Chautauqua County will celebrate a major milestone throughout 2011 with its 200th birthday. To celebrate the bicentennial, historical groups and societies all over the county will be involved in a variety of events and promotions throughout the year.
One promotion that will be ongoing throughout the entire year is “Bicentennial Biographies,” a public education project that will feature 200 notable individuals from the county’s past. Each weekday a different biography will be broadcast as a Public Service Announcement (PSA) on participating local radio stations, giving details about the individual, some of whom have not only left an indelible mark on Chautauqua County History, but also national and world history.
In an effort to create the most comprehensive and thought-out list possible, organizers teamed up with local historians to determine the 200 people to be featured. The biographies will not only include those born in Chautauqua County, but also those who moved elsewhere to make their mark in the world as well as the adopted sons and daughters who were from outside of the county but eventually found their way here and, as a result, helped to shape a particular community or even the entire county.
“We wanted this to be an all-encompassing list,” explained county historian Michelle Henry, who has helped to coordinate the project and ensure people from all corners of the county would be featured. “Early settlers, community leaders, business leaders and native sons and daughters are all included.”
Henry said there are already some obvious choices as to who will be included on the list, including James Prendergast, Horatio Brooks, Reuben Fenton, and Lucille Ball. But there are also many other important individuals people may not be aware of.
In addition to Henry, several other local historians have offered input on the list. It was then finalized with the help of Jack Erickson and John Paul Wolfe, both from the Chautauqua County Historical Society. Consultant Jason Sample also assisted in compiling the list, along with providing a brief description of each individual.
Starting on Jan. 10, the biographies will be broadcast on participating radio stations in both the north and south county. Radio stations from both Media One Group, LLC in Jamestown and Chadwick Bay Broadcasting in Dunkirk have agreed to take part in the program, along with low power station WRFA-FM in Jamestown. It will be up to the discretion of each radio station as to when the PSAs will be broadcast.
Transcripts of each biography will also appear after they air on the historical society’s website – www.mcclurgmuseum.org.
Bicentennial Biographies is just one of several projects and events that are taking place throughout 2011 to help celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. A kick-off event is planned for Feb. 9, which is the official birthday of the county. It was on that date in 1811 that the governor and four legislators selected the first officers of Chautauqua County were selected.
To learn more about the events planned for the County Bicentennial or to make a donation to help offset the costs of the celebration, contact Ms. Henry’s office at (716) 661-7857, or the historical society at 326-2977.
Above photo – Former U.S. Senator, Governor, and Chautauqua County native Reuben E. Fenton is one of 200 individuals who will be featured in the Bicentennial Biographies radio project. (Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress)