WHS History


Chancellor Reuben H Walworth



Pictured left:  Chancellor Reuben H. Walworth, for whom the town was named.  To the best of our knowledge, he never set foot in the Town of Walworth.


Picture  right:  seated, Hazel & Howard Bassage.  standing, Floyd & Dorothy Petty, Stanley & Lois VanHoover, Dorothy Hack, Pearl & Howard Billings.

The Walworth Historical Society is a volunteer organization that was officially established in 1975. Prior to this time, meetings were held at the homes of those interested in preserving the local past. Two meetings were held at the Walworth High School to discuss the possibility of creating an historical society. Several meetings were also held at the Freewill Elementary School. Some of the people who were instrumental in organizing the Walworth Historical Society were: Ethel Henning, Dorothy Petty, Chuck Bills, Hazel Bassage, Howard and Pearl Billings, Cliff and Bernice Nortier, Cliff and Emily Huntley, Gene Bavis, Joe Finley, and John Traas to name a few. A provisional charter was received from New York State in January of 1979 and was extended in 1985 and 1987. The permanent charter was finally received in 1996.

In 1987, Mrs. Clifford (Emily) Huntley donated a parcel of land on Academy Street for a museum. When the Walworth Grange sold its building on Main Street, Hazel Bassage and Emily Huntley persuaded them to give a substantial amount of money to the Walworth Historical Society for a new museum. The Hoffman Foundation also provided funds. Other fund raisers were conducted toward building a museum.

Commemorative plates of the three-story Walworth High School (erected in 1857) and the old cobblestone Walworth Academy (erected in 1842) were sold. Both of these buildings were razed in 1930 to erect the Walworth High School building that was across the street from the museum until it was torn down in 2014. John Traas and Charles Pembroke wrote books about different aspects of Walworth history. Money from the sale of these books goes into the Walworth Historical Society treasury. Still another source of revenue for the WHS has been the sale of calendars, Christmas ornaments, and coverlets depicting scenes from Walworth.

Individual members bought the metal chairs in the museum, Ethel Henning donated money for the tables and donated the vacuum cleaner, and Robert Pembroke gave the museum the long display table. Gwyn Bassage and the Reverse Curves Quilt Club designed the wall quilt and donated it to the WHS. It was a real group effort to get everything ready for use. The old school bell, which is prominently displayed outside the museum, originally came from the Walworth Academy.

On July 10, 1988, a ground-breaking ceremony was held on Academy Street at the site for the new museum. The cost of the building was about $45,000. The contractors for the project were Don and Cheryl Eaton; some of the work such as interior painting was done by members Hazel Bassage, Jay Taber, Howard and Pearl Billings, and Kay Scott as well as many other volunteers. On September 18, 1989, the Walworth Historical Society, in cooperation with the Walworth Grange, opened and dedicated the current museum at 2257 Academy Street in Walworth at its first meeting.

The first officers of the Walworth Historical Society were:


Gordon Youngman

Vice President

Faith Reynolds


Anne Walczyk


Hazel Bassage

The first trustees were:

Charles Bills Evelyn Schoenwald
Marcia Englert Jay Taber
Jeanne Flye Raymond Welker

Because the town historian works closely with the Walworth Historical Society, the town historian’s office is also located in this museum. Mildred Reynolds became the first Walworth Town Historian in 1947 and served for 30 years; Gene Bavis succeeded her in 1977.  John Traas was next to hold this position taking over in 1989.  In 2004  Gene Bavis once again took over as Walworth Town Historian and still holds the position. The past presidents of the Walworth Historical Society include Gordon Youngman, Faith Reynolds, Anne Walczyk, Gene Bavis, John Traas, Kay Scott, and Mary Jane Devlin; Jessie Keymel is the current president.