local history

Historian worries as older wooden barns are vanishing from landscape

Posted 22 April 2021 at 7:30 am

Residents urged to send in photos of barns to Department of History

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

Illuminating Orleans, Vol. 1, No. 11

MEDINA – The Allis Farm barns on Bates Road in Medina are described in the 1913 New Century Atlas of Orleans County. Then owned by Jay Allis, the farm included “a general barn, 40×75 feet with ornamental cupola; horse barn 20×30; and sheep shed 30×60.”

Barns photograph well in every season even when set against a glowering sky, as in this view of the general barn. Allis Farm features two massive single stretch 75 ft. beams. The cupola may be ornamental, but it was also functional, as it provided ventilation.

Celebrating Barns

Who can walk into an old barn and not feel a powerful sense of another time, a connection with the previous generations who worked there?

It is difficult to articulate these feelings, but author Thompson Mayes best explains them in his book “Why Old Places Matter,” published in 2018 for the National Trust for Historic Preservation:

“old places affect us very deeply and intuitively,

“old places…..connect us to the struggles of a previous generation,”

“old places….help us recall who we are and where we came from,”

“old places….are imbued with the spirit of those who made them,”

“their building materials and craftsmanship deserve respect as they will never be available again.”

Barns represent our agricultural heritage. They remind us of our connection to the land, our elemental dependence on agriculture for survival. Simple, stoic, unassuming, unpretentious, none alike, each with its own story, barns make the past present.

But they are disappearing from our landscape. We invite you to share your barn photographs and stories with us at the Orleans County Dept. of History. As part of our mission to record history, we plan to maintain a visual record of these structures which so enhance our rural skyline. We look forward to your contributions.

Email: Catherine.Cooper@orleanscountyny.gov.

Mail: Historian’s Office, Central Hall, 34 E. Park St., Albion, NY 14411.

Additional barn photos on: www.facebook.com/Orleans-County-Historian.

The Hibbard barn on Murdock Road features a gambrel roof. The original barn was destroyed by fire in 1913.

The current barn was built on the same location in 1915.

Historic Childs: The Lattin family, three generations of local historians – Part 2

Posted 10 April 2021 at 8:50 pm

Adrienne Kirby selected this family photo as one of her favorites. It was taken in 1983, most likely at the Village Inn for the celebration of her grandfather’s 85th birthday. Adrienne is seen at left, next to her grandfather, Cary Lattin and her younger sister, Allison Lattin.   Standing in back is her grandmother, Avis Lattin and her father, Bill Lattin. 

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

(Author’s note:  It became obvious to me while working on what turned out to be Part 1 of the History of the Lattin family in the Hamlet of Childs and environs, that one article alone would not do the story justice. So, without further ado, here is the second installment. (If you missed article 1, you may want to back up a week and check it out or click here.)

Adrienne (Lattin) Kirby, current Town of Gaines Historian, is happy to explain how she is the third rung in the ladder of historic preservation, so to speak, as both her father, C.W. (Bill) Lattin, and grandfather, Cary Lattin, have greased the wheel by providing her so much interesting historical information over her 46 year lifetime.

The Lattin family and the Cobblestone Museum, have in many ways become synonymous over the years with community engagement. Whether it was hosting school tours for up to fifty classrooms each year, or inviting the community to take part in the Pumpkin Festival, with prizes given to historic themed entries.

Adrienne remembers this particular Festival in 1982 because of the pumpkin sitting on the stand next to her. She recognized the “O.C.” which stood for Orleans County, and a carved cello which was the instrument that Pamela Frame played for this program in the Cobblestone Church. The children taking part in this photo include (Left to Right): Marsha Bolton (now Rivers), DeeDee States (now DiMarco), Allison Lattin, Richard Bowen, and Adrienne Lattin (now Kirby). The adult in the center of the photo is Pamela Frame, the cellist who played for the event.

Another fond remembrance for Adrienne was the annual Christmas pageant at the Schoolhouse. “Janice (Thaine) did those for many years, and I remember them fondly. I was in a skit called ‘The Christmas Belles’ about 3 sisters, whose names were Laurabelle, Clarabelle, and Isabelle.” Adrienne (left) and sister, Allison, are seen here in 1982 with Santa (Gerald Thaine) at the Schoolhouse.

Janice Thaine offered up the Christmas pagents in the 1970s and 1980s.  Here we see Adrienne and Allison Lattin at the right side of the first row of children.

A makeshift “theater” was created each Christmas at the schoolhouse, by stringing a collection of sheets across the front of the classroom for a makeshift stage curtain, as seen here. The audience sat in the student’s desks. Adrienne said, “I’m sure I played the organ for the program in 1985 (pictured here), I would have been taking lessons with Miss DiGuilio. She was in Albion, but a lot of people around here will remember her.”

Young actor, Danny Capurso, age 4, with his mother, Chris Capurso, are seen arriving at the schoolhouse in 1983. Some of Janice Thaine’s handmade Christmas decorations are displayed in the window. The program was composed of children reciting seasonal poems, short skits and music.

Adrienne said, “Every year, we sang ‘Up on the Housetop.’ I seem to remember having to snap my fingers at the ‘click, click, click,’ and a few other hand gestures. The show always closed with Janice sitting in the teacher’s chair, reading ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,’ with all the kids sitting on the floor around her. Her husband Gerald, would dress up as Santa Claus and kids would take turns sitting on his lap. I think the wire for the curtain is still there. The curtain was just some white sheets pinned together.”

Adrienne reminisced, “ I distinctly remember when I was in 1st grade wearing lace up shoes with rather thick, soft rubber soles, because that was fashionable in 1980. I stood on the metal grating above the furnace long enough for it to melt an imprint into the bottom of my shoe. I remember Janice also brought in a cardboard fireplace, most likely from the 1950s, as sort of a backdrop.”

Folks who have toured the Farmers Hall at the Cobblestone Museum probably remember the large smokehouse and bin there were created from sycamore limbs.  What they may not know is the artifacts’ connection to the Lattin family. Sometime in 1870s, Adrienne’s great-great grandfather, Bartlett decided to cut a huge sycamore tree in Kuck’s Woods. He was assisted by a friend, and the two men decided to each take half of the wood.

The sycamore tree they selected was 90 feet tall, six feet in diameter, and about 20’ in circumference. One of the characteristics of sycamore trees is they usually become hollow on their own. Bartlett used half of the trunk to create a log bin, seen here occupied by Cary Lattin in 1902, and Barlett’s friend used the other half of the trunk for a chicken coop.

Bartlett also used one limb measuring three foot in diameter for a smokehouse. The sycamore smokehouse is shown here in 1945, with Cary Lattin at right. Cary’s father, Nahum, is holding his grandson, Bill Lattin. The family trio is inspecting meat hanging inside the smokehouse. In 1980, Cary gave the sycamore smokehouse to the Cobblestone Museum to preserve.

It’s no secret that the Lattin’s have enjoyed collecting antiques. Bill has even “set up shop” at regional antique stores.  One of the items that Cary and Bill were fond of is displayed in their homestead and has a six generation connection to the Lattin family.  Adrienne’s great- great-great-great grandfather, Nathaniel Lattin, purchased a Hepplewhite sideboard in a shop in New York City in the 1830s. It was second hand at that point, and the family tells the story that it was once owned by a sea captain and was used in his cabin on a sailing vessel. Nathaniel recognized it as quality furniture.

When Nathaniel died, he passed it on through the “greats,” first to Joseph, then to Joseph’s son, William.  The story is told that Bartlett Lattin, William’s brother, liked the piece of furniture so much that he offered a milk cow in exchange, if his brother William would give him the sideboard.  Succeeding with the barter, Bartlett took his newly acquired sideboard home. His wife, Phebe, was very upset with the trade.  She said, “You traded our best milk cow for that old, second-hand piece of furniture – What were you thinking?!  You can’t put that in my dining room!”

After some serious give and take, Phebe relaxed her indignation enough to say the Hepplewhite sideboard could go in the woodshed, where she used it to store odds and ends. When Phebe died in 1886, Barlett moved the sideboard in to the house and gave it a place of rightful honor.” Bartlett died in 1900 and the cabinet was inherited by his son, Nahum Lattin.

Bill Lattin said, “Nahum was offered $500 for the sideboard in 1902. Luckily, he didn’t sell it and it sits in my dining room today.” Bill appreciates it, certainly for its value, but probably more so for its wonderful family provenance that includes stories of sea captains and a traded milk cow. You see, a historian is really a seasoned story teller.

Historic Childs: 3 generations of the Lattin family preserve local history, Part 1

Posted 3 April 2021 at 9:58 am

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

Cary H. Lattin (1898-1988) began a family legacy of historic preservation that continues today.

GAINES – The Lattin family name is well known to anyone with an interest in local history.  Three generations of Lattins have lived and worked here with a mission to preserve the stories, architecture and culture of our shared history in Orleans County.

Adrienne (Lattin) Kirby, current Town of Gaines Historian, has been preceded by her father, C.W. (Bill) Lattin, former Cobblestone Museum Curator and Orleans County Historian; and her grandfather, Cary Lattin, seen here circa 1980, who also served as Orleans County Historian.  The Lattins come from a long line of pioneers that have been present in the community for eight generations.

