Around Amherst: Soldier’s 1865 letter stars in Ancestral Bridges exhibit

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-03-2024 11:00 AM

AMHERST — A soldier’s letter from 1865, written on an original government flyer announcing the Emancipation Proclamation to cities and plantations across Texas, is being unveiled as part of an expanded Ancestral Bridges exhibit opening at Amherst College next week.

Drafted by Charles Thompson, an Amherst resident and member of the 5th Cavalry, the letter is on the parchment that troops brought to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation following the Civil War, and formally marks the day all slaves were freed. That day is now recognized as Juneteenth.

The exhibit is relaunching Tuesday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at Frost Library.

Anika Lopes, who founded Ancestral Bridges, said more artifacts, photographs and themes will be presented to explore the stories of Black and Afro-Indigenous families who lived and worked in Amherst in the 18th through early 20th centuries. The exhibit’s expansion includes photographs sourced from collections held by Lopes and the college’s special collections, organized into five thematic areas: military service; Westside Historic District; entrepreneurship, such as the Hills Hat Factory; Amherst College; and jazz. They will be displayed alongside a ledger listing all from Amherst who served in the Civil War.

“I hope these images and stories raise questions, prompt further research, and challenge us all to meet our collective responsibility to build a more just and equitable future,” Lopes said.

In particular, Lopes said Thompson’s letter is raw and emotional in his discussion about returning home.

Blake Doherty, the college librarian leading the collaboration, said the exhibit sheds light on a vital part of town history. “Working on this project has been an enriching experience, combining historical exploration with community engagement,” Doherty said.

On the Same Page

Jones Library’s 12th “On the Same Page” community reading program is featuring Paul Harding’s novel “This Other Eden,” with a series of associated events to enrich the reading experience and encourage dialogue. The program culminates with an author event at Johnson Chapel at Amherst College Feb. 23 at 5 p.m.

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Events begin Saturday at 3 p.m., with “The Evolving New England Orchard,” a Zoom presentation by Russell Powell, executive director of the New England Apple Association, and continue Feb. 8 at 7 p.m., also via Zoom, with “The Place & People of Malaga Island,” a presentation by Andrew Deci, regional land steward for Maine Coast Heritage Trust.

On Feb. 13 at at 7 p.m. at Woodbury Room, Amherst College’s Jennifer Acker and Jones Library’s Linda Wentworth with lead a book discussion on “This Other Eden.”

The author event, a conversation with Harding and National Book Award winner Justin Torres, moderated by Amherst College Assistant Professor of English Amelia Worsley, will be part of the college’s Litfest.

Officers recognized

Seven Amherst Police officers who responded to calls in 2023 in which they assisted in saving the lives of individuals were recently recognized with letters of merit for exceptional and professional service from acting Police Chief Gabriel Ting.

Officers James Damouras and Felipe Feliciano earned their awards for a May 31 response to a person suffering a cardiac event in a car parked outside an Amherst convenience store. Officers Justin Satkowski and Joseph Worthley earned their awards for a May 2023 response to a person involved in a suicide by hanging attempt at an Amherst home. Sgt. Scott Gallagher and Officers Dominick Corsetti and Lindsay Carroll earned their awards for the March 18 response to aid a 2-day-old infant at an Amherst home.

Tax preparation

Free tax return preparation begins at the Hadley Senior Center in mid-February.

IRS-certified AARP TaxAide counselors will be handling tax returns for tax year 2023 for area residents at the Hadley Senior Center, 46 Middle St., starting Feb. 14 and running through the week of April 10.

All area residents of any age are welcome to sign up, though those with returns involving virtual currencies, rental housing income or master limited partnerships will have to seek a paid tax return preparer.

To make an appointment, call Administrative Assistant Katherine Abe at 413-586-4023, ext. 8.

Signs approved for new store

Aster + Pine Market, which will offer boutique wine and beer, local produce and locally inspired ingredients in a grab-and-go environment at 189 North Pleasant St., had its signs and exterior appearance approved by the Design Review Board this week in advance of its February opening.

The market is being run by William and Mallory Nurse.

Mallory Nurse, who handled the design, told the board an awning from a former salon is being removed to better engage passers-by. Nurse said the new sign, with creamy white letters, in a sans serif script with modern twist on a green background, will be painted on the building.

“It’s really exiting and looks so elegant,” said board member Karin Winter.

Board member Catharine Porter said it is evident the new business brings a sense of style. “I think Amherst needs it and deserves it, and you deserve to make a good impression there,” Porter said.

Meetings

MONDAY: Town Council, 6:30 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

WEDNESDAY: Equity Advisory Subcommittee, 6:45 p.m., high school library.

THURSDAY: Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m.