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local history

Historian says many residents work to preserve local heritage

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 17 February 2018 at 7:58 am

Provided photo: Orleans County Historian Matthew Ballard presents to a class of seventh grade students at Albion Middle School this week. Ballard spent two days with Tim Archer’s Service Learning classes. The historian showed old photos of canal construction, early schools, sandstone quarries, and numerous downtown sites. Ballard will be helping the students put together a 3- by 5-foot interpretive panel on how the Erie Canal developed growth and prosperity in the region. The panel is slated to be located along the canal near the fire station.

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 7

While reflecting on a topic for this weekend’s column, I started to think about some of the amazing opportunities that I have as an historian in New York. We should be thankful that the State requires the appointment of these valuable collectors and interpreters of history for any village or township with over 400 inhabitants.

The New York State Historian recently conducted a survey of county and borough historians, asking pertinent questions about how his office could better support the work of individuals like me. Responses were across the board, but made me realize that much more could and should be undertaken by the Department of History in supporting the work of our local historians.

I had the pleasure of meeting with a group of local historians this week, spending time discussing significant projects, new ideas, and upcoming celebrations. It was a chance to reflect on the hard work and dedication that each brings to the profession. We have a very dedicated group of historians who spend much of their time working behind the scenes, bringing attention to significant people and events in local history, preserving important resources for future generations, and responding to inquiries from people located throughout the world. On a side note, this past summer I had the chance to assist a gentleman from the Lorraine region of France who was researching the nasal flute, patented by William Carter of Albion.

Shelby and Barre are preparing for the passing of significant milestones as they plan for their bicentennial celebrations in the spring and summer of 2018. It is quite admirable that so much can be accomplished with the help of these dedicated individuals. More importantly, so many others in our communities stand up and join in on these endeavors as leaders and volunteers.

I spent two days at Albion Middle School speaking to around 150 seventh-grade students, sharing local photographs and talking about the impact of the Erie Canal on the development of Albion and other villages in New York. After the class, Tim Archer thanked me for taking the time to stop in and share the images and stories. I thanked him in return; no “you’re welcome” needed. I realized that opportunities to engage the youth in our community in a discussion of how local events and people shaped the world around us continue to disappear; seize those opportunities with gusto! Mr. Archer’s service learning class provides students with an ability to become active in their community from an early age, something that many will carry with them into adulthood.

I realized that it was the influence of local historians that spurred my interest in the community and therefore made the decision to remain in Orleans County after college an easy one. I know that other schools engage their students in similar ways; much more can and should be done to tap into the passionate and knowledgeable pool of historians in Orleans County.

That’s what pushed me to write on this subject this weekend; why public history? Our history teachers work diligently to inspire our children to appreciate the role that people and events have played in the development of the United States and New York. It is the realm of public history that engages us locally; the archivist, the librarian, the historian, the art curator, the museum director, all seek out ways to connect those ideas introduced in school on a more local level.

Before Christmas, I had an engaging conversation with a local resident on the role of historical study. We should consider life to be linear in which three points are required to make a straight line; the past, the present, and the future. Although we may fully understand our current point, one cannot set themselves on a straight path into the future without a thorough and complete understanding of the past. Our local historians work tirelessly to assemble an image of bygone days, sharing that with the community, and challenging the traditional narratives of history. They thoroughly scrutinize their sources, seek to produce a truthful and accurate representation of our history, and work meticulously to correct inaccuracies and false information.

As I near the conclusion of my third year as County Historian, I want to thank our village and town historians for their continued hard work and dedication to the field of history. Your commitment to writing, research, education, preservation, and advocacy is inspiring to me and your community.

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African American soldier from Medina was member of famed unit in Civil War

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 10 February 2018 at 8:32 am

The Battle of Olustee, Chromolithograph by Kurz & Allison

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 6

Last week’s article featured the story of Henry A. Spencer, born to ex-slave parents who arrived at Western New York following the Civil War. As the first African American student at the University of Rochester, his story is an important one not only for that institution but also for Orleans County. Another African American from Orleans County, Isaac Hawkins, represents another 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 twenty-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.

