local history

Newspaper editor in 1920s shared many reminiscences, ‘Do you remember?’

Posted 26 February 2024 at 7:30 am

‘When Albion organized an oil company in 1864 to speculate in Pennsylvania oil and lost all the cash it invested?’

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 9

“I remember when…..”

These words, when uttered by an elder, are almost always guaranteed to send the younger generation scurrying from the room. As we age, we tend to reminisce about “the way things used to be.”

In recent years, social media has facilitated memory sharing, we can find online peers to confirm our recollections, even if the young folk are disinterested.

In the early 1920s, Albion newspaper editor Lafayette H. Beach, used his newspaper, The Orleans Republican, as a platform for his reminiscences. Born in 1856, Beach, for whom Albion’s Lafayette Park is named, was then in his sixties, a decade when the onset of “rememberingitis” is prevalent.

The columns were titled:

“Doings of the Old Days Long Gone By – Do You Remember?” They consisted of memories framed as short questions. These entries capture the flavor and color of daily life some fifty years prior i.e. the 1870s to 1890s.

Here are some, with explanations where necessary:

“When Albion was an open town for gamblers and painted women and when John N. Proctor as Village President and John Cunneen as Village Attorney put skids under these undesirables and moved them out of town?”

“When the rule prevailed with workingmen of one day’s wage for one week’s rent?”

“When Albion belonged to the Town of Barre* and our folks travelled to Barre Center for political caucuses and election in the spring, rain or shine?”

(*The Town of Albion was formed in 1875 from 17,000 approx. acres in northern Barre.)

“When spray rigs were unknown, and worms and bugs had their orchard picnics without fear of poison spray?”

 “When cows roamed the village streets and were sometimes coaxed into backyards and robbed of their milk by mischievous boys who had learned how to filch the lacteal fluid?”

A Dolly Varden outfit

“When venison and bear meat were sold in the local markets every winter?”

“When the butcher used to give away liver and other interior trimmings and never expected that one day they would be exchanged for coin?”

“When crinolines* were the proper thing and women’s full dress skirts were ten yards around the bottom and just escaped the ground?”

(*Crinolines were stiffened or hooped petticoats which made the skirt stand out, thus making the waist appear smaller. They were popular from the 1850’s to the late 1870’s.)

“When Dolly Varden* costumes were in great favor with the ladies?”

(*The Dolly Varden costume was popular in the early 1870s. Named for a Charles Dickens character from his novel Barnaby Rudge, the outfit featured a brightly patterned dress with a polonaise overskirt which was gathered up and draped over a separate underskirt. A flat straw hat trimmed with flowers and ribbons completed the ensemble.)

“When tobacco was a staple farm crop along the Ridge and when Revenue agents used to snoop around and try to catch farmers selling tobacco without a government tax?”

“When the Western New York Hedge Company* induced farmers to edge their farms with hedges which later took money, time and labor to pull out?”

(*The Buffalo Weekly Express, 29 July 1886, noted that a stock company called the Western New York Hedge company had been formed in Medina with a capital of $20,000. On 27 April 1893, the Democrat & Chronicle noted that the company had failed.

“When sugar beets appealed to the farmers and they raised them for the Lyons* sugar factory for $5 per ton, the state paying $1 per ton as a bonus to encourage production?”

(*The Empire State Sugar Company factory was built in the Wayne County town of Lyons in 1900.)

“When Albion organized an oil company in 1864 to speculate in Pennsylvania oil and lost all the cash it invested?”

“When boils* and felons* were a common affliction of mankind?”

(*Boils were painful bumps that formed on the skin, felons were infections that formed on the pads of the fingertips.)

“When the child with a sore throat or stiff neck wound a wool stocking around the neck as a sure cure?”

“When political bigotry was so rampant that no Republican would take a Democrat paper and no Democrat would take a Republican paper?”

100 years ago, Orleans County reeled from record-breaking cold

Photos from Orleans County Department of History: Ice on Lake Ontario shifts and crackles in front of cottages at Oak Orchard in this undated photograph.

Posted 18 February 2024 at 11:43 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4,  No. 8

CARLTON – At this time one hundred years ago, New Yorkers were reeling from the effects of a record-breaking cold spell.

Bitter cold, which lasted from Feb. 6-10, 1934, brought temperatures of -20 degrees to the region, 36 degrees below normal for the date. A temperature of  -50 below was recorded in Arcade.

Remarkably, Lake Ontario, which rarely freezes over entirely because of its depth, froze that year.

In Buffalo, the axles of trolley street cars cracked and rendered them immobile, adding to the misery of freezing passengers. Many people suffered from frostbite and several cold-related deaths were recorded. In Orleans County, fruit trees were severely damaged, and many farmers lost their peach and apple orchards.

What brave soul ventured out on the disintegrating pier that once led to the lighthouse at Point Breeze to take this photograph?

We can all agree that recent winters have been milder.  An Oral History interview conducted in 1997 by Lysbeth Hoffman, Town of Carlton Historian with Ed Archbald, a longtime Waterport resident, illustrates this change.

Mr. Archbald recalled harvesting ice from the Oak Orchard Creek. He built an icehouse on his property in 1919 and for many years placed about 40 tons of ice in it, sufficient to last through the summer.

The process began when the ice had formed to about 6 to 8 inches thick. Since ice is hard to cut through, a horse drawn ice plow would make the first grooves, about 3 inches deep. Workmen would mark off a block of ice and saw the markings with an ice saw. They would then hit the cuts and the block would break right off.

To get the ice to the icehouse, they built a slide and had a horse stationed near the creek and the icehouse. They set up a rope through the window of the icehouse down onto the creek.  They would drop two chunks of ice on it and the horse would haul them up and they could then be dropped into the icehouse. Workers inside the icehouse positioned the ice chunks and placed sawdust around them for insulation.

Mr. Archbald observed that the creek no longer formed ice over three inches in depth. When asked what he thought was the reason for that, he replied:

“I suppose nature figured out we didn’t need it.”

Older cemeteries provide rich source of unique and melodious first names

Posted 12 February 2024 at 9:09 am

By Catherine Cooper, County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 7

Sadly, the name selected for this young person was not recorded on this studio photograph.

Our first names can reveal a lot about us – the era we were born in, ethnicity,

or religious background, for example. We tend to make assumptions about people based on their first names.

Faced with this responsibility, it is no wonder that expectant parents find that selecting a name for their newborn is a daunting prospect. Some prospective parents already have a favorite name in mind.

For the others, there are so many choices: family names, historical names, currently popular names, old fashioned names, or names associated with nationality or religion.

Will we name him Henry or Michael or Landon or Louis?

Should she be called Jordan or Aoife or Carol or Lydia or Emmalyn or Elizabeth?

Suggestions for names may of course be found in baby name books but as local historians can attest, older graveyards are a rich source of unique and melodious first names.

Thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers, burials at these cemeteries have been listed, a painstaking process. They have since been digitized and may be accessed from the comforts of home by clicking here.

Not surprisingly, there are many instances of demure and virtuous first names, for girls, of course: Charity, Content, Mercy, Patience, Thankful or Virtue.

There are many strong, aspirational name choices for the boys: Deliverance, Freelove, Noble, Philander or Victory.

Here is a list of possible first name choices, all found in the smaller rural cemeteries of Orleans County:

For boys: Adin, Adonijah, Archelaus, Birdsall, Boudoin, Dillis, Dimmick, Epaphras, Fordyce, Ithamar, Kenyon, Nehemiah, Obediah, Orephesus, Peleg, Polycarpus, Remick, Sellick, Theophilus, Ypsilanti, Zardius, Zebulon or Zenas.

For girls: Adelia, Alzoa, Athilla, Aurilla, Diadema, Gashea, Lutheny, Lynneota, Hepsey, Mehetable, Narcissa, Orilla, Perthenia, Philanda, Rosepha, Roxalana, Ruhama or Triphene.

Apart from these notable first names, there are some joyous combinations of first and last names also. Who could resist but linger over these names:

  • Content Swift (Yates Center Cemetery)
  • Freelove Hall (Pine Hill Cemetery)
  • Narcissa White (Tanner Cemetery)
  • Thankful Snow (1915 Census, Albion)
  • Victory Ball (Union Cemetery)
  • Wealthy Joy (Lynhaven Cemetery)

Let me know if you select any of these first name suggestions!

The study of personal names: Anthroponymy

NYC native who built new life in Holley died from Spanish flu in 1918

Posted 3 February 2024 at 9:31 am

Elbert Johnson, 30, was married with 2 young children

Elbert Johnston married Pauline Skinner on June 4, 1913

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 6

HOLLEY – Elbert Johnston, Part 2. In our previous column (click here), we read about Elbert’s move to Holley in 1907 from a journal that he wrote at that time.

Elbert settled in to life in Holley and continued to work at Hudson Canning, the fruit and vegetable processing plant owned by his uncle, Joseph B. Hudson.

When Hudson Canning acquired the Batavia Canning Company plant in Brockport in 1910, Elbert was appointed superintendent. Elbert also managed the Holley plant when his uncle went to Long Island to attend to the original Hudson Canning plant in Mattituck in Suffolk County.

Elbert married Pauline Skinner on June 4, 1913. Born in Rochester on July 6, 1889, Pauline was the daughter of DeWitt and Stella Skinner. Pauline worked in the office of the Shinola Company, a Rochester based company which produced boot and shoe polish.

The couple was engaged on New Year’s Eve, 1912, following a courtship of six months. The wedding took place at Pauline’s home, 209 Flower City Park, in Rochester, on June 4, 1913, with about sixty guests in attendance. Elbert was then aged 26 and Pauline was 24.

“The bride wore a gown of white voile trimmed with ratine lace, made over white silk and carried a shower Bouquet of Bride roses and lilies of the valley….The groom’s gift to the bride was a gold monogram watch and pin.”

A wedding supper was served following the ceremony. According to a family story, an ice-cream maker set up on the front porch was snatched by  young boy, but the bride’s father chased him down the street and retrieved it.

Elbert Johnston photographed on Sept.1, 1918, with his daughter, Arietta Jean, born March 9, 1917.

The couple honeymooned in New York City and lived in Brockport at first, but later moved to Holley, to a house across the tracks from Elbert’s uncle’s home.

Pauline assisted with office work at the canning factory.

Their daughter, Arietta Jean, was born on March 9, 1917, at Park Ave. Hospital in Rochester. Pauline had stayed with her parents for two weeks before the birth, to be close to the hospital. Elbert visited frequently. Arietta was named for Elbert’s mother, Arietta Hudson Johnston.

Pregnant with their second child, Pauline went to stay with her parents in Rochester again, in September 1918. Arrietta accompanied her.

A letter, which Elbert wrote to Pauline on Wednesday, September 25, 1918, survives. It is full of the details of their everyday lives. Elbert wrote that he brought some wood home and set a fire in the kitchen as the house was damp, gathered dandelions for the rabbit’s breakfast and cleaned the hutch. Lad, their Irish setter dog, spent a lot of time at the office, sleeping at the back of the stove. He included a snippet of gossip: “Chet and his wife are separating.” Elbert enquired after Arietta Jean and wrote that he would see them on the coming Sunday.

Their son, Robert Walter, who was named for Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, was born on Saturday, September 28, 1918. But when Elbert went to visit on Sunday, as promised, he was denied entry. Visitors were not allowed at the hospital on account of the Spanish flu epidemic.

Within a week, a quarantine was declared in Holley where the flu was rampant. Elbert contracted it. His Aunt Allie cared for him, but he died on October 18, 1918, just shy of his thirty-first birthday, having been ill for just one week. He was buried at Riverside Cemetery in Rochester.

His son, Robert Walter, was two weeks old. Elbert had not had an opportunity to see him because of the quarantine. Arietta Jean was nineteen months old.

Following Elbert’s death, Pauline remained in Rochester with her parents. She never returned to their home in Holley, which was sold. Later, since she needed to earn a living, and was an accomplished seamstress, she took a correspondence course in dressmaking and started a business.

This poignant tale is sourced from items graciously donated to the Orleans County Dept. of History by Gail Wadsworth, daughter of Arietta Jean. Considering the domestic upheaval surrounding Elbert’s death and the fact that Pauline moved house several times, it is quite remarkable that these items survived.

True, this material just provides details on the life and death of one individual. But from a local history point of view, its significance is that it helps us understand the great events of the time. It also points to the role of the local history entity in the preservation of such unique and irreplaceable documents.

In our previous column, we mentioned that Elbert and some friends attended a Political Suffrage program in Holley in 1907. It is apparent from Elbert’s comments following the event that he was not in favor of women’s suffrage, which is surprising, given that he was a modern young man from New York City who enjoyed the company of young ladies. His stance starkly indicates the daunting negativity and prejudice that faced the suffragists.

