local history

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

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

Posted 22 November 2023 at 9:54 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 11 November 2023 at 8:44 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted 5 November 2023 at 12:12 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He was never bothered again.

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

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

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

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

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

Forthcoming column: Lake Shore Villa and the Park House.

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

Posted 22 October 2023 at 8:05 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

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

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

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

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

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

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

He recalled an era when:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old Money’ from Ridgeway resident continues to pay 136 years after his death

Posted 15 October 2023 at 5:20 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 33

This obelisk which dominates Knowlesville Cemetery was erected following the death Eleazar Slater, Jr. in 1887. The first stipulation of his will directed that “any funeral charges and all debt against my estate be paid and fully discharged and a good, suitable, and proper and respectable tombstone be erected.”

KNOWLESVILLE – Eleazar Slater, Sr. and his wife, Polly, originally from Massachusetts, were early settlers in Ridgeway. They had cleared land and constructed a house by 1815. This is documented in the pioneer narrative provided by William Knowles in which he states that he stayed with them when he first arrived.

The advent of the Erie Canal proved very beneficial for that locality. William Knowles shipped the first boatload of wheat from Orleans County. He built a warehouse on the canal, freight boats stopped there. A post office was established in 1826 and the growing hamlet was named in honor of Knowles.

The Presbyterian Church in Knowlesville was formed in 1817, it was the predominant denomination in the area. The Slaters were members. Eleazar T. Slater Sr. died in 1853. Polly, his wife, died in 1863. Their son, Eleazar T. Jr., who was unmarried, died in on May 2, 1887, by which time he had accumulated a substantial sum of money.

In 1885 Eleazar Jr. sued the First National Bank of Albion to recover $5,700 worth of bonds found to be missing when Albert S. Warner absconded with the bank’s assets in 1884.

Eleazar Jr. gave a great deal of consideration to the disposal of his assets following his death and several sets of revisions and codicils were recorded. The stipulations of the will included:

Second: I give and bequeath to my sister Livera Wilders: the sum of $2,000 and one half of my household furniture, bedding, and wardrobe.

Third: I give and bequeath to my sister, Melissa Ostrander, the like sum of $2,000 and the remaining half of my furniture, bedding, and wardrobe.

Fourth: I give and bequeath to the Trustees of the Presbytery of Niagara, the sum of $50,000.

Fifth: I hereby direct the said Trustees of the Presbytery of Niagara to give the First Presbyterian Church and Society of the Town of Ridgeway the sum of $250 annually, but such sum is not to be paid until the said Society shall have paid their Pastor all of his salary for the previous years, except such sum of $250 and shall present to file with the officers of said Presbytery the receipt of such Pastor therefor. And in case the said Society fails to present such receipt from such Pastor then the said Trustees may use and exercise their own judgment regarding the payment of said $250.

Sixth: I give and bequeath the rest and residue of my estate of what nature and kind to the Board of the Home Missions of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America.

The New York Times of May 7, 1887, reported the details of the will. The “residue” of his estate was estimated as amounting to an astounding $200,000, the equivalent of $6.5 million today. The will refers to securities, bonds, mortgages, and real estate, which presumably were the source of his wealth.

The will was soon “vigorously contested” by his heirs. It was reported in the Medina Tribune in September that progress on the issue was slow, and that eight lawyers were involved.

The Medina Tribune of October 13, 1887, noted that a compromise had been reached: The Board of Home Missions was directed to pay the heirs $22,000, Miss Emma Beckham would receive $3,000 and David Farham of Rochester would receive a small amount. The Presbyterian Church in Knowlesville would receive $5,000 in lieu of the $250 annuity. It was estimated that the aggregate of the estate after court expenses, payments and taxes would be in the region of $100,000.

Following some presbytery amalgamations, the funds later came under the control of the Presbytery of the Genesee Valley. A subsequent decision of the Surrogate Court of Orleans County directed that the Slater Fund was to be used for “the benefit of the five Presbyterian Churches located in Orleans County” (Albion, Barre Center, Holley, Lyndonville, and Medina).

The “original book Valu” of the fund was invested by the Presbytery and remarkably, the return income continues to be divided among the churches annually, 136 years following the death of Eleazar T. Slater, Jr.

