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Prison superintendent had tumultuous time in Albion in 1930s

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 10 November 2018 at 7:59 am

Albion, which is home to a women’s prison, has been ‘rehabilitating’ women for more than a century

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 44

This photograph, from a collection donated to the Department of History from Ruth Webster Howard, shows the rear side of the Administrative Building at the Western House of Refuge in Albion. The structure sat at the west end of the main walk and served as the residence for the superintendent, assistant superintendent, marshal, parole officer, purchasing agent, and housekeeper, and housed offices for the institution.

The Western House of Refuge opened on December 8, 1893, but did not “receive” any inmates until January of 1894. This institution represented a rather interesting period in the U.S. penal system, where women between the ages of 16 and 30 were sent for “rehabilitation.” Those guilty of crimes ranging from petit larceny to public intoxication, prostitution, or “waywardness” found themselves committed to the institution for a period of three to five years. During that time they received instruction in the domestic sciences – cooking, housekeeping, sewing, laundry, etc.

In 1923, the institution’s name was changed to the Albion State Training School and became the female equivalent of the Institution for Mentally Defective Males located at Napanoch. Although the name was changed to the Institution for Mentally Defective Females around 1931, the harsh name carried an undesirable connotation and the name reverted back to the Albion State Training School shortly after. The first head of the institution, Dr. Gordon F. Willey, made quick work of bringing “defectives” from Bedford Hills in Westchester County while sending “normals” downstate.

On October 1, 1932, Dr. George C. Stevens, a psychiatrist who worked at the Gowanda State Hospital relocated to Albion and took charge as superintendent. The Annual Report from 1933 shows a total increase in the number of inmates from 132 in 1932 to 168 in 1933. During that time, 34 women were committed for crimes ranging from “endangering the morals of a minor” and incest to forgery, intoxication, burglary, larceny, and vagrancy. Of those committed in 1933, all the women were first time offenders between the ages of 16 and 61; 14 were married, 15 single, two widowed, and three divorced. The majority of those committed held a common school education, while two could neither read nor write.

The tenure of Dr. Stevens was a tumultuous one, hindered by conflicts with employees and struggles with the School’s Board of Visitors. Upon his arrival to Albion, a report identified a large number of significant repairs and needed improvements. Although the Commissioner of Correction agreed with the assessment of the facilities, with an estimated cost of $1.5 million, members of the community felt that the requested funding was excessive. In addition to building improvements, Stevens requested funding to hire a social worker, a psychologist, an assistant physician, a physical director, a first assistant matron, a cook, and a laborer despite relatively stagnant rates of incarceration.

Aside from the excessive expenses, Stevens failed to win over the support of the community when he suspended Dr. Eli Efron, the assistant superintendent, and Edward Van Vleet, the farm superintendent. Although Stevens claimed that both men were discharged as the result of insubordination, rumors swirled throughout the community, some claiming that Stevens had evicted the Efron and Van Vleet families from their residences at the Training School without food or shelter.

No individual was more outraged at Stevens’ behavior than Marc Wheeler Cole, Sr. of Albion. A one-time New York State Assemblyman whose political career was cut short by his failure to adhere to party politics, Cole was vocal in his distaste for the unprofessional behavior of the superintendent. “This community is shocked and unanimously indignant at the hasty, unjust, and tyrannical action of the superintendent of the Albion State Training school in the unwarranted suspension of employees at an order from him calling for eviction of the assistant superintendent from his home and causing him, with a wife and two children, to seek shelter in the community,” Cole sent in a telegram, “…We demand, therefore, the immediate removal of all authority from the present superintendent pending further investigation.”

Although Stevens claimed that the discharged employees in question were “blocking his program from the start,” he found little sympathy from residents. Cole rallied his “troops,” forming an Albion Citizens’ Committee to pursue Stevens’ resignation while focusing on the waste and excess of the superintendent’s administration. To make matters worse, Marc Wheeler Cole, Jr., lodged a complaint against Stevens for illegal voting in the November 7th election. Stevens, an immigrant from England, had just secured his naturalization papers in September and failed to wait the required 90 days before voting.

Following an intense and spiteful battle, Stevens formally resigned his position on February 15, 1934; he was replaced by Dr. Walter B. Martin, a psychiatrist at Attica Prison. The administration building, one of the structures targeted for the massive capital project upon Stevens’ appointment, was rebuilt at a cost of $298,950 shortly after.

