North Adams Transcript

Pownal history promoted through society's Web site

January 25, 2002

By Carrie Saldo
North Adams Transcript

POWNAL, Vt. -- The Pownal Historical Society is looking for new members, and it wants to encourage its current members to become more active.

Ken Held, a society board member, established a spot on the Web site -- -- with the help of his wife Joyce, hoping to do just that.

Of the society's 70 or so members, only about 15 people are consistently active within the society, Held said. So he and other members of the board thought a Web site would help spark some interest in the society.

"We need more active membership, and we're working on that," Held said. Held specifically mentioned the society's interest in recruiting younger people into the organization. However, Held said that is difficult because young people aren't generally interested in genealogy, one of the society's focal points.

Held described Pownal as a "gateway town" which people would live in for a few years later moving on to other states or towns. Because of this, members of the historical society felt a Web site would create a place for the descendants of former Pownal residents to research their family's genealogy. And since the site states only one other town in Vermont has more registered cemeteries than Pownal, there is a great deal of research potential.

Held said "people from Pennsylvania, the Cape -- all over" have ventured to Pownal after conducting research on the site. Held continued, it "helps (descendants) gather information from a distance." Once people understand who they are related to or where they can find a family members remains "it makes their trip (to Pownal) more beneficial," Held said.

The Web site has a good deal of information to offer its visitors, with a total of 15 search categories, aside from genealogy. The site includes goals of the society, photographs and paintings of its landscapes, and unique facts about Pownal.

One such fact the site boasts: Former United States Presidents Chester A. Arthur and James A. Garfield taught school in Pownal during the 1850s.

Held discovered something unique while conducting research for the site. He is related, through marriage, to an original Pownal resident -- Mary Jane Rounds.

Since the Web site was first posted during the summer of 1999, Held said he has "constantly (received) praise from people around the country" about the ever-expanding site.

Held said the most recent addition to the site took place just this week. Wednesday afternoon, Held said he changed the home page of the site from a painting by W. Haag, to a picture of "Englishman and Royal Governor of Massachusetts Thomas Pownall," from whom the town took its name.

According to the Web site, the original charter of the town from 1760 dropped the second "L", making the town Pownal.

Held, who moved to Pownal in 1968 from Elmira, N.Y., and retired from General Dynamics (formerly a division of General Electric Ordinance Systems) last May, said he got a lot of enjoyment out of creating the site that, in his mind, "will never be done."

The Pownal Historical Society "welcomes the participation and involvement of any interested persons." It encourages anyone interested to attend its meetings held on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the Solomon Wright Public Library. For more information, visit the Web site or contact the Pownal Historical Society President Dot Banks at 802-823-4007.

Carrie Saldo's e-mail address is, telephone extension 225.