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local history

New book pays tribute to ‘Mom and Pop’ farms in Orleans County

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 December 2016 at 10:08 am

Holly Ricci-Canham’s nearly 300-page effort includes 150 interviews, 400 photos

Photo by Tom Rivers: Holly Ricci-Canham holds a copy of “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life.” She will sign copies of the book on Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Hoag Library in Albion.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Holly Ricci-Canham holds a copy of “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life.” She will sign copies of the book on Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Hoag Library in Albion.

ALBION – Holly Ricci-Canham has a new book out that is a tribute to the “mom and pop” farms that were once commonplace in Orleans County.

The farms were part of a close-knit community with neighborhood schools and churches.

Ricci-Canham grew up on a “mom and pop” farm in Kenyonville run by her parents, Pete and “Mike” Ricci. They would relocate the fruit and vegetable farm to West Avenue in Albion. Her upbringing on the farm made her want to tell the stories of local farms.

“You see the gigantic farming tractors now, which is so different from the farming I grew up with,” she said.

Ricci-Canham, 63, interviewed more than 150 people and included more than 400 photographs for her nearly 300-page book, “Mom & Pop Farming in Orleans County, New York – The past brought to life.”

The book covers farm operations throughout county with sections about muck farmers, dairies, fruit and vegetable farms, canning companies, migrant labor camps, “ladies accounts,” technology changes as well as country schools, “kids play” and fairs and celebrations.

Many people she interviewed had strong memories of attending one-room schoolhouses and learning to drive – sometimes at age 5. They shared some hard times on the farm, and how neighbors often pitched in to help them get through it.

“Farm people are a deep, kind, loving people,” Ricci-Canham said. “They have an unconditional love of helping each other.”

Ricci-Canham’s son Andrew, vice president of student success for McLellan Community College in Waco, Texas, served as editor of the book.

John Long, a long-time farmer on Zig Zag Road in Albion, also helped edit the book and connected Ricci-Canham to many of the farm families. (Long and his wife Loretta are pictured on the front of the book with their sons, Jeff and Doug, in a photo from 1969.)

Ricci-Canham has the book in chapters, including one on dairy farmers. Rudy Kludt was among those interviewed for the section on dairy: “My Mother did a lot of work on the farm,” he says in the book. “She could milk a cow faster than anybody could milk a cow! She did all of the milking – Dad was out on the farm … we made butter. She sold eggs for groceries – sometimes traded for groceries. Today you can’t do anything like that.”

Rudy Kludt would also recall when the farm acquired its first combine in 1936. His father didn’t like the Allis Chalmers and switched to an International two years later.

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This quote from Rudy Kludt is on the back cover of the book.

The book shares memories from farmers of labor-saving equipment, from tree shakers to self-propelled harvesters.

Bill Lattin, the retired Orleans County historian, wrote the forward of the book, and praised Ricci-Canham for an “invaluable” book of local history.

“These are first-hand accounts relating to a lifestyle which has all but vanished,” Lattin writes.

Fifty years ago, few farms topped more than 100 acres. Now many farms in Orleans County work thousands of acres.

“In this book, farmers tell the history of farming in their own words,” Matthew Ballard, current county historian, writes in a forward. “Little is left for interpretation by the author, providing an informative and precise examination of our agricultural heritage.”

Ricci-Canham delayed the publication of the book by several months so she could include a chapter about labor camps. She interviewed people who lived at the former Coloney Camp in Carlton. (Any from the camp attended a popular night club, The Brick Wall, where a young Chubby Checker performed. The Brick Wall is where the current Olde Dogge Inn is located.)

The camp also didn’t have running water for the residents and was often rodent infested.

Howard Ward, a vice president at Rochester Institute of Technology, grew up in the camp. He would earn a doctorate in education. He said there was a strong community at the camp, with people helping each other.