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Albion native was University of Rochester’s first African American student

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 3 February 2018 at 8:40 am

Photograph courtesy of the University of Rochester

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 5

The history of Orleans County’s African American population in the earliest decades of our area is scarce and unknown in many aspects. Some residents may be familiar with the story of Richard Gordineer who, as an infant, was sold by his father to Joseph Grant; Grant eventually settled in the Shelby/Medina area. After New York abolished slavery in 1827, Gordineer became a free man and a well-respected citizen of Medina. Other stories involve families, like those of Henry Spencer and Jacob Carter, who came to Western New York with local Union army officers at the conclusion of the Civil War.

Spencer came to Orleans County with Lt. Hiram Sickels of the 17th New York Light Independent Artillery sometime around 1866. After earning enough money working for George Sickels, he brought his wife and children to this area. One of Spencer’s sons, Henry Austin, spent the majority of his teenage years working for Asa and William Howard as an errand boy until he reached adulthood. While he worked, he made his best efforts to attend the local schools, which he attended for approximately three months out of the year. A biographical sketch of Spencer noted that he kept up with his fellow classmates by “burning the midnight oil.”

He attended Miss Mabel Foster’s boarding school in Philadelphia, becoming the first African American admitted to that institution where he quickly became one of the more popular students. Spencer then attended the Brockport Normal School, where he was one of the few African American students at an institution with several hundred students. The impressive young man graduated in 1880, about 10 years after Fannie Barrier Williams became the first African American student to graduate from the school. During commencement week, Spencer was selected as the Gamma Sigma orator, an honor that earned him a full scholarship to the University of Rochester shortly after. It was not the scholarship that was unprecedented, but Spencer’s acceptance to the University, which marked the first time in the history of the institution that an African American was accepted into the institution.

Upon the conclusion of his schooling, he studied law under the Hon. George H. Smith of Rochester while working to support his family. Spencer was appointed to a position in Albany in the speaker’s room thanks to a former University of Rochester classmate, Hon. James M. E. O’Grady. When S. Fred Nixon assumed the role as speaker of the State Assembly, Spencer was appointed as Nixon’s confidential clerk, a position which he continued to hold through the tenure of the Hon. James Wadsworth, Jr.

Upon his retirement in 1929, he had served in government for over 30 years and worked for a period of time under Governor Alfred E. Smith and other prominent state officials. At the time of his death on September 25, 1935 in Rochester, he was one of the area’s more prominent African American citizens. He was a past grand master of the New York State Colored Masons, an organization which consisted of over 2,000 members across New York.

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Early calls for abolitionist lectures fell on deaf ears in Orleans County

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 27 January 2018 at 8:39 am

Frederick Douglass and abolitionists gave speeches in Orleans County.

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 4, Issue 4

As we near Black History Month in February, I was researching local African American families in Orleans County and attempting to assemble an understanding of this particular topic in local history.

Without a doubt, it is an area that requires deeper research and is indicative of larger gaps in our understanding of how history was traditionally recorded; ideas of power and disparity. I am assembling a small display of local historical photographs pertaining to African American communities in Orleans County from the 1820s through the 1920s, which will be on display at the Hoag Library in February, but I thought it pertinent to recall some early pieces of abolitionist history in our area.

In 2015, the Orleans Renaissance Group erected a historic marker in Medina to commemorate the site of an address delivered by Frederick Douglass entitled “We Are Not Yet Quite Free,” on August 3, 1869. As the marker notes, a large crowd traveled from across New York to hear the renowned abolitionist speak; the engagement was focused on celebrating the 30th anniversary of emancipation in the British West Indies.

This particular event was not the first time that Douglass spoke in Orleans County. Four years earlier on October 2, 1865, Douglass spoke at Bent’s Hall on the subject of Lincoln’s assassination and its lessons. As Douglass so eloquently spoke, “Some of our friends seem to think our emancipation complete and our claims upon them at an end. A greater mistake could hardly be made. The colored people of the United States are still the victims of special and peculiar hardships, abuses and oppressions, and we still need time, labor and favorable events to work out our perfect deliverance.”

