Singers kick off Carey House celebration

MILFORD – We tend to think of the pre-Civil War era as mostly peaceful, with nothing to

rival the controversies that rage today.

But in the mid-1800s, the issue of slavery was tearing apart families and communities, and Milford, was one of the abolitionist hotbeds.

The parents of Charles H. Burns were excommunicated from their church for their abolitionist activities. Frederick Douglass came here to speak and an anti-slavery convention led by William Lloyd Garrison was held here.

Home-grown abolitionists called the Hutchinson Family Singers, grew up on North River Road and put their voices to work in promoting the anti-slavery cause.

The quartet of Judson, John, Asa and Abby Hutchinson sang in close four-part harmony and toured all over the country. A review in the New York Tribune praised their “simple, sweet and full of mountain melody,” though he didn’t like their choice of songs, which also dealt with women’s rights, workers’ rights and temperance.

It didn’t matter – the Hutchinsons were a hit, the first American close-harmony group to see such success, and they are sometimes called the Beatles of their day.

On April 13-14, three singers will be at the Milford Historical Society’s museum’s first open house of the season. The event is being sponsored by the Milford Rotary Club, part of the Society’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of moving into the Carey House.

“A Visit From The Hutchinson Family” will be held from 2-4 p.m. in the Carey House, on Union Street, located between the Union Street Grill and the First Congregational Church.

As visitors tour the museum, the trio will entertain with the Hutchinsons’ songs and historical facts.

The singers are Steve Blunt, a children’s musician and early childhood music teacher; Deborah Goss a long-time singer of historical music and a member of the band, Proper Ladies, and Marek Bennett, an artist, illustrator and scholar.

Sponsored by the Milford Rotary Club, with coffee from Union Coffee Company, it will be the first in the Society’s 2019 open houses. They all run from 2-4 p.m. and the programs will be presented both days.

• May 11 and 12 On this Mother’s Day weekend, Denise Wright Fox will talk about her grandmother, Winifred Wright, author of “The Granite Town.”

• June 1 and 2: Milford High School’s Honors history class: “Milford’s History of Industry and Innovation”, under the direction of Lindsey Bates. For this month only, the open house is scheduled a weekend earlier because of the Milford High School graduation.

• July 13 and 14: Scrapbook reminiscing. The historical society’s many scrapbooks will be set out for visitors to peruse. Refreshments made from the Society’s cookbook will be served and the cookbook will be available for sale.

• August 10 and 11: Time Rewind …. a presentation of life in 1979.

• Sept. 14 and 15: Milford Quiz … Test your powers of observation. All answers will be readily available in the the museum. Suitable for all ages.

• Oct. 12 and 13: Official 40th celebration, hosted by Nancy Schooley, with a Touch-A-Tool event suitable for all ages. See if you can guess what the item was used for. This will be a hands-on event with parental guidance required for children under 12. Denise Fox will be providing anniversary cakes for each day.

• Nov. 9 and 10: Dr. Alex Gondola will present a program about Rev. Humphrey Moore, the first settled minister for the First Congregational Church. Moore was also a scientific farmer, a state legislator and staunch abolitionist.

• Dec. 14 and 15: A holiday reception to thank visitors, supporters and members. Refreshments will be served.

Kathy Cleveland may be reached at 673-3100 or kcleveland@cabinet.com.