Preserving the Past for the Benefit of the Future

Seth Mendell learned early on about the importance of “preserving the past for the benefit of the future” when his father, Charles, and other forward-thinking residents began collecting and saving bits of Mattapoisett’s history. That was before the establishment of the Mattapoisett Historical Society, now in its 55th year of service to the community.

On September 29, the Society held its 55th annual meeting during which Seth Mendell gave his final president’s report. The Mendells are retiring to Florida, but will be returning in the summer months staying in connection to family, friends, and the Society. Mendell gave a retrospective of the Society and his time as a member beginning in 1991. He has been the president since 1996. During his long tenure he noted the following achievements:

The Christian Church trustees coordinated the use of the church with the Society’s Board of Directors to store and display historic pieces from not only Mattapoisett but the surrounding area. Then, in 1968, the carriage house was built by the Historical Society and contains many of the larger exhibits that the society has acquired over the years. Today the two buildings stand, “as a jewel on Church Street” Mendell told the assembled.

He recalled the charming story of working with professional museum conservators who volunteered their time to help the Society organize and prioritize the collections in the early 1990s. At that time, duplicate items were sold or donated to other museums. When Mendell shared with his elderly mother the work that was taking place, she told him about a cradle that her family had donated and from which 18 members of Mendells family including his great, great-great-grandfather had been rocked. She made it crystal clear that that cradle stay in Mattapoisett. The cradle had nearly slipped through the Society’s hands much to Mendell’s horror, but can be found in the mezzanine of the church today.

As he continued to recount the numerous improvements the Society has been able to complete, including priceless pieces of history and the buildings that house them, none stands more “priceless” than the careful fiduciary oversight he proudly spoke of. Mendell gave detailed information on the financial health then and now of the Society, the importance of ongoing fundraising efforts and now, the establishment of an endowment to pay for a full-time curator. The Society’s board decided to name the endowment that will ensure professional management of the collections and outreach programs into the future the Mendell Endowment for the Curator.            As noted in the annual meeting program: “The fund will be established to honor both Charles and Seth Mendell in appreciation for their work at the Mattapoisett Historical Society and their dedication to preserving Mattapoisett history. The Board of the Historical Society will initiate a 5-year Capital Campaign to fund the endowment. The endowment will be used to fund the work of the Curator in order to sustain and grow the Society for future generations.”

But Mendell’s work is not done. He said that since he has given no less than 20 lectures on local history over the years, he will be writing a book using those lectures as resource material. That publication will cover everything from shipbuilding, to the canal’s impact on the South Coast. Another writing project is on the subject of salt works history in the area, one of the major industries in past decades in and around Mattapoisett.

Jennifer McIntire, the newly elected president of the Society, presented Mendell with a plaque to commemorate his many years of service. The meeting was then adjourned and everyone was invited to enjoy refreshments and to thank Seth Mendell personally for his dedication and in setting the course of the Society into charted waters for continued success.

By Marilou Newell

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