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Courthouse dome appeared golden until repainted silver in 1948

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 13 April 2019 at 7:17 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 14

ALBION – This photograph, taken after 1903, shows Orleans County Courthouse and Clerk’s Office located in Albion. Readers will notice a diagonal sidewalk running from the front steps of the courthouse to East State Street and a number of beaten footpaths through the front lawn. The photograph is dated post-1903 because the sandstone jailhouse is visible to the left of the courthouse. Also visible in the photograph is a tall flagpole extending from the cupola atop the dome.

According to Isaac Signor, the building was constructed at a cost of $20,000 under the supervision of Lyman Bates, Charles Baker, and Henry A. King. The county contracted William V. N. Barlow of Albion to design the courthouse. Born in Madison County in 1810, Barlow moved to Albion in 1833 and launched his career with the development of Albion’s most significant buildings. The presence of the cupola on the courthouse was a signature of Barlow’s designs, which earned him the nickname “High-Rickety” Barlow.

A 1979 Building/Structure Inventory Form completed by County Historian Cary Lattin for the New York State Historic Trust described the building as follows:

“Notable exterior features include a magnificent octagon dome and cupola. The dome being composed of 88 individual rafters. The columns of the Ionic order display hand carved and sawed capitols. The front entrance remains as a superb example of Greek Revival detailing. A beholder can easily be awe inspired by the beautiful proportions, symmetry, dignity and symbolism that pervades and pulsated from this masterpiece. It measures 50’ x 55’ and has a balcony in the read. The judge’s bench, clerk’s desk, dividing balustrades and rising seats are all original. Corinthian pilasters supporting a full Greek entablature are plaster, above which is a bi-level ceiling with more plaster moldings and ornamentation coming to a climax with a decorative ventilator. From this is suspended a single electrolier created in 1928 to blend with all the architectural details.”

The most iconic feature of this landmark building is its beautiful silver dome. Yet most residents would be surprised to read that this color scheme is not native to the structure. According to a newspaper article published July 22, 1929, the Board of Supervisors hired John “Jack” Finn of Albion, a local steeplejack, to complete work on the dome. The article noted that Finn applied a coat of blue lead (to seal the metal) followed by a coat of yellow paint. Once the yellow was sufficiently cured, Finn applied a layer of gold enamel paint. According to early descriptions, the dome was “gilded,” or covered with a thin coating of gold paint or gold leaf. According to Cary Lattin, the dome remained this color until 1948, when the dome was repainted with the signature silver color.

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Daughter of Union officer became namesake of 8th N.Y. Heavy Artillery

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 6 April 2019 at 6:59 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 14

Capt. George A. Hoyt, Company C, 8th N.Y. Heavy Artillery

This studio photograph, taken circa 1863, shows Capt. George A. Hoyt wearing a Union frock coat and holding a pair of gloves. Placed on the chair to the left is a kepi with crossed artillery pieces, signifying his service with the 8th New York Heavy Artillery.

Born in 1830/1 at Dansville, New York, Hoyt came to Gaines in 1855, marrying Julia McOmber and quickly becoming a well-respected harness maker. In August of 1862, he received a commission as a lieutenant with the 129th New York Infantry which was later converted into an artillery regiment.

Sgt. Thomas Jasper Dean of Company I wrote home to his mother at Byron on June 23, 1864, following the regiment’s engagement with Confederate troops in advance of Petersburg:

“Directly South of Petersburg about 4 miles behind breastworks we took last night ben skirmish fighting all day. Dear Mother & All Friends whom this may interest…Our company lost in Wounded yesterday but 7 perhaps more but think not. They have not all come in yet. We cant tell precisely. the Rebels are charging there position in front of us. they appear to be massing there troops for a charge on our works. Col Bates was wounded last night besides quite a number of other officers killed and wounded…I led the company into the charge last night. Our men has been marched much there spirits are verry low…” (sic)

The following day, Pvt. James Sherman of Company G wrote home:

“Since I wrote you last the regt has been in another of those terrible charges. We did not lose many men but we lost one of the bravest that ever drew a sword & that was Lieut. Col. Bates. He fell while leading the men within four rods of the enemies breastworks shot through the bowels…There was no officer left to command our company the Capt being in command of the second Batallion & all the sergeants being absent or wounded…” (sic)

