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Days gone by: Monkton Historical Society collects photos from past times

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Posted on September 1, 2017 |
By Gaen Murphree



MonktonRandallonhorse.jpg
RANDALL FRENCH (LEFT), the father of lifelong Monkton residents Marlene Russell and Margaret Sunderland, sits beside his sister Viola while dad Howard French provides a steadying hand. Randall was born in 1918 and Viola in 1920. The team of horses is hitched to the wagon and ready to work.

MONKTON — A dedicated cadre of Monkton residents shared photographs and stories of Monkton days gone by at a recent Monkton Historical Society meeting.

Sisters Marlene Russell and Margaret Sunderland, life-long Monkton residents whose families have farmed the Monkton area since the early 1800s, brought photos to the Aug. 21 gathering. The sisters’ carefully organized photo albums and richly remembered stories brought to life a world familiar yet different: horse-powered, humorous, hard working, rich with personal connections and colorful stories.

Photos shared that night show a parade of life. A photo from September 1953 shows Marlene, Margaret and younger brother Roy off to school. Older sister Marlene started school in a one-room schoolhouse. Every village has its scandals and secrets: one photo shows a dignified gentleman who ran a store; he later shot his wife and daughter. Another photo shows a horse drawing a haywagon with a mound of hay taller than a man. In another, a man leans against a horse-drawn wagon outside a shed at the Monkton kaolin works. In another, the sisters’ dad, a striking toddler, poses with his cat and favorite teddy bear, circa 1920. The teddy now lives in the Sheldon Museum.

And everywhere — horses. Horses drawing sleds, drawing carts, drawing wagons, drawing grain drills, carrying children. A photo from the 1940s shows dad Randall French as a young man in uniforms. A 1960s photo shows a teenage Marlene playing the guitar.

  MARGARET SUNDERLAND DESCRIBES a 1952 family photo that she shared to a Monkton Historical Society gathering where old photos of Monkton were shown and cataloged.

Independent photo/Gaen Murphree 

Monkton Historical Society President Gill Coates scanned all photos brought in that evening for the society’s collection. But he said he’s still hoping to fill in gaps in the organization’s collection, with a focus on photos of Monkton life in the second half of the 20th century.

Coates is especially looking for photos of such important events as the opening of Monkton Central School, the construction of the fire station, and photos of the town hall when the stage (now gone) was still being used for town and school functions.

Coates can be reached at [email protected].

   AN INFANT MARLENE drives a tractor for her dad, Randall French. By the 1940s, work once done by horses was done by machines. Marlene said that whereas her grandfather loved working with horses, her dad was eager to embrace the new thing, tractors, trucks and other machines.

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