Historic Childs: History of Agriculture, Part 4

Posted 16 January 2021 at 9:17 am

Kast Farms, Lake Ontario Fruit have been innovative leaders

By Doug Farley, Director, Cobblestone Museum

GAINES – What we know today as Kast Farms, Inc., headquartered on Densmore Road in the Town of Gaines, also has had significant farming interests in the Hamlet of Childs for decades, including farm land on both sides of Ridge Road and adjoining Route 98.

With roots to 1885, the progenitor of the Kast family farm was John T. Kast, who married Ruth (Chapman) Kast in 1915. Ruth’s family members were also farmers, going back another generation to her father, Adelbert Chapman.  John T. and Ruth Kast had son, J. Stanley Kast, who took over the farming interests from his parents in the 1950s.

Stanley, born in 1917, recently celebrated his 103rd birthday. He is still a source of information for the family farm today. Stanley’s son, David Kast, became a partner with his father in 1966. In 1989, Stanley passed the full ownership reins to his son, David Kast and wife Kathy, who are both very involved in the family farm today, along with their sons John & Brett. David and Kathy’s daughter Laura teaches school in Batavia.

The Kast Farm was recognized as a “Century Farm” by NY Agricultural Society in 2015.  In addition to farming, David, Kathy and sons have remained active in many farm, church and civic organizations.

Kast Farms is highly diversified, farming over 4,000 acres, growing apples, sweet cherries, green beans, sweet corn, field corn, winter wheat and more recently, malting barley. David said, “We’re pretty progressive, willing to try new methods and technologies.” Perhaps that willingness to innovation resulted in the farm being chosen to receive the “I Love NY Farmer Award” in 2006. Gary Davy is the farm’s general manager today.

Brothers John and Brett Kast also received the “Next Generation Farmer Award” in 2018. John & Cheryl and Brett & Amanda Kast are seen here. They represent the fifth generation to operate their family farm.

Dave Kast purchased over 100 acres of land on the west side of the Hamlet of Childs in the 1960s from Robert Schwartz. He continued to pick the fruit there for several years, and then made a decision to remove the orchards. The older trees in Childs had become more of a liability than an asset. David said, “Bob Kirby farmed next door to us, and he was in the process of bulldozing his orchard there, so I asked him to keep going and take down our trees, too.”  Kast Farm continues farming in Childs with owned and managed properties as seen in this aerial photo.

In the 1980’s, David Kast said he made the fortuitous decision to sell 10 acres of land in Childs to support another “new-concept.” At that time, local apple growers had pretty much maxed out the capacity of their primary buyer/packer, George LaMont. George, and his brother Roger, ran one of the area’s main packing/storage facilities for apples on their Densmore Road farm for many years.

By the end of the 1970s, that operation was not able to keep up with production and the demand for sales. George approached about a dozen local farmers to see if there was an interest in forming a partnership for the purpose of expanding fruit packing and storage in the area. The decision that they reached resulted in the formation of Lake Ridge Fruit Company, LLC in 1982 with 11 original partners from the local farming community.

The siting of the plant in Childs resulted in convenient access to highway transportation and plenty of room for future expansion. Lake Ridge Fruit formed the operating company Lake Ontario Fruit to expand their sales force to market their apples to a larger geographic area.

Photo Courtesy: Photos by Bruce & Assoc.

The original partners in Lake Ridge Fruit were: Pete Nesbitt (Pine Hill Farm), Roger LaMont (LaMont Farm), Francis Kirby, Ralph Brown, Bob Kirby, David Kast, Don Nesbitt & Fred Nesbitt (Silver Creek Farm), George Kirby, Bob Brown, George Lamont, John Kirby and General Manager Bill Gerling. David Kast served as President of the association for about 20 years.

The current ownership group pictured here are (left to right) John Russell, Robert Brown II, Jason Woodworth, Steve Nesbitt, Mike Zingler, Kaari Stannard, George Lamont, Patrick Wodworth, Rod Farrow and Eric Brown. Not pictured are Scott Henning, Robert Brown III and Jose Iniguez. It is with great sadness that the team noted the passing of George Lamont in 2020, a man who first saw the vision for the apple plant and worked to make it a reality.

Lake Ontario Fruit, Inc. has grown into one of the largest apple packing and storage operations in the Northeast. The apple plant packages over a million bushels of fresh apple each year. Bins of Gala apples are shown here.

