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Old Time Orleans

Landmark Presbyterian Church stands as testament to 19th Century prosperity

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 20 August 2016 at 12:30 pm

Old Time Orleans Masthead

Albion Presbyterian Church



Volume 2, Issue 34

ALBION – Few churches in Orleans County can boast such an extensive and prosperous history at the First Presbyterian Society. The earliest roots of the church date to 1816 when the First Congregational Society of Barre was formed at the home of Joseph Hart. Nearly twenty years later members from that church showed preference towards the Presbyterian style of church government and opted to relocate to the fledgling village that would later become Albion.

The founding members of that congregation included prominent residents such as Joseph Hart, Jedediah Phelps, and Harvey Goodrich who were subsequently selected as elders of the church; Hart was also selected as deacon. Following the organization of this new congregation, the church welcomed their first new member by baptism, the infant Flora Ann Hopkins, daughter of Milton Hopkins. Services were held in several locations including a schoolhouse on Main Street, a local barn, and for a period of time, the court house.

The desire to erect a permanent house of worship to call their own burned bright within the congregation. In 1830 the society met and decided to construct a church edifice at a total cost of no more than $4,000. The following year, the congregation celebrated the completion of their new brick church located on Main Street. That site remained active until the congregation elected to erect a new building on East State Street; the old church was sold to the Episcopalians.

The new Greek Revival church was completed in 1846 at a cost of $9,160 and included an organ and bell costing approximately $1,950. When the present church was constructed, this structure was converted into a chapel and the belfry later removed.

Following the death of Elizur Hart in 1870, a generous bequest of $50,000 (nearly $1,000,000 today) was left to erect the beautiful and impressive Gothic style edifice that stands today. The cost to construct such a striking building totaled nearly $80,000, so it was thanks in large part to Mr. Hart that this stunning landmark was completed. The building was dedicated in 1874 and finished with a Hook & Hastings two manual organ boasted as one of the finest in Western New York; the instrument was installed at an expense of $3,500.

The 175-foot steeple which remains a visible landmark on the horizon from miles around Albion weathered the storms of this area for over 60 years before the congregation determined the need for restoration work. Leading up to 1937, a series of storms had caused damage to the spire culminating in several stones falling to the ground that year. The windows that adorn the stone range from seven feet to four feet six inches in height and the capstone consists of three separate pieces of sandstone standing five feet ten inches tall.

Repairs to the steeple were completed in late 1937 after the congregation raised the necessary funds from nearly 450 churchgoers and community members. Upon commencement of the repairs, it was discovered that the top fifteen feet was leaning ten inches to the northeast.

This fine example of Gothic architecture constructed with Medina Sandstone stands as a testament to the ingenuity of the earliest settlers of Orleans County. It represents the foundation on which our area was built and reflects an age of great wealth, prosperity, and generosity. Few places in New York can claim such a rich cultural and architectural history as we have here.

Elizur Hart will be one of several prominent citizens featured during Sunday’s tour at Mt. Albion Cemetery. The Department of History is hosting tours of the cemetery on Sundays in August starting at 6 p.m. Tours will be led by Matthew Ballard and Bill Lattin and the group will depart from the cemetery chapel. Wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather – this week’s tour includes a nice leisurely stroll and some very small hills!

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Bidelmans Tannery was a mainstay at Gaines

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 16 July 2016 at 10:00 am

GAINES – Coming to Shelby in 1817, Samuel Bidelman was brought to Shelby by his Uncle John Garlock to a site cleared by Bidelman’s father during the previous year. The Bidelman clan was built from strong German stock and resided in Herkimer County before trekking westward to the wilderness that was Orleans County.

As Arad Thomas recalls in the Pioneer History of Orleans County, the Bidelman family was greeted by a large contingent of locals who welcomed them to their new home. Upon the crowd’s departure, Henry Bidelman realized that his new neighbors had taken a large portion of the wheat flour brought with them into the virgin forests. The family was forced to live off of the remaining flour, bran bread, and sea biscuit leftover from the War of 1812 stores at the Batavia Arsenal. The crops of 1817 eventually provided alternate food sources for the settlers of the area.

In 1820, Samuel left his family “with an old straw hat, a pair of tow cloth pantaloons and a second hand coat” to start his own life at Ridgeway Corners. There he entered the employ of Isaac Bullard learning the trade of tanning and shoemaking. Bullard fancied liquor and was said to be a “hard master” to his young apprentice; Isaac died in 1827 and Samuel eventually purchased the business from his master’s wife.

In 1835 Bidelman sold his tannery at Ridgeway and with $1,500 to his name, purchased the old tannery once belonging to James and Elihu Mather in the village of Gaines. That tannery, seen in this picture, shows the site as it appeared in 1870 located along the south side of the Ridge Road, just east of the Oak Orchard Road intersection. In its earliest years the local Masonic Lodge met on the upper floor and the property, as well as the Mather brothers, were allegedly involved in the disappearance of William Morgan in 1826.