Combing through issues of The North Star, published by Douglass in Rochester, we find that men and women traveled throughout the area lecturing on the antislavery cause. John S. Jacobs, the brother of abolitionist lecturer, reformer, and escaped slave Harriet Jacobs, visited Orleans County in March and April of 1849. Upon the completion of his lecture circuit, he addressed a lengthy letter to Frederick Douglass which appeared in The North Star on April 20, 1849. The words expressed by Jacobs reflect poorly on our area’s willingness to lend an ear to the abolitionist cause.

On March 19, 1849, Jacobs arrived at Clarendon and spoke to a small audience at the Universalist Church, followed by a visit the next day at “Southbarr,” or South Barre as we would know it. While attending a religious meeting held in the local school house, Jacobs asked the Rev. Albert H. Gaston of the Presbyterian Church if he could speak to the congregation at Barre Center. Gaston noted that a revival was taking place and that the “introduction of the subject of Slavery, Peace, Temperance, or anything calculated to draw off their minds from the importance of getting religion,” was unacceptable. Jacobs notes that a man referred to as Mr. O. T. Burns agreed with Gaston, stating that he “knew that we (abolitionists) said some hard things of slaveholders that they did not deserve; he said they were kind and hospitable.”

Photo by Tom Rivers: This historical marker in honor ofFrederick Douglass was dedicated in Medina on April 24, 2015.

Trips to Pine Hill, Oakfield, and Barre followed before a visit to Albion on March 24th. Jacobs notes that no effort was made to arrange a meeting and that the Court House was “the only public building that is not barred against the cause of the oppressed,” a building which was “newly painted.” A deacon in the Presbyterian Church attempted to arrange for use of the building for a lecture, but the Rev. William McHarg objected. The deacon in turn referred Jacobs to Eagle Harbor where he “would find friends and an antislavery church.” He spoke to a small group that had assembled for morning worship – muddy streets made it impossible to travel by foot.

This trip was followed by a stop at West Gaines and then Johnson’s Creek, where Jacobs was required to pay fifty cents to the local church for the privilege of opening the building for a lecture. Other lectures followed at Ridgeway Corners, Lyndonville, and Medina, the latter having a large gathering of pro-Zachary Taylor Whigs, much to the chagrin of the visitor. After attempts to gather a crowd at Gaines and Albion, he returned to the Methodist Church at Eagle Harbor on April 7th where he spoke to a large, disorderly crowd made up of canal boatmen “whose highest idea of manliness seemed to be disturbance.” His final stop at Holley on the 8th of April was met by a Presbyterian minister who kindly waived an evening meeting so that Jacobs would have the benefit of a full house.

He concluded the letter by writing, “At no time during my laboring in the cause as a lecturer, have I found so few friends, as on the present occasion. In some of these towns, it has been more than a year since the slaves of this land have had anyone to tell of their wrongs.”

Over the coming years, multiple visits by William J. Watkins, Charles Lenox Remond, and Frederick Douglass to communities throughout Orleans County gave rise to changing mentalities on the disease of slavery.

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Clarendon’s settlement was a fortunate stroke of serendipity

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 20 January 2018 at 8:43 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 4, Issue 3

CLARENDON – Of the New York State Historic Markers erected by the NYS Department of Education, the overwhelming majority cover locations deemed significant to the earliest history of Orleans County including Native American and pioneer sites. The marker situated at the Town Park on Holley Byron Road in Clarendon calls attention to one of the earlier settlements in our area.

The marker reads, “Farwell’s Mills, here Eldred Farwell, first white settler of town, built the first mills in Clarendon, saw mill in 1811, grist mill in 1813.”

While consulting several seminal publications on early Orleans County history, the spelling of Farwell’s name is clearly debated; here, the State Department of Education uses a shortened spelling. Arad Thomas records Farwell’s name as Eldridge in Pioneer History of Orleans County, New York, but this historian would prefer to reference Farwell’s name as spelled by David Sturges Copeland in his History of Clarendon from 1810 to 1888 where he records the name as Eldredge.