The consortium is led today by John Russell, President/CEO and Partner. Russell is a natural for this position, coming from a highly respected farming family in Niagara County. He said, “Many of our member-growers have recently planted more acreage of popular apple varieties, such as Honeycrisp and SweeTango. Prior to the last expansion, Lake Ontario Fruit needed to rent additional storage facilities at other locations, but all apples are now stored at our own facility.”

Photo Courtesy: Photos by Bruce & Assoc.

Multi-million dollar expansions were made to the original plant in 2010 and 2013, bringing the total square-footage under roof to 185,000 square feet.

Modern packing equipment is a boost to the local economy that employs about 100 workers in the peak season. Many local and national supermarket chains carry Lake Ontario Fruit apples including Wegmans, Wal-Mart, Tops, and Aldi’s. You can find Lake Ontario Fruit apples in supermarkets under the “NY Apple Sales” label or the newly added “Yes! Apples.” John Russell added, “Apples are all we do and our future is bright. Many of our local apple growers have moved into newer varieties to meet growing consumer demand. We stand by our moto: Great People, Great Apples, Great Future.”

Historic Childs: History of Agriculture in the Hamlet, Part 3

Posted 9 January 2021 at 9:14 am

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum, Director

GAINES – Another farm operation in the Hamlet of Childs is attributed to Alphonse Zambito who operated Zambito Produce in 1950s in the gray barn across from the Cobblestone Museum on the south side of Ridge Road.

Al got started in the produce business working for the A&P food chain after WWII as their head produce buyer for 13 states.  The company offices were located to the right of the barn in the photo above.

Here in Childs Al Zambito ran one of the largest sorting facility for cucumbers in the area.  Processing pickles were graded and packed on the ground floor level of the produce company. On the upper floor, fresh market cucumbers were packed with a capacity there up to 5,000 bushels a day.

The plant also packed tomatoes, acorn squash, and cabbage. Al’s son, Michael Zambito, carried the torch forward for many more years, into the last quarter of the 20th century. Mike said, “I remember we brought in loads of red cabbage from Holland and green cabbage from Michigan and Virginia. My dad also brokered onions and beets. We were a very busy place.”

Mike Zambito recalled that his father got started after leaving school in the 6th grade. Al worked to help build the Lipton Plant in Albion and then left for the service. Mike said, “After the war, Dad teamed up with Mike Kodish from NYC who gave him some money to start his packaging plant in Childs. Dad eventually bought out Mike Kodish!”

Mike Metcalf offered his reflections on farming in the Hamlet of Childs, too. He grew up on the east side of Route 98, about one-half mile north of Route 104. Mike’s dad, William, was a Soil Conservation Service Officer. This was a federal position that supervised farm drainage and construction of farm ponds.

As a child, Mike recalls that Lee Harding and John Murray raised sheep on their adjoining farms in the 1950s. Mike said, “Growing up with all the sheep, it was like a giant playground.” He recalls the sheep creating trails that crisscrossed the pastures that he and his brother and two sisters would enjoy running through.

Mike received his farm training, graduating in 1974, from Iowa State University, where he received the “Outstanding Member of the Year Award,” from the University’s Farm Club, and the “Real Guy Award,” the highest honor bestowed by the Iowa State University College of Agriculture. Immediately following college, Mike became involved in Orleans County farming, including animal husbandry and crop farming. Mike’s current farming interests include about 300 acres on Route 279 and has held many leadership positions in Orleans County Farm Bureau.

Mike Metcalf also remembers the fire in 1970 that destroyed Lee Harding’s barn on Route 98. After the fire, Harding sold his property to what would become the large corporate farm, Intergrow, a farm operation that deserves its own story in a later article.

Another historic farm on the west end of the Hamlet of Childs was called Coloney Farms, dating back to the early 1800s.  The progenitor in the Coloney family was George Coloney who purchased the farm from Russell and Betsey Gillett in 1885. George started the farm keeping horses and grew the farm to over 160 acres, primarily on the west side of Childs. George and his wife, Bertha Balcom Coloney, built a 2,700 sq. ft. house on the property in which the extended family still resides today.

George and Bertha Coloney had six children (shown above): Orson, George, Jr., Rosabell, Marian, Marjorie and Eleanor. Eleanor’s son, Gerald Coloney Monagan and his wife, Beverly (Thompson) Monagan, now live in the Coloney family homestead. Jerry explained that the Coloney homestead (shown above) passed out of the family for about 16 years until his purchase of the property returned it to the extended Coloney family line. Jerry professed, “I’m really just a gentleman farmer. Eugene Leigh farmed the back 128 acres. I bought 32 acres and raised about 10 acres of cucumbers.” Jerry’s principal livelihood was employment at Kodak in Rochester.

