Find us on Facebook
Family of Orleans man seeks answers after his death in Greene County prison
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 February 2019 at 5:05 pm

Ex-wife of Delmus Tanner, 38, intends to sue prison over his strangulation

Delmus Tanner

COXSACKIE — The family of Delmus Tanner has been waiting more than three months for answers to why he died while an inmate at the Greene Correctional Facility near Albany.

Tanner, 38, died on Nov. 13, four days after he was taken to the Albany Medical Center and put on life support. He was taken there on a Friday. It wasn’t until the following Monday that his family was made aware of the seriousness of his condition, his ex-wife Ashley Farrell said today.

State police are investigating Tanner’s death and told his family in November there would be answers by Jan. 1, Farrell said.

She has shared Tanner’s death certificate with The Daily Freeman in Kingston, NY. That newspaper reported on Friday that Tanner’s death certificate listed “strangulation by another” as the cause. The State Police also told the newspaper that a grand jury is going to review the case.

Tanner was serving a 5-year sentence on drug charges. He had a chance to released later this year after a parole hearing in August.

“You’re going to prison to rehabilitate and do your time,” Farrell said. “You’re not going to prison to die.”

She was married to Tanner for 15 years until 2015. They have two children together, ages 11 and 17. Tanner also has another child.

“Delmus should have been coming home,” she said. “He couldn’t get out and show us the man he wanted to be. He was going to come out and be a good citizen.”

She has been trying to raise public awareness about Tanner’s death, reaching out to reporters and posting on social media.

“I want to know what happened to him,” she said today. “His children deserve to know what happened to him.”

Tanner’s death has been gaining media attention following the death of another inmate, Anthony Myrie, 24. He died at the prison a week ago an “incident involving several” other inmates, The Daily Freeman reported after contacting the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision.

Grammy-winning rapper Cardi B also posted on Instagram about seeing friends allegedly abused by correction officers at the Greene Correctional Facility. Farrell posted on Cardi B’s Instagram, sharing about Tanner’s death, and then reporters started calling Farrell.

She is grateful for the publicity, and hopes it helps bring answers from the State Police.

“Delmus is getting the attention he deserves and the issue of prison violence is getting the attention it deserves,” said Farrell, who recently moved from Albion to Batavia. “I am relieved that this is getting out.”

Tanner was a fun-loving person who enjoyed “the good things in life,” taking his children to Chuck E. Cheese and the beach, Farrell said.

“He took pride in being a father,” she said. “He was a good man who would help anybody. He would give you the shirt off of his back.”

Return to top


NY makes more money available for HEAP following recent harsh weather
Posted 18 February 2019 at 1:40 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that $15 million in additional funding is available to help eligible New Yorkers heat their homes following a spate of severe weather over the past month.

Starting Tuesday, Feb. 19, households in danger of running out of heating fuel or having their utility service shut off may apply for a second emergency benefit through the Home Energy Assistance Program. In addition, Governor Cuomo announced the extension of the application period for both regular and emergency HEAP benefits until April 26.

“Families should not have to choose between heating their homes and paying for other essentials like food or medications,” Governor Cuomo said. “With much of the state remaining in winter’s icy grasp, the availability of this extra funding will help our most vulnerable New Yorkers stay warm and safe through the duration of the season. I encourage anyone who may need help paying their heating bills this winter to apply for assistance.”

Households are ordinarily only eligible to receive one regular HEAP benefit each winter, and then one emergency HEAP benefit in the event of an energy crisis. Beginning Tuesday, households that have already received a regular and emergency benefit during this HEAP season will be able to apply for additional assistance if they are faced with the possibility of having a utility shut off or running out of heating fuel without the means to replenish it.

New York State’s persistently cold temperatures and snowfall in recent weeks have been comparable to last winter – one of the coldest on record. The statewide demand for emergency HEAP benefits remains high, with more than 35,000 households seeking assistance so far this year.

Though temperatures remained seasonally mild to start the winter, a polar vortex plunged New York into a deep freeze in January, where temperatures in many areas of the state dipped below zero. Additionally, several winter storm systems brought significant accumulations of snow throughout the state, including a lake-effect band that set a daily snowfall record in Buffalo late last month.

The amount a household receives from HEAP depends on their income, household size and how the home is heated. A family of four can have a household income of up to $55,178 per year, or $4,598 per month, and still qualify for help. A household that heats with oil could receive more than $2,200 in total assistance this winter.

Overseen by the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, HEAP is 100 percent federally funded. Applications for emergency HEAP are accepted at local departments of social services in person or by telephone. Click here to be directed to the Orleans County Department of Social Services.

Return to top


Youth Board seeks nominations to recognize outstanding young people
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 February 2019 at 11:46 am

Group also wants to honor adults who work and volunteer on behalf of children in Orleans County

HOLLEY – The Orleans County Youth Board wants to honor local youths for their community service and adults for their work on behalf of children in Orleans County.

The Youth Board is sponsoring its 37th annual Youth Recognition Dinner on May 16. The Youth Board each year recognizes about 20 youths for their outstanding community service or if they have taken on an extraordinary role in their family.

In addition to the youth awards, at least two adults will be honored for their service to young people.

The Helen R. Brinsmaid Memorial Youth Worker Award recognizes a youth-serving professional whose work surpasses normal expectations.

Doug Egling, a caseworker for the Orleans County Department of Social Services, won the award in 2018. He is assigned to Albion middle and high schools. He supervises some children who are classified as PINS (Persons in Need of Supervision), and also does preventive and foster care cases.

The Eileen Heye Adult Volunteer Recognition Award is given to an adult who provides service as a volunteer to Orleans County youth.

Sal DeLuca of Holley received the Eileen Heye Adult Volunteer Award in 2018 for his 30 years of volunteer service to Holley youth. DeLuca has been a long-time soccer, baseball and track coach. He also has served as president of the Holley Sports Boosters Club. He spends many hours at the Woodlands field concession stand, working the grill and refilling the cooler with water, Gatorade and soda.

Nominations are due to the Youth Bureau by March 30. For more information, call the Youth Bureau at (585) 344-3960, or email youthbureau@co.genesee.ny.us, or click here to see links to the application’s on the Youth Bureau’s web page.

Return to top


Basketball sectionals will tip off Tuesday
By Mike Wertman, Sports Writer Posted 18 February 2019 at 10:20 am

Photos by Cheryl Wertman – Albion’s Kendall Derisley and Vincent Zona and their Purple Eagle teammates will host a doubleheader Tuesday evening to open the Section VI Class B1 basketball playoffs.

Local sectional basketball playoff action will get off to a fast start on Tuesday with a total of six games including a doubleheader at Albion.

That Section VI Class B1 twin bill will have the No. 11 seed Albion boys hosting No. 14 Alden at 5 p.m. followed by the No. 6 Albion girls hosting No. 11 Newfane at 7 p.m.

The winner of the boys’ game will visit No. 6 Newfane at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The victor of the girls’ game will face the winner of Tuesday’s No. 14 Fredonia at No. 3 Springville contest at 7 p.m. Thursday.

The Albion girls defeated Newfane twice during the Niagara-Orleans League season by scores of 47-17 and 38-35.

The Medina, Roy-Hart and Kendall girls teams and the Holley boys squad will also all be in action on Tuesday.

The girls games will have No. 7 Medina hosting No. 10 Tonawanda in Class B1, No. 12 Roy-Hart visiting No. 5 Akron in Class B2 and No. 9 Kendall visiting Mt. Morris in Class D1, all at 7 p.m. Medina defeated Tonawanda 68-34 in an early season non league contest.

The No. 13 Holley boys will visit No. 4 Avon in Class C1 at 7 p.m.