Perhaps this is a detail that would only concern Farwell himself, but his contributions to the early settlement of Clarendon are also duly noted within the pages of these books. Born to William and Bethel Eldredge Farwell on March 6, 1770 at Charlestown, New Hampshire, Eldredge settled in the vicinity of Clarkson along the Ridge Road. From other publications, we know that his brother Isaac settled nearby to the west of the Ridge Road and Lake Road intersection in the same location.

As so many historians have recorded, the story of Clarendon’s foundation occurred by happenchance after the unfortunate escape of Isaac Farwell’s horse around 1810. Following the animal’s trail along the bank of Sandy Creek, it is said that Eldredge stumbled upon a waterfall and while recognizing its potential for power, decided that he should settle the area. Farwell purchased approximately 210 acres the following year and relocated his wife and five children to the area in the spring of 1811. With that acreage upon which the beautiful waterfall sat came the mill privilege, providing him with the opportunity to construct a grist mill on the site.

In the unsettled wilderness of Orleans County, the role of the mill owner was one of significance, prestige, and prominence. Grist millers held the key to survival, providing an invaluable service to settlers who needed to grind corn and wheat into flour. Settlers could travel west, east, or south to “nearby” locations to grind their grains, but trips to these areas were marred by unimproved roads, swamps, and waterways without bridges. The convenience of a local miller, of course, was preferred and Ambrose Ferguson was hired to labor in the mill at the astonishing rate of $20 per month.

Farwell’s establishment of a grist mill in 1811 followed by a saw mill in 1813 provided a significant amount of political capital to the 43-year-old pioneer. When the town held early elections for the position of supervisor, he was selected by his neighbors to the post. He operated the first post office at the location then known as “Farwell’s Mills,” which his sons later assisted in delivering mail to Byron Center by horseback when the stagecoaches operated between Rochester and Buffalo. He was later selected as a judge in the court of common pleas and from that point on was known locally as Judge Farwell.

When William Morgan disappeared in 1826, presumed to have been kidnapped and murdered by Masons, a series of trials took place in Orleans County involving local men accused of participating in the conspiracy. Elihu Mather, brother of Gaines pioneer James Mather, was accused of driving the carriage carrying Morgan through Orleans County. The exhaustive process of selecting unbiased jurors resulted in Judge Farwell’s participation in the defense’s challenge of Stephen Martin as a potential juror. According to Farwell, Martin had expressed an opinion of guilt, telling him explicitly that the masonic institution was corrupt, that Morgan was forcibly carried by carriage along Ridge Road, and that Morgan was most certainly in the carriage driven by Mather. The testimony resulted in Judge Addison Gardiner setting Martin aside as a juror.

The site on which this marker sits was donated to the Clarendon Grange in 1940 by Morris Brackett, Chief Game Protector of the NYS Conservation Department and a descendant of Farwell.

Erratum: Volume 4, Issue 2 noted that B. T. Roberts was removed from the pulpit of the Methodist Church in Albion – Roberts was living in Albion and relocated to Pekin, NY, but did not serve as pastor of the Albion Methodist Church. A huge thank you to Pastor Randy LeBaron for the correction!

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2 history experts from Albion will speak at GCC series

Posted 18 January 2018 at 3:11 pm

Press Release, GCC

The Genesee Community College History Club is excited to release its spring Historical Horizons Lecture Series line up. The series provides the community with access to renowned authors and historians as they take a deep look at the events and movements that have shaped our nation’s history.

“The spring series line up will provide very unique perspectives on bloody battles and war, the Trail of Tears, and immigration,” says GCC’s Associate Professor Derek Maxfield. “This series is sure to inform and even entertain.”

Photo courtesy of Richard Belisle: Kevin R. Pawlak, an Albion native, is the featured speaker in February at both the Medina Campus Center and the Batavia Campus.

