HOME | ABOUT | INTRODUCTION | Themes | Timeline | Map | Resources
Our Plural History | Springfield, MA


This bible was donated by the radical abolitionist John Brown during his stay in Springfield and is on display at St. John's Congregational Church.
Courtey of Bessie Crenshaw and St. John's Congregational Church, Springfield, MA

Primary Resources Archive

Access historical documents, images, maps, and artifacts related to the theme of pluralism. Documents below are available in PDF format.

The resources found in this section are offered as PDF files. If you do not have Adobe® Reader® you can download it for free:

Show All - Hide All

  • First Peoples

      Connecticut Valley Native American Lodging [PDF]
      Native American groups in the Connecticut Valley traditionally built their lodges using wooden poles and bark shingles. The round structure and overlapping bark pieces created a building that was both well-insulated and waterproof. These drawings were done by the Holyoke architect William James Howes in the early twentieth century and were probably based on archaeological evidence.

      Native American Arrowheads [PDF]
      Native American groups in the Connecticut Valley used stone-tipped arrows for hunting and occasionally warfare. Each group favored slightly different shapes for their projectile points. The different shapes of projectile points are a major way to date archaeological sites and identify the Native American groups that lived in a given area. These drawings were done by the Holyoke architect William James Howes in the early twentieth century and were probably based on archaeological evidence.

      Native American Drills [PDF]
      Native American groups in the Connecticut Valley used drills with stone points. The stone points were attached to wooden shafts and animal sinew was sometimes used to create a self-winding bow for the drill. These drawings were done by the Holyoke architect William James Howes in the early twentieth century and were probably based on archaeological evidence.

      Native American Knives [PDF]
      Native American groups in the Connecticut Valley used stone knives made from "flakes" knocked off of a larger piece of stone (see example in top left of PDF document). The edges on the stone knives were very sharp, but the flake knives had to be discarded often because stone cannot be easily sharpened after the edge becomes dull. Native Americans often carried larger pieces of stone with them so that they could easily make new knives. These drawings were done by the Holyoke architect William James Howes in the early twentieth century and were probably based on archaeological evidence.

      Native American Pottery Construction [PDF]
      Native American groups in the Connecticut Valley used a coiling or hand-building method to create their pottery. After a pot was built, the potters would smooth the outside of the pot with textiles made from woven reeds. Baskets were also often used as containers, but little evidence of their importance in Native American society survives today. These drawings were done by the Holyoke architect William James Howes in the early twentieth century and were probably based on archaeological evidence.

  • Colonial Period

      Original Indian Deed for Springfield from 1632
      This deed from July 1636 is between William Pynchon and the Agawam's for the purchase of land on the eastside of the Connecticut River, known today as the city of Springfield. In exchange for land the colonists paid "eighteen fathoms of wampum, 18 coats, 18 hatchets, 18 hoes, and 18 knives." This handwritten copy of the original deed is probably written by John Holyoke. The deed is provided courtesy of the Hampden County Registry of Deeds.

      Howes 1642 Map Early European Settlement - Roads from Boston to Connecticut River [PDF]
      This is a copy of an early 1642 map of Massachusetts. The map shows overland trade routes between the Connecticut Valley, Providence (Rhode Island), and Boston. The map highlights hills and landmarks that were likely the main way that travelers found their way.

  • Resisting Slavery

      Journal of the Hampden County Anti-Slavery Convention 1837 [PDF]
      Springfield was a hotbed for abolitionist activity and drew support for its cause from various corners of the city's citizens. Excerpts from the Hampden County Anti-Slavery Society Journal list the names of some of Springfield's prosperous and influential residents. The full copy of this journal can be found at the Museum of Springfield History, Springfield, MA.

      John Brown Memorial Article from The Graphic - May 10, 1894
      by Harry Andrew Wright [PDF]
      The radical abolitionist John Brown is vilified by some and revered by others for his actions in the cause of abolishing slavery. Having led an ill-fated raid on Harper's Ferry, Virginia in 1859, in the hopes of inciting a slave revolt, Brown was executed. Springfield, MA is one of the few places in the United States that John Brown is still celebrated as a hero. Such a view is evident in the following memorial article published thirty five years after his death.

      Orrin Cook Letter September 29, 1864 [PDF]
      This letter was written by Union soldier Orrin Cook, who lived for a time in Springfield, MA, after his release from a Confederate prisoner of war camp.