According to Maj. Erastus Spaulding, after the charge described by Dean and Sherman, the unit held their position within several yards of the enemy position and “entrenched in the night under severe picket-fire.” The following morning, the enemy had abandoned the position thus allowing the 8th N.Y.H.A. to occupy the works until that evening when the unit “withdrew a distance of a mile…”

At some point during the advance on June 22, 1864, Capt. George Hoyt suffered a gun shot wound. Some records indicate a wound to one of his legs while others indicate a wound to his ankle. He was tended to by the regimental surgeon and sent home to recuperate. During his furlough, Dr. William McKennan of Albion tended to Hoyt until his untimely death on July 5, 1864. According to McKennan, Hoyt suffered “traumatic tetanus induced by [a] gun shot wound of the leg,” his death was caused by lockjaw.

A widow’s pension application filed by Julia Hoyt, a 32-year-old mother of three, illustrates the hardships suffered by so many women as a result of the ravages of war. Her oldest daughter, Marilla, had just celebrated her sixth birthday before her father was sent home to recover. The youngest daughter, Octavia Artilla, was just shy of 18 months.

Julia Hoyt never remarried, her financial support derived solely from her widow’s pension which she carried up until her death on February 2, 1917. Among the affidavits and other documents is a letter penned by Octavia Hoyt Mather, her mother’s “only living heir,” requesting money to pay for her mother’s burial; $12.00 to pay for Dr. William Burbank’s bill, $102.00 for an undertaker, and $6.00 to Mt. Albion for burial.

In the years after the war, Octavia Mather attended regimental reunions in place of her father. George Hoyt had already left for war when she was born and according to several accounts, she became “the daughter of the regiment.” It was said that when Hoyt received word of his child’s arrival, he asked Col. Peter Porter “what shall I name my baby daughter?” Porter responded, “Why name her after our regiment, Octavia Artilli 8th heavy artillery.”

The Hoag Library and Orleans County Historical Association are co-sponsoring a Civil War Series in April, featuring a program entitled “When Did the Civil War End?” with Dr. John Daly of SUNY College at Brockport on April 16 at 12 p.m. I will present a program entitled “The Legacy of Rufus Bullock: Racial Liberalism and Reconstruction” on April 30 at 6 p.m. A number of other programs will take place throughout the month.

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5 ‘Heritage Heroes’ in Orleans County will be recognized

Photos by Tom Rivers: Tom Taber is pictured at the Civil War section of Mount Albion Cemetery. He has written two books highlighting the community’s ties to the Civil War.

Posted 3 April 2019 at 11:11 am

Awards ceremony will be April 26 at GCC’s Medina Campus Center

Press Release, Genesee Community College

MEDINA – The Orleans County Heritage Heroes Awards recognize the work and dedication of those who give their time and resources to preserve and protect the history of Orleans County for future generations.

The Heritage Heroes Awards will be bestowed upon the 2019 winners at a special ceremony on Friday, April 26, at 7 p.m. at Genesee Community College’s Medina Campus Center in Medina. The awards are co-sponsored by SUNY GCC and the Orleans Hub. The entire community is invited to come and help honor these important individuals.

The 2019 Orleans County Heritage Heroes are:

• Tom Taber – Taber, an Albion resident, has devoted many years to chronicling local connections to the Civil War.

In 2003 he completed his first book, “Hard Breathing Days-The Civil War Letters of Cora Beach Benton.” Taber transcribed, edited and researched 160 Civil War period letters of historical and genealogical interest from the Orleans County wife of a soldier. He followed that effort in 2012 with a 320-page book, “Orleans Battery – A History of the 17th New York Light Artillery in the War of Rebellion.” The book details the service of 240 men from Orleans County who served in the war. Taber worked dutifully for 15 years to track down stories about Orleans County men who fought in the war. He feels like he has adopted the soldiers from the 17th, many of whom returned from the war and led distinguished lives.

Harriette Greaser is pictured in July 2015 with the staircase made of golden oak at her historic home across from the Orleans County Courthouse. She and her late husband Phil lovingly brought the house back to its original grandeur.

Harriette Greaser – Harriette Greaser and her late husband Philip restored two grand homes in Orleans County, including a prominent house in Albion’s historic Courthouse Square, earning them the Landmark Society of Western New York Historic Home award in 2002. That house was built in 1893 at the corner of East State and Platt streets as the manse for the First Presbyterian Church in Albion. It had been the church manse, the home for the pastor, since the house was built in 1893. The house was designed by acclaimed Rochester architect Andrew Jackson Warner, and was constructed in the Queen Anne style. The house was in rough shape when the Greasers bought it, and they completely transformed it, scraping away old paint, bringing back original woodwork, planting trees, hedges and a big garden of flowers and vegetables. In addition to her restoration efforts, Mrs. Greaser has been the organist for Holy Family Parish/St. Joseph’s Catholic Church since 1987.

