The Charles River Questers

Grace Allen
Charles River Questers at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, flanking a monument to Hannah Adams, the first woman in the U.S. to work professionally as a writer. Adams was born in Medfield in 1755.
Issue Date: 
April, 2019
Article Body: 

Antique fans and history buffs may want to take note of a local group that focuses on learning about and preserving the past.
The Charles River Questers was formed in 1980 by a group of Medfield residents interested in learning about and sharing their antique collections.
The group, with members from Norfolk, Dover, Medfield, and other surrounding towns, is an unchartered chapter of Questers International, a non-profit organization started in 1944 to preserve, educate, and share American heritage. There are chapters in 41 states and 2 provinces. The organization’s motto is “It’s fun to search and a joy to find.”
President Jane Morris says the group welcomes anyone curious and enthusiastic about historical sites and antiques.
“The type of person who would enjoy being a Quester is someone who is interested in learning,” explained Morris. “That’s the biggest thing. We learn so much.”
The group meets monthly from September to May for presentations and discussion, and has occasional field trips to local sites, museums, and antique shops. Recent presentations have included talks about such diverse topics as jewelry and handbags of the 1900s, how to brew a proper cup of tea, open salts and salt spoons, wooden carousel horses, rug beaters, the Medfield Hat Factory, and genealogy. Field trips have included visits to Mt. Auburn Cemetery, the Emerald Necklace, and the Medfield State Hospital.
Remaining events this year include a walking tour of Beacon Hill, and a presentation about New England stone walls, to be held at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary.
Morris, a Norfolk resident, said the group will sometimes partner with the town’s Historical Commission on programs, but they are separate entities.
Vice-President Betty Lehan, also from Norfolk, says the group is looking to expand, and notes the Charles River Questers, with about 30 members, is the last remaining chapter in Massachusetts. At one time, the Questers had a waiting list for new members, but because the area is rich with historical groups and societies, several chapters in the state have disbanded.
Members pay modest dues, which helps Questers International sponsor graduate-level scholarships in historical preservation at Columbia University.
Questers International is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, and will hold its 69th annual convention later this month in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Morris attended the organization’s 67th convention in St. Petersburg, Florida, and said the trip was a fascinating mix of history-related activities, speakers, and presentations.
Preserving things from the past for the benefit of the future is the ultimate type of recycling, believes Morris, who has always had an interest in antiques, even as a child.
“I have a lot of my grandparents’ things and you just feel a connection to the past,” she said. “People are so used to throwing stuff away and getting new things. One of the biggest fads is Pottery Barn furniture and it’s just reproductions of older furniture. And as my daughter says, why buy the new stuff when you can get the old stuff and it doesn’t lose its value?”
For more information about the Charles River Questers, email Morris at [email protected].