Important Town Meeting for Historic Preservation: April 25th 2017 at 7 PM

Dear Friends in History,

As part of our expanded mission to encourage historical preservation in Southborough, we wanted to make you aware that there are quite a number of questions at April 25th’s Town Meeting that have a direct effect on historical preservation in Southborough.

Articles 15 & 16 are requests from the Historical Society to finish the climate control work at the Flagg school, and to seek CPC funding for curatorial work on the collections. We’ve made vast strides since our flooding disaster, but we still have a long way to go. This year we will begin working with the Digital Commonwealth Project, digitizing the vast majority of our paper collections to make them widely available for the first time. The curatorial funds we are requesting are a critical step in this process.

Article 17 seeks funds to remove invasive species from the Breakneck Hill Conservation Land. These protected acres are an important part of our agricultural heritage, provide much needed recreational space, and deserve our active support.

Article 21 suggests raising the limit for tax support for our seniors from 1000 to 1500. This valuable program allows seniors to work off a part of their real estate taxes, and starting next year, the Historical Commission will open a slot for a senior to work on the Town’s Historical Records. This helps seniors, and helps the Town.

Article 24 opens the historic Fayville Town Hall to sale. The Historical Commission has voted to support this measure ONLY if the Town first approves Articles 26-30, Adaptive Reuse of Historic Buildings, proposed by the Historical Commission. The purpose of this bylaw is “to allow for and provide incentives for the adaptive reuse of Historical Buildings in  a manner that ensures compatibility with their surroundings and that preserves their historical nature and appearance. This section is intended to promote the preservation of Historic  Buildings by allowing Historic Buildings to be adapted for a purpose other than that for which they were originally built, thereby enhancing the community’s appearance and preserving Southborough’s architectural legacy for future generations.”  The bylaw encourages reuse through various means, mainly by more ample interpretation of our existing zoning laws in order to support the reuse, rather than the demolition of historic structures. For example, if you have an old barn, you might consider installing a small rental unit to help pay the mortgage, or open that home-based business you’ve always dreamed of. Most importantly, this bylaw grants approval authority to the Planning Board (where it belongs) rather than to the Zoning Board of Appeals, which in previous years has proven capricious in its rulings. If Articles 26-30 pass, then the Fayville Town Hall (Article 24) can be converted into condos or retail or affordable housing. Without their passage, the Hall has no such protection.

Article 34, which was also proposed by the Historical Commission, seeks funds to at last complete the National Register District for the Main Street area. This is the final piece of a project that has been going on for almost 20 years with considerable investment of time and funding. When complete, the area will receive its designation from the US Secretary of the Interior. This naming has proven a critical preservation step in other communities, fostering restoration and rehabilitation of historic structures in the area, while providing positive support for property values.

Whew! Quite a line-up!

If you care about historical preservation in Southborough, this is not a meeting to miss!

Come See the Progress! Join our Annual Meeting, Saturday April 29th 4-6

A newly discovered Depression-era image of the  “Sealey Block” on Main Street, which housed a store, print shop and smithy over the years. One building in this picture still exists. Do you recognize it?


Dear Friends,

Come to the Museum for our “soft” re-opening Saturday, April 29th. We’ll host our annual meeting from 4:00-4:30 to discus renovations to date and our plans for the future; afterwards you can enjoy some delicious nibbles and a glass of wine as you view our newly renovated research area and gallery meeting rooms, decorated with images and objects from our collections — many never before on view!

It’ll be a fun introduction to both our new space and your fellow Southborough history buffs;  plus you can learn about some engaging volunteer opportunities we’ll be offering over the next year.

Please join us! Guests are welcome.

All best,

Michael Weishan







The Oldest Living Thing in Southborough

The Lyscom Apple


If you’ve ever spent a moment in the parking lot behind Town Hall, or in the playground near the old Town Pound, you may have noticed a somewhat forlorn tree at the edge of the pavement. This battered survivor is the remaining testament to the Historical Society’s 1977 Lyscom Apple Project, which sought to return this historic variety to Southborough to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the town. Of the 32 trees specially grown and planted throughout Southborough, this (with perhaps one other) is the sole survivor, making it possibly the oldest living thing in Southborough. How can that be, you ask? Well, it has to do with how apple varieties are propagated. Apple trees are not native to North America. The first trees were grown from seed carried by early European settlers to this area. Each seed produced a different kind of apple. Most of these new varieties were inferior to their parents, but occasionally a grower would find a tree with particular merit, and name it. Then, through the process of grafting scions, or shoots, onto apple rootstock, exact duplicates of the plant could be created. “Duplicates” is not precisely the right word here, as really, each “new” plant is simply a part of the original. That’s how our friend behind the town hall is so old — it’s a living piece of the original tree grown by Samuel Lyscom 300 years ago.