Adrienne shared recently that history, and historical preservation, were literally in her blood, Lattin blood.  After all, she was the child of Bill Lattin and grandchild of Cary Lattin.  From her youngest days she would eat, drink and sleep history.  Her childhood home on Gaines Basin Road was built in the 1820s.

Adrienne said, “The house had the original plaster walls and was painted historic colors.”

She reflects on life surrounded by antiques and objects from a bygone era. Adrienne’s father, Bill, was working as curator of the Cobblestone Museum at that time, and she recalls that she was always being drawn into his work, sometimes by request, and sometimes because, “Dad pressed me into service.”

For Adrienne, born in 1974, seen here, front right, reflected that while some kids would be playing tag or hide-and-seek, she might have been cleaning the historic windows in America’s oldest Cobblestone Church.

“Though I did wash a lot of windows in the church, my sister, Allison, and I played a lot, too,” Adrienne said. “When we played ‘house,’ it was in the Ward House. When we played ‘school’ we had a real schoolhouse to play in. Most kids probably don’t play ‘church’ but we had one to play in, so we did.”

Others assembled here in June 1982 for the dedication of the John Brush plaque in the Church lobby include: Front Row (Left to Right): Three representatives from First Universalist Church of Rochester, Adrienne Lattin, age 7. Row Two: Signe Maine, Melva Roberts, Elton Roberts, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Brush. Row Three: Florence James, Lee Maine, Rev. Richard Hood, Dorothy Pratt, Jean Bistoff holding her granddaughter, Joani Loss.  Row Four: John Pratt, Lenore Houck, Richard Hoffman, Betsy Hoffman, Ruth Needham. Back: Dr. Douglas Houck and C.W. (Bill) Lattin.

Adrienne Kirby speaks during an unveiling ceremony for a sign for Beardsley Creek on July 28, 2018.

By the age of 9 years old, Adrienne could be found helping her father by giving museum tours. “I started by giving tours in the Church where Dad could keep an eye on me,” she said. Soon, Adrienne was leading Museum tours, on her own, up the road to the National Landmark Cobblestone Schoolhouse.

“When you think about it, no one gave it a second thought, a third grader leading total strangers alongside a busy state highway to a destination 2/10s of a mile away,” she said. “Times were different then!”

Adrienne said she really enjoyed giving Museum tours. She recalls that one group of Museum visitors was so pleased with their tour, that they gave her an “E-T” shirt. The guests told Adrienne that she was “Just so darn cute!” Another fond memory was, because she was “always at the museum,” at lunchtime, her dad would give her a dollar and send her to the H&A next door to buy a Twinkie and a comic book. At 7 years old her favorite comic book was “Richie Rich,” or “Mad Magazine.” “But if I bought a Mad Magazine, I couldn’t buy a Twinkie because I wouldn’t have enough money!” Sounds like a valuable life lesson was learned.

When Adrienne was about 9 years old, she recalls that her father took her up to the Cobblestone Schoolhouse and showed her how to use a riding lawn mower. She said, “This was terribly exciting to me, because a riding lawn mower was practically like DRIVING! After instructing me on use of the pedals and so forth, he instructed me to mow the back lawn. Giddy with all the possibilities driving allowed me, my father watched me as I proceeded to make a figure 8 and make all sorts of mazes and cool designs in the grass. He never said a word, but I didn’t get to use the riding lawn mower again!”  However, Adrienne did mow a good deal of lawn behind the church and on Route 98 (with a self-propelled mower). Adrienne also remembers what a “pain in the neck” it was to use the old canister Electrolux to vacuum in the Cobblestone Church. She said, “I was so happy when some kind soul donated an upright vacuum cleaner to the Museum.”

Adrienne also enjoyed the Cobblestone Museum’s annual Flea Market.  She said, “There was so much history to be seen and touched.”  The pie booth held in the old railroad flagman’s shanty on the Museum grounds was another favorite.  Adrienne added, “Over the course of two summers, my Dad taught me how to use the printing press at the Print Shop on Route 98.”

Adrienne’s grandfather, historian Cary Lattin, died when she was in 7th grade. She said, “My dad and grandfather both enjoyed telling stories. But, there was a big difference. Dad always stuck to the facts, but Grandpa was more prone to add some tall tales.”

Following college, Adrienne lived and worked for a brief while in Albany before returning to her hometown to live, work and raise a family.  In 2012 she and her husband, Justin Kirby, purchased the old Proctor homestead in Childs, one of its oldest residences, once owned by the community’s founding father, John Proctor.  Adrienne said, “Buying this house was the opportunity of a lifetime!  We had been living on Ingersoll Street in Albion, but it was just too small. And, it was in the Village. Not that villages aren’t nice, but it was not Gaines. There’s just an amazing appeal to the land of my roots.”

The John Proctor House is seen here in this image from October 12, 1935 on the day of the dedication of the historic marker to honor Proctor.  Katherine Rowley, first Orleans County Historian, is on the far left. This is probably the last photo of her, as she passed away three days later. Next to Miss Rowley is Barbara Balcom, and the girl holding the flag is Elda Barnum, both great-great-grandnieces of John Proctor. The woman at the far right is Grace Bliss, then Regent of the Orleans Chapter, D.A.R.  The historic marker, seen here, was originally placed on the west side of the Proctor House. About 15 years ago, the marker was moved to the east side in order to make it more visible to the public.

In 2018, Adrienne said she got her “dream job.” She was appointed to be Town of Gaines Historian. The job itself is part time, but it allows her to pursue her love for local history and still take care of her young family, who need her help with homeschooling and much more. While on the job, she has really enjoyed exploring the community’s connection to abolition. She said, “There are many primary documents. It’s like solving a mystery!”  Adrienne is particularly interested in the Robert Anderson papers. She said, “Anderson was a possible Liberty Party candidate for Lt Governor in 1848.”

Adrienne said she enjoys her role as Historian, because it allows her time to write. “The town has been very fortunate that it has had historians who like to write, like Cary and Bill Lattin, Howard Pratt, Dee Robinson, and Al Capurso.” She said she finds their historical research and writing fascinating. Adrienne reflected, “Cary Lattin and J. Howard Pratt used to enjoy some friendly rivalry when it came to history. Mr. Pratt would say, ‘My family came to America on the Mayflower,’ and Grandpa would reply, ‘Well one of my ancestors was Native American, so who was here first!’”

Adrienne also explained that as Gaines Historian, she is glad she has been able to digitize many old records. “I’ve been working on the Congregational Church records. The Church recently re-discovered some of their old records. It’s helping me a lot with my research on abolition.  Many churches split at that time over the subject of slavery.” Adrienne shared, “Even after 46 years, I’m still learning new things I hadn’t known about.”

Adrienne’s advice to everyone: “Write things down. Put names on the back of pictures. Write down the family stories. If you don’t, so much history is lost forever.”

Bill Lattin couldn’t be prouder of both of his children, Adrienne who serves as Town of Gaines Historian and Allison who works in Albany with the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. History was certainly in Bill’s blood, too. His father, Cary Lattin, served as Orleans County Historian from 1957-1975.

Cary lived in a cobblestone house on Gaines Basin Road that was built in 1842. Four generations of Lattins have now lived in that house, culminating in Bill’s occupancy. Cary enjoyed a membership in the Sons of the American Revolution, a lineage based organization whose members all descend from Revolutionary War patriots. Cary got started in the job of County Historian, following the death of his friend, Joe Achilles, who served in that role before him. Cary became the fourth person to serve in the role of Orleans County Historian, following in the footsteps of Katherine Rowley, then by Theta Brown and Joe Achilles.

Owning a cobblestone home is a good start on becoming an “historian.” Most anyone who has owned a cobblestone home will tell you it’s a love-hate relationship. They love the history, character, beauty and charm, and also dislike the cold winters, hot summers, and continual need for vigilance with the historic mortar. Cobblestone home owners enjoy telling others about the history of their residence. The next logical step is telling the story of the community and families where your house is located. So, the next thing you know, you’re a historian.

Cary Lattin used his time in “office” to write a weekly column entitled, “Out of the Past,” that was printed in several local newspapers. Early in his appointment as County Historian, he became involved with a group of men and women, largely led by history teacher, Robert Frasch, who formed a grass-roots group to explore and do something about the increasing decay and destruction of 19th century cobblestone buildings.

The group’s initial interest was the former Cobblestone Universalist Church in Childs. Weekly services in the church had ended about 70 years earlier. The church is seen here in this 1960 view, prior to restoration. Note the iconic church tower is missing; it was torn off the building in 1919 and wasn’t replaced until 1964.

At the time of this photo, the lower level of the church was being used to store cabbage, the roof was deteriorated, windows broken, terrace missing, and the historic mortar pointing was in rough shape. Without a doubt, the building was destined for destruction without a concerted effort to save it.

Cary Lattin and Robert Frasch joined with the others to create the necessary momentum, and the Cobblestone Society was formed in 1960. He served on the first board of directors, a role he held for many years.