Lynne Menz receives a special recognition award during the Orleans County Heritage Festival on Sept. 8, 2017. Derek Maxfield, one of the festival coordinators, presents Menz, one of the festival coordinators, with the award for her efforts in promoting the county’s historic assets.

• Lynne Menz – Lynne Menz is a strong supporter of making historical artifacts and local heritage preservation an attractive destination for young and old in Orleans County. Her direct assistance with GCC’s Civil War Initiative (2013 – 2015) and her leadership on the event committee for the Orleans County Heritage Festival (2017-2018) were instrumental in highlighting the noteworthy history of Orleans county people, places and things. In 2018, Lynne orchestrated the screening of “Pieced Together” – the first film documentary about the American quilt square trail movement – at Kendall High School which featured filmmaker Julianne Donofrio and Orleans County Barn Quilt Trail organizer Lora Partyka. Her recent efforts are culminating in a labor of love started by her father, Bill Menz, to honor Orleans veterans who mustered to go to war through the Medina Armory (now the YMCA) with the installation and dedication of a seven-foot bronze World War I soldier on the grounds of the YMCA this fall.

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Todd Bensley, Village of Medina historian and member of the Boxwood Cemetery Commission, stands in the veterans’ section of Boxwood Cemetery. Bensley last year published a 314-page book about the cemetery.

• Todd Bensley (Receiving the Bill Lattin Municipal Historian Award) – Bensley has worked as the Medina village historian since 2004. Prior to that he was president of the Medina Historical Society. He has led numerous historical tours of Medina, engaged students in local history and written a book about the community’s historic cemetery. Through his role as a teacher at Medina High School, Todd leads student and new teacher tours of Medina and assists his students with a local history project each year. He teamed up with the Medina Sandstone Society to establish the John Ryan School of Historical Excellence in 2015. In 2014, he worked with the State Historic Preservation Office to designate Boxwood Cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places. That effort led to more research on the cemetery, which culminated with his book, “Boxwood Cemetery: Where the Past is Present.” Proceeds from the book are donated to Friends of Boxwood Cemetery.

Neil Johnson signs a copy of a booklet he put together about the history of the fair. He is pictured on July 24, 2017 at the fair in Knowlesville. For about a half century he also has helped lead a 4-H club for rabbit raisers.

• Neil Johnson (Receiving the Bob Waters Lifetime Achievement Award) – Johnson has been the Albion village historian since 1980. He wrote a weekly column, “Albion, Oh Albion,” in the Albion Advertiser for 26 years, compiling more than 1,300 columns about village history, often highlighting regular folks in the community. He has written books about the history of Swan Library and the Orleans County 4-H Fair. He teamed with historian Bill Lattin to do an inventory of all the historical markers in the county. They are included in a book in 2001. Johnson was critical to the effort in 2000 for the establishment of a monument at Mount Albion Cemetery for at least 50 pioneer black residents in the county. Neil also has been honored by the Cornell Cooperative Extension with the Legacy Award for serving as a 4-H leader for a rabbit club for more than 40 years. Johnson worked as an archeologist and taught anthropology at The SUNY College at Brockport. He continues to do monthly lectures – “Take a Bite Out Of History” – about local history.

The keynote speaker for the awards ceremony will be Dr. Rozenn Bailleul-LeSuer. Dr. Bailleul-LeSuer is currently the historian of the Western Monroe Historical Society, whose headquarters are at the Morgan-Manning House in Brockport. However, she is first and foremost an Egyptologist and she continues her research on birds in ancient Egypt. To get a better understanding of the various ways that birds were incorporated into the daily life of ancient Egyptians, she especially studies the bird mummies now held in museum collections. In 2012-13, she was guest curator of the Oriental Institute Museum special exhibit entitled “Between Heaven and Earth: Birds in Ancient Egypt.” She is now working on the publication of a monograph entitled “From Marshes to Farmyard: Aviculture and Poultry Husbandry in Pharaonic Egypt.”

The award ceremony on April 26 will be held in GCC’s Medina Campus Center, located at 11470 Maple Ridge Rd. The event is free to attend and open to the public, but seating is limited. A reception will follow the ceremony featuring light refreshments.

