Rowe Historical Society
Kemp-McCarthy Museum
Learn about the fascinating history of the Franklin County town of Rowe, Massachusetts from our fine selection of books.

For more information, please click on the "Museum Store" tab above.
Thank you to the Rowe and Massachusetts Cultural Councils for supporting many of our programs.
(We are closed for the season. Please visit us when we re-open in July.)
Please scroll down
 to learn about Rowe's old freight house and the surrounding area


 The Rowe Historical Society owns and operates the Kemp-McCarthy Museum located at 282 Zoar Road in Rowe, Massachusetts. It opened on June 30, 1963.


The museum has an extensive collection of local artifacts and antiques. Highlights of the collection include antique quilts, 19th century dolls, period costumes, china and glassware, sleighs, furniture, photographs, cookware, tools, farm implements, and an original 19th century hearse. Exhibits are updated regularly.


The Kemp-McCarthy Museum also has many valuable photos of townspeople and local sites, as well as literature from the Davis Mine and the Yankee Atomic Electric Company.


The Rowe Historical Society 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."

Many books are published by the Rowe Historical Society, including The History of Rowe, Massachusetts by Percy Whiting Brown and Nancy Newton Williams.


The Kemp-McCarthy Museum is open to the public every Sunday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. from July through mid-October, and at other times by appointment. Concerts, holiday celebrations, literary programs, and other cultural activities are held at the museum throughout the year.


Our website also provides useful information on membership in the Rowe Historical Society and directions to the Kemp-McCarthy Museum.


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Jerry and Gayle Kelley sent us this rare photo of an old freight house. Jerry believes the picture was taken in Rowe before 1911, perhaps as early as 1880. It shows an American Class 4-4-0 locomotive with what looks like a work caboose behind. A tie car is parked some distance behind, which Jerry believes is a work train. The engineer, conductor and brakemen are all visible in the photo (please see enlargement below).

Special thanks to Jerry and Gayle for sending this photo to us! Gerry Kelley is an expert on the history of the Hoosac Tunnel.

For more information on this interesting corner of Rowe, please read the narrative below the picture.

Here is more information about the local history this part of Rowe taken from The History of Rowe by Nancy Newton Williams and Percy Whiting Brown:

In 1882 The Newton Brothers formed the Deerfield River Company as a subsidiary of their Holyoke Paper Company and built sawmills and pulp mills in Readsboro, Vermont. Finding that hauling their pulp by team to Hoosac Tunnel was impractical, in 1884 they petitioned for a charter from Vermont and Massachusetts for a railroad called the Deerfield River Railroad Company. The eight miles of narrow-gauge track in Massachusetts ran within Rowe's borders high above the Deerfield River, from Hoosac Tunnel Station to the Vermont state line at Sherman.

The road was completed to Readsboro, and the first train made the trip on July 4, 1885. The railroad led to a boom for industry in Readsboro and prompted the establishment of the James Ramage Paper Company in Monroe Bridge in 1886. Meanwhile, the Deerfield River Railroad was renamed the Hoosac Tunnel and Wilmington Railroad (HT&W) and incorporated in Massachusetts. The road in general followed the Deerfield River, and in 1891 was extended north to Wilmington, Vermont, a total distance of 24.5 miles. The New England Power Company's plans for Whitingham Dam called for the flooding of this last section, so they bought the railroad and in 1922 built a new route to Wilmington. The Power Company sold its shares in the railroad in 1926.

The passenger train ran south regularly for the last time on November 2, 1927, the day before the great flood tremendously damaged the HT&W track. By the time repairs were made, bus service was available. On December 3, 1937, the Interstate Commerce Commission authorized the abandonmet of 13 miles, the troublesome last extension from Readsboro to Wilmington.

The eight miles in Rowe had a station at Monroe Bridge, about three miles from the (then) Rowe post office, but because of the difficult and steep road down the mountain, this was seldom used by Rowe citizens. The original survey called for two other stations in Rowe, one to be called Heywood's and one to be called Logan's, some two miles north of Hoosac Tunnel Station, but there was nothing in this wilderness to warrant even a stop. The gauge was three feet prior to 1912-13 when at considerable expense it was changed to the standard measure of four feet, eight and one-half inches, thereby affording greater facility in the handling of freight at the Hoosac Tunnel.

Both images below are from 1903.

Jerry Kelley is shown in the photo below at Rowe's Head overlooking the Deerfield River Valley.  Located here is one of the eight stone lining towers or poles used for the surveying of the Hoosac Tunnel in 1866.

Here is a photo essay highlighting some of our past programs

Last Night's Fun, Celtic

Katherine First, Celtic

Bill Knittle, Country, Rock

Northampton Flutes, Classical

John Root, Traditional American

Dennis Ainsworth, Classical on antique piano

John Marin

Thomas Enneking

(with Antique Cars)
Joan DeGusto, Costume Historian

Lynda Meyer, Costume Historian

John Magnago, Norm Cousineau and Jim McKee

Professor John Anderson as
Robert Frost and
Washington Irving

Joe Manning and the Lewis Hines Project

Hoosac Tunnel experts Tim Lawrence, Jerry Kelley, Carl Byron
 and Chuck Cahoon

Cliff Schexnayder, Hoosac Tunnel author

History of Rowe's Fort Pelham with Michael Coe and
 RHS Historian Nan Williams

Robert Osterhout, University of Pennsylvania professor and prolific author about Rowe archaeologist John Henry Haynes

Tom and Nan, preserving our antique clocks

Bonnie Nugent, handwriting analyst
Photo Essay Continues Below

The end of the year is a time to reflect on the past. With that in mind, here are some of our favorite posters from several of our many successful programs.

A special thanks to the Massachusetts and Rowe Cultural Councils for helping us fund many of our programs, and to you for supporting our efforts over the years!

Posters 1 and 9 above, courtesy of Leon Peters. Remaining posters by website editor.


Remembering Rail-Fan III   -   October 4, 2015

The Weather -  Perfect!

The Audience - Standing room only and very enthusiastic!

The Speakers - Talented, knowledgeable, inspired!

The Exhibits - New, interesting and very well done!

The Exhibitors - Enthusiastic, approachable, knowledgeable!

The Food - Hot, fresh and delicious!

Rail-Fan III In a word - Perfect!

Thank you to everyone who made it a day to remember!

Thank you to our "standing room only" audience at Rail-Fan III. We scheduled repeat performances to accommodate everyone.