Sullivan County Historical Society History Preserver Award 2000

DVanEttenDelbert Van Etten

                Delbert Van Etten was born in 1927, attended Liberty schools and graduated from Liberty High School in 1945. He joined the army almost on the day that Japan surrendered and was sent overseas to serve in the Army of Occupation in Germany. Though Del recalls that at the time he did not know one drink from another, the army, for some bizarre reason, put him in charge of a bar, but Del’s real talents were eventually discovered and he was sent to a school to be trained to be a draftsman. Though his army career was brief, that training had a long-term effect on his life. After returning to civilian life he worked for almost fifty years as a draftsman with several local engineers such as Olney Borden and Dolph Rotfeld. In 1962 he married Rita Stewart and they had two children, Sarah and John, who have twice made Del and Rita grandparents.

Read more: Delbert Van Etten

Sullivan County Historical Society History Preserver Award 1998

William Galbraith Smith (1920-1998)

                William Galbraith Smith was born in 1920 in Kings Park, New York. The family moved to Ossining, New York where Bill’s father was a dietitian at Sing Sing Prison. When Bill was twelve, his father died. His Irish immigrant mother moved with her two sons to Stone Ridge, New York. Bill attended and graduated from Kingston City High School. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps and during the World War II served in the European Theater of War in England and Scotland with the 710th Bomb Squadron. Bill was honorably discharged as Technical Sergeant in September 1945. He served in the Air Force Reserves from 1945 until 1953.

Read more: William Galbraith Smith

Sullivan County Historical Society History Preserver Award 1997

TomQuickTrailJames Burbank (1900 – 1975)


                Like Manville Wakefield, James Burbank combined a strong interest in local history with impressive artistic talents. He left behind a diverse legacy which includes Fort Delaware, the official seal of the Sullivan County Community College and a reinvigorated Historical Society.
                He was born April 22, 1900 in New York City, but when his mother died he and his brother were sent to Sullivan County to live with their grandparents in Fosterdale. From these early years developed his lifelong love of county history. His education concluded with eighth grade and in 1917 he enlisted in the Navy and embarked on a career which spanned three decades. He served on a number of different ships; at some point he had a Torpedoman’s rating, but towards the end of his career his specialty was photography. As he matured, his artistic interests surfaced and whenever shore duty provided the opportunity he took art courses at Pratt Institute. His work impressed the Navy and during his last years in the service he was attached to the Naval Recruiting Bureau designing posters and pamphlets. He retired as Chief Warrant Officer in 1948. Also, during his navy days he married Josephine Woll from Brooklyn on May 16, 1931. They had one daughter, Mrs. Margaret (Burbank) McIntyre, known as Peggy.

Read more: James Burbank

Sullivan County Historical Society History Preserver Award 1996

oHilligOtto Hillig (1874 ~ 1954)


 The following biographical sketch is taken from an article written by Mr. Delbert Van Etten, the Town and Village Historian of Liberty.
Otto Hillig was born in Steinbruechen, Germany in 1874 and when sixteen years of age came to the United States as a poor German immigrant. He first worked as a street car conductor in Brooklyn, later as a bartender and still later as a laborer in a brewery in Ellenville. When about twenty-one years of age and virtually penniless, he moved into the Liberty area and while working on a farm near White Sulphur Springs supposedly found a photo magazine and decided to try his hand at photography. He went on to become the most famous photographer in Sullivan County and the owner of the best equipped studio between New York City and Buffalo. He produced over the years vast numbers of pictures of the county’s development and portraits of its inhabitants. By 1914 he was able to build a studio at 84 North Main Street in Liberty. The building, though modified over the years, is still in use and lies within the bounds of the Liberty historic district.

Read more: Otto Hillig

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.

Read more: Marjorie Durland Smith



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