Bath Rod and Gun Club was founded in 1886. The first president was Z. L. Parker. At that time meetings were held in the Brotherhood room of the Presbyterian Church. The Club was first known as Brotherhood Rod and Gun Club but the name was officially changed in 1915 to Bath Rod and Gun Club. For many years, meetings were held in the Bath town hall. Records show the Club raised pheasants and quail for release in the area, and bought large quantities of fish for release in Lake Salubria and the Conhocton River.
John White, a member of the Club, who owned a hardware store on Buel Street, donated the use of some rooms over his store to be used as club rooms and a new location for the meetings. Mr. White had a great interest in Conservation and latter became Club president,vice president of the Steuben County Conservation Club and in 1940 and 1941 president of the New York State Conservation Council, an organization with 600,000 sportsmen members. He went on to become New York State Conservation Commissioner with many notable achievements including starting the bureau of soil conservation and considerable research in fish and wildlife…unfortunately he died when only 43 years old. Governor Dewey ordered all flags in State be flown at half mast in John White's honor.
The first fundraiser that we have records of was in 1926 when the folks sold refreshments left over from a meeting for a profit of 20 cents! Bingo parties were also held on Buell Street. The first wild game dinner was held in 1933. It was held at the Gates Hotel with rabbit being the meat of choice although squirrels and raccoon also were eaten; remember deer season didn't open until 1936. In 1935 the Club raised money by hosting a wrestling match held at the Bath Town hall. Men were admitted for 35 cents and admission for ladies and children was 10 cents. The Club got 20 per cent of the receipts and posted a profit of $ 3.00!
In 1934 the club leased a field from Henry Noble for use as a skeet field. In July 1935 the membership discussed buying a farm on the Telegraph Road. In 1939 the club was incorporated. In 1940 the club bought 96 acres of land on Telegraph road from William Landers. The original owner of this property had paid for the land by collecting the bounty on wolves! On June 16, 1940 the Clubhouse and “club farm” were officially opened with 500 guests in attendance. The clubhouse was lit by electricity from the club’s own generator and the main source of heat was the fireplace. Outside there was a fountain with a 14 foot base tank that was filled with a variety of fish. There were trap and skeet fields, a softball diamond, picnic grove and horseshoe pitching layouts. Scouts were invited to camp on the clubs grounds and many organizations used the facilities.
Did you know that the club had its own marching band! In 1946 David Thomas was the new director of the Rod and Gun club band. They presented a series of open air concerts in Pulteney Park and at the Club, and played in a number of parades. The band was uniformed in Navy Blue with gold braid epaulets and visored caps decorated with gold braid. The band was a short lived but colorful part of the clubs history.
The late 1940’s were a great time for the Club and it reached a peak membership of 1,200 members ! Dog trials and coon hunting were very popular at the club in this time period Work was begun in 1949 on a 200 yard high power rifle range which officially opened in 1951. A pavilion was added in 1952.
The Club has sponsored a Hunter Safety Training course since it was required by the State in order to buy a hunting license. Firearms Safety training has been taught to all the shooting disciplines and recently Basic Pistol Safety courses have been an important function of the Club.
In 1988 three new skeet fields and two trap fields were built. In 1992 a sporting clays course was installed There is an indoor range for shooting pistols and .22 rifles to round out the accommodations for the members. About 2000 the rifle firing line was covered to allow firing in bad weather and give shade from the hot sun. Matches were fired using single shot and schuetzen rifles of the type that dominated target shooting when the Club was first formed. Shooters have come from as far away as Connecticut to participate in our matches and National record holders are regularly on our firing line.
It took many years, hundreds of phone calls and a lot of volunteer help but Sgt. Les Brown of the Bath Police Department built a fine range and classroom where law enforcement units could train and qualify on the south side of the telegraph road. The facility is also used by the V.A. Police, and NYS Parole Officers and Corning Community College.
Over the years there have been numerous trap and skeet team regional championships from our club. There have been exceptional pistol teams and we have had a national champion in archery from the club, Ed Vought. In high power rifle Lynn Stonier and his brother , Don and Dave Myer, Jim Peek and Jim Fodge have all won awards in National level competition. Perhaps our most notable competition shooter is Sean Watson who joined the Army’s Advanced Marksmanship Unit and has been a coach and member of the U.S. National Championship Pistol Team and has taught combat pistol techniques in the U.S. and abroad.
August 5,2009 the club bought 101.2 acres to the East and North of the rifle range, skeet fields and sporting clay ranges. The main purpose of this purchased is to get control of a buffer zone between our ranges and housing. This is a strong commitment to the future by an old and fine organization. The last chapter in the history of the club is yet to be written, and I hope it won’t be for another century or two.