Ethel Mae Marsden lived most of her life on Hall's Ground, where she raised canaries for many years. She published her book in 1962.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Ethel Mae Marsden decided nearly 60 years ago that it was time to record the history of this small North County town.
A longtime breeder of canaries who was tuned into the goings-on in Clarksburg despite her lifelong disability, the "Bird Girl" wrote down a personalized description of the "story, facts, myths and mysteries" of the town, according to her own advertisement in the former North Adams Transcript.
A few copies of this slim — it's only 70 pages — booklet were found in the storage room at Town Hall and the Historical Commission is in the process of having a new edition printed.
"Clarksburg, Mass., Then and Now, 1749 to 1962" will be available for purchase for $15.
"We kept the price down as low as we could because we wanted people to buy them," said Commissioner Edward Denault. "We don't really want make money off it, but we also don't want to spend all our funds."
The reprint will essentially be a scanned copy that will include some 45 photos and Marsden's lengthy author's note on the back.
"For many years she noted important events and kept notes of facts and stories about the town were told to her," it states. "If the stories were interesting, she always checked with someone else and if the two 'jived,' she made notes and these facts, myths and legends into her story."
Marsden had written a small book on canary care and breeding a few years before and claimed to have a novel "ready for printing" but it's not clear if it was ever published. Both the canary book and history book were self-published.
The commissioners have been trying to get the word out about the booklet so they know who wants one before putting in the final printing order.
"I went around with flyers, I printed up flyers and put them in everybody's mailbox," said Commissioner Jeanne Moulthrop.
Right now, they have about 40 to 50 copies reserved. To reserve one, contact Moulthrop at email@example.com or at 413-663-3630 or Denault at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-662-2438.
"The biggest conversation piece I've gotten when people got a hold of me is — who's going to do the next stage?" said Denault. "I'd love to be able do something for the next stage."
Moulthrop said they had tried to track down someone from Marsden's family for an endorsement on republishing but had come up short. (Copyright on the book ran out in 1990.)
Marsden, who lived most of her life in her parents' large home on Hall's Ground, died in 1972 at the age of 62. She'd contracted rheumatoid arthritis at age 5 and it had severely limited her mobility. She left a sister in Brooklyn, N.Y., and a few nieces and nephews.
The reprint is part of the Historical Commission's hopes to become more active after a long period of dormancy.
Current members also include Fire Chief Carlyle "Chip" Chesbro and Erin Scott, who is also on the Planning Board.
Moulthrop has been going through the storage area, digging out town reports and documents and organizing ephemera that had been collected by the defunct Historical Society.
The commission is asking for more material if any residents come across photos or clippings or other documents of historical interest to the town. Moulthrop is also trying to track down town reports prior to 1885.
The goal is to revamp one of the rooms at Town Hall into a historical exhibit and archive.
In other business at Monday's meeting, the commission determined that plans by Verizon Wireless, doing business as Cellco Partnership, to install a cell tower at the former country club would not disrupt any historical sites.
The closest structure would be the Ketchum House, which had been owned by relatives of one of the town's founders. Denault and Moulthrop didn't think the tower would be easily seen from the house.
Trileaf, an engineering and architecture firm, was requesting the information on behalf of Verizon.
The commission did note that the town inventory of historical sites is greatly out of date, having been conducted in 1980-81.
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