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After 119 years, historical society disbands

— After 119 years, the Liverpool Historical Society has given up the ghost.

Established in 1894 by local teacher Anna O’Neill, the LHS disbanded in September.

The society had its roots in the Chautauqua movement, an adult-education crusade spawned at Lake Chautauqua in the Southwestern corner of the Empire State. The movement, spurred by its most popular speaker William Jennings Bryant, became immensely popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

In the early 1890s, O’Neill had apparently attended lectures at Chautauqua and spread its gospel to Liverpool where she created historical society to encourage self-education among women. Members were required to present short programs on topics regarding local history.

While the society thrived for the entire 20th century, according to Village Historian Dorianne Elitharp Gutierrez, in recent years its membership has dwindled and its treasury has depleted.

“For many years, the society met in members’ homes, but for the past several years they’ve been meeting in the dining room at the Liverpool First United Methodist Church and at Liverpool Public Library,” Gutierrez said. “Its membership is aging, so a lot of the members spend half the year in Florida, so it has been difficult getting members to serve as officers.”

The group’s last president was the effervescent Connie Ostuni, who lives in Liverpool on First Street. “Over the years our members have enjoyed the fellowship, the food and the information,” she said. Back in 2005, the ladies published a directory in celebration of the village’s 175th birthday.

The society’s final meeting was a June picnic at the gazebo in Washington Park.

Though it also faces similar challenges as the society did, the Historical Association of Greater Liverpool forges on. HAGL, now headed by President Joan Cregg, operates the Willow Museum on Second Street during the summer. The group is scheduling a reorganization meeting this month at the Gleason Mansion.

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