June 15, 2007

Half-Shire Historical Society Column, by President Shawn Doyle
June 15, 2007 (Salmon River News and Queen Central News of Camden)

The Oswego County Fair is fast approaching! The 150th Fair will open on Friday June 29, and run through Wednesday July 4. Admission is free again this year, with variable grandstand admission prices. One of the most popular attractions each year is the Heritage Building located at the far corner along Franklin Street.
Since the early 1990s, Half-Shire Historical Society has had charge of organizing the Heritage Hall exhibits. Former Sandy Creek Town & Fair Historian, and Half-Shire President Marie Parsons developed the Heritage Hall concept, Marie and her late father, Floyd Kent, had set up free-standing heritage exhibits in the 1960s and 70s. In 1992 with the construction of a stand-alone building, Marie and Half-Shire were given free reign to fill it. Since this time the building has evolved into an interactive showplace for all of Oswego County’s Historians and Historical Societies.
For the past twelve years one of the most interesting facets of the building has been the onsite research library. This year, Half-Shire will focus on its collection of family histories and cemetery records. These two collections form the core of the new Half-Shire research room, and are much utilized by traveling researchers and the general public at our Richland facility.
A few words about the cemetery records are in order: In 1976 members of Half-Shire, led by Marie Parsons, Floyd Kent, Avis Widrig, Mary White and Dorthea Blodgett, began the first comprehensive cemetery survey in northern Oswego County. The survey began by utilizing the few existing D.A.R records from the 1920s, but in many places it was the very first survey. The townships that were the subject were: Albion, Amboy, Boylston, Orwell, Redfield, Richland, Sandy Creek and Williamstown. A specific set of codes is shown on the first page of the survey, and these codes indicate how a stone is read (front only, as opposed to 4-sides), Veterans and Service monuments and markers found, and in some cases, the verses discovered. A separate A-Z index card system was also gleaned from these records for each township.
In an effort to share resources, in 1999 Half-Shire, made photo copies of all of these original transcriptions, and shared them with local historians and libraries. A complete set exists also in the Oswego County Records center in Oswego. In 2000 and 2001, Shawn Doyle and Charlene Cole began to further collect and share cemetery records across the county. Charlene worked with then County Historian Barbara Dix, and gathered a near complete collection of records for the Oswego County facility, Half-Shire and now the Historian’s office in Sandy Creek.
Many of these records were old or in some cases, incomplete, so in 2001 the Oswego County Cemetery Census (OCCC) project was initiated. This project laid out a standard recommended template that historians were encouraged to use in re-canvassing and publishing their records. Charlene herself contributed greatly to these efforts by transcribing nearly all the cemeteries in Hannibal, along with St. Mary’s and Mt. Adnah in Fulton. With the advent of digital technology digital photos have recently been added to the most recent of OCCC editions. The late Connie Mason Skilinskis’ book on Dugway cemetery in Albion was ground-breaking in its inclusion of obituaries and brief histories.
The town of Sandy Creek rural cemetery books being compiled by Charlene are a great example of this enhanced version of the cemetery record project, building on the D.A.R. and Half-Shire surveys of the past. Charlene and the Sandy Creek volunteers have done an admirable job with these books. New books on Daysville and South Richland cemeteries are also nearing completion. Similar projects are being done for Albion, Williamstown, Redfield, Osceola and the rest of Richland. It is the goal of Half-Shire to one day have a digital file on each burial in our 10-township district, and a linked family database to the deceased. The entire Half-Shire cemetery holdings will be at the Fair, and available for viewing.
In related cemetery news, on Memorial Day the new monument for Revolutionary War Veteran Thomas Baker was quietly set out in Noyes Cemetery. Baker was from Massachusetts, and settled the Ridge Road between Richland and Sandy Creek. He was responsible for naming the Village of Pulaski. Kudos go out to George Widrig and Baker descendant John Komer for their research efforts and successful application to Veterans Affairs. Four additional markers have now been applied for to mark the graves of Revolutionary War Veterans Elnathan Mason, John McChesney, John Erskine and Edward Wade. Thanks go out to J. Marie Lambie and Michelle Arthur who assisted me in putting out additional flags for these men on Memorial Day Weekend.
Half-Shire Historical Society, founded in 1972, represents the towns of Albion, Amboy, Boylston, Orwell, parish, Redfield, Richland, Sandy Creek, Williamstown and the Lewis County Town of Osceola. We can be contacted at P.O. Box 73, Richland, NY 13144; halfshire@hotmail.com or our blog at: halfshire.blogspot.com/

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