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Old Time Orleans

Kuck led efforts to establish church at West Carlton

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 9 April 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 15

KUCKVILLE – Taken around the turn of the century, this image shows the West Carlton Methodist Episcopal Church more commonly referred to as the Kuckville Methodist Church. The Greek Revival building was constructed in 1835 near the mouth of Johnson’s Creek thanks in part to the diligence and hard work of George Kuck.

A native of England and resident of Canada, Kuck arrived at Carlton in 1815 having absconded to the region from York, Upper Canada (now Ontario). He was issued a commission as an Ensign with the 3rd Regiment of York Militia in 1812 and later attained the rank of Lieutenant. When his step-father, Matthias Brown, was accused of high treason for deserting the 3rd York, Kuck was forced to leave Canada with fears that he may be implicated in Brown’s case.

Kuck was industrious, an intelligent man who made quick work of establishing a grist mill at Johnson’s Creek and opened the first store north of Ridge Road in 1816 to serve the infant settlement. Soon after, he established a warehouse near the lakeshore that would help drive other businesses to spring up in the region. Under the administration of President Van Buren, he was appointed to the position of Postmaster, a position he kept for nearly 30 years.

A man with no particular religious background, Kuck became a Christian in the Methodist Episcopal tradition in March of 1821 and several months later led efforts to institute one of the first religious societies north of the Ridge Road in Orleans County. The group was popular among the local settlers and met with great success.

According to his biography in the Pioneer History of Orleans County, Kuck was “among the first and foremost in all matters of reform and advancement, active in the cause of temperance, morality and religion” It is no surprise that he was first issued written permission to “improve his talents in exhortation” by Elder Philo Woodworth in 1829. Kuck was later granted permission to preach on August 31, 1833 by Elder Micah Seager of the Ridgeway Circuit, providing the opportunity to expound to the local population.

The following year a meeting was held and votes cast to form an organized group called the First Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church in the town of Carlton. The group elected five trustees including John Cash Fuller, Jerry Clarke, Wilson Hunt, Gilman Greely, and of course, George Kuck. The church edifice was constructed the following year on land donated by Kuck and contained a beautiful gallery with closed pews as was the tradition of that time.

Kuck was later ordained as a deacon by Bishop Elijah Hedding on Sept. 24, 1837 and made a church elder by Bishop Thomas Morris on Sept. 16, 1849 when the Genesee Conference held their annual convention at Albion. The population was devout but struggled to add to their numbers while old age drained their ranks. Nearly six years after becoming an elder, Rev. Kuck was rewarded for his piety when the Bible Society of Carlton, to which he was president, was made an auxiliary of the American Bible Society.

The Department of History holds several original documents relating to Kuck’s religious endeavors in West Carlton, including a journal that chronicles the subjects of his various sermons during the mid-19th century. Nearly 171 years ago on April 13, 1845, Kuck delivered a sermon on John 4:24, “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

The Methodist Church at Kuckville remained a staple for the local community until July 27, 1986 when the congregation held their final service in the building, almost 30 years ago.

Albert Swett pushed to provide power for Orleans County in early 1900s

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

Volume 2, Issue 14
MEDINA – On May 23, 1898, the A. L. Swett Electric Light & Power Company was incorporated by Albert Swett with a capital stock of $50,000.

Swett, a prominent and respected entrepreneur in Medina, was quick to notice the local need for electricity. That need would be satisfied through a power plant constructed along the Oak Orchard Creek in the vicinity of the falls. Purchasing a parcel of land where an old mill had previously burned, Swett cleared the debris and constructed a plant to take advantage of the water power.

That plant was quickly overtaxed by the high demand for electricity and a steam plant was constructed to supplement the output of the first plant. Swett was an intelligent businessman with the foresight to purchase as much land along the creek as possible. Over the course of twenty years, he amassed a large holding of property to the north of Medina that would be used to expand his electric company.

Swett increased his capital stock to $300,000 and in 1903 started construction on a storage dam to increase the company’s electricity output. The 60-foot high dam spanned the width of the Oak Orchard Creek, and along with a 1,600 foot dike built of earth and concrete, provided for the development of a reservoir. Now known as Glenwood Lake, the nearly 50-foot deep and over one-mile long inland lake provided over 150 acres of surface water.

The construction of a second powerhouse, Station No. 2, allowed for increased electricity output from the same water source providing energy through the original power station at the falls. Swett estimated the cost of the second power station at just over $297,000 and it was believed that much of the electricity that was to be generated from that station was sold to area businessmen and residents prior to its completion. Such an extensive endeavor would cost nearly $8 million today.

The A. L. Swett Electric Light & Power Company adopted the motto, “to serve the public promptly, efficiently and at reasonable rates,” a slogan that drove the business to expand once again in 1917. At that time, Swett would begin construction on a dam at Waterport that would create another inland waterway he named Lake Alice.

A far more complex project, nearly 50 parcels of land were purchased, houses and structures moved, and roads rerouted to accommodate the higher water level. A new bridge was constructed at a cost of $70,000 and the bridge at Kenyonville was raised seven feet to adjust to the creek depth.

