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Museum will use grant funds for work on historic Cobblestone School

Photos by Tom Rivers: The historic Cobblestone School, built in 1849, will get a new roof, paint and repaired masonry with two grants for about $30,000 covering the cost.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 19 September 2018 at 9:39 am

GAINES – The Cobblestone Museum is the owner and caretaker of a schoolhouse from 1849 that is one of three cobblestone buildings on Ridge Road designated as a National Historic Landmark.

The schoolhouse will soon get a new roof, repaired masonry and fresh paint on the window trim and soffits near the roof.

The Rochester Area Community Foundation approved a $21,000 grant for the work at the schoolhouse through the Lloyd E. Klos Historical Fund. The Elizabeth Dye Curtis Foundation in Orleans County will contribute $8,800 towards the schoolhouse, with the funds targeted for the roof replacement.

Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum, shows where the foundation in the school has cracks and deterioration. That corner will likely have to be removed and rebuilt.

The upcoming projects are the latest attention in preserving the historic building. Last year the bell tower was repaired and the bell rededicated.

This year, the wooden windows were removed and restored through a seminar with the Landmark Society of Western New York. The windows were repaired as part of a workshop teaching others how to fix and preserve wooden sills and frames that are about a century old.

A window specialist taught how to evaluate old windows, removing sashes from the window opening, removing putty and paint, installing new sash cords, weather-stripping old windows and other skills for preserving windows.

The upcoming project will fill some of the cracks and gaps in mortar at the school.

The window project made the museum aware of additional needs at the schoolhouse, including a deteriorating foundation, especially in the northeastern corner.

Museum Director Doug Farley and Erin Anheier, a trustee for the museum, applied for a grant through the Rochester Area Community Foundation. The organization approved $21,000 for the foundation work. The northeastern corner may have to be taken out and rebuilt.

The grant will also pay for exterior repointing of mortar. There are several gaps and cracks that need attention, Farley said.

The Rochester Area Community Foundation also provided a $23,000 grant about two years ago for work on the Cobblestone Universalist Church and the next-door Ward House. The grant covered the costs of painting the exterior of windows and the bell tower at the church, replacing rotted window sills and repairing a retaining wall in front of the church. The Ward House also had some of its masonry repointed, the front steps repaired and downspouts fixed to improve drainage.

The school – the Gaines District #5 Cobblestone Schoolhouse – is a short walk east of the Route 98 intersection on Ridge Road. The school was closed in 1952. The building was acquired by the Cobblestone Museum in 1960 – the year the museum formed.

In 1993, the U.S. Department of Interior named the school, the Ward House and Cobblestone Universalist Church as a National Historic Landmark, the highest historic designation from the federal government.

The interior of the school is largely unchanged from when the school was closed in 1952.

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Bell at Catholic church in Albion bothered some neighbors, while comforting the faithful

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 15 September 2018 at 5:59 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 37

St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Albion, NY

ALBION – Some of the best local history stories are those that are rediscovered and built upon by each historian. While organizing a collection of newspaper clippings, I stumbled upon a particular story that holds a special place in my heart.

“Why the Bell Rings,” vol. XXIX no. 1 of Bethinking of Old Orleans authored by Bill Lattin recounts a story relating to St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Albion. His discovery of a newspaper clipping within a scrapbook led him to write a short piece about the Angelus Bell.

As a young boy, I can recall the frequent tolling of the bell at our parish on Brown Street. In my naiveté I thought for sure that the evening bell was a simple curfew reminder, but over the years I have developed an appreciation for the deeper meaning of the scheduled bell tolling. Even though the bells now stand silent, except for the Sunday call to service, the story is an important one centered on tradition and faith.

In 1907, complaints arose locally about the church bell at the “Polish colony.” As observed in the Orleans Republican, it is clear that the publisher of the Orleans American took issue with the frequent ringing of the bell. The November 20, 1907 issue of the paper published an article entitled “The Angelus Bell; A beautiful custom, general in foreign lands, observed by the Poles,” which opened with “Will the Orleans American be good enough to tell its correspondent to stop chattering against the ringing of the church bells?”

This must be the same situation from which Lattin extracted his information, quoting another newspaper story in which a local Polish resident was asked about the frequent ringing. “At the hour of work it rings to remind them that God has given them the strength to labor. When it sounds at noon, the Poles are again reminded of the Giver of temporal blessings, and at night it calls for expressions of thankfulness for what God has done for the people throughout the day,” one resident stated, “In the old country at home the church bells are always rung in this way.”

The particular situation called attention to the Angelus Bell, sometimes referred to as the Ave Bell. Catholic tradition called for the ringing of the church bell three times throughout the day, typically at 6 o’clock in the morning, noon, and 6 o’clock in the evening. At those times, the ring consisted of a triple stroke repeated three times with a short pause in between each set; many churches opted to follow the three sets of triple strokes with nine additional strokes. The term Angelus Bell is derived from angelus domini, the phrase preceding the archangel Gabriel’s greeting to the Virgin Mary. According to Luke, Gabriel would reveal to Mary that she would conceive a child to be born the Son of God (Luke 1:26-38).

The origin of the practice is often attributed to either Pope John XXII or Urban II, while the triple recitation of the Hail Mary is attributed to Louis XI of France during the 15th century. When the bell rang, the faithful would cease work and pray the Angelus, beginning with “The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary. And she conceived by the Holy Spirit,” followed by a Hail Mary. Each versicle was followed by a Hail Mary with three recited in total. Individuals could recite these prayers alone or as part of a group with leader and response parts. Although these prayers often marked the start and end of a day, their purpose extended beyond the temporal. One can imagine those laboring in the fields and quarries, hearing the bell toll and gathering together to recite the Angelus.

Jean-Francois Millet’s painting entitled L’Angelus, or “The Angelus,” depicts two peasants standing in a potato field having ceased their work to pray. In the distant background is a village with a church steeple protruding into the horizon as a symbol of the Angelus. Asked to reflect upon this particular piece of art, Millet said, “The idea for The Angelus came to me because I remember that my grandmother, hearing the church bell ringing while we were working in the fields, always made us stop work to say the Angelus prayer for the poor departed.”  Millet’s work is a reflection of the simplicity of peasant life so dependent upon the rhythms of life and the Catholic faith.

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‘People with purpose drive change,’ says Elizabeth Cady Stanton impressionist

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 September 2018 at 5:26 pm











Photos by Tom Rivers: Melinda Grube speaks at Hoag Library in Albion on Monday evening for a presentation about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the women’s suffrage leader. Grube was in costume at presentations on Saturday and Sunday about the famed suffragette.

Grube, a Medina resident, is an adjunct lecturer in history at Cayuga Community College in Auburn. She has portrayed Cady Stanton for the past 14 years. She also will portray Abigail Adams on Saturday at 1 p.m. during a timeline festival at Mount Albion Cemetery.

Her presentations are part of the 10-day Orleans County Heritage Festival, which started on Friday and continues through this Sunday.

Grube in her presentation on Monday said women were not treated as equals by most men, especially during the country’s first century. Many men didn’t think they women were smart enough to be considered citizens.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton was among a small group of women who pushed for women’s rights, and helped organize the Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls in 1848. Women wouldn’t get the right to vote nationally until 1920.

Grube said it was a minority of women who pushed for the right to vote.

“People with purpose drive change,” Grube said. “It’s always been a small group of people that push the world forward.”

For more on the Heritage Festival, click here.

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‘White Bronze’ markers provided alternative to traditional stone

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 8 September 2018 at 10:15 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 37

Photo by Matthew Ballard: The Amos & Rosamond Grinnell Lot is shown at Mt. Albion Cemetery.

ALBION – During tours of Mount Albion Cemetery, it is nearly impossible to visit a section of the cemetery that is void of at least one zinc marker. The “stones” themselves are a rather unique feature given their short-lived history, but the variety of sizes, shapes, and iconography provide visitors with a unique look into the beautiful art of cemetery monuments.

The photograph highlights a particular stone, belonging to Amos and Rosamond Whaley Grinnell, that stands near the front of the cemetery on Hawthorn Path and displays a stunning urn draped in a cloth that symbolizes the veil that separates Heaven and earth.

The Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut commenced the manufacture of these memorials in 1875. In addition to the company’s headquarters, subsidiaries opened in Des Moines, Detroit, and Chicago where the final stage of the manufacturing process was completed; all casting was performed in Connecticut.

It is important to note the use of the term “bronze” to describe these unique monuments. Although zinc was used to cast the memorials, the company understood the nature of marketing and thus affixed the name “white bronze” to the product in an effort to move more merchandise. The company boasted the use of 99% pure zinc that was rust, frost, and moisture resistant while preventing the growth of moss and requiring minimal cleaning. An artist in Bridgeport would fashion a wax model of the ordered monument and then use that model to produce a plaster mold. Molten zinc was then poured into these molds and allowed to set. On these larger stones, each side was crafted separately then fused together using zinc, which was stronger than soldering the joints.

Perhaps the most unique aspect of these monuments is the method in which they were sold. There were no showrooms or local dealers who provided samples of completed works. Instead, individuals received a visit from a salesman and sifted through the pages of the company catalog to select a monument style that appealed to them. If a potential customer wanted to see a physical example of a marker, they were encouraged to visit the local cemetery to look at examples. To place an order a customer would request an “order blank” through the mail, which provided space for illustrating the location of inscriptions and bas-relief emblems.

The white bronze monuments were marketed as more durable than their stone counterparts were and far more customizable. After installation, the markers developed their unique blue-gray appearance thanks to a sandblasting process that allowed for the formation of a layer of zinc oxide. On this particular monument are four tablets, one on each side, containing inscriptions and emblems. Visible in this photograph are tablets that show an ear of corn, representing the bounty of God, and the golden sheaf of wheat with sickle, representing the divine harvest. Each of these panels was attached with decorative screws that allowed the individual to remove and replace them upon the death of a loved one. In doing so, the monument always appeared complete and never displayed unfinished inscriptions.

Although the company marketed these monuments as superior to traditional stone memorials, the public failed to fully accept the product. Many failed to believe the claim that white bronze would outlast marble and granite and preferred the traditional appearance of stone. Perhaps it was the lack of the personal touch from a local businessman that limited the sale of these markers? Regardless of the reasons, production of white bronze monuments ended around 1912. Today we see that the claims made by the company held true, in many cases, holding their inscriptions far better than stone monuments. This particular memorial stands a large and beautiful example of the work produced by the Monumental Bronze Company.

On Saturday, September 15th, I will conduct two tours of Mount Albion Cemetery as part of the Orleans County Heritage Festival. The first tour, starting at 10 a.m., will take visitors to a number of stops located on the eastern end of the cemetery. The second tour, starting at 1 p.m., will take visitors around the western end of the cemetery. Each tour will last approximately 90 minutes and visit many sites not included in the August tours.

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Clarendon resident presents wood carving to town of the founder’s mill

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 September 2018 at 5:44 pm

Photos courtesy of Melissa Ierlan

CLARENDON – Bob Barrett, a Clarendon resident who lives in the town founder’s house, surprised town officials today by presenting a wood carving that Barrett made to show the mill run by Eldredge Farwell, founder of Clarendon.

Farwell discovered Clarendon in 1810 while looking for his brother Isaac’s lost horse. He traced Isaac’s footprints along the border of Sandy Creek and was impressed with the town waterfalls.

Farwell saw the waterfalls as a potential source of power for business. He moved his family to Clarendon in 1811 and built saw and grist mills. The town was originally named Farwell’s Mills but was renamed to Clarendon. Farwell was from Clarendon, Vermont. He died in 1843.

Barrett based his carving on this historical image from Melissa Ierlan, the town’s historian. Barrett worked about 50 hours on the carving.

Barrett has also made frames to display artifacts in the town hall, including a poster for the Clarendon sesiquencentennial in 1960 and an old map of the town. He also used his woodworking skills to restore a desk and chair in a historic cobblestone schoolhouse in Gaines on Gaines basin Road.

“He is a wonderful person and I can’t ever thank him enough for the things he does for us,” Ierlan said.

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10-day Heritage Festival starts on Friday with kickoff at Clarendon Historical Society

Image courtesy of GCC: Ray Ball Jr. kindly lent his vast collection of period uniforms for this image. He was photographed by Maureen Spindler of GCC. Mount Albion Cemetery will host a timeline festival on Sept. 15.

Posted 4 September 2018 at 11:22 am

FDR, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, General Grant and Abigail Adams impressionists will make appearances

Press Release, Orleans County Heritage Festival

Provided photos: Elizabeth Cady Stanton as portrayed by impressionist Dr. Melinda Grube, who makes three appearances during the festival.

Have you ever thought that it would be cool to meet President Abraham Lincoln, or maybe first lady Abigail Adams? Ever wondered about the history of barn quilts or the Erie Canal?

If you are a Civil War buff, maybe you have thought it would be fascinating to be a fly on the wall as you listen to General Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman plotting the demise of the Confederate armies. If so, the 3rd annual Orleans County Heritage Festival is just for you! All of your curiosities may be satisfied by taking advantage of 10 days of heritage events.

The 3rd annual Orleans County Heritage Festival runs Sept. 7 to Sept. 16 and features 10 days of fascinating, entertaining, and educational events – most of which are free. You don’t have to be a resident of Orleans County to appreciate, or enjoy, this year’s calendar of events.  Organizers chose to focus on four themes this year: the Erie Canal, historic women, barns/barn quilts, and nature/wildlife.

The festival kick-off event is on Sept. 7 at the Clarendon Historical Society from 6 to 9 p.m.  There will be live music featuring recording artist Sonny Mayo, food, local wines and more.

At the same location the following day, Saturday, there will be a Civil War encampment and at 2 p.m. the world premiere of the two-man show “Now we stand by each other always.”  The play features a conversation between Civil War commanders Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant and Major Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman. Based on a March 1865 discussion between the men at City Point, Virginia, where Grant made his headquarters, the play will be performed by Genesee Community College professors Tracy Ford (as Sherman) and Derek Maxfield (as Grant).  This free event is outdoors, weather-permitting; lawn chairs are suggested.

On Sunday, Sept. 9th, the Cobblestone Museum in Albion will host Elizabeth Cady Stanton, portrayed by Dr. Melinda Grube, for a 1 p.m. presentation.  The Cobblestone complex will be open for tours as well. Later that day, the Hoag Library in Albion will host a genealogy workshop presentation by Dee Robinson, retired Town of Gaines historian, at 7 p.m.

GCC professors Derek Maxfield, left, portrays Ulysses S. Grant and Tracy Ford is William Tecumseh Sherman in a play that will be performed for the first time Saturday, Sept. 8, at 2 p.m.

Dr. Grube will also appear at 7 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 10, at the Hoag Library for a women’s history program entitled “Justifying Suffrage: From Mothers of the Republic to Angels of the Home.” Even before the patriots of 1776 first proclaimed that “all men are created equal,” Americans struggled to define women’s proper role. Are women included among the equal “men” of this nation? Are women citizens? Are they persons? Join Dr. Grube as she examines the issues.

Hurd Orchards in Holley hosts a unique presentation on Wednesday, Sept. 12, titled, “Song of an Orchardist” including lunch and lyric music in the Hurd Orchard barn. There will be poems from Monty Mason’s Song of an Orchardist book too (19th century fruit grower from Albion).  The 12:30 to 2 p.m. event requires reservations, so book early.

Two great events are slated for Friday, Sept. 14. The first will be hosted by the Lyndonville Central School and will feature a concert focusing on the songs of the Erie Canal by the Lyndonville 5th-6th grade Summer Music Camp students at 1 p.m. That evening, the Orleans County Daughters of the American Revolution in Albion will host Dr. Terrianne Schulte, of D’Youville College, for her presentation “We Have to Create a National Debate, Community by Community…”: Women Trailblazers in Environmental Reform. Throughout the 20th century, women have played important leadership roles in environmental preservation and restoration, often by educating the public regarding complex environmental issues to encourage grassroots activism.  The event is free and open to the public.

Come out on Saturday, Sept. 15, for the “Epochs in Orleans” Timeline Festival at the West Park in Mount Albion Cemetery, Albion, featuring a walk through history – from First Lady Abigail Adams and President James Polk to Civil War Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman. The daylong event runs 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. There will also be cemetery tours with Orleans County Historian Matt Ballard at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Stick around for special presentations at 11 a.m. with Derek Maxfield as Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant, 1 p.m. with Melinda Grube as First Lady Abigail Adams, and 3 p.m. Albert McFadyen as President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  The event at Mt. Albion is free and open to the public.

Also on Saturday, at 7 p.m., Kendall Central School District will feature movie director Julianne Donofrio and her film, “Pieced Together” – a moving documentary about the Barn Quilt Trail which began in Ohio and influential in our own Barn Quilt Trail that was started in Kendall.

There are many other great events over the ten day festival.  For the full schedule of events, click here.

Folks with questions may contact Prof. Derek Maxfield, one of the festival organizers, at

Photo by Tom Rivers: A quilt pattern on a barn is pictured in Kendall in October 2017 on Route 237. The barn is part of the Country Barn Quilt Trail in Kendall. The barn quilts are highlighted in the upcoming Heritage Festival.

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Orleans man was taken prisoner during Civil War after facing Stonewall Jackson

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 1 September 2018 at 8:38 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 35

Ziba Roberts

Ziba Roberts was born July 31, 1840 near East Shelby to Ziba and Susanna Wolcott Roberts. This image, which appears within A Brief History of the Twenty-Eighth Regiment New York State Volunteers by C. W. Boyce, shows Roberts in his mid-50s. Pinned upon his chest is the medal of the Grand Army of the Republic, typically worn by members of the fraternal organization. Roberts was an active member of the S. J. Hood Post GAR in Medina, serving as the organization’s commander and chaplain.

Nearly seven months after the Confederate attack on Ft. Sumter, Roberts enlisted with the 28th New York Volunteer Infantry on November 11, 1861 at Rochester; he was placed with Company D with other men from Orleans County. During the Battle of Winchester on May 25, 1862, the 28th New York faced a force of Confederate troops nearly four times greater in size under the command of Gen. Stonewall Jackson. As a result of the engagement, 62 men from the 28th were captured and Ziba Roberts was one of nine from Company D.

The men captured at Winchester were marched to Lynchburg, Virginia, a nine-day journey consisting of two days without rations. According to Roberts’ dairies, upon his arrival to the prison camp outside of Lynchburg, he sold his revolver to a soldier for Illinois for $7.50; clearly the enemy soldiers were lax in their searching of prisoners of war. A number of newspaper accounts published much later state that Roberts was held as a prisoner for 2 ½ months before his parole. Records suggest that he was held prisoner for nearly 3 ½ months before his parole on September 13, 1862 at Aiken’s Landing, Virginia. A number of other men from the 28th New York, who were captured at Cedar Mountain, were also sent to Lynchburg and paroled on the same day.

William Lewis, the regiment’s color bearer, wrote an account of his participation at the Battle of Cedar Mountain found within the pages of A Brief History of the Twenty-Eighth Regiment. In that account, he references a particular interaction with Pvt. Roberts during the engagement:

“…Now, you will excuse an old soldier, who has a spark of fun in his makeup, if he stops here and tells a joke. Ordinarily people would say this was no place for fun. Comrades falling all around us, both dead and wounded; but even under such circumstances funny things occur, which remain in memory, causing laughter years afterwards. We had a fellow in our company named Ziba Roberts, six feet tall, and broad according. A soldier that could stand behind him was pretty safe from rebel bullets. As we were charging across that field under and extremely heavy fire from the enemy, all standing as close to the ground as possible, I must confess, Ziba calls out, ‘By gorry, boys, I feel too tall to-day.’ But Ziba was an excellent soldier, and never known to shirk his duty. We went on, drove the rebels from their hiding place and through the woods…”

Of course, Mr. Lewis was mistaken, because Ziba Roberts was already in Lynchburg by the time the 28th was at Cedar Mountain. It is very possible that this recollection occurred during a different engagement.

Following the war, Ziba returned home where he married Cynthia Dewey of Royalton on January 13, 1867 at the Baptist Parsonage in Shelby Center. In the mid-1870s he built a house south of Millville and lived out the remainder of his life in that vicinity until his passing in 1928. That home remained in the family until the 1970s when it was sold to a couple in Batavia. Unfortunately, the beautiful structure was set ablaze and completely destroyed by a mischievous, local young man in 1977.

‘Hope’ at Mount Albion showcases artistry of local monument dealers

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 25 August 2018 at 9:31 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 34

This monument paid for by Elizur Kirke Hart is one of the most stunning monuments at Mount Albion Cemetery.

ALBION – Sunday will mark the final tour of Mt. Albion Cemetery this summer, which starts at 6 p.m. and will travel a path across the western end of the cemetery. Over the last several weekends, I found myself intrigued by the visual representations of social and cultural changes throughout the cemetery.

The earliest sections of the cemetery are characterized by a lack of uniformity, whether one looks at the varying size of lots, the random distribution of lot numbers, or the diverse styles of monuments. As one travels into the “newer” sections of the cemetery, lots are set out in uniform size, orientation, and cemetery monuments appear more similar to one another.

While preparing for these tours, I stumbled across excerpts from a Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog for marble cemetery monuments. An individual could purchase a headstone of modest size at a cost of $7 to $8, plus additional rates for lettering and shipping. A later catalog distributed in 1906 provided prospective customers with samples of granite monuments, a relatively new business venture for the company.

One particular example from the catalog is reminiscent of some larger stones found within Mt. Albion. The “Art Renaissance” model is similar in style to that of the Alfred Skinner monument, although the ornamentation is far simpler with the catalog model. Customers could choose from several different sizes, running anywhere from $100 (or $2,768 with inflation) for a 4 foot 10 inch tall monument weighing 1,800 pounds to $312.30 (or $8,638 with inflation) for a 9 foot 2 inch tall monument weighing 11,680 pounds.

Production for a monument of this size required twelve weeks from quarry to cemetery, which included cutting the stone, lettering the face, and shipping by railroad. Typical lettering costs for granite ran anywhere from $.12 to $.72 per letter and customers could select typeface ranging in size from one inch to six inches in height. For raised lettering, prices ran anywhere from $.45 to $2.78 per letter ranging in size from one inch to 8 inches. Old English, German, Gothic, and ornamental lettering would cost customers nearly double the price of traditional fonts, so an individual could easily spend more than the cost of the stone itself when adding text depending upon the length of names, dates, and epitaphs.

Although standardized mail-order monuments were an option, many people preferred individualized monuments that displayed the artistic talents of local monument dealers. This particular memorial, standing upon lot 879 and paid for by Elizur Kirke Hart, is perhaps one of the most stunning and ostentatious monuments in the entire cemetery. Designed by Charles Diem of Albion in 1879, the large granite monument cost Mr. Hart roughly $7,900. Although the total amount spent on the memorial would run upwards of $236,000 today taking inflation into account, the artisanship and labor required to replicate such a beautiful piece of art would likely require double that amount at minimum. The monument stands upon an 8-square-foot base of granite with an eight-foot tall statue of “Hope” resting on top.

The statue stands as a symbol of the virtue of hope; the desire and expectation of receiving something. In relation to cemetery symbolism, this often reflects hope for eternal happiness and divine union. Hope is one of seven Heavenly Virtues including Faith, Hope, Charity, Fortitude, Justice, Temperance, and Prudence; Faith, Hope, and Charity (or Love) are considered the three Theological Virtues. Held in her left hand is an anchor, a traditional Christian representation of hope as it often represented safety. In the Catholic tradition, the anchor is symbolic of the execution of St. Clement of Rome by Emperor Trajan, who was tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.

In this depiction, Hope is dressed in a stola, the female counterpart to the Roman toga, with her right hand over her breast as a representation of faith. In other depictions, her index finger points to the sky as a representation of the path to heaven. A similar, smaller statue stands upon the gravesite of David Jones and James Whitney near the Soldiers & Sailors Monument. On that particular example, the large anchor rests at Hope’s feet with a chain attached.

Charles Diem was also responsible for a number of other strikingly beautiful monuments throughout the cemetery including the marble tablets found within the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, the large bald eagle draping a mourning cloth over the monument of Col. Robert H. Graham (just west of the tower), and the stunning marble baldacchino that stands on the Sanford E. Church lot. Of course, Sears, Roebuck & Company could not replicate the beauty and complexity of these monuments.

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Gandy Dancers provided maintenance services to local railroads

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 17 August 2018 at 6:41 pm

Busy railroad went through Yates, Carlton and Kendall for about 60 years

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 33

KENDALL – This rather interesting photograph shows five men working as part of a section gang along the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad. It is believe that this particular crossing was located somewhere in the town of Kendall and the photograph was taken September 11, 1897. The men appear to have stopped for dinner (the midday meal) as several metal pails appear on the car. One of the young men appears to be holding his pocket watch, as if to show that it is noontime.

The Lake Ontario Shore Railroad was chartered in 1858, and like all great projects, was delayed for nearly ten years until the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad Company was formed on March 27, 1868. It would take another three years before construction commenced at Red Creek, New York and within two years the railway was operational from Ontario, Wayne County to Oswego. The rails eventually stretched to Kendall but the Panic of 1873 forced the company’s mortgage bonds to be called in early, which drove the railroad into bankruptcy.

On September 22, 1874 the line was sold to the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad (RW&O) at foreclosure and on December 23, 1875 the Lake Ontario Railroad (as it was renamed) was consolidated into the RW&O Railroad. The railroad carried passengers for nearly 60 years, up to four trains each day, until June 1, 1933 when passenger traffic ceased. The railroad remained an important transportation line for freight travelling through the towns of Yates, Carlton, and Kendall.

These men, often called “Gandy Dancers,” played an important role in the maintenance of railroads throughout the United States. Although many section gangs were responsible for the construction of railroads, including the installation of new ties and rails, their daily maintenance routine was the most important part of the job. The term “Gandy” is derived from the five-foot long metal “lining bar” used to reposition tracks. Throughout the course of regular use and travel, the vibrations of the train engine and cars as they passed over the rails would cause slight movements in the tracks. These many small “adjustments” would eventually create significant shifts in the tracks that could lead to derailments. Gandy dancers used their lining bars to realign the tracks to prevent the catastrophic consequences associated with freight and passenger derailment; the maneuvering of the pole by the section worker mimicked a dance.

The section gang’s arsenal of tools included the spike maul, used for driving railroad spikes, ballast forks and ballast tampers, used for repositioning and distributing ballast (stone under and around the railroad ties), as well as rail and tie tongs used for carrying wood and metal for replacing worn rails and rotten ties. This work required that gang members synchronize their motions, allowing for the appropriate distribution of their physical effort. The result was the creation of call-and-response songs that focused on railroad life, allowing workers to sync their labor to the rhythm of music.

In the south, section gangs were largely comprised of African Americans while northern section gangs typically consisted of immigrants. These jobs were entry-level positions at best, consisting of hard work and low wages. One particular example of this involved a local Irish immigrant, Michael Duggan who arrived in the U.S. in 1891. In 1945, he retired from the New York Central Railroad as a flagman, but started his employment as a section hand probably around the age of 24. The flagman was responsible for stopping street traffic as trains passed through; a much easier job than the manual labor of a section worker.

Standing front and center in this image is Charles Martin Vincent who was living in Kendall at the time this photograph was taken. He was approximately 24 years old and newly married, having wed his wife Ella Ireland on July 7, 1897. It is presumed that his work for the railroad was rather short lived as he relocated to East Avenue in Holley by 1905 and worked for some time as a hardware store clerk for Ira Edwards.

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After being unimpressed by ‘unsightly young village,’ attorney helped Albion grow

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 11 August 2018 at 8:00 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 32

Benjamin L. Bessac

As tours of Mt. Albion Cemetery continue every Sunday through the month of August, I noticed a particular headstone that is frequently passed over each year. Progressing up the winding hills towards the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at the peak of the cemetery is a moderately-sized, dark greyish-blue stone that reads “Father – Benjamin L. Bessac, 1807 – 1871.” The stone is rather reserved in comparison to the larger, ostentatious obelisks and monuments that stand around it. Benjamin Lisk Bessac, the feature of this article, was one of the most notable attorneys in Orleans County who mentored the area’s premier lawyers.

Born on March 12, 1807 at New Baltimore, New York, Bessac’s mother died when he was just 12 days old leaving his father a widower with an infant child. Some reports differ as to who exactly cared for the child in infancy, some suggesting his grandparents while others suggest an aunt who lived in the vicinity. According to family stories, Benjamin Bessac was the grandson of Jean Guillaume (John William) Bessac, an assistant surgeon attached to the staff of Count de Rochambeau during the American Revolution.

Bessac was educated in the common schools while living with his grandparents. During this time, his father packed up his business interests in Chenango County and started west for Ohio. Upon reaching Ransom’s Grove in Erie County, now the town of Clarence, he was stopped by a frightful snow storm and quickly opened a blacksmith shop with the few tools he carried and a small reserve of iron. In the summer of 1822, having established himself on 160 acres of land near the Great Rapids along the Tonawanda Creek, Lewis wrote to this son and encouraged him to come to the Western New York frontier to live on this growing farm.

After three years of living the pioneer life, Benjamin determined that his life was better suited in the pursuit of knowledge than battling the physical demands of the frontier. On October 2, 1825, Bessac walked to Lockport where he boarded a packet boat bound for Albany. It was during this time that he passed through the fledgling settlement of “Newport,” which he described as “…that low, muddy, and as I thought unsightly young village” and proclaimed it to be “…a queer place on which to build a town.”

Upon his return to Albany, he commenced teaching over the winter of 1826 to which he wrote, “My education was not such as the district schools of this day afford. My mind had been somewhat improved by reading in a desultory and aimless manner.” In the spring of that year, he was hired to work on a farm for $9.00 per month outside of Albany and once again commenced teaching school the following winter. In 1827, Bessac entered the Greenville Academy and then prepared to enter the sophomore class at Union College; instead, his friends secured him a job as a store clerk in New York City.

For a short period of time, Bessac relocated to Mobile, Alabama where his wife established the Mobile Female Seminary while he worked as a clerk in a U.S. Bank. Upon the passing of his wife, he transferred the seminary to another individual and returned to New York. He studied law in Cairo, New York under Amasa Mattoon and later Hiram Gardiner in Lockport before returning to that “low, muddy…and unsightly young village” now known as Albion. After settling in Albion, a young Sanford E. Church commenced reading law in his office and became Bessac’s first partner. Over the years, many up and coming attorneys read law in his office including his last partner, George Bullard.

In a few closing notes, Bessac owned a large portion of land on the east side of Main Street stretching from the Erie Canal to the Gaines town line. After constructing a house near what is now Linwood Avenue, at 231 North Main Street, it was determined that an access road should be added to the property just north of the Canal. According to Village of Albion historian Neil Johnson, Bessac ran the street straight eastward until reaching a swampy area along the canal, forcing the road to turn slightly northward. The roadway was opened through to the vicinity of Brown Road where it terminated. Caroline Street, as we know it, was named after Bessac’s second wife, Caroline Baker.

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