Over the ensuing years, the Cobblestone Society grew in size and mission to save other local cobblestone buildings which in 1993, became the basis for designation as the Cobblestone National Historic Landmark District. This national recognition honors select properties that not only demonstrate an importance to local history, but also tell a story important to the history of our nation.

Cary Lattin was followed in his role as County Historian by Arden McCallister who became the county’s fifth County Historian. Cary’s son, Bill, picked up the torch for historical preservation, too. He lives in the family’s cobblestone house, and accepted a part time job as curator of the Cobblestone Museum in 1971, later expanded to full time. It was a job he held for 40 years, until 2010. During that period, he followed in his father’s footsteps as Orleans County Historian in 1979, and served in that role for 35 years until 2014.

Matt Ballard followed Bill as County Historian and Catherine Cooper followed Matt, becoming the eighth County Historian in the county’s history.

An attempt to list all of Bill Lattin’s activities and accomplishments in the field of historic preservation would be a challenge for sure, if not impossible. Suffice it to say, we will scratch the surface. Here we see Bill (lower right), beside Mark Tillman, in 1983, with the Signature Quilt that was mounted for display at the Village Inn. Behind the men are (left to right) Josephine Howard, Beverly Leigh and Marcia Hart who were in charge of embroidering over 700 names on the quilt. The quilt and its collection of signatures of local individuals from the past is still on display at Tillman’s.

Bill enjoyed the many years of fellowship with other historians, and the thousands of visitors he greeted at the Cobblestone Museum complex, seen here with the Orleans County Municipal Historians circa 1982.

Those present included: Front row (Left to Right): Dee Robinson, Gaines Deputy Historian; Ceil White, Medina Historian; Virginia Cooper, Yates & Lyndonville Historian; Helen McAllister. Second Row: Arden McAllister, Orleans County Historian retired; Eleanor Wilder, Village of Albion Historian; Betsey Hoffman, Carlton Historian; Alice Zacher, Shelby Historian; Bill Lattin, Orleans County Historian.  Back Row: Alan Isselhard, Clarendon Historian; Frank Berger, Orleans County Legislator; Evelyn Allen, Ridgeway Historian; Helen Mathes, Barre Historian.

In reflecting on his role at the Museum, Bill said, “I guess I am most thankful that I was able to inspire the Museum Board to look beyond the status quo, and accept a greater mission that led to the creation of the museum’s Route 98 campus of buildings.”

That campus started with the acquisition of the Joseph Vagg Blacksmith shop at the corner in 1975, and grew to include the Print Shop, Harness Shop and Farmers Hall.  The latter being the old Kendall Universalist Church (and Town Hall) that was disassembled and moved to the museum, board by board, to be reassembled by Bill and three part-time, unskilled, CETA workers in 1975.  Most would describe it as a Herculean task. Bill said recently, “If I knew then what I know now, I wouldn’t have started!” The Cobblestone Board went on to dedicate that structure in Bill’s name when he retired as Museum Director in 2010.

Even after Bill’s tenure as Museum Curator/Director ended, he remained actively involved in historical preservation in Childs. He continues to serve on the Museum’s Board, and assisted in the actuation of the Vagg House in 2020, a “John Proctor Era” home, that was once the residence of blacksmith Joseph Vagg and his wife, Nellie.

Nellie was well known for her organizing efforts regarding the Temperance Movement. The home is now interpreting life in the 1920s and is available for public tours. In the photo of the Vagg House, we see a replica 19th century carriage stand that Bill researched and built using a period photograph in his collection as a guide.

Bill also serves as Vice-President of Orleans County Historical Association (OCHA), a group that recently completely restored the county’s oldest cobblestone building, Gaines District #2 Schoolhouse, built in 1832. The Association also moved an early 20th century replica of a 19th century pioneer log cabin to their site on Gaines Basin Road, within eyesight of the northernmost point on the Erie Canal.

Even while completely dedicated to historic preservation tasks, Bill found time for public service, having served, over the years, as Town of Gaines Councilman and Town Supervisor. He also was named a “Heritage Hero” in April 2014 by Genesee Community College and Orleans Hub for a lifetime of working to preserve and promote the county’s history.

As County Historian, Bill, like his father before him, enjoyed writing a weekly newspaper column, Bill’s articles were entitled, “Bethinking of Old Orleans.” Bill said, “I wrote an article, every week, for 35 years.” By anyone’s standards, this is an impressive achievement.

Impressive monument for pioneers in Orleans County never came to fruition

Posted 27 March 2021 at 9:09 am

40-foot-high obelisk was planned for Courthouse Square

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Volume 1, No. 9

ALBION – A recent reference question brought this impressive design to light. This image of a towering 40-foot obelisk was one of several submissions under discussion in 1912 for a proposed monument in memory of the Pioneers of Orleans County which was to be erected in Albion at the Courthouse Square.

The Orleans County Pioneer Association was formed in 1859 “to preserve and perpetuate the remembrance of interesting facts connected with the early history of the settlement of Orleans County” and to pay tribute to the settlers who could ”recollect when here was nothing but a dark, unbroken wilderness.”

In June 1910, in anticipation of the upcoming centenary of the original settlement of the county, the Pioneer Association appointed a committee to take charge of the formation of the Orleans County Pioneers Monument Association which would be charged to raise $3,000 to erect a suitable monument in memory of the pioneers.

At a special meeting of the Orleans County Pioneer Association held on Feb. 23, 1911, President John Bidleman was authorized to get approval from the Legislature to erect the monument on the County Courthouse Square. He was also instructed to “secure assistants in the towns to circulate subscription papers among the families of the pioneers for funding the monument.”

The Medina Daily Journal of July 10, 1911 reports the appointment of the following as committee members of the Orleans County Pioneers’ Monument Association: President: Dr. R.W. Bamber, Two Bridges, Supervisor: Daniel D. Daum, Clarendon, Vice-President: Dr. John A. Hartman, Albion, Secretary: Harry E. Colburn, Albion.

It was noted that Dr. Bamber would try to raise $10,000 for the project.

On July 20, 1911, a committee was formed to obtain designs and an estimate of costs. Members included Irving L’Hommedieu of Medina, Lafayette H. Beach of Albion, Jacob Tillis of Gaines, Harry Wellman of Kendall and Dr. W.R. Bamber of Carlton.

A meeting was held on November 23, 1911 to inspect the designs. “Several prominent monument manufacturing concerns and some noted sculptors appeared before the committee and presented miniature models” (Medina Tribune). The cost of the models presented ranged from $3,000 to $15,000. It was reported that the committee hoped to secure a design for less than $10,000.

A final choice was made on December 17, 1911, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. The design, by sculptor Alfred Dreyfus of New York, was of a pioneer woodman in bronze, with long hair, bare-headed, sleeves rolled to elbows, long skin coat, with belt leather leggings, portrayed with uplifted axe, swinging it to chop a fallen log. The total height of the monument would be 18 feet and the cost $6,000.

However, the project did not come to fruition after all. There is no record available of how much money was actually gathered. And, it would seem that there was some dissension. The Medina Daily Journal of June 17, 1912 “decried the action of the Pioneer Association in opposing the Ridge Road Centennial” as “unfortunate.” The Centennial, planned for 1913, was to honor the State’s appropriation in 1813 of $5,000 for the improvements which made it “a great military and emigration highway.”

In actual fact, the two publications which chronicle the Association (Pioneer History of Orleans County, New York, by Arad Thomas and Record of the Orleans County Pioneer Association,) are more evocative than any monument, for they contain compelling first-hand accounts of the settlers’ early trials and tribulations.

They may be accessed at your favorite library or online at the following links: Pioneer History of Orleans County, New York (click here) and the Record of the Orleans County Pioneer Association (click here).

Illuminating Orleans: Letter in 1907 connects Holley woman to suffragists

Posted 9 March 2021 at 10:37 am

Illuminating Orleans, Volume 1, No. 8

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

HOLLEY – A box of documents and letters in the Orleans County Department of History collection has yielded several treasures. The contents pertain to the Storms and Stierer families from Holley.

The envelope shown above, postmarked January 2, 1907 from the National-American Woman Suffrage Association in Rochester, caught our attention:

And inside – a treasure indeed! A letter, signed by Lucy E. Anthony, explaining that her “Aunt Mary” had been unwell when Mrs. Storms came to discuss a “personal matter”. Of course we were intrigued! The search was on.

“Aunt Mary” was Mary Stafford Anthony, younger sister of Susan B. Anthony. Mary S. was actively involved in suffrage in her own right. She worked as a teacher and principal at Rochester area schools. She supported Susan B. Anthony’s campaigns financially, lived with Susan B. at 17 Madison St., managed the household and cared for several family members as well.

Mary S. was instrumental in establishing the concept of the Political Equality Club, a local forum for both men and women to discuss the ethical concerns of the day and promote the goal of women’s suffrage. There were active clubs throughout the state, including one in Holley.

The time frame of this letter is of interest. Dated Jan. 21, 1907, it was just a short while before Mary S. Anthony’s death on February 5, at the age of 80. On her deathbed, she composed a message for the Feb. 14, 1907 Convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, “the Convention in Chicago” referred to in the letter. Mary S. was buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, next to her sister, Susan B., who had died in 1906.

