Sullivan County Historical Society History Preserver Award 1994
Marjorie Durland Smith
The December 1, 1928 Certificate of Incorporation of the Sullivan County Historical Society lists as one of its directors, Emma C. Chase, an outstanding educator of the day, who as a District Superintendent of Schools was in charge of forty-nine schools and who was subsequently honored by having the elementary school in Wurtsboro named after her. Despite the responsibilities of her family and busy job, Mrs. Chase found time to make many worthwhile contributions to the work of the Society and passed on her enthusiasm to her daughter, Gladys Chase Durland, who in turn passed on her sense of dedication to the Society to her daughter, Marjorie Durland Smith. This History Preserver Award thus really honors three generations of remarkable women.
Marjorie has been a member of the Society and active in the field of local history for over forty years. Her list of accomplishments during this period is lengthy and can only be hinted at in this brief sketch.
Early in her career as a local historian she realized the importance of serious study and training in providing a foundation for any work in the field and the need to become acquainted with some of the first-rate minds active in local history. She began attending the State History Programs at the NYS Institute at Rensselaerville as well as classes at Cooperstown on restoration/conservation. There were always useful seminars being offered around the State, and she made a point of attending many of these. As she met important people in the field of local history, she brought some of them to the county as speakers at the annual dinners of the Society. Such important visitors included author Carl Carmer, Dean Fleigle of Syracuse, historian Dr. Louis Tucker and NYS Senior Historian Edmund Winslow. Over the years, men of his caliber brought both inspiration and expert Museum Management advice to the Society. Marjorie’s ability and interest were recognized beyond the county and she became President of the Hudson Valley Historians Association and President of the Municipal Historians Association of New York State.
Within the local Society Marjorie has been President on several different occasions, Director and Chairperson of the SCHS Museum and working with the late Henni Brandt, was responsible for the Museum exhibits from 1971 to 1992. She was one of the “crew” which moved the Museum to its new Hurleyville home in 1971 and over the years has worked with many teachers and fourth grade students to provide a background in local history. This involved student visits to the Museum but also presentations in the students’ classrooms. She had studied Design and Clothing Construction at Traphagen School of Design and this background proved to be valuable when later she developed and presented training seminars for Sullivan County BOCES teachers on the construction of period clothing. She is proud that she was responsible for bringing the first Afro-American speaker to an ACHS meeting during Black History Month, and as part of her concern to increase the effectiveness of the Society she was instrumental in 1993 in obtaining a $6,500 grant from NIC.
With her mother, Gladys Chase Durland, she re-initiated the annual Minisink Battle Commemorative Ceremony and with her husband, William Smith, conducted historic bus tours of Sullivan County for tourists and convention attendees. She worked on the NYS Bi-Centennial Celebration and helped to plan Sullivan county’s participation in the July 22, 1976 Bi-Centennial Celebration.
Marjorie is also Town Historian of Thompson and has been successful in reactivating the care and maintenance of abandoned cemeteries, sadly neglected for years. She also wrote a local history column, “Then and Now”, for the Republican Watchman.
She is the wife of William G. Smith and the mother of one son and three daughters. Despite her busy life she found time to be the Chairperson of the Town of Thompson Zoning Board of Appeals, President of the Monticello Women’s Club, Corresponding Secretary for the NYS Federation of Women’s Clubs, a Sunday School teacher and a Girl Scout leader.
In honoring a person who over four decades has made outstanding contributions to the study of local history and to the life of the Historical Society, Marjorie Durland Smith is an obvious choice. We are awed by her energy and thoroughness and can only express our appreciation for all she has done and to extend best wishes for good health and continuing productivity in the vineyard of local history.