The name Lyscom rings large in local  history, as Samuel Lyscom was one of the signers of the petition to separate Southborough from Marlborough in 1727. During his lifetime he held every office in the new town and, and eventually became a judge. He was also Southborough’s second representative to the Colonial legislature. Lyscom married twice and had ten children. His eldest surviving son John sold the Lyscom farm (presumably with its orchard of Lyscom apples) in 1772 to Josiah Fay. The exact location of the property isn’t known, though it is assumed to have been in the vicinity of Chestnut Hill Road. Over the years, the original tree continued to be grafted, until the Lyscom apple became a common site in Southborough and the towns around Boston, as we learn from an 1889 book published by Deacon Peter Fay, who was a prominent farmer with an intense interest in fruit culture:

In the fall of 1834, at the Worcester Cattle Show, I carried 2 barrels of Lyscom’s apples and hired a boy to sell them in front of the Old South Church. They were very large and quite a throng of people collected around the boy. Some men from New Braintree call them Mathew’s Stripes, but the true name was Lyscom. The original tree stood on a farm owned by Samuel Lyscom 130 years ago. The reason they were called Mathew’s Stripes was because a man by the name of Mathews (John, I think) went from Southborough to New Braintree about 100 years ago and to with him scions of this variety.

The Lyscom apple – with its distinctive large fruit streaked with yellow – was last recorded as being grown in Southborough about 1917. Miss Mary Finn (of Finn school fame) remembered seeing a tree along Flagg Road, where the apples would fall into the path and be eaten by the cows. Probably others survived too, until a Depression era WPA program eradicated “wild” apple trees thought to be a source of disease for commercial growers.  Fortunately, a few avid collectors in the 1950s began to rescue old varieties, and a Preservation Orchard was founded at Old Sturbridge Village in 1973, which is where the one sole surviving example of the Lyscom apple was discovered by members of the Southborough Historical Society. From this, 32 new trees were propagated, and carefully spread throughout the town to the celebrate the 250th. Unfortunately, rather than giving them to longer-lived institutions, they were mostly distributed among then-members of the Society, and over the years have fallen victim to development, disease, decay and destruction until now there is once again only one left. (Well, maybe two: the other may be in the courtyard of the Neary School.)

So to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Southborough in 2027, the Society has decided to try this project again, albeit a bit differently. In conjunction with our dedicated Director of Public Works, Karen Galligan, this spring we will take grafts from the Town Pound tree, but this time we will distribute them to organizations as well as individuals, with the goal of having bushels of Lyscom apples available for our 300th anniversary celebrations. If you are interested in adopting a tree, be in touch as we’re taking names for 2019 delivery. (Yes, 2019, things move very slowly in the tree world, but if you are Lyscom apple, you already have learned plenty of patience.)



Southborough Historical Society By-Laws

Southborough Historical Society

Adopted 16 November 2016


Article One
Name and Object

The name of the Society shall be The Southborough Historical Society. The objective of this Society shall be to educate, study, collect and preserve for the Town historical records and antiquities relating to the history of Southborough and its people, to preserve items of current events that may have historical interest in the future; to interest and unite the townspeople in a finer public spirit, through a fuller understanding of the traditions and history, both past an in the make of our Town and its neighboring communities. Further, the Society will function as an active advocate for historic preservation in the Town.


Article Two
Officers and Directors

There will be a board of directors consisting of six people. Three of these will elected by the annual meeting. The terms of the elected members will be three years, so arranged that at least one member shall be elected at each annual meeting. Three members will be appointed by vote of the Southborough Historical Commission with a term of three years. These six members shall appoint from their number a president, vice-president, secretary and treasurer, with a term consistent with their remaining term on the board, not to exceed three years. Unless approved by a special vote of the board, no person shall serve more than two consecutive terms in any office.