With the outbreak of the Patriot War in Canada during the year 1838, Bidelman provided support to the Canadian rebels, allowed for the establishment of a “Hunter’s Lodge” within the second story of his tannery, and provided the group with a cast iron bark mill to be used for casting cannon balls. In his generosity and commitment to the movement he gave his last gun and a pair of boots to fit out a soldier who traveled to Canada to join the rebels. It is said that Samuel was a lieutenant with an artillery militia company in Yates and gave the unit’s artillery piece to the Patriots.

In 1841 Bidelman established a partnership with Robert Ranney, which lasted five years before it dissolved due to a lack of profit and frequent disagreements. Upon dissolution of the partnership, Bidelman went into business with his sons up until the property burned in 1873.

His son Charles rebuilt the business and operated it for another ten years before selling his interests in the company. At the time this photograph was taken, the town offices for Gaines were housed on the second floor.

Bidelman served several terms as Gaines Town Supervisor as well as Justice of the Peace. He was also present for the 1859 collapse of the Canal bridge at Albion when he and his wife were thrown into the water along with hundreds of others who were watching a tightrope walker attempt to cross “Clinton’s Ditch.”

Albion Rotarian starred in Womanless Wedding for fund-raiser

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 9 July 2016 at 9:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 28

Over 100 years ago, “Womanless Weddings” were commonplace throughout the United States. Dating back into the 19th century, faux nuptials were held in the South as a means for raising money for charities, churches, and community organizations. As interest in their inherent humor began to rise, the events spread like a wildfire across the entire country.

The Womanless Wedding was an opportunity for men to dress up as women, don some makeup, and over exaggerate femininity. These gentlemen would kiss members of the crowd (men and women alike), flash their garters, adjust whatever they may have rigged up for breasts, and act in a generally “naughty” manner all for a few laughs.

Naturally, these became popular events as community members had no qualms about paying a little money to see their neighbors dressed as women. Publishers eventually developed scripts for such programs and each event became a true dramatic performance. One such set of lines from a 1936 program closes with the minister introducing the newlyweds:

Minister: “Then, in the name of I-wouldn’t-‘a’-thought-it, I pronounce you man and…Two dollars and seventy-five cents, please?”
Groom: “What’s the seventy-five cents for? You promised to splice us for two dollars.”
Minister: “That’s for having to look at the bride all during the ceremony…”

This image shows Eugene W. “Bud” Wilcox, Jr. dressed as Theda Bara for a Womanless Wedding hosted by the Albion Rotary Club for the benefit of the Crippled Children Fund. Quite the saucy personality, Bara was an early silent film actress who became well known as one of the earliest sex symbols in U.S. cinema.

Wilcox was born on February 20, 1891 to Eugene and Alice Wilcox, growing up on West Park Street in Albion. Following graduation from the Albion High School, Wilcox enrolled at Lehigh University where he became a prominent athlete while studying business and participating as a member of the Psi Upsilon fraternity.

After he completed his degree in 1915, “Bud” enlisted with the U.S. Navy during the First World War and was stationed in New Orleans as a Chief Storekeeper. Five days after the conclusion of the war, he was commissioned as an Ensign and remained in the U.S. Naval Reserves until the end of 1919. Upon his return to Albion he worked as a clerk in his father’s hardware store located at 98 Main Street, eventually taking ownership of the business. The building and hardware store still exist today, now as Family Hardware owned by Fred Miller.

Wilcox was a charter member of Albion’s Rotary Club, an active member of the Presbyterian Church, and a member of the Elks and Renovation Lodges of Albion.

Carlton native earned fame for physique, larger-than-life personality

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 2 July 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 27

Orleans County boasts a long an impressive lineage of entrepreneurs, inventors, and local celebrities so it should be no surprise that this week’s column features yet another area native who developed an illustrious career for himself.

The child of John Babbage and Fanny Wescott, Edward Frederick Babbage was born along the Oak Orchard River in Carlton around 1841. His mother was an English immigrant arriving in the United States in 1837 and marrying her husband the following year.

After spending their earliest years in Orleans County, the Babbage family relocated to Rochester where the father worked as a fruit peddler. It is said that Edward was always on the “large” side, being exceptionally big at the age of six and weighing in at 200 pounds at the age of 14. His interests were varied, so much of his early working career was spent experimenting in various vocations; first as a hotel porter, then as a hotel manager, a traveling salesman, museum manager, and eventually a glassblower.

At the conclusion of the Civil War, Babbage was enlisted as the road agent for a minstrel troupe operated by veterans of the 15th Engineer Corps. After a three-year stint with the troupe, his services were sought by the well-known minstrel troupe operated by “Happy Cal” Wagner. As the story goes, Wagner was unaware of Edward’s initials sent the letter addressed to “Phat Boy” Babbage; from that point forward, the name stuck like glue.

