Rowe Historical Society
Kemp-McCarthy Museum

About the Rowe Historical Society

On November 30, 1957, eighteen town residents gathered at the Rowe Town Library to form the Rowe Historical Society. A Publicity Committee was organized to tell the public about the new society and to invite interested people to attend the next meeting. A Bylaw Committee was created to define the objectives of the society. 


At the second meeting of the society on January 11, 1958, Bylaw Committee Chairman Wendell W. Bjork described the purposes of the society:


  • To collect and preserve historical records and data of persons, places and events in and associated with Rowe, Massachusetts


  • To collect, preserve and maintain an historical library and museum of historical relics and articles of historical interest


  • To awaken and maintain public interest in all matters relating to the history of the Town of Rowe


  • To acquire by purchase or otherwise, or lease or rent, real and personal property not in excess of the amount permitted by law as may be necessary or convenient as incidental to the purposes of the corporation, and to sell and dispose of the same


The bylaws were accepted, and the society received its Charter of Incorporation on July 7, 1958 . There were ninety-two charter members.


In 1961, the society acquired Fort Pelham, one of the forts built by the Colonial government during the French and Indian War.

In 1962, the town of Rowe voted to sell the Village School to the society for $1. It became the Rowe Historical Museum, and it was dedicated on June 30, 1963.


Over the years, the museum has grown considerably. In 1966, the West School (1785) was moved to the site. Additional rooms were added in 1968, 1972 and 1975. Most recently, a barn was built as an attachment to the West School.

Since its inception, the Rowe Historical Society has had many benefactors. They include: retired teachers Rae Kemp and Helen McCarthy, for whom the Kemp-McCarthy Memorial Museum of the Rowe Historical Society is named; and Martha Wells Henry, who gave the museum approximately 3,000 artifacts, including a Shays' Rebellion document.


The society has prospered over the years thanks to the wisdom, foresight, inspiration and dedication of the original incorporators: John H. Williams, Jr., Wendell W. Bjork, Edith M. Kloetzle, Anne G. Bond, Alice V. Truesdell, J. Henry Stanford, Dorothy N. Stevens, Lucy J. Avery, Arvon G. Palmer, Edward C. Henderson and Nancy N. Williams. 

Nancy Williams, Billie Brown and John H. Williams at a reception in the Carriage House

of the Kemp-McCarthy Museum

The Rowe Historical Society has long encouraged the publication of historically significant research. It periodically publishes The Bulletin, dedicated to the preservation of local history by highlighting "bits of history, old letters, pictures, news clippings and anything of interest to the history of Rowe and its surroundings."

Books published by the society include The History of Rowe Massachusetts by Percy Whiting Brown and Nancy Newton Williams, and Wildflowers of Rowe by Susan Alix Williams. 
The Rowe Historical Society assists scholars conducting research on historic sites located in the town of Rowe. For example, the society received a grant from the Coe Foundation for the study of Fort Pelham. Artifacts excavated during this project are now in the Kemp-McCarthy Museum.

Today, more than a half-century after its incorporation, the Rowe Historical Society remains an important and vibrant organization dedicated to the preservation of local history. Its museum complex contains a large and important collection of artifacts (please click on "Take a Virtual Tour" to see some of the holdings of the museum), and many of the treasures of the museum are displayed periodically in special exhibits. The Kemp-McCarthy Museum is now widely regarded as one of the finest small museums in New England.