We can read that 65,000 people in the United States died from the Spanish flu, but when we read about a relatable individual, a healthy young man from Holley who succumbed having been ill for a week, we realize how virulent it was and the long-lasting impact it had on so many families.

Incidentally, at one point, Pauline and her family were neighbors of the Reverend Randall Kenyon family, whose housemaid was May Howard, a young English girl, one of the survivors of the Titanic, who is buried at Boxwood Cemetery, Medina…but that’s another story.

Diary from 1907 details 19-year-old’s new life in Holley after moving from NYC

Posted 28 January 2024 at 12:42 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Volume 4, No. 5

Elbert Johnston was initiated as an Entered Apprentice of Murray Lodge No. 380, Free and Accepted Masons on January 25, 1910, passed to the degree of Fellow Craft on February 8, 1910, and was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason (Third Degree) on February 22, 1910.

HOLLEY – May 4, 1907: “Up early, left New York, 7:50 am train….. At Mauch Chunk (PA.), went into the dining car and had dinner, Vegetable soup, English mutton chops, potatoes with cream and ice-cream, cost $1.25 with a tip of 25c. The waiter gave me the menu as a souvenir…..Had to change trains at Rochester….Mailed card to Mother….Walked about a mile from the Lehigh Valley Station to the N.Y.C.& H.R. Railroad and waited for the 7:55 pm train. Reached Holley nearly 9 pm.”

Thus begins a charming journal, written by Elbert Johnston, then aged 19, as he started his journey to a new job and a new life in Holley, NY.  The journal is short-lived, little more than a month long, but the entries are detailed and offer a unique view into daily life in a rural village at that time.

Elbert was born in New York in 1887. His mother died when he was young. His father remarried. Following his death, Elbert was raised by his stepmother, Emma Johnston. He worked at the U.H. Dudley Co. in the city.

In May of 1907, he moved to Holley to work as a bookkeeper at Hudson Canning, the family business. Elbert’s Aunt Alice was the wife of Joseph B. Hudson, originally from Mattituck, Long Island, who had built the Hudson Canning factory in Holley in 1901. (See Column V4, No.4)

When he arrived, Elbert noted that “The house is not quite finished inside, and things are all in any old place.” It seems that his aunt and uncle had just moved in. There are references throughout to workmen in the house, the new bathtub “Very good washing, only the sides are slippery,” carpet selection, planting a hedge, sowing grass seed and putting sheep-manure on it.

Having arrived on a Saturday, Elbert attended the Baptist Church next day:

“I was welcomed and stayed to communion and Sunday School. The new minister, Rev. Herrell had a cold and could not speak very well. There were 81 people present and about half of that number in church service.”

He “fell in” to work at Hudson Canning on Monday, May 6 and “began to charge from farmers seed receipts to farmers ledger. Wrote letter to Gt. A&P Tea Co….and later mailed them 200 Hudson gallon apple labels by express collect.”

He recorded details of what he worked on each day at the Canning factory office.

It seems that there was a backlog of accounting to be dealt with. Once that was in order, he spent a great deal of time cleaning the “capper,” the machine which was used to process the pea crop.

At the end of the first week, Elbert wrote:

“Well, here I have been for one entire week, and I hardly know anyone….Kind of lonely, evenings not like the city.”

The next morning, he still had a “blue streak on, but I guess I had better laugh.”

That was about to change. He became friendly with George Dibble, a young man of the same age, whose father was involved in the Orleans Canning Company. Pretty soon, the two young men were out each evening for drives, or walks around the village, or to the cemetery or The Glen, accompanied at different times by Claire, Kathryn, Cora, Sally and Jennie, Miss Copping or Isabella Newton.

For evening entertainment, they visited the young ladies’ homes to hear them play piano or gramophone records. At his aunt’s house, Elbert played Dominoes, Pit, or Flinch or sometimes read.

Elbert’s first outing with George is worth noting. George invited him to a Women’s Suffrage meeting at the Presbyterian Church. The speaker was Mrs. Shaw.

“Her talk was interesting to those who perhaps were in favor of woman suffrage, but after sitting from eight to ten on a hard straw cushion and then not having converted me, well she wasn’t very good.”

Elbert was an inveterate “numbers person.” It is entirely appropriate that he wrote this journal in a Cash Ledger as he noted all his expenses and spending.

He noted attendance at every church service he attended. He noted the number of people he passed in the town square. On the evening of May 16, having shaved and put on his high collars etc., he and his new friend, George, went for a short walk and passed twenty-five people “That is pretty good for a little place like Holley.”

Later, on May 17, he noted: “While out, not counting the Square, there were 214 people that we passed, or about one nineth of the population. At the Church, there were over a hundred people.”

He noted the time he went to bed and the time he got up each day – he retired 9 p.m. to 10 p.m., but as late as 11:15 p.m. once. He generally rose around 6 a.m., a little after 7 a.m. on Sundays. He noted the weather and temperature each day. It turned cold on the second week of May and snow fell on May 10.

He mentioned meals as “after breakfast” or “home to dinner,” but unfortunately, he did not specify what they ate. On two or three occasions, he refers to buying grapefruit when they were out, they were 5 cents each.

It is interesting to note how important mail was as a means of communication prior to phones. The Hudson household had a phone, but there are references to the expense. Letters required a 2-cent stamp, postcards a 1-cent stamp. Postcards cost 5 cents.

On the journey to Holley, Elbert mailed a card to his mother from Rochester. During the month, Elbert received 26 letters and 5 postcards. These were from his mother, his friends George and Brooks, a young lady named Ethel, and former work colleagues from the Dudley Co., including the office-boy, Eugene Davis, whose card “Hope you arrived safe,” mailed in NYC on May 6, arrived in Holley on May 7. Elbert saved this correspondence, replied to each piece and made notes of his correspondence.

Elbert mentioned at the end of one day’s entry that “Uncle (Joseph Hudson) wants meaning of Deut. 14-26-28”. A few days later, Elbert mentioned that he had written to Dr. R.S. MacArthur for a “church letter,” and for an explanation of Deut.14-26. Dr. MacArthur was pastor at the Calvary Baptist Church in New York. Elbert presumably needed the “church letter” to transfer membership to the Holley church.

Elbert must have felt sufficiently at ease in Holley after the first month that he did not have to chronicle his experiences, or perhaps his blossoming social life did not allow him sufficient time to write – his gain, our loss. This diary is one of the many unique items in the Orleans County Dept. of History collection.

