County Historian

Livingston County Bicentennial

In 2021 Livingston County will celebrate 200 years! Keep checking back here and on Livingston County social media for updates and events leading up to the big year.

Livingston County Bicentennial Seal
wensel 272

What's New?

We are constantly indexing and digitizing items in our archives - check here to see what new collections are available for easy access!

hoyt

Doing Research?

We are excited to help! Here are some ways you can start: 

  1. Search our online Records Index for a name.
  2. Send us your specific questions or call us!
  3. Plan a visit - we have an extensive research center.
  4. Browse other recommended digital resources and repositories to track down information.

              Help Share & Preserve Local History!Livingston County Bicentennial Seal

                      Free Scanning Week Event! 

                               July 15 - 19, 2019

County employees are invited to bring both historic and contemporary photographs, documents, and other records to have digital images created for future generations.

Staff will scan the materials and record any information the owner shares about each piece. All originals will be returned along with a digital copy of the scans on a flash drive. The County Historian’s Office will then make the images available to researchers.

Appointments are necessary!  For more information contact us:
                                         5 Murray Hill Drive, Mt. Morris, NY 14510                                             historian@co.livingston.ny.us   ♦   585-243-7955

March: Celebrating Women's History Month

Portrait of Norine Meagher

Norine A. Meagher, a Livonia native, served in World War II with a Women's Army Corps medical unit stationed in Japan and the U.S. After the war Norine completed her Masters at Syracuse and worked as a guidance counselor at a high school there. In 1951, her unit was recalled during the Korean Conflict and Sgt. Meagher was stationed in San Francisco. She later returned to her former position in Syracuse until she retired in 1975, spent time traveling, and eventually relocated back home to Livonia. 

As a charter member of the Livonia V.F.W Post 9028 and active with the Harrison-Lee American Legion Post 283, Norine began chronicling the military service of over 1400 local men and women from Livonia from before the Revolutionary War to Vietnam. The result was a two-volume compilation entitled "As It Was." In 1991, Norine presented the history to the County Historian's Office and the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Bath. As the only woman in the American Legion at that time, she hoped not only to document local veterans' service and sacrifice but to also to recognize the essential role of  local women in the military.

Dr. Lettie H. Woodruff (1849-1931)

Livonia native Delecta H. "Lettie" Woodruff was the youngest of 5 daughters of Burr and Almira Clark Woodruff. In 1877, Lettie graduated from the University of Michigan, the first state college to accept women in the medical department, and returned to open her own medical practice in Rochester.

Dr. Woodruff served for many years as the City of Rochester Physician and was the first woman in New York State to serve as a County Physician. Throughout her distinguished half-century career, she saw revolutionary change in the study of medicine, succeeded in breaking barriers, and won acceptance of her patients and male peers. When she finally retired in 1927, Dr. Woodruff was only the second woman in the country to have worked 50 years as an active physician.

In addition to medicine, Dr. Woodruff had a keen interest in the suffrage movement and was close friends with Susan B. Anthony and her sister Mary Anthony.

Over the course of her career, Dr. Woodruff came to realize that often less medicine was more, and extolled the virtues of living a healthy life style - definitely a woman ahead of her time.

Portrait of Dr. Woodruff

Miss Helen Pratt, Helen from 1930 Liv Co Bar Assoc photoPratt (1906-2000): the first woman attorney in Livingston County

Helen Pratt, daughter of Robert and Nellie (Buckner) Pratt, had graduated by age 22 from Albany Law School and was admitted to the New York State Bar in 1928. She then joined her father’s law firm in Dansville and formed Pratt & Pratt where she continued for the next 64 years before retiring in 1992. According to her obituary, she and her father collectively practiced law continuously in the same location for 105 years.

Among Helen’s many achievements was serving as the youngest alternate to the Democratic National Convention in 1932 when Franklin D. Roosevelt was nominated for U.S. President. Her youth and vitality attracted journalists who were struck not only by her interest in politics but also by her ability to operate an airplane. More than four decades later Helen was the first from Livingston County elected to serve on the 1976 Electoral College when she cast her vote for President-elect Jimmy Carter.

Her distinguished career included serving as Dansville Village Attorney; county attorney for the Home Owners' Loan Corporation (HOLC) a government-sponsored corporation created as part of the New Deal; president of the Livingston County Bar Association; director and legal consultant of the Clara Barton Chapter of the American Red Cross; president of the Livingston County Women’s Democratic Organization; and director of the Livingston County Chamber of Commerce, Dansville Memorial Hospital and Craig Developmental Center.
In 1994, Helen received the Albany Law School Kate Stoneman Award, which honors those in the legal profession who actively seek change and expanding opportunities for women.

Miss Pratt was honored posthumously last October 2017 with others at the third induction ceremony conducted by the Foundation for Dansville Education and her name was added to the Wall of Pride. “She contributed to the economic and social fabric of Dansville,” said fellow Dansville Attorney John Scura, who accepted the Wall of Pride honor on Helen’s behalf. “She was a compassionate and respectful advocate for her clients.”

