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local history

Albion students dedicate new gravestones for 2 girls killed in 1859 bridge collapse

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 October 2017 at 9:13 am

Provided photos

ALBION – Albion seventh-grade students on Monday dedicated two headstones at Mount Albion Cemetery for children who died in the bridge collapse on the Erie Canal on Sept. 28, 1859, one of the worst tragedies in the community’s history.

There were about 250 people gathered on the Main Street bridge over the canal to watch a wire walker cross the canal. The bridge collapsed, killing 15 people. There were 11 children among the dead, including Lydia Harris, age 11. Lydia did not have a headstone.

Albion students, Alexis Hess (left) and Nicholas Harling are pictured with Al Capurso, president of the Orleans County Historical Association, at the new headstone for Lydia Harris.

The Historical Association donated $500 towards two headstones. In addition to the one for Lydia, the cemetery has a new headstone for Mary Jane Lavery, age 16. Her headstone was badly damaged. The Albion service-learning class was able to get two new “era appropriate” stones as replacements.

Service Learning teacher Tim Archer said that the students have enjoyed learning about local history and look forward to the other projects that are planned this year that are part of 200th anniversary observance of the start of the Erie Canal construction. Contractors started digging the canal in 1817 in Rome, NY. The full 363-mile-long canal was completed in 1825.

These students look at the original broken Lavery headstone. They include, from left: Mercy Sugar, Lisa Beam and Yoselyn Lauro.

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Historian seeks to set the record the straight about ‘spiteful sale’ of Proctor homestead

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 21 October 2017 at 8:38 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 3, Issue 43

ALBION – The trial of George Wilson, accused of murdering his wife Alice in 1887, remains one of the most infamous stories in Orleans County. His trial and execution is a tale filled with speculation and accusation, while the later story of District Attorney William P. L. Stafford is shrouded in spite and hatred following his upsetting defeat in the 1895 election for County Judge. Despite its popularity, much of the story exists as hyperbole and conjecture concerning Stafford’s motives following his embarrassing loss.

I was contacted by Gerard Morrisey following my article featuring John Newton Proctor and kindly reminded that the property, which was so scandalously sold to the Catholics by William Stafford, was in fact sold by his wife Clara. It is important to trace the lineage of the property itself to better understand the situation in which the Staffords were faced with in 1896. It is also important to note that in 1848, New York passed the Married Women’s Property Act that gave married women the right to own real and personal property that was not “subject to the disposal of her husband.”

John Newton Proctor entered the employ of William Gere upon his arrival in Albion and shortly after married Gere’s daughter, Orcelia. Gere and Proctor’s partnership was dissolved upon the death of Gere in 1865 and the subsequent death of Gere’s son Isaac in 1866. The Proctors lived on the Gere parcel at the intersection of West Park and Main Streets until Orcelia’s death on March 7, 1888. Upon her death, Mrs. Proctor bequeathed to her husband “the House [and] premises situate[d] in Albion aforesaid in which I now reside [and] being the same premises which my parents lived at the time of their death;” a clear indicator of who owned the property.

The parcel fell under the ownership of Mr. Proctor for a very short period of time, as his untimely death on February 11, 1889 transferred the property again. Proctor clearly expected his wife to predecease him as his will left everything to his wife with no mention of children. The result was a transfer of all property, real and personal, to his daughter Clara Stafford, which in addition to the beautiful and stately brick residence also included a commercial parcel in downtown Albion and other parcels throughout the area.

The traditional narrative revolving around the parish of St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church says that ex-District Attorney Stafford, a “disgruntled Baptist,” sold his property to the congregation. In fact, it was Clara Stafford who sold the parcel to the Catholics, as it was not her husband’s property to sell. In 1895, William Perry Lucian Stafford made a daring charge at the position of County Judge, challenging Isaac S. Signor to a battle for the Republican nomination. When Stafford was nominated over Signor, the Republicans shifted their attention to attacking the credibility of Stafford as a candidate and allegedly encouraging many local voters to defect to the Democrats. Ben S. Dean of Jamestown sent a lengthy letter to the editor in early October of 1895 stating locals were spreading stories that “Mr. Stafford was buying beer for the Polanders” and slinging other outrageous accusations. In closing he wrote, “it is not good politics to have a Democratic County Judge in office in a Presidential year.”

