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Audio tour traces historical sites

PENN YAN—A former Yates County resident Jemima Wilkinson was one of the first female visionaries of religion. After a serious illness as a young woman, she awoke and renamed herself The Public Universal Friend. She had been raised a Quaker, a group also known as Friends. She then moved to the wilderness of Yates County, in the late 1700s, after starting the religious order, The Universal Friends. She led this group of followers until her death in 1819. In her preaching she stressed pacifism, freeing slaves and chastity.
An audio tour of the areas where Wilkinson lived while in Yates County has just been produced by The Yates County Heritage Tour Project, LLC.
Titled The Universal Friend and America’s First Frontier Settlement, the tour begins in Penn Yan at the Oliver House Museum on Main Street. The museum is the site of the largest known collection of artifacts and manuscript materials relating to Wilkinson and her community. Among the materials are her portrait, the man’s hat she wore, her Bible, gifts such as a Seneca Indian basket and gifts from visiting dignitaries. Also on display are items of daily use such as her saddle, correspondence and her last  will and testament.
The audio tour project covers the years from 1780 to 1820. A booklet included with the tour’s compact disc strongly recommends reading the booklet prior to beginning the tour. A map of the entire route is included in the package. Driving distances are indicated as well as an up to the minute touch, GPS coordinates.  Gentle reminders that many of the sites included in the tour are private property and cannot be entered is paired with an equally gentle recommendation that the driver not attempt to read the guide while traveling from one site to another.
Heritage Tours Project member Sue Lange spoke about the enterprise and future audio tours. She said four people started talking about the possibility of an audio tour in January. The four principal members of the group have different talents according to Lange. The project was completed in late June with release of the first tour package. Lange called the audio tour a companion to Yates County Historian Fran Dumas’s new book on Wilkinson, The Unquiet World: The Public Universal Friend and America’s First Frontier.  Lange said, “They both stand alone but compliment each other.” Dumas edited the driving tour booklet.
The group will take off some time before the next project which Lange said will probably focus on Penn Yan, followed by The Outlet Trail. The Universal Friend tour is currently available for $20 at Longs’ Cards and Books in Penn Yan.

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