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Albion native was prolific illustrator for Disney

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 30 June 2018 at 6:38 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 26

Henry “Hank” Lyon Porter, a native of Albion, illustrates an insignia for the 108th Observation Squadron during World War Two as his boss, Walt Disney, observes.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in December of 1937, is perhaps one of the most iconic animated cartoons ever produced by Walt Disney. As the first full-length animated cartoon, Snow White is one of Disney’s more recognizable characters even today. So, would you believe that this artistic masterpiece was made possible, in part, thanks to a man from Orleans County?

Henry Lyon Porter was born in 1901 in the Village of Albion to Wells H. Porter, a piano tuner, and Nellie Lyon. Porter spent his early childhood in the vicinity of West and West Bank streets and graduated from Albion High School in 1918. At the age of seven, his mother died of cancer leaving his father to care for him; Ella Jackson, the family’s housekeeper, helped raised Henry and his younger brother Allen. Porter was left-handed, and his artistic talents quickly surfaced as a young man, so it is no surprise that he was an illustrator for the Chevron and illustrated the cover for the 1920 Albion High School Yearbook; the cover shows a distressed graduate contemplating the various paths into the professional world. He was also proficient as a pianist.

After completing his studies at Albion, he left for Chicago where he enrolled at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts. Although his early professional career seems disjointed, he spent some time working for the Knickerbocker Press in Albany as an illustrator and later operated his own commercial artist business in Buffalo for nearly eight years. At some point Porter was given an opportunity to enter the New York School for Walt Disney Animators, which he graduated from in 1936. He quickly picked up and relocated to the Los Angeles studio of Walt Disney to begin his work as an illustrator.

The company was amidst the production of the largest animated undertaking in the history of film to date; Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In earlier years, cartoons were often “shorts” that appeared in advance of longer feature films. Disney pushed the envelope, seeking to further expand the impact of animation. To produce such a film was no small task. Illustrations were produced by hand; thousands upon thousands of cartoon images were drawn by dozens of artists to produce the smooth flow of the film.

Despite his rather “late” arrival on the project, Porter found himself in the middle of production efforts. In a letter he wrote home to his father in December of 1937 and later appeared in local papers, he described the painstaking work that went into the detailed illustrations. In this letter, he encouraged the readers to watch for the scenes that he penned. Where the dwarfs exit the mine with shovels, singing “Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho, it’s home from work we go,” they suddenly stop short and pile up onto one another; Porter was responsible for this scene. He also notes that the scene in which the dwarfs force Grumpy to take a bath in a watering trough was “a loo-loo of a scene, was it tough! I worked six months on it.” He also worked on a scene where Dopey gets soap in his mouth and blows bubbles. Perhaps the most remarkable part of this whole movie was the fact that it took illustrators months to produce these scenes, ultimately requiring three years to produce in full.

A simple Google search of “Hank Porter” reveals pages upon pages of auctions for pencil drawings and paintings produced by Porter over the years. Despite his prolific career with Disney, he was overshadowed by his boss and lost his identity as did many of Disney’s illustrators. What we know of his work was passed down by family and some interesting publications about his work during World War Two. During the war, commanding officers submitted requests for illustrated insignias produced by Disney’s company. In this particular photograph, Walt Disney watches as Porter drafts an emblem for the 108th Observation Squadron, depicting a “sharp-eyed eagle” to be displayed on the squadron’s aircraft. Several of these illustrations along with an image of Porter with Roy Williams appeared in the May 26, 1941 issue of Life magazine.

Porter was one of two Disney artists selected to draft these insignias, all produced at no charge to the U.S. military. Porter quickly became Disney’s most dependable illustrator, his boss often calling him “the one-man art department.” He illustrated hundreds of these insignias that appeared on trucks, tanks, ships, and planes across the world. Even more significant than these contributions are the other notable accomplishments that we are aware of. Porter is credited with the redesign of Donald Duck. It is also believed that Porter was responsible for crafting the iconic “looping D” that adorns Disney’s signature. During the 1930s and 1940s, Porter was one of a few illustrators authorized to reproduce Disney’s signature for autographs. So many of those signatures passed around by Walt Disney were the handiwork of Porter.

Unfortunately, Porter’s career was cut short with his untimely death on October 7, 1951. His body was returned to Albion and was interred at Mt. Albion Cemetery.

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Cobblestone Museum will host Historic Trades Fair on Saturday, Patriotic Service on Sunday

File photos by Tom Rivers: Bill Ott of Lockport ran the blacksmith shop during the Historic Trade Fair lastAugust at the Cobblestone Museum. Ott is a member of the New York State Designer Blacksmith Group.

Staff Reports Posted 26 June 2018 at 10:45 am

CHILDS – The Cobblestone Museum will be hosting two events this weekend at the museum, a National Historic Landmark at 14389 Ridge Rd.

The Historic Trades Fair will be from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and features many heritage artists plying their 19th century trades.

There will be blacksmithing, printing, spinning, butter churning, tatting, basket weaving, plein air painting, woodworking, Civil War re-enactors, fiddlers and an antique clock repair and maintenance expert.