• Tuesday, February 6, 2018 at 7 p.m. / Medina Campus/ Maple Ridge Rd, Medina

Author Kevin R. Pawlak will discuss his book “Shepherdstown in the Civil War: One Vast Confederate Hospital.” During the Civil War the small town of Shepherdstown, West Virginia was suddenly flooded with Confederate soldiers wounded in battle. Homes and churches transformed into triage centers and in all, the town, into “one vast hospital.”

• Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 7 p.m. / Batavia Campus/ Room T102

Kevin R. Pawlak will join us again to present “The Jewels of War: Robert E. Lee, George B. McClellan, and the Battle of Antietam.” Pawlak is also the director of education for the Mosby Heritage Area Association in Virginia. The Battle of Antietam is America’s Bloodiest single day. In totality, twelve hours of fighting on Wednesday, September 17, 1862 left approximately 23,000 casualties. During this lecture, Pawlak will assess the dramatic events of the battle from the unique perspective of the commanders on the field.

• Wednesday, April 4, 2018 at 7 p.m. / Batavia Campus/ Room T102

GCC adjunct professor Danny Hamner will present “The Removal Crisis of 1832: How Nationalism, Political Ambition and the Electoral College Shaped the Trail of Tears.” Often, the “Trail of Tears” is remembered as the inevitable tragedy of an indigenous people swept aside by the rising forces of modern America.

While there certainly were large historical forces transforming America in the early 19th century, the removal crises of the period were ultimately shaped by the personalities, politics and needs of the movement. The mix of personal ambitions and zealous nationalism linked the destiny of the Cherokee Nation to Henry Clay’s presidential aspirations with catastrophic but not inevitable results.

Matthew Ballard

• Wednesday, May 2, 2018 at 7 p.m. / Batavia Campus/ Room T102  (Rescheduled from 12/6/17)

Orleans County Historian Matthew R. Ballard, MLS will present “Fear of the Unknown: Creating the Illegal Immigrant in 19th Century America”. Immigration to the United States is a relative topic in current events; however, the establishment of the “illegal immigrant” only dates back to the turn of the 20th century.

In the earliest years of immigration, Europeans were accepted without restriction, but an influx of new immigrants during the latter half of the 19th century raised concerns about political impacts on American society. Uncertainty and unfounded fears created excessive restrictions focused on limiting access to specific ethnic/ racial groups, religious groups, the disabled, the infirmed and those likely to become a “public charge”.

All lectures in this series begin at 7 p.m. in room T102 of the Conable Technology Building. All lectures are free and open to the public.

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Nominations sought for Heritage Heroes in Orleans County

Photo by Tom Rivers: Richard and Shirley Nellist are pictured at Boxwood Cemetery in Medina last May. The couple was honored as “Heritage Heroes” for their efforts in preparing detailed records for the 11 cemeteries in the Town of Ridgeway – over 11,000 burials all told, which are now loaded into the Orleans County Genweb system online and available for anyone doing genealogical research. They are active members of the Medina Historical Society.

Posted 16 January 2018 at 10:22 am

Press Release, GCC

Now in its fifth year, Genesee Community College and the Orleans Hub are proud to continue the Orleans County Heritage Heroes Awards which recognize the dedication and hard work of dedicated citizens who strive to protect and preserve local history. They are now seeking nominations for the awards. Nominations will be accepted through Feb. 19.

“One of the most remarkable aspects of living in Orleans County is the many people who share a vested interest in our local heritage,” said Jim Simon, associate dean of GCC’s Orleans County Campus Centers in Medina and Albion. “Now in our fifth consecutive year, we recognize the time and investment of individuals who work tirelessly to preserve and protect our local history-be it oral or written histories, as well as the people, places, artifacts, buildings or landmarks in our homeland.”

Nominees for Heritage Heroes Awards can be any age but posthumous nominations will not be accepted. History professionals and GCC employees are also not eligible for the award, nor are those who serve on the awards selection committees. Nominees must be Orleans County residents.

The six winners honored last year included: Jim Hancock, Ken McPherson, Richard and Shirley Nellist, Gretchen Sepik, and Alice Zacher received the special C.W. “Bill” Lattin Award for Excellence in Municipal History. Because nominations are not retained for future consideration, residents who made previous nominations are encouraged to re-submit a nominee again for this coming year.