Later stories suggested that Republican voters were “tricked” at the caucuses, which resulted in W. Crawford Ramsdale’s 279-vote victory over Stafford in the election. Stafford later told newspaper editors that Irving M. Thompson of Albion was behind his defeat, becoming defiant after his nomination, and encouraging other Republicans like Edwin Wage, R. Titus Coann, Isaac Signor, and others to follow suit, throwing “all the ice water he could on the Republican ticket.” It was clear that Stafford’s distaste for the Republicans was more of an issue than lack of support from the Baptists.

Local lore claims that Stafford sold his house to the Catholics, uprooted his family (including his deceased children), and relocated to California. The February 18, 1896 indenture notes that Clara Stafford was already living in Los Angeles at the time of the transfer. The parcel, sold at $9,000 (or approximately $262,000 today) included the “brick dwelling house, brick barn, and brick tenant house.” Mrs. Stafford reserved use of the dwelling house until May 1, 1896 and the use of the attic for “the storage of her personal effects” until April 1, 1897; the transfer was signed by her, not Mr. Stafford, and makes no mention of her husband.

The other piece of local lore involves the anecdote that Mr. Stafford required that the Catholics build their church as close to the street as possible, as to block the view of the Baptist edifice. This is likely exaggerated as no written claim to this exists, however, the local papers published a notation that highlighted the Baptist’s displeasure with the sale. The writer notes that the parcel of land was sold by Mrs. W. P. L. Stafford, but the agreement could be broken at the cost of $500. The Baptists were concerned that the “chanting, responsive reading, etc. of the Catholic service [would] cause great annoyance to their own services during the summer months when the windows…would be apt to be open.”

Although it was long believed that Stafford’s role in the prosecution and execution of George Wilson led, in part, to his defeat in 1895, his challenging of conventional party politics was viewed as the likely culprit. After his departure from Albion, he remained connected to the area through family and friends, visiting on occasion until his death on September 17, 1919. The story of Stafford’s spiteful sale of his house to the Catholics may not be entirely true, but it remains an intriguing part of Albion’s history. After all, legends are often rooted in truth.

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4 sites inducted into Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 October 2017 at 6:10 pm

Presbyterian Church in Albion, Batavia library, Rochester cemetery and Jamestown church join exclusive club

Photo by Tom Rivers: Four new inductees were added to the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame this afternoon, including First Presbyterian Church in Albion, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, and First Lutheran Church of Jamestown. Pictured in front from left: Cathy Vail, CFO for Holy Sepulchre; Lynn Sullivan, CEO of Holy Sepulcre; Tim McGee, elder at First Presbyterian Church in Albion; and Twyla Boyer, First Presbyterian’s pastor. Back row: Brenda Gagliano, Holy Sepulchre’s records coordinator; Dan Nagle, pastor of First Lutheran Church in Jamestown; Jim Jacobs, facilities director for Batavia City School District which owns and maintains Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia; Rob Conrad, director of Richmond Memorial; and Chris Dailey, superintendent of Batavia City School District.

MEDINA – The Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame inducted four new members into the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame, bringing the number of inductees in the HOF to 24 since the first class was inducted in 2013.

The new inductees include the First Presbyterian Church in Albion, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia, and First Lutheran Church of Jamestown.

The Presbyterian Church is the ninth site from Orleans County in the Hall of Fame. Genesee has its first entry with the library in Batavia. Jamestown and Chautauqua County are also making their debut in the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame with the First Lutheran Church. Holy Sepulchre is second site from Rochester to join the HOF.

The Hall of Fame Committee – Jim Hancock, David Miller and Don Colquhoun – make road trips to all of the nominees and do research on the buildings. Hancock, the Sandstone Society president, said he has developed a far deeper appreciation for the local quarried stone.

