Ladies Aid Hall
“For years the Ladies Aid Society worked for a larger gathering place for community events. They gave “sociables” in their homes to raise money to build a hall for the community. When most of the money was collected, the group was split, partially over the location but mainly over the name. But though feelings ran high for a while, the hall was built in 1910 on a site contributed by John Tyler with lumber donated by E. E. Putnam. It was called the Ladies Aid Hall.”
Regarding the debate about the name and location in the minutes of the Ladies Aid Society, there is an entry in their minutes following the final decision in which five women requested their names to be dropped from the society, “which was done with many regrets by the members.”
The Boston Globe reported, “The dedication of the hall took place March 2, 1910. Over 275 people showed up. The celebration started with an oyster supper. Byron Rogers was the moderator and the address of the evening was “The Efficient Life.” A quartet from Dartmouth College provided music. The remaining debt of $700 was nearly paid off with volunteer subscriptions by the end of the evening.
And from the Groton Times: “The ladies of West Newbury have accomplished a good work in building their hall in that village. It is a great undertaking to build and equip a hall costing $2700 in a small country place. The ladies of West Newbury have done this, and their work shows them to be loyal to home interests, devoted to upbuilding of the community. All honor to the Ladies Aid of West Newbury.”
The Hall has been the setting for dramatic presentations. 4-H groups met here. There were cake baking contests for the youth, oyster suppers, dances, baked bean suppers served to the “Pond Girls” from Camp Farwell, and it was home base for the Newbury Center - West Newbury Grange, which was later joined by South Newbury. It was the meeting place for the West Newbury dance team. They won a trophy for the state best quadrille in 1941. We had an orchestra as well.
*The Chicken Pie Suppers of the ‘20’s raised money to pay off the mortgage for the new parsonage.
Before our famous Turkey Suppers started over fifty years ago, the town was famous for its chicken pie suppers.
This local newspaper review was pasted into Ladies Aid Society’s minutes sometime in the 1920’s:
It would not take much to make one believe that if one of those good West Newbury cooks should get out on her front porch, swing her old sun bonnet three times around her head and holler chicken, chicken pie, the West Newbury grave yard would yawn, and all those sleeping therein who had ever tasted one of those West Newbury chicken pies would come forth clothed in the flesh and demand two helpings of chicken pie. As it was, just a home made poster announcing a chicken pie supper was to be held Ladies Aid Hall on November 22 caused the clans to gather from all quarters. They swarmed around that hall like bees, and they made such an onslaught on the chicken pie end of the business that they nearly swamped the good ladies of West Newbury, who did not foresee such a mob. You can’t phase a West Newbury woman. They hustled and not a soul went hungry. The warmth, the cordiality, and the hospitality of the West Newbury people has been proverbial for generations, and if you do not have a good time when you go out to one of their entertainments, it is your own fault.
The Hall was built in 1910 but the creation of these plans, that is where to locate it, how large, etc., produced a well-publicized fight. In the end the Ladies Aid built the Hall and took care of it, and the Ladies Circle were in charge of church projects such as mission work and paying off the mortgage for the parsonage built in 1919-1920. By 1932, the Ladies Aid decreased in size to the point that it gave the Hall to the Ladies Circle. In the 1970's or 80's the Ladies Circle, on the recommendation of the state, changed their name to the Women's Fellowship. In the late 1980's or 1990's the Women's Fellowship asked the church trustees if they'd accept ownership of the Hall to prevent the assessment of taxes. They accepted, providing the Women's Fellowship continued to care for it but, unfortunately, no one thought about changing the deed until we needed it for the septic system. The Town didn't think about assessing us taxes, but when we did change the title it was necessary to pay a state transfer tax of approximately $570 (the Fellowship paid half — the Church paid the other half). In the 1960's or 70's the kitchen was enlarged to include what was the dining room, (by the stairs) and the ladies parlor (south of the furnace room) was extended several feet towards the road into the woodshed.