“The Heritage Heroes Awards program recognizes the members of our community who are dedicated to preserving the local treasures that add to the quality of life and character of our community,” Tom Rivers, Orleans Hub editor said. “These residents are from all over the county and they work hard on restoring historic houses and protecting numerous community assets such as museums, churches, monuments and numerous buildings that make up our unique landscape.”

To nominate someone for the Heritage Heroes Awards, write up a brief statement outlining the person’s contributions, projects and community affiliations. Anyone sending in a nomination should provide their name (anonymous nomination packages will not be accepted), address, phone number and email address. The more in-depth the detail provided in the nomination, the stronger the submission. Submit the nomination to:

ATTENTION: Heritage Heroes Committee

Genesee Community College / Medina Campus Center

11470 Maple Ridge Rd.Medina, NY 14103-9675

Nominations may also be emailed to Jim Simon at Please write Heritage Heroes Nomination in the subject line.

A screening committee made up of community members, history professionals and GCC students will review the nominations and select finalists. From those finalists, a committee including GCC Associate Dean Jim Simon, Associate Professor Derek Maxfield and Orleans Hub Editor Tom Rivers will choose the Heritage Heroes.

“The Heritage Heroes Awards is a point of pride in our community, and the ceremony is always a highlight of my year,” Prof. Maxfield said. “Recognizing the unsung heroes who work hard to ensure local history survives into the next generations is vitally important to the cultural life of our community.”

The Heritage Heroes will be recognized during a ceremony at Genesee Community College in Medina in April 2018.

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Free Methodist denomination started in Albion

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 13 January 2018 at 8:46 am

One of church’s early issues: opposition to pew rental system

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 4, Issue 2

ALBION – Nearly thirty years ago, an historic marker was installed on the corner of East State and Platt Streets in Albion to mark the location of the first Free Methodist Church. Installed in 1990 by the County Department of History to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the establishment of the church, the marker reads:

“The first Free Methodist Church in the denomination. Rev. Loren Stiles founded the congregation in 1859, Norman Revival in style it was dedicated May 18, 1860.”

The history of this particular congregation dates back to the pastorate of Rev. Benjamin Titus Roberts, who was appointed to the Methodist Episcopal Church at Albion in 1855. Upon his arrival, the congregation was the second-largest in the Genesee Conference with a membership of 285. After the completion of his second year at the pulpit, the numerical growth of the congregation was stagnant.

In August of 1857, a two-part article written by Roberts entitled “New School Methodism” appeared in the pages of the newly established Northern Independent. It was in this work that Roberts attacked the pew rental system of the church, a clear departure from “Old School Methodism.” He also placed emphasis on two theological errors in New School Methodism; placing good works in place of faith in Christ and equating justification with sanctification. This publication would ultimately lead to the expulsion of Roberts from the Genesee Conference.

Upon the removal of Roberts from the pulpit at Albion, Rev. Loren Stiles was sent to assume leadership of the congregation; Stiles remained at the pulpit until his expulsion from the Genesee Conference in 1859. F. W. Conable claimed that Rev. Stiles made the following statement, “There is a secession already from the church; the regency party are the secessionists. Of this class there are only a few in Albion, and those shall be read out…they have placed a false interpretation on the Bible and on the Discipline, and this is why I and others are out of the Conference and the Church.” To Stiles, he and his followers were members of the true Methodist Episcopal Church.

Gilbert DeLaMatyr, a future U.S. Congressman from Indiana, was sent to replace Rev. Stiles at the pulpit of the Methodist Church in Albion, much to the disliking of the congregation. It is recorded that 185 members of the Methodist congregation agreed to pay Stiles $600 to return to Albion and assume the pulpit of a newly established congregational church. Accepting this role, Stiles and his congregants formed the Congregational Free Methodist Church, holding services in the “Old Academy” until the basement of the new church was finished. The dedication of the $11,000 building was held on May 18, 1860 in the presence of a full church (approx. 1,300 people). On November 8, 1860, Stiles and his congregation joined the newly established Free Methodist denomination.

