HSM reviews past year, looks ahead to a new move

The Historical Society of the Town of Middletown held its Seventh Annual Meeting October 23, when it recognized several volunteers, reported on its activities over the past year, and elected an Executive Committee to lead it into 2012.

Thirty-five members and guests enjoyed an autumn luncheon prepared by the Halcottsville Fire Department Auxiliary at the Old Wawaka Grange Hall. They also got a preview of an exhibition, “Middletown: Time and Time Again,” digital collages created by photographer Michael Musante. The show is on view at Fairview Public Library through November 30.

The gathering concluded with a drawing for a quilt contributed to HSM by Catskill Mountain Quilters. Barbara Moses of Dunraven was the lucky winner.

Fran Faulkner and Andy VanBenschoten, who were instrumental in shaping the organization through its early years, were lauded as they exited the Executive Committee. Several members of the Committee were re-elected – Diane Galusha, Carolyn Konheim, Lucci Kelly, Marilyn Pitetti, and George Hendricks – and a new Trustee, Roger Davis of Arkville, was elected. Phil O’Beirne is also an HSM Trustee.

Four active members of Friends of Middletown Cemeteries were applauded for their dedication to documenting and restoring local burial grounds. They are Gary and Barbara Atkin, George Hendricks and Brian Wheaton. In 2011, they and other volunteers re-inventoried the old Halcottsville Cemetery and the Margaretville Annex Cemetery, and worked on a major restoration project at the Arkville Cemetery.

President Diane Galusha reported on programs sponsored by HSM over the past year. They included three genealogy gatherings; a slide show of historic Arkville photos by Kathy Roberts and Lynda Stratton, and a history hike led by Laurie and Tom Rankin to Balsam Lake Mountain Fire Tower.

HSM acknowledged the 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War with Memorial Day readings in Fleischmanns and Margaretville of the names of Middletown men who lost their lives in the war. This was the beginning of an effort to develop a comprehensive database of all Middletown area Civil War veterans.

Sadly, the Cauliflower Festival was cancelled thanks to Irene, so HSM did not get a chance to exhibit photos from the barn survey that has been completed by several volunteers. It is hoped this exhibit can be mounted next year at the festival.

The flood caused by Irene was itself a historic event. Over the next several months, HSM plans to conduct an oral history project, interviewing people about their experiences in the flood.

Over the past year, HSM’s archival collection has added many original documents, photo albums, books, historic newspapers, and other materials donated by local residents and others.

The HSM website (www.mtownhistory.org), launched at the 2010 Annual Meeting, has been expanded with many new items of interest, event notices and photos.

Galusha also announced an exciting move for the Historical Society: The New Kingston Valley Grange has offered to give the Society the clubhouse and seven acres that THEY were given by the Izaac Walton League in the mid-1990s. This property is on Cemetery Road just outside Margaretville. A straw poll of the members present at the meeting found unanimous support for the acquisition, but all members will have a chance to express their opinions by returning a mailing that will be sent in early November.

“This is the logical next step in our organization’s development,” Galusha commented. “We are looking for people to help us plan for the use, maintenance and support of the property. Anyone who is interested in helping with this, or in volunteering in any other way, is invited to call us, at 586-4973, or history@catskill.net.”

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