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Knowlesville hosted famed orator, Bryan, in his 1896 campaign for president

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 3 November 2018 at 8:59 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 43

William Jennings Bryan, c. 1896

Amidst the Gilded Age, American workers experience a spike in perceived prosperity as average wages rose above those in Europe and immigrants flooded into the United States. Yet, as the name suggests, the Gilded Age provided the outward appearance of growth and success while a run on currency, closing banks, and overextended industry led to a severe economic crisis extending from 1893 to 1897.

The appointment of receivers for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad on the advent of President Grover Cleveland’s inauguration indicated a serious and extended financial situation looming on the horizon.

The issues facing many Americans, circulating around questionable capitalist practices, produced an environment in which political candidates such as William Jennings Bryan could rise to prominence. Born in Salem, Illinois to Silas and Mariah Jennings Bryan, young William became familiar with politics at a young age, his father aligning himself with Jacksonian Democrats and serving several terms as an Illinois Senator.

Bryan spent his post-law school years campaigning for Democrats such as Julius Morton and Grover Cleveland, but his interest in standing on the periphery waned and he turned to his skills as a respected orator to run for Congress in 1890. Facing the incumbent Republican candidate, William Connell, Bryan successfully ran on a platform that included reduced tariffs, limitations on trusts, and currency backed by gold and silver. He ran again in 1892, earning support from Populist candidates as Cleveland defeated Benjamin Harrison for the presidency.

During his second term in Congress and amidst the financial uncertainty of the Panic of 1893, the once crazy idea of “free silver” that Bryan promoted during his first campaign began to take root with many Americans. The result was his decision to forego a third congressional campaign in 1894 in favor of a bid for the presidency in 1896. During his pursuit of the Democratic nomination, he strategically sought to cultivate relationships with Populist leaders in an effort to prevent the nomination of a rival pro-silver candidate. He was relatively unknown in national politics, lacking large coffers to run an expansive campaign, and worked to remain in the periphery as to not draw attention from prominent political leaders.

On July 9, 1896, Bryan delivered his fiery “Cross of Gold” speech, relying upon his reputation as an accomplished and respected orator and becoming the first candidate the press the silver issue at the Democratic National Convention; “You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns; you shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” The following day he was officially selected as the Democratic nominee and set the date of August 12, 1896 as the date in which he would formally accept the nomination at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

On his return trip through Upstate New York, Bryan made a number of stops including a day trip to Orleans County on Friday, August 28th. At the annual picnic of Orleans County farmers, the great orator and “Silverite” was scheduled to address a crowd of several thousand people. The day’s festivities were to start at 9:30 a.m. with a band concert followed by an address by Gen. A. C. Fisk of New York City. Bryan’s 1 o’clock address was the featured event and the evening was to conclude with a concert at 7 o’clock.

James Hanlon of Medina was placed in charge of arranging the program and set the location of the picnic at “Slawson’s Grove” just north of Knowlesville. The location, also known as Lewis’ Grove, was situated upon the farm of Otis Lewis who lived on Eagle Harbor-Knowlesville Road just east of Knowlesville Road. The grove consisted of approximately 25 acres and sloped towards the center forming a natural amphitheater. Despite the logical placement of the event, Medina Democrats were infuriated that such a monumental visit would take place outside of the village.

The grove was arranged in a way that would provide adequate gathering space for over 10,000 people who would arrive from Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and Rochester by train or canal boat. Lines from Rochester ran at ½ rates and made frequent stops at hamlets to accommodate the influx of travelers. Various reports claimed that Bryan arrived at Medina while others stated that Knowlesville’s station would provide a shorter trip to the grove. Regardless, an open carriage drawn by a team of four white horses was ready for the orator’s arrival. James Hanlon, Medina Mayor Seeley Cook, and Charles Hart of Albion accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Bryan to Knowlesville, “…and with the bands ahead and a barouche following, in which was carried a banner bearing the most horrible portrait of the free silver candidate yet shown…”

The carriage stopped for lunch with Mrs. Eugene Woodford, a sister of Mrs. T. Morey Hodgeman who was a neighbor of the Bryans from Lincoln, Nebraska. The late arrival of Bryan’s train and the lunch delayed his arrival to Slawson’s Grove by nearly an hour, while a crowd of around 8,000 impatiently waited for the candidate. Upon his arrival, Bryan was met by an anxious crowd that quickly swelled to over 10,000 people as he approached the platform.

As one local paper reported, “Mr. Bryan was introduced by Mark Phillips, the Hulberton man who has enjoyed all the offices that he could probably ever get through the Republican Party and is now posing as a shining example of conversion to free silver. The people didn’t want to hear him, though, and after he had tried to speak a little he gave it up and introduced Mr. Bryan.” He quickly mounted a reporter’s table so the massive crowd could catch a glimpse, and his hoarse and weakened voice was a far cry from his great oration at Chicago the month prior.