For more information on the awards or the ceremony, contact Jim Simon at or Prof. Derek Maxfield at or by calling the Medina Campus Center at 585-798-1688.

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Civil War flag will be displayed at Albion library for special programs this month

Photo by Tom Rivers: Hoag Library this month will display this flag from an African-American unit that fought in the Civil War. The flag has 35 stars. That’s how many stars were on the flag for two years from 1863 to 1865.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2019 at 9:42 am

Hoag is hosting several Civil War events in April

ALBION – A Civil War flag for a Colored Troops regiment will be on display this month at Hoag Library during special programs about the Civil War.

The library’s board of trustees on March 13 voted to have the flag sold through an auctioneer in Dallas, Texas. The flag hasn’t been sent away yet and will stay with the library through at least April.

The library wants to give people a chance to see the flag, which is in a deteriorated condition especially with the white stripes. Betty Sue Miller, the library director, said many people in the community have shared their opinion about whether the flag should stay or be sold.

“Many are commenting and they haven’t seen it,” she said.

The library board voted 5-0 to sell the flag, as long as it gets a minimum of $10,000. The board was concerned that restoring the flag would cost an estimated $8,000 to $10,000, and properly displaying it would cost additional expense.

The library is working with Heritage Auctions in Dallas, Texas, which wants to make the flag a showpiece item at an upcoming auction.

The flag for the 26th Regiment United States Colored Troops isn’t for a local unit. Those troops were based out of New York City, although County Historian Matt Ballard said they were led by a local white soldier, Charles H. Mattison of Barre.

Miller said she has reached out to the New York Public Library and also the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa. to gauge their interest in the flag.

She is concerned the flag will continue to deteriorate if the library keeps it.

Photo courtesy of GCC: Derek Maxfield, left, is General Ulysses S. Grant and Tracy Ford is General William Tecumseh Sherman in a 45-minute theatrical “conversation” between the two Civil War generals for the Union. They will present “Now we stand by each other always”  on April 17 at Hoag Library.

Meanwhile, the Hoag Library Civil War series begins today at noon with Tea with Dee, a discussion led by historian Dee Robinson who will highlight some local women during the Civil War, including a doctor, a housewife and a spy.

The series is a collaboration with the Orleans County Historical Association. Other programs this month include:

• April 9 at 1 p.m. — Mark Jones discusses Civil War bands and bandsmen

• April 11 at 6:30 p.m. — Peter Turkow leads an open discussion about the Civil War

• April 16 at noon — Dr. John Daly, associate professor of History at the Brockport State, will give a presentation, “When did the Civil War end?”

• April 17 at 7 p.m. — GCC professors Derek Maxfield and Tracy Ford showcase an historic Civil War era meeting in a unique program entitled, “Now we stand by each other always; A conversation between Gens. Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman.” Ford plays the role of General Sherman and Maxfield is General Grant.

• April 22 at 7 p.m. — Albion resident and author Mike McFarland will discuss the Erie Canal during the Civil War.

• April 30 at 6 p.m. — Orleans County Historian Matt Ballard will discuss Civil War era Albion and Rufus Brown Bullock, an Albion resident who served as governor of Georgia during reconstruction from 1868 to 1871.

• May 4 at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. — People, Weapons & Dress of the Civil War featuring the 4th South Carolina Infantry Reenactors.

For more information, click here.

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Doctor born in Albion was pioneer in pharmaceutical industry

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 30 March 2019 at 8:54 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 13

Dr. Francis Edward Stewart

On March 30, 1842, Dr. Crawford W. Long of Jefferson, Georgia, became the first physician to administer diethyl ether to remove a tumor from the neck of James Venable. Four years later, Dr. William T. G. Morton would administer the same inhaled anesthesia to extract a tooth from Eben Frost of Boston, Massachusetts. For centuries, physicians have experimented with various chemicals to perfect the way in which medical procedures are conducted, but also to change the way in which diseases and symptoms are treated.

Francis Edward Stewart was born September 13, 1853, to Johnathan Severance Stewart and Ada E. Nichoson at Albion, New York. Unbeknownst to his parents when he was born in the home of his maternal grandfather and pioneer physician, Dr. Orson Nichoson, Stewart would become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and a pioneer in the pharmaceutical industry. The family relocated to Philadelphia in 1872 when Jonathan Stewart accepted a position as superintendent of the American Dredging Company in that location. It was here that Francis would begin his education in medicine and pharmacology.

