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John Butts, Medal of Honor recipient from Medina, ‘performed magnificently’ while leading soldiers in World War II

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 6 July 2019 at 8:07 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 26

John Butts

MEDINA – Of the five Medal of Honor recipients from Orleans County, John E. Butts of Medina was the only county native who received the award posthumously for his heroic actions near Cape La Hague, France.

The son of Jerry and Anna Hogan Butts, John was born August 4, 1922 at Medina. As a young man, he attended the St. Mary’s parochial school, joined Boy Scout Troop 25, and played right guard for the Medina High School football team before enlisting with the New York National Guard on Oct. 12, 1939.

When Company F of the 108th Infantry was federalized, Butts was 17 years old and lied about his age in order to join. He was sent to Hawaii in the months following the attack at Pearl Harbor and later returned to the mainland in November of 1942 to enroll in the Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Butts graduated from the school, commissioned as a Second Lieutenant at the age of 19; he was believed to be the youngest commissioned officer in the U.S. Army Ground Forces at that time.

His service overseas began in North Africa with the invasion of French Morocco as part of Operation Torch, where the 60th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion encountered heavy resistance from German forces at an ancient fortress called “the Kasba.” The 9th Infantry Division earned its first Presidential Unit Citation during the Battle of Sedjenane when the unit repulsed a four-pronged attack from two German infantry battalions. Butts was then sent to participate in the invasion of Sicily, landing at Palermo on August 5, 1943 and remaining on the ground there until November of 1943.

After seven months of training at Winchester, England in preparation for the Allied invasion of mainland Europe, the 60th Infantry Regiment landed at Utah Beach just five days after the D-Day landing. Butts was placed in command of four squads in Easy Company of the 60th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry Division charged with driving towards St. Colombe, France. On June 12, 1944, 2nd Battalion progressed so quickly towards their objective that the remainder of 9th Division thought the 60th Infantry was lost. In fact, 2nd Battalion had pushed forward through heavy German resistance and established a bridgehead at the Douve River. Butts was wounded twice, first near Orglandes on June 14th and then at the Douve River just two days later; he refused medical treatment on both occasions in order to remain with his men.

On June 23, 1944, the 60th Infantry led the 9th Division’s advance from the Cotentin Peninsula as part of the breakout from St. Lo. While moving towards Flottemanville-Hague, Butts and his men encountered a German stronghold atop a hill, well defended with tanks, machine guns, and mortars. Butts was struck in the stomach by machine gun fire while progressing towards the objective. Pulling himself into the shelter of a nearby hedgerow, he planned a flanking maneuver with his Sergeants.

One squad was to progress up the left flank, another up the right flank, and the third was to remain in reserve. Holding one hand over his midsection and the other grasping his carbine, Butts charged the hill alone. The might of the entire German stronghold fell upon him directly, Butts falling approximately 10 yards from his objective. The distraction allowed the two flanking squads to outmaneuver the Germans while the third squad hit the hill head-on.

Awarded on July 19, 1945 by President Harry Truman, John Butts’ Medal of Honor citation references the two painful wounds he received in the days leading up to the deadly assault on June 23, 1944. His citation concluded by stating, “By his superb courage, unflinching valor and inspiring actions, 2d Lt. Butts enabled his platoon to take a formidable strong point and contributed greatly to the success of his battalion’s mission.” His brother, Charles, who visited John’s body wrote home to their parents, “John’s life reached a glorious end. It terminated exactly as John hoped it would – while performing magnificently in the face of the enemy…in an effort to relieve pressure on his men and buddies.”

The body of John Butts was interred at the U.S. Cemetery at Ste-Mere-Eglise on June 25, 1944. On April 8, 1948, his body was disinterred and sent home for burial at Medina. His body arrived in Buffalo on July 7, 1948 at the Connecticut Street Armory along with the remains of two other Medal of Honor recipients, Pfc. William Grabiarz and Pfc. Charles DeGlopper. He was buried in the family plot at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Medina.