In 1960s, early ’70s, NYSEG eyed Yates for nuclear plant

Posted 24 September 2023 at 9:43 pm

Project became inactive due to added costs and concern from fault line near site

The pristine beauty of Lake Ontario is pictured from the Yates shoreline. (Courtesy of Michael Loftus)

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 31

YATES – In the 1970s, a second rural Orleans County site was considered as the location of a nuclear facility.

Beginning in the 1960s, NYSEG began to acquire parcels of land in the Town of Yates and the neighboring Town of Somerset in Niagara County in anticipation of the construction of an atomic electric generating station.

The Journal-Register of May 11, 1972, announced that the New York State Atomic and Space Development Authority (ASDA) had selected a site in the Town of Yates for study as a possible location for the construction of an atomic power generating station.

The site, referred to as the Morrison Road Site, was an area bounded by the Lake Ontario shoreline, Foss Road and Morrison Road. Construction costs would range from $350-$400 million and completion would take eight to ten years. A site in the Town of Wilson was also under consideration, as was a site in Cayuga, Town of Sterling.

Speaking at an Albion Chamber of Commerce dinner held at Marti’s Restaurant in Albion, on May 24, 1972, ASDA chairman James G. Cline outlined the positive aspects of the plant. Members of the Orleans County Industrial Development Authority and the Orleans County Economic Development Authority were also in attendance.

Mr. Cline and other members of the ASDA staff claimed that the overall impact of the plant would be minimal and that it would provide considerable economic benefit. Analysts had determined that the site in question consisted of “low- viability farmland that was marginal at best.” The power transmission route would be underground and out of view. Discharged water would not interfere with lake ecology, surface algae or critical marine life. Similar plants showed no radioactive buildup, even after ten years of operation.

However, residents of the Town of Yates were not impressed.

The Journal-Register of 14 June 1972 reported on an “Open Letter” prepared by a group of Lyndonville signers who urged a letter-writing campaign to local, county, state and federal officials protesting the installation.

Among those who signed the letter were Bartlett Breed, Bernard Brinsmaid, Mr. & Mrs. James Whipple, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Whipple, Mr. & Mrs. John Eppolito and many others. The letter began:

“The signers of this letter are opposed to the building of an atomic power plant in the Town of Yates, or indeed, anywhere on the river and lake front between Buffalo on the west and Rochester on the east.”

The arguments against the proposed plant were cogently argued, the probability and disastrous consequences of an accident being the foremost cause of concern.

The letter pointed out the false claims and spurious logic used in the promotion of the proposal. It referred to the findings of the Brookhaven Report (1957) which questioned the safety of nuclear energy and clearly outlined the catastrophic consequences of an accident which the Atomic Energy Commission had acknowledged.

It also explained the conundrum caused by the Brookhaven Report: based on the findings of the report, utility companies refused to build atomic plants unless covered by insurance, but insurance companies refused to provide the necessary insurance to utility companies who planned to build atomic energy sites.

However, the Price-Anderson Act (1957) circumvented this roadblock. Under this act, the government and the private insurance industry would provide a limited amount of coverage for atomic power plants, thus freeing utility companies from liability in the case of a catastrophic occurrence.

The letter argued that the insistence that atomic power plants be situated in rural areas was a further indication of their inherent dangers. It cited the dangers of low-level radiation and of toxic radioactive wastes. It also pointed out that the Federated Sportsmen’s Clubs of New York State, representing some three hundred thousand members, had called for a moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants in the state.

The topic generated a great deal of discussion, articles, and Letters to the Editor in 1973 and 1974. Then, on July 25, 1975, NYSEG announced that plans for the construction of nuclear power plants in Somerset and Yates were suspended, following the discovery of a geological fault reported by the US Geological Survey.

The existence of the Clarendon-Linden Fault which extends some 60 miles from Attica to Lake Ontario would necessitate investigation into the geological and seismic factors which could potentially disrupt stored nuclear material and would greatly increase construction costs. The Morrison Road site was deemed inactive, and Somerset was designated a prime site for a coal-fired power plant.

In 1965, Kendall was considered for $334 million atomic research facility

Posted 16 September 2023 at 8:52 pm

Site ultimately went to Batavia, Ill., leaving Kendall’s rural character intact

This dramatic headline appeared in the Times-Union newspaper, December 12, 1965.

