Free History Day at the TCHS Museum!

History Day- Final Version

The Tioga County Historical Society Musuem will be hosting History Day on Saturday, May 2nd from 11am-3pm. We will have a variety of activities and crafts.

Activities will include:

  • Scavenger Hunt in the Museum
  • Building with Architecture Blocks
  • Journaling
  • Coloring

Kid’s of all ages are welcome to this free family event! Join us for an afternoon of creativity, learning, and fun!


5 Things You Didn’t Know About Rick Marsi

This Sunday, April 19, TCHS will be hosting its Annual Meeting. This will give our community the opportunity to meet Museum Board and Staff, explore the museum, and learn more about our organization. We will also be presenting a wonderful guest speaker, Rick Marsi. In celebration of the Annual Meeting with this wonderful guest speaker, TCHS is proud to present:

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Rick Marsi 

1. Rick Marsi has won 12 Associated Press Writing Contest Awards

Between 1980 and 1999, Rick wrote a nationally syndicated nature column for Gannett News Service and contributed hundreds of outdoor and environment stories to the Binghamton, N.Y. Press & Sun-Bulletin. Hi 12 awards include 1st place awards for both column and feature writing. He resumed his column in 2002, which appears in the the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, the Elmira Star-Gazette and the Ithaca Journal. Rick also writes for the Waterman Outdoor Education Center in Apalachin, NY.

2. Rick Marsi has 40 years experience in nature photography

 Rick marsi

As a photographer, Rick is a former 1st Place winner in the Outdoor Writer’s of America Photo Contest. His photographs have appeared in Sports Afield, Men’s Health, Bird Watcher’s Digest, Birder’s World, Reader’s Digest Books and other publications.

3. Rick is the author of 4 published books

Rick is the author of four books – Wheel of Seasons, Once Around the Sun, A Doctor’s Life, and Bridge to Borovichi – as well as numerous magazine articles. Rick has written regularly on the outdoors and travel for the book division of Reader’s Digest. He served as a consultant and contributing author for the popular Reader’s Digest Book of North American Birds. He has written a number of stories for the Reader’s Digest series, Explore America. Other Reader’s Digest books containing Rick’s work include See the USA The Easy Way and America’s Most Beautiful Highways.

4. Rick is an outdoor travel consultant

Since the mid-1990s, he has planned and escorted more than 20 photography, birding and fishing tours to Alaska, the Canadian Rockies and Maritimes, America’s Western National Parks, Costa Rica, Honduras, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Finland and Norway.

5. Rick is the winner of numerous awards for his work with the Environment 

Recent awards Rick has received include an Environmental Achievement Citation from the Federation of New York State Garden Clubs; communications awards from the Upper Susquehanna Coalition and the Susquehanna County, Pa. Conservation District; and a special commendation from the Susquehanna River Basin Commission for a series of stories on the Susquehanna River. Rick also is the recipient of Earth Day Southern Tier’s Earthstar Award, for “excellence in promoting public understanding of the natural world.” He also has received the Arts and Literature Award from New York State’s Outdoor Education Association.


TCHS is proud to present Rick Marsi as the guest speaker at our Annual Meeting. The meeting will take place Sunday, April 19, at 1 pm at the Tioga County Historical Society (110 Front St., Owego, NY). All are welcome to this free event! We look forward to seeing you there!

Annual Meeting Poster

-Staci Becker, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

*All Information Received from

Civil War Remembered: The Story of Two Tioga County Generals

TCHS Brady 087 (2)

Today marks the 150 anniversary of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, a definitive milestone of the end of the Civil War. After 4 years of fighting, it is estimated that at least 620,000 American soldiers died during the conflict (though the true number will never be known). That is 2.5% of the population. If the Civil War was fought today, nearly 7 million Americans would be killed. This is a staggering figure that suggests that the Civil War generation made almost inconceivable sacrifices.

To Arms! To Arms!!