The Genesee Region League Division 2 champion and No. 2 seeded Lyndonville boys squad (12–2, 17-3) will open Section V Class C3 competition at home on Friday at 7 p.m. against the victor of the opening round contest between No. 10 Bolivar-Richburg and No. 7 HAC.

The Niagara-Orleans League champion and top seeded Medina boys squad (12-0, 17-3) will begin Section VI Class B1 playoff action at home on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the winner of Wednesday’s contest between No. 9 Fredonia and No. 8 Depew.

The week’s playoff schedule by class and section is as follows.

Section V Boys Playoffs
Class C1
No. 13 Holley (3-17) at No. 4 Avon (15-5), 7 p.m. Tuesday
Class C3
No. 2 Lyndonville (17-3) will host the winner of the No. 10 Bolivar-Richburg (5-15) vs. No. 7 HAC (9-11) game at 7 p.m. Friday.
Class D1
No. 9 Kendall (8-12) at No. 8 Alfred-Almond (11-9), 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Section V Girls Playoffs
Class C1
No. 9 Holley (6-13) at No. 8 Warsaw (9-9), 7 p.m. Wednesday
Class C3
No. 11 Lyndonville (4-16) at No. 6 Cal-Mum (8-10), 7 p.m. Wednesday
Class D1
No. 9 Kendall (5-14) at No. 8 Mt. Morris (7-13), 7 p.m. Tuesday

Section VI Boys Playoffs
Class B1
No. 14 Alden at No. 11 Albion, 5 p.m. Tuesday
No. 6 Newfane will host the winner of the Alden vs. Albion game at 7 p.m. Wednesday
No. 1 Medina will host the winner of the No. 9 Fredonia vs. No. 8 Depew game at 1 p.m. Saturday
Class B2
No. 11 Roy-Hart at No. 6 JFK, 7 p.m. Wednesday
No. 9 WNY Maritime at No. 8 Akron, 7 p.m. Wednesday
No. 4 Wilson will host the winner of the No. 12 Eden vs. No. 5 Southwestern game at 1 p.m. Saturday
Class C2
No. 10 Barker at No. 7 Riverside, 7 p.m. Wednesday.

Section VI Girls Playoffs
Class B1
No. 11 Newfane at No. 6 Albion, 7 p.m. Tuesday
No. 10 Tonawanda at No. 7 Medina, 7 p.m. Tuesday
Class B2
No. 12 Roy-Hart at No. 5 Akron, 7 p.m. Tuesday
No. 2 Wilson will host the winner of the No. 10 Gowanda vs. No. 7 Allegany-Limestone game at 7 p.m. Thursday


Winter weather advisory in effect until 1 p.m.
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 February 2019 at 8:38 am

Bobbi Huwyler of Medina took these photos of ice tables in the Alabama swamp on Friday.

A winter weather advisory is in effect until 1 p.m. today for Orleans County and Western New York.

There could be 1 to 2 inches of snow and freezing drizzle, which will result in slippery roads and limit visibility, the National Weather Service in Buffalo said.

“Slow down and use caution while driving,” the Weather Service said.

Today is forecast for a high of 24 followed by highs of 24 on Tuesday, 33 on Wednesday and 41 on Thursday.

Return to top


Bridal & Prom Show returns to Medina
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 February 2019 at 9:19 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – Riki Lake models a wedding gown during today’s Blissett’s Specialty Shop Wedding & Prom Showcase at the Medina United Church, which uses the former Apple Grove Inn for its church. The circular arch and barrels were provided by The Wed Shed of Lyndonville, one of the vendors at the show.

The church sanctuary was turned into a venue for a fashion show, featuring wedding gowns, and prom and bridesmaid dresses, as well as tuxedos. The two young men in tuxedos are Ricky Pitts, left, and William Braswell. They wore tuxedos provided Daniel’s Men’s Apparel in downtown Medina.

Sarah Martin models one of the wedding dresses.