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 30

KENDALL – In the mid-1960s, a site in the Town of Kendall was considered as the possible location of an atomic research laboratory.

The proposed site was the farmland bounded on the north by Lakeshore Road, on the east by Kendall Road, on the south by Carr Road and on the west by Peter Smith Road. Descriptions of the size of the site varied from 500 acres to 3,000 acres to even 5,000 acres.

A team of scientists and analysts from the Argonne National Laboratories in Chicago, accompanied by construction experts, toured the site on Dec. 11, 1965. They were greeted by Rep. Barber B. Conable Jr., R-Batavia, who was a member of the House Committee on Atomic Activities, Kendall Supervisor Michael Paduchak, and Arthur Eddy who represented the Albion Chamber of Commerce.

Local representatives pointed out that the site would have access to an unlimited water supply from Lake Ontario, and an adequate water supply from Albion for the projected 2,000 employees. Other features such as proximity to airports, the Thruway, as well as an educated employee pool from Buffalo and Rochester colleges, were also emphasized.

Construction of the $334 million plant would take eight years. Salaries and operation costs were anticipated at $60 million annually.

Analyst Thomas H. Fields stressed that the installation would not present any hazard to workers or residents since it was basically involved in a process to investigate nuclear energy. “There is no fallout, the factory is quiet, clean and will look like an academic campus.”

The headlines of the day referred to the facility as an “atom-smasher,” but the preferred current terminology is “particle accelerator.”

In either case, the purpose of the facility was to accelerate particles of atoms to almost the speed of light and then crash them into each other at extremely high speed in order to understand matter, or “the secrets of the Universe.”

Local reaction to the proposal was mixed, according to the Medina Daily Journal. Many residents recognized the increase in land values and the long-range economic benefits for the county. Others regretted the loss of some of the finest farmland in the area, and the displacement of families who had lived there for several generations.

As it transpired, none of the New York State sites were selected. The honor of the location of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) went to Batavia, Il., 45 miles west of Chicago.

When completed, the Batavia site included the Tevatron tunnel, a circular particle accelerator. Buried 25 feet underground, it had a circumference of four miles and was equipped with superconducting magnets chilled to minus 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Over 5,000 tons of armor plating from US Navy warships and former Aircraft carriers were used to shield the outer walls of the accelerator ring.

The Tevatron yielded a rich scientific legacy, including the discovery of the Quark, a fundamental constituent of matter but it was superseded by a faster physics lab in Switzerland and ceased operations on Sept. 29, 2011.

Fermilab is still “solving the mysteries of matter, energy, space and time” and is now designated as a National Environmental Research Park. The public is welcome to explore its science and enjoy its natural areas.

Meanwhile, Kendall retains its rural integrity.

Shelby was first town in Orleans to assign numbers to rural houses

Posted 10 September 2023 at 6:21 pm

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 29

SHELBY – Prior to 1960, the address for this West Shelby home, then owned by Carl Hansen, was RD 2, Box 153. Following the assignment of rural numbers, the address became 5272 West Shelby Rd. It has been the home of Gary and Norma Jones since 1960.

In 1960, Shelby was the first Orleans County town to assign numbers to the homes and lots along its rural roads. This was part of a regional effort to identify rural properties more easily, spearheaded, not by the postal service, but by the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation.

Rural delivery routes had been established when rural mail delivery began in 1896. Homes were identified by their delivery route number and the postal box number, e.g. RD 2, Box 153. While this identified the home on that route, it was not unique or specific. There could be several instances of similar “addresses” in a county. One could not easily identify where RD2 was, as it was a delivery route, not a road. Rural dwellings were difficult to locate in emergencies.

On July 2, 1959, the Orleans County Board of Supervisors unanimously adopted a resolution to approve the countywide rural road numbering plan outlined in the Master Plan for Development prepared by the Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation. The motion had been proposed by Supervisor Manley S. Morrison of the Town of Yates, seconded by Supervisor Lester Canham of the Town of Gaines. They had been part of a committee which had studied the Niagara Mohawk proposal and had concluded that rural numbering was of value and would prove beneficial to utility companies, fire companies, police officers as well as to the public.