Previously studying at the Cortland County Academy at Homer, New York and then at Oberlin College in Ohio, Francis Stewart enrolled at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy where he graduated with the class of 1876. Continuing down the path of higher education, Stewart graduated in 1879 from Jefferson Medical College and conducted post-graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. At the conclusion of his schooling, Stewart moved to New York City where he spent time working with the Committee of Alms Houses for the County of New York and conducted work with the State Charity’s Aid Association.

For the majority of his career, Stewart focused his efforts primarily in pharmacology, making important developments in the pharmaceutical industry and filing numerous patents, even as a student. He became a strong supporter of placing the pharmacal and pharmaco-chemical industries under the control of the federal government for the purpose of introducing new remedies and overseeing medical advancements. Despite developing a comprehensive outline of the plan, the idea was rejected by Congress due to competing commercial interests.

Stewart pushed Parke, Davis & Company (now a subsidiary of Pfizer) to develop a scientific department where the company would perfect clinical trial methods for new medications, and assisted in the establishment of a Council on Pharmacy and Chemistry in conjunction with the American Medical Association. In 1885, Stewart relocated to Wilmington, Delaware, where he held a position as the leader of the University of Pennsylvania’s university extension at that location.

Among other notable accomplishments, he became the chairman of the Medical Board of Merck & Company and the first editor-in-chief of Merck’s Archives of Materia Medica and Drug Therapy. He served as a lecturer at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, a lecturer at Jefferson Medical College, and a professor at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy. His expertise expanded into the realm of law when the American Pharmaceutical Association appointed him chairman of a committee to revise patent laws.

His obituary read, “Word has been received here of the death of Dr. Francis Edward Stewart, 87, a native of Albion and a physician and pharmacist of national importance, in Germantown, Pa., on Feb. 20, 1941…among notable patients of Dr. Stewart were President Benjamin Harrison, John Wanamaker and John D. Rockefeller.”

A life committed to advancement in pharmacology, his hopes of federal oversight of the pharmaceutical industry was realized over 20 years after he first introduced the idea in 1881. The passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, a result of the exposés of muckraking journalists, mandated labeling drugs with active ingredients and set acceptable purity levels for medications.

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New signs going up for historic Clarendon cemeteries

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 25 March 2019 at 11:33 am

Photos courtesy of Melissa Ierlan

CLARENDON — The first of four new signs for Clarendon pioneer cemeteries was installed this morning by Melissa Ierlan and her husband, Fred Seeman. Ierlan, the town historian and code enforcement officer, secured funding for the signs through the Elizabeth Dye Curtis Foundation in Orleans County. The cast-aluminum signs are made by Sewah Studios in Ohio.

The signs are replacing wooden ones that have become rotted and difficult to read.

Robinson Cemetery is on Route 237 at the intersection of Glidden Road.

The signs include an image of the Clarendon water falls, and they include quotes from David Sturges Copeland, who wrote the History of Clarendon in 1889. “Buried here are those whose labor, energy, spirit and love once lived in Clarendon,” the Robinson sign states. “May they not be forgotten.”

Each of the signs highlight some Clarendon residents buried in the cemeteries. The Robinson Cemetery includes Chauncey Robinson, a veteran of the War of 1812 who was a prominent abolitionist in the community.

Here are images of the other signs that should be installed soon.

Pettengill Cemetery on Hibbard Road is also known as the Christian Graveyard and Manning Cemetery. Clarendon’s founder, Eldredge Farwell, is buried here.

Photo by Tom Rivers: This photo shows the wooden sign for Pettengill Cemetery, which is also known as “Christian Graveyard.”

Maplewood Cemetery is on Route 237, south of the Clarendon hamlet and north of Hinds Road.

Root Cemetery, also known as Cook Cemetery, is on Munger Road in Clarendon.

Lemuel Cook is buried at this cemetery. He fought in the American Revolution and died on May 20, 1866, at the age of 107. He was the last living pensioner of the American Revolution. Cook saw action at the Battle of Brandywine and Yorktown and met General George Washington.

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Several white men from Orleans served with ‘Colored Troops’ during the Civil War

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 23 March 2019 at 9:09 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 12

Maj. Marion Patterson, 22nd U.S.C.T. & 19th U.S.C.T.