Suffragist and dress reformer, Elizabeth Smith Miller (1822-1911)
Elizabeth Smith Miller and her Daughter
Elizabeth Smith Miller was born into a family of wealth and privilege in Groveland. The only daughter of the renowned abolitionist Gerrit Smith and Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, she grew up surrounded by progressive-minded family members.  
While gardening one day in the spring of 1851, Elizabeth made the decision to abandon her long and heavy skirts. Suddenly deciding the “shackle should no longer be endured,” she simply shortened her skirt to a few inches below her knees and added “Turkish trousers” to her ankles. She won instant approval from her closest allies - husband Charles Miller, her parents, cousin Elizabeth Cady Stanton and friend Susan B. Anthony.

When Miller wore this new outfit in Seneca Falls, the public reaction was stunning. Local editor Amelia Bloomer immediately picked up upon the story and published an article in her newspaper The Lily. The sensation was quickly dubbed the “Bloomer costume,” leading to the oft-mistaken premise that the editor herself designed the outfit. Overall, women’s rights advocates quickly adopted the outfit. However, the short dress became a distraction and the trend did not catch on.

Miller spent most of her childhood living in Peterboro, NY. The Smith home was a station on the Underground Railroad. She returned frequently to visit family and friends in the Genesee Valley and later moved to Geneva where she remained until her death in 1911. Together with her daughter Ann Fitzhugh Miller, she worked on philanthropic endeavors and promoting women’s suffrage. Their large scrapbook collection was donated to the Library of Congress and many documents are digitized.

As for the “bloomers” controversy - Elizabeth long envisioned the day when acceptance of more practical outfits were the norm: “All hail the day when we shall have a reasonable and beautiful dress that shall encourage exercises…that shall leave us the free use of our limbs – that shall help and not hinder our perfect development.” That day has come.

Gertrude Laughlin Chanler (1914-1999) Portrait of Gertrude Chanlerdevoted countless hours and invested considerable financial resources to support causes that continue to enhance the quality of life in Livingston County and beyond. Mrs. Chanler's generosity extended to SUNY Geneseo, the Red Cross, the Association for Preservation of Geneseo (APOG), Camp Stella Maris, the Catholic Diocese of Rochester, and a long list of others.

Mrs. Chanler was perhaps most well-known in these parts as a patron of the arts and for bringing the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra to Geneseo each July so thousands of people could enjoy an outdoor concert and fireworks overlooking the picturesque Genesee Valley. Thanks to her legacy, the Chanler family has continued the annual tradition for nearly two decades since her death.

During WW II, her husband, Rear Admiral Hubert W. Chanler, was stationed at Pearl Harbor and Mrs. Chanler and two children were there when the Japanese bombing attack occurred. Fortunately all were unharmed. She had six more children and after the war the family took up residence at Sweet Briar where Hubert grew up, a palatial mansion, just south of the village of Geneseo. The family also maintained a home in Washington, D.C. but spent the majority of their time enjoying the rural comforts this area offered.  

After Admiral Chanler died in 1974, Mrs. Chanler sold Sweet Briar and built a new home on adjacent land overlooking stunning Fallbrook, designated a National Natural Landmark in 1970. While it is on private land still owned by a family member, hikers are allowed to enter the gorge. In her quiet and unassuming way, Gertrude Laughlin Chanler was able to share and preserve the place she loved with the whole community.

Amber Dean Gretzin portrait

Amber Dean Gretzin (1902-1985)

Dead Man’s Float, a book set on Conesus Lake and written on a dare in 1944, launched the highly successful 30-year writing career of Amber Dean Gretzin, who wrote under her maiden name. The Rochester native and former beauty salon owner eventually moved to the Avon area. She drew inspiration for most of her 17 books written between 1944 and 1973 from life experiences and familiar places that locals can readily recognize. Her novel Encounter with Evil was adapted in 1963 as an episode of the widely popular Alfred Hitchcock Hour, entitled “Last Seen Wearing Blue Jeans.”

Amber Dean was also an active volunteer with Operation Morale, a local organization that sent hundreds of care packages to men serving in Vietnam during the war. She wrote dozens letters on behalf of Operation Morale to major corporations and prominent individuals across the U.S. soliciting donations to include in the packages to the troops.  

Shortly before she passed away at the age of 82, Dean began writing her memoirs. Unfortunately they were never published but the sizable collection of personal correspondence and manuscripts was donated to the University of Rochester Rush Rees Library and is available to researchers.

Over the course of her life Amber Dean traveled the world, yet the prolific author seemed to prefer the simple life found in and around the Genesee Valley. With books written in the cozy style of a traditional British mystery, the lady was not afraid to brutally eliminate a character if necessary. “The people in my books really mean something to me and I don’t like to kill them,” Dean said in 1969, “When they are killed, they generally deserve it.”  

B7 F19 p4877