Article Three
Duties of the Board

The Board of Directors shall have general control of the property and affairs of the Society; shall fix dates of meetings as provided in Article Four; and shall otherwise manage the affairs of the Society. Members of the board will be expected to actively work to maintain the the financial health of the Society and well-being of its collections. To that end, the board of directors shall hire an executive director who will oversee the day to day affairs of the Society and serve as curator of its collections. The executive director will will report to the board and serve at its discretion.

Article Four

The annual meeting shall be held in April and other regular meetings as established by the Board of Directors.  Special meetings may be called at anytime by the president, the board of directors or upon petition by seven members of the society.

Article Five
Membership and Dues

Any person interested in the objectives of this society is eligible for membership. The annual dues for all classes of membership shall be set annually by the board of directors.

Article Six

These by-laws may be altered or amended by a vote of two-thirds of the members present and voting thereon, at any meeting, provided notice of the proposed change shall have been given at a previous meeting and sent in writing to members who maintain a current email address with the secretary.


Article Seven

Members of the society whose dues are in arrears for two consecutive years will be considered to have voluntarily withdrawn from the Society. Members of the Board who miss four consecutive meetings of the board will be considered to have voluntarily resigned their office, unless such absence was approved by vote of the board. In such cases, the board shall have the power to appoint an acting member until a replacement can be found either by election at the annual meeting or appointment by the Historical Commission

Article Eight

The Society may be dissolved by majority vote of the board. After payment of all debts, the property of the Society shall be turned over to the Southborough Historical Commission.

Article Nine
Implementation of Revised by-laws

These by-laws shall take effect on January 1, 2017; for the one-time purpose of enacting these laws, all members of the current board will surrender their offices and be granted lifetime memberships with emeritus status as thanks for their service. The historical commission will appoint the first board from among those who express interest. three members will be appointed with  three-year terms; and an additional three members with terms that will expire respectively in April 2018,  April 2019, and April 2020. Henceforth elections will follow the regulations as set forth in Article Two.

Reminder about the Society General Meeting Tomorrow Night 11/16

Dear Friends,

There is a meeting tomorrow at 6PM at the Museum to discuss revisions to the bylaws that will affect how the Society is governed moving forward. You are encouraged to attend and see the progress we have had restoring the building to health. It looks (and is) empty, but it no longer smells of mold! We’ll also be discussing finances, grants, and plans for future exhibitions. Please do come if you are able.



Society Receives 10K Grant from the Southborough Community Fund, Plus a 5K Challenge Grant!

We are DEE-lighted, to quote Teddy Roosevelt, to announce that the Society has received a 10K grant from the Southborough Community Fund to further its preservation efforts. In addition, the Fund has offered a challenge grant of an additional 5K, if we can match that before the end of the year. So we are off, ladies and gentlemen, on the quest for funds. This letter will go out to every household in Southborough:

shs-fund-drive-letter-2016LET THE CHALLENGE BEGIN!

As always, we thank you for your kind support of our efforts!


Meeting to Update By-laws

Dear Friends of the Society,

As many of you know the Society has been going through some major challenges lately as we endeavor to adapt to the realities of the 21st century. As part of this renewal, the board has decided that major changes are required to the rules that govern how the society operates. Our by-laws date largely to 1965 when the Society was first conceived, and although they have been amended here and there, mostly they remain as they were written, mandating a large and costly committee structure that is no longer tenable. Therefore we invite all members in good standing to a meeting at the Museum Wednesday November 16th at 6PM where a new set of by-laws will be proposed and voted on.

Michael Weishan,

Lincoln’s Store and Post Office

Southville’s old depot has had a long and storied history, first as a train station, then as a store, and currently as a residence on the corner of Parkerville and Southville Roads. Rather than tell you the history myself, I thought I would let you read this charming account from an undated newspaper article from sometime in the late 40’s, judging by the clothes worn in the pictures. The simple serenity that once was Lincoln Square seems almost impossible to imagine today. To step back to another time, simply click the images below to enlarge and enjoy!

(Note: the file sizes are large, so be patient on slow connections.)


lincolnstore2-copy lincolnstore3-copy