In honor of this anniversary, TCHS is proud to share the story of Owego native Isaac S. Catlin. Catlin was born on July 8, 1835, in Owego, NY, and attended Owego Academy. He studied law in New York City, and soon passed the bar. He returned to Owego in 1859, where he joined the law firm Tracy, Warner, and Walker. In 1860, Isaac Catlin was elected Mayor of Owego.

In 1861, with the breakout of Civil War, Catlin raised a company of volunteers, and was named its captain. It was said that his was “the first full company which enlisted in the North”. Catlin rose quickly in the ranks. Between 1862 and 1864, he was promoted from First Lieutenant to Colonel. Catlin commanded the 109th Regiment of New York Volunteers in many battles, perhaps the most significant being the Battle of Crater at Petersburg, Virginia.

Head and torso portrait of a white man with a full beard, wearing a military jacket.

   – Isaac Catlin

During the battle at Petersburg, Catlin was seriously wounded. According to Catlin’s obituary, printed in the New York Times on  January 20, 1916,

“Colonel Catlin was to push on over the mines, and, if possible, capture the men in charge of them. When day dawned he led his men in the face of heavy fire and was wounded. He insisted on being carried to the front, and while there, an explosion of a shell shattered his right leg. Notwithstanding his two wounds he was carried at the head of his troops over the un-exploded mines, which he captured.”

Catlin’s wounds were severe, and his right leg was amputated. Being cited for his bravery, Catlin was promoted to Brevet Major General. He was also awarded with the Medal of Honor in 1899, this country’s highest military honor. Catlin’s official Medal of Honor Citation reads:

“In heroic effort to rally the disorganized troops was disabled by a severe wound. While being carried from the field he recovered somewhat and bravely started to return to his command, when he received a second wound, which necessitated amputation of his right leg.”

  – Isaac Catlin

After the war, Catlin was elected the district attorney of Tioga County, and six years later, in 1871, formed a law partnership in Brooklyn with his brother-in-law, Benjamin F. Tracy. He died on January 19, 1916 in Brooklyn at the age of 80.

Benjamin Tracy, Catlin’s brother-in-law, was also from Tioga County, and like Catlin, was awarded a Medal of Honor for his actions during the Battle of the Wilderness on May 6, 1864. According to the official citation, Tracy “seized the colors and led the regiment when other regiments had retired and then reformed his line and held it.” Later that year, he became commandant of the Elmira prisoner of war camp, before being appointed Colonel of the 127th Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops, on August 23, 1864. After the war, Tracy practiced law together with Catlin and became active in politics. He served as Secretary of the Navy from 1889-1893 under President Benjamin Harrison.


– Benjamin Tracy

The Tioga County Historical Society is dedicated to honoring those who served in the Civil War, for their bravery and sacrifice. The Civil War exhibit in our Museum is titled “The Cost of Freedom” and will be showcased throughout the rest of the year. Part of that exhibit includes Isaac Catlin’s sword, and his commission as Major General by brevet, signed by President Andrew Johnson. Also on exhibit is Benjamin Tracy’s Medal of honor. We hope you will join us in honoring all of the extraordinary men from Tioga County who volunteered during this historic conflict.

-Staci Becker, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

The Naturalist: J. Alden Loring’s Adventure in Africa


1908, Owego native and naturalist, J. Alden Loring received notice from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., that he was to accompany former United States President Theodore Roosevelt on an expedition to Africa. Loring was charged with collecting animal specimens for the Natural History Museum in D.C. The expedition began in 1909, during which the group traveled through the Suez Canal, down the Red Sea, and around the coast of British East Africa to modern-day Somalia. There they traveled into Kenya by train. The men on the expedition had plenty of supplies for the trip and were met and guided through Africa by local tribes.