“I never minded farm work,” he told Ricci-Canham in the book. “I picked cherries, all kinds of fruits. I didn’t like picking cucumbers. The fields were 5 miles by 5 miles and the plants were prickly. They used DDT back then and your hands would be green! I say it was because of cukes that I went to college!”

The book includes many pictures of “farm kids,” including this one of Holly Ricci as a girl on a pedal tractor.

The book includes many pictures of “farm kids,” including this one of Holly Ricci as a girl on a pedal tractor.

For the sections on fairs, celebrations & entertainment, Ricci-Canham writes about the world largest apple pie created in 1929 by Charlie Howard (before he started a Santa Claus School). In 1977, the 4-H Fair set a new record for the world’s largest apple pie. In 1931, the fair was the site of the world’s largest cake, which stood 14 feet high.

In 1859, tragedy struck during a celebration in Albion. Hundreds of people gathered to watch a tight-rope walker cross the canal. The Main Street bridge collapsed, killing 14 people.

The book includes a section on the canning factories. Ricci-Canham remembers growing up with the scent of ketchup at Hunts in Albion and the chicken soup at Liptons.

“The area smelled so good back then,” she said.

Canham will sign copies of the book on Sunday from 3 to 7 p.m. at Hoag Library in Albion. She had about 450 printed, but already is working on a second printing for January.

Ricci-Canham is a founder of Orleans County Genealogical Society. She co-wrote “Carlton and Point Breeze” with Avis Townsend in 2006, a book that is a photographic history of the community. Ricci-Canham also wrote “Legendary Locals of Orleans County” in 2012, highlighting prominent residents who excelled in civic affairs, business, agriculture, sports, politics and the arts.

The book on the farm families proved to be “the most humbling and most fulfilling experience of my life, short of having children,” Ricci-Canham writes in the conclusion.

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Pioneers needed hard work, perseverance to clear land and build a life in Orleans

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 10 December 2016 at 8:07 am

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“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 2, Issue 50

This photograph is part of my personal family collection, what I believe to be an image of the Joseph B. Pierce homestead on Route 31 in the town of Murray, immediately west of Hulberton Road.

Taken in the late 1870s we see a man, presumably Joseph Pierce, standing along the roadside with a team of horses. Standing in the front yard is Emma Brown Pierce and her four daughters Edith, Fanny, Florence, and Nettie – the latter clinging to the fence.

Joseph was the grandson of Aretas Pierce, Sr. who brought his family from Vermont to Murray in 1815. Upon their arrival to the virgin wilderness of Western New York, the family lived in a log schoolhouse for two weeks while they constructed a log cabin in April of that year. The family lived on provisions brought with them from New England for their first year on the land, but the poor harvest of the following year forced them to live on purchased food including salted pork. As rations ran out, the family boiled green wheat in milk to sustain themselves through the remainder of the season.

Aretas had settled his family on approximately 100 acres of land controlled by the Pulteney Estate, land that was not available for sale until 1821. Toiling for six years, the family cleared the land of dense forest and planted orchards with trees provided to them by Daniel Sturges of Clarendon. When the property was available for purchase, the price per acre was affixed at $8.00. Pierce was left with the choice of leaving his improved land or pay the exorbitant price, choosing the second option and remaining on the property. It was rumored that the Pulteney Association waited until the path of the Erie Canal was established in order to raise property value, a maneuver that was upsetting to many pioneers in the area.

According to David Sturges Copeland’s history of Clarendon, Daniel Pierce helped raise this home in 1828 on a northwestern portion of the original family lot, eight years before Joseph’s birth in 1836. The property was effectively transferred to Joseph in 1862, after he was rejected from service with the Union Army during the Civil War. Joseph was a Republican in political interests, casting his first vote for Abraham Lincoln and never failing to vote from that point forward.

Joseph’s two brothers, George W. and John Q. Pierce, both became civil engineers and engaged on expansion projects along the Erie Canal. John was placed in charge of various projects between Gasport and Shelby Basin before traveling westward to work on several railroad projects in the Illinois area. George followed a similar path, assisting in the widening of the locks at Lockport as well as expansion projects in the Holley vicinity.

