Norman Carlson’s Overview of the History Fair

The Chautauqua County Bicentennial History Fair is now history itself. I was present, along with Randy and Sue Hinsdale and Bob Schultz, at the Busti Historical Society booth. I also represented the Chautauque (yes, we spell it that way) Archaeology Society throughout the event.

The Busti booth was one of the visual stand-outs with its large model of the historic Busti Grist Mill. It also had significant historical artifacts including a citizenship application for a Busti Swede during the Civil War with sponsorship by his neighbor, a black man. Also shown was a flyer for an early 20th century political event in Busti including a speech by a very young Robert H. Jackson.

The Archaeology booth was hap-hazard and less well planned but a frame of pre-historic projectile points collected in this area by my father and assembled by my then high school student sister on a frame made by my fatherís best friend seemed to seize and hypnotize people.

I did not contribute time to our Genealogical Society booth. Wayne and Ruth did most of the work there. But the Society is experienced with public displays and our collection of publications would be impressive in any context.

As Busti Historical Society president this year, I created an e-mail list of members and friends of the Society to whom I send announcements of upcoming events and work sessions and where I announce accomplishments. I used this to urge the recipients to attend the History Fair. Wayne thought these hurried, on the fly messages captured the spirit of the event and he asked me to grant use of them rather than prepare a more considered and formal report on the Fair.

The Busti Historical Society spot at the fair looks great. What a story! Three teenaged girls and their families built the model mill in 1971 and one of them and her husband restored it now. It is one of the most visible items in the hall. We have clippings and pictures of the model when it was new, the real Mill at the time, and the Mill now.

Randy has brought his ancestor’s citizenship application from 1861 showing this Busti Swedish immigrant was sponsored by his black neighbor and friend, William Storum.

There are 56 stalls at the fair. We are in a back corner between the Chautauqua County Antique Equipment Association and the Archaeology Society. The Equipment Association has lap top-videos of equipment at the recent shows. It has a turn of the century gas engine made in Ripley, a root chopper made in Busti, a collection of local milk bottles. The Archaeology Society has artifacts hundreds and thousands of years old and reports on two of the most important digs in northeast North American history: one in Ripley in 1906, the other in Ripley in 1989. The later one is only partially published but you can see even the partially prepared parts at the Fair. Many town historians and historical societies are present plus the Rural Cemetery Association, the Grange, the D.A.R., the Chautauqua County Genealogical Society with nearly 100 publications, local authors and publishers, and much more. Hanover has the story of three of the largest and most interesting trees that ever grew in Chautauqua County complete with a section of one. It also has a fiddle made from a horse skull by the first settler in the county. The number, variety, and wonderful surprise of the exhibits is breathtaking. Don’t miss it.

It is free. Parking is free. Hours are 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday. Don’t miss this. Nothing like it in a hundred years!

The Bicentennial History Fair opened tonight (Friday) at the Chautauqua Suites in Mayville with a special reception for elected officials and the press. It was poorly and disappointingly attended, but the exhibits are wonderful.

County Executive, Gregory Edwards, a Busti resident, was present. County Clerk, Sandra Sopak (from Poland) was also present.

In 1902 in Westfield every town except Busti had exhibits of antiques and curiosities. They are listed in the Centennial History. This time Busti is present but some other towns are absent but it is not limited to towns. Organizations, villages, and even hamlets like Point Chautauqua are represented.

The Trolley Car #93 Project has a video running showing how the car was pulled out of its once final resting place. The Chautauqua County Historic Structures Database gave away photo-montages of early Greek Revival houses spotted in each town. Bob Schultz and I accepted for Busti. A young woman from Erie in costume played 18th century music on the fiddle all evening. A French and Indian War re-enactment group was there with its own room of reproduction weapons and accessories. The Chautauqua County Genealogical Society was set up to scan your photos and documents and to preserve an electronic copy.