The Cobblestone Society then on Sunday will welcome the Pullman Memorial Universalist Church and the Gaines Congregational United Church of Christ for the annual patriotic service, which starts at 11 a.m. at the Cobblestone Church.  The church was built in 1834 and is the oldest cobblestone church in North America.

There were several American flags out last July for the Patriotic Service at the Cobblestone Church.

Soloists Maarit Vaga and Matilda Erakare will be singing and leading several patriotic songs. Born in Tampere, Finland, Vaga studied at the Juilliard School of Music under the tutelage of Maestro Vincent La Selva, director of the New York Grand Opera at Carnegie Hall. Vaga has appeared in several operas, including Madame Butterfly, Sister Angelica, La Boheme, and Rigoletto. Vaga’s performances and concerts earned her the 2002-2003 Finlandia Foundation’s Performer of the Year award.

Her daughter Matilda Erakare was born in Everett, WA and is the youngest in a family of musicians. She started piano lessons at 4 and soon added cello lessons, first with Jonathan Jaeger and then at the Eastman Community School of Music with Diego Garcia. In addition to music lessons, Matilda honed her skills as a dancer-singer-actor or “triple threat” in Broadway parlance, and has appeared in numerous Albion High School musicals. When not playing a leading role on stage, she participated in the pit orchestra and was a member of the Albion Purple Eagle’s Marching Band Drum Corps, playing the quads.

She frequently performs with her guitarist father, Jan-Mikael Erakare, at various events around western NY. Matilda will be finishing Genesee Community College this fall and is planning on continuing her studies in photography.

This free service is open to the public and will include patriotic readings which will be both historic and uplifting, as promised by Lay Leader Darrell Dyke of the Pullman Memorial Church. A free-will offering will be collected to benefit the Cobblestone Society. Parking is located behind the church.

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Bicentennial provides opportunity to celebrate the extraordinary – and the ordinary

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 23 June 2018 at 8:00 am

L-R: George Henry Ballard, Robert George Ballard, Frances A. Ballard, Mary Simpson sitting on front steps of the family home on Culver Road.

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 25

BARRE – The passing of a bicentennial is a once in a lifetime experience, a milestone that brings with it an aura of prestige and pride. For younger generations, we did not have the opportunity to experience the excitement that came with the passing of the national bicentennial in 1976, but we can look forward to other significant milestones looming on the horizon; the Orleans County Bicentennial in particular.

As we celebrate the Erie Canal Bicentennial (2017-2025), the towns of Shelby and Barre are celebrating 200 years of their “independence” from the towns of Ridgeway and Gaines, respectively (and tongue-in-cheek, of course). The Town of Barre will celebrate this milestone June 29th-July 1st with plenty of festivities aimed at drawing upon the town’s rich history, rooted strongly in the Village of Albion as well.

Bicentennial celebrations are an opportunity to draw communities together, at a time when we are perhaps not as close-knit as past generations may have recalled. It is also a time to reflect on the contributions of the “common folk,” scattered throughout the countryside, those who plowed their fields, raised their families, and made a modest living without recognition.

I often cite the writings of Arad Thomas and Isaac Signor who gave us the most complete written histories of Orleans County, however, these works forget a large portion of our community. Those who lived on modest farms or made their living off of trades often found themselves forgotten from these published histories; the poor, women, African Americans, and immigrants. So, these celebrations, those that come every once in a great while, are an opportunity to build upon our histories, a chance to capture a snapshot of life as we are experiencing it now; a time to pen an autobiography, write a journal, compile your genealogy, or record an oral history.

As I thought about my article for this week, my mind crossed Thomas Cushing of Barre, a physician who gave up the practice of medicine in favor of studying history and philosophy. His contributions to our understanding of local history often went unpublished and therefore are overlooked. I thought again about my own family and my mind rested upon my grandfather, Robert George Ballard, who was born in Barre on September 11, 1928 to George Henry and Frances Bowen Ballard. Several years prior, George purchased the family “homestead” on Culver Road from Lancelot Harling and brought his wife and daughters to the area from Niagara Falls. Robert spent the majority of his early life in Orleans County, minus a short stay in Florida in 1929 while his father sought work as a cooper.

As a young man, life for Robert was far from easy. His father found it difficult at times to make a living with a trade that was often seasonal in nature. When the Great Depression hit on October 29, 1929, George was out of work and found himself seeking odd jobs to make ends meet. He found work with a neighboring farmer in Barre making barely enough to support himself let alone his wife and children. When he pleaded for food from the farm to help feed the children, he refused. During an oral history I conducted with my great aunt in 2010, she remarked “…the bastard wouldn’t give us the sweat off his brow.”

The children attended school but were unable to graduate from high school. Robert’s sister Doris recalled nearing the end of her schooling but was forced to drop out a year early because the family could not afford new books. When Robert was nine, his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. George was working for Duffy Mott in Hamlin at the time, driving the family car to and from work each day. His inability to miss work due to the family’s financial need forced Frances to take a bus each week to Roswell Park in Buffalo to receive cancer treatments.