However, the Board of Supervisors noted that it was “not authorized by law to expend money for said purpose” and that any of the towns who decided to adopt the plan would have to do so at their own expense. Fortunately, Niagara Mohawk, which had developed the uniform numbering system, offered to supply maps and other material to the townships at no cost.

The Town of Shelby voted to proceed with the project at a March 7, 1960, meeting.

Raymond Pahura, Town of Shelby Supervisor, Norman Anstey, Town of Shelby assessor, and Niagara Mohawk consultant Morris Lloyd of Buffalo began the process in May 1960. Beginning at the Niagara County line and working eastwards, they used a “measuring wheel” to mark off the lengths of vacant and occupied lots and assign individual numbers to each lot.

The Niagara Mohawk plan delineated that odd numbers would be assigned on the left side of the road and even on the right, generally numbering from east to west and from south to north. The project took a few weeks to complete.

Emergency agencies and medical personnel were then supplied with a master chart of the Shelby numbers. Property owners and tenants were notified of their assigned numbers and encouraged to use them.

The rural numbering system proposed by Niagara Mohawk to specifically identify properties thus became the basis of our address system.

Orleans County featured many manufacturers in 1958

Posted 4 September 2023 at 8:25 am

40 companies highlighted in annual industrial directory 65 years ago

Speas Manufacturing Company operated in Lyndonville.

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 28

Forty industrial firms operated in Orleans County 65 years ago, according to the 1958 Industrial Directory of New York State. How many can you remember?

The Directory was arranged by different categories. Not surprisingly, the largest number of the Orleans County entries fell under the “Food and Kindred Products” category, fifteen in all:

  • Duffy-Mott Company (Holley)
  • Empire State Pickling Company (Waterport)
  • Friends’ Packing Company of Albion
  • General Foods Corporation – Birds Eye Division (Medina and Albion)
  • H.J. Heinz Company (Medina)
  • Hunt Foods (Albion)
  • Lake Shore Packing Company (Waterport)
  • Lyndonville Canning Company
  • Medina Provision Company
  • Morton Canning Company
  • Orleans Canning Company (Albion)
  • Orleans GLF Farm Products (Albion)
  • Rignel Company (Medina)
  • Speas Company (Lyndonville)
  • Thomas J. Lipton (Albion)

The Duffy-Mott smokestacks were a landmark in Holley.

The “Printing and Publishing” category accounted for five of the entries:

  • Albion Advertiser
  • Eddy Printing Company (Albion)
  • Holley-Standard
  • Journal-Register (Medina)
  • Orleans-Republican American (Albion)

The Bemis Bag Company (Albion) was the only entry in the “Paper and Allied Products” category.

Four firms were involved in “Lumber and Wood Products”:

  • A.E. Vosler Manufacturing Corporation (Medina)
  • Kraus Shingle Panel & Lumber Corporation (Lyndonville)
  • Shepards Mill (Holley)
  • Whitmer Jackson Company (Medina)

The three companies which manufactured “Furniture and Fixtures” were located in Medina:

  • Authentic Chair Corporation
  • S.A. Cook & Co.
  • Taylor Brothers Furniture Manufacturing Company.

Under new ownership in 1967, the American Brakeshoe Company in Medina became part of the ABEX Corporation. (Photo courtesy of Craig Lacy)

Six companies were involved in metal production:

  • Acer & Whedon Inc. (Medina)
  • A.L. Swett Iron Works (Medina)
  • American Brake Shoe Company (Medina)
  • Bignall Company (Medina)
  • Medina Stamping and Machine Company
  • Phinney Tool & Die Company (Medina)

A.L. Swett and the Erie Pump and Engine Company, both of Medina, manufactured non-electrical machinery.

The Clarendon Stone Company and the M & M Stone Company of Albion were listed under “Mining”.  Spencer Explosives, Inc. was located in Kendall.

The DiLaura Construction Company which had plants in Albion and Holley made “Stone, Clay and Glass Products.”

Lyndonville’s Weld Shoe Company produced “Leather Products”, while the Robert H. Newell Company of Medina was the only apparel producer.

A few of the companies listed are still in operation, though under different ownership. The Phinney Tool and Die Company of Medina, for example, was purchased by S.B. Whistler & Sons, Inc. of Akron, NY in 2010 but still operates under its original name. Future columns will focus on the “corporate genealogy” of the original industries.

Lipton handbook for employees in Albion from 1961 details employee benefits

Posted 27 August 2023 at 3:09 pm

Free turkey at Thanksgiving, three months of maternity leave among policies

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 27

This handbook on workplace practices and policies was issued to Lipton employees in 1961.

ALBION – “Our people are our greatest asset.”

So asserted Leonard O. Morneau, then plant manager at the Thomas J. Lipton facility in Albion.

He was speaking at a 1960 Chamber of Commerce dinner held in recognition of the Lipton Company’s million-dollar expansion at the site.

Recently, a Lipton’s personnel manual and several employee benefit documents from the 1960s were donated to the Orleans County Department of History. These papers are in excellent condition and provide an insight into the employment policies of the major local employer at that time.

The manual, entitled “Your Life at Lipton” extends a “Welcome to those who are joining the Lipton Family.” It outlines workplace policies and explains the employee benefits available to “Liptonites.”

An on-site Medical Department provided health services. A company doctor screened prospective employees to ensure that they were fit for the duties required and to establish baseline health. Subsequently, an annual physical examination was conducted. The results of these examinations were kept in the employee’s medical folder which was filed in the Medical Department.

The medical staff could provide emergency treatment as well as diagnose and treat occupational accidents and injuries. The department also offered periodic chest X-Rays and immunizations against polio, influenza and tetanus.

Plant employees worked 40 hours per week while office employees worked 37.5 hours per week. The company “contributed a substantial amount each year” to provide a lunchroom as a staff benefit.

Employees were allowed to smoke in the lounge rooms and the lunchroom. Male and female office employees were permitted to smoke at their desks.

The manual outlined the employee benefits in place:

Comprehensive Health Care Plan: (Liptons paid half of the premium)

•  Family members were each covered up to $10,000 ($102,240 per U.S. Inflation Calculator) for any serious illness.

•  The first $500 ($5,110) of any hospital bills were covered.

•  80% of any charges exceeding that amount.

•  80% of surgery expenses.

•  80% of anesthesia charges up to a maximum of $70 ($715)

• Costs associated with “illness at home”

• Maternity benefits: $320 ($3,300) for a normal delivery, $430 ($4,400) for a Caesarian section, $240 ($2,450) for a miscarriage.

• Dependent children to age 19 were covered and to 23 if still in school.

•  Retirees who had worked for ten years were permitted to continue with the plan, though the maximum amount payable was $2,500 ($25,600).

Sickness and Accident Benefits:

This covered accidents not caused by employment. Employees contributed 30¢ ($3.07) per week. The benefit paid 50% of wages, up to a maximum of $50 ($511) per week, for up to 26 weeks.

Life Insurance:

A contributary Life Insurance (14¢ ($1.43) per week per $1,000 ($10,225) of coverage) was also in place. In addition, employees who had completed one year of work were insured during employment in an additional non-contributory life insurance plan through the Connecticut General Life Insurance Company.

Pension Plan:

The company also contributed “substantial funds” to a Trust Fund to provide lifetime income for employees who retired aged 65. This income when combined with the Social Security benefit would produce a “liberal retirement income.”

Employees who had worked over 20 years earned 1/5th of earnings up to $3,600 ($36,800) per year and 3/10ths of earnings greater than that amount.

Female Employees:

Labor laws dictated that female employees could not begin work before 6 a.m. and could not work after midnight.


Pregnant employees were required to report their condition to the supervisor and to the nurse in the Medical Department during the third month. Failure to do so would result in immediate termination of employment without the benefit of a termination allowance and the employee would not be reconsidered for re-employment.

A pregnant employee could only work up to a maximum of five months of pregnancy. Employment could be terminated in advance of the fifth month if the company physician determined that the employee was exposed to hazards on the job.

A two-week termination allowance was given to employees who cooperated and arranged to leave their jobs (resign) in accordance with the best judgement of the Medical Department.

A maternity leave of absence was three months. Returning employees were required to present a birth certificate.

Also, the company hosted an annual social event for its employees. Employees and retired employees received a turkey at Thanksgiving and a gift package of Lipton products at Christmas.