George Coloney’s sons, Orson and George, Jr., continued the Coloney farming legacy and managed 2,000 acres, primarily in Carlton. They produced tomatoes that they sold to Hunt’s in Albion and also maintained a labor camp for field workers who came up from the southern states in the summer.

Coloney Farms with its active horse stables, needed a plentiful supply of fresh straw for bedding. Here we see an early 1900s straw stack on the farm.

Horses provided the “horsepower” to do many farm chores during the 1800s and early 1900s.  The next generation of horsepower was provided by steam engines.  Here, in this 1950s farm scene, we see an early Case Steam Tractor at work.  This tractor displays the “Old Abe” eagle logo on its front, a Case trademark beginning in 1865.

Tragedy struck Coloney Farm on Friday, November 22, 1935 when the K&B Tea Room, a small structure on the farm, was destroyed in an early morning fire.

Current farm residents Jerry and Bev Monagan always had a problem with standing water near the house, so they decided to dig a pond.  Gerry said, “We went down 14 feet and hit bedrock, but never hit water.”  The 14’ deep pond is just filled with surface water.” The family has used the pond for swimming and has kept Black Labs that have enjoyed the water, too, along with some coy fish and bass that have been stocked.

Historic Childs: Agriculture in the Hamlet, Part 2

Posted 2 January 2021 at 9:06 am

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

GAINES – The Thompson family farm is another longtime farming operation in the Hamlet of Childs whose roots go back to the early 1800s.  In 1872 Henry Williams bought the farm to the east at the corner of Brown Street Road and Route 104 thus enlarging the farm to 235 acres.

Elmer Thompson of East Barre married Henry’s daughter, Theda Williams, and moved into the homestead on Ridge Road. Their son Charles Thompson inherited the farm from his father. He married Hannah Harding and they had four children: Gary, Gail, Ruth and Ross. The Thompson farm as seen is this picture from the late 1800s shows an unpaved Ridge Road.  Paving was not accomplished until the 1920s.

Charles Thompson operated the dairy and cattle farm on both sides of Ridge Road.  He started with Black Angus beef cattle and added 35 milking cows. The beef cattle were out to pasture on the north side of the road, except during the winter months when they were housed in the west barn. The dairy cows were put out to pasture during the day on the south side of the road. The picture shows the dairy barn and milk house on the east. The Thompson farm also included a farm seed business that supplied corn, wheat and other seeds to local farmers.

Historian Bill Lattin examined the large hand-hewn beams in the back barn that is still standing and dated its construction to the 1820s.

Activity on the farm continued year around.  As late as the 1940s, farm chores were done in the winter using horses to pull a sled.

Charles Thompson’s daughter, Gail (Thompson) Johnson, who still lives on land once held by the farm, has many fond memories of family life growing up. She said, “I really enjoyed playing outdoors. We stayed home. I played in the corn picker and pretended it was a spaceship.” Gail said she learned her simple philosophy of life from her father and mother. Charles did not spend money foolishly. He lived a frugal life and only bought what he could pay for with cash, including all of the farm equipment.

Gail remembers when the family first bought a television set in the 1950s. They watched it together as a family about one hour every evening. Gail recalled that at a certain point in time the TV broke and Charles decided they wouldn’t get it repaired. He said, “You kids should do your homework instead.” And, that’s what they did.

Gail’s mother Hannah lived a simple life, too. She was a thrifty homemaker and canned farm produce to make meals for her family. Following her husband’s death, a friend asked Hannah if she was going to can some fruits and vegetables for the winter. Hannah remarked, “No! I am not going to be a slave to another vegetable.”

Gail said her father stopped farming around 1960 and put his land in the Soil Bank Program instead. She said, “The state kept coming up with new regulations, year after year, like demanding that the barnyard be paved with cement. Dad had complied for years with the state but it became very difficult to make a living. He had gone from simple milk cans to bulk milk tanks which had cost quite a bit of money.”  The Soil Bank paid farmers not to grow crops, but to mow the grass instead. Gail said government regulations forced a lot of the small farmers in the region to go out of business.

