Valley Historical Society learns about a Gerry citizen from 200 years ago at recent meeting

SINCLAIRVILLE-Members of the Valley Historical Society met recently in their museum located at the corners of Main and Lester streets.

President Albert Olmstead opened the meeting by leading the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord’s Prayer. Treasurer John Sipos gave the financial report. Sipos explained the museum had been closed for the winter. A special thanks goes to curators Bonnie Larkin and Diane Shaw for many hours of cleaning before the recent meeting. The museum looks wonderful, said Sipos, and so sharp. The museum is now open for tours at no cost on Sundays from 2 until 5 p.m. It is closed on holiday Sundays such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Weekend and Father’s Day. Museum tour guides are available.

Jack T. Ericson from Westfield was guest speaker. Ericson had completed much research on a man named Abner Dingley, who was born in Massachusetts, and traveled to Gerry to establish a homestead at the age of 55. Dingley was a ship captain, born in 1761, and when he lost his ship, he lost his livelihood. What brings him to Gerry, is a question Ericson asked. Dingley kept a daily early diary, describing his travels to Gerry, the costs, and time involved, including a five day stage coach ride. He boarded a ship in New York City, traveled up the Hudson to Albany for $7 and then to Buffalo. When Dingley arrived in Gerry on June 3, 1816, he stayed with Major Sinclear and also with Mr. Harrison.

Dingley purchased one-third of Lot #48 in the town of Gerry for his homestead from the Holland Land Company. He built a frame house, not a log house.

His daily diary described constant chopping of trees, medical work, barn raising, weddings, deaths, jury duty in Mayville, and church work. He always rested on Sunday, and listed in his diary circuit riders Rev. Smith and Rev. John Spencer. Member Charles Sylvester found the lot on an old 1881 map, and showed on the map to others where the home was located.

One entry in Dingley’s diary mentioned a snow storm of 9 inches of snow on May 6, and 8 inches of snow on May 7, 1818. In his diary Dingley would also list when his son returned from being a captain on a steamboat in Lake Erie in November and when he returned in April.

The presentation sparked many questions and comments among the members. Appreciation was extended to Mr. Ericson for his talk.

Following the presentation, refreshments of homemade pastries and cookies were served by Elaine Palmer-Titus, Linda Parmenter, and Evelyn Thorndike.

The Valley Historical Society will participate in the upcoming Memorial Day parades in Gerry and Sinclairville.

The museum building dates back to 1845, is the oldest brick building in Sinclairville, and has been the home of the historical group since 1978.

The historical group was founded by the late John and Ruth Smith who saw a need to preserve the history of the Cassadaga Valley area.

For more information on the Valley Historical Society, write to P.O. Box 1045, Sinclairville, NY 14782. New members are always welcome.