Lucy E. Anthony, who composed the letter, was a niece of Susan B. and Mary S. Anthony and cared for both of them. She became a secretary and companion to Anna Howard Shaw, later president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association.

The Anthony home at 17 Madison St. in Rochester was the headquarters of the National American Woman Suffrage Association while Susan B. Anthony was president. Sold in 1907, the home was later purchased by the Rochester Federation of Women’s Clubs and is now the National Susan B. Anthony Museum and House, open for scheduled visits.

And what of the recipient of the letter, Mrs. Clark Storms of Geddes St. in Holley? From census records (http://orleans.nygenweb.net/) and directories, we learn that Ida Storms lived at 91 Geddes St. in Holley. Her husband Clark was a retired farmer, they had a daughter, Millicent who married Lyell Storer. Ida died in 1927, Clark in 1928. They are buried at Hillside Cemetery.

Ida was a member of the Holley Political Activity Club, which is most likely the clue to the reason for her visit. As for that “personal matter” referred to and the outcome? Unless the other letters in the box shed some light, we may never know.

Historic Childs: The Liberty Pole

Posted 27 February 2021 at 9:27 am

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

GAINES – The history of the Liberty Pole in the Hamlet of Childs is interesting and unique.  The pole is dedicated to the “People of Gaines,” and is located next to Farmers Hall on the Cobblestone Museum’s Route 98 artisan campus.

The Liberty Pole at the Museum is a replica of one that was located at the Mansion House Hotel on the north bank of the Erie Canal in Albion during the 1800s.  The hotel, located on this 1852 map of Albion shown above, burned to the ground in 1882. Before that, in 1859, the Mansion House played a role in the Erie Canal bridge collapse tragedy that killed 15 people. The infamous tightrope walker that attracted the ill- fated crowd, strung his slack line across the Erie Canal with one end attached to the Mansion House. Today, the Mansion House site is occupied by Tinsel/Lockstone.

Colonists Erecting a Liberty Pole – Courtesy Library of Congress

The first Liberty Poles, sometimes called Liberty Trees, were erected by the American colonists to display their assertion of independence from England.  A famous Liberty Tree was found in Boston and was the site of many rallies to denounce British oppression. In hopes of dispersing the Sons of Liberty from these rallies, the British cut the tree down. The colonists were not to be driven away, so they put up a pole in its place, thus the first Liberty Pole. Later, Liberty Poles were also seen in the 1800s when political parties crafted their own poles to serve as rallying points to deliver their individual platforms.

Cobblestone Director/Curator Bill Lattin received inspiration for the Liberty Pole project from an Orleans Republican newspaper column of reminiscences from 1922 that was written by the paper’s editor, Lafayette H. Beach. Mr. Beach posed the question, “Do you remember the tall Liberty Pole (that) stood on the north side of the canal near the Mansion House, with a perch half way up on which rested a big wooden eagle?”

In 1982, Bill Lattin rallied the local “troops” to create and erect a community Liberty Pole, complete with a carved eagle, to celebrate the Bicentennial Year of the American Bald Eagle. Larry Baun of Lyndonville started with a 4-foot tall 1/10 scale model of the pole (shown above) to provide a visual perspective for the size of the eagle. He then very graciously carved a 3-foot tall eagle from a single piece of cedar, to be mounted on a 40-foot “decommissioned” power pole donated by Niagara Mohawk, the precursor of National Grid.

Milford Heye assisted by creating a similarly impressive round wooden sphere to be attached over the top of the pole. Bill Lattin remembers helping volunteers paint the pole the patriotic colors of red, white and blue. Niagara Mohawk again came to the rescue by erecting the completed Liberty Pole next to Farmers Hall. Leo LaCroix of Brigden Memorials in Waterport engraved a large stone marker donated by Cary Lattin to be placed next to the pole.

On July 4, 1982, a formal dedication for the Liberty Pole took place, with festivities beginning in at the Village Inn where a Continental Breakfast of juice, coffee and Danish pastries were served at 10am.  Proceeding to the Cobblestone Church at 11 a.m., the Liberty Pole was officially dedicated to the “People of Gaines,” by NYS Assemblyman R. Stephen Hawley, father of current assemblyman, Stephen M. Hawley.

Mary Ann Janus Spychalski sang patriotic songs, accompanied by Kate Echanez on piano.  The Orleans Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution conducted a flag ceremony. Other presenters included Mrs. Gerald (Janice) Thaine, Mrs. E. Kirke (Marcia) Hart, Mr. C. W. Lattin, and Mr. Theodore Swiercznski. Mr. Philip Greaser served as organist, and Bill Robinson and Make Thaine were ushers.

Those assembled in the photo include: (Seated far left) American Legion Color Guard. (Seated Front Row-Left to Right) Ronald Radzinski (R), Town of Gaines Supervisor;  James Hubbell (D), Councilman; David Vagg (R), Councilman; Roger Rush (R), Councilman; David Vagg (R), Councilman; Richard Cook, Chairman Cobblestone Museum Buildings & Grounds Committee; Arthur “Dick” Eddy (R), Chairman Orleans County Legislature; Janice Thaine, Cobblestone Society Board; and Marcia Hart, Vice President Cobblestone Society. (On Platform-Left to Right) Charlett D’Andrea, Orleans Chapter DAR; Myrtle Marsielje, Regent DAR; and Marge Radzinski, Chaplain DAR.

Following the patriotic service in the Cobblestone Church, the Sheret American Legion Post Color Guard led a procession to the site of the Liberty Pole next to Farmers Hall. From there, Town of Gaines Supervisor Ronald Radzinski cut the ribbon, officially recognizing the tribute to the people of Gaines.  Pictured above at the dedication are: (Left to Right) Richard Cook, chairman of buildings and grounds for the museum; Arthur “Dick” Eddy, Orleans County legislator; Steve Hawley, state assemblyman; James Hubbell, Gaines town councilman; Roger Rush, Gaines town councilman; Ronald “Butch” Radzinski, Gaines town supervisor; and David Vagg, Gaines town councilman. Sheret Post No. 35 Color Guard stands in the background.

The block of stone is inscribed as follows: “To the people of Gaines this Liberty Pole Replica was erected in the ‘Year of the Eagle’ 1982 by the Cobblestone Society.”

In more recent years the Liberty Pole has provided the backdrop for other community gatherings. Seen here is a cadre of youth in 19th century attire depicting a scene for the Cobblestone Museum’s Ghost Walk in 2018. The girls include, from left, Liana Flugel, Autumn Flugel, Ella Trupo, Julia Knight, Madalyn Ashbery and Mallory Ashbery.

Glad Tidings Missionary Baptist Church has served Medina for nearly a century

Photographs and historical information courtesy of Glad Tidings Baptist Church: This photograph shows the first members of Glad Tidings Baptist Church.

Posted 24 February 2021 at 3:22 pm

Illuminating Orleans, Volume 1, No. 7

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

MEDINA – In 1925, Sister Mary Johnson, a member of the Baptist Church of Rochester, felt called to assist the Black people of Medina who had been searching for a spiritual haven. With the assistance of Elder Caldwell and Rev. Henry Young of East Rochester, Sunday services were held at 811 Genesee Street, Medina, the home of Sister Johnson. At first, attendance ranged from five to 12 people.

They were given the use of a 12- by 18-foot building at 404 West Oak Orchard Street, which had been purchased for $20. The first service was held in this building on December 15, 1926. There were nine members: Sister Mary Johnson, Brother Thomas and Sister Martha Chambers, Brother John Royal, Brother Arthur and Sister Lydia Johnson, Sister Grace Schyler and Sister Alice Jones. The first offering was 10 cents a week, with special offerings on Sundays and holidays. Church history records that the location was “tried by fire and water”, once flooded and once almost destroyed by fire.

In 1929, the community purchased the lot at 404 West Oak Orchard Street from Charles Gilbert for $500. The cornerstone for the new wood frame building was laid in the winter of 1930 and it was erected by Brother Robert Johnson and Deaconess Sister Mary Johnson with the help of others who donated their time and labor.

Deaconess Mary Johnson gave her first lesson in the new Glad Tidings Baptist Church building on Dec. 11, 1931.

The name “Glad Tidings Missionary Baptist Church” was formally adopted in May 1937. Membership increased from 65 members in 1952 to 125 in 1956. A basement was completed in 1954 and an addition to accommodate the growing congregation was completed in 1957. A flood in 1968 destroyed church records and the basement kitchen. The church was also incorporated in this year.

By 1973, the condition of the 1930s building had deteriorated and a decision was made to replace it with a new Barden pre-structured building at an estimated cost of $50,000.

This ambitious project was completed under the leadership of Pastor Oscar Amos, and the new church, with the distinctive cross in front, was dedicated May 23, 1973.

The Mission has been served by many dedicated pastors including Rev. Willis Eavens who served from 1932 to 1954.

