Bill Lattin to retire Dec. 31 as county historian

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 August 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin last February gave a lecture at GCC in Albion about Mount Albion Cemetery and the Civil War era’s obsession with death. Here he holds a memorial created for Major Gen. George Gordon Meade.

ALBION – The man who has been a caretaker of Orleans County’s history for more than 36 years will retire on Dec. 31. Bill Lattin said it’s time for someone else to step into the position.

Lattin has been highly visible in the role. He wrote a weekly column about local history for 35-plus years for The Journal-Register in Medina until the newspaper closed in May. He has been prolific for the Orleans Hub, writing Vintage Orleans features since we started in April 2013. He also has written several local history books.

He has given numerous lectures to service organizations, historical societies and school children. He has led numerous tours about local history, visiting cemeteries, churches and historic sites.

“It’s a smart person that knows when it’s time to step aside to let someone younger take over,” Lattin said today.

Lattin talks about Donna Rodden and the former Albion mayor’s efforts to preserve local history during a dedication for a historical marker on the courthouse lawn last summer. Rodden’s daughter, Chris Capurso, is second from back right.

He is willing to continue as a volunteer with tours and historical talks, but he said he doesn’t want to “tread on the new person’s toes.”

The part-time position pays $8,000. Lattin said his successor should be paid more, and should be outfitted with a computer and new technology to do the job. But he’ll leave that to the County Legislature.

Legislature Chairman David Callard said the position will be filled. The county will soon start the process of seeking a new historian. Callard said Lattin has been exemplary in the role for the county.

“He has been extraordinary,” Callard said. “He has gone above and beyond.”

Lattin stands in the First Presbyterian Church in Albion last December during a stained-glass window tour. This window was created by Henry Keck, an apprentice at the Tiffany studio until 1933, when he started his own company in Syracuse. This is an early work by Keck, created in 1934 as memorial to Ella Beckwith Kenney, a Sunday School teacher at the Presbyterian Church. Lattin said it’s one of his favorite windows in Orleans because of theme and striking colors. It shows a teacher and her two students.

Lattin had multiple roles when he was historian. He was curator and director at the Cobblestone Society Museum until retiring from that position three years ago. He also was a long-time Gaines Town Board member.

He is encouraged by the new co-directors at the museum. Both Sarah Karas and Matt Ballard have given the museum a new energy and direction.

“They’re doing great things,” Lattin said. “What they’re doing I didn’t know how to do or want to do.”

Lattin was recently honored by Friends of Hoag Library for his many lectures at the library. He also was named a “Heritage Hero” in April by Genesee Community College and Orleans Hub for a lifetime of working to preserve and promote the county’s history.