Leaving early in the week, Doris would remain in the city until she regained enough energy to make the bus ride back to Albion where George would pick her up. Doris, who was married and living south of the swamp on Culver Road, would trek to the homestead to care for her brother while her father was at work. She recalled her fatigued mother sleeping in a room converted into a small bedroom at the front of the house, vividly remembering her mother’s radiation burns and scars. When doctors urged Frances to undergo a double mastectomy to combat the cancer, she vehemently refused. She lost her battle with cancer on February 10, 1944, one day after her 46th birthday. She left her husband, two daughters, and 15-year-old son to mourn her loss; Robert had dropped out of school shortly before her passing.

These stories, although sometimes inconsequential on the surface, tell us a great deal about ourselves and our ancestors. They tell us far more about a community than the tomes of published histories and are worthy of our preservation. So as our community continues to celebrate these monumental occasions, take some time to recall the reasons why we are afforded this opportunity. Make every effort to preserve your own history!

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Bogues dedicated estate to caring for children of Orleans County

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 16 June 2018 at 7:54 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 24

Alice McIntyre Bogue and Virgil Bogue

ALBION – Ninety-five years ago, the Virgil Bogue Home for Dependent Children opened its doors to young children in need of a home due to the “loss of their parents or the inability of their parents to support them.”

In the years leading up to the establishment of the Bogue Home, as described within the “Bogue and Allie Families” genealogy published in 1944, children in public orphanages were often adopted out, their parents unable to learn of their whereabouts until reaching the age of 21. It was the vision of the Bogues to change that and provide care for children until conditions or circumstances changed, allowing the family to reunite.

Virgil Bogue was born on June 25, 1851 at Elba, New York to Dan Harris Bogue and Lucy Maria Turner. One of seven children born to the couple, he attended local schools in Elba and later enrolled at the Cary Collegiate Seminary in Oakfield and the LeRoy Academy until reaching adulthood. At the time, Elba was known as Pine Hill and a local businessman named Elias Pettibone operated a small nursery in the area. Charles Bogue, Virgil’s older brother, was taught the art of tree grafting by Mr. Pettibone and later shared this skill with his younger siblings.

In 1875, Virgil opened his own nursery at Albion with stock grown from his brothers’ nurseries and in the following year on January 27, 1876, he married Alice McIntyre, a local girl from Elba. According to historian Cary Lattin, at the peak of his business along with the nurseries of his brothers “…would have made the largest nursery in the world.”

For one reason or another, the Bogues did not have any children of their own. According to Lattin, “It has been said that in his younger years Mr. Bogue was not fond of children and was frequently cross with small trespassers who attempted short-cuts across his property.” At some point in time, he had a change of heart. Virgil and Alice believed that there should be an institution for the purpose of caring for children whose parents had passed away or fallen on hard times; should circumstances change, every effort should be made to reunite the children with their family.

This vision was entered into the will of Mrs. Bogue on January 16, 1909, that “…as soon as possible after my death, unless such corporation shall have been already organized, to cause to be organized, under the Membership Corporation Law, in the State of New York, a corporation for the care and maintenance of children under twelve years of age residing in the County of Orleans who are in need of a home by reason of the loss of parents to support them, such corporation to be known as, The Virgil Bogue Home for Dependent Children.” It is interesting to note that Alice added the stipulation for the institution to be named for her husband.

The organization was to consist of nine individuals, including Virgil Bogue, Isaac S. Signor, Charles Bidelman, Albert C. Burrows, Rollin A. Flagg, Walker Hannington, J. Sawyer Fitch, Burton Reed, and Lafayette H. Beach, who would serve as directors. In her final direction, Alice indicates that should the organization not be established, the residual of her estate should go to the Town of Elba to support the schools. Following Alice’s death May 12, 1911, incorporation papers were drafted just five months later on October 11, 1911. Virgil held regular meetings of the Board of Directors until his death on October 6, 1922. His will set forth the stipulations for investing his estate, allowing the organization to draw from the interest of investments to operate the Home.

Initial plans to open the Bogue Home involved the use of Bogue’s orchard on Clarendon Road in Albion, but the Board of Directors felt that it was disadvantageous to remove the Home from the boundaries of the village where it had access to the municipal water and sewage systems. Instead, the Bogue property on the northwest corner of Clarendon Street and East Avenue was selected as the site for the Home; all of the family’s furnishings remained in the home when it opened on November 1, 1923.

Mrs. Martha Howard, mother of Charles W. Howard, was selected as the first matron of the Home; Mrs. Ada Dawson was selected to assist her. The Bogue Home quickly became a valuable resource for families who had fallen on hard times, housing anywhere from two to twelve children at a given time for over twenty years. On March 8, 1946, Mrs. Howard resigned her position as matron due to illness and the directors voted to cease operations effective March 15, 1946. Six months later, Margaret McCabe was hired to fill the vacancy left by Howard and the Home reopened its doors for three more years until a lack of funds forced the directors to shut down, yet again, on October 1, 1949. Due to the language within Virgil Bogue’s will, the corporation was handcuffed to the amount of funds it could invest. By the 1940s, the amount of interest gained from securities and bonds was no longer sufficient to support the operation of the institution.