The Apple Grove used to host a bridal show. Today’s event was believed to be the first bridal show in Medina in 15 years.

Jaye Sullivan, owner of Blissett’s, teamed with Larry Eastlack, pastor of the church, to put on today’s event, which included several other volunteers. They all wanted to showcase the many businesses in the Medina area that provide services for weddings and other special occasions.

Jaye Sullivan puts a corsage on Nate Sherman, one of the models for tuxedos during today’s fashion show.

Michelle Lewis was one of the models during today’s hour-long fashion show featuring dresses and gowns from Blissett’s.

Lindsay Fulwell models one of the gowns that could be wore for a prom or as a bridesmaid’s dress.

Owen Toale served as emcee for the fashion show, which was attended by about 100 people in the church sanctuary.

Darian Kinney walks down the center aisle to model a wedding dress.

Kelsey Evoy gets help with her dress while heading down the steps during the fashion show.

Hannah Willard models a dress that could be wore for a special occasion.

Susan Fuller, owner of Della’s Chocolates in Medina, was among the vendors at the show.

Larry Eastlack, pastor of the United Methodist Church, and Robin Wehling, a member of the church, announce a raffle winner during the first hour of the bridal and prom show today.

Return to top


Conservative Party backs Bourke for sheriff
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 February 2019 at 5:09 pm

Sidonio also endorsed for town supervisor in Murray

Chris Bourke

ALBION – The Orleans County Conservative Party has endorsed Chris Bourke for sheriff. Bourke, the current undersheriff, seeks to succeed Randy Bower, who announced on Friday he isn’t seeking re-election in November.

Bourke isn’t alone in seeking to be the next sheriff. Brett Sobieraski, a sergeant with the Rochester Police Department, also wants the job.

Sobieraski, a Kent resident, sought the Conservative endorsement and interviewed with the committee. He and Bourke both intend to run under the Republican Party line and will likely face a June 25 primary.

Bourke has been the undersheriff for the past three-plus years. He has worked with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office for 35 years, starting his career as a correction officer and then was a deputy sheriff before working 18 years as a lieutenant. He was supervisor of the Marine Patrol, and also was a K9 officer for 20 years.

The Conservative Party Committee interviewed candidates on Tuesday and today. Al Lofthouse of Kendall is the Conservative Party chairman.

“We feel these people espoused the best conservative principles of protecting the people’s constitutional rights, open government and best efforts to save the taxpayers’ money in line with our party platform,” said Paul Lauricella, the Party vice chairman. “We want to thank all who came to interview.”

The endorsements include:

• Orleans County Sheriff – Christopher M. Bourke

• Clarendon Town Highway Superintendent –  Tracy B. Chalker

• Gaines Town Councilwoman – Dr. Mary R. Neilans

• Murray Councilman Murray –  Dirk Lammes

• Murray Town Supervisor –  Joseph Sidonio

• Shelby Town Highway Superintendent Shelby – Dale S. Root

• Shelby Town Justice – Mark L. Wambach

Return to top


Medina Winter Guard competes at East Syracuse-Minoa
Posted 17 February 2019 at 4:40 pm

Photo and information courtesy of Medina Mustang Band: The Medina JV Winter Guard is shown competing Saturday at East Syracuse-Minoa.

Medina’s Junior Varsity & Varsity Winter Guard traveled to East Syracuse-Minoa on Saturday to compete in a show sponsored by the Mid-York Colorguard Circuit.

There are two major organizations in the state that sponsor winter guards. They are the North East Color Guard Circuit & the Mid-York circuit. From their names one can see there is a geographical divide, but overall the basic requirements and judging criteria are the same.

Guards connected to a particular circuit can perform in the other one as well. Each guard has 8 minutes to get their floor and props set up, perform their show and then pick up their equipment and exit the floor.

Medina’s JV guard competed in Scholastic RA and came in 5th with a score of 62.16 out of seven guards in this class. First place went to a guard from Homer with a score of 71.25.