Unlike his brothers, Joseph operated a modest farm on the family lot in Murray until his death in 1924. He did gain some notoriety in 1907 when a curious looking “animal freak” was born on the farm that spring. While birthing a calf, two bodies and eight legs appeared. Joseph assumed a set of calves were to be born until the remainder of the birthing process was completed. The “calf” consisted of two bodies and eight legs, but consisted of one head, joined at the shoulder, and three ears with the third protruding from the center of the head. The oddity lived only for a short period of time but attracted attention throughout the county.

The Pierce farm was handed down to Joseph’s youngest daughter, Nettie Pierce, who married Raymond Howard Handy in 1893. Bearing no children of their own, Raymond and Nettie fostered several children including Clarence Traub of Rochester – my great grandfather. This house, now a lavender color with purple shutters, still stands on Route 31 atop the hill just west of Hulberton Road.

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Nominations sought for ‘Heritage Heroes’

Posted 8 December 2016 at 10:51 am
File photo: Five Orleans County residents were honored last April for their efforts to preserve Orleans County history. The group includes from left: Melissa Ierlan, Delia Robinson, Peg Wiley, Al Capurso and Tim Archer.

File photo: Five Orleans County residents were honored last April for their efforts to preserve Orleans County history. The group includes from left: Melissa Ierlan, Delia Robinson, Peg Wiley, Al Capurso and Tim Archer.

Press Release, GCC

Now in its fourth 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. 17, 2017.

“The people of Orleans County are remarkable for the great pride they have in their heritage,” said Jim Simon, associate dean of GCC’s Orleans County Campus Centers in Medina and Albion. “For our fourth consecutive year, we want to continue to recognize the time and investment of individuals who are tireless advocates for local history.”

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.

Three winners were honored last year including Tim Archer, Margaret Wiley and Al Capurso. Because nominations are not retained for future consideration, nominees not selected to receive awards in previous years are encouraged to re-submit a nomination again for this coming year.

In addition to the three Heritage Heroes, two others were honored at the 2016 awards ceremony. Delia Robinson was the recipient of the Robert A. Waters Award for Lifetime Achievement and Melissa Ierlan was presented the C.W. “Bill” Lattin Award for Excellence in Municipal History.

“Many residents from all over the county work hard on restoring historic houses and protecting other community assets, including museums and churches,” said Tom Rivers, Orleans Hub editor. “The dedicated people working to preserve these treasures deserve praise for adding to the quality of life and character of our community.”

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 jsimon@genesee.edu. 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.

“I cannot tell you how proud I am of the Heritage Heroes Awards,” Prof. Maxfield exclaimed, “The awards ceremony is the highlight of my year.  Recognizing real life heroes – unsung heroes – who work so hard to make sure local history survives into the next generations is vitally important.”

The Heritage Heroes will be recognized during a ceremony at GCC in Medina in April 2017.

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Enterprising man ran general store in Carlton, at site that later became Narby’s

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 3 December 2016 at 10:19 am

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“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 2, Issue 49

CARLTON – At a time when trips into town took hours instead of minutes, the rural grocery and dry goods stores provided an essential and efficient service to those living in the country.

This image shows the wagon belonging to Gifford D. Fowler, the owner of a general store at Two Bridges in Carlton. A native of Parma, Fowler was brought to Carlton as a young man by his father Benjamin who purchased the store in 1877 from Lemuel Palmer.

For nearly ten years, Benjamin operated the store and it is extremely likely that Gifford worked for his father in various capacities during the late 1870s and into the early 1880s. After his marriage to Belle Simpson of Carlton, Gifford purchased his father’s interest in the store in 1886 and took sole ownership of the business. This photograph was taken in September of 1888, just a short while after buying out his father.

The store was joined together with the Two Bridges Hotel, which is pictured here; this photograph is looking at the west side of the building now known as Narby’s Superette and Tackle. Situated on the east side of this building, the store doubled as a post office prior to the days of rural delivery. The store owner usually served as the postmaster for the area, simply out of convenience.