This image from 1903 shows the construction of the dike at Glenwood Lake; the photograph is simply marked “the Swett Power Project, Medina.” At the top of the hill a machine feeds crushed stone down a chute constructed on the embankment.

Albert Swett was actively engaged in supervising the project and suffered a broken thigh after falling from scaffolding at the worksite. He was bedridden for over a month due to the injuries.

Ambitious in his endeavors, Swett controlled the majority of water power in the vicinity of Medina. He constructed the dams at Medina and Waterport to reduce the strains forced upon the Oak Orchard Creek and area streams caused by the power plants.

In Gaines, first church west of Genesee River served many congregations

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

Volume 2, Issue 13

GAINES – Situated on Ridge Road in Gaines, this structure served multiple organizations during its lifetime and is regarded as the first church constructed west of the Genesee River.

As the pioneer settlers arrived in Gaines, cleared land and established farms along the historic route, they sought to establish their community with meeting halls and churches. Roughly 17 years after Elizabeth Gilbert settled her parcel along the Ridge Road near Brown Road, the Congregationalists and Baptists constructed this building to serve as a union meeting house. Each group agreed to share the edifice, holding services on alternating Sundays.

In 1834 the Congregationalists purchased a site on the north side of the Ridge, just east of the Gaines Road intersection. It was at this time that the congregation sold their interest in the building to two men, who later sold their interest to John Proctor.

The Baptists, meanwhile, remained active in the building despite losing a portion of their congregation following the establishment of the Baptist congregation at Albion in 1830. It was not long after this that 13 of the Baptists at Gaines petitioned to start a church at Carlton, an incident that would greatly weaken the original congregation.

The Baptists continued to hold services until approximately 1860 when the building was vacated, remaining inactive until a Free Methodist congregation was established at Gaines in 1868.

Just eight years after the first church in the denomination was constructed at Albion under the pastorate of Rev. Loren Stiles and nearly 10 years after the expulsion of Benjamin Titus Roberts from the Methodist Church, followers of Free Methodism in Gaines purchased the old union meeting house from the Free Congregationalists. The population of Gaines was first served by Rev. George Marcellus who not only oversaw the purchase of the building, but led the repainting of the structure and addition of stained glass windows.

The Gaines Free Methodist Church was served for a number of years by pastors from the church at Kenyonville, until that congregation disbanded. At that time, the Gaines congregation purchased a house located along a north-running lane behind the church for use as a parsonage. During the nearly 50 years that the church was active, those in attendance received the word of God from a prestigious lineage of preachers in the denomination.

Samuel K. J. Chesbrough, regarded as the co-founder of Free Methodism, served two terms as pastor of the church. The congregation was also led by Joseph Goodwin Terrill, a contemporary of John Wesley Redfield, as well as the future first president of Greenville College, Wilson T. Hogg. Alanson Kimball Bacon, a local resident who lived in the cobblestone home constructed by his father on Brown Road, stepped in to fill the vacant pulpits of the local Free Methodist churches at Albion and Gaines.

According to Helen Allen, the last service held in this building was probably July 6, 1917. Around 1921 one of the last surviving trustees of the church, Robert Woolston of Carlton, sold the building to John Bauer. The building was later converted for use as the Gaines Town Hall and Highway Department.

The Ontario House served up splendor, but no alcohol

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 19 March 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 12

The stunning view provided by Lake Ontario led to the formation of hamlets and cottage communities along the lakeshore and eventually caused the establishment of numerous hotels and summer resorts in Orleans County.

The wealthiest members of society used these locations as an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, resulting in the growth of lakefront property serving as a seasonal destination for the out-of-towners.

In 1860, land originally purchased by Asa Lee at Troutburg in Kendall was transferred to his daughter-in-law, Sarah J. Lee, who oversaw the construction of what would later become the Ontario House. This large, luxurious hotel was “first class in every respect” and catered to locals and visitors alike.

Situated on the west side of the Orleans/Monroe county line, the complex consisted of a house, dance hall, and barn. Standing just to the west of the main house, the dance hall served as a “picnic house” for excursionists who were visiting the area by way of boat.

The hall contained 13 large tables attached at one end to the wall with hinges, allowing the tables to be folded out of the way when not in use. This provided a large open floor for parties, dances, and other events. The hall had one kitchen with two large cook stoves to provide nourishment for the guests.

Nearby was a barn that housed stables for nearly 60 horses. Guests could stable their horse for $.25 per day or $.35 per day if the owner preferred to feed their horse grain in addition to hay. Two small sailboats and a number of rowboats were available for the pleasure of the visitors, allowing for short trips out onto the lake.

Mrs. Lee operated the Ontario House for nearly 27 years when she finally sold the property to William Sturges in 1887. At the time of the sale, the resort was regarded as the only successful temperance hotel in Western New York; the Ontario House remained successful despite the decision of the owner to refrain from selling alcohol. It remained a dry location even after the property changed hands.

A bowling alley was added to the property in the 1880s, at which time a guest could stay overnight at the house for $2.00 and special rates were offered for week-long stays at $5.00-$8.00 depending on the room.

As a seasonal resort, the ownership held large opening events in May to start the year and usually concluded in October with a large dance party. Hundreds of couples attended these events, paying $.25 for admission to the dance hall. The parties of course were dry events with no alcohol for guests.