Dr. Rev. Lambert Duncan is the current and longest serving Pastor of the church, having served for 35 years. He has been New York Chaplain for six years. Originally from New York City, he lives in Rochester and is retired from Kodak. He holds three Doctorates from the Carolina University of Theology. His wife, Sister Elaine, holds a Doctorate in Christian Counseling and is also active in the church. Pastor Duncan’s focus is on outreach to the entire community.

Elder Neil Samborski and his wife, Kathy, have been associated with Glad Tidings for ten years. This Lyndonville couple are actively involved with the food ministry, distributing food from the Open Door Ministry in Rochester. Elder Samborski is also actively involved with the Medina Area Association of Churches.

In keeping with the church’s missionary goal, the Samborskis have undertaken several missionary trips to Malawi in South Africa, through the African Mission for Christ Worldwide. Elder Samborski is also a bishop of the newly founded church at Ntaja, Malawi.

Current officers of the church are: Elders: Elder Nathan Little and Elder Neil Samborski, Mothers of the Church: Sister Mattie Jackson and Sister Glennis Chinn, Deacons of Ministry: Deacon Gregg Boose and Deacon Jack Byrd. The Deaconesses of Ministry are: Mother Mattie Jackson, Sister Kathy Samborski and Sister Easter Boose. Sister Elaine Boose is President of Usher Ministry.

The church takes as its motto the words of Matthew 28: 19-20, urging members to spread the Christian message. Glad Tidings Missionary Baptist Church has been the “Mother Church” for the establishment of several other churches locally. The legacy of Sister Mary Johnson and the original founding members flourishes.

The Glad Tidings congregation has gathered in prayer at this 404 West Oak Orchard St., Medina, location for 95 years.

Historic Childs: Reflections from a student in the one-room schoolhouse, Part 1

Posted 6 February 2021 at 9:18 am

Note from Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director: We are pleased to present this autobiographical essay written by Nancy Jane Wilson Berger (1935-2015). Nancy spent her childhood living in a cobblestone house near and attending the Cobblestone District #5 Schoolhouse in the Hamlet of Childs. We are very grateful to Nancy’s husband, Frank Berger, for sharing this wonderful retelling of Nancy’s childhood memories.

School District #5 in 1946 – Phoebe Beales, Teacher. (Front Row, from left) Nancy Covis, William Covis, Evelyn Becker, Edna Becker, Kathleen Covis and Alan Kidder. (Back Row, from left) Sandra Kidder, Marjorie Becker, Nancy Wilson, Walter Klatt, Edward Janus, Daniel Janus and Laura Klatt.

By Nancy Jane Wilson Berger

I wondered why my mother had tears in her eyes when I left for school for the first time. It was a typical fall day and one that I had been looking forward to for some time. I had reached the ripe old age of six and thought I was pretty well grown up to be able to go to school with the rest of my friends.

It was Gaines District #5, a country school located on Route 104 commonly called the Ridge Road. A one-room country school with grades 1 through 7, one teacher with a visiting music teacher, a religious education teacher, and even a very old retired physician who came once a year to give us a physical exam.

It was a typical one-room schoolhouse with rows of desks running parallel with each other. They grew in size as the children grew – thus the small ones were to the left and they got progressively larger as the rows went to the right. We could hardly wait until we were big enough to sit in the “special” desks. These were separate units with swivel seats and the tops opened up so that you could see what was inside. A student had to earn the right to claim one of these seats as their own.

The front door opened into the entry.  There was a “U” shaped coat rack supplied with plenty of hangers. To the left of that was a series of shelves which held lunchboxes, etc. On the front wall, next to the door was a shelf with a sink and a clay water-cooler. Perpendicular to that was a bench which helped in the removal of boots and which provided storage space underneath for these. To the right was the door to the basement which housed a mammoth old coal furnace, a huge coal bin and a multitude of other things that we were never brave enough to explore.

The furnace, however, was something of a monster which seemed to have a life of its own. Many a morning throughout the seven years that I attended this house of learning, we were met at the door by our teacher who told us to return home because the coal gas was so strong we surely would have been overcome. No one knew exactly why this happened, but I think that occasionally this mysterious hulk decided that it needed a day of quiet and no children’s footsteps overhead to give it a headache so it spewed forth this nauseous gas like an octopus spitting out its “ink” to scare away predators. At any rate, the opening of windows and some sort of magic performed by the teacher would usually bring this problem to its knees and we would be back to normal by noon.

Occasionally, instead of nauseous gas it decided to try smoke. Sometimes it would be so thick you couldn’t see more than three feet away. Another vacation! However, it did have its good points. Besides keeping us warm and cozy it provided an oven for baking potatoes. Teacher would place whole potatoes just inside the furnace door on a little shelf and by noon we had yummy baked potatoes for lunch. I don’t think baked potatoes have ever tasted that good since.

So, you see, we didn’t have snow-days like they do today. We had smoke and gas days! We did have a snow day sometimes, but they were few and far between. Because we provided our own transportation which was usually by foot, if we could plow through the snow we went to school. If we couldn’t, we stayed home.

At the opposite end of the front of the school was the library, which also served as a whipping room. Yes, back in those days we got a good spanking if we didn’t behave. I was lucky enough to never get one. (I was such a good little girl.) However, I did get reprimanded more than once for talking or laughing. I was usually lucky enough to blame it on my friend Ed Janus who, more than once was taken to the whipping room and got his seat tanned!

The “bathrooms” were small buildings – one for the girls and one for the boys – behind the school with privacy fences a few feet from the doors. If we needed to go visit the privy (as it was called) we had to raise our hand and when we were given permission to go, we had to put our initials on a small blackboard at the front of the room because only one person could go at a time. I have some stories about the “privies” also.

We had a boy in school whose name was Walter. Walter took it upon himself to teach the boys about the anatomy of the opposite sex. It seems that he had found some magazines called “Sunshine and Health” which was published by the nudists. In it were many pictures (uncensored) of nudists playing volley ball, tennis, and just lounging in the sun. So one day Walter decided to hang some of these pictures on the wall of the boys’ privy providing his own little art show of sorts. There seemed to be a steady stream of boys using the privy that day!

Also attending school was a small boy named Vernon. Now Vernon had a habit of stuttering when he got excited. This particular day Vernon hadn’t heard about the “d’art exhibit” in the boys’ privy and hadn’t had the call to visit it until afternoon. Vernon raised his hand and was given permission to go. He signed his initials and left. In less time than it takes to shake a stick twice, Vernon came running back into the room yelling “T-t-t-teacher! Th-th-th-there’s p-p-p-pictures of b-b-b-bare naked w-w-w-women in the p-p-p-privy!”

Our teacher, Miss McAllister, didn’t have much of a sense of humor. After she calmed Vernon down, she picked up her switch and holding it in her right hand and smacking it lightly against the palm of her left hand, she paced back and forth in silence in front of the students studying the faces of the boys. Sure enough – Walter was looking guilty as sin. She asked him if he knew anything about these pictures. He admitted he did and was taken for a short walk to the whipping room. He and the teacher returned to the classroom, one smiling, one not. Guess which was which!

Now I had another use for the privy. I was a rather timid little girl and when anything was about to transpire that I wasn’t sure about, I would ask permission to go to the privy, sign out and head for home. One such instance was the first time that good old Dr. Burbank came to examine us. He was a round roly-poly elderly man with little round glasses that didn’t quite make it to the correct spot on his nose that would make it easier to see, so he had to tip his head up to see through them or down to see over them. He had very little hair and what he had was white. He was hard of hearing and despite his glasses could not see very well either. He spoke in mumbles with a lot of “hammphs.”

Well, I had never seen a man like him before and I didn’t have a clue what a physical examination was, but I decided not to take any chances. I got permission to go to the privy, signed out and hightailed it for home and as fast as my long skinny legs could go. I arrived home yelling – my mother probably thought I had been beaten! When I explained that I didn’t want a physical ‘zamination, she laughed and assured me that I would live through it and promptly escorted me back to school. The teacher wondered why she was there because this all transpired in no longer a time than it would have taken me in the privy. Dr. Burbank thought the whole affair was quite humorous and Mom stayed while I was being ‘zamined!

Dr. Burbank was a very frugal physician. He did not want to waste tongue depressors, so decided it would not do any harm to use the same one on each child. Miss McAllister, on the other hand, did not agree with him. After a short dissertation between the two of them, they arrived at a solution. The tongue depressors were sawed in half thus satisfying both.

Each student took his\her turn going into the library stripping to the waist and donning a white gown of sorts that tied in the front. Good old Doc Burbank sat in a chair facing the class, therefore, the student being examined would have his/her back to the class – a rather clever arrangement wouldn’t you say?

Well, in our little school room was a girl by the name of Lorraine. Now that I think about her, I’m not quite sure if she was developing early or if she had missed a few grades and was older than most students. Oh well, it really doesn’t matter. Anyway, when Lorraine made her appearance before Doc, he looked at her and said, “Didn’t I examine you?” as he opened the front of her gown – and without a hesitation said “Oh no, I didn’t!” We all wondered why the teacher turned and snickered.

The year I started school was 1941. There was much unrest in the world and there was talk of war. We were too young to really understand what that was all about, but we gathered it was something we didn’t want to happen to our country. When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, I remember having the radio on in school the following day. The teacher turned it too low for us to hear, but she listened to it all day. At one point, she turned to the class with tears in her eyes and said we were at war. No one talked to us very much about it, but we knew it was bad news.

In the weeks and months that followed, we started collecting all kinds of metals and made a huge scrap pile in the school yard. I can’t remember for sure, but I recall that ours was the biggest one around. I also remember running out of the school every time we heard a plane, because this was something quite new to us. I also recall collecting milkweed pods for parachutes. If I remember correctly, we were paid so much a bag for them. I can’t remember what we used the money for, but because there was an ice-cream shop next to the school, I have a feeling we were all treated to ice-cream cones.

During the war years, I also remember “rationing”. There was a shortage of sugar, meat, flour, gasoline and other things. We had to have a ration book to be able to buy these items. Because of these shortages, it caused there to be shortages of everything that depended on these commodities for their production. No automobiles were manufactured, because all the factories were making planes, bombs, etc. for the war.

We had “blackouts” – this was in case the enemy decided to attack the United States they would not be able to see us at night. We would have to turn out all our lights and leave them out until the whistle blew telling us it was OK to turn them back on. My dad was an air-raid warden. When the whistle blew telling us of the warning my dad and several other volunteers would walk around the neighborhood and make sure no lights were on. As a child of seven, I rather liked the excitement of it and it was sort of an occasion.

The worst part of this whole time was when my Uncle Art was drafted.  I recall very vividly the day he left for camp. Everyone was crying and hugging. He was in the Air Force and stationed in California. I wrote letters to him every week, and once he sent me a box of sea shells that he had picked up from a beach in California. These were real treasures. After he left, I was afraid that my dad would have to go to war. I prayed every night that he wouldn’t have to go and luckily he was just over the age limit for being drafted, so he never had to go. We were all very grateful.

Captain Eugene Everett Barnum, Jr. (1917-1944)

One of my worst memories of this time, was when the word came that Bill Barnum was killed in action. They were neighbors of ours and it hit everyone very hard when this news came. Then, a few weeks later, the news came that his brother Eugene had also been killed in action. We didn’t know how one family could bear the hurt of losing both of their sons. They were both pilots and whenever we heard the song that was popular then, “Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer,” we always thought of them.

‘What’s Cooking?’ – Historian receives trove of cookbooks from community groups

Posted 25 January 2021 at 2:16 pm

Besides recipes, cookbooks provide a local history resource

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian  – Volume 1, Number 5

The spiral-bound cookbooks published as fundraisers for churches and community groups are a familiar sight in our kitchens. A collection of local cookbooks was just recently donated to the Orleans County Dept. of History. With their brightly illustrated covers and domestic content, they contrast with the largely black and white documents that comprise the majority of the Department’s collection.

At first glance, they might seem an unlikely resource, but in fact, these locally specific cookbooks are treasure troves of local history. They are of interest now and their value to social historians will only increase as time goes by.

The cookbooks in this donation represent Albion, Barre, Clarendon, Gaines, Knowlesville, Lyndonville, Medina, Shelby and Waterport. Most were published in the ’70s and ’80s, though the most recent is from 2010.

Many cookbook projects were church sponsored, but there are also cookbooks from schools, hospitals, a prison, the Lake Plains YMCA and groups such as the Senior Citizens of Western Orleans and the Orleans County Historical Association. Morris Press was the primary publisher. Cookbook projects were undertaken to mark anniversaries or for specific fundraising projects.

In some cases, the cookbooks are a testament to churches or groups that now no longer exist. The now-defunct list from this donated collection includes: The Journal-Register, Medina Association of Women, Sacred Heart Church, and Arnold Gregory Memorial Hospital. Also, the local advertisements provide a record of business and services.  Some still continue, many are no longer, reflecting business and economic trends.

These advertisements are a treasure trove for local historians.

Advertisement page from “What’s Cooking”: Twig Association, Arnold Gregory Memorial Hospital, Albion, NY, 1975

Community cookbooks were almost always compiled by women. For many contributors, this may have been the first time their name was in print. This was a source of pride, an affirmation of identity, of belonging to a recognized group.

Part of the pleasure – and historical value – of looking through the cookbooks is that of seeing familiar names among the contributors, family members or neighbors, many now departed. When viewing the cookbooks with a friend, the conversation invariably turns reminiscent, as stories and connections are recalled. In years to come, these cookbooks will be treasured as heirlooms by contributors’ descendants.

Advertisements from Knowlesville United Methodist Church cookbook, 1983

The saying “An army marches on its stomach” has been attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. Women well know that families also march on their stomachs. History is as much about families as it is about armies.

The humble spiral-bound community cookbook is a succinct tactical manual to fall back on when faced with that dreaded question “What’s for supper?” Internet recipe searches can be overwhelming. The new cookbooks on the market now are either very specialized in terms of ingredients or techniques, or feature celebrities discovering the joy of cooking. Sometimes you just want a quick recipe for banana bread. The stained or dog-eared page of the trusty spiral-bound cookbook will lead the way.

The recipes are short, practical, straightforward, and thrifty. There are no “diet”, “lite” or ingredient intolerant options. If a recipe calls for milk, it is implied that the source will be a cow, not an almond. Some of the recipe titles are intriguing: The $100 Cake, Easy-Peasy Pudding, Glenda’s Pie, Elephant Stew, Crab Louis, Lovelight Icing. All of the recipes are “keepers”, having been tested and honed over time by those most merciless of critics: family members.

Some of the recipes have not aged well. We might look askance at the Fruit Salad recipe which was a fairly common submission:

1 can mandarin oranges,   6 cups miniature marshmallows,

1 can crushed pineapple,  1 cup sour cream,     1 cup coconut.

Drain cans, mix ingredients well, chill

No doubt, this recipe will remind many of their grandmothers. We should keep in mind that this recipe evolved at a time when grocery stores were not stocked all year long with the luxury of out of season fruit that we are accustomed to.

The cookbooks reflect the culinary traditions and food practices of a certain time, when households were transitioning from stay-at-home mothers to moms who worked outside the home. Family dinners were still the norm, so cooking practices adapted to simpler recipes. Convenience ingredients such as cans of mushroom soup or cans of cream of chicken soup were widely used.

We can observe major changes in food preferences and health considerations in the short time since these cookbooks flourished. Jell-O and Velveeta cheese are no longer in fashion. We have the luxury of access to a wide range of fresh food, varied sources of protein and ethnic foods. Our cooking technology has changed – rice cookers, air-fryers, Insta-Pots. Pizza and take-out proliferate and there are more options for those who have food intolerances. We take these trends for granted, but they are all part of ever changing culinary history

Cooks love to share recipes. This collection attests to the generosity of spirit of our Orleans County cooks.

Cookbooks from the Towns of Kendall and Murray would be appreciated as they are not represented. Contact Catherine.Cooper@orleanscountyny.gov.

Diary recorded daily weather, other events in Medina in 1883

Posted 3 January 2021 at 12:20 pm

Many more hot days in 2020 compared to 1883

Courtesy of Department of History: This diary offered a daily record of weather in Medina in 1883.

Illuminating Orleans, V1, No. 4      
By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

At the beginning of a new year, it is not unusual for people to resolve to keep diaries or lists. Our subject this week is an example of such, from the collection at the Medina Historical Society Museum. It is a sturdy tan note-book, with a plain cover. The first page contains the following inscription which describes its purpose:

“A Weather Record kept at Medina, Orleans County, NY, from Jan. 1st 1883 to  “

The columns of the pages of this ledger type note-book were labeled to indicate the Year, Date Temperature, Time, Wind and Weather. The temperature for each day was neatly recorded at three times every day: Sunrise, 1 p.m. and Sunset.

The prevailing wind direction was noted, as well as the general weather condition, whether Cloudy, Clear, Rain, Snow, Sleet, or Fog. There are occasional notations in tiny handwriting: “a very windy day and night” or “3 or 4 inches of snow in night”

The destructive windstorm of 1885 is noted: “1885, Jan. 26, A terrible windy night, 50 chimneys reported blown down in the village”

There are notations about fires:

“1883, Feb. 10, about 5 am, fire broke out in the pail factory of Johnson & Wigley on East Center St., the fire went into the adjoining building known as the Union Mills, owned and occupied by S. C. Hoag, both buildings nearly all burnt up, with contents.”

“1883, Nov. 1, Fire alarm at 9:45 pm, fire discovered in Mrs. Alford’s barn, in the alley between Park Ave. and Center St., burnt down, with J.C. Davis barn adjoining & Pat Horan & A.M. Barry barns on the north side. The next adjoining shed was Newell’s, which to stop the fire he ordered pulled down & the fire was stopped, thus preventing a spread of the fire, as a strong SW wind was blowing, a terrible fire would have been the result”

These descriptions highlight the destruction that could ensue from a single fire, at a time when many buildings and most barns were of wooden construction.

And how do the summer temperatures compare with ours?

In 2020, we had one 93-degree day in May, one 90-degree day in June, and in July eight consecutive days of 90 degrees or higher, as well as the hottest day in 63 years at 98 degrees.

In the summer of 1883, there was one 90-degree day, 15 days with a temperature between 80 and 84, and 3 days with a temperature between 85 and 89.

In the summer of 1885, there was no 90-degree or higher day, 21 days with a temperature between 80 and 84 and 2 days with a temperature between 85 and 89.

We are so accustomed to having detailed weather information right at hand, on our phones. Local newspapers in the 1880’s were weekly and did not include weather forecasts. But, by 1882, Pool’s Signal Service Barometer, “the Best in the World” was advertised regularly. It could be ordered “on receipt of $1, or 6 for $4” from J.A. Pool’s Oswego Thermometer Works, Oswego, NY.

The weather records in this notebook run from Jan. 1883 to August 21, 1886, the last full entry on the next to last page. We can deduce that this record keeper was methodical and precise. But what of the person’s identity?

The answer is provided at the end of the very last page of this notebook. The notation reads:

“Levan W. Merritt died at 1:15 a.m., August 23, 1886. Funeral services at 3 p.m. Aug. 26th, 1886. Burial about 4:30 p.m. under a perfectly cloudless sky.”

Born in Connecticut in 1806, Mr. Merritt came to Medina in 1833. He operated a flouring mill. In 1841, when he built his sturdy red brick home at 406 West Ave., the location was considered to be “out in the country”. He helped design the layout of Boxwood Cemetery, was a founding member of the first fire company and is credited with planting the first shade trees on the Village streets. He would, no doubt, have appreciated that “perfectly cloudless sky”.

Photos from the past of Santa spreading holiday magic in Orleans

Posted 25 December 2020 at 9:23 am

Illuminating Orleans, Vol. 1, No. 3

By Catherine Cooper, County Historian

The holiday season invariably evokes memories of times past and the terrifyingly magical experience of a visit with Santa Claus is one that remains vivid.

The top image is an evocative photograph showing children at G.C. Murphy’s store on Main Street, Medina. The photo is courtesy of Medina Historical Society.

A Medinian recalls: “I remember walking to the back of Murphy’s store, Santa was seated on a throne.”

Several people recall a Santa situated at the back left corner of Newberry’s store in Albion, he gave out candy canes and coloring books. This photo is from the Orleans County Department of History file.

Photo from the Orleans County Department of History

But, the most famous Santa of all, of course, was right in Albion. Visiting Christmas Park during the year was a thrill, as was the opportunity to feed the reindeer or ride on the Christmas train.

An Albion lady recalls the ultimate Santa experience:

“I sat on Charles Howard’s lap at Christmas Park. Near his seat was a ‘fishing pond,’ where, for probably 25 cents, you’d put a pole with some sort of clothes pin on the line over the barrier – you’d feel a tug, and reel in some little toys that are probably collectibles today. I remember getting a bag with 2 comic books in it.”


Ridge Road Station image courtesy of Medina Historical Society

More recently, a generation of children (and their accompanying adults) experienced the wonder of Christmas at Ridge Road Station in Holley. This 30,000 square-foot emporium was in operation from 1992-2011. It was the largest independent toy and Christmas store in New York State.

The inventory and displays were absolutely breathtaking. Garlands and stars, ornaments of every description, a mesmerizing train layout, a wealth of imaginative toys and collectibles.

But, commerce is inextricably intertwined with Christmas. G.C. Murphy’s, Newberry’s, Christmas Park and Ridge Road Station no longer exist in the physical dimension, but they live on vividly in the memories of those who experienced them.

Historic Childs: Proctor Brook, usually a gentle stream, drew pioneers to hamlet

Posted 20 December 2020 at 4:04 pm

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director; and Bill Lattin, former Director

John Proctor

GAINES – The presence of water was an important consideration for pioneers to this region when they were looking to purchase property. Plentiful fresh water was important for livestock, crop irrigation and much more.

John Proctor would have pondered the same considerations when he acquired his land from the Holland Land Company in the early 1800s. The meandering brook that now bears his name probably played heavily in his decision to locate his prototype community of Fair Haven (now Childs) at the intersection of the Ridge Road and Oak Orchard Road.

When and how Proctor Brook got its name is not recorded, but most likely honors the community’s founding father.

Time marches on, and over time, little attention was paid to Proctor Brook, so little, that folks had pretty much forgotten its name. Town of Carlton Historian Lysbeth “Betsy” Hoffman recalls “re-discovering” the name in the 1980s when she was reviewing 1820s Town Board Minutes.

In those documents, she saw frequent references to the name Proctor Brook, which grabbed her attention and got her thinking about the probable location of this mystery waterway. Betsy contacted Mike Slack from the abstract office at the County Clerk’s Office, and he verified that Proctor Brook was indeed the historic name assigned to the little tributary that crosses the Ridge Road at Childs while winding through the towns of Gaines and Carlton.

In an effort to make sure the community didn’t forget the name of Proctor Brook again, and to commemorate John Proctor for posterity, a fitting sign was built by Cobblestone Museum volunteer George Callard and erected near the brook on the grounds of the Museum’s Route 98 campus.

Assisting in this effort was Town of Gaines Historian Dee Robinson, Town of Carlton Historian Betsy Hoffman, and Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin. A dedication ceremony for the sign took place on September 11, 1988.

Proctor Brook has its geographic beginning in a marshy area around the present day Sheret American Legion Post on Gaines Basin Road. From there it travels north and approaches the Erie Canal as shown above left.  Then it goes under the canal through a sleuth located west of the canal guard gate and exits on the north side of the canal bank as seen above right. It then meanders mainly northward, but sometimes east and west, too.

Proctor Brook enters the Hamlet of Childs alongside Route 98 near the Cobblestone Museum’s artisan buildings as seen here with the NYS DOT crew cleaning up the bank.  The brook then travels through the Museum campus and crosses Route 104 just west of the Village Inn.  From there it continues through the Town of Gaines until reaching Carlton where it joins forces with Marsh Creek and heads on to Lake Ontario.

At some point in the mid- 20th century, Proctor Brook received a boost with a new supply of water diverted through an Erie Canal syphon. As seen here, the syphon is located west of the canal guard gate.

Farmers can petition NYS to receive a permit to use that water supply for their crops or other needs. Excess water from the syphon drains into Proctor Brook. Jim Kirby utilized the syphon for his farming for many years. Former Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin recalls one year in the late 1900s when Kirby said the syphon stopped working. He investigated the situation and discovered a large turtle had been sucked into the vortex and got stuck, effectively closing off the water supply. Kirby said, “Getting that thing out of there was a nasty job.”

Proctor Brook has had some man-made adjustments made to its course, too. In 1921 the original Blacksmith Shop at the corner of Routes 104 and 98 caught fire and burned to the ground. Local farmers knew the absence of a local blacksmith shop would negatively impact their livelihood. Bill Lattin described their desperation, “The farmers, while the embers were still hot from the fire, pitched in to help blacksmith Joseph Vagg rebuild his shop.”

But, this time they decided to site the blacksmith shop a little further south to help protect Joe’s home from catching fire, too.  To do so, they needed to relocate Proctor Brook which would have gone right through the new shop.  So, the farmers and Vagg set about moving Proctor Brook about 20-25 feet south to make way for the new structure.  They did that by dropping boulders into the creek bed that effectively moved the brook, making a sharp turn to the west, and then follow its current course to the south of the shop.

Proctor Brook, usually a very gentle little stream, is known to have an annual freshet or spring flood, usually in May or June. Some have been pretty severe. Melva Vagg Warner, Joe Vagg’s daughter, recalled that during one particularly severe flood, she kept track of Proctor Brook’s high water point by placing a mark on the side of her barn that sits next to the brook.

That marking came in handy in 1977 when the Cobblestone Museum was relocating its Print Shop to the grounds on the banks of Proctor Brook, and pondered how high to elevate the shop to avoid potential flooding. Bill Lattin said that Town of Gaines Highway Superintendent Cliff Kelley used a transit and Melva Warner’s water mark to determine a presumably safe position.

That theory was tested in the 1980s when the spring thaw resulted in flooding that came to within one inch from overflowing the floor of the Print Shop.

At that point, the water rose to over 1 foot above Route 98. It was during that flood that the Cobblestone Museum’s historic wooden cattle trough, usually located in front of Farmers Hall, floated downstream and ended up at the cobblestone house on Route 104.

The high water mark for that flood is still visible inside the Eastlake outhouse located next to the Print Shop. The water line is just above the row of seats.

Historic Childs: Museum showcases artifacts from Horse and Buggy Days

Posted 14 December 2020 at 8:52 am

By Doug Farley, Director Cobblestone Museum; and Bill Lattin, Retired Director

CHILDS – The impetus for this article surrounds this historic photo circa 1905 which Bill Lattin recently purchased at an antique shop. Notice here the set of steps used for mounting and dismounting a horse, wagon or buggy.

On the back of the photo is written Miss A. D. Reidel. The name of the presumed photographer, August Christe, is also stamped on the back with a rubber stamp. Retired Cobblestone Resource Center Director Dee Robinson researched these two names and found them in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census.