At the time, this would have served as one of the few locations locally to purchase dry goods and medicines, using a delivery service to make the whole process easier. A traveler from Two Bridges may expect to take a one- to two-hour trip by horse and buggy to the business district in Albion, so a local outlet was far more opportune.

In the photograph we see A. J. Small, a store clerk, showing two local women some samples of linens carried by the store. Situated on top of the wagon are assorted jars and cans of food and other merchandise. The side of the wagon reads “General Merchandise” and “G. D. Fowler – Carlton, N.Y.”

Fowler’s ownership of the business was short-lived, selling his interest to his father-in-law, John C. Simpson, in 1890. The family relocated to Niagara Falls where Gifford was later appointed as a farm manager for the Erie County Preserving Company. A later stint as a vegetable and fruit buyer for the Curtis Brothers Company in Rochester was concluded by his retirement to Albion in 1923, where he and his wife purchased a nice home on South Main Street. Following their golden wedding anniversary, the couple relocated back to their first home – Two Bridges.

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Sheriff’s tenure in 1920s marred by local KKK activity

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 26 November 2016 at 8:05 am

112616_kelseyhorace1“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 2, Issue 48

The history of Orleans County at the turn of the 20th century is dotted with snippets of crimes, both infamous and petty, covering intoxication and theft on one end of the spectrum up to homicide and murder on the other.

With the enactment of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 came a decade-long period of crime and corruption marred by illegal booze manufacturing, rum running, racketeering, and murder. Local men, such as Horace Kelsey, were tasked with the role of Sheriff and found themselves responsible for many of these cases.

Kelsey was born on Oct. 13, 1866 and was raised in Carlton and Murray, working on area farms as a young man. His earliest experiences with the criminal justice system resulted from his work as a custodian for the courthouse and jailor at the county jail. His name was put forth as a candidate for county sheriff in 1922, which he easily defeated his opponent, Charles Bacon of Medina. Although he served one term in that capacity, his tenure as sheriff was far from ordinary.

One of the largest criminal cases to fall before him was the robbery of Citizens Bank of Lyndonville in January of 1924. Thanks to the diligent work of Deputy Jerry Butts of Medina, the three men responsible for stealing nearly $17,000 were quickly apprehended. The glory of the bust was short-lived when Sheriff Kelsey relieved Butts of his duties as Deputy Sheriff soon after. The dismissal hit papers across Western New York, calling for an explanation as to the reasons behind the firing.

Kelsey’s refusal to comment on the affair left many papers to speculate that the influence of Senator Irving L’Hommedieu of Medina to gain Butts the job prior to Kelsey’s election was the cause; simply political. It was later revealed that a local organization of the Ku Klux Klan in the Lyndonville area submitted a letter of complaint to the county. The letter alleged that Butts frequently attended their meetings with the intention of disrupting the gatherings.

As if the events seemed all too coincidental, Kelsey responded to a call from Assemblyman Frank H. Lattin of Gaines who awoke to find a cross burning in his front yard in May of 1924. The event sent shockwaves throughout the community, many fearful that the Ku Klux Klan was increasing activities in the area. A later call to break up a raucous party at the Gaines Grange on Ridge Road revealed that a car load of young teens was driving about the town causing trouble. Kelsey determined that the band of hoodlums was responsible for the late-night trouble at the Lattin residence.

After his short tenure as sheriff, later replaced by Ross Hollenbeck, Kelsey moved to the home of Burt Bidelman on West Bank Street where he would live out the remainder of his life. His appointment as the Albion Chief of Police meant that his career in law enforcement was not over. Serving in that capacity for nearly 14 years, Kelsey retired in 1941 due to ill health at the age of 75. After several years of dealing with physical ailments, the retired sheriff and police chief died of a heart attack on Sept. 21, 1944. As a member of the First Baptist Church at Albion, the Active Hose Company of the Albion Fire Department, and the I.O.O.F., Kelsey was a beloved and respected member of the local community; he was buried at Mt. Albion Cemetery.

