Warsaw Historical Society/Gates House Museum
The Warsaw Historical Society is located in the Seth Gates House.
Born in 1800, Seth Gates was a strident abolitionist who grew up in Sheldon and was educated at the Middlebury Academy in Wyoming NY. He deliberately sparked controversy by promoting an immediate end to slavery.
As a former Assemblyman from LeRoy, he won election to Congress as an anti-slavery Whig in 1838. During his time in Congress, he repeatedly angered his Southern colleagues. Fearing Texas would become a slave state, Congressman Gates prominently authored and helped secure a national “right to petition” to protest the expansion of slavery. In another action, Mr. Gates mailed proceedings of the 1840 Anti-Slavery Congress to governors of southern states. One enraged Georgia slave owner offered $500 for Gates, dead or alive. After anti-abolitionists destroyed his LeRoy home in 1843, Mr. Gates and his family moved to their new home in Warsaw. He engaged in several business enterprises and also joined other abolitionists to help runaway slaves. His home was believed to be one of several stations of the "underground railroad."
One of the most important historical buildings in Warsaw is The Seth Gates House. It was constructed in 1824 by Horace Hollister who established the first carriage and sleigh factory here. It is a splendid specimen of early architecture and has been the birthplace of a dozen civic and philanthropic organizations.
The Warsaw Historical Society was first shaped in the historic, ca. 1850 home of U.S. Congressman Augustus Frank on North Main during the 1880’s. Recollections of Warsaw’s pioneering spirit were had at various locations thereafter. In 1938, the Society formally organized in the former residence of the Hon. Seth M. Gates. The NYS Education Department recognized the Society’s commitment to preserving Warsaw’s past and chartered it in 1946.
Collections include displays showcasing aspects of Warsaw life from the 1830’s to the present. Rare artifacts also complement exhibits of Warsaw’s business, manufacturing and agricultural history. Special exhibits highlight the Underground Railroad, the Civil War and Suffrage movement. Also housed is a comprehensive research library of rare maps, newspapers, thousands of photographs and documents. Most have been electronically catalogued for easy access.