“Phat Boy” Babbage became a celebrity thanks to his large size, amiable personality, striking looks, and sense of humor. During his years as a road agent, he claimed to have visited every city and town that boasted more than 5,000 inhabitants. He became a popular public spectacle and a larger-than-life personality, which conveniently matched his physical stature. As a result, newspapers remarked “he was the fattest of the fat” and “was as broad as he was wide”

Babbage’s rise to fame occurred during the time in which the country’s wealthiest and most famous capitalists were scarfing up land throughout the St. Lawrence River region. Venturing northward, Babbage was enlisted by the steamboat operators of the Thousand Islands to act as a tour guide for the region. He often sat aboard the bow of the boats equipped with his signature felt hat and diamond lapel pin, sharing colorful stories of the area’s rich and famous inhabitants.

“Phat Boy” was an astute guide and spent much of his time brushing up on the history of the region, authoring several books which are still viewable today. Babbage’s book entitled “The Phat Boy’s 15 Years on the St. Lawrence River” highlights his career on the river as well as stories of celebrities he met along the way including President Ulysses S. Grant and George M. Pullman.

Humorous anecdotes fill the pages often discouraging readers from attaining a mass equivalent to his own, remarking that such extreme weights were far from enjoyable. Pushing 330 pounds by 1890, Babbage’s wife had died several years prior largely due to her excessive weight and his own twin brother, Dr. Edwin F. Babbage lagged behind at a mere 300 pounds.

On June 23, 1891, Babbage felt ill and meandered up the stairs of the Marsden House at Alexandria Bay. Whistling his usual joyful melody as he ascended, he collapsed at the head of the stairs and died at the age of 51; 340 pounds his final weight.

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Burrows Concert Hall once home to Baptist Church in Albion

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 26 June 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 26

ALBION – Over two hundred years ago as the pioneer settlers first established themselves in the wilderness that was once Genesee County, education and religion became fundamental pieces in daily life.

It’s no surprise that the first church constructed in this region was situated along the heavily traveled Ridge Road in the town of Gaines. A partnership between Baptists and Congregationalists led to the erection of a church edifice to the west of the old Gaines Road.

Upon the opening of the Erie Canal, traffic, industry, and eventually wealth transitioned southward into the Village of Albion and of course so did the demand for schools and churches.

The Baptists, once practicing their faith in their shared sanctuary at Gaines, pushed to split the congregation in order to establish themselves within the village. With pressure from many prominent citizens, the First Baptist Church of Albion was organized on April 17, 1830 at the Court House; Phineas Briggs and Barnuel Farr were selected as deacons.

After the succession of Rev. Hervey Blood to the pastorate of the congregation at Gaines, the Rev. Arab Irons was petitioned to serve in Albion as the first pastor of the newly formed congregation. With no place to meet, the churchgoers worshiped in the Court House for nearly two years before the group was able to purchase a parcel of land on North Main Street from Sydney Barrell at a cost of $400.

In 1832, the beautiful edifice pictured here was built adjacent to the Burrows Mansion (the old Swan Library) at a cost of $7,000. Constructed in the Federal style, the building is representative of an iconic architectural style that places emphasis on balance, symmetry, and elegance. For nearly 28 years the structure served the faithful worshippers until the congregation outgrew its physical space.

Under the pastorate of Rev. Almond C. Barrell the congregation purchased a lot on the corner of Liberty and West Park Street from the Presbyterian Church and erected a new building at the cost of $22,107 in 1860; approximately $588,000 today.

Upon relocation of the congregation, the old church was transferred to Roswell S. Burrows who used the space as a concert hall. The building continued to serve in that capacity until it was left vacant and razed in the early 1890s.

The “Concert Hall Lot,” as it was called, remained under the ownership of the Burrows Estate until the remaining real property was liquidated in 1906. The Albion Lodge Independent Order of Odd Fellows purchased the lot and constructed a meeting house, which remains today with some additions and modifications added over the last 109 years.

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Town of Gaines marks 200 years of mail

Posted 18 June 2016 at 12:00 am

By Al Capurso
Town of Gaines Historian

Volume 2, Issue 25

When you pick up your mail in the next few days, you might want to remember that it was 200 years ago this July 1st that a pioneer settler on the Ridge Road in Gaines became the first postmaster in Orleans County. William Jenks Babbitt ran that post office out of his log cabin home starting in 1816.

Born in Providence, Rhode Island on September 15, 1786, he learned the trade of blacksmith in his father’s shop. In 1810, Babbitt came to the unbroken wilderness of “the Genesee Country” and began clearing land and building his log cabin near the corner of Crandall Road and Route 104.

After the dangers of the War of 1812 subsided, he moved his wife and children to what was to become Gaines and became the area’s first blacksmith. He also established the first brickyard in the town, supplying the bricks for many early buildings we still see standing today. He was appointed Justice of the Peace in 1815 and served in this capacity for 23 years. His “Marriage Day Book” with its first entry of June 2, 1815 is in the possession of the Town of Gaines Historian. It can be seen in the display case at the town hall next to his original daguerreotype portrait you see here.