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Shelby native received Medal of Honor for service in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 29 June 2019 at 8:12 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 25

The gravesite of Thomas W. Kates at Flushing Cemetery – Courtesy of Harvey Abbott (FindAGrave).

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, nearly 3,500 soldiers have received the Medal of Honor since its inception in 1862. Of those medals awarded, nearly half served with the Union Army during the Civil War.

Between the conclusion of the American Civil War and World War One, 765 men received the medal, the largest number serving during the Indian Campaigns (426) and the smallest number serving in the Dominican Campaign (3) during the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924. Of those 756 medals, 33 were awarded to Marines serving during the Boxer Rebellion, a nearly two-year uprising led by the Yihetuan (or Boxers) against foreign imperialists in China. Thomas Wilbur Kates, a native of Orleans County, was one of those men who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during this uprising.

Born on May 7, 1865 at Shelby, Thomas was the son of English immigrants Charles and Mariah Caple Kates. Charles worked as a currier (tanner) at LeRoy in the 1850s and later relocated his family to Orleans County before the birth of their youngest son, Thomas. The family remained in the area for a short period of time before relocating to Buffalo sometime before 1870. At that time, the family was enumerated in the 1870 U.S. Federal Census in Buffalo’s Third Ward with his parents, his brothers Charles and Walter, and sister Lottie. Tom Taber’s “The Orleans Battery: A History of the 17th New York Light Artillery in the War of Rebellion” confirms that the elder Charles Kates enlisted with the Orleans Battery on August 22, 1862, at Medina, New York; he was 38 years old.

On July 21, 1899, Thomas Kates accepted enlistment with the U.S. Marine Corps at New York City. Nearly six feet tall with blue eyes, brown hair, and ruddy complexion, Pvt. Kates was stationed in the Philippine Islands from September 15, 1899 to June 17, 1900 for the initial part of his enlistment. As the result of the United States’ Open Door Policy in China combined with the ongoing influence of Christian missionaries in the region, the Boxers began to resist against imperialist and foreign influences, culminating in Empress Dowager Cixi’s declaration of war against all foreign influences.

Thomas Kates and other Marines were dispatched to China on June 18, 1900, where they remained through October 10, 1900. According to his citation, Kates was awarded the Medal of Honor “…for extraordinary heroism while serving with the 1st Regiment (Marines), in action in the presence of the enemy during the advance on Tientsin, China, 21 June 1900. Private Kates distinguished himself by meritorious conduct.”

With a little digging, more information about Kates’ meritorious conduct came to light. The Boxers believed that they were invulnerable to foreign weapons and laid siege to the “Legation Quarter” where United States, British, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Russian troops were stationed at Tientsin (Tianjin). The location became a refuge for foreigners and Chinese Christians amidst the threat of violence. As legation forces defended the compound with small arms fire, three machine guns, and one muzzle-loaded cannon, a contingent of U.S. Marines under the command of Major Littleton Waller marched toward Tientsin as reinforcements. With eight officers and 132 men, accompanied by 400 Russians, the group marched unopposed until 7 o’clock in the morning when the unit was hit with small arms fire from the flank. U.S. sharpshooters quickly quelled the attack.

Within minutes, 1,500 to 2,000 entrenched Boxers commenced firing from the front and flanks. As fighting continued the Russians retreated and formed a line approximately ½ mile behind the Marines, exposing the men to fire from all sides. As the Russians continued to retreat, the Marines followed suit while suffering the continued onslaught of the Boxers; the entire retreat lasted four hours. By 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the Marines had returned to bivouac having marched a total of 30 miles and suffering thirteen casualties.

Maj. Waller wrote in a letter dated July 6, 1900, that “…of the men I wish to say, while all in the engagements we participated in, behaved in such a manner as to bring forth the highest praise from the foreign officers…Cpl. Thomas W. Kates.” He continued, “…the specifically distinguished of these being Corporal Kates and Privates Campbell and Francis, with the Colt gun.” According to the Report of the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps dated September 29, 1900, these three men remained with Lt. Powell, holding a position with an M1895 Colt-Browning Machine Gun until all but Campbell and Powell were gunned down. They destroyed the gun to prevent it from entering enemy hands before they commenced their retreat. Although it does not show up on his service record, Maj. Waller noted that Kates was slightly wounded, and Pvt. Francis was wounded in the hand. All three were later awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions during this advance.

Kates’ record does show that he was present for the Battle of Tientsin on July 13th and 14th of 1900, the Battle of Yangun on August 6, 1900, and the Battle of Peking on August 14th and 15th of 1900. This record indicates that Kates was wounded on July 13, 1900 but makes no mention of the slight wound received on June 21st. The record concludes with Kates’ desertion at New York City on May 19, 1903 after his return from the Philippine Islands in June of 1902. This desertion is likely why no newspaper articles mentioned this important award at the time of his death on May 6, 1931. Kates was buried at Flushing Cemetery in Queens County, New York.

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Medal of Honor recipient from 1869 to receive monument at grave in Albion

Photo by Matthew Ballard: Charles D. Harris, a recipient of the Medal of Honor for “Gallantry in Action” during the Indian Wars, is buried at Mount Albion Cemetery. His monument will be upgraded to show he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 22 June 2019 at 8:10 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 24

ALBION – With the recent announcement that David Bellavia would receive the Medal of Honor on June 25, 2019, he becomes the fifth Orleans County native and second Lyndonville native to receive the United States’ highest military decoration.

Since Abraham Lincoln signed Joint Resolution No. 82 on July 12, 1862, the President of the United States has presented more than 3,400 Medals of Honor to members of all branches of the military, including over 1,500 medals to Civil War soldiers. It is important to note that during that time, the Medal of Honor was the only military decoration attainable and as a result, many soldiers who received the honor would not meet the stringent requirements of the medal today.

Over the course of this past year, the Congressional Medal of Honor Society and the Medal of Honor Historical Society have endeavored to locate the final resting place of Charles D. Harris of Albion. Born in July of 1846 to Nathaniel and Cornelia Harris, Charles enlisted as a private with Company D of the 151st New York Infantry on October 22, 1862. According to the “Chronicles of the One Hundred Fifty-First Regiment New York State Volunteers,” Harris was captured on September 19, 1864 at Opequon, Virginia, during the Third Battle of Winchester and paroled the same day.

On September 23, 1869, a Sgt. Charles D. Harris of Albion, New York was present at Red Creek, Arizona, with Company D of the 8th U.S. Cavalry. On that date, the 8th Cavalry engaged a group of Apache Indians during the Apache Wars, which resulted in three men receiving the Medal of Honor. John Walker, George Ferrari, and Harris all received the medal for “Gallantry in Action,” but the specifics of the engagement and the actions that warranted the awarding of the medal remain shrouded in mystery. In the years following the war, Charles Harris returned to Albion and lived a quiet life until his passing on September 6, 1895.

The Medal of Honor Historical Society has attempted to prove that Pvt. Charles D. Harris of the 151st New York Infantry and Sgt. Charles D. Harris of the 8th U.S. Cavalry were one and the same. After several months of searching for documentation to prove the connection, a V.A. master file confirmed that Sgt. Charles D. Harris was also a member of the 151st New York Infantry during the Civil War. Although a military gravestone exists in Mt. Albion Cemetery, the stone contains no notation that he was awarded the Medal of Honor. The Department of History received confirmation this week that a new stone will contain an inscription that calls attention to the award.

On September 28, 1859, the then thirteen-year-old Charles Harris mourned the loss of his eleven-year-old sister Lydia who was killed during the collapse of the Main Street Bridge in Albion.

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Hungarian refugees fled Communists and established successful farm in Carlton

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 15 June 2019 at 8:07 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 23

Piroska (Barbara) Brown and her husband, Benoe (Benjamin) Brown, hold trinkets smuggled into the United States after the couple fled Hungary in 1949. Mrs. Brown intended to send this miniature piano to President Truman.