“We have been truly amazed over the years of the multitude of buildings that are still standing from a seemingly indestructible building material,” Hancock.

The Hall of Fame inductees all deserve praise for maintaining what are often cavernous structures, Hancock said. All of the inductees today shared stories of recent costly renovations, from mortar repointings to new slate roofs.

The following were inducted in the Class of 2016, with the descriptions courtesy of Medina Sandstone Society:

• First Presbyterian Church of Albion

Jim Hancock, right, reads the plaque about the First Presbyterian Church in Albion, which was represented by elder Tim McGee and pastor Twyla Boyer.

The First Presbyterian Church is a beautiful example of rose colored Medina Sandstone. The church commissioned famed architect Andrew Jackson Warner from Rochester to come up with a design for the new church.

It is rumored that the building committee told the architect they wanted a building like his First Presbyterian Church he built in 1871 in Rochester, but with a steeple taller than the Albion Baptist Church. The steeple was to be 175 feet, taller by 15 feet. Construction began in 1874 and completed and dedicated in 1875 and for over 140 years the bells in the majestic bell tower have been calling worshipers to service every Sunday.


Boyer spoke during the Hall of Fame induction at Medina City Hall, where the plaques are on display. She said the Albion congregation has been a dedicated steward of the building.

“It is a beautiful church,” she said. “It is a pleasure to be there.”

McGee said the congregation has tackled a recent major interior renovation and last year had to fix the slate roof.

“We continue to make progress preserving the church,” he said. “It’s just beautiful inside.”

• Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia

Rob Conrad, the library director, praised the Batavia City School District for its ongoing maintenance of the historic site.

The Richmond Memorial Library is a beautiful example of light gray Medina Sandstone and red Albion stone. The style is Richardsonian Romanesque and was designed by Rochester architect James Cutler. The Richmond Library employs the style of two-tone sandstone in a random ashlar pattern with a battered foundation and a steep gable roof.

Mrs. Mary Richmond donated a piece of land at the rear of the family property and construction of a library began on July 11, 1887 and was dedicated on March 12, 1889. Mrs. Richmond donated $24,000 towards the cost and insisted on using local labor to build this magnificent building.

The library was named after her son Dean Richmond, Jr., who died in his youth. Mrs. Richmond, noted for her charity, then donated the library to the Union Free School District. The Richmond Library is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was registered on July 24, 1974.


Rob Conrad, library director, said he and the staff are thrilled to see the library go into the Hall of Fame. He praised the Batavia City School District for its ongoing commitment to maintain the site. Conrad said he is impressed by the communities that rallied their dollars to build such impressive buildings in the region, using Medina Sandstone.

“You see the beauty of the buildings and their ingenuity,” he said.

• Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester

Lynn Sullivan, CEO of Holy Sepulchre, accepts the award for cemetery.

All Souls’ Chapel, designed by noted architect Andrew Jackson Warner, was built in 1876, and has become the centerpiece of the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, N.Y. The small but graceful building features a steep slate roof, supporting hammer beams, and exquisitely designed stained glass windows featuring the 14 stations of the Cross made in Roermond, Holland.

A companion 100-foot bell tower built in 1886 houses a six crypt mausoleum, the final resting place for the Bishops of the diocese including Bishop Bernard McQuaid, the founder of the cemetery. The Chapel as well as the two gate houses and 1.36-mile stone wall surrounding the cemetery are all made of beautifully preserved and restored red Medina Sandstone.


Holy Sepulchre is “synonymous with Medina Sandstone,” said Lynn Sullivan, the cemetery’s chief executive officer. The cemetery is committed to keeping up the historic chapel and bell tower.

“We love Medina Sandstone,” she said. “It’s what the cemetery is known for.”

• First Lutheran Church in Jamestown

The Rev. Dan Nagle is proud of the church in Jamestown, which has 1,100 seats and spectacular stained-glass windows.