      Primus Mason Obituary from The Graphic - January 23, 1892 [PDF]
      Primus Mason was born to free black parents in Monson, Massachusetts in 1817. To help support the family he was indentured as a young child to a farmer who regularly beat him. In 1837 Mason escaped to Springfield where he found work as a teamster and horse undertaker. That same year, he made his first real estate purchase, in what is now the Old Hill section of Springfield, with a loan for $50 from the seller. He continued investing in real estate and by 1849 he had amassed nearly $1,000, most of which he used to go west for the California gold rush. He did not make his fortune in California, but when he returned to Springfield he used his remaining capital to return to real estate investment.

      Upon his death Mason bequeathed $40,000 for the founding, on Walnut Street in 1898, of Springfield’s Home for Aged Men. It was a fully integrated institution in both its residential roster and its board of Trustees. A similar institution bearing his name still exists on Walnut Street in Springfield, MA. In addition, part of the city, Mason Square, bares his name in tribute.

      This obituary for Mason seems surprised that an African American resident of Springfield could accumulate such wealth and even more surprised that he would leave it to charity.

      Thomas Thomas Obituary - Springfield Daily Republican March 10, 1894 [PDF]
      Former slave and Springfield resident Thomas Thomas was a small business owner who ran a restaurant in the city for over thirty years. Thomas also befriended the radical abolitionist John Brown during his time of residence in Springfield. Upon Thomas' death the main local newspaper, The Springfield Daily Republican, ran this obituary.

      Statements of Former Slaves Given in 1907, Springfield, MA
      The documents contained in this section include the statements of former slaves about their lives in bondage. The statements were given at St. John's Congregational Church in Springfield, MA in 1907 during a service in memory of the radical abolitionist John Brown.

      Letter to the Editor in the Springfield Weekly Republican
      January 9, 1836 Cautioning Against Anti-Slavery Conventions [PDF]
      The author of this anonymous letter, signed simply "X.Y.," reflects the often ambivalent feelings many in the north had towards slavery and the abolitionist cause. While the author denounces the institution of slavery he cautions people not to join in such anti-slavery and abolitionist conventions, which, for him, do little other than inflame an already passionate subject. Indeed, "X.Y." questions why people believe that the present time is right for abolition while in the past others found little cause to support abolitionist movements.

      Dr. Osgood's Letters
      Springfield abolitionist Dr. Samuel Osgood, in a series of letters originally published in the Boston Recorder, debates the merits of abolitionism with the Rev. Ralph Emerson, D.D.

      Massassoit House Business Cards
      By the 1830s Springfield was a key station along the Underground Railroad, a secret network of escape routes and hiding places used by African-Americans fleeing slavery in the South. The Massassoit House of Springfield, MA is believed to have been a key stop on the Underground Railroad in the city.

      Hollis Family Records
      Solomon "Sol" Hollis was the patriarch of the Hollis family. The son of a white slave owner and a slave woman of mixed African American and Creek Indian heritage, Sol was born in Georgia and spent most of his life in Alabama. Many of his descendents eventually migrated north in search of better opportunities and wound up settling in the Springfield, MA area.

  • Industrialization & Immigration

      Immigration to Citizenship: Max Zavers' Journey
      Materials in this section demonstrate what it took in order to gain admittance to the United States as an immigrant and provides an in depth and personal view of an immigrants journey in the early twentieth century through the use of primary sources.

      A. Fonza Oral History Collection
      A collection of oral history interviews with Blacks in Springfield, MA.

      "The Immigration Peril: Are the Aliens Alienizing America?" by Gino Speranza- December 1923, from The Commercial Travelers Magazine [PDF]
      Originally published in the November 1923 issue of World's Work this article discusses the perceived threat posed by new immigrants to the United States. For the author of this article immigrants threaten the fundamentals of the true American identity. For the author, this American identity has always been and must always be Anglo-Saxon in character. Indeed, the author argues that immigrants are "engaged in an elemental struggle to remain alien" and may well "attempt to impose their views and their standards upon the historic American majority." Such questions and concerns about the impact of immigration on American society and culture are still with us and can be found in the debates about immigration today.

      "About One-Quarter of Springfield's Population is Foreign Born" - from the Springfield Republican July 31, 1921 [PDF]
      This articles gives a break down of the foreign born population of Springfield, MA in 1921. The table provided in the article shows the exact breakdown of what it calls "foreign born white population" of immigrants for the cities of Springfield, Boston, Worcester, and Cambridge. Originally published in the Springfield Republican copies of this and other articles can be found in the Springfield Scrap Book collection of the Museum of Springfield History.

