September 24, 1889 is the only occasion on which prominent agnostic orator Robert Green Ingersoll is known to have visited his birthplace in Dresden, New York.He was fifty-six years of age. Ingersoll, his wife Eva, and his daughters Maud and Eva had arrived that day at the Benham House hotel in Penn Yan, New York, about seven miles from Dresden. The next day, Ingersoll would deliver an address at the Yates County Fair grounds in Penn Yan.
The Yates County Chronicle of October 9, 1889, recounted the visit as follows:
Dresden. Col. Rob't G. Ingersoll honored our place last week. The family, Judge Struble and Mrs. John Shepperd accompanied him. They made his old home a visit. The place is now owned by Dr. G. W. Brundage. The exterior has been changed considerable by new siding and painting during the summer. The Col. had sketches taken of each room in the house; he also visited the Presbyterian church in which his father use to preach. After scanning its walls he exclaimed to his daughter, "We must have a sketch of this, for one of the best men that ever lived preached here." The company took in every point of interest while here, and was wonderfully pleased with the place. He remembered to some one that he was looking for a place to locate, and it might be the town that gave him birth. This town is proud to know that one so brilliant sprang from it.
But Ingersoll did not relocate to Dresden and, so far as is known, he never returned to the village of his birth.
Thanks to Betty Smalley, Catherine Spencer, and Herbert S. Wisbey for preserving this information.