First Lutheran congregation was organized by Swedish immigrants in 1856. The construction of their present beautiful cathedral made entirely of red Medina sandstone was started in 1892 and completed in 1901.

It is a magnificent structure and includes a 153-foot-tall bell tower which still functions today. The congregation takes great pride in maintaining the beauty of the church which dominates the city’s skyline.

Many internal and external improvements and restorations have occurred over the years. The interior includes a historic 1901 Hook and Hastings pipe organ rebuilt in 1955, two tiered seating, and numerous beautifully detailed stained glass windows.


The Swedish immigrants who founded the church mortgaged their homes ensure the construction would move forward at the church, the Rev. Dan Nagle said.

He leads the church today and remains humbled by the sacrifice and vision of the congregation in the 1890s.

For more on the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame, click here. (The plaques were are made and donated by Takeform Architectural Graphics in Medina.)

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Hulberton Lift Bridge was site of many mishaps

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 14 October 2017 at 9:23 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 3, Issue 42

HULBERTON – Did you know that Orleans County has the most lift bridges along the Erie Canal? Of the 16 vertical lift bridges that exist between Lockport and Fairport, seven are located within our county; Monroe County contains five, while Niagara County holds four. This Warren pony truss style vertical lift bridge that stands at Hulberton is 145 feet long by 18.6 feet wide, curb to curb.

Taken on November 23, 1922, this image shows the Hulberton Lift Bridge as it appeared approximately nine years after it was completed. On April 19, 1912, Skene & Richmond of Louisa, Kentucky were awarded Contract 104 by New York State to construct a number of bridges along the Erie Canal including spans at Spencerport, Adams Basin, Brockport, and Gasport in addition to the Hulberton structure. The contract, totaling $245,688 (approximately $6.2 million today), was completed the following year.

The photograph was taken approximately 100 feet south of the bridge by the NYS Engineering Department of the Western Division looking north across the Canal. Two buildings are visible, including the Hulberton Hotel to the left and the store formerly operated by John Moore & Sons. The bridge is raised approximately 18 inches and a sign hangs on the right post that reads “Warning. Lift Bridge. Stop when bell rings.” Notice that there are no barricades that drop down to block traffic, so it was the responsibility of pedestrians and drivers to pay attention to the bridge as they approached.

The earliest bridge tenders for this span included Dorr Peck and Delos Smith of Holley R.F.D, and Dominick Christofaro of Hulberton in 1914. Notices in the local paper from 1916 show that Aaron Anderson, Henry Prince, and Joseph Buschio of Hulberton were employed as bridge tenders, earning $2.00 per day for a period of 31 days ($62.00 total). In 1922, when this photograph was taken, N. Licursi, C. Mowers, and James Howker were all employed as tenders, the latter two earning $3.00 per day and Licursi making $4.50 per day.

The Hulberton span was the site of numerous unfortunate accidents over the years. In 1896, Joseph Brunetti brutally murdered Nicolo Chiochio along the towpath near Hulberton following an extended altercation surrounding Brunetti’s inability to speak English. In 1929, seven years after this image was captured, the body of respected local businessman Bert Alderson was found submerged near the bridge. Coroner Leon Ogden suspected that Alderson had slipped and fell into the Canal near the bridge. Two years later, a Rochester electrician named Patrick Maloy who was working on the bridge suffered a massive heart attack and died.

As noted above, the bridge did not have any indicators beyond the warning bell to notify pedestrians and drivers that the tender was raising or lowering the span. The result was a number of accidents involving motor vehicles, including the 1928 collision between an automobile belonging to James Clark of Hulberton and the bridge deck. While approaching the Canal, Clark failed to see the raised deck resulting in the crash. When he sued New York State in 1933 for damages, he relied on nearby residents to corroborate his story, which required the courts to seek assistance from interpreters. The high number of Italians who resided in the small community made it difficult to communicate. As a result, accidents like these pushed residents to seek the aid of a flagman to prevent future mishaps.

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Ghost Walk brings Cobblestone Museum to life

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 October 2017 at 8:28 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

GAINES – These girls portray students at the District No. 5 Schoolhouse at the Cobblestone Museum. They were among the stops at a Ghost Walk at the museum on Sunday that attracted 165 people. The girls include, from left: Meganne Moore, Kelsey Froman, Ella Trupo, Autumn Flugel and Liana Flugel.

There were about 25 volunteers who were actors in the Ghost Walk.

Gerard Morrissey portrays the school teacher, John Cuneen, at the cobblestone school. The school was built in 1849. It served District No. 5 for 103 years before it was closed in 1952 after the centralization of Albion’s school district. In 1961, it was sold to the Cobblestone Society Museum for $129.

Erica Wanecski of Medina plays a suffragette who pushed for women’s right to vote. This year is the 100th anniversary of New York granting the right to vote for women.

These Albion sisters, Alanna Holman (left) and Kaylyn Holman, are suffragettes who also opposed slavery. They are making signs for the abolitionist cause.

The two teenage suffragettes are by the Voting Booth at the museum. They are excited about meeting Susan B. Anthony, who will speak at the Albion Hotel in 1861. Anthony had a tough time finding a place to speak in Albion because “neither hall, church, nor schoolhouse could be obtained.”  The girls make signs that say “No Compromise with Slaveholders! Immediate Emancipation!”

Al Capurso, the Gaines town historian, portrayed John Proctor, a prominent settler in Gaines. Proctor is often referred to by historians as the Paul Revere of Ridge Road. On a December night in 1813, he rode by horseback on the Ridge from Gaines to Clarkson to warn of the approach of British and the Indians after the burning of Lewiston.

The following morning he joined a regiment that was headed to Lewiston. The regiment would capture the enemy quartered at Molyneaux Tavern.

Sam Williams portrays a farmer who is keeping an eye on a bear trap.

John and Cindy Curtin of Medina worked in the blacksmith shop as Joe and Nellie Vagg, who once owned the shop.

Sadie Igoe portrays Grace Bedell, the Albion girl who wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln, encouraging him to grow a beard. Marty Tabor, in balcony, was Lincoln for the Ghost Walk. Tabor and Sue Starkweather Miller wrote most of the scripts for Sunday’s Ghost Walk.

Bedell wrote a letter to Abraham Lincoln when she was 11. (She was living in Westfield at the time.) She encouraged him to grow a beard, believing it would increase his chances of winning the presidency. Lincoln took her advice.

Enoch Martin portrays Rufus Brown Bullock, the former Georgia governor who grew up in Albion and moved back to his hometown after his career. Martin is shown by the five-seat outhouse. The museum has Bullock’s outhouse, which is located behind the Ward House.

Courteney Bovenzi is Miss Chester, the daughter of Star Chester, a shoemaker. She discussed the trade while working out of the Harness Shop at the museum.

Photo courtesy of Susan Steier: Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers portrays Philetus Bumpus, who was much despised by leaders in Gaines. (Rivers is pictured by the Liberty Pole at the museum grounds on Route 98.)

Bumpus led the push for Albion to become the county seat in the 1820s. Gaines at the time had more people and businesses, thanks to the well travelled Ridge Road.

But Albion, then derisively known as “Mudport” by many in Gaines, was picked the county seat partly through a ploy. Bumpus had Sandy Creek dammed just before the state commissioners were in town. The water was then released to make it appear Sandy Creek was a much stronger stream.

Gaines leaders, especially John Proctor, were upset over that trickery. The Bumpus Ghost Walk character tried to imagine how the community would look today if Gaines had been the county seat with the school campus, Wal-Mart and much of the development in Central Orleans a few miles north of Albion. Maybe students would be rooting for the Gaines Golden Geese instead of the Albion Purple Eagles?

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Gaines man went from humble start to Albion powerbroker

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 7 October 2017 at 7:47 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 3, Issue 41

The annals of local history are filled with stories of men who worked their way up the social ladder, starting from humble beginnings before leaving a lasting mark on the community. John Newton Proctor was no different. The son of Gershom and Emily Holland Proctor, John’s family was not in a position to provide him with an exceptional education. As a young boy, he attended the district schools in Gaines before enrolling in the well-respected Gaines Academy.

As an astute businessman in his later life, Proctor started his career as a clerk with Erastus Woodruff of Gaines and after two years ventured into Albion to seek employment with William Gere. The young man quickly earned the respect of his employer as a trustworthy and hardworking individual and was brought in as a partner in the business. Following Gere’s untimely death in July of 1865, the partnership transitioned to his son Isaac and remained in operation until his new partner died from dysentery the following year.

The series of unfortunate circumstances forced Proctor to sell the business to Butcher & House in September of 1866; farming would become his primary occupation. His dedication to excellence and industry earned Proctor a stellar reputation in Albion. Originally a Whig, he later aligned himself with the Democrats, serving as a village trustee, village president, and member of the board of education. During his tenure on the village board, he was said to have worked to stamp out certain types of vices in Albion that “had long been flagrant.”

Proctor married Frances Orcelia Gere on October 12, 1856, the daughter of his business associate. The two lived in the home that now serves as the rectory of St. Joseph’s Church and many local residents will recall the local legend involving John Proctor’s daughter Clara and her husband William P. L. Stafford. After suffering defeat in the election for County District Attorney, Stafford sold the home to the Catholics under the stipulation that their new sanctuary be erected as close as possible to the street in order to block the view of the First Baptist Church. Stafford blamed Rev. Osborne of the Baptist Church for his downfall and subsequent failure in the election as a result of the prosecution and eventual execution of George Wilson in 1888.

Upon his death in 1889, Proctor left an estate valued between $50,000 and $100,000 ($1.3 million – $2.6 million today) to his wife, who had died several months prior; the entire estate was transferred to his daughter, Clara Stafford.

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State Senate issues proclamation in honor of 80th anniversary of Santa School

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 September 2017 at 9:45 am

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – State Sen. Robert Ortt issued a proclamation from the State Senate this week honoring Charles W. Howard “for a lifetime of exceptional dedication to bringing love, joy and the holiday spirit to the hearts of millions.”

The proclamation was presented Thursday during the Albion Rotary Club meeting. Phil Wenz portrays Santa Claus year-round at the Santa’s Village theme park in Dundee, Illinois. Wenz also is a Santa historian and coordinates annual Santa conferences, which have twice been in Albion. He worked with Ortt on having the proclamation in honor of Howard, who started a Santa Claus School 80 years ago in Albion.

Wenz, left, is pictured with Madelyn Genovese, communications director for State Sen. Robert Ortt, David Holland and Jane Holland, who is Howard’s granddaughter. Dave and Jane live in the Buffalo area.

Charles W. Howard, left, is pictured with a Santa in training in this historic photo.

Jane thanked the Albion community for keeping her grandfather’s memory alive.

“This village and town will always be a special part of our family,” she said.

Howard started the school with three students On Sept. 27, 1937, Wenz said. The school would grow in the following years, and newspapers and magazines did features on the school, which raised Howard’s profile. In 1948 he was Santa in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and did that every year until 1965.

He expanded the school in Albion and developed Christmas Park at the corner of Phipps Road and Route 31.

“This small amusement park would become well known all over New York and the surrounding states, bringing children and families to experience a little bit of Christmas throughout the year,” according to the proclamation from Ortt.

Howard ran the school from 1937 until his death in 1966. The school continues today in his name at Midland, Michigan.

For more on the school, click here.

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Department of History holds collection of 1893 World’s Fair Tickets

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 30 September 2017 at 8:46 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 3, Issue 40

The collections within the Department of History contain newspaper clippings, genealogies, published histories, and photographs, but a number of interesting artifacts and ephemera items serve as a window into Orleans County’s material culture.

This photograph shows a collection of souvenir tickets from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, Illinois. The collection once belonged to Dr. Frank Haak Lattin, a dealer in natural specimens, a physician, and Assemblyman from New York.

