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No field trips to start school year so Albion teacher makes videos of community sites

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 September 2020 at 10:21 am

Photos by Tom Rivers: Dee Robinson, a reference librarian at Hoag Library in Albion, meets with Albion teacher Tim Archer for a YouTube video on some important local artifacts at the library, including a letter from George Washington, a sword from Civil War and a brick with the name “Newport.” That was Albion’s name before it was Albion.

ALBION – Tim Archer, an Albion Middle School service learning teacher, likes to take groups of students on field trips in the community each year.

They stop at historic sites, such as the Courthouse Square and Civil War Memorial (Mount Albion Tower) at Mount Albion Cemetery. They visit with historians to learn about local history and other interesting artifacts.

But there won’t be any field trips to start this school year, or guest speakers to classrooms.

Archer still wants his sixth- and seventh-grade students to feel a deeper connection to the community, learning about its history and some notable leaders and characters from the past.

He decided to bring the field trips to the class. He plans to visit many of the sites that would normally be on the outings, and make videos of the locations with short clips from historians and other speakers.

Tuesday was the first stop. Archer met with Dee Robinson, the reference librarian at Hoag Library and a long-time Gaines town historian. Robinson has been the caretaker of the archive room at the library.

She often will host Archer’s students on field trips. On Tuesday, she made a video on the library’s YouTube channel, showing some of the interesting artifacts in the collection.

Archer will share the video in the his classes, and students will need to answer questions from the presentation.

The two highlighted maps from Orleans County in 1852 and the village in 1857. In the county, map, there is no Town of Albion. At that time, the Town of Albion was part of Barre. The village, however, was Albion.

Albion, however, almost wasn’t “Albion.” The village officials initially were pushing to name the community “Newport.” Robinson has a brick with the Newport name. But state officials rejected that name because the U.S. Postal Service didn’t want two places with the same name in the state. There was already a Newport.

Robinson isn’t sure which building or site the Newport brick is from. The state government nixed the idea of naming Albion “Newport” because there was already a Newport in Herkimer County and the U.S. Postal Service balked at having two in the state.

Albion was also derisively referred to as “Mudport” by many people in Gaines. The village streets tended to get muddy, especially down the hill on Main Street near Bank Street, before the Erie Canal.

Robinson, in her YouTube talk, also showed a sword given to Albion man as he was departing to fight in the Civil War in 1862.  The sword was presented to George Hutchinson by the local Masonic Lodge.

Robinson also discussed Grace Bedell, an Albion girl who wrote to Lincoln during the presidential campaign of 1860. She suggested that he grow whiskers “because his face was so scrawny,” Robinson said.

Bedell thought a beard would increase his chances for election. Lincoln took her advice and won. Bedell wrote that letter when she briefly lived in Westfield. Lincoln would meet her on the train in Westfield when he headed to Washington, D.C.

This book by Fred Trump in 1977 highlights Grace Bedell, a girl from Albion who urged Abraham Lincoln to grow a beard in 1860, when he was running for president.

Robinson also discussed other library treasures, including a letter written in May 1784 from George Washington. He wrote to Jacob Morris, who delivered a package for the general to Marquis de Lafayette, a French military officer who fought with Washington in the American Revolutionary War.

An Albion native, Noah Davis, received the letter from a friend who won it in a poker game, Robinson said.

The library also has the pen used in 1867 to sign bail bond for Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy. The pen was given to Rufus Bullock, the governor of Georgia and an Albion native.

Davis was captured in Georgia on May 10, 1865. He was taken to Fort Monroe, Virginia. Although he was accused of treason and plotting in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, he was never brought to trial.

After two years in prison, he was released and lived out the rest of his life in relative peace in Biloxi, Mississippi, at the Beauvoir plantation. He died in 1889.

Bullock donated the pen to the Swan Library, which opened in 1900 and soon was taken in important artifacts because there wasn’t a museum in the county to be serve as caretaker of the items.

“It’s cool that these things that are so significant to our national history are right here,” Archer said.

To see the YouTube video of Robinson’s presentation, click here.

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