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Committee close to goal for statue of soldier at former Armory

Photo by Tom Rivers: Some members of the Company F Memorial Committee are pictured when the Orleans County Legislature presented a “commendation” for the committee’s work to build a memorial in honor of the soldiers who trained at the former Armory in Medina. Pictured, include committee members, from left: Wayne Hale, Legislature Chairman David Callard, committee chairman Bill Menz, and committee members Cathy Fox and Lynne Menz.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 November 2016 at 8:57 am

MEDINA – A committee that has been working for several years to raise money for a bronze statue of a soldier at the former Armory, now a YMCA, is close to reaching its fund-raising goal.

Several organizations have made sizable donations recently, including $10,000 from the VFW Lincoln Post in Medina. Bill Menz, chairman of the Company F Memorial, said the committee has commissioned an artist, Brian Porter, who will make the bronze statue.

A 7-foot-high statue of a soldier that will go on top of an existing stone base that is 6 feet, 10 inches in height. That stone monument base was dedicated in 2008 and 550 names of local soldiers who fought in wars on behalf of the United States. The soldiers enlisted and trained at the Medina Armory for conflicts from 1898 to 1945 including the Spanish-American War, Mexican-American, World War I and World War II.

Menz was hoping to have the statue in place by October 2017, the 100th anniversary of Company F’s service in World War I. But it now looks like it could take up to two years before the statue is ready, Menz advised the Orleans County Legislature on Wednesday when he and other committee leaders accepted a “Commendation” award from the Legislature for leading the efforts with the memorial.

“The Orleans County Legislature commends the great work of many for the Medina Armory and Company F Memorial  which will forever represent the freedoms of past and for future generations to enjoy as a result of the COURAGE, DUTY, VALOR, VIRTUE and HONOR of the Boys of Company F,” the commendation reads.

The current fund-raising campaign includes repairs to two of the panels on the monument from 2008 that were damaged due to vandalism, and will make some name corrections and additions, Menz said. A new 30-foot-high flag pole will also be included.

Menz welcomes donations for the project. Friends and supporters can send tax deductible contributions with the checks made out to the Medina Sandstone Society/care of Company F Memorial Fund, PO Box 522, Medina, NY 14103. Click here for more information.

Several groups have recently donated to the project including:

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Members of VFW Post 1483, including Jim Freas (center), present a check for $10,000 for the Company F Memorial project.

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Veterans who work at Saint-Gobain Adfors in Albion present a check for $200 for the statue. Pictured, from left, include: Ron Raglan, Company F Chairman Bill Menz, James Olles, Company F Secretary/Treasurer Cathy Fox and Bob Eckert.

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Mark Irwin, Medina Lion’s president, presented $300 to Menz from the Lions Club to go towards the memorial.

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St. Mary’s Archery Club members present a check to Company F Memorial chairman, Bill Menz & Secretary/Treasurer Cathy Fox. From left, members Jeff Pask, Company F Chairman Bill Menz, Alan “Tiny” Hackenberg, Steve Coville, Mike Walsh, Company F Secretary/Treasurer Cathy Fox and Joe Martillotta.

The Archery Club donated $700 for the memorial. Another member of the Archery Club added $300 to make the total donation an even $1,000.

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Murray hamlet named for Edward Fancher, key leader in sandstone industry

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 19 November 2016 at 11:43 am

“Overlooked Orleans,” Volume 2, Issue 47

Over a century ago, Orleans County was dominated by the Medina Sandstone industry which was directed by Edward Fancher of Albion for a number of years.

Edward Fancher

Edward Fancher

Born January 6, 1854 to John and Effie Bogardus Fancher, Edward engaged early on in the quarry business gathering much of his knowledge from Charles Gwynne. After the untimely death of his wife Lucy in 1892, Edward remarried to Ida Baldwin the following year and raised his young family in the Hulberton area.