Gail remembered that her parents were involved in many farm related activities including Gaines Grange. She said, “My mother used to sell donuts at the Grange square dances on Saturday evenings.”  She also recalled attending family picnics at Indian Falls, probably related to her father keeping Brown Swiss cows. She said, “Our farm was pretty much self-sufficient. Beef and dairy cows brought in meat and milk, and chickens supplied eggs.” Like most farms, the Thompsons had a large vegetable garden to provide their daily needs.

The Albanese brothers – Anthony, Dominick and Frank, farmed about 50 acres along the north side of the Ridge in Childs between the Cobblestone School and Church in Childs. They also operated the Orleans Hotel in Albion from 1944-1955. Their farming enterprise included a large farm on Sawyer Road where they grew Apples, cabbage and tomatoes, among other crops.  They also had a large labor camp on Sawyer Road to house about 100 migrant laborers who came up from the south to harvest the crops.

In the 1950s the brothers built a combination liquor store and farm market on Ridge Road. They sold a large variety of homegrown produce in their roadside stand, seen here, in Childs. Anthony’s son, Robert Albanese, remembers working at his father’s Sawyer Road farm during High School.  Bob said, “I worked weekends on the farm. They had over 300 acres of orchards and all-in-all we picked 100,000 bushels of apples each year.” In addition to the roadside stand, the farm sold produce to Comstock Foods. Farming continued there until about 2000.

The Albanese Brothers farming operation also included greenhouses on West Academy Street in Albion that raised over 5 million tomato plants each year. They sold these to local farmers and to the tomato industry. The greenhouse operation continued into the 1990s before they were all removed.

Robert’s mother, Eleanor Albanese, is shown inside one of the greenhouses in about 1950.

Bob Albanese recalled that each tomato flat contained 118 young plants which were started each year from seed. He remembers having to track down all of the empty wooden flats again in the fall so the process could start all over again each year. Here we see an Albanese Brothers invoice for Robert Kirby’s purchases of 300 flats of tomato plants in 1948. While $198 was a lot of money in 1948, it averaged out to one-half cent per tomato plant.

Here are some of the colorful annual bedding plants grown in the Albanese greenhouses that kept gardeners coming back year after year.

Businesses that supplied goods and services to farms and farm workers were also important to any farming community, and Childs was no exception. One of these businesses was the Janus Service Station and Garage located between the Cobblestone Schoolhouse and Albanese Farm Market on Route 104. Owner Frank Janus sold Sinclair Gas and convenience store items to farm workers and highway passersby beginning in the 1900s. He also specialized in repairing cars, trucks and farm equipment.  Frank’s wife, Victoria, operated a lunch room on the premises before the NYS Thruway opened in 1954. Historian Bill Lattin remembered, “I bought the last drop of gas sold there in 1970s. The pump ran out of gas in mid-fill and that was the end of that.”

Very little remains of the Janus Service Station today, except two “cobblestone” style pillars that once held Sinclair Gasoline globes.

On his 103rd birthday, Stanley Kast receives many greetings and an Assembly citation

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 December 2020 at 7:09 pm

Kast ran a tractor until he was 97 and still keeps an eye and the daily comings and goings at the farm

Photos courtesy of Kathy Kast

ALBION – State Assemblyman Steve Hawley stopped by Stanley Kast’s home on Densmore and West Transit roads today and presented him with a special citation from the State Assembly for Kast’s 103rd birthday.

Kast was born in the house and has worked the farm in Gaines his entire life. He was out in the orchards operating a tractor until he was 97. He still keeps track of the daily comings and goings on the farm, including the corn truck traffic, what varieties are being planted in the orchards, and what fruit trees are being trimmed, sprayed or picked.

About 20 cars stopped by and family and friends waved to Kast from his window. The people came from the Albion area, with some from Buffalo, Rochester and Williamson.

Stanley Kast watches the parade of people – wishing him a happy birthday today.

He was married to Evelyn Denagel Kast and raised two sons, David and Paul. Kast has three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Stanley Kast is greeted outside his window on his birthday.

There was some friendly teasing from his family on his birthday.

Historic Childs: Agriculture has been a leading industry in the hamlet (part 1)

Posted 25 December 2020 at 2:06 pm

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

GAINES – The Hamlet of Childs has a long history of agriculture on both the north and south sides of Ridge Road and the adjoining properties on Oak Orchard Road.  Some of the original families that farmed the land or processed the farm products, are still involved in farming, but most have sold their interests to other businesses as smaller family farms gave way to larger corporations. Over the next several articles we will look at many of those local farms.

