FORESTVILLE - The historical background of the Lyndsley home is extensive, but there are some discrepancies in the details. One thing is for sure: some of the former owners - and possibly occupants - of the home are their next-door neighbors, residing six feet under in the Forestville Pioneer Cemetery.
Chautauqua County Historian Michelle Henry and Town of Hanover Historian Vince Martonis were interviewed for "Haunted Collector."
Martonis said the show's producers asked him in an email to do research on the Rev. James Bennett, who they believed to have resided in the home, but he was not able to find evidence to confirm this. His records show that the reverend came to Forestville in 1810 and founded the second Baptist Church of Hanover. When he died, he left eight children and a wife.
OBSERVER Photo by April Diodato
Some former owners — and possibly residents — of the Lyndsley home are their next door neighbors, six feet under in the Forestville Pioneer Cemetery.
"There's a lot of close connections of the reverend to the house, like his family lived there and he's buried in the cemetery very near the house," Martonis said. "Obviously he visited it a lot and probably stayed over there a lot, all the typical family stuff. I suppose it's even possible that maybe he lived with his son there, although there's no record to indicate that."
According to the Historical County Structures Database, the home is listed in county assessor's records as built in 1820. On the 1867 Atlas of Chautauqua County, the owner is listed as J. W. Bennett (1812-1880), whose tombstone is situated in the Forestville Pioneer Cemetery. James M. Hillebert was shown as the owner on the 1881 Atlas of Chautauqua County, and he is also buried next door.
Henry only had one afternoon to find information on the home for the show, which proved difficult when the home was built nearly 200 years ago, there was no law that required people to file deeds in the county.
"When (the show) came, it was very short notice, Henry said. "I actually didn't know that they were coming the day that they showed up. It was very spur of the moment."
Henry's records show that the Rev. Bennett was not associated with the property until later, and was unable to confirm that he resided there. She was able to find another former owner buried, along with his family, next door. On the 1854 county map, Leonard Johnson (1806-1858) occupied the property and had a cabinet shop next to the house.
"They had been given some information that they really wanted to use in the story and I couldn't substantiate that evidence my whole focus was, what do the records tell us?" Henry said. "I think that's what historians always struggle with, is the lore people have associated with a house or an event, and then what we can actually verify."
Send comments on this story to firstname.lastname@example.org