CARLTON – This photograph appeared in the November 22, 1956, issue of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle under the headline “U.S. Truly Land of Opportunity, Say Ex-Hungarians Now Citizens.”

The couple, in their early 50s, are holdings trinkets brought to the United States after their escape from the People’s Republic of Hungary. Standing on the right is Benjamin Baruch Brown, born March 12, 1903, at Fehergyarmat, Hungary as Benoe Braun. On the left is his wife, Barbara Brown, born April 9, 1904, at Fehergyarmat, Hungary; her given name at birth was Piroska. The couple wed on November 13, 1948 shortly before their departure from Hungary.

Benjamin Brown was known locally for his 430-acre farm located on Roosevelt Highway in Carlton, about 2.5 miles west of Two Bridges. Brown purchased the initial acreage from Ed Archbald, a property known locally as the Miller Farm, and later added acreage from the Lyell Kenyon Farm and the Myron Grehlinger Farm. He used half of the acreage for cherry and apple orchards while tomatoes, cabbage, and cucumbers occupied the remaining land.

In Hungary, Brown grew apples exclusively on a 96-acre farm known as Nagymezo, or “Big Meadow” in English. He later told a Democrat & Chronicle reporter, “[Communists] took everything, equipment, supplies, land, you had to just walk off and leave everything. And they didn’t pay you a penny for it, either. If the owner didn’t just disappear during the transaction he was just lucky.” An employee and active member of the local Communist Party informed Brown that the Hungarian government planned to send him to Russia to study collective farming. Upon completion, Brown was to return to Hungary and supervise a government farming program.

Benjamin and Barbara immediately fled their home on July 30, 1949, just days before the Communists assumed full control of Hungary. The Browns relied upon friends and the kindness of strangers to smuggle them out of Budapest, through Czechoslovakia, and into the U.S. controlled zone in Austria. Once in Austria, the couple travelled to the United States, arriving at the Port of New York on January 13, 1950. In total, they paid three smugglers $1,300 for the journey and shipped heirlooms and other personal belongings (including those in the photograph) to the U.S. by way of Americans and soldiers.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reported, “The Browns are mighty proud of their new country, and they said they wish they could tell the American people how much they appreciate a country where they could be received as they have, be given the opportunities provided them, and to effect the rehabilitation that they have experienced during the last six years. They initiated steps towards citizenship soon after their arrival and now are full-fledged naturalized citizens of the United States.”

The article featuring the Browns appeared in the Democrat & Chronicle in the weeks following the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Soviet military forces entered Budapest on November 4, 1956, to suppress a massive revolt against the Communist government, resulting in the deaths of more than 2,500 Hungarians.

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Fire destroyed stately Albion home and farm in 1925

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 8 June 2019 at 6:36 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 22

ALBION – This photograph, taken March 1, 1925, shows the ruins of the brick home once belonging to Dr. Samuel and Helen Church Cochrane. The farm was located just south of the Village of Albion and consisted of a house and several barns.

On February 28, 1925, a catastrophic fire tore through the stately brick house then occupied by Stanley Zwienski and his family. The 75-year-old structure was a complete loss as the fire, starting in the chimney, caused over $3,500 in damage.

Built around 1850, the property was eventually purchased by Dr. Cochrane after he relocated from the Town of Yates. Although Cochrane became a well-respected physician in Albion, his wife was the only daughter of Judge Sanford E. Church. According to local lore, young men from across the county lined up to court the young belle and at one time she was the “most eligible” bachelorette in Albion. The community was quite surprised when Cochrane emerged as the successful suitor.

Although Dr. and Mrs. Cochrane were already deceased at the time of the fire, Dr. Cochrane was plagued by fires throughout his life. In 1897, his home in Yates caught fire after a lamp exploded, leaving him with a hefty bill under partial insurance coverage. In 1910, after Dr. Cochrane passed, this house caught fire but was extinguished before extensive damage occurred.

Visible in this photograph is a small henhouse situated on the front left corner of the largest barn. In November of 1925, just eight months after the brick house burned, the body of Harvey Doubleday was discovered inside this chicken coop.