The Varsity guard competed in the Scholastic A2 class and came in 3rd with a score of 66.56 out of four guards in this group. First place went to the Northstars with a score of 69.35. Scholastic A consists of nine guards and they were divided into three groups based on their skill levels.

Medina’s next competition is March 2 at Lancaster followed by the home show on March 9.

Return to top


Medina family looking for missing puppy
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 February 2019 at 4:26 pm

Provided photo: Rollie went missing on Saturday in Medina.

MEDINA – A Medina family is seeking help in finding their dog, Rollie. She went missing from West Oak Orchard Street on Saturday. Rollie is 5 months old, and a Shih Tzu-Pitbull mix.

“She is missed very much,” said the dog’s owner, Ashley Gates. “I dont have much to offer but will have a reward for her safe return.”

For more information call Gates at 716-514-2029.

Return to top


Career Day celebrated at Lyndonville school
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 February 2019 at 12:23 pm

Photos courtesy of Anne Holland at Lyndonville Central School

LYNDONVILLE – Sarah Goodenough discusses the benefits of nutrition and a plant-based food service with Lyndonville students on Friday. She lost more than 140 pounds through changes in diet and exercise.

Goodenough was one of nine speakers on Friday at Career Day at the school, when students in grades 6 to 8 heard from people in a variety of different jobs.

Meghan Gapa discusses video production in her job at 13WHAM in Rochester. Gapa is a Lyndonville graduate.

Ken Strickland, an investigator with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, talks about his career in law enforcement.

Joe DiPasio, the business administrator for Lyndonville Central School, talks about his job working with the district’s finances.

Other speakers included: Darrel Oakes, agriculture; Vern Fonda, DEC Officer; Ashton Lang, firefighter/EMT; Dave Cook, photo journalism; and Rebecca Mannella, corporate educator through Medina Memorial Hospital.

Career Day was organized by Kim Nealon, a school counselor. It was held in the former elementary school. Students rotated to each session in 20-minute intervals.

Return to top


Ministry of Concern planning first gala event, with $25K fundraising goal

Photo by Ginny Kropf: The committee planning a gala to benefit GOMOC discusses the event scheduled May 18 at the Quality Inn and Suites in Batavia. An anonymous donor has paid for Las Vegas-style entertainer Jimmy Mazz to highlight the evening. From left are Mary Grace DeMarse, Pat Morrisey, Sister Dolores Dowd, executive director Nyla Gaylord and volunteer Kelly Murray.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 17 February 2019 at 11:38 am

ALBION – An agency founded to help the needy is now looking for help.

The Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern is planning its first ever gala May 18 in an effort to cultivate new donors, spread awareness of the Ministry of Concern and raise $25,000 to benefit the agency’s mission.

An anonymous donor has paid for Las Vegas-style entertainer Jimmy Mazz, who will provide an evening of music, impressions and comedy.

“Legends and Laughter” will take place at the Quality Inn and Suites at 8250 Park Rd. in Batavia. Included in the evening will be an elegant buffet dinner, silent auction, door prizes and basket raffle.

“If people have a really good time, they will remember you,” said Nyla Gaylord, executive director of GOMOC. “We are thrilled to have this anonymous couple who believe we do good work and wanted to help. They know Jimmy Mazz and wanted to sponsor him.”

Mazz is not new to the area, having appeared to a sold-out crowd at the Cabaret at Studio B in Albion.

The GOMOC was founded more than 50 years ago as a migrant ministry in Orleans County. Sister Marian Adrian took leadership of the organization and became passionate about its work.

It soon became known as the “Agency of Last Resort,” and during the years has helped hundreds of individuals who are down and out.

The committee planning the gala includes Gaylord; Sister Dolores Dowd, who, like Sister Marian is a Gray Nun; Mary Grace DeMarse of Batavia; volunteer solicitor Kelly Murray of Albion; Pat Morrisey of Albion, who worked with Sister Marian 50 years ago; Judy Boyle of Oakfield; and Amy Monti of Middleport.