The fervor of the crowd was likely reminiscent of Andrew Jackson’s 1829 inauguration party, where 10,000 to 20,000 people mobbed the Capitol as part of a massive celebration. One paper reported, “It was probably the roughest crowd [Bryan] has been in since Jersey City, and he was hustled and jammed about on his way over the uneven pathway in a most unpleasant way. Once the candidate was nearly run into a tree, but he avoided it in time. At another he stubbed his toe on a root and nearly went down, but was caught in time by one of his bodyguards.”

The attentive and preoccupied crowd became a draw for pickpockets as well. The cries of one poor farmer who lost his wallet and $700 within grabbed the attention of a group of onlookers who quickly apprehended the thief. In 1912, John Craddock was reported to have cut down a tree in Slawson’s Grove revealing a wad of cash, likely stashed by a pickpocket during Bryan’s visit.

Although residents from across the county traveled to see Bryan at Knowlesville, even leaving Hulberton as a virtual ghost town for a period of time, not everyone supported his platform. On the evening before Bryan’s arrival in Orleans County, a ratification meeting was held at Albion and chaired by Marcus Phillips of Hulberton. “The meeting was not a large one and little enthusiasm was shown…small boys blew horns in the gallery which the speaker disapproved of.”

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Albion native led Cleveland Browns to 3 Championships

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 20 October 2018 at 7:19 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 42

Tommy Colella – “The Albion Antelope” – is shown with the Cleveland Rams in 1944.

After another seemingly abysmal start to the 2018-19 NFL season, the Buffalo Bills appear to be relegated to the pits of the AFC East division. Yet nearly 70 years ago, an Albion native found himself on the roster of the old Buffalo Bills of the All-American Football Conference.

“The Albion Antelope” is perhaps one of the greatest sports stories to come out of Orleans County during the early half of the 20th century. His career was marked by significant success at multiple positions during his high school, collegiate and professional career.

Thomas “Tommy” Colella was born July 3, 1918 at Albion to Giacomo and Louise Colella and spent his earliest years growing up on Washington Street. During his time at Albion High School, Colella played multiple sports including football, baseball, basketball, and track, but football was clearly the defining sport in his career. He was part of the 1936 football team that went 8-0-1, scoring 293 total points for the season and only allowing 20 points against. The year following his graduation, the team went .500 scoring 81 points and allowing 84 points against. In the final game of the ’36 season, Colella’s interception and 40 yard pass to Joe Rosato for a touchdown led Albion to a 27-0 victory over Medina.

In his senior year, Tommy Colella played semi-pro ball with the Albion West Ends, earning $5 per game; the arrangement was cut short when he realized the stipend might jeopardize his ability to play college ball. Following graduation, he enrolled at Canisius College where he played football for four years. During a time when football squads were small and players filled multiple positions, Colella played running back, quarterback, kicker, punter, defensive back, and kickoff/punt return specialist. His successful tenure at Canisius earned him Little All-American Honors three years in a row and the Canisius College Sodality Football Sportsmanship Trophy, which was given “to promote and reward really progressive achievements by the students, and to honor real sportsmen, both on and off the field.”

In 1942, Colella was selected in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Detroit Lions (#55 pick) as a halfback. Wearing number 46, he played two seasons for the team behind Frankie Sinkwich. His lack of involvement in the team’s running game resulted in his request to move to another team, which was made a reality in 1944 through a trade with the Cleveland Rams. His role as the team’s halfback and punter would lead the Rams to the 1945 NFL Championship, but once again he felt undervalued by his team. Colella signed on with the newly established Cleveland Browns prior to the relocation of the Rams to Los Angeles in 1946. During his three years with the Browns, he helped lead the team to three AAFC Championships before his trade to the Buffalo Bills in 1949.

During his professional career, Colella played 87 games, scoring 15 touchdowns and 1 field goal accounting for 93 total points. On 199 rushing attempts he ran a total of 753 yards, accumulating the majority of those yards with the Cleveland Rams. Playing multiple positions, he completed 56 passes out of 149 total attempts for 617 yards; a meager 37.6% completion rate. He punted 196 times for 7,317 yards, averaging 37.3 yards per punt, and totaled 32 punt returns for 487 total yards. His longest punt return of 82 yards came with a touchdown while playing with the Browns in 1947.

