
Or download the Conference Registration form located at the top right side of this page.
Westfield is situated in the Connecticut River Valley, a few miles north of the Massachusetts/Connecticut border. Originally part of Springfield, it was among the earliest English settlements in western Massachusetts. The Old Westfield Burying Ground (est.1668) is the oldest surviving Colonial-era burying ground in western Massachusetts. Cindy Gaylord, a member of the local Historical Commission, will tell us about “Ghost Tours” she and other local residents have conducted there. The Burying Ground is located in a thickly settled residential neighborhood near the center of town. It is enclosed within a cast iron fence and the entrance gate is usually locked, but during the conference, on Tuesday evening and on Thursday and Saturday afternoon, the gate will be open.
LONG DISTANCE TRAVEL INFORMATION
By air -- Bradley International Airport, which serves the Hartford/Springfield area, is the nearest airport
By rail -- the Amtrak Vermonter provides daily service from Washington D.C. to Union Station in Springfield, and beyond
By bus -- Peter Pan Bus Lines, based in Springfield, serves much of the Northeast corridor; the Springfield Bus Terminal is located a short distance from the Railway Station
On-campus Lodging: Conferees will stay in University Hall, a recently constructed, air-conditioned residence hall. Rooms are in 4-person and 6-person suites. Within the suites, there are single and double rooms.
Off-campus Lodging: For those who wish to stay off-campus, there are a number of hotels and motels to choose from in Westfield and West Springfield, a short (10-20 minute) drive from the Westfield State University campus.
Lead-Off Speaker: Nick Bellantoni, retired Connecticut State Archaeologist and a long-time friend of AGS, will be the featured speaker on opening night.
Lectures: This year, many of the evening lectures will be about New England gravestone studies. Other topics will include: Sephardic Jewish tombstones in Jamaica; yellow fever in Norfolk, Virginia; Gay Rights in the cemetery; Buddhist gravestones in New Jersey; vandalism in New Orleans; early English emblem books; and unclaimed cremains in Oregon.
Participation Sessions: Classroom Participation Sessions are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday. Participation Session topics will include: cemetery mapping and documentation; cemetery research in libraries and archives; cemetery law; cemetery tours (including “Ghost Tours”); self-publishing; electronic media; and “Stones and Bones.”
A schedule of lectures and participation sessions, along with self-guided tour information, will be posted later this Spring.
Bus Tours: In Westfield, and throughout the lower Connecticut Valley, gravestones were made from sandstone, from the late seventeenth century, well into the nineteenth century. On our Connecticut Valley Sandstone Tour – one of three tours scheduled for Friday, June 26 – we will visit four cemeteries established during the Colonial era. Along the way, Ruth Shapleigh-Brown and Al and Betsy McKee will introduce us to the work of many of the local stonecutters. The first stop will be Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The conference logo is from a rubbing of a stone at the Longmeadow Cemetery. Two of the tour leaders – Al and Betsy – live across the street from the cemetery, in a house formerly owned and occupied by stonecutter Hermon Newell. Longmeadow sandstone was used for gravestones and monuments and for building construction throughout much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. From Longmeadow, the tour will proceed south to Enfield, South Windsor and East Granby, Connecticut.
In the Westfield area, as in much of New England, marble markers and monuments became increasingly popular during the opening decades of the nineteenth century. Much of the marble came from quarries in Berkshire County, just east of the Massachusetts/New York border. There, and elsewhere along the New England marble belt, marble was used for gravestones from the Colonial era, onward. On our Berkshire County Tour on Wednesday, June 24, we will visit cemeteries in the Housatonic River Valley, and view the work of several local marble cutters. We will begin in Stockbridge, then travel north to Lenox, Lanesborough and Pittsfield. Stockbridge (inc. 1739), now a popular tourist destination, was initially, an Indian mission. Some of the local Native American people are buried in the Center Cemetery, and others are buried at the “Indian Burial Ground” nearby. Several members of the local African American community are also buried at the Center Cemetery, including Elizabeth “Mum Bett” Freeman and Agrippa Hull. In Lenox, we will visit the Church on the Hill Cemetery, located on a hilltop, next to the Congregational Church. There, and at the Center Cemetery in Lanesborough, we will see more of the work of local marble cutters – Lemuel Johnson, Elijah Phelps, Elijah Sikes and the Sturges Brothers, to name a few.
During the opening decades of the nineteenth century, as descendants of the English settlers joined the westward migration, immigrants from Ireland arrived in increasing numbers, providing much of the labor force for the burgeoning industrial revolution. Among them was Michael Mullaney, a self-taught folk sculptor who emigrated from Ireland, worked in the West Stockbridge marble quarries, then set up shop in Pittsfield, where he offered: “Sculptural marble . . . of every kind to suit the fancy of the most refined.” At St. Joseph cemetery in Pittsfield, we will see many examples of his work.
Those who choose to go on the Metro-Springfield Tour on Friday will visit other cemeteries established by other nineteenth-century immigrants. In West Springfield, we will visit St. Thomas Cemetery and Beth El Cemetery, located side by side on Kings Highway. At Beth El, Joshua Segal will offer his expert commentary. Next, we will visit Forestdale Cemetery in Holyoke, an industrial city built during the second half of the nineteenth century. At Forestdale, Holyoke’s garden cemetery, Penni Martorell, director of the Wistariahurst Museum, will join us and share her knowledge of the cemetery and those buried there. At Forestdale, elaborate monuments and mausoleums preserve the memory of Holyoke’s elite – most of the people who built the city and worked in the mills are buried elsewhere, in Roman Catholic cemeteries established by Irish, French and Polish immigrants during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. To conclude the Metro-Springfield tour, we plan to visit St. Stanislaus Cemetery in Chicopee. Some of the other cemeteries established by Irish, French Canadian, Polish and Jewish immigrants will be included on the list of self-guided tour destinations.
On Friday, conferees may also choose to visit cemeteries in the uplands west of the Connecticut Valley. On the Berkshire Hills Tour, we will first visit Blandford (inc. 1741), one of four Scotch Irish settlements in western Massachusetts. We will then visit one or two small cemeteries in Chester, then proceed westward to cemeteries in Becket and Lee. On this tour, we will see stones by Connecticut Valley sandstone carvers, schist and marble stones by Elijah Sikes, and marble stones by the Sturges family. As we travel, east to west, and through time, from the late 1700s, into the nineteenth century, we will witness the transition, from sandstone to schist to marble markers and monuments.
STONECUTTERS’ ROUNDTABLE In addition, we will offer a stonecutting demonstration and discussion, featuring four professional stonecutters, on Thursday afternoon. And Bill Harding, a charter member of AGS, has offered to lead a small group of conferees, via car pool, to Bennington County, Vermont, where during the 1970s, he did research on a number of local marble workers.
- Conservation Workshop, Field Session: Saturday June 27, location and additional details tba.
Self-guided Tours: information will be posted a few weeks before conference time
The Annual Meeting will be held on Friday evening, and the conference will conclude with the Awards Banquet, evening lectures and late night on Saturday.
We hope to see you in Westfield in June!