may 21, 2010

This past week our new AmeriCorps summer employee, Erin Bacon started work at our Richland facility. We are very pleased that AmeriCorps accepted our application to become an accredited work site, and we are delighted that Erin Bacon was selected. As some readers may recall, Erin volunteered at our facility from the time she was 15. She has assisted us through the years with the county fair, dinner theatre events, organizing our holdings and editing of written publications. Erin is a graduate of Loyola of Maryland, Class of 2009 and will begin her graduate studies in history this fall at Notre Dame.

Erin’s initial tasks will focus on a collaborative cemetery survey project in Richland with the Pulaski School History Club. Last year the history club (SHIP) began a photographic and mapping project of Brookside cemetery in Richland. Erin will lead the renewed efforts to finish this project this summer. Besides the work with SHIP Erin will work with visitors and volunteers alike at Half-Shire, assisting in preparations for the 2010 Oswego County Fair Heritage exhibit.

Erin joins Paula Sachel on staff with Experience Works. Paula will continue her work from the Richland historian’s office in the H. Douglas Barclay Court House, 2nd floor suite over DMV. Paula can be reached through the week Monday-Thursday there from 9am until 1 pm. Many of the family files at Half-Shire are being duplicated for reference in the Richland historian’s office. An important new collection at both sites is the Rancier family histories, a four volume set of detailed, annotated histories of eastern Lake Ontario families compiled by Esther Rancier, formally of Mexico, NY. These files were first assembled this spring as part of a Snow Foundation scholarship project completed by Chelsea Savastano of Pulaski. Paula has added additional files Esther had compiled, and which are also in the books. All tolled there are over 160 family names covered.

One of Paula’s projects also recently completed was the canvassing and inventory of the existing Half-Shire family files. This new inventory now can be searched from either location in Microsoft access. The index covers over 800 individual family files located primarily in Richland at our headquarters. It is our goal this summer to have copies at both locations so we are not moving them seasonally as we are now. The inventory list will also be shared with neighboring historians to better assist in referrals.

Our lawns at Richland are looking pretty good, this thanks to $200 worth of “weed and feed” and the lawn mowing assistance provided by neighbor Kermit Paro of Richland. Kermit has been a great help in the past few years in his watching over the building as well as with his lawn and property maintenance. Thanks Kermit!

As Memorial Day approaches Half-Shire will be assisting the American Legion and VFW again in the placement of American Flags in all our cemeteries on the graves of servicemen past. Erin Bacon and volunteers Shawn Doyle, Andrew Balcom and Christian Klarner will also be working on this as the national day of remembrance approaches.

The heritage hall, annual county fair planning meeting will be held on Saturday May 22, 2010 at 1 pm. This will be preceded by a lunch served at noon. This meeting is the annual joint meeting of the Oswego County Genealogical Society and Half-Shire. A brief (15 minute) business meeting will be held to move a couple of crucial items through the Half-Shire board, followed by the annual discussion and explanation of the weeks events at the Fair. The Oswego County Fair will be held in Sandy Creek July 1-5, 20010 with “Special Times” on June 30. Half-Shire will also host an opening reception on June 30, at 6 pm at the Fair Heritage building. Greg Monette and Shawn Doyle will again serve as co-chairs of Heritage Hall.

Also on the 22nd, the newly formed Friends of the Agricultural Society of Oswego County organization will hold its first meeting at 11:30am. This group is open to the public, and will be applying for non-profit tax status to assist the fair in fund-raising for events and infrastructure improvements. The group obtained an IRS tax number and now begins the first steps in the 501 process. This initial meeting will be at Half-Shire immediately prior to the luncheon.

The Society is saddened to learn of the death of John Fowler of Redfield. John was a long time member and supporter of the organization and will be missed. Our best regards go out to the family.

The Society is pleased with the response of members to the dues solicitation. Raffle tickets on the two spectacular afghans have also moved quite well. The drawing for the afghans will be held July 4, 2010 at the Fair at 1 pm. Thanks go out to Ian Lowery, Alyssa Ashley and Andrew Balcom for assistance on the work at the County Fair buildings of late.

Half-Shire can be reached at P.O. 73, 1100 County Rte. 48 in Richland, NY 13144 or on the web at We are a few weeks backed up in research answers due to an overwhelming batch of work that has come in over the net. We currently are working on two dozen requests with a need for a “Day in the office” growing.

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May 14, 2010

The Mother’s Day snow sure was a surprise this year after such a nice spring. Society members Fay Ann Colvin and Paulette Yerdon joined Milferd Potter, his daughter Laurie and I for breakfast at the Orwell Diner that morning as we all checked out the fresh snow.

The Yerdon sisters and I returned to half-Shire where we worked on updating the Redfield School listings. We have compiled a list of over 350 people who attended school in Redfield village and the surrounding one room schools. The last classes were held in Redfield in 1974 when the district was fully integrated into Sandy Creek district.

Meda Perry Yerdon and Florence Adsit McCaw had begun a Redfield School reunion in 1984, which continues each August at Half-Shire. Paulette and Fay Ann, nieces of Meda, have taken on the task of updating the list and will be trying to locate all of the people on the new list compiled by looking at the old yearbooks and school reports.

This year’s Redfield School reunion is set for Saturday August 21, at Half-Shire.

