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Old Time Orleans

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!

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.