On February 20, 1902 a new quarry syndicate was established in the area, uniting nearly 50 quarries sprawled throughout Orleans County. The Orleans County Quarry Company was incorporated with $2,000,000 in capital and employed over 1,200 men. Initial startup funds were directed towards operating the quarries, paying salaries, and most importantly, developing the infrastructure to support the refinement of stone, sale, and transportation across both railroad and the Erie Canal.

The newly established business situated its headquarters at Albion and immediately began the search for a general manager; meanwhile Fancher was sent to New York City to begin peddling the products of the burgeoning company. Within months of incorporation, the “syndicate” signed on to several major six-figure contracts for paving stones in New York City, which would aid in securing a promotion for Fancher to a position of superintendent of the company.

In the heat of this growing business, Fancher took an interest in studying theology and was ordained a minister on Sept. 27, 1912. Serving at numerous congregational churches in the region, he was responsible for restarting services at the “old pioneer” Christian church at Manning. It was a short time after that the quarry business hit a wall with the start of World War One, halting production and interest in the building material.

At the conclusion of the war, quarries were offered to individuals on a royalty basis with John Lubomski of Albion serving as the executive secretary. Once employees for the business, groups of men bought into the new system and took over management of individual quarries in the Albion and Murray area. Those such as Pasquale DiLaura, James and Edward Ryan, the Monacelli brothers, Camille and Henry D’Orazio, and Mario and William D’Andrea all entered into agreements with the company to manage the very quarries they once toiled in.

The advent of the Great Depression marked an end to the golden age of the sandstone business in Orleans County as most quarries sold the stock they had and ceased the removal and cutting of stone from the quarries. At the conclusion of World War Two, new industries created a void in skilled labor for quarry work and new construction materials replaced the once valuable stone.

The lasting impact of Fancher’s contribution to the region is still recognized today, when passing through the hamlet of Fancher, driving down Fancher Road, or hitting the “Fancher Curve,” these remain a testament to the ingenuity and hard work of the Rev. Edward F. Fancher who headed the growth of the Medina Sandstone industry at the turn of the 20th century. His passing on March 19, 1942 was marked by great sadness across the county, many recalling his dedication and contributions to the community.

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Contentious 1896 McKinley v. Bryan Election reminiscent of recent campaigns

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 12 November 2016 at 8:02 am

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“Overlooked Orleans,” Volume 2, Issue 46

It was 120 years ago, on November 3, 1896, when Republican candidate William McKinley defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan as President of the United States during a period known at the Fourth Party System.

The United States was amidst an economic depression with origins in the Panic of 1893. President Grover Cleveland’s efforts to deal with this crisis led many Americans to withdraw funds from banks and investors across the globe sold stocks in favor of investing in gold-backed funds.

Questions surrounding low prices, low profits, high unemployment rates, and ongoing labor strikes plagued the part platforms. Most important to the outcome of the election was Bryan’s support of a currency backed by gold and silver in an effort to push for inflation to reestablish a declining economy.

In this political cartoon published on the front page of the New York Herald, September 6, 1896, we see a stoic William McKinley atop a chariot drawn by a team of horses. The “$” on the horse bridle represents the massive campaign budget of over $3.5 million made accessible to McKinley under Mark Hanna, a wealthy political supporter and campaign manager. The poised McKinley is running the race with relative ease, no obstructions, and a strong, energetic, and powerful team of horses.

On the opposite side, Bryan rides in a chariot of “repudiation”; the Bryan campaign outwardly rejected the policies set forth by Democrat President Grover Cleveland, policies put in place to deal with the economic crisis. The chariot appears to be drawn by a rag-tag team of beasts, a winded horse, and the distraught-looking Populist Vice President candidate Thomas E. Watson, who appears to be “losing his hat” in the race.

