Illuminating Charlotte Clapp, The First Perinton Town Historian

On June 17, 2014, Illuminated History held its third annual cemetery tour in which twelve actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum due to inclement weather.  Greenvale Rural Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts of Greenvale’s featured eternal residents will be posted until all twelve have been illuminated.  Although the scripts are based on in depth historical research, some creative license may have been taken.

Our third Greenvale resident highlighted is Charlotte Clapp, as portrayed by Anne Johnston.

Charlotte Clapp, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Charlotte Clapp, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Because of my dedicated service to Perinton, I became known as the “Town’s First Lady”. It is a title of which I am extremely proud. My name is Miss Charlotte Clapp. I suppose I should begin at the beginning, as they say. My father, Dr. Wesley Clapp, came to Fairport in the 1870s from Oswego County. He began to build up his medical practice and, by 1879, had met and married my mother, Roxa Jane Hodges. I was born in Fairport in 1884, the third of their five children.

Although I never married, my life was rewarding and very happy. My quest for knowledge led to many opportunities personally and professionally. In 1921, I became Perinton’s first Town Historian. Three years later, I was appointed Town Clerk for Perinton and served proudly as the first woman in that position. Thinking about it now, I seem to have led a life of firsts. Along with several others, I was a charter member of the Fairport Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1927. They even named me “Career Gal of the Month” in 1956! My passion, however, was for history. That passion was foremost in my mind when I, along with nine other women, founded the Perinton Historical Society in November, 1935. At the organizational meeting, I was named as the first Custodian of the Perinton Historical Society. My job was to record and preserve the artifacts and documents donated to the society, a position I undertook with zeal. I was also a member of the Fairport Historical Club.

Despite these professional successes, I did know my share of personal sadness. In 1911, my older brother, George, who was a coroner in Genesee County, died in a terrible automobile accident. George was on his way to the County Fair in Batavia and traveling at a great speed. Going around a curve, he lost control of his automobile and died almost instantly of multiple injuries. He was just 30 years of age. Our father was the first to hear the news. Father had traveled on the train hoping to surprise George. After stopping into a hotel he frequented with George, Father asked if George had come to dinner yet. The young fellow at the hotel was new and, not knowing to whom he was speaking, told Father, “No, and he never will. He has just been killed in an automobile accident”. That is how Father learned of George’s terrible accident. This was the first visitation of death in our family circle, and certainly not the last.

My oldest brother, Lewis, was the next to leave us, in 1914. We were so proud of our Lewis. He was a brilliant physician and a good man. Lewis died at age 33 following an operation for appendicitis, leaving a wife and two little daughters to mourn him. Father passed on in 1921, and my sister, Marion, died in 1933 at age 43. Marion loved to hike. When she didn’t return from a hiking expedition, a search was conducted. One week later, the body of my only sister was found at Hemlock Lake. The official cause of death was drowning. Those losses haunted my mother, who passed away in 1935. My youngest brother, Robert, died in 1980 at age 85. He and I were the only children in our family to live long lives.

It is rather ironic that I served the town so diligently as Town Historian, and yet my own home and its history

Clapp family home, formerly located at 15 Perrin Street in Fairport, New York.  Courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Clapp family home, formerly located at 15 Perrin Street in Fairport, New York.

were taken when urban renewal reared its ugly head in 1972. Our home at 15 Perrin Street, of which my father was so proud, had been in the family for over 100 years. I have a photograph of it here.  My father started his medical practice there. I was born in the house in 1884, and my parents raised five children in the warmth of its embrace. Yet, the proud history of the Clapp family could not overcome progress. I would not have been able to bear the sight of my ancestral home being torn down to make way for a parking lot of the new Village Landing. The only saving grace was that I had passed away in 1964, just three weeks shy of my 80th birthday. Even though I am gone, the work I have done on behalf of the town and of the Perinton Historical Society remains. I am proud to have lived a life of firsts, paving the way for those women who followed in my footsteps.

Script by Vicki Masters Profitt

(c) 2014 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Resources:

Perinton Historical Society & Fairport Museum:  http://www.PerintonHistoricalSociety.org

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2 Comments on “Illuminating Charlotte Clapp, The First Perinton Town Historian”

  1. Liz Burdick Says:

    The story “by” Miss Clapp was wonderful. Thanks you Vickie!


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