The 25th Anniversary Celebration of the Berlin & Coos County Historical Society took place on September 6, 2015 in the Maynesboro Stud Barn on East Milan Road. Not only was it a gorgeous day to have a party celebrating our success, but it was a journey down memory lane for our many members and friends who came to help us celebrate on this beautiful September Sunday. The pristine location of the barns served as a testament in time of the many generations Berlin families who toiled and labored to make Berlin a good place to live. The backdrop of the Presidentials only help to enhance the celebration of the day. Exhibits of the Brown Company, prepared by Raymond Daigle, graced the inside of the barn and many photograph books added to the many conversations of the day. Many of us had hoped that a day like this would come true, but 25 years ago, our sites were on creating the organization and making it last.
In March of 1990, a small group of interested citizens met at Berlin City Hall to incorporate an organization that they hoped would serve the community for generations with the fervor that would bring pride to the local community. In advance of this meeting, I recall typing 10 invitations to people who I hoped would be interested in this endeavor. The meeting place was set for Berlin City Hall. The name chosen at the time was The Berlin Historic Preservation Society/Coos County Historical Society. For the next many months the small group continued to meet at Berlin City Hall on a monthly basis and discussed its dreams for a local museum displaying artifacts from the past so that all could see. It is interesting to note that the catalyst for the Historical Society’s establishment came from the State of New Hampshire’s Cornerstone initiative which called for 20 historical icons to be saved for the next century. With Berlin being chosen as one of the cities in New Hampshire to participate in this program, a local committee was formed, identifying sites and traditions crucial to the community’s character and historical wellbeing.
The monthly meetings developed into lecture series and initiatives in the community to finally bring about the importance of the city’s historical nature. The society’s first venture was to identify the Brown Company House as a local museum. The venture brought about many civic organizations into developing the Northern Forest Heritage Park. However, after three years of planning and discussions, it became evident that the Berlin & Coos County Historical Society could not play a role in its operation because of irreconcilable differences between the park’s board of directors and the society.
In 1996, through the generosity of Mrs. Mary Moffett and her sister, Miss Ann McKee, the Moffett House, at 119 High Street became the permanent residence of the Berlin & Coos County Historical Society. The kindness of these gentle women would allow the city’s residents and visitors alike, to take pride in a local museum that was to be the gem of the North Country, being the only local museum of its kind to be open year-round, five days per week. The membership of the society soared. Many artifacts were donated and the society became an integral part of the community.
The establishment of the Moffett House created civic pride, served as an important economic stimulus for the area and sparked the writing of many local history books along with the production of the video “ At The River’s Edge”, which was received with wide acclaim, airing on many PBS stations and receiving national recognition. The integrity of the Berlin & Coos County Historical Society also brought about the acquisition and restoration of the two Brown Company Barns on the East Milan Road, which had previously been owned by the Berlin Industrial Development Authority. Through this community effort the dedicated volunteers of the Historical Society have been successful in restoring both the Thompson Barn and Maynesboro Stud Barn to their former elegance and beauty. As a result of this, the Berlin & Coos County Historical Society has been able to host the Arabian Horse Stud Ride in September of 2012, commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Arabian Horse Club of America by Berlin’s own W.R. Brown. In addition to everything else, the society’s Barn Sales have been a phenomenon in the area, as many loyal customers return every season to peruse our many treasures. Without our generous donors and committee volunteers, the Brown Company Barn Sales could not have achieved the level of success that they have.
Needless to say, some of us were unsure that the Berlin & Coos County Historical Society would be around for 25 years. The trials and tribulations have certainly been noteworthy. In retrospect, as we look back on the organization’s progress, we realize that we have made a great difference in our community. We have instilled pride in Berlin and have made come alive the stories of yesteryear. We have made wonderful friends along the way and to all of you, we thank you for the faith you placed in us and for everything you’ve done to guarantee our success. We have certainly grown faster and bigger than we ever thought possible. Who knows what the next 25 years will bring!
So, to call it a wrap, we want to thank all of you for making these past 25 years very memorable. Thank you to all of our dedicated volunteers, to all the membership and to Berlin and the surrounding area, for your dedication, kindness and support.
The Granite State Division of Converse shoe operated in Berlin from the mid-1940s until 1979. At one point, there were more than 1200 employees, making it the second-largest employer in Berlin. Now, Professor Don Taylor of the University of Wisconsin (a 1986 graduate of Berlin High School) is researching the story of this important part of our history. With the help of the Berlin and Coos County Historical Society, Don has interviewed 39 people who worked at Granite State, both in person and over the telephone. This winter, he hopes to start the process of assembling the stories into a book and possibly a website. Don has also created a Facebook page called “Converse Berlin NH” where he posts photos and other pieces of this history. In addition, several people have brought in great Converse “artifacts,” including a Converse ball, a ticket book (used to keep track of piece work), a stack of company “Footnotes” newsletters, a Converse license plate, and even a size 16 sneaker that was made in Berlin! If you worked at Converse and would like to talk to Don about the work you did there, please contact us. If you still have some Converse material in your attic or basement, please consider giving it a forever home in the Converse display at the Berlin and Coos County Historical Society
Museum Hours and Things to See
The Moffett House Museum & Genealogy Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 12 to 4 PM. The main floor displays artifacts, albums, and numerous
memorabilia from the past. Upstairs, are three rooms jam-packed with records and books for those who wish to explore their roots in genealogy or to research historical documents. We encourage schools, home schools, civic, church, school reunion committees, nursing homes, or other groups and individuals to contact us for special visits, which may be arranged by calling (603) 752-4590 or (603) 752-7337.
E-mail contact is firstname.lastname@example.org. Admission is free.
Contributions and Membership
Because of the generosity of so many people, the museum has seen a great deal of growth since its establishment in 1997. To maintain this growth, financial aid is needed from various sources. Please remember the Society in your will and estate planning. Donations in memory of a loved one or direct contributions are received with appreciation. Gifts of artifacts and memorabilia are very important as well. We have a tax exempt classification of 501C3. The Historical Society is a non-profit organization and it also relies on support through its membership dues. We sincerely hope you will remain a member by renewing your membership when it is due. If you are not already a member, we invite you to join to help support the preservation of the area’s rich heritage. The price for membership is $10.00 for individuals and $20.00 for family.
The Moffett House has seen a steady increase of activities in the genealogy and records departments of the museum. Many people are coming in to research their roots as are organizations and groups doing research for historical documentaries and other projects.