With his trade to the Buffalo Bills, he became one of the few athletes to play for his hometown team in high school, college, and on the professional level. In 1967, his accomplishments earned him a spot in the inaugural class of the Golden Griffin Sports Hall of Fame at Canisius College. He entered the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame in 2002, ten years after his death on May 15, 1992.

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During Polish American Month, a look back at prominent local priest

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 13 October 2018 at 8:06 am

Rev. Leonard F. Dykal grew up in Albion and served parishes in WNY and Texas

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 41

October is Polish American Heritage Month, first celebrated in 1981 by the Polish American Cultural Center in Philadelphia. It is an opportunity to call attention to the accomplishments of the roughly 9.5 million self-identified Polish Americans in the United States. In Orleans County, the Poles found employment in the local sandstone quarries scattered along the Erie Canal, just as countless other immigrant groups had in prior years.

I was given this photograph of an unidentified priest several years ago and through a bit of luck was able to identify him as Rev. Leonard F. Dykal of Albion. Dressed in his cassock and wearing the liturgical biretta, the three-peaked hat common of Roman Catholic clergy prior to Vatican II, Dykal appears to be relatively young. I would presume that this image, printed on a postcard, was taken around or shortly after his ordination.

Leonard Dykał was born at Albion on April 30, 1889 to Frank and Mary Lubomska Dykał. He was baptized on May 1, 1889 by Rev. John Castaldi at St. Joseph’s Church on North Main Street and the sacrament was recorded under the name Leonardus Deco, an indication of the priest’s unfamiliarity with the Polish language. The “ł” in the Polish language sounds similar to the English “w,” which explains why the family’s name frequently appeared as Dykaw or Dikaw.

Leonard spent his earliest years living next door to his grandparents, Joseph and Mary Lubomski, and other members of his extended family. His grandfather spent the majority of his life as a laborer on the Erie Canal and his uncle, John Lubomski, would eventually become the manager of the Orleans County Quarry Company. The young Dykal received his education at the Polish parochial school before traveling to Detroit, Michigan to complete his undergraduate studies.

After returning to Western New York, he enrolled at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester for several years and later transferred to Niagara University to complete his studies in Theology. On December 21, 1912, Dykal was ordained by Bishop Charles Colton at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Buffalo and celebrated his First Solemn Mass the following week. On December 29th, Rev. Dykal was assisted by his classmate, Rev. Stephen Syczepanski, who served as deacon; Rev. Wojciech Cichy provided the homily. The celebration commenced with a parade led by the Polish Band and various church societies. The parade escorted Rev. Dykal from his parents’ home on East State Street to the rectory of St. Mary’s Church where he was vested before entering the sanctuary. A brief luncheon was held in the rectory following the service, Vespers were sung at 3 p.m., and a supper was held at the family home in the evening.

In 1914, Rev. Dykal was sent to assist Rev. Ladislaus Hordych at Assumption Parish in Buffalo’s Black Rock neighborhood. His tenure at Assumption was short as he was appointed to assist at St. Casimer’s in Buffalo and then St. Adalbert’s before leaving Western New York due to poor health.

Dykal traveled south to Texas where he settled as the priest at St. Stanislaus Church in Chappell Hill in January of 1917. Within six months, he was sent to Brenham, Texas where he remained for seven years. During his tenure at Brenham he served as the pastor of two congregations, one English-speaking and the other Polish-speaking. He successfully merged the two congregations together and led the parishioners through a $50,000 school construction project while effectively reducing the parish debt to $10,000. When he was transferred to a parish at New Waverly, Texas, both Catholic and lay residents petitioned the Bishop of Galveston to reconsider the decision.

In September of 1927, Bishop Turner of Buffalo appointed Dykal to serve as administrator of Sacred Heart Church in Batavia following the illness of Rev. Leonard Podlewski (another Polish priest with local connections). After short stints at parishes in Humphrey and Franklinville, he was assigned to Sacred Heart Church in Medina to replace Rev. Charles Mioduszewski, where he remained until 1938 when he was replaced by Rev. Maximillian Bogacki.

Rev. Dykal was a well-educated man, speaking both English and Polish while holding a strong understanding of the German, French, Spanish, and Italian languages. He enjoyed traveling, not as indicated by his tenure in Texas, but through his frequent camping trips to Canada. Upon his death on January 25, 1967, he left an estate valued at $160,722.

