DANSVILLE — When Clara Barton stepped foot in Dansville in the 19th century, she was met with great health care, friendship, and inspiration.
It was this that fueled the legacy of the American Red Cross that still holds its humble beginnings in Dansville. The first meeting of the newly formed American Red Cross was held at the St. Paul Lutheran Church in 1881. It was the Noyes Family who, in memory of their mother, Emma Hartman Noyes, donated their childhood home to the Clara Barton Chapter 1 of the American Red Cross in 1949.
It has been used for training and classes ever since, as well as a museum to honor the legacy of what Clara Barton started here.
Penny Ruest, Clara Barton House administrator assistant, and Barry Haywood, Clara Barton House volunteer met, with Genesee Country Express to talk about the new exhibit rooms and expansions.
Ruest said that people from all over the world are coming to see where it all started, and have been intrigued by the Clara Barton House.
Haywood said that despite the countless rumors, the Clara Barton House is still a fully functioning chapter of the American Red Cross.
“We will always be chapter one, and we are still used for training and classes. If anyone needs equipment like wheelchairs and walkers, we keep them at the Dansville Moose Lodge,” Haywood said. “We have brought the upstairs items down here, so it makes it more handicap accessible. It is a lot easier to supervise when you only have a couple of people.”
Ruest added that the museum exhibits are rotated fairly often, so that everything can be seen.
“We had a big shipment from the Binghamton area, and we had volunteers go through boxes of newspapers. We also had a braille machine, stamps, and cups from World War I and World War II. I have never seen so many American Red Cross stamps,” she said.
There are some World War I uniforms from Rochester that are also on display at the museum.
The big smoke alarm event is happening in Dansville on April 27 called “Sound the Alarm.” The American Red Cross will install up to three new smoke alarms for free in your home when you sign up for the event. If that date is not good for you, but you still want them, let them know on the form you fill out. You can reach them at email@example.com or call 585-241-4390.
Ruest said there is a photo and document to honor Emma Hartman Noyes who was dear friends with Clara Barton. It was through the kindness of her family that the Clara Barton House is here.
Ruest mentioned a vintage 1918 sweater had been knitted by some volunteer ladies who used the knitting instructions via World War I to make it on display.
Haywood said there is a lot of Dansville connection within the new exhibit at the museum.
One of the biggest fundraisers to the Clara Barton House every year is the golf tournament at Brae Burn.
Some old photos of American Red Cross volunteers from the early 1900s are on display at the museum that show ladies helping those in need.
Haywood said that he is grateful Clara Barton chose Dansville to be the start of such a powerful history.
“Clara came here because of the castle. I wish it was still functional. The last time I was up there I was still mayor of the village. It is a shame to see it like it is now. We owe a lot of our history to the castle,” he said. “I wish they would recognize how important it is to our history, and do something to restore it. I wish they had done something to save it years ago.”
Haywood said many people from all over the world come to research at the Clara Barton House.
“We have more people from outside Dansville that come to the Clara Barton House,” he said. “There are a lot of people in Dansville that still haven’t even been in this house, or even know what it is about.”
Another claim to fame for Clara Barton — she is the one who started the Missing in Action for soldiers. It was the Office for the Missing that she was in charge of in Washington D.C. to get lists of all the soldiers that had been missing, so that the family members could know what happened.
The Clara Barton House is in strong need of volunteers, so anyone interested can visit the American Red Cross website. Go to https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities.html and join the one in Dansville. You can do open house a couple hours a day if you want. Interested volunteers can also call the Clara Barton House at 585-335-3500. The hours are Monday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.