In 1880, the Ontario House saw the rise of its first competitor when Charles T. Bush constructed the Bush House on the east side of the county line. This property later became known as the Cady House and still stands on that parcel as a decrepit structure along the lake.

The Ontario House continued its successful run under the ownership of Sturges until 1895 when it was transferred to Menzo Storer, then to J. Staub in 1917 before it was sold to an owner from Buffalo around 1921.

Although the buildings are no longer standing, this image taken sometime in the 1880s shows a crowd gathered along the porch of the Ontario House. The story of the Ontario House and other lakeside resorts are a testament to the splendor and beauty of Lake Ontario as a destination for residents and visitors alike.

Waterport Trestle carried railroad traffic for more than a century

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


Volume 2, Issue 11

WATERPORT – Constructed in 1876, the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg trestle over Oak Orchard Creek provided a crossing point for the rail system in its earliest years. This particular image shows the first trestle constructed on that site in Waterport using lightweight iron trusses and planks. As the railroad grew, a new bridge was constructed in 1892 to facilitate increased traffic.

The RW&O Railroad was first established in 1842 with the purpose of linking Watertown and Rome. As the years progressed, the rail system merged with various lines throughout New York to produce a somewhat successful system of transportation along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Although the line was popular amongst excursionists, the railroad developed a reputation as a poorly maintained rail system, earning the eloquent nickname “Rotten Wood & Old Rusty Rails.” The railroad later earned the nickname “Hojack.”

The source of the name “Hojack” is unknown, but the most common origin story describes a farmer riding in a buckboard drawn by a stubborn, bulky mule. While crossing the tracks of the RW&O, the mule decided he would rest much to the dismay of the farmer. As a train barreled full speed towards the wagon, the farmer flew into a frenzy shouting, “Ho-Jack, Ho-Jack!” The train operators found such humor in the incident that they began calling the line the “Ho-Jack”; perhaps more folklore than truth.

Another story associated with the RW&O involved the construction of the trestle at Waterport. It is said that the first train to cross the newly constructed bridge was operated by Eunice Ross. Mrs. Ross lived near the construction site with her husband John, who was a miller at the nearby flour mill. Eunice agreed to board the construction crew in exchange for a small favor; the opportunity to pilot the train across the trestle, once completed.

On a small side-note, John and Eunice Ross cared for William Lake who was abandoned by his mother as a young child. Lake was later convicted in the heinous murder of Emma Louise Hunt in 1894.

Sunday, March 13th at 7 p.m., the county historian will provide a program for the Orleans County Genealogical Society on Zachariah Spencer and the early history of the Cobblestone Inn on Ridge Road in Ridgeway. The program at the Hoag Library in Albion is free and open to the public.

Early school superintendent advanced education system in Albion

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 5 March 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 10

In the earliest years of settlement in Orleans County, the establishment of religious and educational institutions was of the upmost importance. Pioneers cleared their land of trees, constructed cabins, planted crops, and once all other necessities were met, established rural schools to educate their children.

In Albion, Caroline Phipps Achilles became a driving force behind the creation of female-only institutions for education when she constructed her seminary in 1840. It was soon after that other academies developed throughout the region including the Albion Academy and Yates Academy, which would produce highly successful and industrious graduates.

These tuition-driven institutes provided a valuable service to the community, although limited to those families who could afford it. The concept of using taxation to support the common school system allowed for the creation of the union school, providing education beyond the rural one-room schoolhouse.

Freeman Abram Greene was a product of the early academy system. Born on Sept. 23, 1844, Greene was educated in the rural school districts of Yates before attending the famed Yates Academy. It was upon the completion of his studies there that he entered the University of Rochester, graduating in 1869.

His absence from Orleans County was short-lived and he returned to Yates to teach in the same school that provided him with his outstanding education. From there he taught several years in Wilson but was called to Albion soon after. Having established quite the reputation as an educator, Greene was asked to serve as the first principal of the Albion Union Free School.

Greene remained in that capacity for approximately seven years when the school board provided him with the opportunity to serve as school superintendent. Starting in 1887 he was paid $800 annually to act in that capacity. During his tenure, the reputation of the school grew and enrollment increased.

With the loss of Albion’s earliest library in a fire around 1881, Greene worked diligently to establish a replacement. He studied the methodology and standards associated with libraries at the time and pushed for its continued growth. Later, he would approach Lillian Achilles to oversee the collection until she left that position upon the establishment of the Swan Library in 1900.

Freeman Greene’s commitment to education extended far beyond the Albion Union Free School. Working with other prominent men from Albion including Isaac Signor, Greene assisted in the creation of a university extension center, which offered advanced classes to students in his school. Signor would enlist Greene to write the history of schools in Orleans County for publication in Landmarks of Orleans County.

His second wife, Susan Price Greene, was believed to be a descendant of Quakers and was acquainted with Susan B. Anthony. During her visit to Albion in January of 1894, Anthony wrote that she immediately traveled to the home of Prof. Greene, superintendent of the school at Albion. The couple led Anthony to the courthouse where she delivered an address to a sizeable audience.