The majority of his estate was left to the St. John Vianney Seminary in East Aurora, Community Hospital in Cheektowaga, Mercy Hospital in Buffalo, the Medical Missionary Sisters in Philadelphia, and the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in New York City. He also left $3,000 to St. Joseph’s Church in New Waverly, Texas (his last assignment in the south) and $1,500 to the Chancery of the Buffalo Diocese. His Pontifical Requiem Mass was held at St. Joseph’s Church in Albion and officiated by the Most Rev. Stanislaus Brzana of Buffalo; his body was laid to rest in St. Joseph’s New Cemetery.

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Ghost Walk brings cobblestone characters back to life

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 8 October 2018 at 1:23 pm

GAINES – The Cobblestone Museum had its second annual Ghost Walk on Sunday with a cast of about 40 people portraying characters from the community’s past, as well as a few people who were out of place, including explorer Leif Eriksson (Roger Beam of Gaines), who is credited with being the first European to reach North America, about 1,000 years ago.

He is shown at the Farmers Hall, waiting for the next tour group. There were about 100 people on the Ghost Walk, which was organized by Brenda Radzinski, Sue Bonafini and Marty Taber of the Cobblestone Museum.

Roger Beam, right, joined Joe Nowicki of Hilton, who was Carl Akeley, the renown taxidermist from Clarendon. The Cobblestone Museum has a red fox that Akeley mounted when he was 16 in 1879. The museum recently had the fox restored.

Akeley is known as the Father of Modern Taxidermy. He devised a method for fitting an animal’s skin over a meticulously prepared and sculpted form of the animal’s body.  The process included the animal’s musculature and details such as wrinkles and veins and produced a very realistic result.

Akeley made many trips to Africa to collect specimens and created the African Hall at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Akeley also liked to place the mounted animals in settings that reflected their native habitat.

Judy Larkin of Ridgeway and Bill Ott of Lockport both portrayed Joe Vagg, a blacksmith. Larkin and Ott are both members of the New York State Designer Blacksmiths.

Erica Wanecski portrayed Emily Hale teacher, a teacher from 1849 when the Cobblestone Schoolhouse opened on Ridge Road.

Keira Zambito, 10, and Aubrey Bruning, 7, are students. 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.

Elliana Nowicki, 9, Hilton gets her makeup on. She also was a student at the Cobblestone Schoolhouse.

Sandy Wilson Wheeler, a student at the school in the late 1940s, stopped by on Sunday and rang the school bell.

Al Capurso portrayed the Rev. Stephen Smith who gave the dedicatory address at the opening of the Cobblestone Universalist Church in 1834.

Sue and Kevin DeHollander of Knowlesville represent members of the congregation.

A group of girls play “Ring Around the Rosie” at the Liberty Pole on the museum’s grounds. The nursery rhyme actually has a morbid meaning, referring to the Black Death from the Great Plague of London in 1665. The girls sang, “ashes, ashes, we all fall down.”

The girls include, from left, Liana Flugel, Autumn Flugel, Ella Trupo, Julia Knight, Madalyn Ashbury and Mallory Ashbury.

Provided photo: Tom Rivers, the Orleans Hub editor, portrayed the tightrope walker George Williams, who attempted to walk across the Erie Canal on Sept. 28, 1859 in Albion. The event became one of the community’s worst tragedies with 15 people dying, including 11 children, when the Main Street bridge collapsed. Rivers did a few tricks over Proctor Brook in a buildup of the fateful walk.

Debbie Atkinson portrayed one of the victims of the bridge collapse, and Gina Sidari was an assistant for the tightrope walker.

Gerard Morrisey portrayed Rufus Brown Bullock, the former Georgia governor who grew up in Albion and moved back to his hometown after his career. The museum owns Bullock’s outhouse and it is on display behind the Ward House. Patrick Hargrave, 12, of Lyndonville is a garden ghost.

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Apples have been big business in Orleans County since the 1800s

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 6 October 2018 at 8:49 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 40

KNOWLESVILLE – October is National Apple Month! This photograph, likely taken in the latter quarter of the 19th century, shows the New York Central Railroad Depot located at Knowlesville. This particular image was taken east of the Rt. 31 Bridge that crosses over the railroad tracks; the photographer has pointed his camera to the southeast. A number of horse-drawn wagons are pulling loads of apples to be loaded into refrigerator cars positioned along the tracks.