John and Neva Dahlquist Murray were one of the farm families in the Hamlet of Childs. They were married in the mid-1920s. Their farm (pictured above) surrounded the old John Proctor homestead on the south side of the Ridge and encompassed a region running about one mile along Oak Orchard Road (Route 98) heading south out of the Hamlet.

The farm also extended to the north side of the Ridge. John and Neva had two children: Beverly June Murray Leigh and son John (Jack) Riley Murray, who went to work for the Gas Company following his service as a medic in the Korean War.

All in all, the John Murray family, which included his son-in-law Eugene Leigh, who married John’s daughter Beverly in 1946, farmed about 300-400 acres into the 1980s, which included some muck land in Elba. Their principal tree crops were apples, cherries, pears and peaches, as well as truck farming crops of corn, tomatoes, cabbage, soy beans and cucumbers. Bev and Gene Leigh moved into the farm house (shown above) when they were married in 1946 and Gene still lives there today, although the barns are now gone.

Bev Leigh named the family farm, “Proctor Brook Farm” after her parents died. Bev and Gene Leigh had three children: Valerie Leigh Hatch, Meredith Leigh Minier and John Murray Leigh.

A sign, shown above, still marks the driveway of the farm homestead today.  The stone tie up for horses that it is attached to is also an object of fond remembrance for the family.  Meredith said, “My sister and I used to hang from it upside down years ago. Mom brought it over to her place when Grandma died and I hope to do the same someday to keep it in the family.”

Proctor Brook Farm also raised animals including sheep, cows, pigs and horses. Gene’s daughter Meredith Minier (above right) recalls that her grandfather, John Murray (above left), took care of the sheep, and her father, Gene Leigh, took care of the cows. Meredith said, “Grandpa had work horses in his barn, too, until I was about three, I believe, and then we must have gotten a tractor!!”

She said her grandpa used to train sulky horses as a young man before he farmed and she remembers having a pleasure horse for a time, but when her grandfather had retina surgery they had to sell it because he couldn’t ride anymore.

Meredith said, “I remember writing my mother the first month I was married and had moved to Denver, because I couldn’t believe I had to pay 99 cents for a bag of apples in 1974!” John and Neva had a beautiful summer garden. Meredith recalled, “Grandpa would often leave a cantaloupe on our back step for us for breakfast in the summer. All the fruits and vegetables we could imagine and beef all the time too.”

Her Grandma and Grandpa also had lovely flowers with sweet peas being her favorite. “I remember Grandma bringing over bouquets of sweet peas, she had so many, and lilacs, too. Some things you don’t understand or appreciate until you are older!”

Meredith reflected further on her childhood memories:

“My memories are many and I was so fortunate for what they provided us. Dad worked sunrise to sunset seven days a week; he ran in at lunch and ate in ten minutes and back outside. He would fix his own equipment and send my Mom to the John Deere store for parts. I remember my Grandpa walking over one day in the summer holding his arm – he had caught it in the hay baler and off he and Mom went to the hospital with a broken arm! And my Dad was on the combine going south around the corner of 98 and 104 when the combine started on fire and Dad had to jump off onto the road to escape, 8-10 feet onto the pavement.  He couldn’t walk for several days and has suffered from that injury since then. Mom was a wonderful farm wife, raising three children while Dad worked to provide for us; she could cook, can, sew, decorate, do the outside work, even make most of my sister and my clothes from dresses to coats and took up quilt making as we left the house and she had more time. All this as she lovingly raised a special needs son. Even in the days of modernization as it was in the ’50s and ’60s and ’70s it was not an easy life.”

The story of how John Murray got his start in farming is also very interesting.  When John was growing up in the early 1900s, his father, George, owned property that they farmed on the north side of the Ridge Road by Brown Street Road. George acquired his farm in 1895 from the Miller Family who acquired it from the Rowley Family, who were early settlers to the area.  When George Murray died in 1932, he left the family farm to his oldest son Curtis, which was the usual way property was passed down during that time period. However, “Curt” was indeed his brother’s keeper, in that he took a mortgage on his inherited property and gave some of the proceeds to his younger brother John, so he could buy a farm.  John then bought the John Proctor farm located about a mile west on Ridge Road and his property became known as Proctor Brook Farm as previously described.

After his act of brotherly love, Curtis Murray (shown above right) carried on the farming legacy on George Murray’s property located on the north side of the Ridge by Brown Street Road. Curt’s farm was known as “Maple Lawn Farm,” named after a row of maple trees that once lined the property.