Around 1963, it was determined that there was little need for this type of home as the State preferred to send children to foster or boarding homes. As a result, the Bogue Home for Dependent Children changed its name to the Bogue Fund for Dependent Children, sold the Bogue Home, and voted to turn over its income to the Child Welfare Association of Orleans County. Over the years, the organization continues to support scholarships and other endeavors in line with the intentions first set forth by Virgil and Alice Bogue over 100 years ago. In 2016, the Bogue Fund deposited a collection of records relating to the foundation of the corporation, which are now accessible to researchers in the County Department of History.

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Sacred Heart of Jesus served Medina’s Polish community for nearly 100 years

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 9 June 2018 at 6:53 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 23

MEDINA – Shortly after starting my tenure as County Historian in 2015, I wrote a short piece about a photograph of Sacred Heart Church given to me by Mary Ann Tillman of Albion. I stumbled upon the photograph again this week and thought that perhaps my initial article on the subject was rather short, lacking a more detailed account of the earliest years of the parish.

In the early 1970s, Helen Allen compiled a thorough record of historical accounts from various churches throughout Orleans County. She notes that Medina’s first Polish settlers came to the area in the early 1880s in search of work within the area’s sandstone quarries and factories. Facing language and cultural barriers, the growing community lacked a space for meeting their spiritual needs so local Poles attended St. Mary’s Church until a priest was available to say Mass in their own language.

Ks. Stanislaus Bubacz (Ks. or Ksiądz, meaning priest or clergyman), then the rector of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Albion, recognized the need for Polish communicants to practice in their own language and organized a Mission at Medina. According to Medina Historian Cecilia White, Bubacz visited Medina every Sunday and “conducted services in a Commercial Street residence owned by Wincenty Wysocki.” The community was encouraged to appeal to Bishop Charles Colton to establish a parish for the congregation.

On February 1, 1910, Bishop Colton appointed Ks. Tomasz Gwodz as the first resident priest and tasked him with establishing the parish and constructing a church. Construction of the wood frame structure began in the spring of 1910 and finished during the summer of the same year. On August 7, 1910, at 9 o’clock in the morning, Mass was celebrated in the new building and High Mass celebrated at 11 o’clock. In October of 1910, Msgr. Nelson Baker, who attended in place of Bishop Colton, formally dedicated the church. K.S. Jan Pitass of Buffalo, the father of Buffalo’s Polish community, celebrated the Mass following the dedication ceremonies. Ks. Wojcik, Ks. Burtkowski, Ks. Bubacz, Ks. Gwodz, Rev. O’Brien, and Rev. Malloy were also present.

The choir from Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Albion sang the Mass and the men from the St. Joseph and St. Stanislaus Societies participated in the program. A large delegation of men, accompanied by two bands, escorted the officiating clergy to the church where hundreds of people crammed into the new edifice. Those who were unable to secure a seat in the church participated in the service from the front lawn of the property.

Ks. Adalbert Cichy arrived in 1912 to replace Ks. Gwodz, the former initiating a two-week Mission over Christmas and the New Year to “raise the spiritual and moral standards of his parishioners.” In 1925, Ks. Charles Mioduszewski petitioned the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph to establish a parochial school for the young congregants of the parish. The parish purchased a convent and constructed a schoolhouse prior to the arrival of the Sisters in December of 1925 and school commenced on January 2, 1926 with 62 pupils taught by two Sisters. It was during this time that parishioners recognized the need to improve their house of worship and bricked over the church edifice, the rectory, and the school. Roofs were replaced, new heating systems, plumbing, and lighting were added and the parish debt continued to grow. As a result, the congregation made few improvements until 1975 under the pastorate of Rev. Msgr. Marcinkiewicz when he initiated the repair of bricks, replacement of roofs, and repainting of the buildings.

Unfortunately, an arsonist destroyed the sanctuary of the church in 1981, requiring nearly two years of remodeling. In 2008, the Diocese of Buffalo closed the church and merged the parish with St. Mary’s of Medina and St. Stephen’s of Middleport to create Holy Trinity Parish as part of the Diocese’s Journey in Faith and Grace program.

This particular photograph shows the original church edifice of Sacred Heart of Jesus R.C. Church in Medina, located at the corner of Ann and High Streets. The children of the parish are gathering on the front steps of the church and the appearance of white dresses suggests that it was a First Holy Communion celebration. It appears as though the priest is standing on the porch of the house, which served as his living quarters.

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Rural cemeteries deserve our attention, too

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 2 June 2018 at 8:28 am

Photo by Matthew Ballard: Grave of William & Ruth Tanner – Tanner Cemetery, Albion, New York

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 22

I spent some time over Memorial Day weekend photographing historic markers and cemeteries as part of an ongoing inventory project I am working on. I was amazed at the beauty of our little burial grounds scattered throughout the county; there is definitely something to be said about the peacefulness of eternal rest and the aura that exists within the cemeteries.

