Cobblestone Museum will rededicate schoolhouse bell, showcase historic trades

Staff Reports Posted 7 August 2017 at 7:40 am

File photo by Tom Rivers: David Damico, a volunteer for the Cobblestone Museum, is pictured inside the print shop at the museum. Damico will do printing demonstrations as part of a historic trades exhibition on Aug. 26. The print shop was built in 1875. It used to be in Medina, but was moved to the museum grounds on Route 98 in Gaines in 1977.

CHILDS – The Cobblestone Museum will welcome a children’s book author on Saturday, rededicate the schoolhouse bell on Aug. 19 and welcome several historic trades craftsmen on Aug. 26 for demonstrations.

Cynthia Cotten

Cynthia Cotten will be at the museum this Saturday at 11 a.m. for a free story hour. She will read some of her stories about her stone house and life on the Erie Canal.

Cynthia (Storrs) Cotten has been an author of fiction and poetry for children for 30 years. Born and raised in Lockport, she has lived in a number of places around the country, including Ponca City, OK; Pittsburgh; PA, and Dumfries, Virginia.

However, her heart has always been in her hometown, and in April 2014 she and her husband moved back to Lockport, where they live in a house on the banks of the Erie Canal.

Cyndy has written numerous books for young people including “Snow Ponies,” “This is the Stable,” “The Book Boat’s In,” and “Window Across Time;” a book of short stories set in a cobblestone house. Books will be available for purchase at the Cobblestone Gift Shop during the event.

Schoolhouse Bell Restoration and Dedication on Aug. 19

Aug. 19 will be a day of commemoration and celebration. The Cobblestone Society and friends are gathering at the former Gaines District #5 Cobblestone School to celebrate the enduring legacy of Honorable William Jenks Babbitt by ringing the school bell he gave to the school in 1849. Many years silent,  the bell will now ring once again to remind all who will hear it of the remarkable legacy of a true Orleans’ pioneer.

Provided photo: The bell tower on the schoolhouse has been repaired and will be rededicated on Aug. 19 at 11 a.m.

Babbitt arrived in “Genesee Country” in 1810, and following the War of 1812, he moved his family to what would become Gaines.  He became the area’s first blacksmith, established the first brickyard in Gaines, supplying the brick for most area buildings. Babbitt was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1815.  In 1816, he worked to get the Ridge Road designated as “The Post Road” by NYS, and served as the first postmaster of Gaines.

Babbitt pushed hard to get the Town of Gaines to be set apart from Ridgeway and recommended its naming after War of 1812 hero General Edmund Pendleton Gaines. Today Gaines contains most of Carlton and Barre. In 1831, Babbitt became the Town of Gaines Supervisor and then served the district in the NYS Assembly.

The enduring legacy of William Babbitt is perhaps best remembered with the 1849 building of the Gaines District #5 Cobblestone Schoolhouse, which he superintended. Mr. Babbitt purchased the bell for the school at a cost of $20. The gift of the bell served the community well until the closing of the school in 1952.

Over the years, the supporting structure for the bell gave way and the bell dropped down making it unusable. In response, the Orleans County Historical Association offered financial help and Gaines Historian Al Capurso spearheaded the efforts to have the bell tower structure restored. With their help, the once familiar sound of the clanging of the schoolhouse bell will once again greet museum visitors.

The rededication ceremony will take place the schoolhouse at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 19. This is a free, public event.

Historic Trades Fair on Aug. 26

The Cobblestone Museum Step back in time to a bygone era at the Cobblestone Museum on Saturday, Aug. 26, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the Historic Trades Fair. The museum used to showcase artisans and historic trades during an “Old-Timers’ Day.”

The Historic Trade Fair will include many 19th century craftsmen plying their trade in this day-long immersive event. It will feature blacksmiths, printers, weavers, carpenters, wood joiners, chair caning, farmers, musicians, butter churning and even fiddlers.

A Civil War encampment will also take place on site featuring uniformed soldiers with tents, gear and antique firearms.

Museum Director Doug Farley said the fair will highlight the museum buildings on Route 98, just south of Ridge Road.

The four wood frame buildings house the historic trades collections. Artisans and craftsmen will be working in their respective fields throughout the day, in “open-house” format.

The lineup for the historic trades fair, so far, includes:

Blacksmith – Bill Ott (NYSDB)

Chair Caning – Judy Larkin (Raising Cane, Medina)

Butter Churning – Georgia Thomas

Printer- David Damico & Bill Neidlinger

Fiddlers – Tom Bailey and friends  

Wood joinery – Jim Bonafini

Basket Weaving – Jan Brauer

Spinning – Kim Fuller & Donna Masters

Weaving – Theresa Jewell

Civil War demonstrations – 4th South Carolina Infantry, Jay Black, Provost Marshall

Seamstress – Doreen Clark

Shoe Repair – Dave Clark

Herbs – Brenda Radzinski 

Photo by Tom Rivers: The blacksmith shop will be in use for a historic trades fair on Aug. 26.

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