The recent vote by the Hoag Library Board of Trustees to sell the 26th U.S. Colored Troops “National Color” in March has raised questions about local connections to that particular unit and other Colored Infantry regiments. U.S.C.T. regiments, established under the direction of the Bureau for Colored Troops, appointed white officers to lead black soldiers.

According to a dissertation entitled “The Selection and Preparation of White Officers for the Command of Black Troops in the American Civil War,” by Paul Renard, the government utilized various methods of electing officers to lead U.S.C.T. regiments. Early U.S.C.T. regiment officers were selected by a board of divisional officers while others were selected in a process similar to white regiments. Renard argues that the selection of officers through an examination board overseen by the Bureau for Colored Troops was the most effective method used.

Racism permeated throughout the Union Army, which refused equal pay to black soldiers and relegated segregated units to manual labor behind the front lines. Early efforts to allow freedmen and escaped slaves to enlist in the ranks of the Union Army were met with harsh opposition by political forces. Despite this, primary source evidence suggests that a large number of the commissioned officers appointed to lead these regiments held a degree of racial liberalism that was not seen in white regiments. Many white officers were abolitionists who believed in freedom and equal rights for the men they commanded. They viewed military service as a means for black soldiers to rise against their former masters; men who truly had something to fight for.

However, it is impossible to create a generalization considering that military life for men in segregated regiments was reminiscent of slavery; relegated to manual labor, and still under the command of a white master. Men within these regiments had no hope of working their way up the ranks, would never lead their own regiments, and yet their lives were at far greater risk than white enlisted soldiers. Still, it is worth calling attention to the complex relationship between white officers and the black soldiers they led. Perusing the pages of the local town clerks’ registers of Union soldiers, at least eight local men received commissions to lead black regiments; two of those men received commissions with the 26th U.S.C.T.

Charles Henry Mattison was born March 27, 1837, at Barre to Alvah Mattison and Orpha Bull. Raised on the farm in his hometown, Mattison enlisted with Company D of the 151st New York Infantry on September 9, 1861, and was promoted to the rank of sergeant. He received a commission as a second lieutenant with the regiment but turned it down, later receiving a commission with the 26th U.S.C.T. at the same rank. He reported for duty on January 14, 1864, and was later promoted to first lieutenant and adjutant. He was with his regiment during a skirmish at St. John’s Island on January 5, 1864, and the Battle of Bloody Bridge on July 7th when 1,000 soldiers of the 26th U.S.C.T. fought an inconsequential battle; 2,000 Confederate soldiers fended off a Union force of 8,000 men.

After the war, Mattison returned to Barre Center where he purchased a wagon and blacksmith shop. Three years later he purchased the farm of his father-in-law, Hiram Fargo. He was elected as the Barre Town Clerk after the war and was responsible for recording the names of those fellow soldiers who served in defense of the Union cause. He was elected Barre Town Supervisor and later to the NYS Assembly in 1878, serving in that position for one year. Upon his death on March 23, 1883, the Grand Army of the Republic Post in Albion held a large memorial service and for years after his death, the local post would memorialize the anniversary of his passing.

Harmon Leroy Salisbury was born around 1838 at Clarendon to George Salisbury and Amanda Annis. He enlisted with Company G of the 151st New York Infantry on August 26, 1862 at Clarendon. He remained with the regiment for just over one year, receiving a promotion to the rank of sergeant before his discharge on January 28, 1864, by reason of promotion to captain with the 26th U.S.C.T. Like Mattison, Salisbury was with the regiment at St. John’s Island and Bloody Bridge in July of 1864. After the war, Salisbury moved to Vienna, Virginia, where he purchased a large parcel of land. Valued at $16,500 in 1870, he split his land into lots and sold parcels to freedmen on easy credit and generous mortgages. He provided black workers with a fair living wage and donated a parcel of land for used as a cemetery by the black community in that area. He died in 1913 and was buried at Merrifield Cemetery in Merrifield, VA.

Marion Patterson, born May 11, 1840, at Clarendon to Calvin Patterson and Julia Ann Matson, enlisted as a private with the 13th New York Infantry at Rochester on April 30, 1861; he was discharged as a “minor” on September 7, 1861. He returned home to teach school for a year and enlisted with the 11th New York Heavy Artillery on his birthday in 1863. Unable to fill the full regimental quota, the unit was merged with the 4th New York Heavy Artillery and Patterson was promoted to the rank of sergeant. On December 9, 1863, he received an appointment as first lieutenant with the 22nd U.S.C.T. and later was appointed to fill a vacancy as captain with the 19th U.S.C.T.