Unfortunately, over the years many of our rural cemeteries have fallen victim to Mother Nature, or worse, vandals. In 2006, two cemeteries in Clarendon were attacked by mischievous kids who knocked over stones and smashed others with sledgehammers. In 2012, vandals were active at Beechwood Cemetery in Kendall, tipping over several dozen stones. A lack of respect and appreciation for our past often fuels this type of behavior.

I have received a number of inquiries over the past several months about some of the smaller cemeteries in our area including the Billings Farm Cemetery on Baker Road in Carlton and the Long Farm Cemetery on Rt. 31 in Albion near Transit Road. In the case of the latter, many of the graves are marked by fieldstones and masked by overgrowth and thickets. The question I most often hear is “why?” Why are these cemeteries allowed to fall into a state of disrepair? Time, money, and no descendants are often the reasons, but are these smaller grounds not just as important as our larger cemeteries?

I stumbled across an article written by Bill Lattin a number of years ago, an article drawn from one written by his father Cary Lattin in relation to the old Annis Cemetery on Rich’s Corners Road in Albion. In 1907, Sophia Harling Lattin visited the cemetery where her grandparents were buried, only to find that the grounds were overgrown with briars, locust, and myrtle. She found the condition to be quite shameful, overcome by disappointment that sacred ground should be allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair. Refusing to be deterred, she trudged through the thicket and gathered the names of the deceased from the tombstones in order to assemble a battalion of workers to clear the dense brush.

Upon the completion of this herculean task, the Town of Albion was encouraged to mow the cemetery from that point forward. Lattin paid $10 to have a wrought-iron gate and posts installed at the front of the cemetery, which still stands with a small wooden placard that reads “Annis Cemetery” (albeit in poor condition). Within this cemetery stands a small monument to the memory of Jonathan Rich, a member of Capt. Ebenezer Mason’s Company of Minute Men who responded to the Lexington Alarm on April 19, 1775; the quintessential Patriot.

Another example of community-driven efforts to resurrect the sacred space of our rural cemeteries is Tanner Cemetery, situated across the road from Mount Albion Cemetery. I am often asked about the origins of this particular burial ground given its close proximity to the much larger municipal cemetery. It appears that the cemetery, “established” in 1833 started as early as 1825 with the burial of Ruth Tanner, wife of William Tanner (1751-1831). The couple was interred on the farm owned by their son, Samuel Northrop Tanner, who is buried atop a hill east of the main gate in Mount Albion Cemetery. On numerous occasions, this cemetery became overgrown by weeds, vines, and small trees and on each occasion was cleared by volunteers. Over the years, stones were knocked over and broken with the occasional passerby leaning the stray markers against trees. Small unmarked rocks are situated throughout the burial ground, likely marking the graves of those who could not afford an etched stone.

Records indicate that William Tanner was paid 9 pounds in March of 1781 for service as a private with the 9th Regiment of Foot, U.S. Service with Col. Crary commanding. Those same records indicate that he was wounded during his service and carried a scar for the remainder of his life. Also buried on this site is Sgt. Jedidiah Phelps, a member of the Connecticut Militia and silversmith by trade. After his relocation to Barre in 1819 (then part of Genesee County), he played an active role in establishing the First Presbyterian Church at Albion.

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Orleans County built Soldiers & Sailors Monument to honor local Civil War sacrifice

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 26 May 2018 at 9:03 am

Community rallied again in 1970s to preserve ‘The Tower’

‘Overlooked Orleans’ – Volume 4, Issue 21

Passing through the sandstone arch of Mount Albion Cemetery, one may catch a glimpse of the towering monument atop the highest point in the area. The Soldiers & Sailors Monument is perhaps the most impressive and beautiful war memorials in our area, but the true significance of the shrine is often overshadowed by the novelty and “thrill of the climb” up the winding steel staircase.

There is a commonality between the circumstances surrounding the efforts to erect this monument to the memory of over 450 men who lost their lives during the Civil War and the war itself. In the face of grave sacrifice, a community struggled to memorialize the hundreds of young men, sons, brothers, and fathers, who left the security of home for ideals far greater than themselves.

Efforts to construct a county-wide memorial were initiated in 1864, but the association struggled to raise the necessary funds to complete the project. In 1868, the Orleans County Monument Association was established with Ezra T. Coann, H. J. Van Dusen, E. K. Hart, Joseph Cornell, Calvin Beach, John N. Proctor, Charles A. Harrington, John Hull White, Walker Mattison, Seth Spencer, Henry A. King, and Hiram Sickels as directors. Fundraising was slow, but the group was persistent in their labors. By 1874, the organization had raised $3,000 and construction began soon after with an additional $2,000 from the Cemetery Association. On July 4, 1876, as the nation celebrated its centennial, Orleans County dedicated the newly completed Soldiers & Sailors Monument.

“The Tower” remained a permanent fixture on Albion’s horizon and over the years became a destination for local youth, with varying intentions, who trekked to the top. Time chipped away at the monument and by the 1970s was in significant need of tender care and attention. The Orleans County Historical Monument Corporation, with involvement from notable local residents including C. W. Lattin, Harold Breuilly, and Donna Rodden, shouldered the burden of raising the necessary funds to restore the local landmark. With over $20,000 raised, the tower was repaired and rededicated on July 4, 1976; the centennial of the monument and bicentennial of the nation.