Long Island entrepreneur in 1901 built vegetable processing plant in Holley that was later used by Duffy-Mott

Letterhead for a canning company with locations at Holley, Brockport and Mattituck, Long Island.

Posted 21 January 2024 at 12:52 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 4

HOLLEY – Business letterheads from the turn of the last century are distinctive for their elaborate designs and ornate fonts. As early examples of branding, they proclaim the nature and tone of the business.

This Hudson & Company letterhead is typical of its era. It includes several curious details:

What does a man wearing an Elizabethan era neck ruff have to do with Holley, NY? Where is Mattituck? What is the connection to Holley, NY? Why are illustrations of laurel plants included in the background?

No doubt, the rendering of the gentleman is intended to represent Henry Hudson, the 17th century English navigator who sailed up the river later named the Hudson in his honor, and who was instrumental in establishing Dutch claims to the area. The portrait establishes a link with the company’s name – Hudson – and with the names of the company officials listed at the top – W.M. Hudson, Pres. and J.B. Hudson, Treas., thereby inferring a longevity to the company.

The laurel can also be explained: Mattituck is a hamlet on Long Island, in Suffolk County and Laurel is the name of the adjoining hamlet. Several area services and businesses combine both names – the Mattituck-Laurel Public Library, for example.

In a 1906 History of Mattituck, Long Island, Rev. Charles E. Craven recorded that William H. Hudson erected a large canning factory in Mattituck in 1888 adjacent to the railroad. It processed large quantities of asparagus, tomatoes, squash and cauliflower.

A severe blight affected Long Island crops in 1896 and for several subsequent years. Seeking to diversify, Joseph Hudson, son of William H. Hudson, relocated to Holley, while his brother, William M., continued the Mattituck operation.

At that time, Holley’s transportation network positioned it to attract manufacturing to the area. A Democrat and Chronicle article credited the Businessmen’s Association of Holley for “securing so valuable an industry for the village.”

Detail of map of the village of Holley from the New Century Atlas of Orleans County, 1913 showing the Hudson Canning Factory and also Joseph Hudson’s home at the corner of South Main Street.

Joseph Hudson bought the Bartlett farm immediately south of the New York Central Railroad, across from Miller and Pettengill’s vinegar and cider plant. Local contractor, John Murphy, started work on the construction of two new buildings for Hudson & Co. on 12 Oct. 1901. The main factory was two stories high and measured 45’x80’. A one-story storage building measured 45’x100’.

The new company proposed to handle as diversified a line of products as possible and to keep the factory in operation seven to eight months of the year. Crops of tomatoes, cherries, apples, peas, and string beans grown by area farmers kept the company busy.

In September 1905, the Democrat & Chronicle reported that “The Hudson canning factory is running full force and is putting out 6,000 – 7,000 cans of tomatoes per day.”

Hudson Canning expanded its western New York presence when it purchased the Batavia Preserving Company plant located in Brockport in 1910. A large silo and vinery were built to process peas at that location. Elbert Johnson, a nephew of Joseph Hudson’s, was appointed superintendent of this plant. (More on Elbert Johnson next week).

Newspapers at that time reported on crop yields and on record crops. In July 1918, Floyd Carr & Son of Ridge Road, just north of the village of Holley, delivered a record breaking 5,870 pounds of shelled peas to the Hudson Canning company. This yield was from four bushels of seeds planted on one acre and “no phosphate was used on the land either.”

Hudson Canning was purchased by Holley Canning in 1932. It was later run by the Comstock Canning Corporation of Newark, NY and subsequently sold to the Duffy-Mott Company in 1951. The Mattituck plant also ceased operation.

A letterhead on file at the Orleans County Dept. of History provided the link to this account of a resourceful family-run enterprise.

Rural mail delivery arrived in Albion in 1900, after a wait for residents in the country

R. Titus Coan, Albion postmaster, advised in 1900 that “Patrons of the rural free delivery were to provide, at their own expense, at some convenient location which could be reached by the carrier without dismounting from his buggy appropriate boxes which would be secure from the weather and from mischievous or malicious depredations.”

Posted 14 January 2024 at 7:00 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian 

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 3

Rural Orleans County residents have contended with lack of access to broadband service for some time, while their urban neighbors enjoy the advantages of high-speed internet connections.

But the urban-rural disparity in communications is not a new one – mail delivery experienced a similar issue from the 1860s to the early 1900s.

The Free City Delivery Act of 1863 mandated that free delivery of mail to individual homes be established at Post Offices where income from local postage was more than sufficient to cover the costs of providing the service. Before 1863, people were required to go to the post office to pick up their mail, as postage only paid for the delivery of mail from one post office to another.

The service proved to be very popular. Some urban areas even had mail delivery twice daily, this continued until 1950. Meanwhile, rural areas languished.

H. Justin Roberts, participant in the Oral History project, recalled:

“We had to go two miles to get our mail. That would be in East Shelby. In those days, East Shelby, Millville, Knowlesville and all those little places had their own postmark. In the wintertime, neighbors along our road used to take turns going down to East Shelby to get the mail. They would bring the mail up and leave it at each house along the way. Mail was brought up from Knowlesville by horse and buggy. It would have been delivered at the Knowlesville depot.”

Proponents of rural mail delivery argued that if the government provided mail delivery to urban areas, it should provide a similar service to rural residents.

Following several years of political disputation, Rural Free Delivery, a huge undertaking, was established in 1896 though it took some time to implement nationwide. Routes had to be established, carriers hired – 32,000 by 1905.

In Albion, Postmaster R. Titus Coan posted the following description of Rural Route 1:

Beginning on Saturday, December 1, 1900, the carrier will go south to the Albion waterworks standpipe; then west to Mason’s Corners, thence south to Sheldon’s Corners, thence west to Porter’s Corners, thence south to the end of the road; thence west to the Pine Hill Road; thence south to Standish’s Corners; thence west to D. Tower’s corners; thence southeast to West Barre post office; then south to Mull’s Corners; thence east to Hill’s Corners; thence north to Manchester’s Corners; thence east to Grinnell’s Corners; thence north and northeast to Bragg’s Corners; thence west to Wetherbee’s Corners; thence north on West Barre road to Miller’s Corners, thence east to Sanderson’s Corners; thence north to Snyder’s Corners; thence east to Bond’s Corners; thence north to Lee Road, east on Lee Road to Benton’s Corners, thence north to the Albion post office.  (Democrat & Chronicle Nov. 26, 1900.

