Rowe Historical Society
Kemp-McCarthy Museum

The Kemp-McCarthy Museum is a member of the American Alliance of Museums.

The mission of the American Alliance of Museums is "to nurture excellence in museums" by developing standards and best practices to enable museum staffs to achieve the highest level of excellence in serving their communities and the public at large. Valuable resources are now available to us through this organization including professional literature about the issues and challenges that museums face today and in the future.




Welcome to the website of the Rowe Historical Society.


The Rowe Historical Society owns and operates the Kemp-McCarthy Museum located at 282 Zoar Road in Rowe, Massachusetts. It opened on June 30, 1963.


The museum has an extensive collection of local artifacts and antiques. Highlights of the collection include antique quilts, 19th century dolls, period costumes, china and glassware, sleighs, furniture, photographs, cookware, tools, farm implements, and an original 19th century hearse. Exhibits are updated regularly.


The Kemp-McCarthy Museum also has many valuable photos of townspeople and local sites, as well as literature from the Davis Mine, the Hoosac Railroad, and the Yankee Atomic Electric Company.


The Rowe Historical Society publishes The Bulletin, dedicated to the preservation of local history by highlighting "bits of history, old letters, pictures, news clippings and anything of interest to the history of Rowe," and The Rowe Historical Society Newsletter, featuring information on upcoming events and programs.


Many books are published by the Rowe Historical Society, including The History of Rowe, Massachusetts by Percy Whiting Brown and Nancy Newton Williams.


The Kemp-McCarthy Museum is open to the public every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. from July through mid-October, and at other times by appointment. Concerts, holiday celebrations, literary programs, and other cultural activities are held at the museum throughout the year.


Our website also provides useful information on membership in the Rowe Historical Society and directions to the Kemp-McCarthy Museum.

If you've never been to our town or museum, you can learn more about us by visiting  


The Kemp-McCarthy Museum is open every Sunday from July 20 until October 12. The hours of operation are 2-4 p.m.

This page is regularly updated with news about the Rowe Historical Society.


New This Season at the Kemp-McCarthy Museum

*  New Exhibit on Rowe - A Mining Boom Town

*   Three additions to our Historical Research Library, generously donated by Jack Williams of Rowe: A History of the Mohawk Trail (Massachusetts State Highway Route 2) "Mohawks, Model T's and Monuments" by Robert J. Quay; "A Magnificent Monument to Pioneer Masonry Craftsmanship" (the former Obed Peck Home circa 1790), and background information on the appointment of Anne Williams Wheaton by President Eisenhower as his associate press secretary.

* The Hoosac Tunnel exhibit has three new B&M locomotive models on display

* There are several important additions to the museum's collection of Hoosac Tunnel memorabilia, including antique porcelain sold by jewelry stores in North Adams in the early 1900s and original stereo views of the construction of the tunnel

* There is an exhibit on Rowe artist John Marin

* Antique clothing never exhibited previously is now on display

* We have a wonderful addition to our collection of antique clocks. Please scroll down for a sneak preview.

New Exhibit on Rowe's Mines
Sundays from 2-4 P.M.
Kemp-McCarthy Museum
Until October 12

The Davis Sulphur Ore Company, more commonly known as the Davis Mine, operated between 1882 and 1911. It was a major source of sulfur ("sulphur") for use in the chemical industry in the U.S. and Europe. Rowe's ore was especially valuable because it contained a very small amount of arsenic.

You can learn about the mine, the geology of the area, the people who labored there, the uses of the product, the horse teams and teamsters, and even see rocks from the now closed mine.

Plan to come to the Kemp-McCarthy Museum to experience this exciting and informative new exhibit. We are open on Sundays from 2-4 p.m. until October 12th.

This is a great exhibit for all ages! Please join us for this FREE exhibit and learn about this little known but very important part of our local history.

Rowe's Foliated Talc Mine
You're probably noticed the sign opposite the Kemp-McCarthy Museum marking the site of the Foliated Talc Company (1905-1922). Actually, the sign refers to the grinding mill where rock was processed in the large grinding mill on the site. The finished product was hauled by wagon to the train at Zoar. What was the talc used for (besides powder)? What does the talc look like in its pre-mined and unprocessed state? What are some of the surprising uses for talc today? You can find the answers to these and other questions about talc mining by visiting our exhibit on Rowe's mines at the Kemp-McCarthy Museum. Great items, interesting history, and it's all free. Come join us!