In the earliest years of the county’s history, wheat was the primary product shipped out of the area. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 drastically cut shipping rates for grains and produce, but demands for apples increased gradually starting around 1845. That increase in demand led Isaac Signor to include the following account of apple orchards in Landmarks of Orleans County, New York published in 1894;

“The fruit has flourished exceedingly in most parts of the county, the climatic influence of the winds, which from the north, northwest, and northeast, pass over open water before striking this territory, becoming thereby tempered and raising the average of winter temperature, and at the same time serving as protection against late spring and early autumn frosts. The atmosphere of the county is also comparatively dry and the rainfall light, while the cool autumn winds from the lake region retard the ripening of winter fruits, greatly enhancing the value of the apples.”

This value averaged around $1.50 per barrel at the time Signor published this account. Several years earlier prices per barrel hovered around $1.40, but the Medina Daily Register published a rather unusual account of apple sales near Knowlesville. In October of 1891, produce dealers in Medina were offering farmers around $1.40 per barrel while apple “sharks” in Knowlesville “had the gall” to offer farmers $1.00 per barrel. A handful of unknowing farmers sold their apples to the deceitful dealers, but the majority hauled their load to Medina to cash in on the fair price.

Another local farmer drove to Knowlesville “…with a lot of apples in the saddest collection of barrels ever used to pack fruit in. The barrels had been stored away in the hen coop for a number of years and the hens had used them as a roosting place. They were of the poorest quality when new and were full of holes which the great-souled farmer had covered by nailing shingles over them.” The “sharks” refused to pay the farmer the $1.00 per barrel rate they had offered the others. Rather incensed, the farmer told his wife’s cousin of his misfortune and the latter chose to “…jump on the Knowlesville fruit buyers…” The verbal scolding encouraged one dealer to offer “…a trifle more than the even dollar.”

Fluctuations in crop yield could produce gains upwards of $1 million or cause near-failure for area farmers. The 1896 growing season saw one of the most fruitful harvests in local history, increasing shipments out of the county while driving up demands for barrels. John Higgins of Knowlesville operated a nearby cooperage and recalled manufacturing over 52,000 barrels in the height of that demand.

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Albion students celebrate the past with Ghost Walk at Mount Albion

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2018 at 10:54 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Albion student Nia Rodriguez portrays Nehemiah Ingersoll (1788 – February 28, 1868), who played a major role in the development of Albion, donating land for the county courthouse and jail, and parceling out 100 acres of land in the downtown for development. He was one of about 15 interesting people from Albion’s past who were highlighted during a Ghost Walk on Saturday at Mount Albion Cemetery.

About 400 people attended the 10th annual Ghost Walk put on by high school students. There were nearly 70 students involved in the production.

Ryan Krenning is Hiram Curtis (April 1804 – May 17, 1871). He owned a foundry along the Erie Canal currently occupied by the Lake Country Pennysaver and Orleans Hub. Hiram manufactured agricultural implements including plows, cultivators and reapers. His company made 1,000 plows annually in a variety of patterns. The Erie Canal was a perfect place for his business allowing him to receive raw materials and ship finished product throughout the state and beyond.

Emma Tower portrays Jennie Curtis (1837 – October 23, 1921). She was the daughter of Hiram Curtis. Jennie was a spirited young woman who is considered to be the first female prisoner of the Civil War. She was thought to be a Yankee spy, but was eventually released and the charges were dropped.

In addition to portraying ghosts, students provided music at stops along the cemetery. Here students are shown singing, “Amazing Grace.” The trio includes, from left: Brie Haines, Lily Zambito and Alison Mathes.

Molly Wadhams portrays Laura Ward, wife of Judge Alexis Ward (1802 – November 28, 1854). Alexis Ward was Orleans County Judge from 1830-1840. He was instrumental in coordinating the Rochester-Lockport-Niagara Falls Railroad and the suspension bridge across Niagara Falls River. He was a supporter of public schools. In 1854 he was elected to the Assembly, representing Orleans County, but he died before he could take office.

Chase Froman impersonates Governor Rufus Bullock (1834- April 27, 1907). Bullock graduated from the old Albion Academy in 1850. His background in telegraphy helped him to invent a combination printing telegraph system that was used in many large cities. He moved to Augusta, Ga. and became assistant superintendent of the Adams Telegraph Company and formed the Southern Express Co. When the Civil War broke out, he worked with the Confederate Government and was in charge of the railroads and telegraph lines. After the war he helped organize the First National Bank of Georgia and the Republican Party. He was a key player at the Constitutional Convention and was unanimously nominated for governor. He was elected governor in 1868 and was instrumental in the reconstruction of Georgia with over 600 miles of new railroad built during his tenure.

Olivia Morrison represents Hannah Avery at the only “tabletop grave” at the historic Albion cemetery.