On two separate occasions, the community labored tirelessly to preserve the memory of local soldiers. Although erected to memorialize those who sacrificed their lives during the Civil War, perhaps the tower is more a monument to the perseverance of a community; a community that values the preservation and understanding of the past. With a monument that is 142 years old and a cemetery celebrating 175 years, we are fortunate to have such breathtaking landmarks scattered throughout our area.

It may be fitting to share a few brief notes of interest pertaining to Civil War veterans from Orleans County. Thousands of men would enter into service with the Union Army, some would never return, yet many would return with permanent physical and mental scars from the horrors of battle.

• Jennie Curtis of Albion traveled to Washington, D.C. following the Battle of Bull Run to care for her brother who was reported as seriously wounded. On one occasion, she dared to venture out on horseback to determine the location of Confederate lines when she was taken prisoner and accused of being a spy. She was eventually released and spent time caring for sick and wounded soldiers.

• Lt. Col. Rufus B. Bullock of Albion traveled south to Augusta, Georgia to work with the Southern Express Company. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he accepted a commission as lieutenant colonel with the responsibility of overseeing telegraph, railroad, and freight interests in Georgia. At the conclusion of the war, he was elected as governor of Georgia in 1868.

• Maj. Thomas Bell, 8th N.Y. Cavalry – developing a fondness early on in life for theater, Bell allegedly spent two years with Edwin Booth’s company in Alabama before engaging in the foundry business at Albion. After the war, he introduced an article into U.S. law giving veterans preference in civil service appointments.

• Pvt. Otis McOmber, 76th N.Y. Infantry – Carlton native enlisted in 1863 and was mustered into service with the “Cortland Regiment.” At the Battle of the Wilderness, his unit was surrounded by Confederates and taken prisoner. He spent over 11 months at Andersonville Prison where he survived by bribing Confederate soldiers with money sewn into the breast pocket of his coat. His brother Charles was killed at Fredericksburg and brother Lorenzo died during service with the 17th N.Y. Light Independent Artillery.

• Pvt. Herbert Taylor, 140th N.Y. Infantry – Clarendon native Herbert Taylor was with his regiment at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863 and repulsed the attack on Little Round Top. Making the ultimate sacrifice, he is believed to be the only Orleans County native to have died at Gettysburg.

• Pvt. Isaac Hawkins, 54th Massachusetts Infantry – Medina resident Isaac Hawkins enlisted with the all African-American regiment once headed by Col. Robert Gould Shaw and made famous by the 1989 film “Glory.” Hawkins was captured at the Battle of Olustee in Florida, spending over a year at Andersonville Prison Camp and on one such occasion allegedly received 250 lashes as punishment for an unknown reason.

• Maj. Angelo Paldi, 1st Michigan Cavalry – a native of Italy, Paldi was a respected painter and solider who allegedly served with the French Army in Algeria and Spain before immigrating to America. Serving under Gen. George Custer for a short period of time, it was Paldi’s suggestion to form a regiment of Hussars, or heavy cavalry, modeled after the regiments of Europe. After the war he moved to Albion, his body is interred at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Albion.

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Coopers, who were skilled in making barrels, played essential role in local agriculture

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 19 May 2018 at 7:24 am

Cooperage of Charles Bennett at Eagle Harbor c. 1880

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 20

When reflecting upon the various skills and trades that once existed in this area, it is amazing to see how much society has changed. We no longer rely upon the chair caner, the cobbler, or the blacksmith to produce the items we so easily purchase from the nearby department store. Yet a series of articles in 2015 indicated that the resurging bourbon industry could potentially lead to a barrel shortage and the need for coopers to produce the casks required for storing alcohol, so perhaps not all of these “ancient” trades have disappeared.

The production of barrels was significant to the establishment of Orleans County, not as a direct result of barrel construction but as a byproduct of the need for staves. Arad Thomas mentions the production and shipment of staves on several occasions in his book Pioneer History of Orleans County, New York. His most detailed account relates to James Mather of Gaines, who exchanged needed resources and tools with settlers for staves. The staves were then sent to the mouth of the Oak Orchard or Genesee River and shipped to Montreal where tools and resources were sent in return. Isaac Signor notes the significance of stave production to the development of numerous areas throughout Orleans County, calling attention to a sizable stave manufacturing operation established by Charles Simmonds on Church Street in Medina around 1859.

This particular picture shows a cooperage operated by Charles Bennett sometime around 1880 at Eagle Harbor. Based on information recorded on the reverse of the image, the outfit stood on the south side of the Erie Canal near the bridge. An 1875 map of Eagle Harbor shows a building labeled as C. Bennett & Co. near the south edge of the Canal just east of Eagle Harbor Road, but we also see a cooper shop marked at the end of Midway Road on the north side of the Canal. Standing on the far left is Henry Fountain, with C. Bennett sitting in the left window and Charles Bennett standing fourth from left with what appears to be a book in hand. This would indicate that Charles was in charge of this particular operation as the other men are standing with tools in hand.

