Special Collections and University Archives, W.E.B. Du Bois Library, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Marcia Grover Church Bates Family Papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The Marcia Church Bates Family Papers, 1712-1999, collected by family members over two centuries, is a collection rich in the local history of North Amherst and Ashfield, Massachusetts.
The Bates family ran two of the businesses in North Amherst: William Bates and his wife Esther operated the Bates Inn from 1925-1944, and Raymond Bates and his wife Marcia operated the Bates Store from 1928-1960. Marcia Bates' letters reveal the difficulties of keeping a business running during the Great Depression and later during the war years of the 1940s. Her letters also indicate some of the daily tasks involved with running the store and the lengths to which she and her husband went in order to maintain financial stability.
The Church family ran a farm in Ashfield, also subject to economic fluctuations. Clearly, the financial constraints that families had to endure during the 1920s-1940s are evident in the materials in this collection. Money is a frequent topic, whether it is discussed in the correspondence, legal documents, account books, or diaries.
This collection also depicts details in the lives of several generations of women, many of whom were college-educated, who worked, lived long and endured family tragedy. In a letter to her aunts, Marcia Bates writes, "Mother rejoices that we were brought up poor and with the knowledge that if we wanted anything done we would have to do it ourselves." Lucia Church, a single mother after her husband Frederick was killed, raised her three daughters in North Amherst and ensured that each of them went to college.
Lucia's daughter Cornelia became a librarian and worked at the Worcester Free Library in Worcester, Massachusetts. Cornelia's letters to her mother often discuss her work at the library. Cornelia's aunts, Helen and Isabel Church, were librarians at the South Ashfield Library, and her grandfather, George, served as President of the Board of Trustees of the Belding Memorial Library from 1918-1930. Therefore, libraries and librarianship are topics of note in this collection.
The local weather is also mentioned frequently. The effects of the March 1936 flood on the local communities are detailed as well as the devastation of the September 1938 Hurricane. In addition, the Church family diaries describe the daily weather conditions in Ashfield.
The collection is organized into seven series, including: I. Correspondence, II. Legal Documents, III. Account Books, IV. Diaries, V. Oral History and genealogical material, VI. Photographs, and VII. Memorabilia.
This collection is organized into seven series: