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Unveiling of painting of grand cobblestone home will kick off museum reopening

Photos by Ginny Kropf: This cobblestone house at 8856 Ridge Rd., Gasport, was restored by Victor Monter and his wife Julie Scanio, who have recently sold it and donated a painting of the home to the Cobblestone Museum at Childs. The historic home was built in 1834-36 as a Quaker meeting house.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 13 July 2020 at 10:45 am

Cobblehurst is a landmark on Ridge Road in Gasport

The Cobblestone Museum’s planned reopening July 15 will be a welcome event, according to Museum director Doug Farley.

In light of the coronavirus, new safety precautions will be observed. Traditional cobblestone tours will still be offered this summer, but by appointment only at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Each tour will be limited to four people from the same household or group. Guests and docents will be required to wear a mask. Reservations and payments should be made in advance on the museum’s website or by phone.

A highlight of the reopening will be the unveiling of a painting of Cobblehurst, a historic cobblestone home at 8856 Ridge Rd. in Gasport. That artwork has been donated by owners Victor Monter and Julie Scanio.

The couple, who have just sold the home, have done a fantastic job of preserving the structure for the benefit of everyone, including future generations, Farley said.

“We are so happy to celebrate their achievement by displaying the painting,” he said.

Farley said Cobblehurst has always been a building that has garnered a lot of interest from folks, and the Cobblestone Society was very pleased when the owners allowed them to include the building on their 2019 Cobblestone Tour of Homes.

Victor Monter and his wife Julie Scanio pose by the massive stone fireplace in the great room of Cobblehurst, a historic cobblestone house on Ridge Road, Gasport.

“Based on attendance reported after the event, Cobblehurst was the most visited site on the nine-building tour,” Farley said.

According to information provided by the current owners, Cobblehurst was originally built in 1834-36 as a Quaker church. The Quakers buried their dead in an adjacent cemetery during this period.

A history of the house, compiled by Darrell Mantei in July 2000, says the Quakers moved to new quarters in Gasport in 1905. The building sat vacant until 1917 until it was purchased by a Mrs. Pratt from Albion in 1917. Mantei writes that Pratt remodeled the house with exquisite taste and much money.

She toured Europe for ideas and brought back the iron fireplace utensils. She had a cellar hand dug under the building, with 5-foot thick walls to support the foundation; added a second story with the construction of six dormers; built a cobblestone wall on the north and west sides of the property; added a pantry room, porches, patio, garage with apartments for servants and a toolshed; all of which remain in good repair today.

Inside, the house was done in Mission style, with the liberal use of oak in the stairway, baseboards, cupboards and built-in drawers and leaded glass wall cases. Pratt appointed the house with several stained glass windows (which the current owners said are Tiffany), the iron fireplace utensils from Scotland and three hanging five-bulb bronze light fixtures from the Roycroft Guild in East Aurora. All remain in good shape and working order today.

Mantei lived in the home with his wife Barbara and raised their children there after purchasing Cobblehurst from the William Webster family in 1967.

Monter and Scanio also provided a column written by former Orleans County historian and longtime director of the Cobblestone Museum C.W. “Bill” Lattin, called “Bethinking of Old Orleans,” in which he writes about Emma Reed Nelson Webster, a one-time owner of Cobblehurst.

Lattin had no recollection or information on the owner identified as “Mrs. Pratt.” However, in a notebook which Monter shared, there is a lengthy, hand-written letter by a man who was hired to help build the house and he speaks about Mrs. Nelson having a nephew in Kenmore named Pratt.

Lattin also shared in his column that Emma Reed Nelson Webster was a philanthropist who endowed the Orleans County community with both physical and financial gifts. Her first husband was Dr. Edwin J. Nelson, a dentist in Utica who also had an interest in a knitting mill. After his death, Emma married Frank D. Webster, a former resident of Barre who later ran a truck farm on Long Island.

It says Emma never forgot her native home or relations and often visited Albion for family reunions. She also purchased and donated the brick home on North Main and Linwood Avenue in Albion for the home of Daughters of the American Revolution. Emma and her husband eventually purchased the former Quaker cobblestone meeting house on Ridge Road and remodeled it into a residence called “Cobbleshurst.” (According to this information, it was the Websters who named the residence Cobblehurst.) Lattin said it was Emma who laid out the elaborate gardens, stone walls and garden pond and built the sun porch on the north side. Owners in the 1950s and 60s added the pool, he said.

As Lattin also wrote that Emma died in 1931, it is reasonable to assume that William Webster, from whom the Manteis  purchased Cobblehurst, was a descendent of Emma and Frank D. Webster. Mantei’s writeup states that after Mrs. Pratt died, the house was used as a bed and breakfast in the 1920s. He said five or six families called Cobblehurst home during the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. He said some raised gladioli, one raised chickens and it was a restaurant briefly. There is no information on the date when the Websters purchased the property.

Monter and Scanio have the guest book from the 1920s when the home was a bed and breakfast. It is full of compliments on the hospitality and the cuisine.

Mantei also wrote that Cobblehurst was the site for the broadcast of a morning breakfast show at one time.

Cobblehurst had again been abandoned and sat empty for seven years when Monter and Scanio purchased it.

The young couple met on a blind date. Scanio grew up in Tonawanda, and Manter in the Southern Tier. He attended Jamestown Community College, and then transferred to Buffalo State and the University of Buffalo to study mechanical engineering. He worked in Buffalo for 15 years, having a very successful career in his profession. Seven years ago, just before he met Scanio, he bought his first house in Lockport – an 1860s home, which he renovated.

Soon after meeting Scanio, Monter bought another property – a large commercial building in Lockport. Scanio had an antique store on the first floor and there were apartments upstairs. By now, Monter had the “bug,” and they purchased several others to renovate and rent.

After the couple married and had their son, Bradley, who is now 4, Monter decided to change his career. He was working as director of business development for a plastics company in Niagara Falls, a position he gave up to become a landlord.

“I was gone all day and getting home late at night,” Monter said. “I never saw my son, so I decided to leave my career.”

Monter said they buy the worst houses and renovate them into buildings which totally amaze people.

“I’m a one-man band,” he said. “I have several who help when I need it, but I do 98 percent of the work myself. Being an engineer, I can also do the blueprints.”

He is currently doing two major renovations in Gasport, one which has been sitting for years and the other an 1850s building with the foundation collapsing and the roof caving in.

They were expecting Bradley when they decided they needed a bigger place.

“I wanted an older house, and Julie was adamant about having a pool,” Monter said.

Cobblehurst fit both their wishes.

“We looked at it, and it was in such bad shape,” Monter said. “It had been empty for eight years and the roof leaked. The hardwood floors in the Great Room were all warped, in some places raised six to eight inches. Plaster was cracked on the walls and hanging from the ceilings.”

This is a view of Cobblehurst from the driveway, showing the front sunporch, which houses a swimming pool.

But the house had an enclosed sun porch on the front with a pool.

They closed on the property July 3 five years ago.

Not only did Monter take up every piece of flooring, sand it and trim it to fit, but replastered all the walls and ceilings, installed new electrical service and converted one of the five bedrooms upstairs into a walk-in closet. Outside they removed five dump truck loads of leaves.

“We got a ton of history with this house,” Monter said of the 5,200 square-foot home.

He explained it was built on a sand bar in a dried up lake bed under the house. The home sits on 2 1/2 acres. If they had stayed there, Monter was planning to clean out and rebuild a pond in the west yard. He said none of the materials used in the house are native to the area. Mrs. Pratt had everything (except the cobblestones) imported from Europe. Cobblehurst was one of the first homes on Ridge Road with electricity and running water, he added.

The last year it was a bed and breakfast, more than 400 people visited from all over the world, he said.

In addition to the giant fireplace in the Great Room, there is another in the master bedroom upstairs.

The couple made the decision over a year ago to live in Gasport five months of the year and set up permanent residence in Florida, where they plan to buy in a retirement community. They put Cobblehurst up for sale, and when there were no prospective buyers, they decided to stay and have a winery there. A small room overlooking the west lawn was converted into a tasting room and they applied for all the necessary permits.

“We had only five days left in our realtor’s contract and we weren’t going to relist it,” Monter said. “The same day I got my permit in the mail, we got an offer on the house.”

They are in the process of moving into an apartment in the building he is renovating in Gasport. They currently own more than a dozen rentals in the Lockport area, and Monter is looking at another “fixer-upper” on Route 31.

Monter said he first talked to Farley several years ago and asked him if he had any history on Cobblehurst. When Farley asked Monter and Scanio if they would participate in the tour of homes, they said, “Let’s do it.”

“We expected a dozen or so people, but two tour buses pulled up in front, followed with cars by the dozens,” Monter said.

The new owners, who will be moving in shortly, are a couple from the United Kingdom, Monter said.

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Happy Independence Day from Gaines!

Posted 4 July 2020 at 8:00 am

By Adrienne Kirby, Gaines Town Historian

The above photograph of an unidentified boy, most likely taken in Gaines, comes from a small photo album that belonged to Virginia Lattin Morrison.

The second image is a photo of Virginia found in that same album. She was a longtime resident of Gaines.

Coincidentally, Virginia was born on July 4, 1906. In 1919, she turned 13. To celebrate her birthday that year, Virginia could have gone to the recently opened ice cream parlor above Mr. Spaulding’s grocery in the rebuilt White’s Hall.

White’s Hall, located on the southwest corner of 104 and 279, was a social hub. Prior to a devastating fire in 1910, it housed a grocery store, post office, grange hall and was the headquarters for town meetings, among other social activities.

She would have been too young to attend the box party that evening with the Swarts Orchestra at the Grange Hall, which had moved across the street in 1915 to what used to be Thurber’s Hotel. Admission to attend the party was $1.00, plus 10 cents war tax.

A box party was essentially a dating game. Women would make a meal for two and put it in a cardboard box they had decorated. Then men would bid on boxes, not knowing what was inside or who the creator was with whom they would share the meal.

Dances and social events like this were common fund raisers for the Grange.

Ballard praised for ‘superb job’ as county historian

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 June 2020 at 1:19 pm

‘He brought out crowds of people. What historian is able to do that?’

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Bill Lattin (left), the retired Orleans County historian, presents a card to Matt Ballard, who followed Lattin as historian and served in the role for more than five years. They are shown Monday evening inside the cobblestone schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road.

Ballard has resigned as county historian. He is leaving Orleans County in about two weeks to take a position at a college in North Carolina. He will be assistant director of Collection Strategies at Davidson College.

Lattin said Ballard put in tremendous effort in a part-time position, while also finishing up a master’s degree and working full-time at Roberts Wesleyan College in North Chili as director of library services.

Matt Ballard, center, is pictured with members of the Orleans County Historical Association on Monday evening. They are next to a cobblestone schoolhouse that the association took on as a project the past five years. They were able to save the building and will use it for their meetings. Ballard served as the group’s president the past 18 months. He credited Al Capurso for leading the effort to preserve the school. Pictured from left include: Frank Berger, Tina Inzana, Jean Sherwin, Adrienne Kirby, Bill Lattin, Jonathan Doherty, Sue Baker, Rick Ebbs, Sandy Freeman and Betsy Kennedy.

Ballard did an in-depth column each week on local history that was featured in the Orleans Hub and The Daily News in Batavia. He also led many historical tours at cemeteries and a very popular tour of downtown Albion that attracted several hundred people.

“This is a real loss for the community,” Lattin said about Ballard’s resignation and his impending move to North Carolina. “It’s going to be a big loss for local history to see him move away. It’s really a shame. He’s done a superb job.”

Lattin teamed up with Ballard in some of the cemetery tours. Lattin watched Ballard grow in the role, especially in the presentations, sharing details of lives from more than a century ago. Ballard would sometimes dress in period costumes for the tours.

“He had a good spiel for each tour,” Lattin said. “He is a wonderful presenter, and he did as a one-man act. He brought out crowds of people. What historian is able to do that?”

Matt Ballard looks at some of the school desks inside the cobblestone schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road. Those desks were donated by the Cobblestone Museum, which also has a schoolhouse on Ridge Road.

Bill Lattin served as historian for 35 years before being succeeded by Ballard in February 2015. Lattin said Ballard did wonders organizing the Orleans County Department of History records, including creating an online database.

“He deserves all kind of accolades,” Lattin said. “It’s going to be big shoes to fill, not only for county historian but as the president of historical association, which is a position no one wants to do.”

Monday’s meeting also was the first chance for the Historical Association to see several recent improvements at the schoolhouse.

It has a new hardwood floor, which was installed by member Rick Ebbs. The inside walls have been painted by Jerome Ebbs.

The building from 1832 was used as a schoolhouse until 1944 was on the verge of falling down, until a group of volunteers put on a new roof and stabilized the building.

Volunteers from the Historical Association in 2015 cleared most of debris from the inside of the former school. Many pioneer children in Orleans County were taught at the school, which also was used for countless town meetings.

The building also was listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 2017, and a historical marker was added in front to denote its significance. Lattin believes it is the oldest cobblestone building in the county.

The 913-square-foot building hadn’t been used much since it was closed as a school in 1944. Nor had there been much upkeep of the building until 2015.

Later this summer a log cabin will be relocated behind the schoolhouse at this spot. The privy behind the schoolhouse was recently donated by Irene Roth and her daughters, Chris Sartwell, Marge Page and Arlene Rafter.

The log cabin will be moved from the home of Pat and Ralph Moorhouse on Linwood Avenue in Albion. The cabin was built in 1930 by Boy Scouts.

The cabin is 10 feet by 14 feet and about six feet tall at the peak.

Rick Ebbs, a local contractor who has been working on restoration work at the schoolhouse, will lead the effort to move the log cabin.

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Men dressed up as brides in popular fundraisers a century ago

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 30 May 2020 at 8:34 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 2, No. 28

ALBION – Over 100 years ago, “Womanless Weddings” were commonplace throughout the United States. Dating back into the 19th century, faux nuptials were held in the South as a means for raising money for charities, churches, and community organizations. As interest in their inherent humor began to rise, the events spread like a wildfire across the entire country.

The Womanless Wedding was an opportunity for men to dress up as women, don some makeup, and over exaggerate femininity. These gentlemen would kiss members of the crowd (men and women alike), flash their garters, adjust whatever they may have rigged up for breasts, and act in a generally “naughty” manner all for a few laughs.

Naturally, these became popular events as community members had no qualms about paying a little money to see their neighbors dressed as women. Publishers eventually developed scripts for such programs and each event became a true dramatic performance. One such set of lines from a 1936 program closes with the minister introducing the newlyweds:

Minister: “Then, in the name of I-wouldn’t-‘a’-thought-it, I pronounce you man and…Two dollars and seventy-five cents, please?”

Groom: “What’s the seventy-five cents for? You promised to splice us for two dollars.”

Minister: “That’s for having to look at the bride all during the ceremony…”

This image shows Eugene W. “Bud” Wilcox, Jr. dressed as Theda Bara for a Womanless Wedding hosted by the Albion Rotary Club for the benefit of the Crippled Children Fund. Quite the saucy personality, Bara was an early silent film actress who became well known as one of the earliest sex symbols in U.S. cinema.

Wilcox was born on February 20, 1891 to Eugene and Alice Wilcox, growing up on West Park Street in Albion. Following graduation from the Albion High School, Wilcox enrolled at Lehigh University where he became a prominent athlete while studying business and participating as a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity.

After he completed his degree in 1915, “Bud” enlisted with the U.S. Navy during the First World War and was stationed in New Orleans as a Chief Storekeeper. Five days after the conclusion of the war, he was commissioned as an Ensign and remained in the U.S. Naval Reserves until the end of 1919. Upon his return to Albion he worked as a clerk in his father’s hardware store located at 98 Main Street, eventually taking ownership of the business. The building and hardware store still exist today, now as Family Hardware owned by Fred Miller.

Wilcox was a charter member of Albion’s Rotary Club, an active member of the Presbyterian Church, and a member of the Elks and Renovation Lodges of Albion.

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Norwegian ‘Slooper’ from Kendall persevered and made mark as engineer in NYC

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 23 May 2020 at 8:15 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 19

KENDALL – This photograph shows the Stangland family burial plot at Greenwood Cemetery in Kendall. The cemetery is the final resting place for Benjamin Franklin and Emily Bridgeman Stangland. Born on January 20, 1848 in Noble County, Indiana, “Frank” was the son of Andreas Stangland, a Norwegian immigrant, and Susan Cary of Kendall.

Frank’s father arrived in the United States in early 1825 to prepare land in Kendall for the arrival of 52 immigrants from Stavangar, Norway. Docking at the Port of New York on October 25, 1825, the “Sloopers” as they were called travelled along the Erie Canal to Holley, where they embarked for the shore of Lake Ontario. Andreas was a bachelor and settled on a small parcel of land situated north of the Lakeshore and Norway Road intersection. Family lore says that while exploring his property, Andreas stumbled upon the home of John Cary where he met his future wife. Unable to speak English, he received lessons from Susan who was a teaching in a nearby schoolhouse.

Andreas and Susan had five children in Kendall including Eleazer, Lydia, Tallock, Bela, and Rosetta. Around 1839, a wealthy farmer from Indiana named Ole Orsland visited Andreas and offered to trade 600 acres of land in Indiana and $200 for Stangland’s 48 acres in Kendall. Believing Orsland to be a trustworthy man and presented with an unbelievable opportunity, Stangland accepted the offer much to the disapproval of his wife. When the Stanglands arrived in Indiana, they found that less than 25% of the land was tillable and the majority of the acreage was a swampy mess. The young couple welcomed four more children to the family while in Indiana; Maria, Andrew Jackson “Jack,” Mary Elizabeth “Libbie,” and Benjamin Franklin “Frank.”

The swampland would take its toll on the Stangland family, as Rosetta (my 5th great grandmother) developed “swamp fever” every year and was forced to spend time with her grandparents in Kendall to recuperate. While Andreas spent most of his time trying to drain his farm, he contracted pneumonia and died August 31, 1847, nearly five months before the birth of Frank. Susan suffered immensely following the passing of her husband and was said to have died of a broken heart on November 4, 1848. Frank was sent to the home of a Mrs. Squire Young to be nursed over the winter while the children awaited the arrival of their grandfather from Kendall.

At the Cary Farm in Kendall, Frank’s uncle Richard Cary offered to adopt his young nephew. Instead, his uncle Alex Cary picked him up and said, “Mother, I think we will keep Frank,” and left the room. From that point forward, Frank remained on the farm, becoming a full-fledged farm hand by the age of fourteen. After his grandfather died, he would take wheat to Kendall Mills so it could be ground into flour.

Frank attended the one-room schoolhouse at the corner of Norway and Lakeshore Road, where his mother taught his father how to read and speak English. Wishing to continue his scholarly pursuits, Frank attended the Brockport Normal School at the age of sixteen before moving to Indiana to live with his brother, Tallock. It became apparent rather quickly that Frank was not cut out for the farm life. He returned to the Cary Farm in Kendall before traveling to Rochester to commence studies in business at Bryant & Stratton & Co.

Fresh out of business school, Frank applied to work as a shipping clerk at Forsyth Scales in Rochester. Preferring sales to clerking, the firm sent him on the road which led him to Chicago in 1870. On October 9, 1870, that city suffered the massive conflagration known as the Great Chicago Fire. Asleep in his bed, two neighborhood boys alerted Frank to a massive fire on the city’s southside. He sprung out of bed and rushed to the store where he “watered” the store’s wooden back platform.

As the fire spread and nearby clerks fled, Frank rushed into the store, opened the safe, and loaded the company’s financial ledgers into a trunk. He tied to the trunk to a handcart and spent the better part of the night pulling the cart across the city. Having located his boss, Mr. Forsyth said, “You needn’t have taken the trouble to take the books out Frank, for you know we made that safe and it is perfectly safe.” Six weeks later, they dug the safe out from the ruins only to find that the remaining documents within the safe were turned to dust.

During his time in Chicago, Frank kept in touch with his sweetheart back home, Emily Sedgwick Bridgeman. Her parents were quite skeptical of a “prosperous looking young man who traveled,” so the couple settled on a ten-year “understanding” rather than a traditional engagement. They wed on October 25, 1876.

During his time with Forsyth, Frank developed a process of counting small watch parts by weighing them on delicate scales. Shortly after his marriage, Frank and Emily relocated to New York City where Frank commenced work as a mechanical engineer with Howard & Morse. He quickly became an expert on ventilation and drying ovens, installing ventilator systems in some of the largest buildings in the United States.

The Stanglands owned a summer home on Rt. 18 near Kendall and upon Frank’s retirement in 1932, he and Emily made the house their permanent residence. He died July 31, 1941 at the age of 92 and was interred in this lot in Kendall.

Of the many interesting anecdotes relating to Frank Stangland, perhaps none is as interesting as his participation in a major New York City murder trial. In 1890, Carlyle Harris, a medical school student at the New York College of Physicians and Surgeons gave his wife Helen Potts a lethal dose of morphine placed in capsules. Frank was one of twelve “well-educated” jurors that sat for the trial. Carlyle was found guilty and sentenced to death, which was carried out in 1893 in Sing Sing’s electric chair.

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Historian’s immigrant ancestors from Poland certainly made a mark after moving to Albion

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 16 May 2020 at 7:44 am

Romanski family worked in quarries, helped establish a church, ran a restaurant and did some bootlegging

ALBION — A photograph, taken around 1900, shows my immigrant ancestors from Poland.

Seated at center are Joannes Romanski and Anna Szybanska. Their children stand behind them, including, from left, Rozalia “Rose” Romanska Crane, Franciszek “Frank” Romanski, Maria Smolenska Romanski, and Valeria “Fannie” Romanska Wilson.

Rose is likely around 14 years old in this photograph, while Frank and his wife, who were wed on Nov. 20, 1899, were likely enjoying the honeymoon phase of their marriage.

Joannes Romanski was born on July 5, 1852, in the small village of Rybieniec, Poland, then situated in Prussia. Anna, his wife, was born Nov. 12, 1852, in the nearby village of Wabcz.

The couple brought their three young children to the United States, arriving at the port of New York on April 4, 1887.

As was typical for new immigrants arriving to Orleans County in the latter quarter of the 19th century, Joannes commenced work as a laborer in one of the numerous sandstone quarries within the vicinity of his home on the eastern end of Albion. Records from St. Mary’s Assumption Church suggest that he was one of the earliest movers and shakers who worked to establish one of the first rural Roman Catholic mission churches for Polish immigrants outside of the city of Buffalo.

Little is known about the family’s economic disposition in Poland, but Joannes opened a restaurant on Densmore Street shortly after his arrival in Albion. He operated that business through the early 1910s with the help of his family, until he suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed for the last remaining years of his life.

He died on Nov. 30, 1914, at the age of 62.

Anna continued to operate the family business in the years following her husband’s passing.

Frank followed in his father’s footsteps and purchased the Continental Hotel in Batavia, likely relying on the business experience gained while working in the family restaurant. His luck, unfortunately, was short-lived.

The hotel was taken over by a receiver in 1907 who was attempting to retrieve debts for various creditors. Meanwhile, “Frank [was] scooting around and enjoying life with an auto[mobile].” Following his short tenure as a restaurant owner, he pursued a job as a detective on the New York Central Railroad and stationed himself out of Batavia for several years. Romanski earned quite the reputation in law enforcement, finding himself at the center of attention, and appearing frequently in the local newspapers for various acts of “heroism.”

In July 1909, he was violently assaulted by a well-known lumber dealer in Batavia, which Romanski claimed was unprovoked. John Wade and an accomplice stumbled across Romanski patrolling the local NYC tracks and pummeled him with pieces of three-inch sewer pipe.

The following month, Romanski was involved in a gunfight with railcar burglars, resulting in one officer receiving a gunshot wound to the thigh, and one burglar receiving six gunshot wounds in his thigh, legs, ankle, and heel. Frank became quite familiar with gunplay as he surprised Frank Stybus as he riffled through a railcar in November of 1910, shooting the burglar as he ran off.

Three years later, Romanski was accused of collaborating with railcar burglars, tipping them off to potential threats in return for a fair share of the loot.

The Romanski sisters were just as culpable in their own unscrupulous practices during Prohibition.

After the passing of their mother in 1924, Rose assumed control of the family’s restaurant with her second husband, Frank Crane. According to family lore, Frank Crane would brew hard cider in the basement of their home, which was sold to local patrons out of a secret room in the back of the house.

Of course, this lore is corroborated by the numerous liquor raids on the restaurant, including one in June 1930 when Rose was served with a warrant to appear in front of a U.S. Commissioner. When their own homebrew was unavailable, they relied on Rose’s sister, Fannie, to ship liquor to Albion from Fannie’s store in Port Colburn, Ontario.

Even though Frank and Rose Crane fought the good fight, I suppose we all have skeletons in the closet!

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Billiards was a popular, competitive pastime at the Orleans House in Albion

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 2 May 2020 at 8:24 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 17

ALBION – This photograph, taken circa 1920, shows the billiard parlor in the Orleans House located on the southwest corner of Platt and East Bank streets in Albion. Anson Dunshee was the proprietor of the hotel at the time, so it is possible that he is the man pictured here.

In January of 1895, Dunshee ordered four new Babcock billiard tables for installation in this parlor at a cost of approximately $1,000. Three of the four tables in this image appear to be the same style, consisting of square legs, slate tops, and leather mesh pockets. At the time this photograph was taken, eight-ball pool was already popular in the United States.

Three of the tables are racked with a mix of solid and striped balls, typical of that particular version of the game. Eight-ball pool originally consisted of a point-based system where each player was awarded points for sinking each ball based on the ball’s corresponding number. A total of 120 points could be earned and the first player to reach 61 points, or one more than half of the total points, won the game. This was likely the version played at this venue. Readers will notice two wires running along the upper portion of the photograph near the ceiling. Known as the “wire” or “across the string,” these beads formed an abacus used for scoring the game. A darker bead marked one point while a lighter colored pendant marked every ten points.

The fourth table, situated front and center of this photograph, has no pockets. This type of table was used in carom billiards, also known as carambole billiards, where players scored points by bouncing the cue ball off the rails and two other balls situated on the table; points were awarded based on the complexity of the shot. The darker ball is visible in the corner of the table while two lighter colored balls are also situated on the felt. Players typically engaged in several variations of carom billiards including straight rail, cushion caroms, balkline, and three-cushion billiards. Cue sticks are held in racks mounted on the walls and mechanical bridges can be seen underneath the tables.

In May of 1876, the Orleans House hosted Frank “Yank” Adams, a professional carom billiards player known for his ability to manipulate the cue ball with his hands. Combining his proficiency in bowling with billiards, Adams was able to make trick shows with his digits rather than using a cue, which earned him the nickname, “Digital Billiard Wonder.”

During the 19th century, pool rooms were typically associated with betting parlors for horse racing. The billiard tables provided bettors with an activity to pass the time between races. The term “pool” became synonymous with billiards as the game was commonly associated with collective betting or antes. This would explain the presence of the “No Gambling Allowed in this Room” sign hanging over the doorway into the barroom.

Although the available identifying information suggests that this image was taken around 1920, the exact date is likely a few years earlier. Around 1922, Dunshee proceeded to renovate the billiards parlor and adjoining barroom into a restaurant. The inability to gamble and recent enactment of the 18th Amendment likely killed any interest in billiards. Earlier in that same year, the hotel was raided by Sheriff Scott Porter under the suspicion of selling illegal intoxicating liquor (v. 3, no. 22).

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Medina expanded sewer system in 1908 in a challenging public works project

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 25 April 2020 at 8:41 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 16

MEDINA – In 1907, Gov. Charles Evans Hughes signed a law allowing the Village of Medina to raise approximately $60,000 to expand the sewer system. It was expected that the new pipelines would connect the southern and eastern sections of the village to a preexisting trunk sewer that previously discharged into the Oak Orchard Creek.

Upon the commencement of construction, the State Department of Health expressed concerns about potential issues that might arise from the increased flow of sewage into the main sewer line. Prior to 1903, sewage discharged at a point opposite of the intersection of Glenwood Avenue and Gulf Street.

The construction of A. L. Swett’s sixty-foot high dam created Glenwood Lake and in anticipation of changing sewage disposal needs, Swett constructed a pipe below the lake in order to discharge sewage beyond the dam. Even though this extension was constructed nearly five years earlier, the preexisting trunk sewer was never connected to Swett’s extension and sewage was discharged into Glenwood Lake. The Health Department understood that the increasing flow of sewage would eventually turn the beautiful waterway into a cesspool as solid waste settled on the lakebed.

Following the completion of this project, the Village encountered legal trouble with Dingledyne & Patton, the contractors assigned to complete the eastern section of the sewer line. Medina argued that the contractors failed to complete the necessary sewer work, which required the Village to assume responsibility of finishing the job and thus expending additional funds in the process.

Dingledyne & Patton issued a countersuit, claiming that the Village owed them more than $15,000 for completed work. An appeals court later issued judgement in favor of the contractors, noting that the Village illegally paid for work not completed and issued payment for work which laborers were required to work beyond eight hours per day.

This particular image shows a rather rocky section of East Center Street, looking west towards downtown Medina at the intersection of State Street. In June of 1908, an alteration was made to the proposed sewer line. The original plan involved running this line through a private right-of-way in order to avoid a rock vein. It is clear that the property owner understood the lucrative nature of this predicament and demanded an excessive sum for the right-of-way. Instead, the Village opted to run the line down the center of the street.

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Western Union Telegraph & American Express operated in downtown Albion in early 1900s

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 18 April 2020 at 7:53 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 15

ALBION – This image, taken around 1900, shows a brick building on the north side of East Bank Street in Albion at the present site of Phoenix Fitness. In the years following this photograph, the office service as the telephone building prior to its relocation to Platt Street.

Based on identifying information on the obverse side of the photograph, we know that J. B. Gamble of Eagle Harbor produced the image. A handwritten note states that Freeman Herrick is the man seated atop the express wagon. A quick look at the 1900 U.S. Census shows us that Freeman Herrick, of State Street, was working as an expressman in the village. His work in this office began around 1880, working first as a commission agent, then as an express messenger operating the Albion to Buffalo line. The wagon is fully loaded with boxes, either prepared for transport to the railroad depot on Clinton Street, or awaiting delivery to residents in Albion.

The sign over the storefront indicates that this building was an American Express office. Started in 1850 at Buffalo, NY, the American Express company handled express freight shipments by railroad. Growing exponentially in the latter quarter of the 19th century, the company’s total assets by 1903 totaled approximately $28 million; only second to the assets held by the National City Bank of New York. In 1857, American Express launched their money order business in order to compete with the U.S. Postal System’s money order option.

To the right of the American Express office was the Western Union Telegraph Office. Established at Rochester in 1851 by Samuel Selden and Hiram Sibley, their New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company eventually combined with another company to form the Western Union Telegraph Company in 1856. Just as the American Express Company had established in 1857, Western Union developed their own money transfer service in 1871.

The identity of the two men and boy standing in the doorway are unknown, though it is presumed that one of the men is the office agent. In early 1901, John Napier was sent from Batavia’s express office to assume management of the Albion office. In turn, A. W. Myers of Albion was sent to Batavia to replace him.

As an aside, Freeman Herrick’s daughter, Margaret, met a young man in this office around 1903 and the two fell in love. According to local reports, Margaret was “addicted to the liquor habit” and her new beau attempted to break her habit. In December of 1903, Margaret wrote to the man and asked him to see her. When he refused, she committed suicide by taking a lethal dose of carbolic acid in Rochester.

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The steamer, Arundell, reigned as Queen of Lake Ontario

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 11 April 2020 at 8:22 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 14

This image shows the steamer Arundell approaching Oak Orchard Harbor around 1904 or 1905. Built by the Bell Iron Works at Buffalo in 1879, this iron hull steamer was operated along the southern coast of Lake Ontario during the summer months through 1910.

When this photograph was taken, the Arundell was owned and operated by the Cole & Holt Lines of Bay City, Michigan and was brought each spring to Lake Ontario by way of the Welland Canal. The steamer frequently carried Orleans County passengers during picnic days and pioneer events.

The company advertised “Good meals on steamer at 50 cents,” and “No dust, cool breeze and a pleasant time guaranteed” for its excursion trips across the lake. These relaxing jaunts included stops at Olcott Beach, Point Breeze, Charlotte, Sodus Point, Fairhaven, Oswego, Cape Vincent, and Clayton; the typical cost of a round trip ticket from Olcott to the Thousand Islands was $5.00 per person. During the earliest years of operation around the Buffalo Harbor in the 1880s, a ticket would run approximately 50 cents for gentlemen and 25 cents for women and children.

In 1904, the company operating the steamer was charged in the death of George Reed of Niles, NY, a passenger who boarded the previous year for an excursion trip to the Thousand Islands. Reed’s wife claimed that the employees and agents on board the Arundell got her husband “beastly drunk” and stowed him away in a bunk below deck. When reaching Fairhaven, the crew allegedly carried the semiconscious man to shore and left him there. At some point the man regained his composure and attempted to find his way inland but stumbled into the water and drowned. The $15,000 lawsuit did not appear to have any long-term effect on the operation of the steamer.

The steamer suffered an unfortunate accident in 1908 when she travelled too close to the shores of the St. Lawrence River and ran aground on the Fineview Shoals near Wellesley Island. She was towed to Kingston and placed in dry dock for several weeks for repairs; the accident set the company back several thousands of dollars.

Shortly after this image was taken, the steamer was sold to the Crawford Transportation Company of Chicago, who used her as a ferry on Lake Michigan until she suffered a tragic fire and burned in 1911. Although her time as a transportation vessel was not over, her time as the “Queen of Lake Ontario” was complete. The Arundell was rebuilt, sold, and renamed Brewster in 1921. The steamer sank after a collision with the Sterling Lake on the James River in Virginia in 1922.

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Erie Canal made Knowlesville a hotspot, busy enough for a hotel

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 4 April 2020 at 8:29 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 13

I received two friendly phone calls from Bill Lattin and Betsy Hoffman (Town of Carlton Historian) last week correcting last week’s article (v. 6, no. 13). Although the information was correct, the photograph is of a hotel that once stood at Knowlesville. So as a correction, I thought it would be worthwhile to write a short piece about the hotel in the photograph!

Isaac Signor’s Landmarks of Orleans County, New York notes that the earliest hotel in this area was likely kept by William Knowles in the first framed house built at that location in 1825. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 created the need for a stopping point at this location, a much-needed place for rest. An 1860 map of Niagara and Orleans counties shows the “American Hotel” situated on the property shown in this photography. The building was situated on the southeast corner of Knowlesville and Presbyterian roads and a storefront was connected the hotel to the north, which is visible on the left-hand side of the image.

Similar to the hotel at Point Breeze, this hotel was destroyed by fire on July 21, 1913. The July 22, 1913 edition of the Medina Daily Journal ran the devastating conflagration as its headline story; “KNOWLESVILLE VISITED BY A $27,000 FIRE LAST NIGHT.” Caused by an overheated chimney in the hotel’s kitchen, the fire spread quickly through the large frame structure. According to the paper, “…in a short space of time dense smoke was pouring from the windows, quickly followed by the licking, eager flames. With no immediate and adequate fire protection, the situation quickly became a very serious one.” A bucket brigade was formed as the community eagerly awaited assistance from fire companies in Medina and Albion.

Despite the efforts of the firefighters, the flames spread to the building of Dr. Edward G. Hall, which was occupied by Fred Hall’s drug store, Dr. Laverne Waters’ office, Frank Higgins’ barber shop, and Ross Achilles’ electrical office. While the fire raged in the hotel proper, nearby residents assisted in emptying the drug store, the attached post office, and removed several pool tables and other equipment from the hotel. The flames eventually spread to the transformers of the Swett Electric Company, forcing the shutdown of electricity to the community. This prevented the use of the lift bridge, bringing traffic on the Canal to a halt.

According to the Daily Journal, “Forty years ago this same section was devastated with a fire. Frame buildings were erected – a business block and hotel – and for over thirty years the little village has been left in peace.” The total loss included Harry Barnum’s Knowlesville Hotel ($15,000), the Hall Block ($10,000), Frank Hall’s Harness and Shoe Shop ($400), and private residences owned by John Whitwell, George Ames, and stores owned by John Whitwell and M. W. Tilden. Fire insurance in the area cost approximately $3.45 per hundred, which made adequate coverage cost prohibitive. The total value of the loss, not covered by insurance, was around $20,000.

The hotel was eventually rebuilt as the structure that now sits on the same corner.

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The Point Breeze Hotel offered respite on shore of Lake Ontario

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 28 March 2020 at 8:53 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 12

POINT BREEZE – This glass plate negative was recently found in a collection of images within the Department of History. Although the collection is not labeled, it is believed that the photographs are from the Carlton and Point Breeze area. Based on the content of the other images, this photograph appears to show a hotel once operated by Lewis Rogers. This photograph was likely taken before 1911 when the building was destroyed by a fire.

The history of the Point Breeze Hotel dates to around 1840 when, according to Isaac Signor, a small hotel was constructed on this site. Shortly after Capt. Jonathan Murray arrived in the area in the late 1840s, he acquired this property and expanded the hotel building as part of a larger warehouse and ship building operation.

Around 1876, the property was transferred to Moses Broadwell and Chester Warner who operated the hotel until 1881 when Lewis Rogers and L. Sydney Crooker acquired the property. That particular transaction involved a land swap including acreage in Wisconsin and financial interests in property associated with the Central Hotel in Batavia for ownership of the Orleans House at Point Breeze.

Around 1901 the property was sold by Rogers and Crooker to Mary Virginia Bascom of Boston, Massachusetts for the sum of $4,000. The property transfer seems to suggest that Rogers was unable to continue payments on his mortgage. Even though Mrs. Bascom took ownership of the hotel, Lewis Rogers continued to operate the hotel on site.

In late March of 1911, a fire started in the hotel’s kitchen around 3:30 a.m. while Rogers was visiting friends in Vermont. Although the neighborhood responded to fight the fire, gusty winds off the lake made it nearly impossible to control the blaze. The $6,000 building and over $3,000 in personal property owned by Rogers were only partially covered by insurance. Cutting his losses, Rogers transitioned into the role of proprietor of the Cottage House (now the Black North Inn).

The local newspapers noted a peculiar notice that appeared on the fire-damaged structure on May 18, 1911:

“This land is not for sale and no other lands that Mrs. Bascom owned prior to May 18, 1911 and no deed will be valid unless given by C. A. Deavenport, who owns every foot of land, every building, every stick of lumber of every name and nature and who has a bill of sale for every foot of land which Mrs. Bascom owned prior to May 18, 1911.”

The reason for the rather abrasive sign is unknown, but Deavenport purchased several old lumber sheds previously owned by A. V. Clark with the intention of converting the structures into lakefront cottages. It was believed that he intended to construct a bungalow on the site of the old Point Breeze Hotel for his personal use, but the hotel was rebuilt and operated under the name “Lakeland Hotel.” After remaining under the proprietorship of Lewis Rogers for more than 30 years, the property was sold numerous times over the coming years. In 1921, Deavenport sold the property to his son Carl, who then sold it to Clarence Egbert in 1922. It was transferred to Buffalo Parkside Properties, Inc. in 1929, then sold to Emma Kelemen the same year, once again sold to Clara Norton in 1931, then to Dorothy Valtas in 1933.

Around 1940, the hotel property was sold to Joseph Winghart of Lyndonville who changed the name to the “Winghart Hotel.” Winghart and his brother Bernard were known rum runners during Prohibition. The hotel again burned in the early 1940s and although the origin of the fire was never determined, Winghart was certain arson was the cause. Other sales included a transfer to Fred and Annabelle Hollenbeck who changed the name back to the Lakeland Hotel, sale of the property to Harvey Bardo of Rochester in 1946, and transfer of the hotel in 1956 to Herbert Seiler.

Although this building is long gone, locals will remember the property as the The Lakeland, The Barbary Coast, and was most recently the home of Gene and Joette Haines.

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In 1918, more than 2,000 people in Orleans got the Spanish Flu

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 21 March 2020 at 8:47 am

Historian urges people to document experiences during current coronavirus

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 11

As our community comes together to support one another during the current COVID-19 epidemic, we must remember to document our own stories for posterity. The local written record of events relating to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic is minimal and limited to statistical records gathered by the New York State Department of Health and scattered newspaper clippings.

Diaries and journals would provide the greatest detail from first-hand accounts. Although we have some limited oral histories from the 1970s provided by those who grew up during the pandemic, it is difficult to gain an accurate picture of the everyday lives of Orleans County’s residents. As a historian, I urge everyone to document the events we are living through so that future historians may have an opportunity to understand the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on our lives.

In 1919, the New York State Department of Health provided documentation on the Spanish Influenza (H1N1) pandemic as it spread across the country. Early documentation suggests that Kansas was the first location where the disease was encountered. The Department of Health wrote that “the use of the term ‘Spanish’ is unfortunate and has served to create the impression that a new and especially dreadful disease has appeared.” Historians have noted that the term “Spanish Influenza” likely resulted from the lack of press censorship in neutral Spain during World War One, where the influenza outbreak was publicized far more than in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The Spanish Influenza caused a variety of symptoms, the most prevalent being a temperature between 102-105ºF, body aches, nasal discharge, and a dry cough. Some cases included red or watery eyes, a slightly red throat, nausea, and diarrhea. Of course, atypical cases presented with minimal symptoms but remained highly infectious. Lacking antivirals and vaccines, physicians relied upon isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, disinfectants, and limited public gatherings to mitigate the spread of the disease. The fact that approximately 30% of U.S. physicians were deployed into military service limited access to health services in rural locations throughout New York.

The New York State Department of Health relied upon preexisting policies and procedures to limit the spread of the virus. According to Sanitary Code, spitting in public places, on sidewalks, and on the floors of public buildings was forbidden and considered a misdemeanor. The Public Health Council also pushed for legislation that made it a misdemeanor to cough or sneeze without properly covering your mouth or nose. Physicians treating infected patients were encouraged to wash their hands frequently and wear gauze masks whenever possible.

When quarantining those with influenza, individuals were expected to remain secluded inside of a well-ventilated room when families were around. Dishes and utensils used for eating were to be boiled after use and handkerchiefs, napkins, and towels were burned after use. In locations where large portions of the community were infected, the Department of Health encouraged no public funerals, keeping windows open to ensure adequate ventilation, and closing amusement locations (specifically movies and theatres).

Although the Spanish Influenza was deadly to children under five and adults over 65 years of age, the virus also affected a relatively healthy segment of the population, those between the ages of 20 and 40. In Orleans County between October and December of 1918, the Department of Health estimated 2,279 cases of influenza across a population of 33,919 (approximately 6.7% of the total county population). Comparatively speaking, outbreaks of other communicable illnesses such as the measles (79 cases), Scarlet Fever (35 cases), and Tuberculosis (33 cases) dwarfed in comparison.

Newspapers provide a glimpse at the local response to the influenza pandemic. In early October of 1918, Brent Wood presented as the first confirmed case of influenza in Albion. The son of Rev. Edwin Wood of the Pullman Universalist Church, Brent was taken ill at Buffalo where he was to enter military service.

In the coming weeks, the Gillett and Benton Corners School Districts in Barre closed due to influenza outbreaks and other school districts followed suit. Teachers received their regular salary if the school closed on account of sickness, however, teachers who proactively closed their school would not receive pay for the duration of the voluntary closure.

In mid-October, the Medina Board of Trustees mandated the closure of all churches, theatres, schools, fraternal organizations, and public meetings, anticipating a need to shut down for one to two months. Although cases locally subsided into late October, the celebration of peace on November 11, 1918 caused a spike in cases throughout Western New York.

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Frances Folsom, First Lady from Medina, was a celebrity with style

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 7 March 2020 at 8:07 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 10

Frances Folsom moved from Buffalo to Medina after her father’s death on July 23, 1875, when he was killed in a carriage accident. Folsom lived in Medina for three years with her mother and grandmother.

“I am waiting for my wife to grow up.” – Grover Cleveland

As a young bachelor in Buffalo, Cleveland was said to have muttered these very words to his sisters who frequently asked him about his intentions to marry. His statement, although witty, held a certain degree of truth and it is with that truth that the story of Frances Folsom is told.

In 1996 an historic roadside marker was installed at the corner of Main and Eagle Streets in Medina, denoting the structure that Folsom called home for a brief moment in her life during the 1870s. The marker reads: “Frances Folsom lived here in the mid-1870s with her grandmother and attended Medina High School. In 1886 at age 21 she wed Pres. Grover Cleveland.”

The daughter of Oscar and Emma Harmon Folsom, Frances was born July 21, 1864 at Buffalo, New York where her father practiced law with Grover Cleveland in a firm known as Lanning, Cleveland and Folsom. Folsom and Cleveland became close friends after a failed run for the office of Erie County District Attorney left Cleveland with a sense of defeat. It was said that Cleveland doted on the young girl, purchasing the first baby carriage for Frances.

On July 23, 1875, Oscar Folsom was tragically killed when he was thrown from his carriage in Buffalo’s Black Rock district. Cleveland was made administrator of Folsom’s will, but sources vary on whether Cleveland was, in fact, made the legal guardian of Frances.

Oscar’s widow and eleven-year-old daughter relocated to Medina to live with Ruth Harmon, the grandmother of Frances, while Cleveland settled the estate. During the approximately three years that she lived in Medina, “Frankie” as she was later known (a nickname much to her disliking), became a popular pupil among fellow students and teachers at the Medina high school. It was after Cleveland finalized his business partner’s estate that Emma and Frances returned to Buffalo.

Frances continued her studies at Central High School in Buffalo and eventually entered the sophomore class at Wells College where she was attending when Cleveland was inaugurated for his first term. Despite her best efforts to attend the prestigious event, she was not permitted to miss classes. After her graduation in 1885, Frances was whisked off to Europe by her mother at the urging of Cleveland so that she could experience the culture of the old world. At this time it was suspected by the public that Emma was visiting Europe to purchase her wedding dress under the assumption that Cleveland was courting the elder Folsom. Upon their return to New York on May 27, 1886, an announcement was made the following day noting Cleveland’s engagement to Frances and not Emma as previously thought.

On June 2, 1886 Grover and Frances were wed in the Blue Room, the stately parlor on the first floor of the White House, becoming the only couple to celebrate their wedding in the executive mansion. Frances became an instant celebrity, the press following her every move. As a fashionable young woman, she frequently wore gowns that were edgy for the time. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was floored by her frequent wearing of gowns that revealed bare shoulders, claiming it negatively influenced young women. She quickly became a marketing tool for companies that used her likeness to sell goods. Others marketed goods on claims that she either purchased or used the goods herself, suggesting that Mrs. Cleveland was endorsing the products. Harper’s Magazine went as far as to feature her as a frequent cover subject, which undoubtedly assisted the periodical with the sale of issues.

While companies benefited from the marketability of the President’s wife, one Democratic Congressman attempted to pass a bill that would stop the widespread use of any woman’s image for commercial purposes without her written permission. Although the piece of legislation did not specifically address her by name, the bill was clearly aimed at alleviating the external pressures felt by the Clevelands at the hands of the corporate world.

Suffering a heart attack at the age of 71, Grover Cleveland passed away on June 24, 1908; his widow 27 years younger than he, remained at Princeton, New Jersey where she would remarry to Thomas Preston nearly five years later. She died in her sleep on October 29, 1947 and was laid to rest next to her first husband in Princeton Cemetery.

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At Leap Year parties in yesteryear, men paid by the pound

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 29 February 2020 at 8:20 am

‘Weight Socials’ provided fundraising opportunity for local organizations

 “Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 6, No. 9

With one extra day this year, I thought it would be interesting to dive into some early newspapers to extract a handful of interesting “February 29th” events. Lo and behold, the leap year provided few notable deviations from everyday life. That is, of course, aside from the prevalence of “Leap Year Parties” scattered throughout the calendar.

However, one particular paragraph published in the February 28, 1884 edition of the Holley Standard caught my eye. Lyman Preston was scheduled to host a “Weight Social” at his home in Clarendon on Friday, the 29th of February. A rather foreign occasion to readers today, the Standard was kind enough to provide some brief insight into this unique gathering. The social event paired men and women together based on luck, with the occasional dire consequence for the unsuspecting gentleman. Each guest received a card as they arrived and on that card was a number; lucky couples would identify themselves by matching numbers.

Then the real fun began. As in the case of Mr. Preston’s party, each man paid one cent for every ten pounds that the lady “he may draw” will weigh. After confirming the lady’s weight on a scale, the gentleman paid his debt. The couple would then eat supper together, usually a meal that the woman prepared. The Holley Standard provided some additional, yet perhaps snarky, context to the story. “Gentleman will please remember and carry sufficient of the “needful” to meet any emergency that may arise. Clarendon has been noted for stout women…”

The ”emergency” referenced here came by way of female attendants who tied rocks, horseshoes, or other objects to their hoop skirts in order to increase their weight on the scale. These socials served the purpose of raising funds for charitable and religious organizations in the community. Often organized and hosted by ladies’ societies, it was in their best interest to tip the scales when possible to increase contributions.

Lyman Preston’s weight social was not the only gathering of its kind held that year. On December 11th of the same year, an ad in the Holley Standard read, “Pick out a good heavy girl and attend the Good Templars weight social at McCargo’s Hall tomorrow night. A jolly time is anticipated.” In fact, it appears that the International Organization of Good Templars in Holley frequently hosted these events in the 1880s.

Another social in December of 1884 received considerable attention. The papers wrote, “Now let every young man who feels an interest in the organization display his generosity by taking to supper the heaviest young lady he can find…he may equalize matters by taking two smaller ones.” Hoping to raise money to support the organization’s temperance activities, women were weighed as they arrived, given a number, and the corresponding number placed in a bag. Men pulled numbers from the bag and paid the price per pound before sitting down to eat. The Standard included a follow-up article noting, “one girl, with an eye to the shekels, hung some heavy clock weights from her waist under her dress and made herself weigh 209 pounds! Her partner had cold shivers when he saw the beam balance.”

On March 1, 1888 (another leap year), Henry Brown held a weight social at his home to raise funds for the Good Templars. “It was amusing in the extreme to notice the contrast in some of the couples who sat down to a sumptuous supper, the largest man present escorted a little dot weighing less than 80 lbs.” Of course, the odd pairings of attendees became the most entertaining feature of these fundraising events.

The weight social represented just one of many interesting social gatherings. The Box Social placed additional emphasis on the prepared supper, where women wrote their name on a card and placed it inside of a box with a meal they prepared. Men bid on each box, paid the fee, and enjoyed supper with the woman who prepared it.

A local “Old Folks Social” encouraged attendees to bust open their old trunks and dress in pioneer attire for a party; what an antiquated sight! Conundrum Socials or Quiz Socials paired men and women together based on questions and answers. The occasional Sock Social required guests to fill old socks with pennies, which were then deposited in a large sock hung at the party venue.

Then, of course, was the very rare and mysterious “Handsome Social,” once hosted by Mrs. Minerva Pratt of Clarendon. Although it attracted considerable attention from local papers, they never provided a detailed explanation of the event. It is surmised that the social included an activity similar to a “Bachelor Auction.”

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