Freeman continued as the superintendent of the Union Free School until 1899 when he resigned the position due to poor health. He died at Albion on August 25, 1900.

Albion Catholics established new cemetery in 1920

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 27 February 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 9

ALBION – Located just east of the Village of Albion, St. Joseph’s Cemetery was established in 1920 under the pastorate and direction of Msgr. Francis Sullivan. Notice the paving stones covering East Avenue and the extensive landscaping of the property along the road.

The center driveway runs north towards a circle containing four statues depicting the crucifixion of Christ and the chapel behind it. A larger pathway surrounded the chapel creating a section for burials within that loop.

St. Joseph’s Church celebrated its first Mass as a parish in 1852. For over twelve years prior, the Irish Catholic community relied on itinerant priests from Lockport to provide the sacraments throughout the year. This often meant that baptisms, marriages, and the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist would occur in bunches as a priest was made available by the Diocese of Buffalo.

The earliest Irish Catholics engaged in manual labor often in the sandstone quarries scattered along the Erie Canal, which led to accidental deaths and the contraction of tuberculosis. Even though the congregation established itself in the 1850s, there was still a matter of burials for parishioners. The lack of a dedicated cemetery was cause for concern among the early Catholics, but Mt. Albion was undoubtedly a sufficient alternative as there was little room for choice.

In 1873 under the direction of Rev. John Marius Castaldi the Catholics purchased a tract of land on Brown Road in the Town of Gaines for use as a parish cemetery. Upon its opening, many families elected to remove their loved ones to the newly established cemetery. Commonly referred to as “Holy Cross” or the “Old St. Joseph’s Cemetery,” the official cemetery ledger refers to the cemetery as “Holy Sepulchre” and served the congregation for nearly 50 years.

When property was purchased for the new cemetery, a new chapel was to be erected on site. Under the direction of parishioner Pasquale DiLaura, the Romanesque Revival chapel was constructed of Medina Sandstone at a cost of $10,000. The roof was covered with terra cotta tiles and the vault inside could hold approximately 15 bodies during the winter months.

The beautiful stained glass windows were manufactured by the Frohe Art Glass Company of Buffalo under the direction of Leo P. Frohe. The windows were some of the last created under his supervision before his death in 1919.

The opening of the new location provided Catholics with a cemetery along one of the main thoroughfares into Albion, rivaling the location of Mt. Albion Cemetery.

Established families were encouraged to purchase new lots in the new cemetery and provided with credits and buy-backs for unfilled lots at the old cemetery. The parish sold off adjacent land at the old location and reinterred numerous bodies between 1920 and 1925, essentially ending the sale of any new plots on Brown Road.

Families who wished for the old cemetery to serve as their final resting place were offered vacated or unfilled plots at resale.

This photograph, taken June 15, 1923, shows the cemetery at an early stage of development. Many of the gravestones shown in the image are from families who elected to have their loved ones reinterred at the new location. A large granite stone, front right, marks the gravesite of John Cunneen, local attorney and one-term New York State Attorney General.

Workers lay tracks for trolley in 1908

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 20 February 2016 at 12:00 am

B. L. & R. Railway operated in Orleans from 1905 to 1931

Volume 2, Issue 8

This image shows the construction of the Buffalo, Lockport & Rochester Railway through Medina in 1908. Looking north, workers are in the process of laying tracks on Main Street towards Commercial Street where the rail line would turn west and run to Salt Works Road.

The iconic clock tower of White’s Hotel can be seen in the background as well as a large advertisement for Daniel D. Holdredge’s crockery and undertaking business.

The earliest efforts to construct an electric interurban railway through this area started around the turn of the century. Discussion of forming a railway that ran from Batavia to Olcott through Medina were amongst the very first plans for a trolley system. However, the 1.7-mile Albion Electric Railway was the only successful line in these early years.

Chartered in 1905, the Buffalo, Lockport & Rochester Railway was a combination of the Albion & Lockport Railway, the Albion & Rochester Railway, and the Albion Electric Railway. The company was organized by Woods and Nicholls of Toronto and there was talk that the formulation of such a railway would lead to a connection between Canada and Western New York.

By Sept. 3, 1908 the section spanning from Rochester to a point west of Albion was in full operation and two months later, on Nov. 17, tracks were finished to Lockport. Based on that timeline, we can surmise that this photograph was taken sometime between Sept. 3 and Nov. 17, 1908.

With stations located at Medina, Knowlesville, Albion, Hulberton, and Holley, the trolley tracks ran down East Center Street, turned north on Main Street to Commercial Street and ran north of Medina’s residential neighborhoods.

While the company was in the initial stages of planning the railway’s route, Medina residents were vocal in their opposition to tracks running in front of their homes. Despite this opposition and the eventual rerouting of the rail line, Medina residents could enjoy a trip to Buffalo and back for $1.14 or travel to and from Rochester for $1.60.

The original operators of the rail line sold their interests in the B. L. & R. Railway to Clifford Beebe and operated under an electric railway group based out of Syracuse known as the “Beebe Syndicate.” During the era of the First World War, Beebe was experiencing financial difficulties and the company was sold to a Rochester based interest that reorganized the line as the Buffalo, Lockport & Rochester Railroad in 1919.