According to one account, his promotion to captain came as the result of his daring rescue of the regimental colors during the Second Battle of Fair Oaks in October of 1864. At the end of the war, Patterson was placed on general court martial as a Judge Advocate, a position he held for some time. At the conclusion of his service, he returned to Western New York where he married his wife, Eliza Van Wagoner, at Lockport before relocating to Kansas in 1871. He worked a large farm there, raising livestock, and was elected to the Kansas State Legislature in 1891.

Wallace Myron Sterling, born June 26, 1840, at Gaines to Alphonso Sterling and Mary Horton, answered the call to service on May 11, 1861. He was mustered into service on May 22, 1861, with Company D of the 28th New York Infantry. On May 25, 1862, he was captured at the Battle of Winchester and paroled three days later. After his release, he was sent home on furlough for an undisclosed amount of time. According to a published account of the Sterling family genealogy, Wallace had placed his unloaded musket behind a door in the house. His older brother loaded the gun and ventured out on a woodchuck hunt in the afternoon. Upon his return and being unsuccessful in his adventure, the brother placed the gun in its place behind the door. Later that evening, Mary Jane, a 19-year-old sister, asked Wallace to demonstrate the manual of arms. He mimicked the loading of the rifle, aimed, and she gave the command to “fire!” He pulled the trigger, discharging the musket ball into her head. The accidental death of his sister plagued him with sadness for the rest of his life.

After his discharge from the 28th New York Infantry, he reenlisted with Company B of the 9th New York Heavy Artillery in July of 1863. The following month he was presented a commission as second lieutenant with the 1st U.S.C.T. from President Lincoln, an opportunity he accepted nine days later. In July of 1864, Sterling submitted his resignation with supporting documentation from an examining surgeon. Dr. Willoughby wrote, “…he is suffering from great mental depression, caused by his having, by accident, caused the death of a sister, more than a year ago, since which time he has had fits of mental disturbance, being at times partially insane.” The surgeon believed that the condition would become permanent should he remain in the service. After the war, he relocated to Elysian, Minnesota where he served as the local postmaster and justice of the peace.

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Yates man worked on the Panama Canal project

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 16 March 2019 at 9:06 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Volume 5, Issue 11

On occasion I stumble across rather interesting photographs that grab my attention; either the image itself is intriguing or the inscription contains a fascinating tidbit of information. While uncovering a box of photographs and albums, I discovered an image with the inscription “F. J. Wickham Lyndonville, N.Y. this man went to Panama and helped build the Panama Canal.” So who was Mr. F. J. Wickham and how did he end up in Panama?

Born to Samuel Kenyon Wickham in Yates, Jeremiah Fernando Wickham grew up in Orleans County with his brothers George and Dewitt working the family farm and attending the district schools of the area. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 both Dewitt and Jeremiah enlisted with the 8th New York Heavy Artillery, but Jeremiah despised his first name (his grandfather’s name) and elected to enlist under his middle name. He served the duration of the war while earning the rank of corporal, his brother Dewitt rising to the rank of lieutenant.

After the war, the brothers had a falling out over a business decision which proved problematic for Fernando when applying for his pension. Using his middle name to enlist instead of his first, he was required to provide a deposition proving who he was, which he requested of his brother who then refused to do so; that is, until a special investigator showed up at his home to request it. Fernando returned to Yates where he lived on the county line, working as a carpenter by trade. His military service helped earn employment with the U.S. Government, working as an inspector of the shores of Lake Ontario up until the 1890s when he was employed as a breakwater inspector in Buffalo.

The specifics regarding his employment with the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) are unknown, but in 1905 he was sent to Colón, Panama as a superintendent on the Panama Canal project. The 48-mile wide canal started in 1881 by the French was an expansive project taken over by the U.S. in 1904 when President Theodore Roosevelt oversaw the purchase of the Panama Railroad and French excavation equipment at a cost of $40 million.

Upon his arrival, Wickham wrote home to describe his trip to this foreign area. The ship departed New York City on June 21, 1905 with forty passengers on board, most traveling with the ICC. While traveling to Cuba, he recalled seeing a “nearly fifty-foot whale” and a school of porpoise that traveled with the ship for a few hundred yards. The arrival of the vessel at the Port of Colón was startling as the conditions of the town were extremely poor.