One particular point worth drawing attention to is the span of ages present in the photograph. Older men appear alongside boys as an indication of how the trade was carried on over the years. Young men started their work as apprentices and learned the nuances of the profession from the journeymen and master coopers who, for some, had practiced the trade for decades. I often think back to the stories of my Great Grandfather, George Henry Ballard, who worked for Duffy Mott in Hamlin, NY as a barrel cooper. As a young man, he learned the trade by working with his father, Charles Ballard, who in turn had learned the trade from his step-father, Mortimer Clark. For some of the men, the profession was one filled with uncertainty as the ebb and flow of growing seasons could create a dearth of work at times.

Much can be said about the complexities of what seems like a fairly straightforward process, yet the trade of the cooper was one marked by precision and attention to detail. A cooper was not simply a cooper, as some specialized as “white coopers” or those who manufactured churns and pails, others specialized as “slack coopers” who manufactured barrels for dry goods such as grain and flour, and others specialized as “tight coopers” who produced barrels for storing oil, molasses, and alcohol. Each specialty required a familiarity with particular types of wood and processes for preparing the staves for assembly. As an example, the wet cooper produced barrels using staves cut from straight grain green wood, which would bend far easier and was resistant to rotting.

The men at this cooperage were slack coopers, preparing barrels for the shipment of agricultural products such as apples and grains. Perhaps one of the best features of this image is that it showcases the various stages of barrel making, though I would venture a guess and say that was not the intention. First the staves were cut with a drawknife and axe, and then allowed to dry to prevent shrinking after the barrel was assembled. Although some coopers performed this work, many farmers chose to produce staves and sell them to the cooper as a means for reducing the costs associated with purchasing barrels.

The cooper then used a shingle horse or shaving horse to carefully shave appropriate tapers and bevels to each stave. A young man sits near the center on a shaving horse and appears to be working with a stave. A stave with a larger taper resulted in a barrel with a larger bulge in the center, which was far stronger and fit for storing wet goods. The staves were set in a truss hoop at the bottom, as seen by the young boy standing five in from the right, and placed over a blazing fire to allow the staves to bend. The barrel staves were then drawn together using a cooper’s windlass and hoops were hammered into place using a hoop driver. Barrels for storing dry goods were manufactured using birch or cedar hoops as opposed to metal hoops.

After the hoops were set, the cooper trimmed the staves to equal length with a hand adze, the tool that looks like a hammer with a curved end, and the man standing in the center holds a sun plane that was used to smooth out the ends of the staves. A croze was used to cut a groove around the top and bottom of the barrel so that the barrel head could be installed.

The production of barrels was a time consuming process, one that required hours of physical labor and a well-trained eye. The piles of wood shavings strewn across the ground in this image show how much preparation was required before assembly of the barrels. The tattered leather aprons demonstrate the ongoing use of fire to bend and craft the curves within each barrel and the extensive number of men standing in front of the cooperage shows the significance of the barrel to agriculture in Orleans County.

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Debut progressive organ concert and dinner was a sellout

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 May 2018 at 10:17 am

Cobblestone Museum has busy calendar of events

Photos by Tom Rivers: Gary Simboli plays the organ at the First Baptist Church in Albion on Saturday night, the final stop in a progressive organ concert that was also a progressive dinner.

The Cobblestone Society & Museum organized the first time event it was a sellout with 80 participants.

Maarit Vaga, the event organizer, wanted to showcase three historic churches and their pipe organs. Besides the First Baptist Church, the event included stops at Christ Church and the Cobblestone Universalist Church.

The event featured three very different historic pipe organs. Simboli played a 1925 Moller Pipe Organ. The instrument features two separate pipe chambers and pressure driven pneumatic action. Simboli is an award-winning instrumental music teacher at Albion High School.

Simboli was joined by guest soloist, the Reverend Aleka Schmidt who is pastor of the First Baptist Church. She is also a classically trained soprano.

Dessert was served following Simboli’s recital.

Christ Church was the second stop on the progressive event. After the concert, Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum, gives instructions to the crowd about dinner, which was served in the church’s fellowship hall.

Darryl Smith performed on the 1877 Steer & Turner Pipe Organ at Christ Church. This instrument is unique in that it maintains its original mechanical linkage, known as tracker action, between the keyboard and pipes. Smith is the principal organist at Christ Church.

Maarit Vaga prepared a beef bourguignon dinner.

The event started at the Cobblestone Universalist Church, which was built in 1834, making it North America’s oldest cobblestone church. The first stop on the progressive concert included appetizers and wine.

Andrew Meier of Medina played the 1904 Estey Reed Organ. This unusual instrument was built for church performance in Brattleboro, Vermont, and features two full keyboards and a pedal board. Meier is the principal organist at Trinity Lutheran Church in Medina.

The Cobblestone Museum has an expanded schedule of events this year. Next up is Friday at 6 p.m. with a tour of eight outhouses at the museum.