In 1816, Wm. Babbitt was successful in getting the Ridge Road declared “The Post Road” by New York State, and his application as first postmaster of Gaines was granted; an office he held for five years. Babbitt was also working hard to get the town of Gaines organized. It was his suggestion that General Edmund Pendleton Gaines, hero of the War of 1812, be honored with its naming.

His 1816 Valentines Day gift to his wife Eunice was the announcement that Gaines was set off from Ridgeway and contained most of the present day Carlton and Barre. In 1831 he became Town of Gaines Supervisor and soon after represented this area in the New York State Assembly.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of William Babbitt was the construction of Gaines District #5 Cobblestone Schoolhouse on the Ridge Road just east of Childs. It was built in 1849 and the work was superintended by Babbitt. It is most unusual in that it has a sloping floor and its facade of lake washed cobblestones are set on a hewn wooden framework, rather than a rubble stone wall.

Further, Mr. Babbitt gave the school district a gift of the bell pictured above, costing $20 in 1849. The building was used as a schoolhouse until 1952. Currently, plans are underway to restore the bell to working order, so once again visitors to the Cobblestone Museum in Childs, Town of Gaines, will be delighted by the chiming of Babbitt’s bell.

One last note about the photo of Mr. Babbitt with a stern look on his face: The story handed down is that his wife had arranged for this sitting, but Mr. Babbitt was upset since he was still in his work clothes. The photographer painted in the suit and collar we see here. Mr. Babbitt was a remarkable man and those of us in Gaines and Orleans County are indebted to his industry and vision.

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After death of Notre Dame fan, family built mausoleum at St. Joseph’s

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 12 June 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 24

Taken in May of 1942, this image shows men erecting the Dowd-Kellogg mausoleum at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Albion. William E. Karns of Albion was commissioned to build the first and only mausoleum at that that cemetery using 35 tons of granite shipped in from Barre, Vermont.

The structure stands 10 feet high, is 12 feet 7 inches long, and 7 feet 6 inches wide with a crypt built from Pennsylvania Black Ribbon slate finished with a bronze door with plate glass. A crane was used to lift the large blocks of stone into place, the man standing in front of the mausoleum was responsible for mixing the mortar that locked the stone into place.

Charles Dowd was the first interment made in the newly completed crypt after his death in November of the previous year. An ardent fan of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, a 76-year-old Dowd found himself tied to the radio in his home on West Bank Street listening to the Notre Dame-Navy football game on November 8, 1941. Dowd suffered a massive heart attack as a result of the 20-13 victory over the “Middies”; far too exciting for an old gentleman’s frail heart.

Before his death, Dowd operated a newsroom and tobacco shop at 13 E. Bank Street (occupied by the Golden Comb today) in Albion with his brother George. Upon his death, he left an estate valued at $10,000 to which he gave $100 each to St. Joseph’s Church and St. Mary’s Church in Albion, depositing the remainder in a bank account for his sister. Upon her death, the money was to pay for the upkeep of St. Joseph’s Cemetery on Brown Road in Gaines.

The newsroom transitioned to his brother-in-law, Charles Kellogg, who had started his career in Dowd’s newsroom. Kellogg was lucky to have survived into adulthood, having receive a near fatal gunshot wound as a young boy; a group of young lads led by a young son of Joseph Dibley were playing with a loaded revolver when it accidentally discharged, shooting Kellogg in the groin.

The newsroom operated by Kellogg was later sold to Newell Maxon of Medina and eventually was transferred to Carl Fischer and relocated to North Main Street (Fischer’s Newsroom).

Kellogg had his fair share of “toys” and frequently raced novelty automobiles at the Orleans County Fairgrounds. He was cited by local authorities on several occasions for driving his boat up and down the Canal at excessive speeds, once to the point where Canal employees threatened to remove the vessel from the water should he not abide by the laws.

Charles Kellogg and his wife, Mary Dowd Kellogg, are also entombed in the mausoleum.

Many from Company F in Medina served and made ultimate sacrifice

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 4 June 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 23

Memorial Day was a weekend for self-reflection for many Americans, while others find enjoyment in spending time with family, vacations, and cook-outs.

One noticeable presence during this past holiday weekend was the outcry of citizens asking for the greater community to remember the true meaning of the day; an opportunity to honor those men and women who gave everything for our country. Winston Churchill’s famous quote, “Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few,” stands as a statement that every American should memorize.

One thing that Orleans County does not lack is the appreciation and support of our veterans and members of the U.S. Armed Forces. In October of 2008, the Company F Memorial Committee dedicated a monument to the memory of those men who served out of Medina’s Armory with the 3rd N.Y. National Guard and the 108th U.S. Infantry. The beautiful sandstone memorial contains five bronze tablets which include the names of men who served during the Spanish-American War, Mexican Border Incursion, World War One, World War Two, as well as the names of men who served during the Cold War.

Despite its focus on Company F, the monument stands as a testament to all men who served from Orleans County spanning over two centuries of conflicts. Those names listed with special designations recall the sacrifices of those who went above and beyond the call of duty. Men like Luke Gaffey who served during the First World War.

Awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for actions on September 28, 1918, Gaffey left the cover of shelter to rescue wounded soldiers from machine gun and artillery fire. The following day, he continued an advance on enemy positions with an automatic rifle after his entire squad was killed or wounded; he received a
bronze oak leaf cluster for his bravery.

Other men such as Archie Case, Raymond Reed, and Mahlon Ward were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross when they unselfishly left the protection of shelter during an artillery barrage on September 29, 1918 to bandage wounded soldiers and pull them back to safety.

Of course, most Medina residents are familiar with the story of Lt. John Butts who sacrificed his own life to protect the lives of his fellow soldiers on June 23, 1944. With a complete disregard for his own safety, “and seeing his platoon waver and start to fall back,” Butts urged his men uphill against a stubbornly defended area.

Capt. Lloyd Tallent of Texarkana, Texas recalled the efforts of Butts that day stating that after Butts was wounded by machine gun fire, “he knew he was dying because of his severe stomach wound dragged himself over the fire swept ground towards the enemy. All the enemy were watching him.” Wounded twice, first on June 14th of 1944 then on June 16th, his determination to remain with his men and refusal to seek treatment for wounds combined with the sacrifices made on June 23 earned him the Congressional Medal of Honor in August of 1945, which was awarded posthumously. His body was finally brought home in 1948.

The Company F Memorial Committee continues to seek support in the completion of their project. Although the beautiful sandstone memorial stands at the Medina Armory site, it represents one phase of a two phase process. The crowning achievement is a bronze statue of a Company F soldier, which will rest upon the monument tribute to all who served and as a lasting reminder of those who never came home.

Those who are interested in learning more about the project or to donate, please visit The Cobblestone Museum is sponsoring a speaker series every Friday at 7 p.m. in July, starting July 8th with a program on Orleans County and the First World War; more information is available at

Many from Orleans County served and died in Civil War

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 28 May 2016 at 12:00 am

Soldiers & Sailors Monument

Photo by Matthew Ballard – The Soldiers & Sailors Monument, dedicated 140 years ago in the spring of 1876, contains the names of 466 soldiers and sailors etched on marble tablets; those men who gave their lives for the preservation of the Union buried both at home and on the battlefield. The monument stands as a testament to the beauty of our native Medina Sandstone and the pride and community commitment to honoring our veterans.


Volume 2, Issue 22

ALBION – The 7th grade class of students from Albion Middle School dedicated a beautiful granite urn, sugar maple tree, and bronze plaque affixed to a slab of pink Medina Sandstone on May 26.

The task undertaken by Tim Archer should be applauded and imitated by teachers throughout the region as a heartfelt effort to educate students about the importance of becoming noble citizens.

Over 140 students stood on the very ground once selected by David Hardie and other area municipal supervisors for use as a lot for veteran burials. Just two years later, the men of Curtis Post Grand Army of the Republic dedicated a flag pole and M1841 6-pounder bronze howitzer cannon to the memory of their fallen comrades. Those same men committed themselves to ensuring that all indigent soldiers who found themselves interred within potter’s field be removed to this newly consecrated lot.

In conjunction with the ceremonies held on May 26th and Memorial Day, it may be fitting to share a few brief notes of interest pertaining to Civil War veterans from Orleans County.

Thousands of men would enter into service with the Union Army, some would never return, yet many would return with permanent physical and mental scars from the horrors of battle.

Pvt. Ross Brown, 18th U.S. Colored Troops – born a slave in North Carolina, Brown escaped as a stowaway aboard a ship traveling for New Orleans. Making his way inland, he enlisted with the Union Army in 1864 and moved to Albion in 1890. He was affectionately known locally as “Uncle Ross.”

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

Dr. Arthur K. St. Clair, 5th Michigan Cavalry – graduating at the head of his class from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York City, Dr. St. Clair was regarded as an outstanding field surgeon having participated in at least 14 battles. When Gen. Wadsworth was killed at The Wilderness, St. Clair volunteered with a party of men to retrieve the body from the Confederate line.

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

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

Col. Fazilo A. Harrington, 27th Illinois Infantry – a native of Medina, Harrington entered West Point Military Academy in 1850 before resigning his position in favor of a career in civil engineering. Answering the call of Gov. Yates of Illinois, he was placed in command of the 27th Illinois Infantry. Harrington was struck in the face by an artillery shell at the Battle of Stones River, killing him instantly. A Confederate private attempting to steal the colonel’s boots was given quite the scare when he looked up to see Harrington’s eyes wide open, as if to stare at him.

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

Pioneer physician was respected educator and politician

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 21 May 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 21
ALBION – This photograph shows the gravesite of Dr. Lemuel Covell Paine as it appears today. A pioneer physician and Albion businessman, Paine was born November 8, 1787 in Vermont, the son of Dr. Ichabod Sparrow and Mary Dixon Paine. After the death of his father in 1807, arrangements were made for Lemuel to live with his uncle Eli Pierson and study medicine under the direction of Dr. Asa Stower at Queensbury, NY.