The closure of the company in 1980 “due to the availability of more modern facilities at other locations” was a major blow to its employees and to the Orleans County economy.

In 1912, Albion hosted state-wide fruit growers’ convention attended by 1,000-plus

Posted 16 August 2023 at 2:50 pm

The Albion Chamber of Commerce produced a stylish souvenir program for the 1912 Fruit Growers’ Convention.

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

Illuminating Orleans – Vol. 3, No. 26

ALBION – The New York State Fruit Growers’ Association held their annual business meeting in Albion on August 14-15, 1912. The Albion Chamber of Commerce coordinated the arrangements.

Over 1,000 people attended, and the Chamber appealed to residents to open their homes to provide accommodation. Messenger boys were on hand to direct visitors to the residences where they had been assigned.

Scheduled events had to be moved from the Orleans County Courthouse to the Baptist Church auditorium to accommodate the large crowd. Additional telephones and

telegraph instruments were set up in the Courthouse.

Over 300 members traveled in their own automobiles which were parked on the Albion High School grounds. Policemen were assigned to guard the vehicles.

Wednesday’s program began with an Address of Welcome presented by W.B. Dye, Mayor of Albion, and Clark Allis, president of the Fruit Growers’ Association.

Edward Van Alstyne, Director of Farmers’ Institutes, spoke on The Apple Industry.

Major R.R. Riddell of the State Dept. of Agriculture spoke on New York’s Agricultural Renaissance.

The program included this list of Albion restaurants.

A complimentary Musical and Literary Concert held at the High School rounded out the day’s activities.

A mammoth 70-mile automobile trip to inspect Orleans County orchards was organized for Thursday, August 15. Medina and Albion residents donated the use of their cars for the trip.

The entourage of over 300 cars left Albion at 8 a.m. They visited the State experimental orchards of Albert W. Wood in Carlton, the Point Breeze farm of Mrs. Anna Clark, the S.T.J. Bush orchards in Kendall, and the Foster Uddell orchards, south of Brockport.

Lunch was served at Point Breeze, then the tour headed west to view the peach orchards of “peach king”, Clark Allis, near Knowlesville and the Jay Allis farm, the Bickle orchard in Shelby and the Dudley Watson, Francis Hanlon, and Crowley orchards near the Ridge.

The group was impressed by the obvious investments in new orchards and by the innovative methods in use. They concluded that the future of the fruit industry in Western New York looked very promising.

Atlas of Orleans County, sold as Fair fundraiser in 1967, has lasting historical value

Plat map of Kendall, NY, 1967

Posted 4 August 2023 at 8:48 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

Illuminating Orleans, Vol. 3, No. 25

KNOWLESVILLE – In 1967, the Orleans County 4-H Leader’s Association undertook a variety of fundraising projects to help finance improvements at the newly acquired Fairgrounds in Knowlesville.

One of those projects – the publication of an Atlas and Plat Book of Orleans County – has proven to be of lasting historical value. This was a very appropriate choice for an agricultural county since plat maps show a visual overview of land ownership by town.

The 1967 publication was spiral bound, with a green cover and an aerial view of the Fairgrounds. Ten separate town maps showed the location of farms and listed the farm owners. An Index to Owners listed every landowner in the county whose name appeared in the township maps with location references to the appropriate page and map of the county, a business directory, and a listing of government officials.

Town assessors were offered $10 ($90 approx. currently) each to provide base maps of their townships for the publication. Five of the ten returned the payment to the committee.

The Albion Rotary Club voted to handle the sale of advertising to finance the publication. In exchange, the Club received a share of the overall profit which supported a Rotary Hospital in Bolivia.

4-H Agent Robert F. Stuerzebecher was chairman of the Rotary’s farm plat book committee which also included Sidney Cleveland, Thomas Heard and Richard Bloom. Paul Klatt of Lyndonville headed the Orleans County 4-H Leaders’ Association plat book committee. This was an ambitious project. The books were available from the County Extension Service and cost $2.50, ($22 approx. currently). A second plat book was published in 1972.

Both were produced by Rockford Map Publishers of Rockford, Il. which pioneered this map resource in 1944. Their first maps were hand drawn, but the process was soon mechanized to supply demand. With an emphasis on accuracy, the process involved the use of aerial photographs in conjunction with the base maps provided by the townships. Ownership information was then verified at the county courthouse.