The tiger, pulling the chariot as well, is a representation of the Tammany Hall political machine reminiscent of old Harper’s Weekly representations. Tammany supported the gold standard, but was expected to support the leading Democrat candidate in the election. Here we see the tiger turning on its own team, showing that the New York City machine failed to fully support the efforts of Bryan in his campaign.

Trapped under Bryan’s wreck of a race is Theodore Roosevelt who was paid by Mark Hanna to speak on behalf of the Republican Party, portraying Bryan as a dangerous up-and-coming radical. The continued threats of socialism, free silver, and bankruptcy were seen as blocking the campaign’s success. We see Uncle Sam and Lady Liberty watching the race, although Lady Liberty appears troubled while Uncle Sam enjoys the contest.

The politics of the election boiled down to class conflict; McKinley won the support of skilled factory workers, railroad workers, and large farmers. Bryan’s rhetoric appealed to smaller farmers who were praised in his famous “Cross of Gold” speech: “Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.”

Still, German immigrants feared the possibility of prohibition looming overhead and Irish Catholics despised his revival-style rhetoric.

In the summer of 1896, a local “McKinley League” was formed at Albion under the leadership of John H. Denio, Charles D. Ross, Lyman Linson, and Gurdon Fitch. Local artists and painters, such as Seymour Olmstead of Albion, offered canvas squares with the portrait of a particular candidate for use with campaign club banners at a cost of $1.50. When election results poured out of the newspapers for public consumption on November 4th, McKinley’s 4,762 votes to Bryan’s 2,966 earned him the support of Orleans County.

Infamous Albionite fled community after suspicion of bank’s finances

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 5 November 2016 at 7:58 am

110516_warneralberts2Overlooked Orleans – Volume 2, Issue 45

One of the most infamous stories to occupy the annals of Orleans County history is that of Albion resident Albert S. Warner. Regarded as one of the most “flamboyant” citizens in the area, Warner was a prominent and respected member of local society who participated heavily in Democratic politics, serving as County Treasurer in 1869 and president of the Albion Board of Education in 1881.

In 1863, Roswell and Lorenzo Burrows reorganized the Bank of Albion into the First National Bank of Albion, placing Roswell at the helm of the institution as bank president. An extremely wealthy man, Burrows invested heavily in mid-west real estate, coal mining in Virginia, railroad bonds, stock in the Suspension Bridge Company at Niagara Falls, and countless other securities. One day, the young Albert Warner ventured into the bank in search of a job; Burrows took a liking to “Allie” and hired him immediately.

Burrows died in 1879, leaving a short line of successors to the bank presidency and his $6,000,000 estate. The next logical president was William Burrows, the son of Roswell, but his habitual drunkenness removed him from contention. Next in line was Alexander Stewart, the son-in-law of Roswell, who took control of the bank until his sudden and unexpected death in 1881. Waiting patiently was Warner who stepped into the position as bank president and assumed control of the Burrows estate.

Three years later, suspicion arose regarding Warner’s handling of the wealth left behind by Burrows and Warner was served with a court order requiring him to file an inventory of the estate on August 18, 1884. In hindsight, perhaps, it is no surprise that when the 18th of August arrived, Warner was nowhere to be found and no written inventory of the estate was provided to Judge Signor. Nearly two days passed before the trustees of the bank disposed of Warner as president.

The trustees of the First National Bank of Albion then faced one overwhelming issue; Warner was missing, yet he was the only person with the combination to the bank vault. An expert was summoned to break into the vault and upon opening the door, the trustees were appalled to find an empty room; no depositors’ bonds, no securities, and no cash. Local authorities supposed that Warner had speculated the bank’s wealth, well over $40,000, on Wall Street.

Fleeing to Canada, Warner left his wife Jennie in Albion to sustain herself by boarding people at their home. The Orleans Republican wrote that the handsome young man would not be able to disguise himself, as it was a known fact that Warner was incapable of growing a mustache or beard.