As he progressed in his studies, Paine found himself teaching in various one-room schoolhouses to raise the funds to support his education under Stower. Upon the completion of his term under the tutelage of the physician, Lemuel was subjected to the examination put forth by the Censors of the Medical Society of Washington County, which he passed with relative ease.

Over the next two decades Paine travelled westward across New York, establishing himself in Clyde, New York for a period of time where he served as a mentor and instructor for several prospective physicians. Upon his eventual arrival in Albion, Paine was a well-respected and seasoned veteran in the medical field during a time when so many doctors were self-taught.

Nearly 50 years of age at the time of his arrival in 1836, Paine established a partnership with Dr. Orson Nichoson under the name Nichoson & Paine; the firm specialized in the sale of drugs, compounds, and books. Dr. Paine was a pious man, so it was no surprise that he served as a deacon of the First Baptist Church in Albion and an early trustee of the Rochester Theological Seminary (Colgate Rochester Crozier Divinity School). His commitment to education was apparent through his appointment as a trustee of the Phipps Union Seminary, the Albion Academy, and the University of Rochester.

His role not only as a respected physician but a successful businessman placed him at the top of the list for political races and appointments. Prior to his arrival in Albion, Paine had served as Postmaster in Fulton County and his political affiliation as a Whig would earn him similar positions in Orleans County. A brief term as Orleans County Treasurer was followed by an appointment as one of three commissioners overseeing the administration of Mt. Albion Cemetery.

Unlike the long lineage of physicians that preceded Lemuel, his sons chose a slightly different career path. With guidance received from their father, Lemuel C. Jr, Cyrus, and James Paine formed a drug company in Rochester known at the Paine Drug Company. The business became a top-tier drug manufacturer in the region and left the oldest brother with an estimate $890,000 estate upon his death in 1899; valued at $24 million today.

Dr. Paine died at Albion on January 3, 1873; it’s safe to assume that his sons were responsible for the erection of this beautiful granite monument located in the eastern section of the cemetery that overlooks the original main entrance (now the east gate).

Col. Achilles was key to rejuvenating seminary in Albion

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 14 May 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 20

This image of Lt. Col. Henry Ludwig Achilles shows him garbed in his Union officer’s uniform taken sometime around 1862 at the studio of George Hopkins in Albion.

A New Hampshire native, Achilles established himself in Rochester as a young entrepreneur and man of religious conviction. As an established tinsmith, he was responsible for starting one of the first foundries in Rochester where he engaged in the manufacturing and sale of sheet metal and tin. His early successes in business allowed him to contribute to the purchase of property for the construction of the First Baptist Church of Rochester of which he was a superintendent in the early 1830s.

When the First Baptist Church split into two congregations due to the overwhelming growth of the group, he assisted in establishing the Second Baptist Church in Rochester and was selected as one of its first trustees. As a respected gentleman in the city, he served a short term as town clerk of Brighton and local fire inspector.

After the death of his second wife, Samantha Howe, Henry was married to Caroline Phipps of Albion in 1839. Up until that time, Caroline had worked carefully to establish herself as an exceptional educator and was responsible for operating the Phipps Union Seminary with her sisters.

Shortly after their marriage the newlyweds moved to Boston where they lived for nearly ten years, leaving Caroline’s sister Sophronia to care for the seminary.

In 1848 the seminary finally passed through the hands of the Phipps family when it was sold to Rev. Frederick Janes. Almost immediately after the sale was finalized, enrollment dropped from 100 students to less than 40. A frustrated board was poised to force Janes from his position and pleaded for Henry and Caroline to return.

With great reluctance, the couple retook control of the seminary in 1849 and made quick work of restoring the institution’s reputation. The following year was marked by a spike in enrollment, which led to the construction of a wood-frame addition on the north end of the building.

During his time as head of the institution, Henry was active in local affairs. When Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers to enter military service on behalf of the Union Army on April 15, 1861, Achilles and other men initiated a gathering at the Court House on April 18th. The group immediately took to organizing two companies of men, the first placed under the charge of David Hardie and the second under the charge of Henry Achilles, Jr. When the ladies of Albion had prepared a donation of two beautiful flags, Henry Achilles Sr. was asked to make the presentation to both units, the second under the command of his son.

Achilles enlisted in the service himself on January 6, 1862 and was placed with the 105th New York Infantry as a lieutenant-colonel. Just as David Hardie would do, Henry resigned his position in April of 1862 and returned to Albion to encourage other young men to join the Union cause.

Following the war, Henry and Caroline again decided to transfer the care of the seminary to a stranger, selling the building to Rev. G. A. Starkweather in July of 1866 for $20,000; totaling just over $325,000 today. Unfortunately the school suffered a similar fate as the first sale and the reputation of the institution was again ruined by its new owner.

Again the board pleaded for Henry to retake control of the seminary, to which he utterly refused. It was thanks to the encouragement of his wife that the seminary was yet again brought under the control of the Achilles family and provided an opportunity to thrive.