Doubleday, a well-known Western New York racehorse trainer, was permitted by the property owner to sleep in the barn during the summer months. Coroner Eccleston believed Doubleday’s death came as a result of heart failure, but local papers reported that “Doubleday’s body lay exposed to attacks of swarms of carnivorous rats for nearly a week,” making an exact cause of death difficult to discern. It also demonstrates the local newspapers’ willingness to publish all details of these particular types of stories.

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Remembering Normandy on the 75th anniversary of D-Day

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 1 June 2019 at 7:47 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 21

Photo courtesy of family: Ken Owen was a medic with the 82nd Airborne and was taken prisoner by Germans. He escaped and returned to the Allied forces.

This year marks the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings, which took place on June 6, 1944. The passing of this particular milestone serves as grim reminder that our veterans, particularly those who served during World War Two, are disappearing quickly and with them passes the stories of their service. While the Orleans County Legislature commemorated this anniversary on May 22, I received a note from Graydon Owen containing two photographs and a brief write-up of his father’s service during the war. I found Kenneth Owen’s story to be quite interesting and thought it should be shared with the community.

Kenneth Richard Owen was born in the Town of Shelby on September 15, 1924, the son of George and Cora Rock Owen. Upon reaching the age of 18, he enlisted with the U.S. Army on May 21, 1943, which assigned him to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. As a new recruit, he volunteered for service with the 82nd Airborne Division, the first division of its kind in the history of the U.S. Army, and commenced training with the unit. Kenneth’s first jump with the unit came in July of 1943 when Allied forces utilized parachute regiments to assault Sicily; his second jump came two months later with the assault on Salerno in September of 1943.

As Supreme Allied Command prepared for Operation Neptune, the largest amphibious operation in modern history, the 82nd Airborne prepared for “Mission Boston.” Nearly 6,500 paratroopers jumped from over 350 C-47 aircraft at 1:51am, June 6, 1944. Between the 101st Airborne and 82nd Airborne, the latter experienced fewer landing mishaps including fewer missed landings, minus the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment (which included Medina native James Campas). The overall mission of both divisions was to land on the Cotentin Peninsula and block German progress towards Omaha, Utah, Juno, and Sword beaches.

Owen was a medic with the 82nd Airborne, suffered a sprained shoulder when he landed in the early hours of June 6, and was taken prisoner soon after. German soldiers stripped him of his gear, including food and medical supplies that would have allowed him to treat his injuries. For two days, they kept him without food while he suffered the effects of his injuries. On the third day, Owen attempted an escape, crawling under barbed wire and wading through three-foot-deep water. Despite being shot in the leg by his captors, he managed to find his way to the home of two French women who provided him with food, milk and wine. He was then taken to the home of an elderly French woman who provided him with money to make it back to U.S. troops.

When Allied forces pushed through the area, Owen was rescued and sent to a hospital in England where he received appropriate medical care. Remarkably, he was present with the 82nd Airborne in September of 1944 for Operation Market Garden in an effort to seize several roads and bridges of strategic significance. He remained with his unit through December of 1944, when the 82nd Airborne fought on the frontlines during the Battle of Bulge.

According to his son, Kenneth returned to Medina after the war where he married Marion Anna Maxwell. Ken worked at Abex Corporation for nearly 30 years, retiring in 1985 and remaining in Medina until his death in 2012. Graydon and his wife wrote, “Ken never spoke often or publicly of his war experiences, except, occasionally with his sons and grandsons. But, he always remained devoted to and proud of his military history. Ken kept this time of his life close to his heart. This is the first public telling of his personal story.”

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Medina native rests at Normandy American Cemetery

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 18 May 2019 at 8:27 am

Photo courtesy of Matthew Ballard: The grave of George J. Quinn at Normandy American Cemetery.

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 20

Dedicated in 1956, the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer encompasses 172.5 acres and serves as a final resting place for over 9,000 soldiers killed in action in Europe. Although the site was primarily used to bury those killed during Operation Overlord and the Normandy Breakout, many families requested that Normandy serve as the place of eternal rest for their deceased veterans regardless of where they were killed.