Homer C. Heady was the Albion carrier.

Carriers had to furnish their own wagons and horses and pay for their upkeep. They carried with them a supply of postage stamps, postal cards, stamped envelopes, newspaper wrappers and money order blanks.

They traversed their routes through all kinds of weather, on unpaved roads, six days a week for a salary of $600 ($21,000 approx.). They were finally excused from Christmas Day delivery in 1923.

Rural free mail delivery ended the isolation of rural residents. They could connect to the outside world daily through their mailboxes. They felt that they were finally getting the benefit of a government service. With the introduction of parcel post in 1913, they could shop from home. Sounds familiar.

57 Post Offices have been in Orleans County’s history, but only 10 today

Posted 8 January 2024 at 8:44 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 2

CARLTON – This 1912 photograph shows the Kent Post Office in the Town of Carlton. It was located on Kent Road, just north of the N.Y.C. & H. R. line railway station.

In the center stands John Sherwood, who served as Postmaster from 1906 to 1915. The mail carrier on the left, with his 1911 2-cylinder Maxwell automobile is J.C. Hamilton, while on the right with his horse and wagon is George (Burt) O’Dell.

“How many Post Offices currently operate in Orleans County?”

In response to an informal survey, most people replied “5” to this question.

The correct answer would be 10: Albion, Clarendon, Fancher, Holley, Kendall, Kent, Lyndonville, Medina, Morton and Waterport.

The first Post Office established in Orleans County was in Gaines, on July 9, 1816, William J. Babbitt, postmaster.

At one time or another, Post Offices were established in: Albion,  Ashwood,   Barre, Canal, Carlton (Two Bridges),  Carlton Station,  Carlyon,  Childs (1897-1902), Clarendon, County Line (1894-1903), Eagle Harbor, East Barre (1852-56), East Carlton, East Gaines, East Kendall, East Shelby, Fancher, Farmers (1824-28), Farmingham, Gaines,  Hindsburg,  Holley,  Honest Hill (1897-1903),  Hulberton,  Jeddo,  Kendall,  Kendall Mills,  Kent, Kenyonville, Knowlesville, Kuckville, Lakeside Park, Lyndonville, Manning (1897-1901), Medina, Millers, Millville,  Morton, Murray, North Murray, North Ridgeway,  Northton,  Oak Orchard,  Point Breeze,  Riches Corners,  Ridgeway,  Sawyer, Shelby, Shelby Basin, South Barre, Waterport, West Barre, West Carlton, West Gaines,  West Kendall,  West Shelby and  Yates.* (Total: 57)

As indicated by the dates included some of these Post Offices were short lived, while the names of a few were changed: Northton (1825-30) to Yates and West Carlton (1837-1865) to Kuckville.

“Honest Hill” is a name now forgotten. It was in the Town of Clarendon, with John B. Merrill as postmaster.

The Post Office played a pivotal role in the early history of this Republic. It connected the residents of the colonies and facilitated the spread of ideas through the speedy and affordable delivery of newspapers.

As the westward expansion progressed, so did the Post Office. When people had settled in any number, they soon petitioned for a local Post Office, as a means of establishing their identity – hence the proliferation of Post Offices as seen above. The church, the school and the combined general store/ Post Office were the first building blocks.

Then U.S. Postmaster John Wanamaker said that whether great or small, the Post Office was “the visible form of the Federal Government to every community and to every citizen.”

Rural postmasters were political appointees and so could change with every new election. For many years, the location of the Post Office in Eagle Harbor was either north or south of the bridge, depending on which party was in power.

Postmasters took an oath to uphold the Constitution and to perform their duties diligently. It was not a well-paid position and they had to provide furnishings and supplies. Country postmasters were paid by commission based on the volume of mail handled but the recognition, prestige and foot-traffic to their establishments compensated. In 1856, Albion Postmaster Jonathan O. Wilsea was the highest earning Postmaster in the county ($1,250), while Ralph H. Jackson of West Barre earned the least ($13.13).

The personable T.O. Castle was postmaster of Millville from 1853-57 and again from 1878-1897.

Though the postmaster was usually the local general store operator or business owner, Dr. Frank Lemuel June, a practicing physician and druggist was the Waterport postmaster for ten years until his death in 1911.

Female postmistresses were rare. Rarer still were postmaster/postmistress couples. Ann Batt was appointed postmistress in Fancher in 1978. Her husband Wilfred was postmaster in neighboring Waterport for twelve years. He retired in 1980.

Fred Stelianou was postmaster at Lyndonville for 39 ½ years. He retired in 1992.

The Postal Reform Act of 1970 ended the practice of political patronage in the appointment of postmasters. Subsequently, postmasters were hired from within and were experienced in the operation of an increasingly complex postal service.

Mail carrier served Albion community for more than 40 years until his death in 1917

Posted 31 December 2023 at 8:56 am

‘In all kinds of weather, he cheerfully performs his duty. Possessed of an even temperament and tranquil disposition, he permits nothing to ruffle his spirits and philosophically meets all conditions.’

Albert Redfield, with his horse and trusty dog, in front of the Dye Hose No. 5 Fire Company building on East Bank and Platt St., Albion.

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 1

ALBION – Everybody knew Albert Redfield. He was a fixture in Albion. A mail messenger, he transferred mail to and from the post office to the New York Central station.

At the time of his death in 1917, he is believed to have been the oldest carrier of a mail messenger route in the United States, having held the position since 1875.

Albert W. Redfield held the contract to transfer mail from the train station in Albion to the post office from 1875 to 1917.

According to an Orleans Republican article on January 2, 1913, Albert made eight round trips a day between the post office and the train station, from 6 a.m. until 8:30 p.m., and one trip on Sunday. He handled the incoming and outgoing mail for the village of Albion and surrounding area. At that time, the Railway Mail Service carried and sorted mail and packages.

“In all kinds of weather, he cheerfully performs his duty. Possessed of an even temperament and tranquil disposition, he permits nothing to ruffle his spirits and philosophically meets all conditions.”

The Redfield family had held the mail carrier contract for the route since 1862, when it was awarded to Albert’s brother, Ebenezer G., who held it for eleven years. Their father, William Byron Redfield, was a carrier for two years. Albert left his job as a painter and took up the reins on January 1, 1875.