Despite the early successes of the B. L. & R., the advent of the Great Depression led to the eventual collapse of the railway in 1931. The tracks remained unused until they were dismantled and removed in 1936.

As an interesting sidenote, a railcar used on this trolley line and stored at Knowlesville for a number of years. The wood car number 206 was eventually relocated to the New York Museum of Transportation at Rochester in 2010 where it is awaiting evaluation for future restoration.

An eccentric sheriff was a skilled astronomer

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 13 February 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 7

This picture, taken sometime around 1920, shows Weston Wetherbee standing with his homemade telescope behind his home on Ingersoll Street in Albion. Also pictured is Wilbur Phillips (left) and John Gilmore (center).

Weston Wetherbee was born January 24, 1857 at Barre, to Weston and Mary Ann Wetherbee. In his earliest years, Weston was employed as a carpenter and became proficient in the construction of windmills. During the later portion of the 19th century, Wetherbee continued his work as a windmill salesman and mechanic.

It was during this period of time that he served as a Justice of the Peace and Barre Town Supervisor. During his time in Barre politics he served as Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors. He was elected to the position of Orleans County Sheriff in 1904, a position which he held for three terms. It was around this time that Weston and his wife, Julia Goff, moved to the Village of Albion to their home on Ingersoll Street.

Wetherbee was particularly fond of astronomy, a hobby that he was heavily engaged in. Starting in 1897 he became a frequent contributor to the magazine Popular Astronomy where he took an initial interest in fireballs. The following year, Weston began charting Leonid meteors eventually leading to his efforts in 1905 to chart the path of August’s Perseid meteors with assistance from his wife.

To accomplish these feats of amateur astronomy, Wetherbee relied on his 8.5 inch reflecting telescope manufactured by Brashear. It was later in his career that he constructed a custom telescope using a 5 inch refracting lens, which he placed in a homemade observatory in his back yard. The small shed was constructed so that a rope could retract the ceiling, giving the telescope full range of view across the horizon.

When the Society for Practical Astronomy was formed, Wetherbee volunteered to lead the section dedicated to comets. It was this interest that led him to independently discover two comets previously unnamed. Unfortunately, before he could receive proper credit, other astronomers had submitted notice of the discoveries and received the recognition.

Weston Wetherbee was a rather eccentric individual at times. After the passing of his faithful horse, he dug a grave and held a funeral in honor of the animal. Delivering a beautiful oration on behalf of his dearly departed friend, he concluded the service by covering the grave with flowers. Whether he carried through with purchasing a monument for the horse, no one knows. He was also known locally for fitting light trucks with tables, folding chairs, cots, and other devices for camping trips.

Albion attorney left legacy of service to community

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 6 February 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 6

ALBION – I received a few calls and inquiries about Thomas A. Kirby following the recent news article highlighting newly established scholarships through the Albion Central School District – who was he and why a scholarship in his name?

Albion Council #1330 Knights of Columbus developed an annual memorial award for a deserving graduating senior who showed commitment and service to the community. This image shows Thomas A. Kirby as a young man, a freshly minted lawyer eager to establish a local partnership in Albion. The photograph is paired in the collection with that of Thomas L. Hughes.

Thomas Kirby was born on March 22, 1869 in Albion to John and Catherine Hayes Kirby. As a young man, he was no stranger to patriotic duty and service to the community.

Undoubtedly a young Thomas would have heard the stories told by his father, who served with the 8th New York Cavalry during the Civil War, was taken prisoner at Gettysburg, and sent to Andersonville Prison Camp. He received his earliest education in the common schools of Albion and took an interest in law at a young age, studying with John Cunneen who would later serve one term as New York State Attorney General.

A flourishing partnership developed between Kirby and Thomas L. Hughes and the two practiced law together until Hughes decided to move to New York City. The relocation forced Kirby to practice on his own, maintaining an office on East Bank Street.

As an Irish Catholic, Kirby was dedicated to the church committee serving as a trustee of St. Joseph’s Church for a number of years. He was active in the local branch of the Catholic Mutual Benefit Association in its earliest years during the 1880s, an organization largely responsible for supporting working Catholic men with life insurance during times of economic hardship, personal injury, and death.

For reasons unknown, the C.M.B.A. branch eventually developed into the Knights of Columbus Albion Council #1330 which focused its efforts on similar endeavors. The respected community member was selected as the organization’s first Grand Knight (president) when the council formed in 1908.

As a prominent member of the Republican Party and members of the New York State Bar Association, Kirby was elected for one term as Orleans County District Attorney from 1899-1901. During the famed trial of Charles Stielow, Kirby assisted the District Attorney with the prosecution of Stielow for the murder of Charles Phelps of Shelby, a role that created a heavy criticism of local officials involved in the case.

Kirby was instrumental in establishing the Albion Chapter of the American Red Cross during the First World War, acting as the organization’s first Vice Chairman. He was the attorney for the Village of Albion and President of the Board of Education at the time of his death on Jan. 29, 1922.

