Sullivan County Historical Society History Preserver Award 2011
Allan Wayne Dampman
May 26, 1926 - October 14, 2016
Allan Dampman, a modest and gentle man, is a person of ideas with an imaginative, common sense mind, followed by a resolve and patience in pursuing whatever goal he sets. The choice by the Sullivan County Historical Society of Allan as this year's History Preserver reflects not only the important work that he has performed for the Society and his involvement in commemorating the Revolutionary War battle above Minisink Ford, but also his long tenure of involvement within the whole county community and the significance his contributions have made.
Allan was born on May 26th, 1926, in Summit, New Jersey, the son of Harry and Ethel Dampman. His parents' lives appear to have been a source of inspiration to this young man, as he eventually followed parallel, though different paths throughout his adult life. Harry Dampman taught math at the Summit High School for thirty-eight years. Allan would eventually choose a career in the field of education, though in a somewhat different phase. His mother, a housewife who devoted herself to raising Allan and his sister Margaret, worked tirelessly volunteering for organizations within the local community. This too, would be the course Allan would choose to follow upon his arrival in Sullivan County in 1964.
When Allan graduated from Summit High School, the nation was still in the midst of the Second World War, the outcome of which was still by no means certain. The young graduate enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve where, after basic training, he was sent overseas to the European theater, joining the crew of the destroyer USS Ludlow late in the fall of 1944. Stationed in the Mediterranean port of Oran, Algeria, the Ludlow had served on convoy missions, anti-submarine patrol, fire support and patrol duty until reassigned to the war effort in the Pacific theater in April 1945. Even though the war came to an end that summer with the surrender of the Japanese war machine, the Ludlow continued on with military operations in and around the Pacific until the ship was decommissioned during the spring of 1946.
Upon returning to civilian life, Allan continued his education, eventually pursuing his interest in the ministry. He attended Meadville Theological School, located in Chicago and graduated with the class of 1959. Allan was serving the congregation at the Webb Horton Church in Middletown when the Hudson Presbytery offered him the chance to serve struggling Presbyterian churches in two small western Sullivan County communities. The Presbyterian churches of Cochecton and Hortonville both have had long, proud histories, the former dating back as far as 1812 with its creation. As for the Hortonville church, its early history began with the influx of the large German population that settled in Western Sullivan County. Though the immigrants had long practiced religious services in the local schoolhouse during the 1850's, the Hortonville congregation was not formerly organized into the Hudson Presbytery until the year 1860. Throughout the next century, the Hortonville church became affiliated with other congregations in the area. With the independent Cochecton church struggling by 1959 and both churches finding it hard to find permanent ministers, it was a natural geographical fit for the two small churches to join together. Allan was installed as the minister for the two churches in October of 1964, occupying the charge when, three years later, he answered a somewhat different calling and new challenge.
The next change in the course of Allan's life is best described in his own words; "By chance, (Allan) had exchanged letters with officials from Sullivan County community College." The newly formed college was in the midst of growing pains, without a permanent campus and the center of bitter political debates, which led many in the community to question the college's overall purpose. In pressing its role for the educational needs and well being of its students, college officials created a new administrative position, Director of Community and Special Services. The overall purpose was to open new channels of communication by developing new programs and fostering better relationships with the local community. The college Board of Trustees approved the new position and, in 1i967, invited Allan to become the first Director of the new position.
Allan expressed the following; "The experience at Sullivan was both challenging and useful. My job was to develop educational programs for the county. This included a year-round cultural events program." His office worked closely with local organizations along with governmental and volunteer agencies in designing programs to meet existing community needs. Perhaps one of the most visible land wide reaching programs that resulted from this effort was the formation of the Sullivan County Council of Continuing Education, designed to expand non-credit courses to the county. The college's curriculum was increased by offering basic courses in fields that required state certification, including those in the real estate, paralegal, medical and law enforcement fields. During the summer of 1974, Sullivan County's expanded summer population saw the first-time offering of credit-free courses during the summer months. Combining the talents and resources of community organizations the college sponsored the first Sullivan Festival. Over 15,000 people, eventually, came to enjoy the event that was held on the SCCC campus and at the Sullivan County Museum in Hurleyville.
In 1969, after a twenty year hiatus of non-activity, a dedicated group of volunteers resumed the Historical Society's mission of preserving county history. This successful renewal eventually required larger facilities to accommodate its expanded operations. The problem was solved when the Society, along with fellow country-wide volunteer organizations, relocated into the unused school building at Hurleyville which became the Sullivan county Museum, Art and Cultural Center. The increase in space provided by the large, roomy structure served the Society well, but also placed a large financial burden on the organization.
The Historical Society immediately began taking steps to raise money. Numerous programs were initiated at the Museum; ballroom dancing was introduced as was the popular Holiday Theme Tree exhibit, lectures by guest speakers, antique and sportsmen shows. Perhaps the Society's most important fund-raising event was initiated in 1994. Honoring Sullivan County residents, past and present, with historically related awards, resulted in a journal published in their honor. The advertising solicited from businesses and individuals for this publication has since been proven to be one of the Society's most important sources of funding. Allan was the Society's treasurer for sixteen years, along with serving three terms as SCHS President. He is still an active member of the Board of Directors.
Over the years, Allan had developed a deep interest in all aspects of the county, including participation with many of the county's varied volunteer and cultural communities. Allan was the first chairman of fund-raising for the United Way of Sullivan county' he was awarded the SYDA Foundation's "Community Service Award" and he was the recipient of the Sullivan Performing Arts "Art Advocate of the Year" award.
Sullivan County has the distinction that few other regions can claim; two Revolutionary War battles were fought on its soil. Honoring the brave patriots that fought and died on the hillside overlooking the Delaware River at Minisink Ford has been an annual observance. The ceremony, recognizing the anniversary of the battle, is held on the battleground, now a Sullivan County park, and is in part sponsored by the Sullivan County Historical Society. Allan has served on the Minisink committee as chairperson. Due to his work, along with that of Peter Osborne, from the Minisink Valley Historical Society and other committee members, the ceremonial program has been expanded to include other organizations, noted dignitaries and speakers, along with the descendants of those brave patriots.
Over the years, members, volunteers and the Board of Directors from the Sullivan County Historical Society long have enjoyed working with Allan. Through his leadership he helped to keep the Society focused on its goal of assisting those persons interested in the history of the county. Since the inception of History Maker and History Preserver awards, Allan has been an important voice in making the decision as to who should receive the Society's recognition. Today, October 16th 2011, the Sullivan County Historical Society is proud to present the award of "History Preserver" to the person who is partly responsible for its creation; Allan Wayne Dampman.