MILTON MILLS - The Milton Historical Society, which for decades has lovingly chronicled and categorized the town's dynamic past from its museum and showroom in Milton Mills, could be on the verge of becoming history, itself.
For longtime president Bonnie Dunton, it would be a bitter pill if the society failed in its mission to continually preserve the town's storied history, but with only five members left instead of the 80 or so it had not so long ago, she knows an outreach this month for new members and volunteers could mean the difference between continuance and closing down in the not so distant future.
|A circa 1888 rendering of downtown Milton and the Salmon Falls River lined with mills and factories. (Courtesy Milton Historical Society)
"I don't want to see these things dispersed. I want them to stay right here," she said Tuesday holding back her emotion as best she could. "I worked in archaeology many years ago, and I'm looking to pass that knowledge on."
Dunton, who is 76, herself, said the average age of the five members left in the society is also in the 70s and some of them have a hard time coming to meetings due to health issues.
Now desperate for new members as well as volunteers, the society will hold a series of meetings this month at their headquarters in downtown Milton Mills.
On Tuesday they will meet from 10-noon looking for new members or volunteers. Then On Aug 13 they will celebrate their building's 100th birthday with a celebration open to the public from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
Finally on Aug. 23 they will be meeting again from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.
|Looking down White Mountain Highway headed north in the downtown. The entrance to Garage Way can be seen on the right and a building beyond that houses a thrift store today. (Courtesy Milton Historical Society)
Dunton along with Al Banks, a retired Nute shop teacher; and his wife, Loretta Banks, who serves as secretary, were busy cataloging artifacts on Tuesday. It involves scanning some documents while putting others into plastic sheathing to protect them from aging.
Dunton admits that they've been so deluged with artifacts that it's all the small group can do to protect and preserve them. She said they need help categorizing them by subject matter and chronologically, too.
She said they welcome members as young as 12 and 13, but lament that many of the younger generation don't appear interested in history and often seem preoccupied with video games and other online and electronic distractions.
|A cluster of former factories near the Milton Leatherboard Factory still on Mill Street in Milton. (Courtesy Milton Historical Society)
Meanwhile, she said new arrivals to Milton often don't have the same passion to their new town's heritage.
"They move into town and they have no idea what Milton was, or is, and they don't care," she said. "You tell them something and they say, 'So what, that doesn't affect me now.'"
Loretta Banks said many young people spend the bulk of their free time pursuing sports, and all three agreed many middle-age parents are often just too busy raising their family to help out.
Dunton said one shining light could be a new initiative at Nute High in which students will be required to participate in community involvement for a number of hours. She hopes some will decide to use those hours to infuse the historical society with some new blood and some new energy.
"We're all getting on," she said.
About the Milton Historical Society
The building was built in 1916 as the Milton Free Public Library in Milton Mills with money donated by Samuel Remick, who (it is said) lived in poverty, sleeping on a wooden box instead of a bed and eating meals with neighbors to save money for this lifelong dream.
It became home to the Historical Society when the Library moved to the former schoolhouse in 1993. The Historical Society houses a collection of portraits of important local figures, Town reports and maps, old postcards, school photos, Town bicentennial memorabilia, Women's Club scrapbooks and year books, Miltonia Mills blankets, primitive tools, Rachel Pugh's memorabilia, and Erastus Shaw's carved hand from the Methodist Church steeple.
The Society holds meetings every 2nd Tuesday, April through December.
For more information about volunteering or becoming a member contact: Bonnie Dunton, President 435 Governor's Road 603.755.2055; Loretta Banks, Secretary 603.473.2083 or John McCallister 603.652.4670