This year’s tour included the singing of a song by the late Albion Mayor Donna Rodden. Hannah Brewer sings Rodden’s song, “Top of the Tower,” at the Civil War Memorial.

Hannah Van Epps is Caroline Phipps Achilles (March 21, 1812 – January 26, 1881). Caroline taught in a log school house at Gaines Basin at the age of 14. She later taught in a classical school located at the Courthouse Square in Albion. She felt girls and boys should be taught separately and chose to teach girls. Her idea was very successful. She built a larger school to accommodate her students and in 1837 the Phipps Union Female Seminary opened its doors to girls from all over New York State.

Students also portrayed Elizabeth Harriet Denio, Judge Noah Davis, David Hardie, Judge Arad Thomas, Starr Chester, James Lewis and Emily Caroline Minton Pullman, and Elizabeth Josephine Vaile, MD.

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100 years ago soldiers from Company F in Medina fought valiantly in France during WWI

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 29 September 2018 at 7:49 am

Photo by Matthew Ballard: The grave of Cpl. James P. Clark of Company F, 108th Infantry, 27th Division at the Somme American Cemetery in France.

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 39

Amidst the commotion of political malfeasance, the excitement of football season, and the stress of a new school year comes the centennial of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The massive campaign initiated on September 26, 1918 marked the beginning of the end for Imperial Germany. Over 1.2 million American soldiers participated in the advance that spanned the nearly 50 days leading up to the Armistice of November 11th

Over the last three years, I have authored numerous pieces on the men of Company F in Medina who marched across the fields of the embattled French countryside. All of that research culminated with the opportunity to stand upon the hallowed ground that refused to release the bodies of so many young men. Now that 100 years have passed, a little interest has stirred up locally in an effort to commemorate this monumental anniversary.

The afternoon of September 27, 1918 arrives as the men of the 108th prepare to march from bivouac camp at Ronssoy, France to the trenches along the front lines. A hasty eight and a half mile march is met with a brief pause just west of Templeaux le Geurard before the remaining six miles are covered by night. The enemy is aware of all troop movements and the regiment is met by heavy shelling and concentrated gas; Medina-native Frank Bloom (Kwiatkowski) is killed by a bursting shell.

Approaching the trenches, the men are placed in line with 2nd Battalion under the command of Capt. John S. Thompson. Although zero hour is set, the officers withhold details of the impending advance from their soldiers and sleep is sparse as the men contemplate the inevitability of the coming days. The clock strikes 5:50 a.m. on September 29th and shelling begins from 23 brigades of British light artillery and 10 brigades of British heavy artillery. The shells fall in front of the trenches and a creeping barrage commences, slowly advancing in increments of 100 feet with 4-minute pauses in between. Over 100 machine gun units open fire as the brave men of Medina crawl forth from the trenches under the encouragement of fellow soldiers.

An enemy counter barrage begins to fall across the lines of advancing men, cutting many down in the initial seconds of the advance. In commencing the attack, the men of 2nd Battalion charge across open fields to swing their line parallel to 3rd Battalion on the left. Enemy machine gun fire halts early progress, which is met with bayonets and hand grenades. It is during this action of outflanking German machine gun nests that James A. Sheret is killed. Pressing forward, men drop as they advance in the face of flying bullets and falling shells.

The unit moving under the code name “Tumo,” presses forward with no reports to Headquarters in the early hours of the advance. By 11:00 a.m., reports arrive at HQ indicating that 2nd Battalion of the 108th is on their objective south of Bony, engaging on the main defenses of the Hindenburg Line. Winded from the rapid advance upon the position, progress is halted as 2nd Battalion approaches a thick entanglement of barbed wire. Heavy enemy fire slows progress and cuts down countless officers and non-commissioned officers during which Cpl. James P. Clark assumes control of his platoon. Leading his men against the enemy, fewer than 200 men are able to move upon the wire:

“This was done with a recklessness, valor and determination that proved irresistible. They rushed forward in small groups and as individuals, through the wire, through passes existing in the wire, and in some cases over the top of the wire where it was very thick, all through a heavy pall of smoke.” – John F. O’Ryan

Nearing 1:00 p.m. the battalion solidifies its position in Bony, but finds itself co-occupying the village with enemy troops. The unit repulses several counterattacks throughout the afternoon and into the evening. One of the first groups to reach the impenetrable Hindenburg Line, Medina’s boys fought bravely and suffered severely.

