We’re all Connected by History – Just ask Roberta Stone
By Jeff Martin
Like all historians, Roberta Stone can talk.
But thatís a good thing. The more Stone talks, the more you learn; and the more you learn, the more you appreciate where you live and work.
At 91, Stone has seen and learned a great deal about the area in which she has lived her life, specifically in the Great Valley and Killbuck locations. And as the official historian for Great Valley since 1973, she has become the go-to person about everything from former businesses to family names.
ìPeople ask me everything,î Stone said during a recent interview. ìIíve always been naturally nosey, so itís worked out. I guess I know a lot. Iíve always loved history.î
Surprisingly, Stone was never a history teacher. Instead, she was a nurse, working in every hospital and school in the Great Valley and Salamanca. In her free time, she studied the local history and acted as a kind of history liaison with the Town of Great Valley. Sheís worked in concert with other villages and towns and knows a great many people, many of whom are history buffs themselves.
ìA lot of people are interested in the history that surrounds them,î she said. ìBut I think itís more just the older people ó especially now. Young people Ö I donít think there is much appreciation among the young people anymore, and thatís sad.î
Listening to Stone talk about local history is like trying to photograph a wild bull just coming out of the gate: Itís hard to keep up. One minute sheís talking about gypsies who used to camp along the creek and visit HA Pemberton and Son (Killbuck store), and the next sheís talking about the Evergreen Tea Room, which is now a bed and breakfast at Routes 219 and 98.
ìThe gypsies wore these long, beautiful dresses,î Stone said. ìOne woman would distract the cashier and the others would go around and slip things into their pockets. I mean, they werenít all thieves, but thatís what I remembered. Back then the little stores had everything you could want.î
At the Evergreen Tea Room, Stone remembers attending end-of-the-year school events.
ìYouíd dress to the nines,î she said. ìHats, gloves ó it was a classy place, very unique for this part of the area. It was special.î
She talked about the toll road off Killbuck Road, the hitching posts that are still scattered throughout the village; she mused about white pine and the lumber mills that processed them and sent them south where they were used to build the nationís early ships.
ìThere was a lumber mill every half mile,î she said. ìWhite pine was our major export for many years.î
And yet even history has an end.
About two weeks ago, Stone stepped away from her position as town historian. It was time because, well, all good things come to an end. Her replacement, Marilyn Eddy Siperek, is the best candidate for the position, Stone said.
ìSheís very knowledgeable, knows a lot about family histories,î Stone said. ìShe helped a woman recently who was passing through the area find a lot of information about her history.î
I canít help but wonder if, in the future, there will be a shortage of people like Stone, people who recognize the importance of knowing local history. You really have to wonder when meeting the youth of today.
ìA lot of the young people donít even know American history, which is tragic,î she said. ìThatís our foundation.î
So if you see Stone and have a question about a family name or an intersection or a vacant house youíve always wondered about, by all means ask her.
After all, people love practicing their passion.