It was not a lucrative position by any means. The 1913 article noted that regular mail carriers at that time earned around $1,000 but Albert’s contract paid only $365 a year, and he was responsible for the expense of his horse. Not surprisingly, he had not taken a day for vacation in his 42 years of service and had lost little time due to illness.

His occupation is listed as “hackman” in the 1880 and 1892 census records. A “hackney” was an English term for a horse-drawn vehicle kept for hire, hence the term hackman. The 1900 and 1915 census records use the term “mail carrier” as his occupation instead.

Albion did not have a dedicated post office building for many years and used rented facilities instead. From the 1890s, the post office operated from the imposing sandstone building on East Bank Street (105-107), built by George Kinmont. He operated his marble and granite business in the other half of the building.

A man of diminutive stature, Albert weighed about 90 lbs. and was “a trifle over four feet six inches in height.” He had been refused muster when he enlisted for the Union Army in Canandaigua.

He married Nancy Amelia Putnam in 1862. She predeceased him on June 10, 1884. They had one daughter, Eve, born 1878.

Albert died at his home at 25 Clinton St. on Christmas Eve, 1917. He was buried at Mount Albion Cemetery on December 27, 1917.

Lots of national media attention in 1964 for Santa School in Albion

Posted 18 December 2023 at 10:42 am

Reporters from Saturday Evening Post, Life Magazine, UPI, Australian Press, nearby newspapers sat in on sessions

Graduating students from Albion’s Santa Claus School serenade their “Dean” Charles W. Howard and his “First Assistant” Mrs. Ruth Howard, the seated couple at the center of this Medina Daily Journal-Register photograph, October 20, 1964.

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

Illuminating Orleans, Vol. 3, No. 39

ALBION – This jolly group was assembled at a dinner held at the Apple Grove Inn, Medina on October 16, 1964, to celebrate their graduation from the Charles Howard Santa Claus School and to honor the school’s founder, Charles W. Howard and his wife, Ruth Howard.

Enrollment at the school, which was then in its 28th year of educating department store Santas, was limited to 20. Students from the Class of 1964 hailed from Detroit, Bay City, Michigan, and New York state. In many cases, stores paid the tuition, as they recognized that a graduate of the school was an asset.

Students received a well-grounded training in the philosophy and practice of portraying Santa Claus with integrity during their intensive week-long course. They also learned how to interact with children. Grade schoolchildren from Albion, under the direction of Mrs. Ruth Karns, interacted with the Santa trainees, while students from Medina, Albion and Holley participated in round table discussions.

The fine points of attire were also addressed, while Mrs. Ruth Hazard demonstrated gift wrapping and Mrs. Joy Merkel instructed Santas in the latest dance steps.

The school had elicited much publicity that year. Reporters from the Saturday Evening Post, Life Magazine, United Press International, area newspapers and even the Australian Press sat in on classes and reported on activities.

This celebratory dinner was held shortly before the Howards’ trip to Australia.

On October 25, 1964, the same week as the Journal-Register article, The Sydney Morning Herald of New South Wales, Australia, featured an article promoting their prospective visit. Farmers, a department store in the city, sought six candidates to train as Father Christmas. The store’s fashion coordinator said that the store was flying in “Santa Claus himself,” Mr. Charles Howard, from New York, to supervise the school, the first of its kind in Sydney.

A later article in the Sydney Morning Herald on November 10, 1964, featured an interview with Mrs. Howard, appropriately attributed as “director and instructor-in-chief at the Santa Claus School, Christmas Park, Albion, New York.”

The article continued: “Mrs. Howard is accompanying her husband on a Santa Claus inspection and briefing tour of Melbourne, Brisbane, and Sydney.”

A November article later that month in a Melbourne publication, The Age, described Howard as “principal of the only finishing school for Santas in the world.”

The Sydney Morning Herald reported on Mr. Howard’s death in May 1966.

The Park House was popular destination in Yates until being destroyed by fire in 1981

Photo courtesy of Dawn Metty, Town of Yates Historian: The Park House was a popular destination in Yates along Lake Ontario.

Posted 4 December 2023 at 7:53 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

Illuminating Orleans, Vol. 3, No. 38

YATES – As mentioned in a previous column, the Winghart Grill, flourished in a remote Town of Yates location in the 1920s and 1930s. Owned by former bootleggers, Joe and Mayme Winghart, the tavern was located close to their lakeside cottage which had been the hub of their illicit liquor importation operations during Prohibition.

In 1941, the Wingharts bought a hotel at Point Breeze and advertised the sale of their Morrison Road establishment.

The business went through several changes of ownership in the following years.

This ad is from the Lyndonville Enterprise on March 12, 1942.

From 1945 – 1949, it was operated as the Grand-Vue Grill by William E. Rands and Pearl White. In 1950, the liquor license was held by William Rands and George Stone.

George Stone operated it as Stone’s Inn in 1951 and 1952.

Bert Van Auker operated it in 1953, under the name Van Auker’s Grill.

In December 1959, a liquor license was granted to Loretta and Joseph Perry who changed the name to Lakeshore Villa.

Joseph Perry was killed in an early morning automobile accident on October 8, 1960. He had been traveling south on Route 63 in his 1959 Cadillac, when he went through the intersection with Route 104 and landed in the former Gallagher gravel pit.

Following the death of Joseph Perry, Joseph Jurinich, who owned a restaurant in Medina called the Village Green, purchased Lakeshore Villa and renamed it The Park House. It was soon booked for events, such as the Royalton-Hartland Central School Annual Alumni Banquet, which was held there on August 25, 1962.

The Grand Opening of The Park House took place in July 1964.

(Left) This ad is from Medina Daily Journal, August 14, 1964. (Right) Medina Daily Journal and Medina Register posted this ad on August 27, 1965.

It was a popular venue for many years. Live music attracted an audience to this rural venue. Among the many groups that played there were Cy Roberts and the Troubadours, Orion, Finger Love, Trestle, and Legend.

(Left) This ad was in The Journal-Register, December 8, 1978. (Right) This advertisement was published in The Journal-Register, February 23, 1979.

On March 26, 1981, the Park House was destroyed in “a spectacular blaze.”  Lyndonville firemen were the first to respond to the 11 p.m. call, reported to be a chimney fire. Lyndonville fire chief, Fred Goldsmith, said the structure was engulfed in flames when his company arrived. Flames were visible from two miles away. Five other companies assisted: Albion, Barker, Carlton, Ridgeway and Shelby but the fire raged out of control for three hours.