We recently completed a $2,000 masonry project that sealed up eleven 1st floor windows and applied fresh stucco to the false windows on the sides that had not been redone in many years. This project no will enable us to go forward with insulation of the east wall of the main hall and repair to the electrical.

We are pleased with the receipt of dues and raffle monies, and thank all of our returning members and new friends. Beginning Monday May 24, Half-Shire will be open Monday-Friday from 10 am until 3 pm. Our newly approved AmeriCorps worker Erin Bacon will be onsite most days to assist people. There may be some days that Erin will be over in Richland cemetery, and if she is not there a note will be left on the door.

Our Richland Trustee Erma Schroeder will also be at the school on Fridays still from noon until 4. Our Experience Works worker Paula Sachel will continue to work at the Richland historian’s office in the Pulaski Court House through May and June Mondays through Thursday. Paula has been doing an exceptional job digitizing records and sorting files. We are grateful for our two program workers, as well as our volunteers led by Erma who are poised to make this the most productive year ever for the society.

Work has commenced at the Oswego County fairgrounds for the year. The fair committee has been busy assembling a varied list of entertaining acts and venues for this years fair that begins July 1 and runs through the 5th. This year there will be more musical acts in the entertainment building on the east side of the grounds. Secretary Ann Gibbs has been very busy lining up sponsors for acts and deserves a great deal of credit.

On Saturday May 8, Ian Lowery and Allysha Ashley worked in the Junior building with me, prepping the floor for sealing.

On Saturday May 22, the Society will hold its annual Fair planning meeting at the Richland School. The public is welcome.

Half-Shire can be reached at P.O. Box 73, Richland, NY 13144 or on the web at

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May 7, 2010

The Half-Shire newsletter that went out this week is long overdue. The feature news items cover the summer through holiday events at the society. Because it has been so many months we had the sad duty to report over 24 deaths of members or friends of the society. As we went to print we received the news of the deaths of Alice Campbell Gasperini, Julia Gawronski and out secretary and founder George O. Widrig. Fuller mention of these former members will be made in the next issue.

The next issue is already being laid out, with material already on hand and a general outline. The cover story of this upcoming newsletter will feature an article on George and his life and contributions to the region.

George O. Widrig was born in May 1931 the son of James and Avis (Donovan) Widrig. His father was a railroad engineer headquartered in the bustling railroad intersection of Richland. George grew up and spent his life in the Richland, he knew everyone by name in the community throughout his nearly 80 years, and he knew their lineage also. He was educated in Richland School, a graduate of the Pulaski Academy and Central School in 1948, and he later went on to take his degree in Art Education at Oswego State.

George taught a number of years in Mexico school. Health issues periodically troubled him through his life, and he retired at a younger age and devoted himself to his research, painting, music and gardening. For many years George also took care of his mother Avis.

Avis and George, along with Avis’ cousin Floyd Kent and his daughter Marie and two others had talked throughout 1972 about forming a historical society on this end of the county. On November 15, the six met at the home of Floyd and Marie and by nights’ end Half-Shire Historical Society had been born.

Our group was founded as a sort of “secessionist movement”, the charter members all felt that the Oswego County Historical Society had not represented the east end for some time. Like the earlier secessionists of 1847 and 1852 who sought to split the county, the Half-Shire founders wanted to form an eastern historical society that would better reflect the rural heritage that differs substantially from the Oswego River valley.

Nearly 40 years later, George was one of two living, and the last of the founders to be actively engaged in our day to day affairs. Serving as Secretary, and for the past year employed by the society through Experience Works, George got the mail daily, sorted it and sent it off to either myself or the Treasurer, he worked at the Court house during winter months answering correspondence, developing research notebooks and pasting up obituaries. Even in his last months when he was in steep decline, George continued to take care of the mail and help with research.

In his capacity as society secretary George particularly excelled. His near daily notes of thanks, and letters to researchers were done in a true nineteenth century manner, with class and efficiency.

In the weeks following is death, we have broken George’s duties up and awarded them to five people. Erin Bacon was appointed the new Deputy historian for Richland Town, and will be working in George’s editing chair, reviewing all periodicals. Erma Schroeder will be taking over the obituary collection and its upkeep, Paula Sachel has taken over George’s Experience works job and works from the court house for the time being, Fay Ann Yerdon Colvin is targeted to fill in as Recording Secretary for meetings while Nancy Smith has agreed to become corresponding Secretary to handle the mail and send out notes.

This writer, who has served and worked alongside George almost daily since 1994 is at a true loss, George was always a phone call away with a research problem, and his knowledge of Richland history was unsurpassed. I have lost a very close friend and fellow historian, whom I will miss greatly for a long time.

The Society met last on April 24th and served over 35 meals. We selected a bid for masonry work to the back of the building, including the covering of long ago windows in the back. Reports were given from committees and the town representatives, and the next meeting was scheduled for Saturday May 22, at the Richland headquarters at 1pm following a noon meal. All are welcome.

In other news, Half-Shire is pleased tot learn we have been approved as an AmeriCorps work site. We should learn in the next few weeks who our summer intern will be. Interviews were started on April 30,

Half-Shire can be reached at P.O. 73, 1100 County Rte. 48 in Richland, NY 13144. Our email is and out website is at

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