The Curtis Murray family was involved in dairying, and sold cream and butter on the farm.  They also grew cash crops like cabbage, corn, and cucumbers.  Curt’s daughter, Janice Mann Beech, recalls when her father removed an old barn on the property.  She said, “To do that he hired an explosive expert to take down a free standing silo next to the barn. It took three attempts with dynamite to finally knock it down.”

Later, a parcel from Maple Lawn Farm was sold to the Gaines Carlton Community Church for their new building in 1969.

Farming in the “western end” of Childs can be traced to 1816 when the Hutchinson family acquired land on the south side of the Ridge from Holland Land Company. Hutchison progeny carried on the farming tradition into the 20th century when his daughter Florence married Everett Barnum and took over the farm.

Everett Barnum had planned on passing the farm down to one of his two sons, but fate had another plan. Both sons, Eugene and William, went off to war during WWII and neither returned alive from the war in Europe. 2nd Lt. William Barnum and Capt. Eugene Everett Barnum, Jr. (shown above) were buried next to each other in the Netherlands American Cemetery, Limburg Netherlands.

In 1958, Robert Schwartz, Jr. purchased the 100-acre Barnum farm, which he expanded to 160 acres. The Schwartz purchase marked the first time the farm had been out of the extended Hutchinson family since the early 1800s. The Schwartz farm raised dairy cattle along with fruit and vegetables. Robert’s daughter Linda Schwartz said her dad “always grew a cash crop, too.”  Robert had three daughters, and without a son to pass his property on to, he sold the farm in 1984 to Dave Kast, Town of Gaines.

Dave Kast used some of the land to start Lake Ridge Fruit and its subsidiary Lake Ontario Fruit, one of the largest apple packing and storage facilities in the Northeast. Dave was one of the original 11 investors that started the plant in the 1980s. This multi-million dollar business has its own incredible story and will be the subject of another article in the near future.

Volunteer honored for creating digital database of cobblestone sites in NY and beyond

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 December 2020 at 12:48 pm

Landmark Society of WNY gives special citation to Greg Lawrence

Courtesy of Cobblestone Museum: This photo of the Alexander Town Hall in Genesee County is among about 5,000 images in the new digital archive available through the Cobblestone Museum. This building was erected in 1837 as a boarding house. It later became a school and then the town hall. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

GAINES – The Landmark Society of WNY has presented its annual awards for people who have tackled ambitious preservation projects in the region.

Greg Lawrence

A Clarendon resident is among the winners. Greg Lawrence was recognized with a special citation from the Landmark Society for his efforts in creating the digital repost for all 800 known cobblestone buildings in New York State, as well as in some other states and Canada. Altogether, the database includes nearly 1,000 cobblestone sites.

This archive includes about 6,500 images in a database created by Lawrence, who took on the project as a volunteer.

Lawrence worked to digitize a collection of photographs, with most of the images are from Robert L. Roudabush between 1976 and 1980. The images and scans of maps are available online by clicking here.

The database includes cobblestone buildings in 28 counties in NY, and cobblestone sites in Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont and Wisconsin, as well as structures in Canada, England and France.

Lawrence is retired after 31 years at Kodak in micrographics (microfilm) and high volume, commercial document scanners.

Erin Anheier, the Cobblestone Museum president, approached Lawrence in Spring 2018 with a proposal to digitally duplicate the “Robert Roudabush Survey of Cobblestone Buildings in New York State” archived at the Landmark Society of Western New York.

Lawrence accepted the challenge and expanded it to include an information base with a platform to maintain, update, and import information as desired. Lawrence said it is “a growing, living library of information, a repository of all known and found about cobblestone structures that can be accessed worldwide.”

Cobblestone Museum adds historic building, with Vagg House a showcase of life in 1920s

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 17 November 2020 at 4:07 pm

Site at corner of 98 & 104 has many household items from early days of electricity

Photos by Tom Rivers: Bill Lattin, retired director of the Cobblestone Museum, welcomes people into the Vagg House for its first public tour on Nov. 7.

CHILDS – For the first time since 1998, the Cobblestone Society has acquired another historic building to add to its campus.

Located on the southwest corner of routes 104 and 98, the Vagg house was owned by blacksmith Joseph Vagg and his wife Nellie. Joseph’s adjoining blacksmith shop is already one of the eight buildings acquired over the years by the Cobblestone Society.