For more on the museum, click here.

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Albion boy attended execution of Lincoln assassination cospirators

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 12 May 2018 at 7:17 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 4, No. 19

John Chamberlain Collins is believed to be the young boy standing, observing bodies of conspirators in Abraham Lincoln’s assassination; image dated July 7, 1865.

Last week’s article featured the story of William Collins of Albion who claimed that he was present with the detachment of cavalrymen from the 16th New York Cavalry responsible for the capture of John Wilkes Booth. Occasionally I receive feedback from readers that pushes me in a particular direction and this week just happens to be one of those occasions. Steven Miller of Illinois, an expert on Boston Corbett, contacted me about John Chamberlain Collins and encouraged me to explore his story. So I thought it would be of interest to share more about the life of John C. Collins.

John Collins was born September 19, 1850 at Albion to Michael and Susan Collins; one of nine children born to the couple. He was raised Roman Catholic, presumably attending St. Joseph’s Church after its establishment, and attended the local schools in the village. At the outbreak of the Civil War, his brother William enlisted with the 28th New York Infantry raised under the command of David Hardie. John was eleven years old and simply too young to even lie about his age to enter the service.

Based on the recollections of John Collins, his brother was home on furlough likely around the time of his father’s death in 1864. It was at this time that John, with some gentle coaxing, traveled to Washington, D.C. to stay with William for a short period of time. A series of unfortunate events involving William, including a battle wound, three-month recovery, and eventual capture by Confederate soldiers, extended John’s stay with the 16th New York Cavalry.

The men of the unit adopted the fourteen-year-old Collins as a sort of “regimental boy” or mascot for the group, cutting a small uniform for him and providing him with a pony that was too small for regular service. Mr. Miller sent me an article that appeared in The Sunday Star, a Washington, D.C. newspaper, on April 12, 1914. In the article, John Collins recalls his presence with the unit, noting that they were stationed just outside of Washington when Lincoln was assassinated. After news reached the regiment, detachments were sent out in search of Booth and Herold, although he is careful to make no mention of his brother William in this particular piece.

The focus of the particular article is his brief relationship with Boston Corbett, the man credited with killing Booth. Collins recalled that Corbett was an eccentric man whose tent was positioned across the street from his in the company town. As a devout Christian, Corbett wore his hair parted in the center because “Jesus did so,” and frequently claimed that he was divinely selected to avenge the death of the “great-hearted President.”

Perhaps the most interesting anecdote pertaining to John Collins relates to the trial and execution of those accused of conspiring to kill Abraham Lincoln with John Wilkes Booth. When Mary Surratt, David Herold, Lewis Powell, and George Atzerodt were set to be executed on July 7, 1865 for their connection to the assassination plot, Collins recalled this particular story about the events:

“Shortly before 2 o’clock the doors leading into the courtyard from the old penitentiary were opened and the procession slowly made its way to the scaffold and up the thirteen steps to seats on the platform. Mrs. Surratt came first, assisted by a guard. Others following were Payne (sic), Herold, and Atzerodt, in the order named, each attended by a guard. Mrs. Surratt moved very slowly and with great difficulty. She seemed to be on the point of collapse…Then all at once they were all standing upon the trap door and the nooses at the ends of the dangling ropes were placed carefully around their necks. Gov. J. F. Hartranft, governor of military prisons, clapped his hands twice and instantly four human beings dropped through the opening…”

Collins could recall this story in such detail because he was present to witness the executions. As he described, he pressed his way through the lines of soldiers until reaching the front. His presence was likely permitted due to his uniform and was believed to be the youngest witness to the execution. This photograph shows the aftermath of the event, two soldiers stand on the front left corner of the gallows with rifles over their shoulders. One man appears to be looking to his left towards the young boy standing with a forage cap atop his head and sack strung over his shoulder. He appears to gaze with interest at the bodies hanging from the ropes, those individuals accused of conspiring to assassinate the President of the United States.

Steven Miller believes that this young man was, in fact, John C. Collins. As noted by Barry Cauchon, at least one researcher believes this to be a boy around the age of 8-10, meaning it is not Collins. Cauchon notes that Alfred Gibson, Gov. Hartranft’s 16-year-old assistant, was also present for the execution. One might ask how a 16-year-old might look more like an 8-10 year old than a 14-year old. The point is that the list of known boys present at the execution contains two names; Collins and Gibson.

After the war, John Collins attended Brockport Normal School (now SUNY Brockport) and eventually graduated from Yale University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1875. After the conclusion of his studies, he enrolled in Yale’s School of Religion and graduated in 1878 with a Bachelor of Divinity degree. More remarkable than his presence at the execution of Surratt, Herold, Powell, and Atzerodt was his life after the war. He took an interest in Christian social work and assumed leadership of the New Haven, Connecticut Boys’ Club in 1884, growing the membership of the organization considerably over a three-year period. By 1891, his work was responsible for growing the organization’s oversight to more than 13,000 boys. Although he was not responsible for establishing the organization, the Rev. John C. Collins expanded the reach of what we now know as the Boys & Girls Club of America.

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