Wandering the sprawling fields lined with white crosses reveals ornately decorated stones etched in gold leaf, denoting the graves of men who received the Congressional Medal of Honor. One stone melds into the thousands of plainly lettered marble crosses, the stone of Sgt. George J. Quinn.

Born at Buffalo, NY on September 5, 1924, Quinn spent most of his life growing up in the vicinity of North Ridgeway. After graduating from Barker, he spent a short period of time working for Harrison Radiator in Lockport before he was inducted into service in March of 1943. Basic training at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri and Camp Pickett, Virginia was followed by deployment to England in October of 1943.

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy in an effort to establish a foothold in France, resulting in the deaths of over 4,000 men. The capture of Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword beaches did not mark the end of the Normandy operation, as troops continued to push through the thick hedgerows of the bocage. On July 22, 1944, Sgt. Quinn and the 112th Infantry landed at Normandy and began the process of breaking out of St. Lo.

The timeline of events during the months of July and August suggest that Quinn was wounded while fighting in the bocage on August 7th, to which he was awarded the Purple Heart. On August 28, 1944, the 112th Infantry along with the remainder of 28th Division arrived in Paris, greeted by crowds of onlookers who welcomed their liberators with cheerfulness and relief. The following day the division marched up Avenue Hoche to the Arc de Triomphe and down the Champs Elysees as they progressed north towards their next objective.

On September 1, 1944, the 112th Infantry travelled by truck to Compiegne where the men were again greeted by the newly liberated French. After enjoying a meal of coffee, biscuits, and other local delicacies, Sgt. Quinn and his unit progressed towards a wooded area north of the town. At 7:30 a.m., segments of the 112th were met by heavy resistance from German soldiers camped around the outskirts of Compiegne. Finally, at 11:15 a.m., the unit was able to progress further north, but not without suffering a number of casualties.

George Quinn, only four days shy of his 20th birthday, was killed in action while pushing through these woods. His body was interred at the Normandy American Cemetery, among the thousands of others who sacrificed their lives for the liberation of France and the European continent.

On May 22nd, the Orleans County Legislature will commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landing at 4:10 p.m. in the Legislature Chambers. Descendants of WWII veterans who participated in the initial landing on June 6, 1944 and descendants of veterans who participated in various engagements in the Normandy region from June 7 – August 30, 1944 are also invited to attend. If you would like to contribute information to Department of History, community members are encouraged to contact me either at Matt.Ballard@orleanscountyny.gov or at 585-589-4174.

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The Central Drug Store in 1904 carried many products, from perfume to baseball bats

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 11 May 2019 at 7:55 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 19

ALBION – This photograph, taken on August 20, 1904, shows the Central Drug Store, owned and operated by Dr. Charles Moore Burrows. The storefront, now occupied by Five Star Bank, was situated in the Swan Block on the northwest corner of North Main and Bank Streets in Albion. It appears as though Burrows arranged to have this photograph taken as the store’s employees stepped outside for a quick snapshot. Standing, left to right, are Dr. Burrows, Agnes McCabe (bookkeeper), George H. Noble (manager), George W. Annis (head clerk), and Robert Moore (junior clerk); William Barker stands off to the left in “reposeful interest.”

The Central Drug Store was originally known as Barrell’s Central Drug Store, owned and operated by George Barrell of Albion. Up until 1902, the business was still being advertised under Barrell’s name and it appears as though the store remained under Burrow’s ownership until 1906 when it was sold to Dr. Jackson of Gasport. The following year it was sold to Harris Freeman who operated it until 1946 when it was sold to Marvin G. Sayles.

The image provides an interesting view into the goods carried by local drug stores at the turn of the 20th century. The left window reveals a collection of brushes and several advertisements for cigars and cigarettes. The “Finest Quality” Little Minister advertisement called attention to the store’s stock of cigars distributed by the Vincent Brothers of Rochester, NY. The Cairo cigarette advertisement below, which calls attention to the booming tobacco industry in Egypt; an ad for LeRoy brand cigarettes and a barrel of baseball bats sit outside of the window.

