Seeing Allegany County History Week Events
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Seeing Allegany County History Week Events

Report on the events I had visited during the last days of the Allegany History Week and Wellsville Civil War Reenactment, part 2

Seeing Allegany County History Week Events
Jonathan Makeley

This in a continuation of my article on my visit to Allegany County History Week events on the weekend. This second part will continue where I left off, and present the stuff from Sunday, along with my concluding remarks.

On Sunday, I went to see the Voices of the Past event, in the Palmer Opera House in Cuba. The event featured a series of people portraying characters of historical figures tied to the history of Allegany County. The event also included the display of a slide show of old historic pictures, people playing old style music, such as a 19th century song about the Erie Canal, and free ice cream after the show. The event was started by the opening remarks of Craig Braack, and by the performance of a general pioneer boy giving an instantiation of life in the early settlement of the area.

The beginning segment involved Angelica Schuyler Church, Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton, and Anna Matilda Church. Angelica Church was the wife of John Barker Church, and sister in law to Alexander Hamilton. The local town of Angelica, founded by her son Phillip, is named after her. In her time she was regarded as a highly charming person, who was acquainted with numerous important figures such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis De Lafayette, and King George IV. Elizabeth Hamilton was Angelica’s sister, and Alexander Hamilton’s wife. She was important to preserving the historical legacy of her husband after his death, produced his bibliography, and had engaged in significant charitable efforts in her long life. Anna Matilda Church was the wife of Phillip Church. She had married him in the early days of developing the town of Angelica, and helped contribute to the town’s history. She helped avert potential danger with the local Seneca in Caneadea in the early years of settlement, and helped foster positive relations with them. She would be part of a ceremony in which she and the Caneadea chief’s daughter were symbolically adopted as members of each other’s groups. She had also been connected to the founder of Hornell, who had saved her on a ship when he was a sailor and she was a little girl. They had latter reencountered each other when she and Phillip had stopped over on their post wedding travel to Angelica.

The next string of characters featured Mary Jemison, Alvan Richardson, Reverend Calvin Fairbank, and Laura Ingalls. Mary Jemison was a woman whose family had been captured during the French and Indian War when she was a child. She would end up being adopted into a Native American group, and would spend her life living in Native American settlements. Eventually, she would undertake a journey to move to Caneadea to find a safe place for the new family she had with her second husband. Alvan Richardson had migrated with his family to Allegany County. He had set up a small homestead, which attracted various families and grew into the beginnings of a settlement. He established various successful businesses in the area and spent part of his wealth to help construct a school and other buildings. The town area was named Richburg after him, and the school building from him is the basis of the current day Bolivar-Richburg school. Reverend Calvin Fairbank was an abolitionist, who helped free 47 slaves. He spent a total of 17 years in Kentucky prisons, and received over 35,000 lashes. He was released from prison with the aid of Abraham Lincoln, and after a number of years of touring the country returned to the area, to spend his final years living in Angelica. Laura Ingalls was a pioneering woman. She and her family had spent some time in the county, before eventually moving further west. Her granddaughter, also named Laura Ingalls, produced a famous series of children’s books about pioneer life, which took inspiration from the Ingalls family’s past.

The next series of characters featured Peter Keenan, O.P. Taylor, and Naomi Bradley. Peter Keenan had grown up in the area and had an assistant to County Phillip Church. He began to enter politics during the debate over moving the county seat to Belmont. He had been a Democrat, who opposed the politics of Abraham Lincoln and of the Republican Party. Which is interesting, since Allegany County was one of the earliest areas of the Republican Party organization, was mostly Republican at the time, and has been for the most pat Republican dominated up to today. Though when the Civil War came, he joined the military to fight for the Union. He led a unit of Cavalry, and died fighting in the same battle which killed Stonewall Jackson; just two hours before and less than a mile away from Jackson. O.P Taylor had originated in the South, and had fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. He had also been part of a project to construct the first Railroad in Brazil. He later moved Allegany County. He had been inspired by the discovery of oil in Pennsylvania to search for oil around the Richburg area. His attempt initially failed. He lost his funding support, his crew, his reputation, most of his friends, and was regarded as insane. His wife and son continued to support him, and together they eventually struck oil. His life turned around, he became wealthy, successful, and well regarded. He later became president (mayor) of Wellsville, and ran for state senate. An oil boom occurred in the area. Within months the town of Rushford grew from 200 to 7,000 people, and the town of Bolivar grew from 160 to 4,000. Oil production would also occur in town such as Wellsville. Though many of these people would leave a few years later to chase new oil discoveries in places like Pennsylvania, the oil discovery left a significant impact on the wealth and growth of the area. Naomi Bradley had come to his area with her husband to try to gain success in the oil business. They failed and after various other ventures found success when her husband and his brothers founded the Empire Gas and Fuel Company. Naomi Bradley was a temperance activist, who helped build the Bolivar chapter of the W.C.T.U.. She was involved in creating the Cuba Meeting Camp; which was an organized camp ground used for education, discussions, and various social reform efforts.

The final grouping of characters was of the orphan train, John L. Sullivan, and Gabby Hayes. The orphan train was an instantiation of the old orphan train phenomena. Late 19th century New York City had a crisis of orphaned children. Factors including deaths from the civil war, disease epidemics, and immigrant children separated from their parents had left over 30,000 children in the city without parents or without parents capable of taking care of them. Charitable resources were limited and government social services like those we have now, were yet to be created. This lead to the decision to ship many of these children off on trains to be adopted by families in Upstate New York. This had mixed results, which some having nice results, and others having negative results, such as being exploited for labor, abused, or killed. Though this event would end up spurring the creation of social service systems to address these matters. John L. Sullivan was a famous bare knuckle boxer. He was in recovery from nearly being killed from alcohol consumption and wanted to make a comeback at a coming bare knuckle boxing match. He came to Belfast to train for the match, under the direction of Greco-Roman wrestler William Muldoon. His training helped to prepare him to win the last bare knuckle boxing championship. Gabby Hayes had come from Standards and would spend his life as an entertainer. He was a Vaudeville performer, movie actor, and radio and TV personality. He is most known for being the sidekick in many western movies. And with that, the event moved towards its end.

Overall, I would say that these events were largely rather good experiences. I was able to see all sorts of interesting items and displays, talk with other historically interested people, and see some entertaining reenactments and performances. I had managed to find out new information to add my local history knowledge, including stuff that could help me with research for my honor’s thesis. I would say that it was a pretty good weekend. I regret that I wasn’t able to see the other big events on the preceding weekdays, due to scheduling conflicts; especially Craig Braack’s lecture on the history of county towns and the opening ceremony to commemorate the Dyke Grave. Though from what I hear the other events were pretty good. Likewise, from what I heard they had some rather good successes with the events. For instance, the display’s at how got significantly more school children visiting than they had previously expected. All in all, I would say that the Allegany County history week was rather fruitful, and I hope they are able to continue this event in future years.

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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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