Seeing Allegany County History
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Seeing Allegany County History

Report on the events I had visited during the last days of the Allegany History Week and Wellsville Civil War Reenactment, Part 1

Seeing Allegany County History
Jonathan Makeley

During the weekend of September 24th-25, 2016, I had attended some of the events involved with Allegany History Week and the Civil War Reenactment in Wellsville. On Saturday, I visited the historical display room in Howe Library, in Wellsville, and visited the Civil War Reenactment in Wellsville’s Island Park. On Sunday, I went to see the Voices of the Past event at the Palmer Opera House in Cuba. This will be a report of what I had seen in these events.

On Saturday morning, I went to Howe Library in Wellsville, to see its historical display. The display room featured various tables holding displays of the history of various towns, displays of history projects by young residents, and various historical antiques. The layout consisted of various isles formed by the placement of objects and stands. Four lanes ran perpendicular to the four room walls, forming a walking square, which was met on the other side with a rough square of displays. This internal square of displays had points on which to enter an internal space lined with more displays on the inside.

Not far from the entrance, there was the display of the replicas of Hamilton-Burr Dueling Pistols. The original pistols had belonged to John Barker Church, and had been kept by the Church family in their Belvidere mansion for generations, until economic hardships forced them to sell them. J.P. Morgan Chase, the current owner of the pistols, agreed to loan out their replicas of the pistols to the event. On the left side of the pistols was the original desk that pistols were once kept in by the Church family. This desk had once been one of the places in which the church family worked to help create Allegany County. And from what I had heard at the event, George Washington had at one time used the desk.

Continuing further down the row, which went straight from the entrance, there was displays of the history of various places, including small models of key buildings in the county and a rock marker from the time of the Holland Land Company. If you went down the lane parallel to the wall with the entrance: there were various children’s projects lining the wall. These were followed with historical displays of old trees and various industries. The internal table displayed historic objects, including a set of old doctor’s instruments. In the corner between this lane and the back lane, there were displays of old clothing. This included a dress which a woman from Cuba had worn at Lincoln’s second inauguration. The next lane included the displays of various towns. This prominently included many old photographs of buildings, and displays of items tied to Belfast’s historical connection to boxing. John L. Sullivan, the nation’s last bare knuckle boxing champion had trained in Belfast before his big match. On the interior side, there was a display connected to Narcissa Prentis Whitman: the first white woman to cross the Rocky Mountains, and who had been married to her husband in Angelica, New York.

The final lane, which was opposite to the wall with the entrance: continued with displays. This included the display on Rushford and on 35th Governor of New York, Frank Higgins. Higgins had been from Rushford, and had rose as a republican politician to become Governor of New York in 1905-1906. The display also included a 1902 sample ballot. Which in interesting in its display of politics at the time in the state. Then there is the interior within the inner display square. Notable objects in it included a frame of information on a dragoon unit, and an old banner for the Allegany County W.T.C.U.. These wrap up the displays which I had seen at the display.

Though I also had some nice interactions during the event. County Historian Craig Braack and Belfast Town Historian Bill Heaney were among the people watching over the event. I had conversed with them somewhat which visiting the display. I had also had a conversation former Angelica Town Historian Bob Dorsey. Which was interesting in both the talk about local history and about the town historian job. As I am currently seeking to become the new town historian. After I had finished looking over the last of the displays, I and my Grandfather (who had accompanied me in my weekend visits to these historical events.

After visiting the displays, I then went to visit the civil war reenactment in Island Park. The tent section for displays of civil war camp life were at a scale which would rival those in Angelica, and in this new terrain took on a more sprawled out form. The tents for people selling stuff were somewhat less numerous than they were in Angelica. Though they still contained many of the same key sales products, including uniforms and reenactor equipment, dioramas, books, toy weapons, antiques, and the like. I myself had bought a portrait of what I believe to be the Richmond Capital Building (I liked the look of it and didn’t bother to ask what was off).They also included some new stuff. Most notably this “Black Confederate” stand. I had read of there being a segment of African American civil war reenactors who support the Confederacy. This is the first time of me seeing one such individual in person. There was also a stand selling food, including old style hard candy. Much of my time at the reenactment was spent looking around at stuff before the time of the battle.

The battle started at 1:00pm, and took place in an area between camp sites and near a bridge. Unfortunately, it was a bit difficult figuring out the time of the battle and the place it was to occur in, since this information was not well advertised at the event, did not have things like printed schedule or markers, as far as I could see, and did not seem to spread the word well even among the scouts and reenactors, which in the past could be more relied upon to know these things. The site of the battle, did not have the string and post markers for the battle area which Angelica had, and as a result, they had multiple instances where they needed to clear crowds, whom had unwittingly stationed themselves on areas for the reenactors to fight in. These issues could be due to the transition and the fact that this is the first time of it being done in Wellsville.

Though beyond this, the battle itself was pretty good. The battle started out with confederates marching out from a bridge area and pushing back Union troops. The union was pushed back in a fight which eventually split into disjointed fighting, until Union forces gathered up and pushed the Confederates back. The Union forces drove the Confederates back to the Bridge they crossed into, and then began a battle on the bridge. Infantry fought as Union and Confederate cannons fired at each other. Union forces took most of the bridge before a Confederate charge started driving them back. Union forces fell back to the beginning of the bridge and fired back. The Confederate change was broken, and the confederate forces retreated from the bridge. Thus the battle was ended.

The battle was rather interesting to me. The new dynamic of a battle involving a river and bridge was a change of pace from the usual battles in previous years. To my memory hadn’t had a bridge battle in a number of years; perhaps about four or five years ago. The multiple back and fourths of the battle kept it suspenseful, as one would wonder about which side would come out winning in the end. I had only been around to see one battle of the event. The others I wouldn’t know how they went. Though for the one I did see, it was rather interesting.

This article will continue in a second part, and cover Sunday and my finishing comments.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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