Historical Lecture Series: Immigrant Communities in the Pioneer Valley

Paddy on the Railway: Irish Laborers and the Building of the Great Western Railroad

Were your ancestors immigrants? Are you finding a need to better understand the immigrant experience in Western Massachusetts? Wistariahurst Museum has lined up a series of historical lectures to examine various immigrant communities in the Pioneer valley and to better understand the cultural enrichment these folks brought with them.

As part of Wistariahurst’s 2015 Spring Lecture Series, Dennis Picard tells the story of the challenges of building the Western Railroad of Massachusetts linking the Boston & Worcester Railroad to the New York state line on Monday, March 16, 2015 at 6 p.m. at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke.

The Western Railroad of Massachusetts was chartered in February of 1833. This transportation construction project was to link the Boston & Worcester Railroad to Springfield, across the Connecticut River and on to the New York state line. This undertaking, which only took five years to reach that goal, required hundreds of skilled and unskilled workers to complete. Though many ethnic groups were represented among the crews the vast majority of the labor was done by those of Irish birth or heritage.

On Monday, March 16 , 2015 at 6pm, come hear some of the stories of the trails and successes of this unique and very mobile workforce that called our area home for a few months and then was gone.  Tickets are $7 general / $5 members at the door. For more information call 413-322-5660.

Join the Wistariahurst Museum every Monday evenings in their carriage house at 6pm through May 11 to hear and learn from historians, educators, museum professionals and writers this spring as part of their Historical Lecture Series: Immigrant Communities in the Pioneer Valley:

Monday, March 23, 2015 –Poles in the Land of the Puritans
Reba-Jean Shaw Pichette Admission $7 general / $5 members

Monday, March 30, 2015 –The Polish Community in Chicopee
Chicopee Historian Stephen Jendrysik will tell the story of an immigrant entrepreneurial class and its’ impact on the business, political and social history of a small New England City. Admission $7 general / $5 members

Monday, April 6, 2015 –The Earliest Origins of African-American Families of Western Massachusetts: 1650-1865
Joe Carvallo III will present the history of African Americans in Western Massachusetts from the earliest days of colonial slavery to the civil war. Admission $7 general / $5 members

Monday, April 13, 2015 –Our Stories: The Jews of Western Massachusetts
Jane Kaufman will read excerpts from her book and describe her research process highlighting Holyoke residents and featuring the stained glass works at Congregation Sons of Zion. Admission $7 general / $5 members

Monday, April 27, 2015 –Polish Center of Discovery and Learning Collections
Stas Radosz will be speaking about the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning and how it seeks out and safeguards materials which illustrate the history and the lives of ordinary Polish immigrants and their children. Admission $7 general / $5 members

Monday, May 4, 2015 –Meet Miss Anne Harding, French-Canadian Boarding House Operator
History comes alive as Elizabeth Wood portrays Mrs. Anne Harding, owner of a boarding house in Holyoke, Massachusetts at the turn of the century. Admission $7 general / $5 members

Monday, May 11, 2015 –Puerto Ricans: The Search for Prosperity in the Paper City
Like many immigrating groups, migrating Puerto Ricans came to Holyoke searching for prosperity. Unfortunately, the manufacturing industries were beginning to head south and overseas. Come hear Maria Salgado Cartagena share stories of a time of resistance and cultural celebration in Holyoke’s history. Admission $7 general / $5 members


About the Wistariahurst Museums

Wistariahurst Museum is dedicated to preserving Holyoke’s history and inspiring an appreciation of history and culture through educational programs, exhibits and special events. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Wistariahurst is the former home of William Skinner and his family, prominent silk manufacturers and residents of Holyoke. Wistariahurst Museum as well as the Carriage House & Gift Shop are open Sat. Sun. and Mon. from 12 to 4p.m. Historic House Tours are $7 general admission and $5 for students and seniors. Hours for Archive Research: Mon. 9a.m. -7p.m. & Thur. 9a.m. – 1p.m. For more information or a schedule of other upcoming events, please visit www.wistariahurst.org.

– Submitted by Siobhan McArdle

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