Nearly 125 years ago, the United States prepared to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the new world in 1492. In order to host this massive event, 200 new but temporary buildings were constructed upon 600 acres of land using neoclassical architecture. A large central pool represented the long cross-Atlantic voyage of Columbus four centuries prior, a true symbol of American exceptionalism. Dedicated on October 21, 1892, the fair officially opened to the public on May 1, 1893 and ran through October 30, 1893. In addition to the celebration of this monumental occasion, the fair served as a representation of Chicago’s rebirth after the Great Fire in 1871; the city rising from the proverbial ashes.

Although centered in Chicago, the World’s Exposition featured numerous connections to Western New York and Orleans County. Frederick Douglass, once a resident of Rochester, was selected to serve as the national delegate for Haiti. Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed the University of Rochester campus and countless parks in the Western New York area, was responsible for the layout of the fairgrounds.

The Mines & Mining Building used to house representations of America’s rich coal, oil, and steel resources was designed by Solon Spencer Beman, the same man who later designed the Pullman Universalist Church in Albion. Some historians have argued that the World’s Fair in 1893 was the first time that the term “Windy City” was used to refer to the city of Chicago. Charles Anderson Dana, who as a boy lived at Gaines Basin and later served as the editor of the New York Sun, was credited with coining that phrase.

Two of Orleans County’s own were present at the Fair, overseeing exhibitions in the Anthropology building. Frank Hamilton Cushing (Barre), the noted anthropologist and ethnologist who specialized in the study of the Zuni Indians in New Mexico, and Frank Haak Lattin (Gaines), a purveyor in natural specimens and publisher of The Oologist, both participated in the Exposition.

Lattin’s exhibit of natural specimens occupied nearly 2,000 square feet of space and his participation in the Fair provided him with the opportunity to purchase the collection once belonging to Col. Ezekiel Jewett consisting of over 50,000 shell specimens.

Visitors were provided with a number of different tokens and keepsakes to take away from the Fair. Coins and medallions were cast for distribution, but others chose to hold on to the tickets that guaranteed them entrance into the Exposition. Approximately 60,000 individuals were provided with “portrait tickets” that featured images of Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Christopher Columbus, Georg Friedrich Handel, and an image of a Native American chief based largely on stereotypes. Each image was meant to represent a distinct period in American History.

These “season tickets” ensured exhibitors ongoing access to the Exposition between May and October, which would explain why Lattin retained at least one set of tickets; it is presumed that his wife was provided the second set. Since these tickets were used for ongoing access to exhibit areas, these slips of paper were often torn, bent, folded, or dropped in puddles of water resulting in wrinkles and splotched ink, but these tickets remain in excellent condition.

Also included in the set are two one-day tickets purchased at a cost of $.50, or approximately $14 today. These guaranteed visitors access to the Fair on the same day the ticket was purchased; children received “special” tickets at half-price. Other tickets, like the “Manhattan Day” and “Chicago Day” tickets provided limited access to special events during the Fair. On Manhattan Day, New York’s finest including the president of Columbia University, the mayor of New York City, ex-mayors, congressmen, clergy, judges, and commissioners all enjoyed fine dining and entertainment; Chicago Day, on the other hand, set a world record for event attendance with 751,026 people participating.

Of course, the Columbian Exposition was a place of many firsts, introducing Quaker Oats, Shredded Wheat, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and the Ferris wheel to American society, the Fair also gave rise to America’s first serial killer, H. H. Holmes, who was recently suspected of being Jack the Ripper.

We are remarkably fortunate that pieces of history like this still exist locally!

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Cobblestone Tour of Homes returns on Saturday

File photos by Tom Rivers: The Ward House on Ridge Road, part of the Cobblestone Museum, is one of 10 cobblestone sites around Orleans County featured in a tour on Saturday.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 September 2017 at 3:15 pm

GAINES – An annual tradition that was popular for about 30 years is returning on Saturday. The Cobblestone Museum has planned a 10-stop tour of cobblestone homes around the county. The event is back after a four-year hiatus.

