Berne Historical Society

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Berne Town Hall

The History of the Berne Historical Society

by Shelia C. Stempel & Alberta Wright, from Our Heritage, (Cornwallville, NY: Hope Farm Press 1977)pp. 112-113


A book of history of the Town of Berne cannot be written without giving recognition to an organization formed for the express purpose of recording the history. Such is the Berne Historical Society's Center located on Route #443 in the Town of Berne.

The forming of this organization was the dream of Mrs. Raymond (Alberta Ball) Wright, whose idea it was to create a center for displaying the memorabilia of Berne, and fostering the love and pride in Berne's past and future.

A provisional charter was issued by the Society of the Regents of the University of the State of New York September 24, 1971, through the efforts of Emil DiMotta, followed by the granting of an absolute charter on Feb. 22, 1974 with 103 charter members.

The purposes of the Society as stated in the Charter are: a. To promote an interest in the historical heritage of the area. b. To acquire, preserve and display articles associated with the history of Berne. c. To locate and catalogue any recorded material pertaining to local history and d. To provide an educational resource.

Agnes Pangburn, Margaret Lewis, Dorothy Polhemus, Joseph Matuck, Jean Wright, and Emil DiMotta as incorporators of the Society served as its first Board of Trustees.

First President of the Society was Alberta Wright, followed by Bertha Matuck, who served two terms in 1974 and 1975.

The year 1976 saw Alberta Wright elected to serve as President again for another term.

Since receiving its absolute charter, members, officers, and trustees have managed to collect, catalogue, and preserve items of the Town's history and recreate 10 rooms of history, located on the upper floor of the Berne Town Hall. The Center rooms have been arranged by Mrs. Earl Williamson and her committee.

One bedroom boasts of a bed of Jacob Weidman, circa 1790, which has been loaned to the Society by his descendant, Harold Lendrum.

A second bedroom has been recreated with19th century furnishings. Both rooms were worked on by Joseph and Bertha Matuck.

The Agricultural room worked on by Mary Shultes, Oliver Wright, and Ed Pitcher, is a room that resembles the interior of a barn, in which they used original beams, held together by handmade pegs. Old farm implements are on display in this room.

The Parlor at the Center, which is assembled by Agnes Pangburn and Ginny Mann, is known as "The Agnes Pangburn Parlor" as a tribute to one of the original trustees of the Society, who passed on in 1973.

Nettie Filkins, chief cataloguer, and Hazel Willsie, arranged the Center's kitchen. One of the other rooms arranged at the Center is where wedding dresses and clothes of an era gone by are on display, don by Elvena Williamson.

Mr. & Mrs. John Kocsis have recreated a school classroom of yesteryear, where children of today, may observe how children long ago studied.

In the Church, done by Raymond and Alberta Wright, one is able to view a collection of pews - one from the churches in each of the Bernes.

Jean Wright and Jan Wright Salzer have put together a children's room which includes toys, furniture and some clothes of days gone by. A corner of the room has been reserved for displays from the Boys and Girls Scouts of the town.

The tenth room of the Society's Center is the room done by the Yorker Club, and is known as The Yorker Room.

The Society's photographer, Tony Yarmchuk has taken pictures of old buildings and sites that will be made into slides to eventually be placed in a room at the Center for all visitors to view.

In 1973, the Center had over 400 visitors. The fact that the Center is listed in New York State Vacationlands, helps visitors to find their way to Berne.

An "Old Fashioned Ice Cream Social" was started by the Society and is held on the Fourth of July each year, for which it was granted an award of excellence in 1974, by the N.Y.S. American Revolutionary Bicentennial Commission.

In December of 1972, through the efforts of Mrs. Emil (Noreen) DiMotta and her committee, a newsletter was started, and has continued to be printed and sent out periodically to its membership.

Steve Eabry served as the Society's treasurer through the year 1975, maintaining a watchful eye over the Society's monies.

In 1975, through the kindness of author Henry Christman, the Society sponsored the republication of his book "Tin Horns and Calico", selling over 1000 autographed copies of same.

With the help of the Yorkers and the Historical Society, we shall foster the ideas in the minds of those around us to the importance of "history."

It would be impossible to thank everyone who helped in this endeavor. As the Rev. Bruce Goodwin said at the opening of the Center, "We look back upon the ideals of earlier settlers to chart the course of ideals of our future; the gain of their labors is the heritage we preserve."

From Our Heritage