The home was last owned by Rene Schasel, who died in March 2019. Schasel, was a supporter of the Cobblestone Museum and an avid collector of antiques dating from 1910 through 1940. He was also a friend of Bill Lattin, former director of the Cobblestone Society, and named his sister Marena Rupert and Lattin as executors of his estate.

This overstuffed furniture with its original fabric dates to the mid-1920s.

It occurred to Cobblestone director Doug Farley and Lattin that the house would be going on the market and it would be a disaster if the home should fall into the hands of an “undesirable” owner, with the historic buildings of the Cobblestone Society being only a few feet away.

It became obvious to the executors this house should go to the museum.

With that in mind, the executors dropped the price of the home to $60,000, and an anonymous donation of $30,000 made it possible for the Cobblestone Society to arrange to buy the property. Farley said they will begin a fund drive in January to raise the remainder of the money.

The executors held three estate sales during the past year, but there was still a massive amount of items left. Schasel especially liked antique electrical appliances, and his collection included 200 flat irons, 100 waffle irons, 39 washing machines, 150 coffee pots, 40 vacuum cleaners and numerous refrigerators. There are various other appliances, such as a mangle (iron), electric flour sifter, 60 toasters, an electric coil to defrost the freezer and a pant creaser.

Members of the Cobblestone Museum get ready to go inside the Vagg House on Nov. 7, when it hosted its first public tour after hundreds of work from volunteers led by Bill Lattin. He thanked museum volunteers Camilla VanderLinden, Chris Sartwell, Pat Morrisey and Kim Charon for their cleaning skills to get the Vagg House ready for viewing.

After the first estate sale, Lattin said he realized they should keep enough of the things to maintain the integrity of the home and furnish it in the style of the 1920s.

“The home is now set up to interpret life as the Vaggs would have lived it in the 1920 and 1930s,” Farley wrote in the Cobblestone’s autumn newsletter.

Lattin also added that while the home is full of antique furnishings, they are not the kind of things a collector would be looking for.

“The Vaggs lived a very moderate livestyle,” he said. “Many of their things were hand-me-downs.”

Lattin compiled the Vagg’s story for the autumn “Cobblestoner.”

Bill Lattin gives museum trustee Mark Bower a tour of kitchen. This cupboard is full of cobalt blue Depression glass known as Modern Tone. This became very popular in the 1930s. With more than 30 cups and saucers it can be used for future teas.

Joseph and Nellie moved to Childs from Barre in 1909 with their two children Melva and Norris. Melva, who married Kenneth Warner, recalled she was 3 years old when they came to live at the corner of routes 98 and 104. After her mother died in the late 1970s, Melva inherited the home and lived there until she sold it in 1985 to William Nestle and Rene Schasel. Rene liked the house because he said it was “untouched.”

When Melva had the house for sale, Mark Tillman from the Village Inn looked at it and made the comment that the kitchen would have to be done over. Melva took great offense and stated “Young man, this kitchen was remodeled in 1929 and there is nothing wrong with it today.”

Schasel became sole owner of the house when Nestle, who was a former president of the Cobblestone Society, died in 2009.

Lattin felt the house could be used for small gatherings of less than 30 people, such as meetings, rehearsal parties or teas, put on by a caterer, as well as being part of the Cobblestone Museum.

Furnishings in the home include a Monitor Top refrigerator, a 1930’s kitchen table and chairs, an 1840 chest recently donated to the Museum by David and Camilla VanderLinden, a gray enamel sink, a Kalamazoo kitchen range made in 1935 and a Morris chair donated by Gerard and Pat Morrisey, which belonged to his grandfather, Poelma, and was built in 1917.

Other period furnishings are Royal Rochester waffle iron and coffee urn, a player piano and Orthophonic Victrola. Floor and table lamps with fringed shades, a wicker rocker, candle holders with shades and a hooked wall hanging which had been given to the museum. The wallpaper in the parlor was put up when the Vaggs celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary in 1948.

The property now boasts its own outhouse in the back yard, which Lattin built out of scrap lumber.

Lattin added that electricity was distributed down Ridge Road between 1926 and 1928. Prior to that, the Vaggs would certainly have had an outhouse.

Lattin quoted a sentence which was advertised in the 1920s, “Electricity is the only servant you will ever need.”

Bill Lattin shows Doreen and Gary Wilson a 1930s food mixer and a green enamel hot plate. There is also a Kalamazoo kitchen range was made in 1935. The Vaggs used it for heat as well as cooking. Museum Trustee Maarit Vaga is at right.

