curator's corner

Curator's Corner

The passing of Charles Beach Barlow

The passing of Charles Beach Barlow sadly brought to an end a more than one-hundred year Beach/Barlow family affiliation with the New Milford Historical Society.
This long-standing relationship between us began with Charlie's grandfather, Charles Merritt Beach, who was a driving force in the creation of the Society and town museum in 1915. He served as the first president of the Society and certainly did much to encourage future members of his family to remain involved in continuing the vision he had when founding such an important organization.
Charlie's father, Herbert Woodward Barlow, was the next family member to become actively involved with the Society, serving as its president from 1954 to 1973. He was instrumental in negotiating the gift from Mary Clissold Knapp of the Knapp House which became part of the museum in 1955. He and his wife, Marian (Beach), donated many historical items to the museum's collection which further added to the work Charles M. Beach had started.
One has to assume that a young Charlie Barlow was taken inside the museum often to see first hand the many treasured relics of New Milford's past. He heard stories of early New Milford and was taught to not only appreciate its rich history, but was also being groomed to take over the mantle of caring for the Society.
There is little doubt that Charlie learned these lessons well. He was an active member of the Society and served as both the president and first vice president for several decades and was an avid supporter of the Historical Society for most of his adult life.
Charlie was often referred to as the town's "unofficial historian" with good reason. He knew about everyone and everything, past and present, and would happily share little-known stories about the events, people, businesses, houses and the general history of the town he loved so much. An everyday conversation with Charlie was one filled with his knowledge, humor and wisdom. One always came away not only a better informed person, but somehow implanted with an urge to want to know more. He would give you just enough information to pique your curiosity into having to look further into what he'd talked to you about. How delighted he was when you told him he had made you seek out more information into what he had discussed with you!

Charlie was instrumental in building the connector of the museum which unified the Main Gallery, the Boardman Store and the Knapp House into one space. It is probably not a coincidence that he was the one who brought all the separate pieces of the museum, which his family had been responsible for implementing, together as as one building. In doing so, he left a very tangible reminder to the future of his family's multi-generational support and dedication for preserving the history of New Milford.
He had every reason to be proud of his family heritage. Like the generations before him, Charlie was generous to a fault and gave so much back to the town he cared so deeply about. Despite facing an advanced age, he was still held high in public esteem for his continued active participation with many organizations, demonstrating the meaning of a life well lived.
Accepting the end of so rich an era with this remarkable family is a difficult task. We are grateful for their support and vision and we are all better for our association with them. The vacant chair at the Board's meeting table is a profoundly sad reminder that we will greatly miss our mentor and friend and will treasure the time spent with Charles Barlow.

With love and appreciation,
The New Milford Historical Society
Board of Trustees