County backs naming creek for female pioneer in Gaines

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 31 March 2014 at 12:00 am

File photos by Tom Rivers – Al Capurso has been working for about a year to have the federal government name a creek in honor of Elizabeth Gilbert, a pioneer settler who moved to Ridge Road in Gaines in 1807. In this October file photo, Capurso is pictured on a walkway above the creek next to Gaines Carlton Community Church.

GAINES – For about a year Al Capurso has been working to line up support and evidence that an unnamed stream in Gaines and Carlton should bear the name “Gilbert Creek.” Those efforts could pay off soon with a formal decision of support from the U.S. government.

The Orleans County Legislature was the latest to back the effort of naming a creek for a pioneer settler along Ridge Road. The Legislature voted last week to support the naming. The Gaines and Carlton town boards also support “Gilbert Creek.”

The decision lies with the Board on Geographic Names through the U.S. Department of Interior. The group meets next month and Capurso believes he has compiled all the data to sway the board.

If the board approves the name for the local creek, Capurso plans to have a dedication ceremony at noon on May 24. A reception will follow inside the church fellowship hall.

He was driving along Brown Road last year with his son Kenny when they saw the stream and wondered about its source and if it had a name. They discovered the creek begins from feeder sources south of Route 104 near Brown Road. It then marries Procter Brook in Carlton, and then flows into the Oak Orchard River.

Capurso said it meets three standards for naming a creek: The feature is currently unnamed; The stream has an independent and distinct source of flow; and it is historically significant.

About 200 years ago the stream must have caught the eye of Elizabeth Gilbert and her husband, identified in historical records only as “Mr. Gilbert.” They arrived with their two children and a niece in 1807. They picked a spot next to a stream near where the Gaines Carlton Community Church now stands on Route 104, close to the intersection with Brown Road.

A historical marker by the church notes the efforts of Mrs. Gilbert as a pioneer settler.

Early settlers liked to build log cabins close to a source of water. The Gilberts chose the north side of Ridge Road, building their home where there was a rise in the land. The cabin is long gone, but a historical marker notes the pioneering efforts from Mrs. Gilbert. Her husband died in 1808, leaving her to raise the children, and tame the nearby wilderness.

“My passion is certainly pioneer history,” Capurso said today. His family paid to have a historical marker placed on the Courthouse Square last year for a pioneer settler in Albion.

Capurso is preparing a wooden sign for “Gilbert Creek” that would match the one for “Proctor Brook” by the Cobblestone Society Museum. He wants to complement the museum, which is a National Historic Landmark, the only site in the county with that designation.