Bev Garvan, one of our very dearest volunteers and friends, passed away last week. Her impact on the Windsor Historical Society cannot be understated. A lifelong Windsor resident, Bev loved this town and its history, and spent countless hours poring over her research. She dedicated much of her efforts towards making sure the Society had the most accurate information we could about everything we shared.
Bev specialized in land deed research and in delving into the lives of the people who lived here. Her work fills the shelves, file cabinets, and even walls of our research library. One of her larger projects was assembling a list of all the houses in Windsor built before 1850 that were still standing. This Windsor Historic House List is available on our website, and folks who visit us in person can see the oversize poster version on display.
If you were fortunate enough to score a seat on one of her popular bus tours of Windsor, Bev treated you to an in-person look at some of these buildings, and provided a trip back through history to learn about the stories of past residents and businesses that once occupied these structures that have withstood the test of time.
Bev also donated many items to our museum and archival collections, including yearbooks, scrapbooks, and photos of things ranging from her ancestors’ store on Central Street in the 1890s, to her uncle Harry Gilligan in his WWI uniform, to the recovery effort after the 1979 tornado.
We thought Bev would like to be remembered by her work. Here are some (but not all) of the articles she wrote for our newsletter:
And of course is was Bev who back in 2000 took a deep dive into the land deeds to discover evidence that led us to change the name of the former Fyler House to the Strong-Howard House, perhaps the most visible of all her achievements on behalf of Windsor Historical Society.
Back in 2010, we ran a Volunteer Profile on her in our newsletter:
When did you start volunteering at the Society?
I started volunteering when I retired in 1993. I shared the front desk with Eleanor Anderson at that time.
What types of programs or events have you volunteered for?
When Elaine Olson started as curator, I began helping her with the collection; and we developed a wonderful working relationship. For seven years I helped her identify and describe hundreds of items in the collection and built all the shelves in the basement to store them. At that time we changed the main exhibit twice a year, which was a lot of work and I helped her with that. We weren’t fortunate enough to have [former facilities coordinator] Jack Alberti so we had to do all the painting and hauling ourselves. You never knew what you’d see the two of us doing!
What do you like most about volunteering at WHS?
When we acquired Chaffee House from the town, I made my first foray into research and have been at it ever since. I researched Chaffee House from Sgt. Staires up to the present day. It was fun! Elaine was instrumental in investigating whether or not we really did have a 1640 Walter Fyler house, and I took on that research task. I will always feel very proud of being successful in that undertaking and discovering John Strong’s deed in 1758 stating that he was selling “his dwelling house, small barn and well,” thus dating our wonderful little house correctly into the 18th century. Since then I have researched events like the Ghost Walks and house tours through the years. I also wrote and conducted a town-wide bus tour. I spent three years trying to identify all the correct dates on the old houses in town. I have learned a lot about Windsor and its people through all of this.
What is your connection to Windsor history?
I think my interest in old Windsor comes by way of family. My ancestors left Ireland about 1840 and shortly after settled here in Windsor. They rented the Chaffee House at one point in time, and my grandfather John H. Garvan was born there in 1865. That same year they bought the Jonathan Alvord house [now attributed to Ephraim Brown, thanks to Bev’s later research] on the bend of North Meadow Road, and they lived there in this very unique neighborhood for many years.
Do you have any advice for someone interested in volunteering but might be nervous about getting started?
I would encourage people, young and old, to get involved. You meet so many interesting people and learn something new all the time. You just never know what is going to pop up on any given day! The place is full of surprises, so come and find them.
Thank you, Bev. We miss you!
By Michelle Tom, librarian/archivist, 2020