The Jaffrey Center Village Improvement Society
Jaffrey Center Village Improvement Society, PO Box 722, Jaffrey, NH 03452
Photo by Sean Driscoll. Creative Commons   

The Melville Academy Museum

“Melville Academy serves as a Museum whose mission is to preserve and communicate the history of Jaffrey, the Academy, and the Jaffrey Center Village Improvement Society”

Melville Academy Museum in Jaffrey has opened its 98th season with many new exhibits and a guide (.pdf 287kb) to this intriguing Jaffrey history museum.

The museum is open from 2 to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays in July and August. Admission is free, courtesy of the Jaffrey Center Village Improvement Society (JCVIS, VIS). Donations to the JCVIS are gratefully accepted.

The exhibit honoring Rev. Laban Ainsworth, Hannah Davis, Jonas Melville, and Willa Cather.

The main room features the museum’s award-winning collection of Hannah Davis bandboxes, exhibits of 19th and early 20th century clothing, and the exhibit honoring Rev. Laban Ainsworth, Hannah Davis, Jonas Melville, and Willa Cather.

A photo of Edith Lewis, Cather's partner, who is buried next to Cather a thousand feet away in the SW corner of the Old Burying Ground, is included in the exhibit. Cather wrote that “the best part of all the better books was written here” while staying at the Shattuck Inn, referring to My Antonia, A Lost Lady, Death Comes for the Archbishop, and One of Ours. Photos show her writing on a Shattuck Inn porch with Monadnock in the background and with the tent on a Jaffrey farm where she did much of her writing.

Gorgeous dresses worn by members of the Cutter and Shattuck families during the heydays of the Shattuck Inn; a painting by Jaffrey artist Fanny Hillsmith (1911-2007); and a handsomely restored photograph of George Jaffrey III (1717-1801) are among the many new items since last season. George Jaffrey III, in colonial times, was the treasurer, councilor and Supreme Court judge in the Province of New Hampshire. His name graces the town of Jaffrey, which he never visited.

The museum, a gateway to knowledge of Jaffrey’s past, is located in Jaffrey Center, the gateway to Mt. Monadnock. Park by the 1775 Meetinghouse by Main Street (Rte. 124) at Laban Ainsworth Way, and walk one block down Blackberry Lane to the museum’s historic 1833 building at 39 Thorndike Pond Road. Jaffrey Center Village Improvement Society (VIS) volunteers have operated it since 1920.

The first floor exhibits have been arranged into 12 themed areas, with a printed guide. The front hall displays a donation last year of a 1957 painting of First Church in Jaffrey and Laban Ainsworth Way, by Roy W. Johnson.

Favorite older exhibits include the Jaffrey Center Post Office, which closed in 1990; 19 th century tools, including Amos Fortune’s hay rake; a painting of Mt. Monadnock and Thorndike Pond; two 19th century samplers above a home organ; items used in the kitchen and in home industries; early American communications methods, including a 19th century facebook; and a model of the Meetinghouse, made by Bowman Cann, a builder and VIS vice president, in 1922 when he rebuilt the 1775 Meetinghouse for the Town. A new exhibit in progress, on the people who led “the willing forces” of the VIS over the years, is behind the Meetinghouse model on the SW wall. The SE (front) wall has a table that includes books and publications, VIS memorabilia, and the interesting life stories of many deceased VIS members.

The second floor, which has nine themed areas, is set up as a classroom in 1841, with 28 original built-in desks for 2 or 3 students. The names of the students in 1841 are listed, many of them ancestors of current families in Jaffrey. The exhibits include comparative photos from the book, Jaffrey Then and Now, four wall maps that are 105 to 174 years old, and newspapers from 1775 and 1865 announcing the Declaration of Independence and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Membership is open to all persons interested in preserving the natural beauty and historical character of Jaffrey Center. Annual dues are $10 per person. Larger tax-deductible contributions are welcome. Members live in Jaffrey, other New Hampshire towns, Massachusetts and in seven other states from Maine to North Carolina to Ohio.