It is this piece of information that local lore is centered upon: when Lewis Warner passed away in 1887, the fugitive Warner purportedly returned to Albion disguised as a woman to say one last goodbye to his beloved father. New York City Newspapers published countless stories about Warner’s numerous visits to the city, one waiter remarking, “He never spent a cent for anything that he did not get full value for if he could help it…he was constantly growling about the manner in which his meats were cooked and the time required to prepare his meals, until, finally, it became such a disagreeable duty to wait upon him that he might have sat at a table all day before one of us would willingly take his order…”

Fact or fiction, the story remains a staple anecdote that always solicits a chuckle from a heeding crowd.

Book honors sacrifice of Civil War soldier buried at Kendall cemetery

By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 1 November 2016 at 1:15 pm
Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Morton Union Cemetery is pictured in Kendall. John Farnharm is buried under the mountain ash tree at the center.

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Morton Union Cemetery is pictured in Kendall. John Farnharm is buried under the mountain ash tree at the center.

KENDALL – A recently published book by Brockport resident Bill Andrews ensures that a Civil War soldier buried at the Morton Union Cemetery in Kendall will never be forgotten.

Andrews transcribed six detailed diaries and extensive letters for the book, The Life of a Union Army Sharpshooter: The Diaries and Letters of John T. Farnham, which tell about Farnham’s experiences as a Union sharpshooter as well as his first-person accounts of battles, campaigns, life in camp, the home front and what he experienced emotionally and psychologically during the war.

“It is an in-depth portrait of this young man,” says Andrews, who is a Village of Brockport historian emeritus, professor emeritus of The College at Brockport, and currently serves as deputy mayor on the Brockport Village Board of Trustees.

Farnham lived in Brockport, just a few houses down the street from where Andrews now lives, and worked in the newspaper industry. He was shop foreman at the Brockport Republic before serving in the war. Farnham enlisted in 1862 at age 20, and was a voracious reader, subscribing to newspapers and magazines and reading books, as well as writing on a nearly daily basis both before, during and after the war.

This close-up picture shows Farnham’s gravestone at the Morton Union Cemetery.

This close-up picture shows Farnham’s gravestone at the Morton Union Cemetery.

“The amazing thing is that he wrote every day,” Andrews says. “Over 850 days, there are 848 entries. He wrote after battles, long marches, when he was hospitalized, he never failed.”

Andrews first learned about Farnham while researching another one of his books on Brockport history. He found nearly 200 letters written by local soldiers which were published in the Brockport Republic during the Civil War. Andrews says he planned a book based solely on the letters, but it didn’t work out the way he had hoped.

He Googled Farnham’s name and discovered the existence of the diaries, five of which were in the collection of the Witchita State University library. The sixth had been sold at auction for $23,900 due to the fact it was sold along with the blood-stained cuff of the shirt President Lincoln was wearing when he was assassinated.

Farnham, an avid supporter of Lincoln, had acquired the cuff through a group of friends and fellow Lincoln supporters.

With much persistence, Andrews tracked down the diary’s owner, who agreed to send him a copy of the book for transcription.

Farnham was, by all accounts, a remarkable young man. He was very intelligent and open-minded and had many friends. He served in the 1st New York Sharpshooters and also worked as a clerk at the headquarters of the Iron Brigade and at the War Department in Washington, D.C.

Poor health resulted in him spending more than 100 days ill or in the hospital, but even there, Farnham worked as a library clerk and errand boy and nursed other patients. He was politically active, enjoyed attending concerts, plays and other events, and made friends with escaped slaves, teaching them to read and write and building them a school.

Following the war, Farnham returned to Brockport and continued working in the newspaper industry there as well as in Rochester and Elmira.

He died of tuberculosis only four years after the war while living in Hamlin. Farnham was 27 years old when he died and was buried in the Morton Union Cemetery in Kendall.

The Life of a Union Sharpshoooter: The Diaries and Letters of John T. Farnham is published by Casemate Publishers and is available locally at the Lift Bridge Book Shop in Brockport. The book includes photos, illustrations and explanatory notes by Andrews. 

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