History of the Society

The residents of Hancock Town have always felt a lively and reverent interest in those things which their ancestors lived with, labored with, loved and preserved.

Each family saves with loving care some domestic treasures which have escaped the shipwreck of time and at the Hancock Centennial celebration of 1879, a remarkable collection of these domestic memorabilia was gathered together in the vestry of the church which was called, temporarily, “The Antiquarian Room and Art Gallery.”

At the close of the celebration, these relics were put into storage, probably in the basement of the Town Hall, but they were not forgotten.

Orland Eaton, with others, conceived and fostered the idea of a permanent historical and antiquarian collection to be fittingly exhibited in a suitable building of its own.

At a meeting held in the vestry on May 9, 1903, twenty-seven persons united under the corporate name of “The Hancock Historical Society.” They adopted a constitution and by-laws and elected officers with Orland Eaton as president.

HHS drawing

After considerable discussion of eligible sites, it was voted to purchase the house and land at the corner of Main Street and Bennington Road which was then owned by Christy H. and Helen C. Duncan.

On September 26, 1903 the purchase was made. The solvency of the society is indicated by the fact that, even after paying for the house, there remained $35.11 in the treasury.

The house which is ideally suited to the needs of an historical society is, in itself, historic. It was built for Charles Symonds in 1808-1809 and was first occupied by Charles and his bride, Sally Dennis, immediately after their marriage in 1809.

The walls of the house are of time-mellowed red brick made by Hancock workmen of good Hancock clay. The side walls are laid in the “promiscuous bond” while the front is in the more artistic and more difficult Flemish bond. This alone would date the building quite accurately even if other evidence were wanting.

There are things of historical interest to be seen even before one enters the building. By the door is a boulder with the initials “J.G.H.G.A.D. 1789” cut into its face. This was originally at the door step of the old Hunt Farm which was near Hunt Pond on the road to Nubanusit Lake. It was here that Lewis Hunt, one of the founders of the Society, was born.

The granite watering trough by the fence was given to the Society in 1957. It is engraved “G.M. Sheldon 1909.”

A fitting exhibit for final mention is the “Town Coffin” used in olden times to transport the town poor to their last resting place. It also served as a temporary repository for such of the citizens as were so inconsiderate as to die in winter when the digging of a proper grave was impossible.

-Excerpt attributed to Ruth Weston Ledward Johnson