For some people, learning about American history is a complex, ongoing experience. Others don't take the topic quite as seriously. They think they know everything just by watching a few episodes of "Bonanza."
If you want to learn more about Rye's past, The Historical Society is here to help. This is the spot to find out about the folks who settled our region. Some of whom I've written about; and whose descendants have then forced me to settle out of court.
According to its website, Rye's history is told "through its people." And when they couldn't find any of them, lawyers.
The first settlers arrived here in 1660, mostly of European origin. Of course, Native Americans were here first, but the Europeans got rid of them by sending them on really difficult errands. We can learn from these tragic moments in history, however. Meaning, if anyone ever asks you to go get a "left-handed wrench," just stay right where you are.
The Historical Society was founded in 1964, by a "group of concerned citizens" looking to protect Rye's Square House. And if that worked, its square people. A lot of people who can now snap their fingers on the beat or use the word "baby" correctly, can thank The Society for that.
The citizens of Rye Brook are still waiting on such an intervention. Many are actually playing "Pat Boone-In A Metal Mood" on their CD players. So let's hope it happens soon.
The Historical Society is justifiably proud of their collection of artifacts which depict "the daily life" of Rye citizens from colonial times to today. Everything from furniture to political memorabilia. And some that are a combination of the two. Like that rocking chair that only conservatives can sit in.
The Society serves our town throughout the year with school visits, tours and lectures. By the way, the lectures are only if you misbehave on the tours. If you're good, you can probably skip them.
The Square House has stood through 21 owners. According to tenants, not one of them ever repainted. Occasionally, they gave back the security deposit, but that's it.
According to the Society, in 1770 the Square House was acquired by a Dr. Ebenezer Haviland, a surgeon and barber who got in trouble one fateful day when he was supposed to take out someone's appendix and instead gave them a crew cut.
And the following day with another customer? Did the reverse.
Dr Haviland was eventually appointed as surgeon to the Continental Army who took no chances. Meaning soldiers found if they kept their Tri-Corner hats on, it cut down considerably on the margin for error. And at least Dr. Haviland ruled out the head as something to work on.
The Archives might be the most fascinating aspect of The Historical Society. They include maps, census data and photos from back in the day. Most of them look absolutely accurate. Except that picture from the 1880s, where that kid is holding a record album. I'm pretty sure that Puffy's "We Invented The Re-Mix" didn't come out until a few years later.
But history always surprises you.
The collection also includes The Parsons Family Papers, which are very popular. And the Parsons Family Dog Papers, understandably a bit less so.
For people who wishes to volunteer at the Society, anyone in Rye or Rye Brook is welcome. Especially when it comes to cataloging the important papers. And knowing what's less important. Like John Alden's dirty limericks about Priscilla Mullins. Those should be sent directly to me, for closer examination.
Volunteers are also needed to keep the Society's gardens in good shape, to take care of their herbs, for example. As much as you may admire him, if you garden this is not a good time to emulate Dr. Haviland. Pruning, planting and watering, all have their place. But, if possible you will want to do them in the right order.
Why? Well, I've heard that the Historical Society still has some real working head and finger stocks. And if you cut the tops off the herbs?You may find yourself put in those stocks and displayed in the center of town. Let's face it: nobody wants that.