On August 14th, the Springfield Museums officially gave birth to a new website “Honoring the Civil War Soldiers of the Western Bay State Regiment”. The event was well-attended by local historians, like Southwick’s Patricia Odiorne, and family members of the long-gone veterans of the unit, like Shirley Bock and Les Squires from Belchertown, and Gene Theroux, whose ancestor hailed from Enfield, Mass., now under the Quabbin Reservoir.
The project team members spoke briefly about the creation process: Larry Lowenthal, formerly of the National Park Service, spoke about the historical significance of the 31st Regiment and Stan Prager gave an account of the scanning and OCR (optical character reader) processes. Intern Jose Hernandez also said he felt moved by reading the soldiers’ accounts — which have never been published before. Cliff McCarthy, Archivist at the Wood Museum of Springfield History, gave a quick tour of the website’s features.
Attendees had a chance to tell the stories of their member of the 31st Mass. Some, like Nancy Strycharz, knew of letters or diaries written by their Civil War ancestor. All agreed that this new website was a much-needed addition to the information available to Civil War and family researchers and a way for the historical community to share new information.