Fenton History Center To Begin Lecture Series In April

The Fenton History Center is set to begin their annual lecture series in April.

Previously, the lecture series has gone by the title of Brown Bag Lecture Series. Director of the Fenton History Center, Jane Babinsky, said this has caused some confusion in the past as to whether or not audience members were meant to bring their own packed lunch to eat during the lecture, leading to a name change. The lecture series — now called the Fenton History Center Lecture Series — now includes evening lectures as well.

“This year we have afternoon lectures at 1 p.m. and in the evenings,” Babinsky said. “The lectures are free to the public and usually last about an hour. The first will be held in April and it will last until Sept.”

Babinsky said that they decided to open up the series to include evenings because the only ones who were able to make it to the afternoon lectures tended to be retirees and those with days off.

Additionally, Babinsky said that though the lectures are free, they do not allow access to the overall museum for free. Only the lecture itself is free, and in the evenings the museum is not open except for the lecture. Those wishing to visit the museum following the lecture in the afternoon will have to pay the admission fee if they are not members.

The first lecture for the 2023 series will be given by the Fenton History Center’s Collections Manager, Norman Carlson, and focused on the Shearman-Davis Murders. It will be on Wednesday April 12 at 1 p.m. in the Fenton Mansion’s dining room. It will also be available via Facebook livestream and Zoom.

The Shearman-Davis murders was a case of a mother and daughter double murder that occurred in Busti on Dec. 15, 1894. It was the first unsolved murder in Chautauqua County and the first murder ever in Busti.

Carlson said he decided to do this lecture not only to continue the lecture series this year, but because of Busti’s bicentennial as well. While not overly interested in murder himself, Carlson recommends people who are interested to come out and listen.

“I would recommend it because it is a fascinating mystery in the town of Busti,” Carlson said. “It left a terrible mark in people’s awareness for over 100 years. My aunt used to lock the door before she went down in the cellar, because she heard one of the victims was murdered as they were coming up the stairs from the cellar.”

Carlson said the murders made people nervous about even their own neighbors, and also brought some people to make accusations against each other. During this time, Busti residents numbered about 2,000.

Carlson said he has given lectures on this topic before, and that no one has ever left their seats during it. This time he promises informational handouts and a powerpoint as well.

“If you are interested in history and crime history and the effect that has on the community, there is no better program,” Carlson said.

April’s lecture starts off the 2023 lecture series, which will end on Sept. 13 with a lecture focused on Chautauqua Steamboats and Hotels, given by the Fenton’s Property Developer, Paul Johnson.


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