The Dudley Farm Museum’s New Director:  Beth Payne

By Jennifer Carmichael

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Beth Payne

The Dudley Farm Museum reflects life on a late 19th Century New England farm.  “It’s a step back in time, a rural retreat from the past, preserved for the future,” notes its website.  And, native North Guilfordite, Beth Payne, has been a familiar face here, volunteering since 2013 upon her return from The Gambia, West Africa, as a Peace Corps volunteer.  At the Museum, she’s done it all — helping to maintain the house and grounds, staff the office, plan activities, greet visitors and catalogue and inventory most of the household items, including the large collection of 19th century books, which was quite a feat.

Today, Payne is the Museum’s first director.  Thanks to countless hours of volunteering, she knew exactly what the Museum needed, writing up a job description and then running it past the Board of Directors.  “Nobody was steering the boat and there were no policies or procedures in place.  As an all volunteer organization, it has been tough.”

Since taking on her new role this past March, her greatest wish is to fully fund the Big Barn Project —restoration of a gray weathered barn next to the main farmhouse.  Once completed, it will feature the best exhibits of farm equipment and tools and provide a great venue for education.

Another wonderful edition to the Museum is it’s restored 1856 Treat & Linsley melodeon, akin to an accordion.  Payne’s dedication to the Museum was showcased in her drive to get it restored.  Sounding like an old bag pipe with four keys stuck, she laughs, “I was going to get this thing fixed!”  Fortunately, she came across a gentleman who works for a company that repairs Yale’s pipe organs.  “He happened to have a special place in his heart for melodeons, and he had never seen a 2-manual melodeon (2 keyboards) before.  He and his apprentice repaired it.  I am just so appreciative!”

Come see it for yourself — all are invited to join in singing carols accompanied by music played on the 1856 melodeon during the Museum’s  “Cookies and Carols” Holiday Open House, December 5th and 12th, 9am to 2pm.  The 1845 farmhouse will be decorated for the holidays and live dulcimer music and complimentary mulled cider and cookies will be served in the dining room.  

Next month, on Saturday, October 24, 9am to 2pm, the Dudley Farm Museum and the Farmers’ Market will celebrate Harvest Day with family fun, food, music, activities for children and demonstrations of early 19th century skills.

And, if you see Beth, don’t forget to ask her about the two different kinds of grape pie she bakes.  For the Dudley Foundation’s annual meeting in October, she makes one similar to a cherry pie.  “It is made from grapes picked at the Dudley Farm off the grape arbor. Really good,”  Payne says.  “It tastes like grape lollypop or soda…only better.”

Open through October, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10am to 1pm; Sunday 1pm to 4pm, the Museum is located at 2351 Durham Road, at the intersection of routes 77 and 80 in North Guilford, CT.  For more information, contact the Museum at 203-457-0770 or the Market at 860-349-3917, visit or visit Facebook at Dudley Farm Museum.