Henry died in 1881 from an abscess and was interred with his first two wives at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester; Caroline was buried with her family at Mt. Albion.

County has built four jails on Courthouse Square in past 180 years

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 7 May 2016 at 12:00 am

Old Albion Jail

Volume 2, Issue 19

Nearly 180 years ago, the first jail in Orleans County was constructed at Court House Square of hewn timbers. Prior to the completion of that building, jail cells in the basement of the first court house were used to hold prisoners. During the county’s infancy, criminals were sent to Batavia for confinement.

This image shows the second jail, constructed of stone, as it would have appeared in 1885. Looking south on Platt Street, we see Sheriff Sullivan E. Howard of Holley seated in the front lawn of the jail.

The wood structure to the right of the jail provided housing for the sheriff and his family. To the immediate right of the sheriff’s home and just out of view sits the court house. We can assume that the woman seated in the hammock to the left of Sheriff Howard is his wife Phina Cole Howard, their son William Howard leaning against the tree and their daughter Bessie Howard is likely one of the two young women seated in the front windows.

After this building, a third jail was constructed of Medina Sandstone before the current standing structure was built in the 1970s. During the earliest years of the penal system in Orleans County, the wife of the sheriff would cook meals for inmates and assist with the upkeep of the jail. Offenders from all municipalities would find themselves at Albion for a wide range of crimes from public intoxication to first degree murder.

Weekly police blotters appeared in the local papers, providing a look into the wrongdoings of the past:

March 10, 1880 – an attempt to blow up the jail was aborted, the fourth attempt in recent memory to break out of the jail.

June 15, 1880 – local burglar Charles Amos digs himself out of the county jail but fails to make it beyond the yard; he is immediately recaptured.

July 18, 1882 – Frank Gaskill, 14 years old of Albion, is sentenced to 10 days in jail for drunkenness.

January 12, 1883 – while locked up in county jail, Patrick O’Reilly declares he is one of the murderers of Lord Frederick Cavendish of Dublin, Ireland. The sheriff determines he is a liar, seeking free passage back home to Ireland.

November 11, 1886 – James Morgan, 22 years old of Laurel Hill, is caught breaking streetlight globes in Medina and sentenced to 15 days in jail.

December 9, 1886 – Mrs. Robert Mortimer, of Medina, is arrested and fined for chastising a female teacher at the Central school in Medina. In an attempt to avoid a jail sentence, she attempts suicide by overdosing on laudanum, but is unsuccessful.

August 1, 1889 – Mary Winchester, 34 years old of Shelby, is sentenced to 90 days in jail for using indecent language and insulting a woman at Medina.

Albion was focus of big moonshine raid in 1927

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 30 April 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 18

Taken on October 13, 1927, these five men headed one of the largest raids on an illegal liquor manufacturing operation in Orleans County. Pictured from left to right are NYS Trooper J. P. Fisher, Undersheriff Lawrence Higley, Sheriff Ross Hollenbeck, Deputy Matthew McGlen, and NYS Trooper B. L. DeBrine; the plate on the motorcycle shows that the men were stationed at the Troop A barracks in Batavia.

Just after midnight on the 13th of October, police surrounded the abandoned canning factory once owned by Thomas Page at the corner of King Street and West Avenue. Upon entering the building they located one the largest alcohol stills ever seen in the area, allowing for the manufacture of over 5,000 gallons of moonshine liquor. Also seized was a truck carrying 205 gallons of alcohol stored in 5 gallon cans, which was to be shipped to Rochester that night.

Giuseppe Gagliano, Tony Gagliano, Joseph Mineo, James Mineo, and Joseph Lomeo all of Utica were taken into custody and arraigned in front of U.S. Commissioner Cyrus Phillips at Rochester. The men refused to provide any information about the illegal operation but claimed that they were hired by Charles Day of Rochester, a man they had never met before, to operate the still. All five were released from custody on $10,000 bail each.

Federal officers estimated the seizure of equipment in excess of $50,000 and the total value of the liquor and raw materials at nearly $200,000, roughly $3.5 million today.

Of course, it was only a matter of time before the abandoned canning factory became the central location for another large distilling operation when federal officers in cooperation with local police raided the site in October of 1930. At that point, the still inside was capable of manufacturing over 1,000 gallons of alcohol each day and multiple storage vats were discovered alongside the 5,000 gallon still. Moonshiners were shipping the alcohol by truck to Buffalo where it was loaded on railcars and distributed throughout the region.

Lawrence Higley would later serve as Orleans County Sheriff and Matthew McGlen eventually found himself working for the federal government as a U.S. Customs and Border Agent. Naturally, this raid was quite the notch in their belts.

Former Albion restaurant offered Tables for Ladies – safe dining for women

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 23 April 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 17

ALBION – In this image taken in 1935 we see the Exchange Hotel, which was located on North Main Street in Albion. The front windows are adorned with alcohol paraphernalia including a Genesee Beer sign, the hotel’s liquor license hanging in the left window, and the Bell Telephone Company signs indicating the presence of a public telephone.