Most of the 56 listed exhibitors were set up but a few were not manned. Lakewood (History Committee), the only other specifically Busti exhibitor, was in that category. Everyone will be there tomorrow and Sunday. Some stalls had lap tops running slide shows or videos. Outstanding in that respect were the Findley Lake-Mina Historical Society featuring newly discovered photos from glass negatives, The Chautauqua County Antique Equipment Association (the organization with the most Qs in its name of any in Chautauqua County), the Car #93 Trolley Project, and the three member Forestville Historical Society (wonderful photos of a big delivery of manure spreaders in 1911). Did you know that Findley Lake had several steamboats on it including at least one double decker? Everybody knows Chautauqua Lake is the highest navigable body of water in the world so why were there steamboats on Fidley Lake? Findley Lake is 110 feet higher than Chautauqua.

The Fenton Old Fashioned Day also tomorrow (Saturday) is going to be a wonderful show, but the History Fair is a once in 100 years event. Try to see both if you can, but don’t miss the History Fair. For the rest of your life you will be glad you came. Fenton, by the way, is also represented at the Fair.

The Hanover exhibit is like a big museum packed down into 10 ‘ x 10’. You can spend an hour there alone. Any of the representatives at any of the stalls will gladly talk to you at length about hundreds of fascinating topics. This is the place to meet people who really know things about your area. Open a new dimension in your life. You owe it to yourself.

Saturday 10 – 8. Sunday 10-4. Chautauqua Suites on this edge of Mayville. Parking free. Admission free.

Commenting on a Post-Journal article that featured the Chautauqua County Historical Societyís display of John Bowman photos I commented:

This man’s photographs are breath-taking. They have a way of sticking in your memory and representing far more than they show. This is what “iconic” means. Bowman was contemporaneous with Ansel Adams and there is a similarity in their work despite the fact Adams’ work was very much about the West and Bowman’s very much about Chautauqua County.

The Chautauqua County Bicentennial History Fair is over. It was inspired by the celebration at Westfield in 1902. Busti was the only town absent or not recorded in the history book then. Several towns were unrepresented this time: Cherry Creek, Kiantone, Gerry, possibly some others. Probably the biggest difference between the two expositions was that in 1902 the emphasis was on ancient relics from early in the county’s or the country’s history or from earlier generations of local families. Most of these are now lost and the approach was necessarily less direct at most booths. There were exceptions, the Hanover exhibit outstandingly. In 1902 only towns and the two cities exhibited. This time we had both official town and city historians plus historical societies and other organizations.

Attendance was good Saturday and better today. Many, perhaps most of the exhibitors showed their chronic shortage of active personnel. A dedicated few had to serve inordinately long hours. On top of that many of the presenters were elderly. Those attending were also predominantly elderly reminding us that as things are going now, the younger generations will not be interested in sustaining our culture or society in any recognizable form.

It is unfortunate that no tally of those attending could be made. Also, unlike 1902, there is no listing of exhibited items.

The venue (Chautauqua Suites Meeting and Expo Center in Mayville) was appropriate and accommodating, but the large room was densely packed with objects, presenters, information, and visitors. The parking lot was also packed.

The Busti booth had a good spot, an outer edge location near a corner. Central booths were at some disadvantage. We talked to people and handed out flyers almost constantly. We received a lot of favorable comment about the model mill and our identifying banner. This was the most favorable possible audience to invite to the Apple Festival.

I saw nearly all my history friends and acquaintances, both those I see often and some I haven’t seen in years.

I also served the booth for the Chautauque (yes we spelled it that way) Archaeology Society. The Society hasn’t existed since 1994, but several of us decided to apply for a booth so our 12,000 years of pre-history would be represented.

I brought a Stedman or Sherman made 1850’s hammered dulcimer which Harmony Historical displayed. It would have been a sin to put on the Bicentennial Fair without a local dulcimer. I’m sure one was present in 1902 also.

County Historian, Michelle Henry deserves most of the credit for the event, its quality, and its success, apparently with considerable help from the Chautauqua County Historical Society.

We got a break with the weather for hauling. We brought the model mill back to Busti undamaged.


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