As an exceptional trial lawyer, Kirby developed a reputation throughout Orleans County and across Western New York as an outstanding and prominent orator. In Carl Carmer’s book, “Dark Trees to the Wind” published in 1949, Carmer recalls a Fourth of July celebration in Albion where “the Town’s lawyer-orator, corpulent and elegant in his best blue suit and white waistcoat, stood on the platform and with calculated deliberation began his patriotic oration. Twenty minutes later his rich deep voice was pouring out his devotion to his country and his flag with all the poetry and rhetoric born in his Irish soul. His audience was spellbound” It is without a doubt that Carmer was writing of Thomas Kirby.

His obituary concluded, “Thomas A. Kirby always stood for the right as he saw it and was fearless in his denunciation of wrongFaithful in every trust reposed in him” The Knights of Columbus chose to honor a man who was well respected within their organization and a man who was held in high regard throughout the community for his commitment to service and patriotism.

Despite scandal, man who bought Pullman furniture business became prominent Albion leader

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


Volume 2, Issue 5

ALBION – George W. Ough, pronounced “Uff”, was born on Feb. 12, 1827 at Cherry Valley, NY. As a child, he worked on the family farm in Otsego County until he reached the age of 14, when he moved north to Fort Plain, New York to work as a store clerk.

Following a short stay in Lockport, Ough later moved to Albion where he operated a crockery store, which he later sold to purchase the furniture business formerly owned by George M. Pullman. Ough’s eldest daughter, Jennie, later married Cassius M. C. Reynolds who would eventually take over the business located in the Ough Block on North Main Street.

By the late 1890s, Ough had the distinction of being one of the longest tenured members of the Albion Board of Education, of which he was a founding member. After he was elected to his first term as President of the Village of Albion, he resigned his position on the Board of Education. Following his second term as Village President, he moved into a position as assessor for Albion.

His time in office was brief, remaining in the position for two terms. Ough was active in numerous local organizations serving as a member of the Swan Library Association and Chief Engineer of Albion’s Fire Department. Following years of public service, he retired to a large farm located in Kent, one that was regarded as one of the best orchards in the Western New York fruit belt. He was also active in horse racing, quite frequently leasing the race track at the county fairgrounds.

After a contested horse race in 1900, Fred Parker of Elba and the National Trotting Association brought a suit against Ough and his bay gelding named Doctor H. Parker claimed that Ough purchased the respected racehorse Tally-Ho from Michigan and changed its name to disguise the horse’s race times. The Trotting Association determined that Doctor H was in fact Tally-Ho and that Ough’s winnings, totaling over $200, should be forfeited. In addition to this forfeiture, Ough was suspended until he paid for an official change of name.

Ough’s unscrupulous practice with horseracing was not his first questionable scandal. In the mid-1880s papers across New York ran front-page news about an absolute divorce suit filed against Annie Ough by her husband. Wed in 1875, George had his eyes set on Annie Cummings, a youthful and wealthy widow from Shelby.

The honeymoon phase was short-lived and issues began to surface in the relationship. Annie stated that George demanded immediate control over the wealth from her previous marriage. When she refused, she claimed that he forced her and their daughter Georgia out of the home. Naturally, George asserted that this was untrue and that his wife was adulterous in their marriage.

When news broke that Ough named several prominent men from Albion and Medina as co-respondents in the suit (men he claimed his wife had extramarital affairs with), the story spread like wildfire and “scandal-mongers” throughout the county took to spreading gossip about the couple. Among those named in the suit were the prominent entrepreneur and land owner, Charles H. Moore of Albion, proprietor of the Albion House, Marvin Warner, and the prominent and well-respected Medina attorney, Stanley Filkins.

The case was one of the first for the newly seated Judge Lambert. Represented by Hon. John Hull White, president of the Albion Board of Education, the case was delayed on numerous occasions until the judge finally issued a nonsuit, which Ough quickly appealed. Annie Ough was assisted in her defense by Stanley Filkins, the same man named by Ough in the original suit. The accusations were so damaging that Filkins’ own wife filed for divorce shortly after the case hit the papers.

Despite this scandalous dispute, Ough was regarded as one of Albion’s most prominent and well-respected citizens.

Noted Civil War surgeon was cousin of governor from Albion

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

Image of Joseph Lee Bullock Brown courtesy of The Fort Dalles Museum in Oregon. His uncle, Rufus Bullock, was governor of Georgia.

Volume 2, Issue 4

Born July 26, 1822 at Albany, New York to Rufus and Margaret Bullock Brown, Joseph Lee Bullock Brown received his early education in the Albany area. He later attended the Albany Medical College where he graduated from that institution, likely in the early 1840s and shortly after the establishment of the school in 1839.

Appointed physician at Clinton Prison in 1845, the year after the institution was established, Dr. Brown remained in that position for nearly three years before he removed to Detroit, Michigan to practice surgery.

In 1849, he received an appointment as a surgeon with the U.S. Regular Army and received a commission as Assistant Surgeon from Zachary Taylor the following year. Stationed at Ft. Dalles in the Oregon Territory, Dr. Brown also served in Texas and the Washington Territory up until the start of the Civil War.

After war broke out, Brown was ordered to return to east and was assigned to the Army of the Potomac under the command of General McClellan. Commissioned as a Surgeon with the rank of Major by President Lincoln on July 4, 1861, Brown remained in service until he was assigned as Medical Director of the 4th Corps, Army of the Potomac.