Any available space in the town was taken up by the machinery left by the French when they abandoned the project in 1894, most of it was deteriorated and unusable. Wickham remarked, “You could not conceive the amount [of equipment] unless you could see it, and then I do not think a person could.” He went on to say, “It was wonderful the amount the French laid out here to abandon, and the small results accomplished with the outlay.”

Wickham was stationed with the architectural department and charged with overseeing the repair of buildings constructed by the French during the previous two decades. It is likely that his work as a carpenter prepared him for this type of employment. Many U.S. papers published stories about the horrors of life in Panama, the terrible health conditions and poor living conditions. Wickham remarked that many men arrived with the expectation of minimal work and high pay, but arrived to find the opposite. Young men were frequently disappointed by the lack of recreational activities; the typical day consisting of work followed by sleep with no time for anything else.

He concluded his letter by writing that his health was good, but that he had already lost some weight, which he said, “I could afford to do that, for I was most too fleshy when I came away.” His wife, Anna Gray Wickham, remained in Orleans County with their daughters and upon his return, the family relocated to Pasadena, California where Fernando died in March of 1923.

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Barre farmer, an immigrant, enlisted with Union Army and later became US citizen

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 9 March 2019 at 8:20 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 10

Johann George Singler, c. 1862

BARRE – This photograph shows Johann George Singler around the time of his enlistment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Born March 28, 1829 in the territory of Baden to Joseph and Mary Greisbaum, Singler received his common education (equivalent to a high school course in the United States) while in Europe.

At the age of 22 he emigrated to the United States on a 49-day journey across the Atlantic, settling at Cleveland, Ohio. Six months later he traveled to Buffalo where he worked as a carpenter for eight months and finally relocated to the town of Barre sometime around 1853. On February 10, 1855, he married Eva Rupp at Clarendon and the couple raised eight children together on a modest farm in Barre.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Singler enlisted with Company G of the 151st New York Infantry at the age of 33. He was mustered into service on October 22, 1862 and left his wife and four children to care for the farm.

William De Wolf, another member of Company G, later recalled the first call for volunteers at Holley in August of 1862. “The meeting was held in the Academy yard, and though the speakers are not fresh in my mind, I think one was Robinson by name.”

It is likely that Chauncey Robinson, an outspoken abolitionist and resident of Holley, was the speaker De Wolf noted. “The next one was at Hulberton…At this time there was an ice-breaker lying in the Basin at Holley, and we trimmed it up with evergreens and flags, an put planks across for seats. We got a small drum corps, and hired a boy, horse and tow-line and started for the meeting.”

“Company G was composed of as bright a number of young men as ever went into the service of Uncle Sam. They were mostly farmer boys, well brought up and most all educated.”

Although the documentation of Singler’s service is somewhat limited, one published biographical account suggests that he was injured in an accident while driving a team of horses at The Wilderness. As a result, he received a $14.00 per month pension from the government.

After his three years of service Singler was granted his citizenship and in 1868, he relocated his family to Ellington, Wisconsin where he lived out the rest of his life. He lived a simple life, farming a small 40-acre farm in that location which he worked diligently to clear of timber. A Republican in politics, it was claimed that he refused to vote in elections, instead focusing his attention on encouraging qualified candidates to fill positions.

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Historian shares about Holley native who was nurse in WWI

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 March 2019 at 9:14 am

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Dee Robinson, a reference librarian at the Hoag Library, was the featured speaker on Tuesday during the monthly Take a Bite Out of History talk at the library.

Robinson focused her lecture on Sara Shaw, a Holley native who was a nurse during the Spanish-American War and World War I. Robinson wrote about Shaw in 2000, when Robinson’s book, Historical Amnesia, was published. That book highlighted local women whose contributions and accomplishments were often overlooked.

Robinson found more information about Shaw after the book was published. Robinson said Shaw was well respected as a nurse. She was born in Holley and graduated from the Bellevue School of Nurses in 1896. Two years later she became a Red Cross nurse.

She was sent to Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippine Islands during the Spanish-American War.

She worked for the Bellevue Hospital nursing staff from 1909 to 1941, taking a leave of absence during World War I. She was a supervising nurse in Italy, in charge of 37 nurses.

After the war, she returned to Bellevue and worked several years as the head nurse of the tuberculosis division of Bellevue Hospital in New York City.

She died at age 76 on Feb. 5, 1948 in New York City and is buried at Hillside Cemetery in Holley.

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