The information so clearly laid out in these plat maps was no doubt of great interest to farmers. Real estate, banking and insurance companies also found them to be a valuable resource. As a historical record, plat maps document the historical ownership of land and are an invaluable resource for genealogists and local historians.

Additionally, the advertisements included provide a snapshot of businesses and services at a particular time.

Advertisements from the 1967 Orleans County Plat book.

Digitization has enhanced the creation and possibilities of plat maps. Geo-referenced maps can be used on smartphones. Transparent plat maps may be overlaid over Google Earth. Whatever method is used, the fundamental issue of interest to individuals and business interests is “Who owns the land?”

Creativity, tenacity has kept fair part of county since 1856

Posted 23 July 2023 at 1:39 pm

Before fairgrounds in Knowlesville, annual event was held in Village of Albion, and Bokman farm

This photograph from the 1980s captures the energy of the Fair – the skills of the young equestrians and the thrills of hurtling through the air on a carnival ride.

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 24

KNOWLESVILLE – Jumping frogs, greased pigs, racing pigs, costumed goats, square dancing on horseback, manure pitching – these are some of the fun activities hosted at the 4-H Fair over the years.

The Orleans County 4-H Fair opens Monday, July 24. That this is the 77th Annual Fair is a testament to the tenacity, resourcefulness, and creativity of a legion of groups, agencies and individuals who nurtured it through some lean times.

The Orleans County Agricultural Society’s first show was held in Albion in 1856 and thereafter annually until 1942 when the stresses brought on by WWII eclipsed any thoughts of celebration.

A Farmer’s Picnic was held at Bullard Park in Albion in 1945. Re-formed after the war, the First Annual Orleans County 4-H Junior Fair was held in 1946, also at Bullard Park and from 1947-1963 at the old fairgrounds on West State Street in Albion.

We are accustomed to the spacious grounds, fine buildings, and amenities available at the fairgrounds in Knowlesville, but that site was not purchased until 1965.

The Field Day Committee first entertained the notion of acquiring its own property in 1958. Several sites were investigated, but plans fell through, for a variety of reasons.

The fair was held at the Mike Bokman Quarter Horse Farm, located at the intersection of Long Bridge Road and Route 31E in Albion, for two years – 1963 and 1964.

In January 1965, the fair finally found a home. The purchase of the Howard Venus farm was approved. The southern section of the farm, between Wood Road and Taylor Hill Road on Route 31E, became the new fairgrounds. The northern section, which included a house and barns, was later sold to Robert K. Nice.

Preparation work on the site began immediately. The biggest project was the construction of the 72’ x 108’ pole building (now the Lartz Building) to house livestock exhibits.

Fund raising efforts intensified. Banks, canning factories, feed dealers, fertilizer companies, farmers and individuals were canvassed. The 4-H Club leaders sold pies, seed kits, and first aid kits. They held dances, organized a scrap metal drive and a plat book sponsorship.

The Birdseye company in Albion donated snap bean seeds. Volunteers cultivated ten acres of seed and sold the harvest back to Birdseye.

The Fairgrounds was officially opened on Wednesday, August 4th by Assemblyman Alonzo Waters of Medina, John Stookey of Lockport, who represented the state 4-H clubs, and Harold Trolley, president of Cooperative Extension. Congressman Barber Conable was the guest speaker at the “Dedication of Fairgrounds and Livestock Building” on Saturday, August 7th.

Fireworks at 11 p.m. signaled the ending of that first fair. The tradition of celebrating agriculture, encouraging farm families, and inspiring the next generation of future farmers was secured.

(Material courtesy of former Village of Albion Historian, Dr. Neil Johnson, who chronicled the history of the fair from 1946 to 1995.)

‘Cooking School’ in Albion in 1932 introduced new gas appliances

A Cooking School event was held in Albion in this photo from 1932.

Posted 17 July 2023 at 10:24 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

“Illuminating Orleans” – Vol. 3, No. 23

ALBION – The photo above shows ladies assembled at a Cooking School presentation held at the Lyceum of St. Joseph’s Church, Albion. The photograph is dated 1932. Since the ladies were wearing coats and hats, we can assume that it was held during the winter.

