Two years ago I had an interesting discussion with Jack Loop, village historian of the Village of Hamilton. He had acquired a map from a coal delivery company which showed the names of each of their customers. Every time ownership changed, a line was drawn through the old owner's name and the new owner's name was written below. We chatted about how much fun it might be to develop this a bit more, aiming to get the ownership history of each house. We thought that a computer based system, set up in the village library, might work, letting homeowners enter the relevant data for their homes. I tried to obtain the tax map of the village, but had no success, so the project moved to the back burner.
Last year I mentioned this project to Justin Grigg, he thought it was cool, and he had no difficulty getting hold of the tax map for the Village of Alfred. Timing was fortuitous, with the Bicentennial celebration just around the corner, so we bounced the idea off the Bicentennial Committee and received their encouragement.
As we saw it, three kinds of historical data could be included within a geographically based structure: 1. The facts, often coming from deeds, abstracts and titles to the real estate parcel, 2. The stories, of general interest and widely known, and 3. The rumors, gossip and tidbits, both true and fanciful, which are often attached to a particular place. Examples to illustrate these: 1. "This house was built in 1912." 2. "Dr. Lloyd Watson developed artificial insemination of bees while he lived in this house in 1926." 3. "The problem of transporting the bell to the top of the steeple was solved when the chief carpenter put it over his head and climbed up the ladder." The first two categories seem appropriate for publishing on the web, whereas the third category might best be limited to local use.
The facts are available in the County Clerk's office. Looking up one or two might be fun, but there are 418 parcels in the village, and digging up these facts for every parcel rapidly approaches something akin to work. If we can persuade the property owners in the village to assist us, however, by supplying the data for their properties, we can concentrate on compiling the results, and things will move along much more efficiently. Furthermore, this seems to be the best way to get the stories, and probably the only way to get the rumors, gossip and tidbits.
Our hope is that the geographical structure we present here can be used to tie together many different threads of the history of the area. For instance, the Alfred University Gothic Chapel is parcel 164.11-1-28. We've put in a link to AU's description, and a little blurb from someone who was married in the chapel in 1936 (when it was where Herrick Library is now.) There must be plenty of other stories out there connected to this buiding - or to the lot it now stands on! Give us your input. If there are other resources, web based or not, we'll be happy to link to them or list them.
We have tried to make it easy for folks to send us their information. For those who are comfortable with computers, the data form we've made can be filled out using Adobe Reader, which is available for Windows, Mac, etc., and is free: Adobe Reader After you've filled in the form, clicking on the "Submit" button should open your email program, and permit you to send your data in by email. If you prefer, you can print out the filled in form and bring it to one of the libraries in Alfred. Alternatively, you can pick up a blank form at one of our libraries, and fill it out right there, using a pen or a pencil.
This is a community project, and relies on community participation. Please go dig up your deed, and fill out the form for the properties you own. Then fill out forms for any other parcels you know anything about. And then go bug your friends and neighbors to do the same. If everyone contributes, the results will be remarkable. Imagine a series of snapshots of the village, in 1900, 1925, etc., where you can which houses were standing, and who was living in each one... And then think of the stories!
It's all a work in progress, so if you can see ways to improve it, let us know. Otto --
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