New North Dansville town historian takes office with goals for town

Gerri Waight, North Dansville’s newly-appointed town historian, aims to organize and digitize hard copy historical documents

By Jeff Miller
The Express

DANSVILLE — The Town of North Dansville is known for having a fascinating history.

For example, National Cereal Day was celebrated on March 7, and Dansville was once home to Granula, the world’s first commercially-produced breakfast cereal. March is also both Red Cross Month and Women’s History Month, so it is a special time to remember Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, her time in Dansville and its role in being the home of the first chapter of the American Red Cross.

So perhaps it’s fitting that Gerri Waight, North Dansville’s newly-appointed town historian, began (for the most part) her role in March. Though her term officially began Jan. 3, Waight, like many retirees, spent some quality time down south before really starting.

One of her primary goals is to not only get accustomed to the many files of information stored in her town-hall office, but to also find a way to organize and digitize hard copy historical documents, some now brittle with age. Waight would like to also update her office equipment to handle the digital storing and preservation process.

“I’ve been having a lot of fun reading as I’m going through it,” she said about the office’s archives. “It’s been very interesting.”

Gerri Waight, North Dansville’s newly-appointed town historian, began her role in March.

Waight grew up in the rural Steuben County town of Jasper, and moved to Dansville in 1987. She had worked 34 years as a healthcare information systems specialist for Wyoming County Community Health System (aka Warsaw hospital). She began learning about Dansville’s history soon after moving through neighbors, especially life-long Dansvillian Ruth Derowitsch, who often told her how things used to be and the people who used to live here.

“Stories of the older days are always interesting. The canals, the trains, all these things that we don’t see today in the community, but were very vital at one point in time,” said Waight.

She said that not only keeping history on Dansville’s places of interest and special events are an important part of her job, but also having documentation on everyday people is also valuable for those seeking information on genealogy.

In addition to preserving Dansville’s historic paraphernalia, Waight is also eager to archive more recent history and current events for future generations.

Waight said she really appreciates the work that former town historians such as Wilfred Rauber, Quent Masolotte and Ken Holbrook have done to acquire “the amazing amount of information that we have here.”

It’s common for people to not realize that the office of a town historian exists. But according to New York’s Association of Public Historians website, there are almost 1,600 local government historians in New York State. The state historian law requires that a local historian is appointed in each city, town, village, or borough, and allows for the appointment of a historian in each county.

To contact Gerri Waight, you can email her at historian@northdansville.org, or call 585-335-2330.

In addition to her role as historian, Waight has also been past-president of Dansville Area Historical Society, past-president of the Dansville Balloon Festival, and is current president of Friends of the Dansville Public Library. She also serves on the North Dansville Board of Appeals Review.