Preserving Our Historical Documents for Future Generations

The trustees are working hard to develop effective strategies to preserve our historical documents for future generations. The effects of time, humidity, and other problems have resulted in the deterioration of some of our most important holdings.

Recently, a group of trustees consulted with document preservation professionals at the Williamstown Art Conservation Center. Trustees Ellen Miller and John Magnago (above) are shown at work in the Center.

The next issue of the Bulletin will contain detailed information on this very important project.


Improving and Preserving Davis Mine Photographs and Artifacts

You may have noticed it's been quite some time since the Davis Mine exhibit was updated.

The reasons are many, but foremost among them is the fact that the case is difficult to move away from the wall, and access is possible only through the small sliding doors in the back. It is quite a project to tackle!

Fortunately, the exhibit is currently being updated. The case has been thoroughly cleaned; new signage is on order; and more detailed descriptions will accompany each artifact and photo. Speaking of photos, some of them have faded significantly over the years. Enhanced copying techniques will bring them back to life, and the exhibit is being re-arranged so that everything will be better protected from the light.

Reproduced below is a scan of the faded original photo of the "Davis Mine Band" followed by two enhanced scans; one in sepia and the other in black and white. One of the copies will be displayed, and the original will be stored safely.

When you visit the Kemp-McCarthy Museum this summer, please stop by the "new" Davis Mine exhibit!

The Northampton Flutes Concert: A Review
The concert by the Northampton Flutes was a BIG success! Thank you to Sue Kurian, Nancy Janoson and George Owens for a truly delightful performance. Thank you to the LARGE and enthusiastic audience who filled the Carriage House on a beautiful Sunday afternoon! We will always remember this magical day!

Here are some comments we have received about the concert:

From performer George Owens
"It was an absolute delight to play for such an appreciative audience in such a wonderful setting."

From several audience members (via e-mail):
"Thank you...for bringing a lovely cultural event to town on Sunday afternoon."

"We enjoyed the concert so much."

"Such a venue three miles from home is fantastic."

"The concert on Sunday was such a lovely affair. It was great to have something cultural and of high quality to attend in Rowe on a Sunday."

"The concert was something you would expect on a Sunday afternoon at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; how wonderful to have it right here in Rowe!"

"It was such a nice event."

An Antique Clock with an Unusual History

Thanks to Nan Williams and her antique clock expert friend, Tom Sausville, a new clock has been added to our impressive collection.

This particular clock was found in many broken and shattered pieces in the basement of the museum. It was in such bad shape, Nan asked Tom if he could identify the parts and determine if they all came from the same clock.

Fast forward six months, and surprise of surprises, Tom arrives at the museum with all the original parts fixed and assembled in this truly beautiful clock!

The clock was a wedding present (c. 1845-1850) from Frank Blakslee to Mary Angeline (Blakslee) Bassett and Erasmus Darwin Bassett.

Thank you, Tom Sausville and Nan Williams!

Coming in October on Saturday, October 4, 2014
 at 6:30 p.m.
A Literary Conversation with Washington Irving
Presented by John Anderson
Details coming soon!

John Marin in Rowe

The renowned artist John Marin first came to Rowe in 1918.

He and his wife and small son rented a cabin located near the junction of Dell and Cyrus Stage Roads. The cabin was torn down in 1976.

During his time here he created many notable watercolors. Region Rowe Massachusetts, 1918, recently sold at auction for $62,500.

One critic noted that while he lived in Rowe, Marin created a style of abstraction which probably led to his future success as an artist.

At first, Marin was quite unhappy residing in this corner of Franklin County. He laments the loneliness he felt in this remote rural area, and describes the town as "a place I call God forsaken."

Eventually, his view of the town softened and he expressed his regret at having to leave Rowe and return to New Jersey.

John Marin received many accolades during his life, and is now regarded as the preeminent watercolorist of his era.

Recently, the U.S. Postal Service issued a series of stamps commemorating important American artists and their works. John Marin is one of the 12 artists in this series, Modern Art in America 1913-1931.