After authoring a report on medical care which was later published in the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, he was reassigned to the Assistant Surgeon General’s Office at St. Louis and then at Louisville, Kentucky. He was active in a number of Indian campaigns throughout the course of the war.

Near the conclusion of the war he was brevetted Lieutenant-Colonel for his service and after treating patients during a cholera epidemic at Ft. Columbus in New York Harbor, he was brevetted to Brigadier General. From that point on, he was known as Gen. Brown and spent 13 more years in service with the U.S. Army as president of the Medical Examining Board in New York City and Medical Director at the Department of the Platte, a region which then contained the territories of Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Utah.

At the age of 64 in 1886, Gen. Brown retired from service and lived for a short period at Tarrytown-on-the-Hudson before moving to Albion in 1887 where he lived out the rest of his life at the Bullock Homestead on Liberty and W. Park Streets. After serving over three decades with the U.S. Army, Gen. Brown dedicated his life to the study of the classics and photography. He died on October 21, 1891 at his home in Albion and is interred at Mt. Albion Cemetery.

Note: Gen. Brown’s brother, Judge Robert Hewitt Brown, was a well-respected attorney and author of “Stellar Theology and Masonic Astronomy,” who later served as counsel for Rufus Brown Bullock during the investigation into his service as Governor of the State of Georgia.

Gov. Bullock and Gen. Brown were first cousins; Bullock’s father, Volkert Veeder Bullock being the brother of Brown’s mother, Margaret Bullock Brown.

In 1883, train wreck killed 17 in Orleans County

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

This image, taken the morning after the accident occurred, shows the crowds gathered at the wreckage of the Steamboat Express. Nearby residents assisted in pulling corpses and wounded passengers from the wreckage into the early morning.

Volume 2, Issue 3

At 9:48 p.m. July 27, 1883, Orleans County experienced one of the most devastating disasters in local history.

The excursion train “Steamboat Express” was traveling eastbound on the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad with a load of passengers bound for the Thousand Islands. On this particular evening a terrible storm had developed in the region bringing rain, lightening, and terrible gusts of wind.

The train departed the Lewiston station approximately 20 minutes behind schedule, departed Lyndonville’s station nearly 30 minutes behind schedule, and then proceeded on the four-mile journey to Carlyon’s station.

The train reached speeds of 25 miles per hour, normal pace for fair weather travels, and progress was on schedule despite the delay in departures from the previous two stops. As the engine steamed past the station at Carlyon, Fireman McCarthy opened the furnace door to feed the fire; the flash of light from the fire temporarily blinded Boynton.

As the engineer regained his sight, the vision of a stationary freight car appeared just a short distance in front of the engine. Boynton threw down the brakes and placed the engine in reverse but to no avail. With a full head of steam, the passenger train slammed into the freight car positioned on the main track.

The engine rolled on its side, throwing the engineer and fireman around in the cab. The heavy sleeper cars at the rear of the train pressed the light passenger cars into the engine, smashing them to pieces, and pinning passengers throughout the wreckage.

The terrible noise attracted a large crowd to the scene of the wreckage. Dr. Samuel Cochrane of Albion was dispatched to the scene as coroner and the station’s depot was temporarily turned into a triage center for wounded passengers.

The mangled corpses of 17 individuals were pulled from the wreckage that night and laid out on the station platform. The grotesque and devastating nature of the tragedy was something that local residents would recall for decades to come. Newspapers throughout New York, Pennsylvania, and Michigan covered the story, highlighting gross negligence on behalf of the RW&O Railroad.

Following the disaster, Carlyon’s Station Agent W. A. Barry fell under heavy scrutiny for the events of that evening. It was his responsibility to have the freight car moved from the main track to a section of track adjacent to the main line.

Barry insisted that he relocated the car and firmly set the brake. Investigators scoffed at the idea that even the most violent of wind gusts could blow a freight car with an engaged brake over 185 feet onto the main track.

The coroner’s inquisition gathered testimony from Albert Perry, the track watcher that evening, who claimed that just 30 minutes before the train came through, the track was clear of any obstructions.

There was no resolution to the question of who was responsible for the wreck. Barry insisted that he was not negligent in failing to set the brake on the car, instead suggesting that a group of malicious persons pushed the car onto the track.

The wreck attracted attention for years following the incident and appeared in newspapers throughout New York even 50 years later. Numerous individuals and family members of deceased passengers initiated civil suits against the RW&O Railroad, claiming that their loved ones were stripped of personal belongings, money, and one family cited the company’s refusal to allow for an open casket identification of the body.

Note: The Carlton railroad station was located on Yates-Carlton Townline Road between Ashwood and Alps Roads. The hamlet’s name was later changed to Ashwood.

Albion entrepreneur partnered with George Pullman

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 9 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Volume 2, Issue 2

ALBION – Last week’s article on Noah Davis sparked a few questions from the community regarding some of the other men in the photograph. Joseph Cornell, Julius Royce, Charles H. Moore, and Norman Field were all active members of the Albion community, involved in local politics, and respected businessmen in their professions.

