Armorial Bearings granted to Robert Lord alias Laward of London in 1510; College of Arms MS L10 folio 105b; copyright of the College of Arms, London. Used by permission.

Historic Gilbertsville

Gilbertsville in 1907.

Looking down the main street, circa 1907.

A bit over 200 years ago, in 1788, Abijah Gilbert arrived on the lands where this village would later spring up. He came from England, and after he built a cabin on this wilderness plot, returned to England for his family.

It was not until nearly ten years later, however, that this initial settlement would see Gilbert and his sons begin to make improvements. And during the next century the village would grow into a significant focus for agriculture and, as can be seen by the picture below, taken around 1880, a major stop for travelers.

The old Stag's Head Inn.

But even though the village has this great depth of history, the center part of the Gilbertsville most people think of today as original dates to about 100 years ago, at the end of the 1800s. This was the result of some very bad luck, and some very good fortune.

The village endured four disasterous fires:

1866 when the main business district was lost.
1874 an arson fire that destroyed 30 buildings and left many homeless.
1893 when many stores in the center of town were lost.
1895 when the Gilbert homestead was damaged and the old Stag's Head Inn was destroyed.

Building the Major's Inn.

It is to the credit of the residents that on the vacant lands created by these fires, the village was rebuilt, and the last time in a most glorious fashion. Major James Gilbert, with the help of some very skilled local craftsmen, used this last fire as an opportunity to recreate here a replica of an English Tudor town, with the Major's Inn being at the center. Perhaps it was his English roots, or just a fascination with English architecture which many expressed in that time. But for whatever the reason, his inspiration and his legacy live on in the community to this day.

The Old Swinning Hole.

On another note, one could write reams about the two old "swimming holes" in the village, one of which is shown here. In my day, it looked not too much different than in this 1880s photograph. But sadly since that time, the bridge - an historic structure in its own right - was taken down and replaced with a more sound, but much less aesthetic structure, and with that construction much of the ambience of the place remains only in the memory of those of us who used to dive into that deep, cold pool from the half submerged ruins of the old mill dam.

The images and some of the information presented here were taken from the booklet: Homecoming Days: Village of Gilbertsville, New York, 1787-1972

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