In 1861, Stiles was elected to the position of Evangelist Missionary Secretary and Chairman, which forced him to leave Albion. He remained in that position until his untimely death in 1863 from typhoid fever. Upon his expulsion from the Genesee Conference in 1859, a former presiding elder remarked that the Conference lost its scholar and orator; B.T. Roberts was the scholar and Stiles the orator.

This photograph shows the Free Methodist Church at Albion as it appeared before a series of alterations occurred in 1899. In the spring of that year, the floor of the church was lowered six feet and a tower was added to the northwest corner of the building, effectively relocating the central doorway as seen in this image. A chapel on that corner was relocated to the south end, additional entrances added, and eighteen feet worth of space on the south side removed.

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Shadigee once home to shipping pier

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 6 January 2018 at 8:07 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 4, Issue 1

YATES – Another year has passed, and I often wonder if I will have enough “new” material to write 52 articles. Reflecting on the number of requests for information that flow through my office on a weekly basis, I started thinking about the number of questions I have received about the various New York State historic markers.

Although the State no longer funds the purchase, installation, or upkeep of these important monuments, those installed since the program started in 1926 showcase locations that are significant to the development of our communities. Perhaps utilizing some space in this column will help add to the information cast upon these blue and gold signs.

In 1989, an Urban Development Corporation grant was used to install fifteen historic markers in towns and villages throughout Orleans County. The project was initiated through the Orleans County Tourism Board and is noted on each marker as “Orleans County Community Pride” (Bill Lattin wrote about this project in his column Bethinking of Old Orleans vol. 11, no. 39). Each marker was cast from heavy aluminum by the Walton-East Branch Foundry in Walton, NY and installed by the respective highway departments for each municipality. These markers now cost around $1,300, but were less than half of that total when this project was undertaken.

These signs, such as the one installed at Shadigee to mark the location of Yates Pier, serve a valuable purpose in pinpointing significant historical sites that no longer exist. As the marker reads, a 275-foot-long pier was built in 1850 by Nathan Gilbert to ship lumber and grain by way of Lake Ontario. H. A. Botsford served as a customs agent at the location which also served as a docking area for passenger ships and freighters.

Situated approximately one mile north of Yates Center, a business venture was started by area farmers who hoped to create a pier from which to ship wheat and other grains to Canada and eastern New York. George Lane, a prominent farmer from Newfane, held the majority stock in the company and the 26-year-old Nathan Gilbert of Yates was selected to construct the pier. In 1852, Jonathan Edgecomb of the Orleans County Committee on Farms indicated in a report to the New York State Assembly that Berrick Gilbert, father of Nathan, operated a large farm near the lake in Yates which occupied some of the finest land in the county. A warehouse was constructed near the pier upon the old Chamberlain & Simpson warehouse site, which was swept into the lake several years prior.

Lane relocated from Newfane to Lockport in 1856 where he opened a nursery business selling fruit and ornamental trees. Erastus M. Spaulding took over the shipping business until he entered the Army during the Civil War, to which his brother Henry and another man, O. D. Phelps, took over the business. In 1873, Richard Barry opened a lumber yard near the pier dealing in pine and cedar shingles, yellow cedar posts, fence boards, and lath, as well as plaster water lime and cement, which he “kept constantly on hand and sold cheap for cash.”

Yates Historian Virgina Cooper noted that the site was prominent among fishermen as well, including Harvey Moon and George G. Thayer who were mentioned specifically in the 1870s. Yet just like Oak Orchard Harbor, this site became a destination for pleasure seekers, many whom opted to stay at the Ontario House operated by Silas Hopkins (the site now occupied by the water treatment plant). Upon the hotel’s reopening in 1876 after renovations, the building offered a large dining room, a 20×60 foot hall for dancing, two croquet courts, boats “with experienced men to attend them,” large swings, and bathing houses; it was destroyed by a fire in 1925.

