July 29, 2010

The Society held its monthly lunch meeting on Saturday July 24, beginning at noon. The picnic lunch was expertly prepared by Trustee Erma Schroeder and her daughter Kathleen Watson. Following the lunch a short business meeting was conducted. Photo enhancements completed by Willard Loomis were on display.

Half-Shire has been notified that we are awarded a grant in the amount of $2,225.00 from the Pulaski Community Fund that will go towards our hardwood floor installation in the SW classroom. The original wood ordered was sent back two weeks ago as it was full of worm holes and had many knots. At the meeting it was agreed to have three new bids to consider before going forward with any purchase.

July 24 & 25, as well as the previous weekend were work days at the Richland headquarters of the society. A good deal of grounds work as well as much needed filing was completed during these four days. July 30 and 31 will also be work days, contact President Shawn Doyle if you would like to do some volunteer work.

Our AmeriCorps worker Erin Bacon found some most interesting papers while going through the files of a neighboring historical society. The files seem to be part of the work notes from the 1939 book “The History of Pulaski Schools”. Included in the packet of papers were survey forms sent out to all of the Pulaski district one room schools at the time asking trustees and teachers to write out the histories of the buildings and the district.

One particular history of interest is the one prepared by a trustee of the Port Ontario-Bethel School. The writer reported that she was a granddaughter of Dan Brown, who served as an early trustee of the district and recorded many events in his diary. On August 31, 1897 he had reported in his diary that construction of the current school building at Bethel Corners was begun.

This building information, as well as subsequent pages on this building will serve to assist the new members of the Toothpick P.A. and Community Center board as future grants and funding for renovations of the old school building as well as the former Bethel Church are sought. The Bethel Corners structures have booth fallen into great disrepair over the past twenty years, and are in serious jeopardy if not attended to. The church building was constructed in 1857 by Eli Wheeler, a neighboring carpenter and local abolitionist leader who also donated the site for the structure on the NE corner of modern County Rte. 5 and scenic highway. Wheeler, along with Rev. George Bragdon and other leaders in the Port Ontario Community sought to build a non-denominational church that also served as a center of anti-slavery activity in the region.

The Bethel Church was discontinued in the late 1940s and was signed over to a new volunteer board for use as a community Center. The community center name and mission was changed twenty years ago to one of a performing arts center. The church was moved in 2001 across the road following the acquisition of land on the former site by New York State as part of the bridge project. Land on the NW corner of the same intersection was donated by the Seiter family, and the church was placed behind the 1897 school building. No activities have been held on the site since the move.

Extensive research into the Bethel Corners church and school is being assembled and placed in notebooks on the Half-Shire shelves.

Half Shire is open each Friday from noon until 4pm or by appointment. The group can be contacted at P.O. 73, Richland, NY 13144 or on the web at www.halfshire.com

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