Stacks of notebooks sit in the right window with a sign that reads “Spencerian.” The Spencerian script was the popular style of cursive writing that allowed writers to produce quick, legible notes, particularly for business related matters. Readers might recognize examples of this script in the Ford Motor Company and Coca-Cola logos. Larger business ledgers are visible in the glass case inside with an assortment of pamphlets on display. A small sign that reads “Paul E. Wirt Fountain Pens” advertises a popular writing instrument produced by Paul Wirt, which reached peak production around the time this photograph was taken.

A 1903 advertisement in the Orleans Republican displays the breadth of products carried by the store; “The aim of this store is high quality, moderate prices and courteous attention. The drugs and medicines are fresh, pure and reliable. The Wines and Liquors are old reliable stock bought in quantities direct from the distillers expressly for medicinal purposes. The Perfumes are the best that can be produced, both imported and American. The stock of imported and domestic Cigars is the largest and choicest ever displayed here. The stock of fine Toilet Articles, Stationary, Papterie, Books, Purses, Tooth, Hair, and Toilet Brushes is superior and attractive. Huyler’s and Lowney’s fine Candies always in stock.”

The storefront to the right was home to the James Bailey & Son grocery store (v.3, no. 13), operated by Herbert Bailey. A small stand of potatoes or yams sits in front of the store below a window advertising soap; it appears as though a potato may have rolled off the table and landed at the foot of Dr. Burrows. It was quite common for local business owners to display their wares along the street, relying upon awnings to protect those goods during poor weather. The retracted awning reads “Central Drug Store” but also features two advertisements for Hires Rootbeer, the “Best Drink on Earth.” Featuring birch, sassafras, licorice, vanilla, spikenard, sarsaparilla, hops, wintergreen, pipsissewa, and ginger flavors, the company frequently advertised the product as “The Temperance Drink.” Hires remains the second oldest soft drink under continuous marketing since its introduction in 1876, which is now sold by Keurig Dr. Pepper.

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Lyndonville Canning Company pioneered applesauce production

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 4 May 2019 at 8:32 am

“Overlooked Orleans” – Vol. 5, No. 18

LYNDONVILLE – Taken some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s, this image shows thousands of bushels of apples piled outside of the Lyndonville Canning Company. Yates farmers established a cooperative canning company in 1916, which was then purchased by Theodore and Frank Visscher in 1917. The Visschers marketed their products under the “V.B.” label, which stood for “Visscher Brothers.”

In the early 1920s, the Visscher Brothers advertised the sale of Cumulative Preferred Stock at a cost of $100 per share; the annual dividends of seven percent were paid to owners on a quarterly basis. Shortly after, William A. Smith and Wilson McCagg purchased 50 percent of the business and the two men began to gradually shift production from a variety of vegetables to apples.

The Visschers previously manufactured applesauce in large batches using copper kettles, producing as many as 24,000 cases of applesauce in 1924. Smith brought with him an interest in innovating and improving that production process, inventing a method for continuously cooking the apples to improve uniformity and quality. In 1930, Frank Visscher died and the business passed to Smith and McCagg. During the 1930s, Smith would file at least three patents for cooking apparatus used in the manufacturing of applesauce; an apparatus for preparing food substances (1935), a method and apparatus for refining fruit sauces (1935), and an apparatus for making fruit products (1939).

According to Smith’s sons, George and Clayton Smith, their father was a pioneer in the applesauce industry, largely due to his invention of the above listed apparatus. By the 1950s, other manufacturers were utilizing these machines to continuously cook down their product. The company remained under local ownership until 1979 when it was sold to Pillsbury.

Around 1929 or 1930, William Smith constructed a large applesauce can at the intersection of Rt. 63 and Rt. 104 on the south side of the road. A replica of the Very Best brand applesauce, travelers could stop for a sampling of the locally known product.