Cpl. James P. Clark, a 20-year-old native of South Dakota, enlisted with the 3rd N.Y. National Guard in April of 1917. His two older brothers, Leslie and Seth, both followed suit and joined in June of the same year. Cpl. Clark was killed by a machine gun bullet nearly 20 minutes after assuming control of his group after all other officers were either dead or wounded. As John S. Thompson later wrote, “The barrage laid down by the enemy tore up the ground around the men and the noise was deafening.” Clark was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his gallantry exhibited during the deadly advance and is prominently marked upon his marble cross at the Somme American Cemetery in Bony, France.

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Ghost Walks return and highlight local history

Photos by Tom Rivers: Albion High School students will bring back the Ghost Walk at Mount Albion Cemetery on Saturday. The school took a year off from the Ghost Walk last year, although many were part of one at the Cobblestone Museum. This photo from oct. 2, 2016 shows Sophia Zambito, left, as Mildred Skinner and Cole London as Herschel Harding. They were two of four children killed in a trolley accident on March 7, 1915.

Staff Reports Posted 28 September 2018 at 9:19 am

Ghost Walks that highlight local history and prominent residents, as well as some who are relatively unknown, will return.

The Albion High School Arts Department will have its 10th Ghost Walk on Saturday at Mount Albion Cemetery. There are 66 students involved in the event, serving as ghosts, tour guides, singers and the tech crew.

Erica Wanecski of Medina played a suffragette who pushed for women’s right to vote. She is shown during the Ghost Walk on Oct. 8, 2017 at the Cobblestone Museum. The museum will have another Ghost Walk on Oct. 7.

Students will highlight the lives of Rufus Brown Bullock, Elizabeth Harriet Denio, Noah Davis, David Hardie, Hannah Avery, Starr Chester, Dr. Elizabeth Vaile, Emily Pullman (George Pullman’s mother), Alexis Ward’s wife Laura Goodrich Ward, Hiram Curtis, Jenny Curtis and Arad Thomas.

An Albion student will perform the song, “Top of the Tower,” written by former Mayor Donna Rodden. The student will sing from the tower, which is a Civil War Memorial.

The Mount Albion Ghost Walk is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. with a $5 donation. For tickets and to reserve a time, call 589-2087. There are tours every 15 minutes.

The Cobblestone Museum also is having a Ghost Walk on Oct. 7. This follows last year’s debut of the event. The Ghost Walk includes community volunteers, from children to senior citizens.

The “ghosts” are connected to the Cobblestone Museum’s past. The walking tour includes about a dozen different locations on the museum’s campus, including the cobblestone schoolhouse, the oldest cobblestone church in North America, and a cobblestone parsonage, all National Historic Landmarks.

Some of the apparitions include newspaper editor Horace Greeley, who once owned the Cobblestone Parsonage; William Babbitt, who supervised the construction of District #5 Cobblestone Schoolhouse and served as Town Supervisor and a State Assemblyman; and Rev. Stephen Smith, who gave the dedicatory address at the opening of the Cobblestone Universalist Church in 1834.

Tours begin every 20 minutes beginning at 1 p.m. and will last about 90 minutes. The final tour will set out from the lower level of the Cobblestone Church at 4 p.m. The cost for the Ghost Walk is $10 for adults and $7 for Cobblestone Society Members. Kids 12 and under are $5 and those under 2 are free. Pre-registration guarantees a spot on one of 10 tours.

Registration can be made in person, by phone at 589-9013, or online at Walk-ins on October 7 will be accommodated in any open slots remaining.

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Immigrants were critical in growth of local sandstone industry

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 22 September 2018 at 7:45 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 4, Issue 38

The impact of Medina Sandstone extends beyond the beautiful structures that were built from the durable material. Since the initial discovery of the resource during the construction of the Erie Canal and the subsequent opening of the first quarry in Medina by John Ryan in 1837, the sandstone industry was a driving force behind a diverse population in Orleans County. English, Irish, German, French, Polish, and Italian quarrymen traveled to this region in search of employment in the quarries, which provided the necessary funds to bring family and friends to the United States.

This image shows men in a local quarry who paused to stand for a photographer. Scattered around the job site are a number of hammers and bars used for breaking and moving stone. The tools suggest that these men were responsible for dressing stone after it was extracted from the quarry.

Standing at the front of the picture is a face hammer, which was used to roughly dress stones in preparation for detail work; several of these are positioned throughout the photograph. Another man holds a large square, which would have assisted in the rough dressing of stones. Teams of horses were used to haul the stone out of the quarries for shipment by way of the Erie Canal or N.Y.C. Railroad.

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 Edward 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. Unfortunately, the start of World War One halted production and interest in the building material waned.

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.

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