July 1996

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The Formation of

The New Society of the Genesee


Bill Treichler

For several years the writers for the Crooked Lake Review have been getting together occasionally for conversation and buffet breakfasts, sometimes at public eating places and sometimes in their own homes.

At a breakfast meeting of the Crooked Lake Review group in Jim Dierks' home in Rochester February 26, 1995, Don Shilling proposed that:

Whereas: We join together frequently to enjoy the fraternity and companionship of those interested in local history, and

Whereas: We have a common interest in promoting through lectures and writing, accounts of local people, places and events, and

Whereas: We reside in a geographic area of Western New York between and including the Finger Lakes to the Niagara Frontier, and

Whereas: We all have a common link through our ancestors, and with the Genesee Valley and its tributaries and waterways, and

Whereas: Our forbearers did enjoy such an organization, and as we have no name for our group, that we adopt an honorable and historical title and be known as THE NEW SOCIETY OF THE GENESEE.

Since that meeting, the group has called itself The New Society of the Genesee and continued to get together for informal breakfasts and conversation at six to eight week intervals. There are no dues and no officers. Don Shilling has become the chronicler of our society and has presented us at succeeding meetings with reports on the background and proceedings of the original society. His newsletters about the original society are collected in another article in this issue.

Announcements and proceedings of the New Society of the Genesee will be published in the Crooked Lake Review. Subscribers and readers are welcome. Plans are to meet occasionally at local museums for brown bag, pot-luck, or catered brunches. The most recent meeting of the Society was at The Big Tree Inn in Geneseo on July 6, 1996. There were 23 persons attending.

Dick Sherer, just back from the ark trip down the Conhocton, Chemung, and Susquehanna rivers to Havre de Grace, related the voyage of the Steuben and circulated albums of color photographs taken on the trip.

Don Shilling presented copies of his July, 1996, NEWSLETTER "Geneseo and the Big Tree Inn." It was comprised of excerpts from Bill Kauffman's book Country Towns of New York:

The Big Tree Inn at 46 Main Street dates from 1833 and was once owned by the Wadsworths. The lunch business is brisk, the setting relaxedÉ A variety of bars featuring hot chicken wings and cold beer keep the young scholars nourished. These establishments dot Main Street. The thoroughfare is even livelier than usual in July, when the Rotary Club sponsors the Geneseo Summer Festival.

The museum grounds contain a section of the original Big Tree, the white oak with a twenty-eight foot circumference that was felled, not by man's despoiling hand but by the floodwaters of the Genesee River in 1857.

A block north, at what passes for the village's busy intersection, the Wadsworth Memorial Fountain occupies center stage. The red granite base weighs fifteen tons, getting it shipped from a Maine quarry to a New York City architect was no mean feat. Atop the fountain is a bear hugging a lamp designed by the French sculptor Antoine-Louis Bare. Two local legends exist, neither verifiable; the ursine memorial was the affectionate tribute to Emmeline ("Auntie Bear") Wadsworth; and the bear will turn to look when a virgin from the college walks by, should that ever happen.

The next meeting of the Society will be at the Hartsville Museum, Call Hill Farm, RD 2, Andover, NY, on Saturday, August 17, 1996, at 11:00 a.m. Museum admission is $2. Attendees should bring their own bag lunch. Follow Route 36 to Canisteo, drive about eight miles west on Route 28 to the first four corners and turn right onto Post Road and follow the signs.

The Society will meet 10:30 a.m. Sunday, September 15, 1996, at The New York Museum of Transportation, 6393 East River Road, Rush, for a tour of the Museum and a two-mile track ride to visit the Rochester and Genesee Valley Railroad Museum. From Exit 11 on 390, drive 2 miles west on 251 to a flashing red light, turn right onto East River Road and go 1 mile to the Museum entrance on the left. Again, bring your lunch in a basket or bag. Admission to the Museums is $5 and includes a track ride.

In November 1996 the Society is invited to visit the Benjamin Patterson Inn and Museum Complex at Corning for a catered brunch. The cost and time will be announced later.

Reports of Meetings of the New Society of the Genesee

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