“I was on my way to the Peace Corps and stopped to see one of the Mercy nuns,” Morrisey said. “Sister Marian said I could stay here, and I did. I helped run the migrant day care.”

DeMarse, a member of GOMOC’s board, said they plan to make a gala an annual fundraising event.

Mazz is known for his clean humor, Frank Sinatra-style entertainment and engaging with his audience.

Several great prizes have already been donated for the silent auction, including a half-day fishing trip and hand-carved hunting knife.

Anyone wishing to donate a basket may call 589-9210 or 343-5452 and DeMarse will pick them up.

Tickets for the gala are available to purchase at GOMOC’s office at 121 North Main St., Albion; Della’s Chocolates, 512 Main St., Medina; Pies Furniture, 400 South Jackson St., Batavia; and Catholic Charities, 25 Liberty St., Batavia.

Return to top


Medina Theatre collecting clothes, donations for family that lost home in fire
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 February 2019 at 4:11 pm

RIDGEWAY – The Medina Theatre on Main Street in Medina is collecting clothes and household items for a Ridgeway family that lost all their belongings in a house fire on Monday.

Larry and Corina Sword and their two teen-age daughters moved into an apartment on Friday. They could use household goods, furniture, bed linens, dishes and clothing.

Those items could be dropped off at Medina Theatre, 603 Main St. People are welcome to drop off gift cards as well.

Amy Herman, the theatre manager, welcomes phone calls or text messages so she can assure people she is at the theatre or to give sizes for the clothes. Call her at 585-205-3760 for more information.

“A community only feels love when we all come together,” Herman said in a Facebook post. “Let’s show this family that the community that they live in and love is willing to give back and help in their time of need.”

Herman also is looking for someone with a truck to help deliver any larger items.

The Swords lived at 3358 Bates Rd. Their house has been declared a total loss.

Return to top


New round of federal SAFER grants available for fire departments
Posted 16 February 2019 at 12:18 pm

Press Release, Congressman Chris Collins

CLARENCE – Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) announced on Friday the application period for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant Program FY18.

Administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the SAFER Grant Program is designed to help local fire departments and Emergency Management Service (EMS) providers to increase or maintain the number of trained, “front line” firefighters available in their communities.

“The SAFER Grant Program provides funding assistance to our local fire departments and EMS providers in order to help recruit new members and ensure that current members are up to date on their training,” Collins said. “ I encourage all NY-27 fire departments and EMS providers to apply for this program.”

FEMA will begin accepting applications from eligible departments beginning on Feb. 15 and will close on Friday, March 22, at 5 p.m.

Interested applicants with further questions or those seeking letters of support from Congressman Chris Collins are asked to call his Geneseo District Office at (585)-519-4002.

Return to top


Bridal show returns to ‘Grove’ in Medina on Sunday

Photos by Tom Rivers: Some of the organizers of Sunday’s Bridal Show in Medina include, from left: Larry Eastlack, pastor of the Medina United Methodist Church; Jaye Sullivan, owner of Blissett’s Specialty Shop; Mary Lewis, owner of Creekside Floral; and Sarah Martin, a wedding planner and Blissett’s employee.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 February 2019 at 10:54 am

MEDINA – An event that was popular at Medina a generation ago is coming back on Sunday. The former Apple Grove Inn used to host a bridal show.

The Apple Grove is now owned by the Medina United Methodist Church, which did a big renovation of the building about five years ago. The church will host the bridal and prom show on Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. at 11004 West Center Street Ext.

The renovation project included creating a stage in the sanctuary and adding theater lighting. Those amenities make the building better suited for the bridal and prom show, including a fashion show at 2 p.m.

Jaye Sullivan, owner of Blissett’s Specialty Shop, was a vendor and helped organize the previous shows. She is excited for Sunday’s event which will showcase many of the services available locally for a wedding and other formal events.