Living in Rowe has profoundly changed many people; the gifted and complicated artist John Marin certainly was no exception.

The Rowe Historical Society's collection of information related to the life of John Marin will be on display when the Kemp-McCarthy Museum opens in July.

Grants Awarded

The Rowe Historical Society has been awarded three grants and one large donation for 2014:

Massachusetts and Rowe Cultural Councils: $700 and $405

Amherst Railway Society: $1232

Anonymous Donation $1000

Thank you for your generous support!


A Valuable Collection Given to the Museum

Hoosac Tunnel expert Jerry Kelley and his wife, Gayle, have given the Kemp-McCarthy Museum an exceptionally fine collection of rare postcards and stereo views of the Hoosac Tunnel.

Thank you, Jerry and Gayle, for your ongoing generosity.

Shown below: Image of a Hoosac Tunnel Switcher( from the collection)


Highlights of the 50th Season at the Kemp-McCarthy Museum

The Rowe Historical Society had an exhibit at the huge Amherst Railway Society, Inc. exposition in Springfield, MA in January, and received a $1200 grant for a new display case for the Kemp-McCarthy Museum.

The entire Kemp-McCarthy Museum was cleaned, re-organized and painted. This huge project took many months and countless hours of hard work by the trustees and volunteers.

Deputy Tom Culver (left), and his crew from the Franklin County Sherriff's Office, worked with Trustee Bob Dykeman to paint the interior of the museum.
The results are beautiful, with freshly painted walls and ceilings, re-organized and uncluttered exhibits, and new labels for the displays.
Thanks to the talent and dedication of Kathy May, even our "teacher" had a dress that was freshly laundered, starched and ironed!
Thanks to an anonymous donation of $1000, the Carriage House has all new chairs
Thanks to donations of time, sewing skills and money, we have new, light-blocking drapes in the Music Room.
Volunteer Kathy May spent many hours cleaning and repairing our large and valuable collection of clothing, then packed everything away in special wrapping paper and storage boxes.
Trustee Lenny Laffond discovered many important documents in the basement of the museum; he is shown here with volunteer Nan Williams, who worked closely with the trustees to catalog and organize these and many other items in the collection.
A special sign commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Kemp-McCarthy Museum.
Rowe school students visited the old one room school building that is now part of the Kemp-McCarthy Museum
The Kemp-McCarthy Museum and its programs, like Rail-Fan II, were actively promoted at YMCA and other community events.
Trustees Bob Dykeman, research lLibrary designer, and Trustee John Magnago worked together on this important project.
Trustee Lenny Laffond welcomed Franklin County Sheriff Christopher Donelan to the newly completed research library.
Trustee Helene Glass welcomed Massachusetts Senator Benjamin Downing to the Kemp-McCarthy Museum. Helene's exhibit, "Times Remembered," is shown in the background.
Volunteer Betty Vernes worked on her display of antique hats.
Thanks to Nan and Tom, ALL our antique clocks work beautifully!
The talented musicians of Last Night's Fun provided music at the Kemp-McCarthy Museum's 50th anniversary celebration.
Trustee Helene Glass (left) discusses her "Times Remembered" exhibit with antique clothing expert Lynda Meyer from Adams, MA.
Volunteer Myra Carlos (second from left) explains her house identification project. This picture was taken in the new research library on June 30th, the 50th anniversary of the Kemp-McCarthy Museum.
Barbara Davidson (left) with Cindy Laffond during the 50th anniversary celebration. Massachusetts Representative Paul Mark is shown at the far left.
The delicious anniversary cake!

Pianist Dennis Ainsworth prepared for one of two concerts on the antique square grand piano in the music room. Volunteer Barbara Davidson coordinated these sold-out events.

Rail-Fan II: Tim Lawrence, Jerry Kelley, Carl Byron and Chuck Cahoon. Please visit
Dr. Robert Ousterhout of the University of Pennsylvania came to the Kemp-McCarthy Museum to share his immense knowledge of John Henry Haynes, the Rowe native widely known as the father of archaeological photography. To learn more, please visit
Thank you to everyone who contributed to the truly memorable 50th anniversary season at the Kemp-McCarthy Museum!





Thank you to the hundreds of people who made Rail-Fan a huge success! Read all about it here: