Portland kicks off Bicentennial

he Portland Town Board gathered for its first official meeting. The current town board members stepped back into history Saturday complete with historical outfits from the 19th century.

The town’s Bicentennial Committee kicked off their events with a dinner at the Brocton John W. Dill American Legion Post 434. Following dinner, a re-enactment of the first town board meeting and local representatives from the county, region and state made remarks.

In attendance was County Historian Michelle Henry, Chautauqua County District Attorney David Foley, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, Sen. Catharine Young and Jacqueline Chiarot, representative from Congressman Tom Reed’s office.

“America was founded in small towns like this,” Chariot said.

Both Goodell and Young spoke about the town’s community spirit and its great residents.

“What makes a community great are the people and the community spirit they have. What makes Portland great is not just its rich history, but people like George Pullman and Brad Anderson. What makes Portland a great town is the people now that are creating history for the next 200 years with their community spirit, enthusiasm and the commitment they have for the town,” Goodell said.

Young also said the town has great community spirit. She congratulated the committee on its efforts and putting in the work to make the kickoff event great.

“There’s a great community spirit here in the town of Portland. It’s wonderful that so many people came to celebrate their heritage and the history,” Young said. “We really have a lot to celebrate here. People care about each other, neighbors care a lot about each other. I’m just very grateful I represent such a wonderful area.”

The current town board portrayed the first public meeting held in the town. The meeting took place in the home of Jonathan Cass. Town Supervisor Thomas Prendergast was portrayed by Supervisor Dan Schrantz, and board members James Montgomery, portrayed by Councilman Rick Manzella, John Brewer, portrayed by Councilman Jerry Boltz, Oliver Stetson, portrayed by Councilman Gary Miller, and William Bell, portrayed by Councilman Al Valentin, as well as town clerk Asa Hall, portrayed by town clerk Roxanne Sobecki were present. The meeting took place on April 5, 1814.

The town board passed the Common School Act, a mandate requiring the town taxes to match aid received from the state. The town board then discussed a pound master and building a pound in the middle of town.

“First I think we are gonna want to build a pound in the middle of town. A pound master will be in charge of catching stray pigs, rams, cattle … He’d lock (them) up in the pound and find the owner for not minding their live stock,” Prendergast said.

The town board elected Farly Fuller and David Eason, who were not present at the meeting, to serve as a fence viewer and pound master, respectively. The motion carried with four “aye” votes and one “nay” vote. Hall was the one to tell them of their new jobs.

“I’ll tell them. They will be here when the tavern opens,” she said.

The town board instituted a $1 fine for any male swine over three months old running wild from Jan. 31 to Dec. 1. No ram should run at large from Sept. 15 to Nov. 15 with the penalty of $1. A head of a wolf killed within the town would be paid $10 to try to keep the wolf population at bay. The next meeting was to be held at the home of Rufus and Sarah Perry prior to adjourning the meeting.

“The first official meeting of the Portland Town Board is now officially over. It’s time to open the tavern and celebrate,” Prendergast said.

Planning for the re-enactment started in 2011, according to Committee Chair Dave Travis. The committee has grown to 47 members, doubling in size since inception. The committee planned Saturday’s events and Travis thanked the town board and committee for being so cooperative.

“Tonight’s celebration would not have been possible without the hard work of our committee,” he said.

Upcoming bicentennial events include a talent show at the Brocton Central School on May 30, a beard growing contest which kicked off Saturday, a coloring contest for students in May, a Miss Portland pageant, an arch rededication in connection with the village of Brocton in June, as well as farm and garden contests. All events will lead up to the Bicentennial Festival from July 12 to the 14. To conclude the festivities, a community picnic will be held the last Saturday of July.

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