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NSG Meeting July 30, 2005

The History Fair In Bath


Bill Treichler

Members of the New Society of the Genesee attended the Steuben County Historical Society's "History Fair" on Saturday, July 30, held on the fairgrounds just off West Washington Boulevard near the center of Bath, New York. The Steuben County Agricultural Society has held annual fairs at this site since 1842 when the property was leased from Colonel Gansvoort.

Charles Williamson, agent for the Pulteney Group, held the first fair at Bath in 1795 and again in 1796 to attract prospective land buyers. Fairs were held intermittently until 1819 and annually from that year on.

The historical society decided to hold part of its History Fair this year at the fairgrounds, as well as at their headquarters in the Magee House, because the Pioneer Log Cabin, the Pioneer Museum, the Grange Hall and the relocated District 11 Babcock Hollow Schoolhouse are clustered at the fairgrounds and represent so much history of the area.

The Pioneer Log Cabin was built in 1884 to commemorate the early days of Bath and to replace the original log cabin that was removed when the Exhibition Hall was built in 1852, the year the Agricultural Society bought the fairgrounds. The logs for the cabin were contributed by members of the Agricultural Society. Inside the cabin, nearly every log has the name of its donor. At the north end of the cabin is a large open fireplace with iron cooking equipment. The room is furnished with a rope-strung bed, a large frame loom, Adam Haverling's desk, a wood strong box from an early Bath bank, and items such as a cockade hat in its box.

Close to the cabin is the Pioneer Museum built in 1945 to provide space for other early tools and implements: wooden plows, scythes with grain cradle attachments, a treadmill to drive a churn, hay forks, flax heckles, even a spoon mold. Near the entrance is a display of portraits of former officers of the Agricultural Society.

The Babcock Hollow one-room schoolhouse that was built in 1849 and used until 1942 is nearby. It was moved to the fairgrounds in 1992 and has been a special project of the historical society since then. Inside, is a large heating stove in the center of the schoolroom, the teacher’s desk facing rows of desks sized to fit all ages of children. Some desks have ink wells and there is one where visitors can try a steel-tipped pen. Text books lie on the desk tops. There is a map case on one wall, blackboards at the front, and pictures and newspaper accounts of the school around the room. Displayed on tables are notebooks listing rural schools of the county with pictures of classes and their teachers. On this day, Mrs. Alice Welch conducted school classes for visiting children.

In the Grange Hall on the other side of the Pioneer Log Cabin were exhibits and representatives of the Avoca, Cohocton, Corning-Painted Post, Howard and Wayne historical societies. Gathered in one booth in the Grange Hall were New Society members, Donovan Shilling, Emerson Klees, Kirk House, and Phyllis and John Martin selling and signing, books they had authored. Another booth had exhibits of the Woolly Hill Spinning Guild. Many of their members were outside spinning under a tent.

On the ground around the Exhibition Hall were displays of antique farm handtools, miniature gasoline engines, large coffee grinders, herbs, quilts, military items and uniforms, old farm tractors, automobiles and boats. John Fee and Henry Offerman had set up their blacksmithing demonstration and were forging iron hooks and hardware.

In the morning the Wayland-Cohocton and Dansville bands played and all afternoon father and son, Harry and Ken Reynolds, entertained everyone with their country music. The Mennonite Relief Sale was on the fairgrounds the same day with a large auction, and a sale of craft items from around the world. People came and went between the two events. There was also shuttle bus service from the fairgrounds to the Magee House for special exhibits there. At the Mennonite end of the fairgrounds was a barbeque tent and one also at the Magee House grounds.

Copyright 2005, Bill Treichler
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