Town of Hume Museum

     The Town of Hume Museum is housed in a former school building. Research in our local newspaper, the Northern Allegany Observer, notes in the June 23, 1905 edition that “Geo. Paynter has the contract for building the new schoolhouse in Hume village, and has begun work.” The November 10, 1905 newspaper stated that “There was no school here Monday and Tuesday. The schoolhouse was not quite ready Monday and Tuesday was a legal holiday. The pupils are quite delighted with the new building.” NOTE: The legal holiday on Tuesday was Election Day.
     The Town of Hume Museum was established in April of 2000; prior to that, the town did not have any state required designated office space for the town historian. Over the years, the building had been occupied by the Hume Community Club, the Odd Fellows Lodge, and the Rebekah Lodge, the Rebekahs being the last organization to occupy the building. The town acquired the former schoolhouse from Fillmore Central School in 2002.
     When the Fillmore Central School district was organized in 1938, some of the rural schools remained open until there was an insufficient number of students or teachers to sustain the schoolhouse. The Fillmore school district closed the doors to this school in the mid 1940’s. At that time, the Hume Community Club was formed and offered the school district $1.00 for the purchase of the property. However, the property was never deeded to the Hume Community Club because the New York State Education Department deemed an offer of $1.00 to not be fair market value. For some reason, the property was then listed on the tax rolls even though the school still owned it. For more than fifty years it was used by the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs, who paid all the expenses, including the taxes that ownership incurred. They also rented the building out for family gatherings, receptions, and other activities in order to offset the expenses of maintaining the building.
     This remained the case until late in 1999, when the Rebekahs approached the Town of Hume about sharing the building, since the Rebekah Lodge membership and resources were dwindling. An agreement was reached to share the building for one year, with the Town of Hume paying the utilities and taxes as their share of the expenses. At the end of the year’s agreement, the Rebekahs decided they would rather the Town take title, provided that they could still have use of the building as long as their lodge was chartered. A title search was done and it was discovered that the school district still owned the building! No one knows why it had been listed on the tax rolls. After this discovery, the Fillmore Central School Board of Education accepted an offer of $500 from the Town of Hume; the offer was approved by the New York State Education Department. Hence, the first townowned museum was established in Allegany County. The Town of Hume board held its monthly and special meetings at the museum for many years.
     In 2000, the hamlet of Fillmore observed its Sesquicentennial celebration, making it a perfect time to show that the town had a secure place for loaned or donated historical items. The archives seemed to grow overnight; to date there are more than 5,000 items loaned or donated to the museum.
     In 2001, an Eagle Scout project was completed upstairs in the museum, at no expense to the town. This project consisted of removing old carpet, cleaning the walls and ceilings, which were then painted, and refinishing the hallway floor. In later years, an Eagle Scout project relocated the flagpole and included solar lighting for the flag, and landscaping was completed in the front of the building. In addition, a marker indicating the Town of Hume being the site of the “Luckey Buck” was put in place. The Luckey Buck was Hume’s claim to fame in 1939 when Roosevelt Luckey shot a world record typical buck in the Town of Hume. This world record held for many years; the Luckey Buck is still a New York State record.
     In 2002, the museum received an endowment of $10,000. With these funds a new roof, a “Town of Hume Museum” sign, inside painting and various small maintenances were completed.
     In 2005, budgeted funds were used for outside painting and blown insulation in the attic. Later, the outside walls were insulated. In 2008, a new furnace was approved for the museum.
     Along with accessioned items, the museum houses the single largest collection of Northern Allegany Observer newspapers. These newspapers are a tremendous source of information for history about not only the Town of Hume but also about the northern part of Allegany County and communities in neighboring counties. The newspaper was first published in Fillmore in May of 1888 and was printed there until the 1960’s. Publication continued until the 1990’s in a neighboring town.
     For several years, New York State had been funding a project to microfilm town newspapers. In considering participating in this project, we learned that since the collection at the museum was so large, the newspapers would have had to be sent to Albany. Fortunately, this never took place because the project was discontinued after September 11.
     In 2006, a Fillmore resident and museum volunteer, Nancy Gillette, began copying the newspapers. The museum’s collection of copied newspapers has been punched and bound and is available for on-site research. Copies can be made of any information that researchers want to take with them. A duplicate copy of the collection is housed in a separate location. A local history club that uses the papers as a resource for its publications has also helped by providing some of the copying materials. This project was completed without any State or Federal funding.
     After the purchase of a new copy machine in 2010, the same volunteer began making computer searchable PDF files of the newspapers on her home computer. To date, 24 years of these newspapers are now searchable PDF computer files that can be accessed on the museum’s computers. It is possible to search an entire year of newspapers for a name, a word, or a topic in less than a minute! Any information can be copied and printed on the museum’s printer.
     Along with the newspapers, other sources that are available consist of 12 scrapbooks and more than 3,000 index cards of obituaries, marriages, or other significant events in the town’s history. The scrapbooks have been very valuable for research and genealogy but there was no index. In 2009, the scrapbooks were indexed by a young man (the same young man who completed his Eagle Scout project on the upper floor) as an internship project.
     Some modifications to areas on the main floor of the museum have been made in the past years. In addition, a record storage area for Town of Hume vital records has been built in the basement area.
     The museum has been a meeting place for the History Club, an independent history organization, for many years. The club’s publications (books, newsletters, calendars) have been made possible because of the use of the museum’s vast historical resources and the cooperation of the Town of Hume historian, Rondus Miller. The History Club has also had PowerPoint presentations for various groups and organizations, using photos and other historical data available at the museum.
     The museum has been a valuable resource for many projects. In 2008, a new area resident was very interested in gathering information about his local church. The newspapers were made available to him and he read the entire collection! Subsequently, he was able to print a booklet of the church history and finally made the history a recorded history. In 2013, Fillmore Central School 9th graders used the museum’s resources to complete a semester project about the area’s history. As a culminating activity, they wrote and published several books. They also learned some history that seemed unbelievable…such as that it was possible to buy a washing machine in 3 different businesses in Fillmore in the 1950’s, one of them being a car dealership!
     The museum has entertained a wide variety of people and groups, such as New York State Legislators, Allegany County District l Legislators, Northeast Coalition, Allegany County Town Clerks Association, Historic Preservation Roundtable of Allegany County, Allegany County Historical Society, Fillmore Central School class reunions, Wide Awake Club Library, Belfast Central School Seniors, Belfast Historical Society, Rushford Historical Society, to name a few. Cub Scouts and Fillmore Central 4th graders have visited the museum annually. “Reminiscing nights,” when people could share memories of “the good old days” in our area, have been a very popular event at the museum.
     The Town of Hume Historian, Rondus Miller, and Deputy Historian, Nancy Gillette, have enjoyed sharing their expertise in other areas such as Castile, Centerville, Freedom, Canaseraga, and throughout Allegany County. In many cases printed documents, such as calendars, have been the result of these efforts. A great deal of time has also been devoted to helping visitors or those who email or call the museum to find information about their family heritage.
     A Town of Hume Bicentennial History committee has recently been formed. They meet monthly at the museum and use the museum’s resources to compile the information needed for the publication of a book in 2022. The committee, through their enthusiasm and interest in this project, hopes to encourage others to appreciate and get involved in our area’s rich history.
     In sharing her vision for the Town of Hume Museum, Rondus Miller has set the guidelines for the past 16 years. Hopefully this mission statement will provide the historical direction in the years to come: To gather, preserve, disseminate, and promote local history; Enrich the community with its history; Protect donated and loaned materials; Cherish and respect interest in local history; Encourage all generations to value and share in their heritage.