A Good “First Cut”

It was a fun and busy summer at Rowe Center, and while there’s a lot more work to do on the archives, I think I made a significant first cut on the project.

I went by the Rowe Historical Society, but they were closed, so I emailed them, introducing myself and explaining the archiving work I was doing at Rowe Center. A few weeks later, RHS board member Ellen Miller dropped off this copy of the fourth edition (2006) of Percy Whiting Brown’s great history of the town of Rowe. I found a copy of the second edition (1935, the 150th anniversary of the town) among the archive material, but it is less than half the size of this edition. The third edition was published in 1960, a couple years after Percy Brown died in 1958.

Co-author of this edition, Nancy Newton Williams, completed Brown’s work on the third edition, based on his notes he had compiling for many years; he’d left instructions for his notes to be sent to Nancy Williams. (She refers to “…instructions for his notes to be sent to us…” but I don’t know who “us” refers to, perhaps Ms. Williams and Percy’s son Ted Brown, who collaborated with Ms. Williams on the fourth edition.) And in this fourth edition, she has added several new sections written by other people:

  • Geologic History of Rowe, by Norman L. Hatch
  • Fort Pelham, by Michael D. Coe
  • Center Stage: Our Rowe Family, by Nancy N. Williams
  • Wildflowers of Rowe, by Susan A. Williams

There are also 20 appendices (though I don’t know how many were in earlier editions), extensive references and a comprehensive index… a whole lot of information for one little Berkshire town!

An interesting side note is that Percy Brown grew up in Brook Knoll, the house on Kings Highway between the Sibley Farmhouse (home of Rowe Conference Center) and Rowe Camp further up the hill; I believe Rocky Knoll was built by Percy Brown’s parents in 1899 or 1900. You can see it — along with our beloved Bonnie Blink, in this amazing 1901 panorama of Rowe, taken from up the hill near the current location of the Rec Hall — aka the “Super Blink.”

A panoramic view of the town of Rowe and surrounding area, taken in 1901 and from near the present location of Rowe Center's Rec Hall.
The house on the left is the Bonnie Blink, which the group of Unitarians who organized Rowe Camp rented for a week in July, 1924 for $25. The first house on the left of Kings Highway down the hill from Bonnie Blink is Brook Knoll, where Percy Brown grew up. The Sibley Barn is visible on the right side of Kings Highway; the other buildings near the barn are long gone, and I believe you can see a slice of the roof of the Sibley Farmhouse as well. Of particular note is how almost totally deforested the hills are for miles; in fact the vast majority of New England nearly completely deforested during the 19th century; now of course it’s all forested again.

Last Updated on May 13, 2022