Friday, May 24, 2013

Brown Bag on Abner Kneeland, the last man in the country jailed for Blasphemy

Join us for a Brown Bag Lunch
on Thursday, May 30th
State Library of Massachusetts
Room 442, State House
12 until 1:30 PM

Bring your lunch and join us to hear Carla Charter, amateur historian, tell the story of Abner Kneeland. Kneeland, a Gardner native, was tried and jailed in Boston on the blasphemy charges in 1838. Learn about other aspects of his life as well, including his staunch views on abolition and women’s rights. Charter will speak about his connections to William Lloyd Garrison and Fanny Wright and will discuss the Iowa community Kneeland developed after his release from prison.

Ms. Charter has a keen interest in New England history. She has published three novels, including Across Lots, based on the murder in 1855 of Abner’s sisters in Gardner. She has currently begun work on a non-fiction book about the same topic.

To register, please go to http:

You may also register by calling the Reference Department at 617-727-2590 or by e-mailing to

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Item of the Month for May 2013 - Purgatory Chasm in Sutton

Massachusetts is known for its tourism and its State Parks are among the favorite attractions for visitors. One unique landmark is Purgatory Chasm, where, according to description on the website of the Department of Conservation and Recreation, the origins may have come from “glacial meltwater” from 14,000 years ago and the last Ice Age. The park is a favorite with climbers, hikers and with those who marvel at very special rock formations and caverns.

It was not until the 20th century that the site became public. This was orchestrated by the work of a member of the Massachusetts General Court, Mr. Herbert Ray. His efforts led to chapter 327 of the Acts of 1919. This law called for the formation of a Purgatory Chasm State Reservation Commission. As described in Volume II of the History of the Town of Sutton Massachusetts 1876-1950, compiled by “The Town History Committee, John C. Dudley, Chairman,” the commission was to “acquire land for the reservation in the Town of Sutton, by purchase, gift or otherwise.” This “history” notes that the park contains one hundred and sixty acres.

What is so special about the Chasm?

a tourist brochure from 1954 describes the park as “A great fissure in solid rock about one-half mile in length, with walls rising sheer, seventy or more feet.” Rock formations have been given “romantic “names such as “The Corn Crib,” “The Coffin.” “the Pulpit,” “Lovers’ Leap,” and Fat Man’s Misery.”

Those who visit are warned to stay away from the edges and to wear hiking boots and or rubber-soled shoes. Photos of the park show the special terrain and the unusual rock formations.

The park remains one of Massachusetts’ favorite landmarks. In 2010, Governor Patrick visited there to volunteer and to advertise volunteerism.

Pamela W. Schofield
Legislative Reference Libraian

Monday, May 13, 2013

Now Available Online: Legislative Photograph Collection

We at the State Library are excited to announce that our photograph collection of members of the Massachusetts legislature, also known as Photograph 361, has been made available through our DSpace electronic documents repository.

This collection is a priceless historical, genealogical, and legislative resource that provides visual documentation of over 3400 individuals who served in the Massachusetts General Court from 1855 up to 1908. These photographs, many of which cannot be found elsewhere, wonderfully supplement resources such as the biennially-published Public Officers of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and help paint a more complete picture of the history of the General Court.

This project would not have been possible without the folks at the Boston Public Library’s digitization lab, as well as the support of the Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act as administered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners.

For more information about our legislative photograph collection, please contact our library’s Special Collections Department at 617-727-2595.

Kaitlin Connolly
Reference Department