Somersworth Youth Connection Visits The Millyard Museum, Manchester

Every once in a while I am allowed to leave Somersworth and explore the world outside. I know hard to believe, but  it’s true! Thursday July 20th was one of those days thanks to the Somersworth Youth Connection. The bus was loaded and ready to leave at 9am and before we knew it we found ourselves in Manchester.

The reason for us being in Manchester was to visit the Millyard Museum. The museum is located in the Amoskeag Millyard and is housed in the historic building of the same name. I’m not unfamiliar with the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company as there are many parallels between the mills in Manchester and the mills in Somersworth. The mill yard district itself is worth a visit in Manchester because the architecture is amazing but I digress. Back to my day out.

The day began with the group being led  into the classroom where we were split into two activities groups. One would take part in classroom activities entitled “A child’s Life” the other would tour the museum. I ended up in the touring group and we were guided by John Clayton who is the Millyard museum’s Executive Director.

Let The Journey Begin

Our journey began and what a fascinating journey it would prove to be. The permanent exhibit in the museum is called, ” Woven in Time: 11,000 Years at Amoskeag Falls” and tells the story of the Falls. During our tour I was amazed by the information amassed in the museum and how well it was presented. From the very beginning when the native people of America discovered the power of the water, to the industrial revolution, the ethnic diversity that was part of the fabric that shaped the area, to present day.

One of my favorite exhibits were the fire engines which were somewhat unexpected as we rounded a slight corner. Now if you have ever been to the Summersworth Historical Museum at 157 Main Street you will be aware that we have the Deluge pumper engine is housed there. In Amoskeag they have two counterparts and one of them is the steam version that followed the hand pumpers. This is a magnificent machine and impressed all that were in the group.

If you are familiar with England at all, the old England not the New one that is, you will be aware that there is a huge old city called Manchester there as well. It was no accident that Manchester, NH is also called Manchester as it was modeled and named at least in part for its counterpart in the old country. Like Manchester NH, the Manchester, England was a textile town. That in many ways is where the similarities end though as Manchester NH got to correct many of the mistakes of Manchester, England, when it was built. The entire city in New Hampshire, just like Somersworth, was built around the textile mills and the needs of the workers, something that my kinsfolk back in England so often neglected.

Another of my favorite exhibits as well of those of the kids of SYC was the shuttle that moved and made the same noise as it would have some 100 years. The sound was loud but as our guide Mr. Clayton would tell us there were over 800 looms each with many of the shuttles moving back and forth simultaneously. I knew that mills were loud, noisy and dangerous places to work but this really put it into context for me and many of the kids.

The biggest revelation for many of the kids was how young the kids were that worked in the mills. When they learned that the kids were as young as eight and saw the pictures, many of their faces turned to disbelief.

As we moved through the exhibit we learned about General John Stark, the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, and how Manchester came to be the city that it is today. At the end of the tour there was a neat exhibit that recreated a street in the twentieth century.

All Change Places

Before we knew it was time for lunch and then the groups swapped places. This time we found ourselves in the classroom and taking part in some interesting activities that were designed to show the kids what it was like to lie in times gone by. The activities included filling out a job application using a circa 1920’s type writer, guessing what a collection of tools was used for, finding facts using old school textbooks, and planning a city from scratch. Watching the kids take part in the activities was of course somewhat entertaining. The activities were followed by a talk and question and answer session provided by Museum Educator Kristy Ellesworth.

All Good Things Must Come To An End

We were joined by the other members of the SYC and sadly our time at the museum came to an end. All day trips should end on a high note though and ours would be no exception. We walked a couple of blocks down and took in the Merrimack museum without which the Mill complex would not have been possible. All too soon it was time to hop back on the bus and it was not long before we were back in the parking lot of the Somersworth Middle School.

I would like to thank the staff of the SYC for inviting me along for the day and for the kids for being so well behaved for the day. Sometimes even this writer needs a day out to explore other areas of the state that she now calls home. I can’t wait to see the kids at SYC next week when we take a walk down to the Somersworth Mills and explore the similarities between the two places that we have seen.

You can find more information about Amoskeag Mill Yard in Manchester HERE. It is well worth taking the trip especially if you are interested in the history of the area.

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