This image is of Charles Henry Moore, a native of Manlius, New York who moved to Albion in 1843 at the age of 25. Initially he engaged in the mercantile business for approximately two years before he decided to pursue a career in engineering related endeavors. Moore was responsible for building the central road through Orleans County and was responsible for widening the Erie Canal in the Albion area.

Moore’s activities with the Erie Canal involved a partnership with George Pullman that allowed the men to profit from the relocation of roughly 20 buildings, all moved to make way for a wider canal prism. It was this partnership that drove Pullman and Moore venture out to Chicago. Moore followed Pullman to the “Windy City” in 1857 where both men worked together on various engineering projects.

The most notable project involved raising entire buildings to make room for the installation of a city sewer system. Built on marshland, the building foundations were dangerously close to the water table and prone to flooding. With a series of screwjacks and timbers the partners would raise the buildings over an extended period of time, usually several inches per day, until the buildings were elevated an average of six feet above the water table.

For a short period of time Moore and Pullman both tested their luck with mining in Colorado, dealing in gold dust before Pullman refocused his efforts on his Palace Car Company. Charles Moore also took an interest in railroad related ventures, involving himself with the Great Western Railroad in Canada and various railroads throughout Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri.

Along with Julius Royce, Moore served for a period of time as a director of the Niagara River and New York Airline (Railroad) and with Joseph Cornell, served as a trustee of the Albion Union School to which he was a charter and lifelong member. Moore was heavily involved with local politics and was elected as Village President and Trustee for several terms; he also served as a commissioner of Mt. Albion Cemetery.

Charles Moore was a devout Episcopalian and staunch Democrat who also engaged locally in land speculation. The Poles in Albion purchased the land for St. Mary’s Church from the Estate of Charles Moore, which encompassed a large portion of land on the east end of the village – the origin of Moore Street.

It is worth noting that Charles Moore was the uncle of Henry Moore Harrington who was killed with Gen. Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn (vol. 1, issue 23).

Noted Albion attorney presided over “Boss” Tweed trial

By Matthew Ballard, Orleans County Historian Posted 1 January 2016 at 12:00 am

Seated (l-r): Joseph Mason Cornell, Judge Noah Davis and Norman Spafford Field. Standing: Charles Henry Moore and Julius Heath Royce.

Volume 2, Issue 1

Taken sometime in the early 1880s, this image shows five of Albion’s most prominent and well-respected citizens. Heavily engaged in commercial interests and local politics, we would consider these men as the “movers and shakers” of their time.

Seated center is the Hon. Noah Davis, one of the most notable attorneys and politicians from Orleans County. Born Sept. 10, 1818 to Noah and Freelove Davis in New Hampshire, Noah was brought to Orleans County at a very young age and received his early education in the public schools of this area.

After studying at the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary at Lima, NY, Davis studied law for a brief time in Lewiston before his admittance to the bar in 1841. Several years of practicing law at Gainesville and Buffalo concluded his endeavors in that region and he soon returned to Albion.

Following his return to Orleans County, Davis initiated a partnership with Sanford E. Church in 1844 starting a highly respected firm that would exist for nearly 14 years. The end of this enterprise concluded when Davis received an appointment from Gov. John King to the 8th District New York Supreme Court bench in 1857.

Resigning that position in 1868, Davis served a shortened term as a U.S. Representative during the 41st Congress before resigning that post to accept a position as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York on July 20, 1870.

The appointment of Noah Davis as New York State Supreme Court Justice in 1872 led to his resignation from the post provided to him by President Grant and started perhaps the most illustrious 14 years of his legal career. Almost immediately after taking the bench the case of Edward Stokes was brought before him; Stokes was accused of murdering the well-known financier Jim Fisk. Davis delivered a stay of execution of Stokes’ sentence of death, allowing for an eventual third trial that would find Stokes guilty of manslaughter, not murder.

Even more noteworthy was the case of William “Boss” Tweed, a case that represented a culmination in the battle against the Tammany Hall political machine in New York City. Through a series of court cases, Tweed’s first trial ended with a hung jury and the second resulted in convictions on 204 counts, leading Davis to quip, “more counts than in a German principality?” The court affixed a $12,750 fine and sentenced Tweed to twelve years in prison.

Finding that Davis operated beyond the reach of his power in determining the sentence, it was reduced to one year and Tweed was released following the completion of his sentence. Shortly after, New York filed a civil suit attempting to recover over $6 million in embezzled funds leading Davis to assign bail at $3 million, an unprecedented amount that Tweed was unable to pay.

Davis was considered a strong but impulsive man who was often criticized by members of the bar, even though so many applauded his efforts in bringing about an end to the Tammany Hall machine. At the conclusion of his term, Judge Davis practiced privately in New York City. Davis was an intimate friend of President Grant for many years, serving as his personal attorney before his election to the White House. Grant’s chair and desk were two of his most prized possessions, which he kept in his office at New York City.

In his later career, Davis took an interest in medico-legal questions and became a student of forensic medicine, serving as an officer of the Medico-Legal Society. Judge Noah Davis died on March 30, 1902 and his body was returned to Albion for interment at Mt. Albion Cemetery.