The self-drive tour gives people a chance to see the interior at seven of the sites. Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum, said the tour shows how the original outdoor architecture with the cobblestone masonry has held up very well for more than 150 years.

There is tremendous variety inside the homes, and with the landscaping at the properties, he said.

The tours all start at the Cobblestone Museum, 14393 Ridge Rd.

Three museum buildings are on the tour. The Ward House, Cobblestone Universalist Church and the Gaines District No. 5 Cobblestone School are listed as a National Historic Landmark.

The cobblestone schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road is also on the tour, although the inside is off limits on Saturday. This photo is from April 2016. The building’s trim was recently painted and a new door was installed. The schoolhouse also was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Bill Lattin, former director of the Cobblestone Museum, has opened up his 1885 cobblestone home on Gaines Basin Road for the tour.

Other sites incudes the Burgess/Ames cobblestone house, Ridge Road, Gaines (exterior and interior); Gaines District No. 2 school house, Gaines Basin Road, Albion (exterior only); Steve and Paula Nesbitt’s cobblestone school, Pine Hill Road, Barre (exterior and interior); Tom and Marsha Wenhold’s cobblestone house, Ramshaw Road, Lyndonville (exterior only); Barnum house, East Lakeshore Road, Lyndonville (exterior and interior); and Butterfield cobblestone house, Bennetts Corners Road, Holley (exterior and interior).

Tickets for the Cobblestone Tour of Homes are available at the Cobblestone Society, 14389 Ridge Rd., or online at Additional information is available by calling (585) 589-9013.

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158 years ago, tragedy struck in Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 September 2017 at 3:45 pm

At least 15 died when bridge collapsed on Sept. 28, 1859

ALBION – It’s our darkest day, Sept. 28, 1859.

It was supposed to a joyous, fun-filled occasion. The annual Orleans County Fair drew waves of people to Albion, and the celebration included a wire-walker, who would attempt to walk across the canal. A rope was strung just west of the Main Street bridge, reaching from the top of a hotel to a block of stores.

There was a wire-walking frenzy back in those days. Jean Francois Gravelet, “The Great Blondin,” walked across Niagara Falls on a tight rope on June 30, 1859. A bunch of copycats sprang up, including one in Albion three months later during the county fair.

The Main Street bridge was packed with 250 people and five horses to watch a wire walker, “a young adventurer from Brockport,” according to a newspaper account. The wirewalker didn’t get far. With a mass of people crowding to see the spectacle, he made it 10 feet. Then the wooden bridge gave out, plunging the crowd into the canal.

At least 15 people died, and many more were maimed and seriously injured.

Here are some of their names:

• Perry G. Cole, aged 19, Barre.

• Augusta Martin, aged 18, Carlton.

• Mrs. Ann Viele, aged 36, Gaines.

• Edwin Stillson, aged 16, Barre

• Joseph Code, aged 18, Albion

• Lydia Harris, aged 11, Albion

• Thomas Handy, aged 66, Yates

• Sarah Thomas, aged 10, Carlton

• Harry Henry, aged 22

• Ransom S. Murdock, aged 17, Carlton

• Adelbert Wilcox, aged 17, West Kendall

• Sophia Pratt, aged 18, Toledo, Ohio

• Thomas Aulchin, aged 50, Paris, C.W.

• Jane Lavery, aged 16, Albion

Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin and the Orleans County Historical Association put up a marker near the canal in 2002, noting the canal tragedy.

Lattin and the Historical Association deserve praise for getting the marker up to remember such a horrific loss in our local history. The community should do more than a historical marker to remember these children, young mothers and other county residents.

Orleans County is working on a waterfront plan for the canal in Albion, Gaines, Murray and Holley. (Medina is working on its own canal waterfront development plan.)

The Orleans plan should include a memorial in Albion. I think a memorial fountain by the canal between the two lift bridges in Albion would be a fitting recognition of this horrible event. The fountain would also beautify the canal and help draw people to the downtown area.

Orleans County Historian Matt Ballard wrote about the bridge collapse in his column on July 29, 2017. Click here to read it.

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