Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Town History Day

This Saturday, July 18th, is Town History day at the Ward O'Hara Agricultural Museum. Across from Emerson Park on Owasco Lake, the Ag Museum has really grown over the years under the careful management of its dedicated staff. I understand they have a little gift shop now so I look forward to seeing that.
Saturday, there will also be draft horses to look at and haying demonstrations to show folks how things used to be done. I don't remember a time when we did not have a tractor, but I heard my mother speak many times of the pair of workhorses my grandfather used to work his farm in Scipioville.
I enjoy the Ag Museum because there are many old tools and other equipment and it's interesting to guess about how they were used or what they were for. I will be joining some other municipal historians Saturday and I hope to see you there too. Let me know if you are there because you saw it in this blog!

Sharing Treasures

I had an interesting phone call last week. It was a woman who lived in Scipio. She was doing some home remodeling and had discovered some old papers she didn't want to throw away, but wasn't interested in keeping.
Being a resourceful woman with a computer, in short order she had found out how to contact me and was dropping off a bagful of old papers that I couldn't wait to poke through.
Her discovery was of records for School #14 for about 1938 - 1942. A previous owner of the home, Mr. Wyant, had saved every scrap of paper and we now have tax and assessment information as well as receipts for teacher's pay. Some itemized lists are there, too, giving the prices of the everyday items needed to run the school like a coal pail, a water bucket, pencils and so on as well as the name and location of the merchants who sold the items. What a great little snapshot of a corner of our town for a few years!
So if you have some old papers lurking in a cupboard or a corner of your attic, that you don't quite want to throw away, let me know. I think we can find them a new home at the Scipio Offices.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Vacation Review

You haven't lived until you have made a road trip with three adults, a ten-year-old and a teenager that lasts for 8 hours. It's a lot like making sausage - you don't really know what it will be like until you're doing it, and it can be really messy.
We made a family trip to Chincoteague Island in Virginia last month and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. We toured the wildlife Refuge at Assateague, which is a lot like our neighboring Seneca County's Montezuma Wildlife Refuge but larger, and bordered by the Atlantic Ocean. We saw wild horses, egrets, herons, ibises, Seka (a type of elk) and some of the biggest mosquitoes and flies you can imagine.
Chincoteague is all about their ponies, largely due to Marguerite Henry's series of books beginning with Misty of Chincoteague, and some truly awesome seafood. We went to an indoor pony show one night and as a historian it was interesting to see that one wall had a mural depicting the Spanish galleons breaking up and the ponies swimming to shore, which is the story of how the ponies came to live there. Another wall held the family tree of Misty of Chincoteague. History is evident everywhere we look!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Scipio for Tourists

One of the official duties of a municipal historian is to promote tourism. Scipio has a lot to recommend it to travelers, and I was pleased to hear that the Cayuga County Tourism Office is considering a booklet for various tourist-rich locations that gives a few details about our towns.
I thought it would be interesting to post a portion of my submission here on the blog:

Scipio, named for the Roman General, was formed as Township number 12 of the Military Tract on February 6, 1796. Our earliest settlers had arrived about 1790. Nestled snugly in the heart of the Finger Lakes region, our town’s eastern border is Owasco Lake, one of the loveliest Finger Lakes of central New York State.

A drive along State Route 38 on the west side of Owasco Lake from Auburn to Moravia takes less than half an hour and will show you some of the prettiest scenery in central NY, particularly in leaf-peeping season. Deer, turkey, songbirds and other wildlife are easy to spot on a leisurely drive or bike ride along our byways.

Our cemeteries are the final resting place for over 45 Revolutionary War veterans. Scipio also had 156 known Union veterans of the Civil War; approximately 10% of her population at that time; many of whom rest alongside their Revolutionary comrades.

Several of our buildings and structures are on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, including the entire Hamlet of Sherwood where free men and women of European and African descent lived in harmony in the early 1800’s. The Underground Railroad was also very active in Scipio, particularly in Sherwood where several Quakers and like-thinking people actively assisted the freedom seekers. The women's suffrage movement so often associated with neighboring Seneca Falls had its proponents here in Scipio as well.

The Town of Scipio remains a unique mix of farmers, independent businesses, lakefront users and short-distance commuters who enjoy a greener, more country style of life over that of the city. Visit her on the web at http://co.cayuga.ny.us/scipio/.

Revisiting Lucinda the Mountain Mourner

If you look back through this blog, you will find a series of posts about Lucinda the Mountain Mourner. A sad story with a heavy moral, when written it most likely did not contain “just the facts” but was styled in such a way as to present the story in a light favorable to the female protagonist.
This series of posts has generated a lot of discussion, and discussion is a healthy thing. It provides an opportunity to be open-minded; to look at something from a different angle and maybe gain some previously missed insight into the way people thought and interacted in a previous era.
History is full of examples of the healthy exchange of opinion and information, and hindsight is a wonderful tool. It allows us to add to our knowledge and sometimes to understand another point of view even if we do not agree with it. It is important however not to stray from the subject so far that we are no longer engaged in presenting and interpreting information. There is always a back story, and that is what is fascinating about our history.