Rayhaan: Amherst is a very old town that was founded in the early 1800s. Today, we talk to the ex-Town Executive, Daniel Ward, about the lack of caring for our local history. From The Panther Eye, this is Roar.
Mr. Ward: I have a deep interest in all kinds of history, national history, world histroy and local history. And, because of the political composition of the people that were running Amherst, when I got into the government, they weren’t from Amherst. Doesn’t mean they were bad people. It’s just you know, the way the town developed, it was kind of farming community for so many years and they had somewhat indigenous people who were here for 100 years or so or 150 years, some of which were my relatives and they didn’t have any resources because it was just kind of a port.
But after World War two it exploded into a huge suburb and know its the fourth largest suburban city in upstate New York, outside of Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester. It’s stil a town but it’s a city in all but name. So even though it’s big and it’s got tremendous resources, because it’s a very wealthy suburban community, they really don’t take care of their history.
They build a museum and everybody, wow, the Amherst Museum. But when you really get down to what they have in the museum, it’s more, it’s not related to the local history, in my view. It’s more, you know, glitzy or something. And so, this is just a facet of it.
I mean, I did a lot of different things when I was supervisor there for four years from 1980 to 1984 and I’m looking around in many of these very smaller communities who have municipal flags. You can see Tonawanda, North Tonawanda, City of Buffalo? It’s not gonna make or break the community but I thought that would be something that would be nice so we started a contest through the museum directors who is now deceased, Andrea Shaw, set up a committee and then they sponsored a contest and, you know, kids and everybody else you know submitted various designs.
And, I don’t have in my possession but I’m sure it’s somewhere in town records, you know why and how the color came to be and the A (for Amherst) and the various inscriptions so, for my position, it was maybe more important just to have one than not that one. And then, you know, we can quibble over the design later.
But as I said, too, if you wanted to really get into vexillology and flags, there’s a whole history that much with, of course, it’s military and pageantry and whatnot, as well as governmental. But if you get into town history, like you go to these little towns. Town of Aurora, Marilla, they have little tiny town halls. Maybe just the size of this library, but they have things on their walls that are indicative of their local history.
That, in many ways, is much more. I’m gonna give you an example, I’ve got one here if I can find it, I was just was out in [Lancaster] not so long ago, which is a very small town. They have a list of all their supervisors, from the very beginning by picture, on a wall. They don’t have that in Amherst. They don’t have any councilmen. In Aurora, they have all the judges from 1802 on pictures like that. Amherst has what, two pictures over in the courtroom of the two judges that died. Pharaoh and Robinson, I think of something like that.
And so my contention is that we haven’t taken care of our history for the people that have served us and it manifests itself in many different ways. And, of course, what was even worse? The town board got out of the museum business entirely after I was gone in the last eight years when Wenski was there, they saw it as like a cash drain and they fobbed it off and now it’s kind of a Buffalo Niagra Heritage Village. Which is no longer town-sponsored, exclusively. And you know, the town, the county and they take private grants and that’s how they kind of operate.
But, before, it was an arm of town government, it was actually Department. So it had all the patrons problems, and being a Democrat, I could see all the Republicans were out there on the board and it was sort of like a country club for the Republicans they had all their little dinners out there and things, sort of on the people in a way. But, be that as it may, at least it was something. So now they’re doing a little bit different function as the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village.
So, my contention is, these other people that were on the board, I mean they came from somewhere. Their heritage is important too, where it was. It just wasn’t here and they didn’t care about it. And some of mine was so I did. That was kind of the basis behind the flag. And, you know, in the villages I think are very important.
I never served a village government. The Village of Williamsville, though my office is there, my office has been there forever. And, you know they’re very important too. Because in many ways, that was Amherst. Up until maybe 1960, Williamsville village, everything else was farm fields. And so the whole population, or eighty or ninety percent of it, was all the village and that’s very similar to these other little towns.