The Journal-Register account of the fire noted that the building had been reportedly used as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Jack McCarthy, Orleans County fire coordinator, noted that he had not found any evidence of the rumored underground tunnel which was alleged to have connected the tavern to the lakeside cottage then owned by the Wingharts.

Many people still remember frequenting the Park House. The tavern was not rebuilt following the fire and the quietness of the countryside returned to this plot of land which for a brief period had witnessed the intersection of legislation, location, alcohol and entertainment.

Cooking the Thanksgiving turkey was even more difficult in the old days

The turkey is central to this early 1900s postcard, “A Bountiful Thanksgiving.”

Posted 22 November 2023 at 9:54 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 37

Turkey cooking anxiety affects many cooks at this time of year. After all, the roasted fowl is the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal. Thankfully, virtual assistance is at hand – talk, text and live chat options are now available to provide advice.

Thawing the turkey is a common concern. How long does it take? Can it be thawed outside the refrigerator? What if it did not thaw sufficiently?

Earlier cooks also had to contend with turkey cooking issues. But their turkeys were not frozen. Nor were they plucked clean, with a selection of the innards wrapped in plastic and nestled inside the clean cavity.

Here are instructions from The White House Cookbook (1900 edition) on how to cook a roast turkey: Select a young turkey; remove all the feathers carefully, singe it over a burning newspaper on the top of the stove, then “draw” [clear the innards] it nicely, being very careful not to break any of the internal organs; remove the crop [pouch at the base of the neck which may contain food] carefully; cut off the head, and tie the neck close to the body by drawing the skin over it.

Now rinse the inside of the turkey out with several waters, and in the next to last, mix a teaspoonful of baking soda; oftentimes the inside of a fowl is very sour, especially it is not freshly killed. Soda, being cleansing, acts as a corrective, and destroys that unpleasant taste which we frequently experience in the dressing when fowls have been killed for some time.

After washing, wipe the turkey dry, inside and out, with a clean cloth, rub the inside with salt, then stuff with “Dressing for Fowls.”

First published in 1887, The White House Cookbook was very popular and was often given as a wedding gift. As the subtitle indicates, it was a “comprehensive cyclopedia of information for the home” In addition to recipes and menus, it contained instructions for household management and caring for the sick, such as how to fix cement cracks in a floor or how remove cinders from the eye.

It also includes breakfast, dinner, and supper menus for a week in each month of the year as well as menus for holidays:

Historian’s Column: VFW has had presence in Orleans County for nearly a century

Photo by Tom Rivers: Flags are placed near the veterans’ section at Mount Albion Cemetery.

Posted 11 November 2023 at 8:44 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 36

Founded nationally in 1899, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) has had a presence in Orleans County since 1926, when a group of 36 veterans founded a post in Medina, under Commander A.T. Sinclair. They received a charter on January 8, 1927, as Lincoln Post #1483. The club’s first meetings were held at the Armory (YMCA) on Pearl Street.

In 1945, William Gallagher, a veteran and local entrepreneur, bequeathed the building at 216 East Center St. in Medina to the newly formed W.J. Gallagher & Son Memorial Veterans’ Club. This location is also home to Lincoln Post.

In Albion, the Strickland Post #4635 was formed in 1947. It was named in honor and memory of Everett Strickland. The 24-year-old Waterport soldier was killed in action aboard the cruiser Astoria when it was sunk at the Battle of Savo Island in the Solomons in August 1942. This Post meets at the Orleans Veterans Club at 38 N. Platt St. in Albion.

The Holley VFW Post was formally instituted on April 16, 1972, as the John Zazzara Memorial Post #202. Seaman Zazzara was among the first Orleans County casualties to be reported after war was declared. Serving aboard the U.S.S. Houston, Seaman Zazzara was listed as missing in action in the Battle of Java. The Houston was attacked and sunk by Japanese forces on February 2, 1942, as it attempted to run the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra,

In 1973, the name of the Holley Post was changed to Eastern Orleans Memorial Post 202 VFW to better reflect its wide membership area. Originally housed at the old Penn Central freight station, it is now located at 8 Veterans Drive in Holley.

The Lyndonville Memorial Post #7716 VFW received its charter in 1986. It has since merged with Medina’s Lincoln Post.

Local VFW posts provide members with a venue for gathering and fellowship. Post members are active in the community throughout the year. Among other activities, they help organize and participate in Memorial Day and 4th of July parades. They accord military honors at veteran’s committal services. Along with American Legion members, and the Sons of the American Legion, they place United States flags on veterans’ graves before Memorial Day and remove them after Veterans Day.

Each Tuesday, a group of Orleans County veterans, including two women, provide honor guard services for interments at the National Cemetery in Pembroke.

Nationally, the VFW is a non-profit veterans’ service organization whose members include eligible veterans and military service members from active, guard and reserve forces.

Among its many accomplishments, the VFW was instrumental in establishing the Veterans’ Administration and the National Cemetery Administration. It advocated on behalf of Vietnam veterans exposed to Agent Orange, for those diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome. Most recently, the Honoring our PACT Act of 2022 ensures benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances while in service.

Since its inception, the VFW has advocated vigorously on behalf of service members to ensure that they are respected for their service and receive the entitlements they have earned.

Historian’s Column: ‘Bootlegging Trio’ in Yates showed entrepreneurial prowess during Prohibition

The Winghart Grill is shown in the 1940s. It was located at the intersection of Morrison Road and Lower Lake Shore Road in the Town of Yates.

Posted 5 November 2023 at 12:12 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” ­– Vol. 3, No. 35

YATES – In 1917, a young Rochester couple, Joseph J. Winghart, and his wife Mayme, purchased lakeside property at the northernmost end of Morrison Road in the Town of Yates. They built a small cottage there for use as a summer home.

Joe was a mechanic and taxi-cab driver. Bernie, Joe’s brother, also a mechanic, loved to fish on Lake Ontario. Mayme was, by all accounts, a feisty and formidable lady.

The National Prohibition Act took effect on January 16, 1920. Entrepreneurs soon devised ways of supplying liquor. Joe, Mayme, and Bernie found themselves ideally situated and suited to take advantage of new retail opportunities.

Bernie’s daughter, Joan Winghart Wilcox Sullivan, describes the exploits of “The Bootlegging Trio” as they were known, in the book “Bernie, You’re a Bootlegger: a Family’s Escapades During the Prohibition Era.” It was published in 2010.

