DANSVILLE — We come from a long legacy of people who saw true greatness in a small village nestled deep in the valley.
On Oct. 28 the Dansville Area Historical Society honored ten of these people with the Hall of Fame.
These ten people did their part in making Dansville a great place to live; John Blum, Robert Hart, Jane Schryver, Marian Owen, Dr. Kate Jackson, George Sweet, George A. Sweet, Jonathan Morey Sr., Dr. Harriet Austin, and George Hyland Sr.
There are currently 20 people inducted in the Hall of Fame. After 22 years the society is bringing back this high honor. Among those already honored are; Daniel Faulkner, Clara Barton, Frederick Owen, Nathaniel Rochester, Bernarr Macfadden, Nicholas Noyes, and Tim Shay.
DAHS Member David Gilbert had the honor of giving the presentation on these ten lucky people. Experts in history were invited onto the committee to decide who should get the nominations.
Hyland was born in Ireland in 1803. He came to the new world in 1817 with a dream.
“He started out in Toronto as a hatmaker,” Gilbert said. “He came to Dansville in 1829. He had a shop with fur coats and dry goods. He started building hotels. His first hotel was in 1842 on the corner of West Avenue and Clara Barton Street. His second hotel was the American Hotel in 1854. Finally the Hyland House or Dansville Hotel was made, and stood the test of time until 1971. It was turned into Community Bank.”
When the canal was trying to make its way to Dansville some of the Main Street businessmen were not happy about it. Hyland is known for slugging a man over it, and working on making his own branch to the canal. This is where the name Battle Street came from. He died in 1880.
Sweet was born in 1818 and was part of the Industrial Revolution in Dansville.
“He bought out his brother, Sydney Sweet, in Cummingsville. He worked with the Faulkner Family in making Sweet and Faulkner Manufacturing. It was turned into Sweet Manufacturing later on,” Gilbert said. “Soon after his death it would become Foster Wheeler. George Sweet was among the group who brought business to Dansville with the railroad.”
Austin was a force to be wreckin with in the mid-1800s when she invented the American Costume.
“When they abandoned the water cure Dr. James Caleb Jackson got the water cure facility. Dr. Austin came with them, and brought the women’s dress reform,” Gilbert said. “Clara Barton was one of her close friends. Austin Street by the King’s Daughter’s House is named in her honor.”
For a century about three factories dominated the workforce in Dansville. One of the most compelling was the Blum Shoe Factory.
Blum was born in Germany in 1822 and learned the shoe trade with his father. Blum would move on to America with his wife and two small children. It was in Dansville in 1859 that he really made a stand.
“Blum went door to door and made shoes for customers over the years,” Gilbert said. “They were comfortable footwear to be worn in the home. He made special shoes in the 1880s. These would be shipped in boxes on the railroad for years. Blum Shoe Manufacturing took up all of Spruce Street. He would have 11 children, nine born in Dansville. His house slippers remained famous until his death in 1907.”
For over a century the nursery business was dominate in Dansville. Morey would go on to become a very important part of this history. He started out a school teacher. He got the Northern East part of the village, and turned it into a nursery.
“In 1885 the JB Nursery was the largest in the area,” Gilbert said. “The road named Morey Avenue is after him.”
George A. Sweet would go on to be important in Dansville regarding the Maxwell Block.
“Sweet took the business over. He was the nephew of the other Sweet we are honoring tonight,” Gilbert said. “He was the first president of the Dansville Chapter American Red Cross. He was the first president of Citizen Bank. That bank survived The Great Depression. He was active in improving the village cemetery, gas, and beauty. He died in 1912.”
Jackson was a stranger to these parts, but she would prove to be one of the most important.
“Dr. Kate Jackson came to Our Home on the Hillside to work with Dr. James Caleb Jackson. She would marry his son,” Gilbert said. “They ran the health resort, and it was her decision to rebuild the brick Castle on the Hill when the wooden one burned down. She wanted it built on the same spot. Kate also helped with the Dansville Public Library, Maxwell Block, and improved the old village cemetery.”
Owen would be important in the publishing business with the Instructor Magazine.
“Marian was the first president of the Dansville Area Historical Society,” Gilbert said. “She wanted to put the museum by the rectory. It finally paid off in 1968. After some intense repair she unveiled the museum in 1969. She died in 1983.”
Hart was the captain of keeping the railroad legacy alive in this area. Hart came home after World War Two and made a big difference in his community.
“Hart ran the Dansville and Mount Morris Depot until 1985,” Gilbert said. “He was the longest running supervisor on record in the county. He held that position through nine American Presidents. He made a campaign to create the Genesee Expressway known as I390. It took 17 years to complete. He died in 2012.”
Schryver has done more than most in preserving the history of Dansville. She has the largest private collection of historic photos in the area.
“Jane is the third living person we have honored,” Gilbert said. “She has done more than most to preserve Dansville. She is a lifelong resident of the area. She loved old postcards of Dansville, and got her inspiration from Wilfred Rauber (old historian). Her most significant accomplishment is Pioneer Park. They designated the old village cemetery Pioneer Park in 2012. It had the long legacy of being Dansville’s first cemetery.”
Gilbert thanked Schryver for all the work in making Pioneer Park what it is today. It has became the shining jewel of Dansville.
Schryver thanked everyone who helped her make this happen, and is glad local history is so important.
James Blum said that his great-grandfather deserved the honor of being one of the chosen.
“My great-grandfather left his home with his wife and two children, because of the conditions he was in,” he said. “He came here to this country full of ambition. After working for awhile in the city he was not getting paid. He had to provide for his wife and children. He worked in Dansville and sent for his family. We should respect him. He has been in the cemetery for over a hundred years. He was one of the people who held the hearts and minds of Dansville. He helped make Dansville what is was.”
Joan Hart said it is a honor to her that people remember and love her father.
“It is an honor to me that people feel this way about my father,” she said. “He was a big part of making Dansville what it is.”