In June of 1909, an event happened that would change Loring’s life. The group heard news of a lion that was said to be near their camp. This lion had injured an Englishman and killed two natives trying to fend it off. Not long after this tragic event, Loring and another member of the expedition,  Major Edgar A. Means, left the group to explore. They investigated the rumor of lions being nearby and upon spotting some, they took up positions to fire when they had clean shots. Loring could see one particular lion approaching him, about fifty yards away. Loring shot at the lion, hitting it several times. It however, did not go down. Only feet away from Loring, the lion charged at him and the other men. Finally, Loring used a second gun to mortally wound it. The lion rushed past Loring and after several feet, it finally fell to the ground. Upon examination, Loring saw that every shot he had taken hit the animal.

They took the lion back to the camp, where Theodore Roosevelt was very impressed. He gave Loring a rifle better able to shoot big game in Africa. After the expedition was over, Roosevelt sent other gifts, one of them being the Marlin 25-36 rifle that Loring used to shoot the lion. Accompanying  the gifts was a letter from Roosevelt, expressing his admiration and appreciation for what Loring did for the expedition and for the Smithsonian.

Loring Safari Hat    Loring Rife

Loring’s rifle, safari hat, and the letter from President Roosevelt are on display at the Tioga County Historical Society.

-Tom Mazza, Administrative Assistant

Free Kid’s Craft Day at the TCHS Museum!

Kids Day Poster

The Tioga County Historical Society Musuem will be hosting a Kid’s Craft Day on Saturday, April 4th from 11 am-3 pm. We will be making a variety of Easter and springtime arts and crafts. Kid’s of all ages are welcome to this free family event! Join us for an afternoon of music, creativity, and fun!

7 Reasons to Join the Tioga County Historical Society

7 reasons to join TCHS

1. Explore                                                                                    

View the Tioga County Historical Society’s unsurpassed collection of more than 80,000 items of Tioga County history, including paintings, photographs, textiles and clothing, craft and manufacturing artifacts, toys, and books. Our current exhibits include American Indian artifacts, Civil War memorabilia, artifacts from historic Tioga County industry, and our portrait gallery.

2. Celebrate

 Festivals, music, exhibits, community events, and more are found at the Museum year round. Plan now to attend the annual Path Through History Weekend in June and the O Tannenbaum Holiday Showcase from November-December. Members also receive an invitation to exclusive events.

3. Indulge

The museum offers a variety of programs and events throughout the year for your enjoyment. Enjoy the Museum Gift Shop, where you can find a variety of souvenirs, including books published by local historians. Members and military members enjoy 10% off their purchases.

4. Benefit

Member benefits include the following, according to the level of contribution:

  • Subscription to our quarterly Newsletter
  • 10% off gift shop purchases
  • Unlimited use of the Research Center
  • Acknowledgement in print
  • Invitation to special events at the museum
  • Tax deductible donations

5. Support

Your support enables the Tioga County Historical Society to provide quality programs for children and adults, develop entertaining exhibits, maintain our buildings and grounds, and preserve our community’s culture and identity for future generations.

6. Connect

The heritage and modern vitality of Tioga County is alive throughout the year at the Tioga County Historical Society Museum. There are many ways to connect with us! Subscribe to our newsletter to receive museum news, or engage with us on social media using our Facebook and Twitter pages.

7. Ease

There are 5 easy ways to join TCHS!

  1. Call- (607)687-2460
  2. Click-
  3. Mail- Form attached to Membership brochure
  4. E-mail-
  5. Visit- 110 Front Street, Owego, NY 13827

-Staci Becker, Marketing and Communications Coordinator

The Short Literary Career of Owego’s Mary P. Chase

Throughout the 19th and early 20th century, the women’s rights movement occurred in the United States. A major goal of this movement was to receive universal suffrage. However, the movement also sought to make the political, social, and economic status of women, equal to that of men. In honor of that struggle, the month of March was named Women’s History Month. TCHS would like to celebrate by highlighting the story of an African American woman from Tioga County, Owego’s Mary P. Chase.

Mary P. Chase was born in Louisiana around 1871. After marrying Owego resident Enoch J. Chase, they settled at 263 Prospect St., in Owego. Mary worked as a seamstress, and eventually opened her shop. However, dressmaking was not the only endeavor Mary Chase took on.