Their isolated lakeside property was an ideal location for receiving liquor from Canada. Joe and Bernie built a two-story boathouse. The second floor was necessary for height so that a light could be placed high in the window to guide boats landing at night.

The boathouse had an overhead door with a steel track leading down to the water. A boat could be winched up the track and into the boathouse, out of sight. A pulley and cable system were then used to unload the cargo into a cement lined underground cellar area which could hold over 200 cases. The cellar could also be accessed by a cement lined underground tunnel.

Joe purchased two new six-cylinder Chevrolets from the Beers Dealership in Medina. He built up the springs to accommodate around ten cases of liquor, with at least seven inches of space between the fender and tire. Troopers would sit on hotel porches in small towns like Murray on Route 104, on the lookout for cars with heavy loads, which they would pursue. He also purchased a Chris Craft boat which was equipped with two liberty airplane engines, surplus from the war and easily converted.

Bernie made regular trips to Coburg. Canadian suppliers were ready with fast boats loaded with whiskey. The return trips were at night with no running lights and landed at various places along the shoreline. If you used the same route regularly, you would get caught.

The trio supplied the Lyndonville area. Mayme, equipped with a revolver and rifle, delivered whiskey to Rochester clients, while Bernie made deliveries to Niagara Falls, where the trio were associated with “The Black Hand Gang.” He combined deliveries with dating. Driving a car loaded with whiskey, he would take a girlfriend to the movies, then park at a gas station. The vehicle would be unloaded while he enjoyed a movie and dinner.

Bernie maintained that his reason for supplying Canadian whiskey was his desire to save people from the very real dangers of bathtub gin or homemade hooch, which had been known to cause sickness, blindness and even death.

The trio had some close calls. On one occasion in 1929, Bernie and his crew had to be rescued from their sinking boat, but they managed to toss their cargo overboard before the arrival of the Coast Guard.

In the mid-1920s, Ross Hollenbeck, a newly elected Orleans County Sheriff, tried to control these illegal activities. One night, Bernie, driving a car with a load of whiskey, saw a police roadblock ahead when he turned on to Route 18 at Kuckville. He turned off his lights and ran the roadblock. He later said, “I almost killed two police. If they hadn’t jumped out of the way, I would have killed both of them.”

A week later, when Bernie stopped for gas on Route 104 in Gaines, Sheriff Hollenbeck walked up to his car and said:

“Bernie, the next time I get in front of you, and you don’t stop, I’m gonna shoot you.”

Bernie replied: “If you bother me anymore, I’m working for the Black Hands in North Tonawanda, and they will pop you off.”

He was never bothered again.

When Prohibition ended, the trio had to adapt to a new lifestyle. The Lyndonville Enterprise of April 11, 1935 reported that:

“Joseph Winghart has remodeled the farm home on the corner of Lake and Morrison Roads into an attractive place to be known as the Winghart Tavern. A large crowd attended the opening party on Friday night.”

Several sources indicate that the farmhouse had been operated as a speakeasy prior to the repeal of Prohibition.

“Dancing Every Nite” at Winghart’s Grill. This advertisement appeared in the Medina Tribune May 23, 1940.

The announcement: “Winghart’s Grill for sale” appeared in the Medina Journal, April 10, 1941. Joe and Mayme purchased a hotel at Point Breeze, the Hotel Winghart. They later moved to the Thousand Islands and then, to Florida. Joe died in 1968, Mayme in 1989 and Bernie in 1998.

Forthcoming column: Lake Shore Villa and the Park House.

Noted author spun many ‘yarns and folktales’ about growing up in Albion

Posted 22 October 2023 at 8:05 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 34

National Portrait Gallery image of Carl Carmer (1893-1976), Class of 1910, Albion.

ALBION – “Albion is a boom town now, alert, progressive, dynamic. It is about the same size as it was forty years ago, but it believes in growth as it never did then, and it will grow. It has a local ‘Committee of Economic Development’ which was sponsored by the Albion Chamber of Commerce and that committee has worked hard and with intelligence and foresight.”

This was Carl Carmer’s optimistic observation following a visit to his hometown in the 1940s after an absence of 40 years. At the time of this return visit, he was nationally recognized as an accomplished author and folklorist. His first book “Stars Fell on Alabama,” published in 1934 was a bestseller and Literary Guild Selection. He told American folktales on a CBS radio show called Your Neck O’ the Woods.

He described this trip to Albion in the chapter “Hometown Revisited” which is included in his book “Dark Trees to the Wind” published in 1949. He referenced as sources, Charles D’Amico, principal of Albion High School, and Joseph B. Achilles, Orleans County historian. What lively conversations they must have had!

Carmer graduated from Albion in 1910 and then pursued studies in English literature at Hamilton and Harvard. He had happy memories of growing up in Albion in the early 1900s –learning to swim in a swift-running culvert, jumping to the decks of slow canal boats on one bridge and climbing back at the next, bicycling nine miles to Oak Orchard to swim.

He recalled an era when:

 “Albion was big houses and deep tree dominated lawns…The houses of South Main St., paid for by tolls, canal trade, dividends and apple profits, were set apart, each on a spacious lawn.”

Change was immediately visible as soon as he approached the four corners where East and West Avenues meet South Main Street.

“Those corners, austere in the dignity of massive houses set back on green and level lawns, had been the symbol of South Main.

“But East and West Avenues are now part of a brick-paved pike, called the Million Dollar Highway, and where the Swan house had stood serene in the assurance of its redbrick towers lay a wide cement covered yard decorated only by the garish protuberances of a gasoline station.”

He was dismayed to find that the Bruner house across the street, an elegant, dark-green house with piazzas, bay window and cupola, had disappeared. It had been his home, the center of his hometown memories. Only the foundations remained, and they seemed pathetically small for the building that had rested on them.

As he walked down South Main Street, he saw that the remaining mansions were no longer family homes: the Dye house was a funeral home, the Taylor house was a cafeteria. The Wage house was gone and its big barn, which had once sheltered the first horseless carriage in town, was a restaurant and night club known as Marti’s.

He realized that the era and cultural patterns he had grown up with were gone, they had died along with the big houses. He believed that the town had lived through a crisis, but, at that postwar juncture, he was optimistic for its future.

He returned to Orleans County on at least one other occasion – in May 1959 when he spoke in Lyndonville for the benefit of the Yates Community Library. A presentation on his Yarns and Folktales will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Schoolhouse at 3286 Gaines Basin Rd., Albion.