At the time this image was taken, Patrick Grady was the proprietor of the business. An immigrant from Ireland, Grady had his start locally as a farmer spending several years working for Supt. Luddington at the Orleans County Alms House and on other farms throughout the area. He later worked as a hack driver for Anson Dunshee at the Orleans House in Albion, transporting patrons from the hotel on East Bank Street to the Clinton Street rail station. It was on Jan. 1, 1913 that through a series of unfortunate events, Grady took control over the Exchange Hotel.

Next to the hotel was a barber shop and upon closer examination, we can see “Joe’s Barber Shop” printed on the awning. Owned and operated by Joseph Donatelli, the business was a partnership between Joseph and his brother Marion “Mike” Donatelli. The Donatelli family was well known throughout the Italian community as the founders of Donatelli’s Orchestra and Donatelli’s Italian Band. Both brothers acted as conductors for the music groups and Mike worked as a court interpreter for Italian immigrants who were unable to speak English.

Also visible is the Liberty Diner, a small lunch car situated between the two frame buildings. When this image was taken, the diner was only a year old but had fallen under the ownership of three different gentlemen before Fritz Bergman and George Root purchased the business in late 1934. In addition to the name of the business, the phrase “Tables for Ladies” was also painted on the front end of the car.

The term “Tables for Ladies” represents a distinct change in social constructs regarding women at the time. Prior to this, women who were seated at tables alone at restaurants were assumed to be prostitutes searching for business. As the role of the woman changed from the traditional “stay-at-home” mindset to one of “mobility,” the phrase “tables for ladies” allowed women to dine out alone or with others in a comfortable and respectable fashion. The sign represents the business owner’s understanding of a changing society and their willingness to offer a safe environment for women to gather without male accompaniment.

These buildings were razed in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Starting in February of 1937, work began on the demolition of the Exchange Hotel after Patrick Grady’s retirement and a gas station was constructed in its place. The barber shop and lunch car were replaced by a restaurant and the building to the far right remained in place until several years ago when the Village of Albion demolished it. A parking lot and vacant grass lot now occupy the space – the roof of the Presbyterian Church appears in the upper right corner.

First librarian transformed Swan more than 100 years ago

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 16 April 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 16

ALBION – As the American Library Association closes 2016’s National Library Week, we take a look back at this interior image of the Swan Library taken in 1900.

This year’s theme for library week was “Libraries Transform,” meaning libraries transform the lives of those who use them and transform the communities they serve. Of course, this also means libraries physically transform how they serve their communities.

This image shows the north room of the library known as the reading room, one of the few public spaces in the original building. We see a sign atop one of the tables in the rear of the room that says “HUSH,” the library’s original reference section with two shelves in the back, and numerous resources set out on the tables. Miss Lillian Achilles sits at the front desk, situated to look over the reading room, and the antiquated card catalog positioned near the librarian.

The Swan Library was established by the will of prominent businessman William Gere Swan upon his death in 1896. It was the executors of his will, Emma his wife and Isaac Signor who were responsible for carrying out Swan’s wishes. After the organization received its charter signed December 21, 1899 by Melvil Dewey (then director of the NYS Library), J. Mills Platt of Rochester was hired to develop plans for the conversion of the Burrows mansions to a functioning library.

The reading room stretched the length of the north half of the first floor, a desk was positioned to overlook this room and a window installed to receive and distribute books to patrons from the front foyer. A “Trustees Room” was positioned in the southeast corner of the building, providing the governing body a location to meet and the basement was affixed with a kitchen and dining room for events.

Shortly after renovations were completed, Lillian Achilles was hired as the Swan Library’s first librarian at an annual salary of $600. Although the trustees had consulted with her about the proposed layout of the building’s interior, she found numerous shortcomings that needed to be addressed immediately. Less than 25% of the total floor space was allocated for books and no space was set aside for processing and cataloging new materials.

Achilles designated a room as an office for this task and spent nearly three months cataloging the 4,900 books from the Albion Free Town Library and Albion Public Library as well as the 700 books purchased specifically for the new building. Without the luxuries of a typewriter, she spent countless hours handwriting all of the cards, which she finally finished on March 17, 1900; it would be another year before the card catalog was completed.

Now supported by taxes, the library’s original trustees felt that the library should be predominantly supported by Swan’s endowment. This led to severe budget limitations and restricted Miss Achilles’ abilities to purchase new books. The problem became substantially worse in 1907 when the Village of Albion withdrew their financial support. Along with several local drug stores, the library established rental collections to supplement income and provide continued access to information – support was eventually restored.

Despite these limitations, the library quickly became a cultural center for the community. It served the local schools as a supplement to small classroom collections, provided “quiet” games for children to play, established a boys club in 1901, and became a repository for historical artifacts – a true transformation from the traditional view of the public library’s role.

Any librarian will tell you that Miss Achilles was a saint for handwriting the library’s first card catalog!