Cortlandt Auser Becomes Yorktown Town Historian
by Marie Cortissoz
The Yorktown Town Board voted last night to reappoint Cortlandt Pell Auser Town Historian.
"We're very pleased that Cort has time to take this up again," said Town Supervisor Nancy Elliott, in announcing the appointment.
Auser had served as Historian from 1966 to 1979, when he resigned the post because of other commitments.
"One the pressure relaxed, I decided I should get back into things here, and finish what was started," said Auser in an interview on Monday referring to a project started during his tenure, a compilation of the history of Yorktown.
Auser, working with the Friends of the Museum and several students, wrote on what the town was like in Colonial times. He now hopes to continue that history, and publish it in time for the bicentennial of the town, in 1988.
At last week's Town Board works session, Auser spoke about the seven existing chapters and his ideas for the future.
"It has to be made into a saleable commodity," he said, adding that the work is now uneven. Auser would like to see the history brought up to a point in the 20th century, perhaps going as far as the 1980's. He is concerned, however, that those involved with the project may find a dearth of information for certain time periods.
"It will have to be a real cooperative effort," said Auser.
Councilman Neal Bailenson suggested that high school students get involved in the project.
Councilman Barbara Wilkens said the history should also tap the resources of older, lifelong Yorktown residents. She pointed out that students could be trained in interviewing techniques and used to take down the oral memories of senior citizens.
Although Auser agreed with the idea, he stressed that oral histories would have to carefully verified against recorded information.
In addition to working on the history, Auser would like to begin other projects in town. He reminded the Board that the nation's celebration of the bicentennial culminates in 1982, and suggested that Yorktown mark the occasion in some way. The Board and Auser agreed that the town should also begin planning for it own bicentennial festivities.
Although Auser was raised in Brooklyn, he has had a long-time interest in Westchester history. His family was originally from the county. He was educated in New York City and received his Ph.D. in American Studies from New York University.
In 1950 he moved to Chappaqua and became involved in the Town's Historical Society. He and his wife Doris edited the Westchester Historian, and continued doing so, even after he was transferred to Colorado in 1960.
From 1960 through 1966, Auser taught history at the Air Force Academy, and in 1966 he returned to the area and took up residence in Yorktown's historic Davenport House. He assumed the role of Town Historian and his wife became Curator of the Yorktown Museum, and later the Director.
Auser said he is accepting the position of Historian for two reasons: "I'm interested in local history and I enjoy writing about it."
North County News, September 22- September 28, 1982
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