Sometime before 1906, Mary Chase wrote a fascinating story about an African American woman named Marjorie Ellsworth. The story would have been quite controversial, due to its content. The plot of the story takes place before and during the Civil War, and touches on the subject of the abolition of slavery. The story centers around two women, Estelle and Marjorie Ellsworth. Marjorie is the illegitimate daughter of Joseph Pugh, a plantation owner in Louisiana. Her mother is a “mulatto” slave in his employ. She is very light skinned, and her father wishes for her to be “tenderly raised and educated.” Marjorie is adopted by Joseph’s sister, Estelle, and her husband Lawrence Ellsworth, and move north.

Estelle’s story is interesting as well. It is stated that she and her brother Joseph were orphans “with vast wealth”, cared for by the Mason’s, life-long friends of the family who lived on an adjoining plantation. The Pugh and Mason children grew up together. Robert Mason fell in love and proposed to Estelle, “and being refused, swore vengeance.” This caused a falling out amongst the families.

Years later, Marjorie Ellsworth receives an education abroad, and returns to America, where she meets Lionel Carew, the grandson of Robert Mason, Sr. They marry, uniting the two families once again.

The story is fascinating and controversial for its time period. Not only does the plot tell the story of two women, one being a woman of color, but an interracial marriage takes place. Unfortunately, Mary Chase’s story was never published. One publisher, the M.W. Hazen Co., writes that although there is a “foundation for a good story” there is no “present demand” for it. Mary P. Chase was simply ahead of her time.

Mary Chase Rejection Letter

Although Mary Chase’s story never came to fruition, it remains an amazing piece of local history. This inspirational African American woman defied the odds, entering a college to master the art of dressmaking, opening her own shop, and of course, providing social commentary through her story. Mary Chase was also an active and respected member of her community,and a member of the AME Church in Owego. TCHS is proud to tell the story of Mary P. Chase in honor of African American History Month, and Women’s History Month.

Marjorie Ellsworth Page 1

Find out more information about Mary Chase’s life in Owego, including how she received a diploma in dressmaking (and opened her own shop) by reading TCHS’s Spring Newsletter! To subscribe to the newsletter, e-mail

As always, please leave your comments and/or questions in the comment section. Thank you for reading!

The 5 Best Things to Do This Summer at the Tioga History Museum

It’s summertime in Tioga County, and the Tioga History Museum is excited to offer a variety of exhibits, activities, and programs to our community. Read on to discover the 5 Best Things to Do This Summer at the Tioga History Museum!

1. Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger Hunt (7)

Scavenger hunts are a fun way to explore the museum, discover our collection, and learn about the history or Tioga County. Whether it’s trying to figure out the clues during a tour around the museum, or using your artistic skills on our Find and Sketch, we have no doubt you will have a blast! While targeted towards kids, we’ve noticed parents and other adults enjoying themselves as well! You never know what you’re going to discover at TCHS!

2. Explore the Civil War Exhibit

Civil War 3 Civil War Room

This is the last year to explore the Civil War exhibit, “The Cost of Freedom”, which can be found in our West Gallery. Our collection includes: a variety of original Brady prints, rare pictures of the Civil War; Apalachin native, and Civil War Brevet Brigadier General Benjamin Tracy’s medal of honor; Benjamin Loring’s military jacket, worn to Ford’s Theater the night of Lincoln’s assassination; and a large collection of various guns, drums, and artifacts.

This is the last year to view the exhibit in its entirety, so make sure you stop by to see this amazing collection!

3. Thinking Inside the Box

Chedder Cheese      Tioga Cigar Box

Boxes come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a carton, crate, package, trunk, tin, or chest; or whether it’s made of cardboard, wood, glass, plastic, silver, or gold– it’s still a box.

Our box exhibit, on loan from Tom McEnteer, includes boxes large and small. You can find a sea chest, traveling trunk, cigar boxes, jewelry boxes, and more. Many of the boxes were made right here in Tioga County!

“Thinking Inside the Box” can be viewed throughout the summer.