“There is a new sense of community,” she said. “Let’s show this new generation what is available in our town.”

Jaye Sullivan, Blissett’s owner, and Sarah Martin, a Blisset’s employee and wedding planner, are pictured with some of the wedding gowns available at Blissett’s.

Blissett’s has wedding gowns, bridesmaid gowns, tuxedos and other formal wear. Other vendors at the show on Sunday include caterers, photographers, videographers, hairdressers, prop rentals, floral businesses, and venue locations, including the United Methodist Church, which wants to promote its kitchen and fellowship hall for events.

Larry Eastlack, pastor of the church, wanted to bring the bridal show back. He used to work for the Medina Chamber of Commerce in the 1980s. The business district is stronger now, with many businesses that can help with a wedding or other big day.

“Main Street is much healthier now,” he said.

The show is chance for people to get ideas and connect with businesses.

“We need to drive wedding business locally and promote business locally,” said Mary Lewis, owner of Creekside Floral. “There has been a mentality you have to leave town to get some of these services, and that’s not true.”

The show on Sunday will be from 1 to 4 p.m. The first hour there will be drawings for gifts every six minutes. The fashion show will be from 2 to 3 p.m. The final hour will focus on the businesses in the vendors’ hall.

Blissett’s is one of the vendors at Sunday’s bridal show.

Return to top


Medina native was member of famed 54th Massachusetts

The Battle of Olustee, Chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 16 February 2019 at 8:14 am

Soldier endured gruesome conditions at Andersonville, POW camp

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 7

Isaac Hawkins represents a significant tale in the progression of the involvement of black soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War. The son of Richard and Caroline Hawkins, Isaac was born at Medina in 1843. As indicated by early census records, Richard was a grocer who was enumerated immediately before John Ryan, the pioneer stone mason who opened the first commercial sandstone quarry in Medina.

An 1842 deed shows that Hawkins purchased a parcel of land from David Evans for the sum of $200 at the point where West Street crossed over the Erie Canal (lot 41). This lot would have sat near the current intersection of Glenwood and Ryan streets.

It is likely that Isaac was born on this site, working for his father as a young man before the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1863, the 20-year-old Hawkins enlisted at Medina and was placed with the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the unit once under the command of Robert Gould Shaw. Shaw was killed at Ft. Wagner on July 18, 1863, months before Hawkins enlisted with the Union Army. However, Isaac was with the regiment for approximately two months when the unit engaged Confederate troops in Baker County, Florida at the Battle of Olustee on February 20, 1864 (the only major battle fought in Florida).

Isaac survived the battle, which claimed the lives of over 200 Union troops, but was captured and sent to Andersonville as a prisoner. The camp became infamous for its poor and inhumane treatment of white prisoners, who were given bread made from ground corn cobs, maggot-filled meat, and rotten vegetables. Blankets were scarce, tents were often non-existent, and men were forced to defecate in areas that contaminated drinking water.

One can imagine that the treatment of African American prisoners was far worse. In his pension documents, Hawkins noted that he received 250 lashes for forging a pass; he was stripped naked, forced to lie across a log, and whipped from head to foot. He was shackled and returned to work in the graveyard, where he was threatened with similar treatment if he stopped working for even a few moments. Following the war, this particular event was referenced by two witnesses in the trial of Henry Wirz. This testimony and the testimony of other prisoners resulted in Wirz’s sentence to death by hanging.

In addition to the whipping he received while at Andersonville, it was recorded that he had suffered a sabre wound to his arm and a gunshot wound to his arm and foot; the latter injury mangled his foot and required the use of a cane for the remainder of his life. His brother, Charles R. Hawkins, also enlisted in the Union Army in November of 1864 at the age of sixteen and removed to New Jersey following the war where he worked as a barber. His brother Walter relocated to Pennsylvania and worked the same profession. As for Isaac, he later removed to Washington, D.C. where he died on August 25, 1902; he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Return to top