County Historian named ‘Friend of Education’ at Albion

Photo by Tom Rivers: Matt Ballard, left, is congratulated by Albion teacher Tim Archer after Ballard was recognized as a “Friend of Education” during today’s Board of Education meeting.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 April 2019 at 10:59 pm

ALBION – Matt Ballard, the Orleans County historian, was recognized this evening as a “Friend of Education” by the Albion school district.

Ballard, a 2006 Albion graduate, often visits Tim Archer’s seventh-grade service learning class and helps students with research and also leads informative discussions for the class, Archer said at today’s Board of Education meeting.

Ballard also assists the district each fall for the annual Ghost Walk at Mount Albion Cemetery, where students portray residents buried at the cemetery. About 500 people attend that event each year.

Ballard graduated from Albion in 2006. He works full-time as library director at Roberts Wesleyan College in North Chili. He works part-time as county historian and also is finishing a second master’s degree at Brockport State College. His first master’s was in library science. Now he is pursuing a degree in American history.

Ballard has been the county historian for about four years. He followed Bill Lattin, who also helped Archer’s students on many projects and was a frequent guest in the class.

“Matt had tough shoes to fill following Bill Lattin,” Archer said at this evening’s Board of Education meeting.

Lattin used to bring in a slide projector with images of Albion’s past. Ballard has digitized files and uses a remote to go through a presentation on a flatscreen. Like Lattin, he connects students to the the past, telling stories about people and places.

“He is a good guy and great example for our students,” Archer said.

Starkweather Miller said Ballard has pinpointed some people at the cemetery who hadn’t been included before on the Ghost Walks. He makes suggestions that have improved the annual event, she said.

Ballard has been instrumental in helping Archer’s classes with several community service projects, most recently helping research the former Orleans County Alms House on West Countyhouse Road in Albion.

The classes are researching the 250 names recorded as being buried on the grounds, most with no marker at all, or a simple stone with a number. Ballard has been helping the classes locate and study newly found primary source documents. The students hope to have an interpretive panel erected on the site this spring listing the long forgotten names.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Matt Ballard, seated at left, joins Tim Archer and the community at a rededication ceremony on June 9, 2017 for a bronze tablet listing the names of 24 soldiers from Orleans County who died in World War I. The tablet was rededicated at the County Courthouse. The marker was originally installed at the courthouse but was removed, and later was in possession of the American Legion. The Legion in Albion sold its post building on Main Street to Community Action, and relocated to the former Scottish Pines golf course on Gaines Basin Road. The Legion wanted to find a proper home for the memorial tablet, and reached out to Archer. His seventh grade students were doing research on local soldiers involved in World War I. The memorial tablet had been in storage.

Some of the other projects Ballard has helped Archer’s students with include:

• Research and design for an interpretive panel by the Erie Canal and the waterway’s impact on Albion that was unveiled last year.

• Assisted with last year’s Arbor Day ceremony at Mount Albion.

• Assisted with rededication of a World War I memorial, which was rededicated in June 2017 at the County Courthouse. The bronze marker lists the names of 24 local residents from the school district (towns of Albion, Barre, Carlton and Gaines) who died in World War I.

• Assisted with historical marker for local soldier who died at Gettysburg. On Oct. 8, 2016, the historical marker was unveiled for Herbert Charles Taylor, the only Orleans County resident believed to have been killed in the Battle at Gettysburg. That marker is at Hillside Cemetery in Holley.

• Helped Albion students dedicate a new marker at the Civil War section of historic Mount Albion Cemetery, with the marker dedicated on May 26, 2016. Ballard helped students research local Civil War soldiers.

• Worked with students to secure a proper cemetery marker for one Civil War veteran at the old St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Albion. A new headstone was unveiled on April 30, 2016 for John Frost, a principal musician (chief bugler) for the 33rd New York Infantry and also the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division of 6th Corps. Frost was buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Brown Road in 1915. He finally received a marker 101 years after his death.

Frost raised five children in Orleans County and sold coal for a living. In 2015, the Holy Family Parish was going through records at the cemetery and realized that John Frost never had a headstone. Ballard, a member of the parish and also the Knights of Columbus, shared the story with Archer, who then told his students about Frost. The students wanted Frost to have a headstone.

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