      "Irish in the Connecticut Valley" from the BF Thompson Scrapbook at the Museum of Springfield History, January 28, 1908 [PDF]
      This article, taken in part from a paper given by E.A. Hall in 1908, discusses the contributions of the Irish born and their descendents in the Connecticut River Valley. One of the interesting points raised in this articles is that many of the earliest settlers of Springfield hailed from Irish backgrounds. However, for many of these earlier settlers, history has recorded them as English, which the author believes has skewed the picture of Irish contributions.

      "Immigration and Expansion" from the Springfield Republican
      July 20, 1899
      This article discusses the impact of industrial expansion on the increase in immigration to the United States. The articles argues that historically, immigration increases considerably during times of industrial and economic expansion. Accompanying this argument is a table showing the number of immigrants arriving each year as far back as 1878. In addition, the author makes the argument that the United States should continue to annex additional territories, as was the case at the end of the Spanish-American War of 1898, in order to provide a release valve for excess domestic population and encourage further European immigration to the United States.

      Armenian Heritage Slide Show
      A slide show of Armenian culture in Armenia and Springfield, MA.

      Armenian Cheorog Recipes
      Recipes for a traditional Armenian sweet bread.

      Interview with Dr. Seth Arsenian
      Dr. Seth Arsenian tells the story of immigration to the United States.

      Springfield Women's Political Class
      Despite not being allowed to vote nationally until the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, women were still influential in public affairs. Here in Springfield, women began forming "political classes" for the purpose of studying "politics or the science of government, current events, and the practice of parliamentary law." Here we have copies of two constitutions of the Springfield Women's Political Class from 1897 and 1907.

      Women's Christian Temperance Union(s) of Springfield
      Temperance, the movement to outlaw alcohol, was a major movement in the United States that culminated in the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. Leading this national effort was the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU). Founded in 1874, the WCTU grew into the largest female organization of the nineteenth century with a membership of 150,000 by 1890. Eventually, the WCTU expanded its reform efforts and advocated an inclusive reform platform including a woman's right to vote.

      Springfield Temperance Association Constitution 1923 [PDF]
      Temperance, the movement to outlaw alcohol, was a major movement in the United States that culminated in the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1919. Supporters of temperance hailed from various backgrounds. Some supported the movement on religious grounds, others sought to protect family life and improve people's health. Labor organizations often promoted temperance in an effort to foster a responsible attitude and the general improvement of their membership. Employers hoped temperance would create a more reliable and efficient workforce.

      Often leading the temperance movement were women. At a time when women were not allowed a formal role in national politics this movement offered an opportunity to be a public force for change. The temperance movement witnessed the creation of numerous organizations throughout the nation. The Springfield Temperance Association was just one of these groups. Their constitution, found here, includes the handwritten signatures of the groups members.

      1831 Ireland Parish Map [PDF]
      This map, originally printed in 1831, shows "Ireland Parish" now the city of Holyoke. This map also shows the locations of churches and the homes of prominent citizens.

      Building Holyoke, MA Reservoir
      Hundreds of local workers were employed from 1899-1904 to build this high-service reservoir outside of Holyoke. These images show the backbreaking labor and effort that went in to constructing the Holyoke Reservoir.

      Building Holyoke, MA Dam 1 [PDF]
      Building Holyoke, MA Dam 2 [PDF]
      Hundres of local workers were employed to build the dams, canals, and reservoirs that powered the nascent industrial city of Holyoke. These images show the dams at their completetion.

      Original Holyoke, MA Factories List [PDF]
      Directors of the Hadley Falls Company envisioned an industrial center to rival the production of mill towns in the eastern part of the state. In 1848, construction began on a dam and a system of canals at Hadley Falls, later renamed Holyoke, to provide water power to mills and factories producing everything from paper and textiles to steam boilers, cutlery and wire. From 1853 to 1880 thirty mills and factories opened in the city of Holyoke.

      Mill towns such as this presented employment opportunities for new immigrants, but those who arrived poor and unskilled typically began at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder. The burgeoning industrial village at Holyoke, upriver from Springfield, attracted many of these immigrants desperate for food, shelter, and work.

      Illustrated and Descriptive Holyoke Booklet 1887
      Holyoke's economy was based on manufacturing and it relied on attracting manufacturers and capital to maintain and grow its economy. This booklet, Illustrated and Descriptive Holyoke, Massachusetts, published in 1887, was written as an extended advertisement to help attract new manufacturers to the city. It includes population, occupational, educational, and financial statistics as well as representative photographs of the city. This booklet not only gives readers an idea of what Holyoke was like in the late nineteenth century, it shows what traits manufacturers would have valued in the city and its workforce.

