Natural Gas to be Focus of Historical Society Lecture on Sept. 29

SUNY Fredonia Geosciences Professor to speak at historic Fredonia Opera House

SUNY Fredonia Geosciences Professor Dr. Gary Lash (Photo courtesy of SUNY Fredonia)

FREDONIA, N.Y. – The Chautauqua County Historical Society will be partnering with the 1891 Fredonia Opera House at the end of this month for its final lecture of the 2012 speaker series. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, the society will present a lecture – Early History of Natural Gas Development in Fredonia – delivered by Dr. Gary Lash (Ph.D. Lehigh Univ., 1980), a Geo Science Professor at SUNY Fredonia. The event will take place at the historic 1891 Fredonia Opera House.

During the presentation, Lash will provide details on how the first commercial use of natural gas took place in Fredonia. As a long-time geosciences professor at SUNY Fredonia, Lash has extensive knowledge and familiarity with natural gas and its commercial history. Because of his pioneering research into the sedimentary rock formation known as Marcellus black shale – which is believed to contain vast reserves of natural gas and oil – Lash was named by Foreign Policy magazine to its “Top 100 Global Thinkers” list for 2011. Others on the list include President Barack Obama, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and Microsoft Founder Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda.

“It’s fitting for us to have the presentation in Fredonia, since it is the first place in the world natural gas was put to use for commercial use,” explains the Historical Society’s programming chair Jason Sample. “With Natural Gas currently in the national spotlight, it seemed somewhat fitting to feature a historic lecture on Natural Gas as it pertains to Chautauqua County. And we couldn’t think of a better or more qualified person to give that presentation that Dr. Lash.”

Early pioneer and gunsmith William Hart drilled the first commercial natural gas well in downtown Fredonia in 1825. The first natural gas company in the United States was incorporated in Fredonia as well. In addition, the first fracked well was completed in Fredonia in 1858 by Preston Barmore, a graduate of The Fredonia Academy, a forerunner of SUNY Fredonia. Today, Chautauqua County remains the most heavily drilled county in the state.

Following Dr. Lash’s presentation, there will be a tour of the historic 1891 Fredonia Opera House. Last but not least, the day will be capped off with an award ceremony for a Dunkirk couple who’ve helped to preserve and promote Chautauqua County history. Lois and the late Norwood Barris have been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Elial T. Foote Local History Award. Barris will be on hand to accept the award on behalf of herself and her late husband, who passed away in September 2011. The couple will receive the award for the work they’ve done over the years as members of the Chautauqua Genealogical Society. The award is sponsored by the Chautauqua County Historian and the County Historical Society.

All three events are free and open to the public.

About the Society
The Chautauqua County Historical Society was established in 1883 and is the oldest historical society in Chautauqua County, N.Y. Since 1951, the organization has been based out of the historic McClurg Mansion (built in 1818) in Westfield, N.Y. Annual Membership rates start at just $20. All members are given free access to the museum year-round and a subscription to the quarterly “Time Lines” newsletter.  For more information, call 716-326-2977 or visit

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