With historical style and an eye to the future, Cheshire kicks off 225th celebration

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CHESHIRE — Three years before Cheshire was born on March 14, 1793, Edward Martin began farming land along Windsor Road. Over the next eight generations of Martins, the agricultural enterprise would become a thriving dairy farm of registered Holstein cows. Today, Elmartin Farm has evolved into a naturally fed bovine and pig operation, producing high quality beef and pork.

On 400 acres in view of Mount Greylock, Elmartin's bucolic setting also hosts weddings.

Owner Everett "Gus" Martin is pleased his sons Kim and Shawn Martin stuck around to run the family farm. Hopes a ninth generation is waiting in the wings.

"I'm very pleased [they stayed] and my grandsons are very interested," said the 82-year-old widower. "My grandson [Bryant] wants to be a lineman, but he's still interested in cows."

Gus Martin is bullish on his farm's survival and the community he calls home. On Saturday, Martin and more than 100 Cheshire men, women and children gathered in the parish hall at St. Mary of the Assumption Church to mark the town's bicenquasquigenary anniversary and hope for the future.

The 225th birthday party of light fare, cake, historical exhibits, speeches and a New Hampshire-based barbershop quartet appropriately named The Cheshiremen kicked off a six-month celebration of the rural community's incorporation as a town.

"Cheshire has always been dear to my heart. I never gave a thought of leaving," said lifelong town resident and Selectwoman Carol Francesconi.

Residents and invited guests alike were filled with pride. Even the 225th citizens committee's website says it all: www.cheshireproud.com.

"I've marched in many parades in Cheshire. There's always been a spirit here that's been remarkable," said former North Adams mayor and First Berkshire District state Rep. John Barrett III.

Barrett read a proclamation from Gov. Charlie Baker. Berkshire state Sen. Adam Hinds added a citation passed by the Massachusetts Senate.

The Hoosac Valley Regional High School chorus lead the partygoers in renditions of "My Country 'Tis of Thee," "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "Happy Birthday."

Among the commemorative souvenirs available was a booklet recounting Cheshire's industrial, agricultural, educational and government history.

Cheshire once was the home of an iron works, shoe factory, lumber mill and countless farms. The town first gained national recognition in July 1801, when the town's dairy producers banded together to create a massive wheel of cheese. The four-foot round, 1,235-pound fromage was gifted to then-President Thomas Jefferson. Fast-forward 217 years, Cheshire town water, deemed the tastiest municipal aqua in Massachusetts, fell short at a nationwide competition last month in Washington, D.C., for the best in the country.

Cheshire's longevity of successes exemplified by the Cheshire Ladies Reading Club formed in 1879, the oldest continuously operating group of its kind in the U.S., according to local historians.

Cheshire' hope for the future has seen in recent years the return of town natives return and out-of-towners moving in.

"I married into Cheshire. I married a good one," Marya LaRoche, formerly of Adams, said of her husband Ben LaRoche.

Lois Nangle (nee Pandell) left Cheshire in 1951 at the age of 19 to join the Navy as a communications technician. She returned to visit many times, taking up residency again three years ago to care for her brother.

The 86-year-old joined the Cheshire Garden Club to gave to a community she says has plenty to offer.

"I found this club to be lively and care about the town," she said.

The late Leonard Stomski who passed away in January was also proud of Cheshire. The professional artist of 58 years was known for his landscapes, seascapes and portraits around the world. His local legacy includes the painting "Cheshire Cheese goes to Washington, D.C."

Selectman Ed St. John IV cited the Stomski's artwork as another example of being proud to live in Cheshire.

"Let us inspire future generations to come," he said.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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