Are you ready for a little time travel? While in town for Equine Affaire, you may want to check out the historical sites in West Springfield, Massachusetts. Settled in the 1630s and incorporated in 1774, the town sent its share of “minutemen” into the American Revolution after “the shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord a year later.
Across the Connecticut River in Springfield, a cavalry depot was soon established. Indeed, the New England Historical Society describes this area as a “hive of horse activity” during the war.
A “hive of horse activity” during the revolution
One of West Springfield’s most cherished landmarks from its colonial days is its oldest building, the Josiah Day house at 70 Park Street/US Route 20. Built in 1754 (likely atop an older house, with a later addition), this striking 2 ½-story structure is a rare example of a brick saltbox-style house. In fact, it is believed to be the oldest house of its kind in the country—and it’s well worth a visit.
Josiah Day died in 1770. His son Aaron inherited the property and moved there with his wife in 1775, just months before the start of the revolution. During the winter of 1775/1776, then-Col. Henry Knox passed in front of the Day house during his heroic 300-mile trek from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston, hauling the cannons that helped force the British evacuation of that city.
A decade later, high taxes and foreclosures against farmers ignited Shays’ Rebellion, which took place mainly in and around Springfield. Aaron Day’s cousin Luke Day helped lead this infamous uprising. He is believed to have trained his men on the commons in front of the Josiah Day house.
A Justin Morgan connection
Looking for a horse connection? Luke Day’s sister Martha married a cousin named Justin Morgan, a West Springfield native who dabbled in horse breeding. Sound familiar? In 1788, Morgan bred one of his mares to the stallion True Briton. The same year Morgan and his family left the area bound for Randolph, Vermont. The resulting bay colt, Figure, went on to make history as the foundation sire of the Morgan horse breed.
The Josiah Day house remained in the Day family for more than 150 years. Later, the Ramapogue Historical Society purchased the property and preserved it as a museum site according to the family’s wishes. The house has been part of the National Register of Historic Places since 1975.
Artifacts on display at the house include tools, china, quilts, clothing and paintings, as well as a precious cradle dating to the 17th century and the death mask of the town minister, Rev. Joseph Lathrop.
Special tours of the Josiah Day house will be available by advance appointment only from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 12 for $3 per person. To arrange a tour, please contact the Ramapogue Historical Society at (413) 636-1616 or [email protected].
Equine Affaire,® is the Nation’s Premier Equine Exposition and Equestrian Gathering. The Eastern States Exposition Center in West Springfield, Massachusetts hosts Equine Affaire from November 10 – 13. For information on attending, click here.