Annie Reidel was 14 years of age and living on Bessell Avenue in Buffalo. Albert Augustus Christie was age 33 and lived on Fifth Street, also in Buffalo. Through this little bit of detective work, we can guess this picture may have been taken in Erie County.

Notice again in this picture of the steps how the platform overhangs the base. This was done intentionally so the hub of the wheels on the democrat wagon, shown in the picture, could roll under the platform. This arrangement reduced the gap between the wagon box and the mounting steps. There had to be innumerable wooden mounting steps and platforms in use in the area in horse and buggy days.

Using the historic photo as a guide, Bill Lattin recently built a replica set of mounting step, seen here in this modern photo, now located in front of the Vagg House in Childs.

The buggy in the photo was donated to the Cobblestone Museum by Bill, Tom and Mark Tillman in the 1980s when they renovated their old barn to become what is now the Carriage Room at the Village Inn Restaurant. The buggy is one of several historic vehicles that are planned for a new exhibit in the Vagg Carriage Barn located behind the Vagg House. Tours of the house and barn will begin in 2021.

Also typical of the era, are the horse block or carriage stone seen here in front of the Ward House at the Cobblestone Museum. The large stone blocks had the advantage of not being easily moved and did not rot.

This piece of beautiful Medina Sandstone has the local family name “Bacon” carved into it. Bill Lattin recalls this horse block was given to the Museum around 1970 by Earl Harding. It was once located in front of the brick house at Five Corners. The Bacon horse block was moved to the Ward House about 1977 along with two fine Medina Sandstone hitching posts donated by former Orleans County Historian Cary Lattin. Each hitching post has the number 74 on it. Lattin said these came from 74 West State Street in Albion.

Because carriages and wagons were high off the ground it was advantageous to have a step, especially for ladies with long skirts, to embark and disembark such conveyances. This historic photo of the Cobblestone Universalist Church at Childs shows a high terrace in front for the same purpose.

It seems originally there was only a very high flight of wooden stairs up to the front entrance. In 1874 an earth ramp, brick platform and stone steps were added to the front of the church. This was so carriages on Sunday could pull right up in front and ladies and children could disembark on the level.

The driver of the buggy could then drive around to the carriage shed behind the church for the duration of the church service. Note a small portion of the shed shows on the left side of the photo behind the evergreens.

A similar situation existed at the Fair Haven Hotel, circa 1903, now the Village Inn at Childs. Notice the steps are at the corner. The rest of the porch is high across the front so carriages could pull right up close for people to easily step off onto the porch.

When carriage blocks were not in sight, the nearest stump often served as an easy way for the horse back rider to mount or dismount his steed.

Historic Childs: Electricity comes to the hamlet in Gaines (Part 4)

Photos courtesy of Cobblestone Museum: The Ward House, left, is a cobblestone home on Ridge Road next to the Cobblestone Universalist Church. The Vagg House is at the southwest corner of the intersection of Route 98 and Ridge Road.

Posted 5 December 2020 at 1:26 pm

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

CHILDS – The Hamlet of Childs is fortunate to have two homes from two very different time periods that are open for public tours in season. The Ward House (left) showcases life in the Victorian Period, before the advent of electricity, and the Vagg House (right) depicts the arrival of the electric age from the 1920s-1940s.

The differences in these two homes are striking. This is the fourth article about electricity coming to the Hamlet and the changes that took place. Today we take a closer look at labor saving devices usually found in the kitchen.

If the Victorian homemaker wanted to serve her family pancakes or waffles for breakfast, she would first mix up pancake batter using a hand mixer.  It was a simple mechanical device that when hand cranked, would spin its metal mixing blades to beat the lumps out of the pancake batter.

The next step would be to heat up a waffle iron or pancake griddle on the wood stove in the kitchen. In the photo above the implement on the right is a pancake maker.  The liquid batter was poured into the attached receptacle cups. Then the hot metal plate could be folded over the batter to cook both sides of the pancake at the same time.  This was actually a step up from simple “flapjacks” that required flipping the pancake from side to side.

In the photo above we see how time marched on in the kitchen. In the Vagg House, the electric household would most likely use an electric mixer to beat their pancake batter saving time and human energy. The mixer shown here is a Hamilton Beach Model C with Juicer attachment at the top.

This appliance was first made in 1910 and became fairly common around World War II. So common, in fact, that the original owner sold the Hamilton Beach Company and moved to Millionaire’s Row in Miami Beach after just a few decades in business.  Hamilton Beach Brands was originally located in Racine, Wisconsin. The company is still doing business today, but all of their appliances are now made in China.

Once the batter was prepared in the electric mixer, the homemaker would probably use an electric waffle iron or pancake cooker to complete the process.

If all you wanted was toasted bread, the process in the 19th century involved heating bread on your wood stove or in front of an open hearth fireplace. Of course, the process at the 20th century Vagg House used an electric toaster.

Over the years, many different types of electric toasters have evolved to improve upon toasted bread. The appliance on the left made one slice of toast at a time while the unit at the right prepared two slices.

If you wanted to enjoy eggs with your toast at the Vagg House, you might have used either of these two electric egg steamers from the mid-1900s.

Making coffee over the years has evolved, too. In the Ward House, making coffee involved heating water in a teapot or kettle on the wood stove.

A wide variety of coffee appliances were present in the all-electric home like the Vagg House. The appliance on the left is called a Drip-O-Lator.  The coffee maker in the center has a spigot to fill coffee cups, and the ceramic pot on the right is a percolator.

In the 1900s, electricity was even considered appropriate for children’s toys. The child’s oven shown above is probably a precursor of today’s Easy Bake Oven.  This “toy” was plugged into an actual live electrical circuit which provided 120 volts of power to heat up an electric coil inside the mini-oven which got hot enough to cook food. Let’s hope there was some parental involvement, too!

With the vast number of electrical appliances in the Vagg House, finding an open electrical outlet in 1940 must have posed a problem. So, another electrical gadget was created to solve the dilemma.  This ceramic device provided outlets for three other electric appliances.

Our next installment about Historic Childs will take us back to look at horse and buggy days in the Hamlet.

Early settlers built bridges, moved ditches

Posted 4 December 2020 at 9:39 am

Bridge building, Jeddo, 1916, Orleans County History Department collection.

By Catherine Cooper, County Historian – Vol. 1, No. 2

RIDGEWAY – Part of the fascination of local history is that it adds layers of depth to our experience of our surroundings.

The accompanying photograph is of men building a bridge at Jeddo in 1916. However, the background brings into consideration several factors: the determination of the early settlers, how a determined re-routing of water led to the formation of a vibrant settlement, and an appreciation of oral history for preserving the details that enhance the story.

On June 11, 1916, the steel bridge spanning Jeddo Creek on Ridge Road collapsed and fell into Johnson Creek. The Medina Daily Journal of June 12, 1916 reported:

“The water raised so high Saturday and Sunday that it washed out the abutments and foundation of the bridge spanning the creek.”

Town of Ridgeway officials acted quickly. Highway Superintendent Harry Waldo and Town Supervisor Burt Smith declared the bridge a “total wreck” and on June 14 at a special meeting, the Town Board called for a proposition to raise taxes by the sum of $5,000 to construct a concrete archway or bridge over Jeddo Creek at Ridge Road, this proposition to be voted on July 5.

On June 22, 1916, it was reported that a “substantial temporary bridge which could be crossed by a detour has been completed over the creek at Jeddo, consequently travel on the Ridge highway will not be interrupted while the stone arch, planned to take the place of the old bridge, is being erected.”

This bridge was completed by November.

The 1916 bridge collapse was not the first such at Jeddo. A severe flood in 1897 washed out a dam and the foundation of the mill. Yet another flood occurred in 1902. Jeddo residents may have wondered if these occurrences were the result of a stealthy re-routing of the creek by earlier settlers. This intriguing item of local lore has thankfully been preserved in an oral history interview conducted by former Historian Arden McAllister with Horace Bird in 1978.

According to Mr. Bird, the land around the Jeddo area was wet and swampy, and was referred to as “Wild Cat Swamp.” The creek then was but a stream which moved sluggishly along the south side of Ridge Road and joined the Oak Orchard River south of Ridgeway Corners.

Pioneer settler, Jeremiah Brown, took his oxen and dug a trench across Ridge Road to divert the water. Farmers on the north side were furious as their land flooded, so they filled in the trench. Jeremiah persisted with re-digging the trench and soon the volume of water draining north created a channel which joined with Johnson Creek and necessitated the construction of a bridge. The drained farmland proved very suitable for fruit orchards. The volume of water proved suitable for a mill and soon the settlement grew to include a saw mill as well as a cooperage, a blacksmith shop, a store, and for some time, a jelly factory.

Too often, we traverse historic Route 104, aware of the hamlets only as areas to reduce speed. Next time, take note of the jaunty oversize bowling pins at Jeddo Mills Antiques and salute the determination of the settlers, bridge builders, millers and merchants who lived there.

To access newspaper articles: www.nyshistoricnewspapers.org.

Transcripts of the Orleans County Oral Histories are available at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library, Medina, and Hoag Library, Albion.