4. Kids Days

Kids Day Poster    11096658_10153715710571521_5002070495927514251_n

“Kid’s Day” is an event held at the museum on the first Saturday of every month. We offer these free events for kids of all ages, featuring games, activities, crafts and more. So far this year, we have made Easter crafts, popsicle stick American flags, family trees, and journals. We have learned about Owego native J. Alden Loring, the naturalist who accompanied President Theodore Roosevelt to Africa. After learning about his adventures, kids made their own safari hats and went on a “lion hunt”. These educational games and activities are offered to

5. Cheers for Chance

Cheers to Chance Flyer

TCHS is already preparing for O Tannenbaum, which will take place November 7-December 12. To get others in the holiday spirit, we are raffling off a special tree! You could win 100 lottery tickets, wine,special wine glasses, and more for the price of only $5 a ticket! Cheers to Chance at TCHS!

-Staci Becker, Marketing and Communications Cooridinator

Exclusive Look at TCHS’s New Website

If anyone has visited the TCHS website within the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed a black screen looking something like this:

Under Construction

Don’t worry, it won’t be like that forever! It is with great excitement that we announce our new website! While our former site served us well, it was important to deliver a better user experience to our visitors, bringing more intuitive navigation and a more simplified way to discover the Tioga County Historical Society

We are in the process of building a new, modern website that will be debuting in the weeks to come. The new website will make it easier to understand our wide range of services, programs and capabilities. We want our visitors to be able to find information easily. At the same time, we hope to attract new visitors to our wonderful museum.

While the new website won’t be made public for several weeks, we wanted to give a little preview to our blog followers!

New website visit

Our new site will provide convenient ways to interact with the museum. Visitors will be able to donate, sign up for memberships, find contact information, and ask research questions directly through the website.

Research Requests

Check our new, simple research request form! Ask our genealogists a question right from our website!

If you have ever been interested in attending an event, exploring an exhibit, or performing research through the museum, information about all these activities will be readily available. In addition, visitors will be able to sign up for our listserv, find out about volunteer opportunities, and discover our gift shop.

TCHS is very excited to unveil our new website. While it is under construction, the old site is still available to answer any of your questions. Just visit You can also receive updates from our Facebook page.

We hope you enjoyed this preview of the new TCHS website! Once the new site is up, feel free to explore and tell us what you think!

Family Reunion: The Judge Strong Portrait

The Tioga County Historical Society had an exciting day last Saturday! Not only was it “History Day” with kid’s crafts and activities, but the museum also received a special visit. That morning, staff members were busy preparing the museum for “History Day”. Kevin and Thomas were writing out instructions for activities, and setting up tables. Martin was bringing up chairs. I was hanging up signs, and trying to promote the event one last time on Facebook.

We were moving along at a good pace when at 10:30, the doors to the museum opened and a small group entered. We welcomed them to look around our exhibits, and to let us know if they had any questions. Instead, they walked up to the painting of Judge Stephen Strong, and stopped.

Stephen Strong

Stephen Strong was born in Lebanon, Connecticut in 1791, and came to Owego in 1814. He was district attorney for the county from 1836 to 1838 and from 1844 to 1847. He sat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1847 and became County Judge in 1855. For many years he had a law office on Front Street in Owego. He died in 1866.

Our visitors had a special connection to the painting. Judge Strong was their ancestor, and the painting had belonged to their family. They remembered that the painting had hung in their Grandmother’s house, and that she had donated it (along with a number of other paintings) to the Museum many years ago. The family had come in to visit the paintings and share them with their spouses and children.

Needless to say, we were delighted that they had come in to visit and share their story. The picture below shows our visitors with the painting of their ancestor, Judge Stephen Strong.

Family Visits Painting

We are so proud to be a part of their family legacy. We hope to keep this painting preserved so that more generations can visit and learn about Judge Stephen Strong. Come see the painting in person at the Tioga County Historical Society! We are open Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10 am-4 pm, and Thursdays from 10 am-8 pm!

-Staci Becker, Marketing and Communications Coordinator