Somerset to hold Ellicott reenactment

Oct. 25—If you’re from Western New York then you’ve likely heard the name Ellicott before, but you may not know much about the man the name belonged to. The Somerset Historical Society will be holding a free event this week where Joseph Ellicott will be portrayed as a part of its fall presentation series.

Joseph Ellicott was a surveyor for the Holland Land Company around the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries. He planned the development for what were then the villages of Buffalo and Batavia, and was an early advocate for building the Erie Canal, and even supervised some of its early construction from 1816 to 1818.

“Most of the land around here in Western New York was surveyed by Ellicott and his group,” said Somerset Historical Society President Terry Upton. “That’s why you have so many things in the area named after him.”

Many area landmarks bear his name, such as the Town and Village of Ellicottville in Cattaraugus County, the Ellicott Square Building in Buffalo, and Ellicott Creek.

Terry Upton said he and his brother Dennis have known about Ellicott since they were kids, due to living right next to one of his markers.

“When we were growing up we had one of the big stones that Ellicott used to mark land in our front yard,” Terry said.

The reenactment of Ellicott will be done by Dennis, who has portrayed Ellicott on a few other occasions over the past three years. Dennis said that the reenactment will try to encapsulate the final few years that Ellicott spent in Western New York.

The Ellicott event in Somerset is meant to be a first-person portrayal of who this man was, instead of just a dry history lesson.

“As a reenactor, I had to find a better way of presenting this so it’s not a book report or a timeline,” Dennis said. “I’m going to present him as being a little bit phrenetic, and that he wants people to remember his name.”

Dennis said that he wants to try to make these types of individual focused one person reenactment events more common in the area. He also said that he will be portraying Ellicott for a similar event at the Holland Land Company Museum in Batavia on Nov. 1, as a way of observing Ellicott’s 262nd birthday.

The Somerset Historical Society’s historical portrayal of Joseph Ellicott will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Somerset Town Hall.

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