Of course, the site was not without its fair share of misfortunes. In October of 1873, the Young America, a propeller vessel departing from Oswego and bound for Cleveland, broke down at 4 p.m. on October 22nd, two miles above the pier. Eventually the vessel drifted towards shore and ran aground, taking on water. A tug boat was dispatched to retrieve the vessel soon after. Five years later on August 24, 1878, eighty people from Shelby, Ridgeway, and Medina boarded the tug J.J. Morely from the pier for an excursion trip to Port Hope, west of Coburg, Ontario. The vessel departed at 8:30 a.m. and did not arrive until 3 p.m. The rough seas caused quite the commotion, “badly stirring up” the passengers, “particularly the Misses.” In the hopes of avoiding the turbulent waters, the passengers stayed overnight, but the return voyage was considered far worse than the prior trip!

When Isaac Signor published Landmarks of Orleans County, New York in 1894, he noted that there were no remnants or any indication that a pier ever existed at the site. In 1981, County Legislator Frank Berger pushed the issue of constructing a fishing pier on the site.

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Church used murals to tell story of Christmas

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 30 December 2017 at 10:20 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 3, Issue 53

ALBION – During the holiday season, I often think back to the years I spent as a young boy, enjoying Christmas with family and friends; simpler times. The memory that remains fresh in my mind is Christmas Eve Mass at St. Mary’s Assumption on Brown Street in Albion. We would walk down the street to church and visit with parishioners, young and old, before walking to my grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner.

I always remember being enamored with the beautiful artwork that adorned the ceiling of the nave, but at that time I had no idea of the significance of the paintings, who completed the work, or what the paintings depicted. I am sure the question of how an artist managed to paint on such a high ceiling was the predominant thought circling in my head.

Starting in the 1930s and continuing through the 1940s, the Polish Catholics in Albion realized as they neared their golden jubilee that the interior of the church was in need of considerable improvements. The sanctuary was relatively plain in comparison to the churches in the “old world,” many which were beautified with murals and statuary inside and out.

It is believed that Rev. John Hrycyna sought out Jozef Mazur, the renowned ecclesiastical painter of Buffalo, to complete artwork in the sanctuary of the church including murals of the Virgin Mary, the Binding of Isaac, and the Meeting of Abraham and Melchizedek. Polish priests throughout Western New York were familiar with Mazur’s abilities as his first major sacred project consisted of the interior paintings at Buffalo’s St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr, the mother church of Polonia.

It was later confirmed through financial receipts that Marion Rzeznik, another ecclesiastical painter from Buffalo, completed the six murals that adorned the nave of the church sometime after Mazur completed his work in the sanctuary. These men would have considered themselves “rivals” of one another, but the parish sought continued assistance from both artists over the coming years to complete additional work and touch up existing murals. Perhaps one of the most beautiful murals is Rzeznik’s “Adoration of the Magi,” the second of three murals situated on the southern portion of the nave.

The particular image depicted by Rzeznik is that of the Epiphany and is one that is rooted in traditional, late medieval representations. The representation of the Magi as “Kings” was the product of the Christian writer Tertullian, who was the first to refer to them in this manner. In more traditional works, the men were dressed in Mithraic robes and Phrygian caps, symbolic of their roots as astrologers of the Persian court.

Here we see Caspar, the eldest, kneeling with his gift of gold, representing Jesus as King. Balthazar, represented as the African brings a gift of myrrh, foreshadowing Christ’s eventual death. Melchior, the youngest, presents his gift of frankincense as a representation of Christ’s divinity. The three men are often depicted in a manner which represents the three known parts of the world during the medieval times; Europe, Asia, and Africa.

The camel present in the background is often seen as a representation of Asia, but is also symbolic of obedience. Mary wears her traditional blue and red representative of love and we see Joseph who wears brown and earthen tones representative of humility and poverty. Also present is a ladder and rope. Both of these pieces are traditionally associated with the crucifixion and are often viewed as a representation of Christ’s future.

This mural and others completed by Rzeznik in St. Mary’s Assumption were some of the last remaining examples of these particular subjects. The mural of the Blessed Virgin Mary, completed by Mazur, was painted in the likeness of Mazur’s wife. That particular mural was painted over after the building was sold.

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