RANSOMVILLE – Just because people recently celebrated 200 Years of Porter doesn’t mean you have to wait 200 more years to enjoy a bicentennial in the community.
The Town of Porter Historical Society presents 200 Years of Ransomville History as its October program at 7 p.m. Monday in the Ransomville Historical Society Preservation Room, 3733 Ransomville Road, behind the Ransomville Library.
Featured will be re-enactors portraying historical figures and four dioramas that attempt to illustrate this community’s history in each 50-year period, starting with the settlers and farmhouses of 1812 to the railroad station and industry that followed, to some of the recent past and current businesses.
Re-enactor Doug Diez portrays one of the founding settlers, Gideon Curtiss, who owned the dry goods store and the first tavern.
However, at that time, the Ransoms were moving in. When the hamlet was formally recognized with a post office, it became Ransomville, not Curtissville, according to Karen Noonan, Porter Historical Society program chairman.
“It’s where the name came from, the name of the road came from, everything is name for the Ransoms,” Noonan said.
Peggy Shear, a member of the Town of Porter Historical Society and a retired teacher, said she got the idea to create the dioramas last year. She and other volunteers spent most of the winter brainstorming, creating a timeline and collecting items for the displays, then spent several months putting them together.
“As retired teachers, we got the kids involved as much as we could,” said Karen Welch, who also helped with the displays. She said the younger children created clay animals and the high school students built warehouses and train stations.
“They wanted a train line to go through Ransomville, but the train line would not build it, so the men of the hamlet built it themselves,” Shear said of the burgeoning industrial era.
Farming remained important to the area, but with the new railroad in town, industry built up around it. That included the Swigert apple drying company of the late 1800s, which employed many people in the community. There also were five grain mills in Ransomville’s heyday, Shear said.
“Some say Charles Grambo, of the Grambo Ice Cream Company, invented the Eskimo Pie. The kids loved him, if his Eskimo Pie wasn’t perfect he would give them to the kids,” Shear said.
She said Ransomville also had a hospital, with an operating room. The hospital has become a nursing home, which is known today as Heritage Manor.
Today in Ransomville, the focus of the community as a stop on the railroad has changed, but transportation is still a key industry with the Ransomville Bus Lines garage.
Diez and Shear said the garage started with one bus and has grown to 85 buses, employing 100 people.
Town of Porter Historical Society Director Millie Hillman, said she has also seen the growth of the historical society, which started 25 years ago in one room in the library and has expanded to a 1,300 square foot museum, which she said opened in 1993.
“We just kept adding on and now we also have a barn in the back for storage,” Hillman said.
“It doesn’t have to be Washington D.C. or New York City or Niagara Falls. There’s history in every town if you are willing to take the time to find out,” Shear said.
The museum has several rooms of historical artifacts and the entrance is an authentic one-room post office. Visitors are welcome from 2 to 4 p.m. every Saturday with group visits and presentations by appointment by calling Hillman at 791-4494.