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October 15, 2018

Oswego County Historical Society Welcomes Gerrit Smith Biographer as Speaker for Annual Meeting


OSWEGO — The Oswego County Historical Society will host its annual meeting presentation on May 22 at 1:30 p.m. in the Community Room of the Oswego Public Library at 120 E. Second St.

The Oswego County Historical Society will host its annual meeting and keynote presentation on May 22. Shown is a portrait of Gerrit Smith, gift of his daughter Elizabeth Smith Miller, that hangs in the main reading room of the library.

The Oswego County Historical Society will host its annual meeting and keynote presentation on May 22. Shown is a portrait of Gerrit Smith, gift of his daughter Elizabeth Smith Miller, that hangs in the main reading room of the library.

During the membership meeting, board president Justin White will present an annual report of the projects and events of the year.

Immediately following will be a special keynote presentation entitled “Gerrit Smith and His Connections to Oswego,” by Norman K. Dann, Professor Emeritus of Social Sciences at Morrisville State College.

“The annual meeting is an important part of our organization. We welcome anyone interested in preserving our local history to attend,” said White. “There is always so much that has been accomplished every year and we look forward to sharing it with our members and the community.”

A retired professor, Dann is an authority on the life of Gerrit Smith.

His presentation will stem from the biography he wrote entitled “Practical Dreamer: Gerrit Smith and the Crusade for Social Reform.”

A prominent figure connected to Oswego and in particular the Underground Railroad, was Gerrit Smith.

He was a leading social reformer, abolitionist, politician and philanthropist.

His deep ties to Oswego through land ownership and commercial investments provided a significant portion of his wealth.

He was known as the one of the largest landowners in New York State during his lifetime and one of the wealthiest men of his day.

Since he prospered within the community, Smith generously decided to give back to it.

His decision was to donate a public library.

It was one of the first public libraries of its kind and was gifted by him with a total of $30,000, a substantial figure at that time.

A rare Norman Revival Style structure was built and opened its doors in 1857.

“It is a pleasure to welcome Norman Dann as the guest speaker for the annual meeting. His biography of Gerrit Smith sheds light on the life of one of the most influential social reformers in American history and one that’s least known,” said White. “It will also be serendipitous to host the meeting at the Oswego Public Library, the place of Gerrit Smith’s lasting gift.”

The meeting is free and open to the public.

Prospective members are also encouraged to attend to help the society continue to preserve the area’s rich local history.

The Oswego County Historical Society is a non-profit organization founded in 1896 and dedicated to the preservation, promotion and interpretation of the historical resources of the county.

The society owns and operates the Richardson-Bates House Museum at 135 E. Third St. in Oswego, a landmark listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The museum is open for tours Thursday through Saturday from 1 – 5 p.m. and other times by appointment.

For more information, visit www.rbhousemuseum.org or contact the museum during regular hours at 343-1342.

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