They are a small but mighty society of like-minded individuals with a laser focus on all things historic, especially if its anything to do with the Town of Rochester. And that passion to preserve the past and present it to future generations was on full display when the Rochester Historical Society opened its second exhibit, “Treasures from the Museum,” on October 2.
Using all the available space and interesting features the former church property holds, the society opened the front doors and surrounding grounds to the public for a fun and informative peek into the past. They even brought out the big guns –well, muskets really – with members of the Wareham 1st Company of Plymouth 4th Regiment of the Continental Army reenactment soldiers, giving a demonstration and salute to departed servicemen.
The militia group headed by Rochester Historical Society Chairman Malcom Phinney performed an honor salute of three rounds fired over the Woodside Cemetery.
The cemetery, which hugs the church building on two sides, is the final resting place for 16 former military men who have lain in that hallowed ground for decades, nay centuries. Society members have striven over the years to identify all the souls buried in the cemetery. Despite their best efforts and ongoing research, some elusive details remain lost in time.
Of the graves of former military men that have been located, much information has been gathered, but much remains to be found. So far, the society has identified the following: Frederick Soule, Civil War, Navy, 1861-1865, died 1929; Laurice Briggs, Civil War, GAR post 208, died 1866 at 21 years of age; Nehemiah Davis, Civil War, 1834-1922; David Cairns, USMC, WW1, 1898-1969; Charles Smith, Co. C 58th Massachusetts Infantry Civil War (all dates unknown); John Maxim, Co C 18th Massachusetts Infantry (all dates unknown); Leander Cobb, Co. K 42nd Massachusetts Infantry Civil War (all dates unknown); William Allen, GAR Post 208 (all dates unknown); Benjamin Gurney, Civil War (all dates unknown); John Gault, War of 1812, died in 1860 at age 75; John Galt, Civil War, 1861-1865, 1840-1889; Gardner Hathaway, Co E 32rd Regiment Massachusetts Volunteers, died 1889; Sullivan Bumpus, Co A 4th Regiment R.I. volunteers, killed at the battle of Antietem; Frank Bumpus and Benjamin Bumpus (all dates and branch of service unknown); Josiah Morse, War of 1812, 1794-1868; and Luther Morse, Battle of Gettysburg, born in 1842 and died July 18, 1863, 13 days after the battle had ended.
Phinney explained the difference between a militia and the Minutemen troops. He said, “The Minutemen were like the Green Berets.” They were picked out from militias, received extra training, were roughly 25 years of age, wore specific uniforms, and were expected to defend and protect their designated locations, mustering quickly and expertly in minutes. But the Minutemen lacked a central command making it difficult to fight the British. They would eventually become part of a formal army.
The exhibit is a collection of materials, some directly related to military action and others simply interesting bits and pieces of a long-ago time in history being kept alive, a legacy of work and service.
The museum is only open from June through the end of August on Sundays 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm. To visit September – May, call 508-295-8908 for an appointment.
By Marilou Newell