Livingston County News File Photo The official flag of Livingston County, N.Y.

The Livingston County Board of Supervisors were debating a proposed budget at the Courthouse when a rustling of oak leaves was heard outside the window.

“Don’t forget,” the leaves seemed to whisper.

Supervisor O’Mara was puzzled: “We have a tight agenda, now I’m hearing leaves talking.”

...Remember a flag for 150 years.

O’Mara naturally first thought of Betsy Ross, but then it dawned on him that Livingston County soon would celebrate 150 years of existence (1821-1971), The County needed an official flag.

An action committee was formed – O’Mara, Ray Lown, Carl Roeser, Herbert Battey, George Wolf and Everett Mann were appointed. Resolution 71-152 designated Flag Fathers.

Geneseo Historian Anna Patchett accepted the responsibility of a “Betsy Ross.” She gave careful thought to colors and design. The banner must have artistic appeal.

The upper field was easy; it should be golden yellow symbolizing golden grain from the northern towns. Grain and especially wheat had been a major crop since pioneer days. The Genesee Valley once was called the wheat basket of America until the wheat midge invaded in 1855.

Anna selected azure blue for the flag’s center. She was reminded of the Genesee River, the dominant natural feature of the County. It had turned a muddy brown in places from pollution, but throughout history was blue. Adding to its honor, the Genesee was the only major New York State river flowing south to north.

Avon poet-laureate William H.C. Hosmer’s words were further encouragement from the mid-1800s.

“I would not for a palace guard

or slave of pliant knee,

Forsake a cabin in my vale

My own dark Genesee.”

The lower section of the banner would be green honoring Livingston’s pioneer hard-wood forests. Pioneers would have been helpless without the timber. Nurseries also were part of the green symbolism.

As a supplement to the design, Patchett suggested white ribbons representing salt and limestone. And though he never visited the County bearing his name,

Chancellor Robert Livingston’s balance and cross quills of justice were added to the yellow field. The quills also honored his part in writing the Declaration of Independence.

Dr. Joseph O’Dea designed the flag specifications.

When interviewed in late 1971, Livingston’s “Betsy Ross,” Anna Patchett, summarized, “the County flag is an emblem that is distinctive, meaningful and beautiful – it is our flag.”

David W. Parish is historian for the town and village of Geneseo. He writes the column “Historic Geneseo” for The Livingston County News. He is a Chancellor Award retiree from Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo and author of 12 books.

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