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5 honored for selfless efforts as ‘Heritage Heroes’

Photos by Tom Rivers: Five people were honored as Heritage Heroes during an awards celebration on Friday at GCC’s campus center in Medina. The following were recognized, from left: Todd Bensley, Harriette Greaser, Tom Taber, Lynne Menz and Dr. Neil Johnson.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 27 April 2019 at 1:51 pm

MEDINA – Five Orleans County residents were honored for their efforts to preserve and promote local history during the sixth annual Heritage Heroes awards on Friday evening at the GCC campus center in Medina.

The annual awards are sponsored by GCC and Orleans Hub. The program included a keynote speech by Dr. Rozenn Bailleul-LeSuer, who is the historian of the Western Monroe Historical Society, which has its headquarters at the Morgan-Manning House in Brockport.

The Morgan-Manning House, built in 1854, was badly damaged by fire in 1964. Brockport area residents rallied to save and restore the house, which remains an important landmark for the community, Bailleul-LeSuer said.

Derek Maxfield, a GCC professor, welcomes a crowd of about 35 people to the Heritage Heroes awards celebration on Friday evening. Jim Simon, left, is dean of the GCC campus centers in Albion and Medina. Maxfield and Simon are part of the Heritage Heroes Committee, along with Tom Rivers, editor of the Orleans Hub. Dr. Rozenn Bailleul-LeSuer (center), who is the historian of the Western Monroe Historical Society, was keynote speaker for the event.

The 2019 Orleans County Heritage Heroes include:

• Tom Taber of Albion, who 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 tracked down her letters, including 40 that were at Notre Dame University.

He followed Hard Breathing Days 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.

• 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.

When the Greasers bought the house in 1987, it was in rough shape. The Greasers restored it, scraping away old paint, bringing back original woodwork, planting trees, hedges and a big garden of flowers and vegetables. The house had been the home for the church 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 Greasers also restored a 7,000-square-foot house in Eagle Harbor before “downsizing” to the 4,000-square-foot home in Albion. In addition to her restoration efforts, Mrs. Greaser has been the organist for Holy Family Parish/St. Joseph’s Catholic Church since 1987. She praised her late husband for pushing to create a “home” that was a welcome place for their family. That was always the main motivation for the work in the houses.

Lynne Menz accepts a Heritage Hero award on Friday. Her late father, Bill Menz, also was a Heritage Hero in 2015. The two worked together on a monument for the soldiers who trained at the former Medina Armory and went to war.

• 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. Her recent efforts are culminating 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 of a 7-foot bronze World War I soldier on the grounds of the YMCA. The statue was erected last week and will be dedicated this fall. Menz has also been active with the Orleans Renaissance Group, Medina Sandstone Society, and the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association. She said the community is fortunate to have been people with passion that work on projects, benefittign everyone.

Todd Bensley, Medina village historian, accepts his award on Friday. He said the community has people of all ages interested in promoting history.

• Todd Bensley received the Bill Lattin Municipal Historian Award, named in honor of the retired county historian. Lattin presented the award to Bensley and praised his many efforts to promote Medina history. Lattin said Bensley has shown tenacity and dedication in his role as Medina historian.

Bensley, a Medina High School history teacher, has worked as the village historian since 2004. Prior to that he was president of the Medina Historical Society.

He has led numerous historical tours of Medina, engaging students in local history. Last year he published a 314-page book on the community’s historic cemetery, Boxwood. He teamed up with the Medina Sandstone Society to establish the John Ryan School of Historical Excellence in 2015 at the high school. 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 last year with his book, “Boxwood Cemetery: Where the Past is Present.” Proceeds from the book are donated to Friends of Boxwood Cemetery.

Dr. Neil Johnson was recognized for about 40 years of dedicated service as a local historian.

• Dr. Neil Johnson of Albion received 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 1,313 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 at Hoag Library.

Matt Ballard, the current county historian, presented the award to Johnson and called him a role and inspiration. Ballard said the two served together on Albion’s Historic Preservation Commission.

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