“COOK WITH GAS – The Modern Way – Completely Natural”

“GAS gives you SPEED”

“GAS gives you NEW FREEDOM”


As we can tell from these signs displayed across the top of the stage, this presentation promoted the use of gas appliances.

Cooking methods and techniques had changed rapidly during the first decades of the 1900s. Several generations of cooks had been accustomed to cooking on wood stoves. They tasted, tested, and adjusted ingredient amounts as necessary and adapted to cooking with inexact and fluctuating temperatures.

Gas stoves began to replace wood stoves in the 1920s and were popular until the 1940s. Cooks appreciated not having to tend to a fire, deal with ashes, warm up the kitchen on hot summer days or wait a long time for the oven to attain a cooking temperature.

While electric appliances, such as toasters, irons, and coffee percolators became popular in the 1920s, electric stoves experienced a slower roll-out. Early models were not reliable and did not heat as quickly as gas stoves.

“Cooking Schools” were popular from the 1930s to the 1950s. Appliance manufacturers and local dealers hosted them to demonstrate the ease of use of their products. Housewives attended, eager to learn new cooking techniques and recipes as well as enjoy a social outing. The promise of prizes and free promotional items added to the attraction of the occasion.

In 1930, the Medina Daily Journal hosted a week-long Cooking School at the Park Theater “for the pleasure and inspiration of the housewives of the vicinity and for the real and lasting benefit of the community.”

Mrs. Lautz, a noted home economist and educator, was engaged to present lectures on the new labor-saving equipment and utensils available, as well as on budgeting and menu-planning. New and interesting recipes were demonstrated each day, the keynote of the program being the desire to relieve the monotony experienced by housewives charged with the duty of preparing three meals a day, every day of the year.

Anticipating the resistance of some ladies to the notion of needing a “cooking school,” Mrs. Lautz noted that the hints and techniques shared at the cooking sessions would be beneficial to all, regardless of how proficient they were.

“Cooking school classes are not to be looked on as gatherings of novices, but as conferences of progressive women to exchange ideas, exactly as experienced businessmen get together to exchange business ideas.”

It is interesting to note the changing perceptions of the housewife during this time. The role had changed from that of being a self-contained provider – who prepared meals from home grown products to being a consumer, who required new equipment for standard tasks, and different ingredients for new recipes.

The new housewife was also an adapter, an economist and efficiency expert, more independent and assertive. The market potential represented by this emerging demographic was not lost on big business, who soon focused their advertising campaigns on this new customer.

175 years ago, Gaines celebrated 4th with ball, cotillon dance

Posted 3 July 2023 at 7:52 am

By Catherine Cooper, Orleans County Historian

Illuminating Orleans, Vol. 3, No. 22

This shows an invitation to a July 4th event 175 years ago, which coincidentally, also fell on a Tuesday.

Bonfires and bell-ringing marked the first anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1777.

Within a few years, every town and village honored the date with speeches, parades, picnics, bonfires and fireworks.

In 1848, the village of Gaines celebrated Independence Day with a Ball, a dance event held at the Assembly-Room, music provided by Hamilton’s Cotillon Band.

The graphic on this attractive invitation features two mermen, each entwined in ferns, heralding the event. Several different fonts are used in the text.

A cotillon was a group dance popular in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It was a social dance performed by four couples and a forerunner of the square dance. The first and third couples, then the second and fourth couples danced a sequence of geometric figures. It was a lively event, no doubt.

At that time, Gaines was a busy and prosperous settlement. Landmarks of Orleans County noted that in 1835 the village had seventy houses and more than 400 inhabitants.

There were four lawyers, two physicians, one saddler, two tailors, one painter, four blacksmiths, one cabinet maker, three tanneries, three wagon shops, three scythe factories, an ashery, four dry goods stores, two groceries, four shoe shops, two hotels and an academy. No doubt, this invitation was also extended to the residents of the nearby hamlets: Fairhaven, Gaines Basin, Eagle Harbor.

While cotillon dances are no longer in vogue, fireworks have long been a staple of July 4th celebrations. The village of Lyndonville hosts a spectacular show each year. Interestingly, the Medina Tribune, July 11, 1861, reported that a beautiful display of fireworks had been held in Lyndonville “on the anniversary of our National Independence.”