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Town of Pendleton Historian: Carissa Smith

This past Saturday, the new Historian for the Town of Pendleton stopped into our Library.  Her name is Carissa Smith and you can contact her at: CSmith@pendletonny.us. Carissa, very kindly, agreed to let me send her a couple of questions so we could all get to know her better!  Here are her responses:

1.  Please tell us a little bit about yourself:

My mother’s paternal side came to the Southern Niagara/Northern Erie area around two hundred years ago from Germany. Here I am (many generations later) raising my son in the town I had grown up in.

2.  What made you interested in becoming a Town Historian?

It was on my bucket list. No joke!  From early childhood, I was as curious as a cat. When I would hear a story from an elder, it was followed by a plethora of questions. There’s a romance to local history especially sleepy little Pendleton. It deserves an audience and to ignite passion in others is the aim. Yes, one can relate to it (as history has a tendency to repeat itself). The key figures/situations change but the theme(s) remain the same.

3.  Can you tell us a brief history/overview of the Town of Pendleton (when did it become incorporated, average population, churches, cemeteries, etc.)?

Pendleton is the founder’s mother’s maiden name. Sylvester Pendleton Clark was originally from Rhode Island. He was a war of 1812 veteran with an adventurous spirit. A natural leader, he became the self appointed governor of Grand Island but his victory was short lived. His community of squatters, along with Clark, were forcibly removed from Grand Island via Sheriff Cronk and his militia. It’s true it wasn’t owned but that meant little. Just about everyone fled to Canada but Clark and another family made their way down here to Niagara County. 

After several years of gathering land and building structures, the village of Pendleton was made official in 1827. There was three parishes erected within a short time of each other – Saint Paul’s Evangelical, Good Shepherd Roman Catholic and the First Methodist Episcopal Church (all 1850s). 

We have several cemeteries – some obvious and some not so obvious. A couple are on private property so its best to ask for permission (naturally). On Bear Ridge, there’s four but only two accessible to the public (Bear Ridge Ridgeville-Foote and Saint Paul’s Evangelical Protestant Reformed Bear Ridge #2 ). The King and Clark cemeteries are on private property (access with permission/ respect). There’s more but I don’t want to bore you!

4.  What genealogical resources should we look for if we had ancestors that lived in the Pendleton area?

Oh, that’s a loaded question. Many of the elderly residents are a good start (if they were interested early on). They can point you to people that knew descendants of the founding families. We have a tendency to downplay oral tradition but it can be quite valuable (for instance, with Richard III’s remains and their legendary whereabouts ). The Niagara County Genealogical Society is another fine place to dissect family history. It has a collection of helpful individuals. A short dash from here is the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village. Don’t let the quaint exterior fool you – it houses a delightful archive (complete with microfiche).  

Of course, websites like Ancestry.com, Fulton History, the National Archives and other databases can surprise you with its contents. Before you set out, try to organize your thoughts in a journal. If you’re at a dead end, don’t let the disappointment set in. Take a break, regroup and focus. Last but not least, send me a message. I will do my best to assist you (worst case scenario, I’ll be a student along with you!) We have only to gain.

5.  Do you have a favorite ancestor in your tree that you would like to share a story about with us?

My great 2x grandfather, Henry G. Smith, was from England. He arrived in Fort Erie, Canada to work as an apprentice to his grandparents at their butcher shop. Quite the ambitious man, he climbed the corporate ladder (he was the secretary for Cleveland Steel – his brother Thomas was Vice President). He went from living in a rough part of London to being a well made man in America. There’s a short write up about him in Elroy McKendree Avery’s “A history of Cleveland and its environs; the heart of new Connecticut”. He’s buried in the town of Pomfret (by Fredonia). A day trip was in order one weekend and I had my picture taken next to his stone. It was a full circle moment.

6.  Anything else that you would like to share…

Preservation is up to us therefore it should be addressed as a whole, not a part. The best way to ensure that future generations cherish our local history is to get them involved now and get their creative gears firing. What have you always wanted to know? What would you like to see? There’ll always be a storyteller, a gate keeper but it is done out of a sense of obligation (not woefully but beautifully). Our past is a teacher, for better or for worse, and it is vital for our growth. It is open to all. If you’re new to Pendleton, your story is just another thread in our vivid tapestry. Welcome to the family!

Thank you so much to Carissa for letting us get to know her and the Town of Pendleton a little better!!

Contributor: Jeanette Sheliga is Vice-President of the Niagara County Genealogical Society, Organizer of the North Tonawanda Library Genealogy Club, a member of APG (Assn of Professional Genealogists) and the National Genealogical Society.

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