      Holyoke, MA Map Depicting Ethnic Neighborhoods [PDF]
      fThis maps depicts some of the 'ethnic' neighborhoods in the city of Holyoke, MA in approximately the later nineteenth century.

      Friedrich Giehler Resources
      German immigrant Friedrich Giehler came to Holyoke, MA in the 1880s. The resources in this section provide a glimpse into his life and that of other immigrants by demonstrating the importance of education and occupational training.

      Jacob Schutthelm Resources
      During World War II German immigrants were considered "enemy aliens" and forced to inform the United States government of their movements. Jacob Schutthelm, who immigrated to the US in 1909 and settled in Holyoke, MA, was considered one of these "enemy aliens." The documents in this section offer a glimpse into the restrictions placed upon some immigrants during war time. Other documents demonstrate the rationing of many items on the home front in order to properly equip and support the war effort.

      Holyoke, MA St. Patricks Day Parade [PDF]
      A bagpiper advertises Holyoke's St. Patrick's Day Parade on the cover of the March 1978 issue of the regional magazine Springfield & Four County West. Despite a decline in the size of its Irish community, Holyoke continues to be home to the second largest St. Patrick's Day Parade in the United States.

      Holyoke, MA St. Patricks Day Parade 2 [PDF]
      An article in Springfield & Four County West discusses Holyoke's upcoming St. Patrick's Day Parade. Though events such as the John F. Kennedy Award for distinguished Irish Americans, the parade serves to highlight the influence of the Irish community in Holyoke and in the United States as a whole.

      Hollis Family Records
      Solomon "Sol" Hollis was the patriarch of the Hollis family. The son of a white slave owner and a slave woman of mixed African American and Creek Indian heritage, Sol was born in Georgia and spent most of his life in Alabama. Many of his descendents eventually migrated north in search of better opportunities and wound up settling in the Springfield, MA area.

      The Vanall Family of Springfield
      Present in the city of Springfield for nearly a hundred and eighty years, the Vanall family name has all but died out. Yet many current Springfield residents, both white and black can trace their ancestry back to the Vanalls.

  • Recent Arrivals

      "In Our Town: Holyoke's Guide", July 1955
      A 1955 promotional brochure entitled “In Our Town: Holyoke’s Guide.” Published the week of July 10-16, 1955 this is the first issue of “In Our Town.” The publication sought to promote and introduce the city to visitors, newcomers, and native residents. “Holyoke lying in the midst of the Connecticut Valley,” the brochure states, “affords historic and scenic pleasures for all.” Found here are copies of its front cover and a note from the editor about the purpose of the brochure courtesy of Wistariahurst Museum, Holyoke, MA.

      Map 1955 Depicting Neighborhoods and Churches, Holyoke, MA [PDF]
      This map, which comes from the pages of “In Our Town,” seeks to highlight the city’s religious diversity by listing its numerous places of worship.

      Puerto Rican Family in Holyoke, MA 1990s [PDF]
      A Puerto-Rican family poses for a family photography at their home in Holyoke in the 1990's.

      Hmong Story Cloth [PDF]
      Hmong refugees brought with them a rich tradition in textile arts. The practice of making paj ntaub , or "flower cloth," has long been revered among the Hmong, and was used as a means of preserving oral traditions and communal identity when the Hmong language was suppressed by the Chinese. Brightly colored, intricately hand-stitched geometric patterns adorned garments created for special occasions, such as births, weddings, and funerals — each occasion distinguished by particular symbols and colors. Creation of the cloths by women and girls, sitting together in circles outside of homes, also served to transmit the necessary skills across the generations. The traditional designs can be seen today in the Connecticut River Valley on baby carriers, jackets, aprons and quilts.

      Another form of artistry in needlework, paj ntaub dab neej (flower cloth of people and customs) or "story cloth," developed as a means of preserving and recording stories and experiences of the Hmong people. These embroidered wall hangings depict village life; also images of war, refugee camps, and escape. The story cloths serve as an extension of the Hmong oral tradition, and as a form of cultural expression and communal memory during a period of traumatic displacement and adjustment.

      This Hmong story cloth depicts a Springfield family's escape from Laos across the Mekong River into Thailand. In the lower third of the panel, men with guns accost a fleeing Hmong family, in the middle third refugees on rafts cross the Mekong River, and at the top they have made their escape.

      Puerto Rican Newspaper in Holyoke, MA [PDF]
      Richard Torres, 14, looks over the biweekly Holyoke, MA newspaper La Nueva Era, printed in Spanish and English. (1991)


  • Home