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Creek naming honors female pioneer in Gaines

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 May 2014 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Dan Capurso unveils the sign for Gilbert Creek by Ridge Road in the town of Gaines.

The creek runs about 6.5 miles from near Brown Road northeast to Marsh Creek in Carlton.

GAINES – A painted wooden sign was unveiled at about noon today. “Gilbert Creek” is on the sign by Ridge Road, next to the Gaines Carlton Community Church.

The sign and the name of the creek honors a woman from more than 200 years ago, the first settler on Ridge Road in Orleans County. Elizabeth Gilbert and her husband built their cabin in 1807. Mr. Gilbert died soon after they settled, and his wife was lef to raise a family and make a life in the wilderness of the Niagara frontier.

State Sen. George Maziarz, right, addresses a group on the lawn next to the Gaines Carlton Community Church near the spot where the Gilbert family built a cabin more than 200 years ago.

She stayed for two years with her children, and helped other settlers. She let them stay in her cabin while she helped build a cabin for at least one pioneer family. She used her oxen to haul wagon loads of timber for the cabin.

Al Capurso admires the grit of the pioneer settlers in Orleans County. In early 2013 he and his son Kenny noticed a creek along Brown Road in Gaines. They followed its path across Ridge Road and to Carlton. It flows 6.5 miles northeast and connects with Marsh Creek about 2.4 miles south of Lake Ontario.

Capurso did some research and realized the stream that starts by Brown Road didn’t have a name. He wanted the waterway to honor Elizabeth Gilbert. It took a year of lining up local support, and gaining permission from the federal Bureau of Geographic Names. The agency on April 10 formally approved the naming request.

Al Capurso and his son Dan performed four songs today in honor of Elizabeth Gilbert and the pioneer settlers of Orleans County.

“Today, we dedicate this creek to the pioneering efforts and spirit of Elizabeth Gilbert, the Gilbert family and the town of Gaines,” Capurso said at a ceremony on the church lawn next to the creek.

Capurso not only did the research and pressed the government officials for the creek naming, he also made the sign. He thinks it blends in with the historic corridor on Ridge Road. The Cobblestone Society Museum is down the road to the west.

Capurso and his family were praised by town, county and state officials for their efforts.

“There is no better title than a citizen who loves his community, who respects his community,” said State Sen. George Maziarz.

The state senator admitted he had never heard of the federal Bureau of Geographic Names until Capurso launched his effort. Maziarz commended him for working through the bureaucracy to get the creek named for one of the county’s pioneers.

Town Historian Delia Robinson said pioneers often don’t get much appreciation from today’s residents, with women even getting less attention from historians. She noted the settlers looked for land that was “high and dry” and near water so they had the resource readily available for cooking and cleaning.

“When the settlers came it was just wilderness,” Robinson said. “There were no neighbors, there was no village, there were no stores.”

Town Supervisor Carol Culhane, Cobblestone Museum Co-Director Matt Ballard and County Legislator Fred Miller all spoke at the dedication.

“It’s wonderful to have someone from the community do this kind of effort,” Miller said. “It adds another attribute that people can look at when they come see the Cobblestone Museum.”