By Mary Fox
In September of 1955, a group of people interested in preserving the history of Ellicottville met at the home of William K. Laidlaw, a prominent lawyer and professor of law, to discuss forming a historical society.
The first public meeting of the Ellicottville Historical Society was held in the High School Library (1887 Building) in October 1956 to form the constitution and bylaws of the Ellicottville Historical Society, which would become its guidelines for the next 57 years.
According to the Constitution of the Ellicottville Historical Society, its purpose is “to study and preserve the historical record of the Township of Ellicottville and its vicinity and to keep alive the spirit and tradition of our heritage.”
Objectives of the society are: to hold monthly meetings; collect materials to help establish or illustrate the history of the Ellicottville area; establish a museum for their preservation and provide accessibility to such materials; to create a library of books, maps, newspapers and scrapbooks pertaining to the region and provide for the preservation of such documents; to encourage informal education programs, including special projects for school children; to disseminate historical information; and to insure the preservation of historic buildings, monuments and markers.”
The current Town Historian, Mary Elizabeth Dunbar, is appointed by the town and according to the law of New York State is charged with “keeping, storing, cataloging and protecting historical source materials and objects, arranging museum exhibits and assisting in genealogical research.”
Current officers of the Ellicottville Historical Society are Tim Brown, president; Cathy Lacy, vice president; Mary Fox, secretary; and Judy Brown, treasurer.
“The historical society is always looking for donations of new artifacts and papers in an attempt to record the history of Ellicottville,” said Dunbar.
Currently, Pam Litchfield is cataloging into the computer all items owned by the society, which are currently on display in the museum or stored in other locations. A great need of the society is finding desperately needed space to safely store these artifacts.
Current activities of the society include monthly meetings and programs every second Wednesday from May through September at 7:30 p.m. at the Ellicottville Memorial Library, acting as museum guides on Saturdays and Sundays during the summer, a Victorian Tea in May, a Strawberry Festival in July, a trip in late August, a Dinner in December and involvement in the Jefferson Street Cemetery Restoration Project.
Great changes have taken place in Ellicottville in the past decades. As change continues, the need is urgent that we preserve the rich past that has brought Ellicottville to where it is today.
Increased membership is necessary to assist in the progress of meeting the goals of the Ellicottville Historical Society and provide more opportunities to preserve and pass on the history of Ellicottville.
Anyone willing to participate in preserving the history of Ellicottville and its vicinity, or just interested in learning more about its past, is welcome to become a member of the Ellicottville Historical Society. Annual dues cost $5. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at the Ellicottville Memorial Library at 7:30 p.m.