Keeping as much of the Vagg house in its original state is important because of Child’s designation by the Landmark Society of Western New York as one of their “Five to Revive” in 2019, Lattin said.

The house is also a perfect fit to the area, with Joseph Vagg’s blacksmith shop next door already part of the Cobblestone Museum. He built the shop in 1921 and Nellie bequeathed it to the Cobblestone Society after she died in 1975.

“This brings the Cobblestone Museum’s buildings to nine,” Farley said. “We have 18 if you count the outhouses. We are very excited to have a presence on this corner. The potential here is unlimited. This house will be included in our future tours.”

Farley said visitors will notice a big difference between the 1920s-era  Vagg house and the cobblestone Ward house, furnished in the style of the 1880s.

In the dining room, a Royal Rochester waffle iron is plugged into the ceiling light fixture. In the corner is a Orthophonic Victrola dating to circa 1928. The 1920-era Vagg House represents a different era from the Ward House, which depicts life in the 1880s. Latin said in the 1920s it was advertised, “Electricity is the only servant you’ll ever need.”

The shades on the candlesticks was very popular in the 1910s and ’20s.

Mark Bower checks out the upstairs, where the hallways have hardwood floors.

A member of Elderberry Jam performs on the lawn at the Vagg House for the event on Nov. 7.

There is a small plaster bust of Frances E. Willard in the dining room. The bust, made in 1932, shows Willard wearing a small white ribbon, which was characteristic of the temperance movement. Willard was born in Churchville and became president of the National Women’s Temperance Union. Nellie Vagg also was active in the temperance movement and wore a white ribbon until her dying days. “Nellie was a warhorse on liquor,” Lattin said.

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DAR placed 5 historic markers in Gaines on Ridge in 1930s

Posted 7 November 2020 at 8:30 am

Local group didn’t like sentimental name of ‘Honeymoon Trail’

By Adrienne Kirby, Gaines Town Historian

This photo was taken at the corner of Ridge Road and Rt. 279, or Gaines Road, looking south. At this point, the Ridge was paved, since the curb is just visible at the bottom of the photo. Folks traveling to Albion still had to travel a dirt road.

GAINES – With the rise of the automobile in the 1920’s, roads throughout Western New York were slowly improved. Ridge Road was first paved through Gaines in 1926.

On Aug. 26, Gaines held a Booster Day celebration with a parade to commemorate the completion of the improvements made to its geographical main artery. Paving the road brought about significant business opportunities, which were seized upon almost immediately.

Less than a year later, in June of 1927, the Medina Daily Journal published a rather bemused editorial reporting signs painted on telephone or telegraph poles of “two bleeding hearts pierced by an arrow which is supposed to designate ‘Honeymoon Trail.’”

The origin of the signs was a mystery at the time of publication. Though Ridge Road does end at Niagara Falls, often called the Honeymoon Capital of the World, the editors at the Journal were not impressed and suggested “Ground Hog Road” or “Green Frog Trail” as alternate titles.  They concluded “The Old Ridge Road” would be a more respectable name.

The D.A.R. was in full agreement, and used everything in their arsenal to prevent such a “sentimental title” from taking root in the public mind. Just a month later, as reported by the Journal, the Orleans Chapter of the D.A.R. were “up in arms” over the proposed change of name and passed a resolution expressing their disapproval.

The committee responsible for drafting resolutions to preserve the historic nature of Ridge Road was chaired by Katherine Rowley, Orleans County’s first historian and a citizen of Gaines. They proposed that the new name was “insignificant and unworthy”, that “the majority of citizen[s’] … sense of propriety has been violated by such change of name,” and that “the name of ‘The Ridge Road’ should endure forever…”

By April 1928, the D.A.R. was fully mobilized and the Orleans Chapter had proposed working with the Monroe and Irondequoit Chapters to place “neat blue and white markers which are to carry the title ‘The Historic Ridge Road, established in 1798.’” They were to be 14 inches in diameter and placed every five miles through Orleans and Monroe counties. In addition, plans were being made to involve the State Historical Monuments Society in the “movement.”

The proposals were successfully implemented. Between 1930 and 1935, the D.A.R. placed five markers in Gaines, along with others in the towns of Ridgeway and Murray, thanks to legislation New York State passed in 1923 anticipating the sesquicentennial of the American Revolution in 1926. The Department of Education was to work with local groups to erect “markers to designate sites that are of historic significance in the colonial, revolutionary or state formative period…” among other efforts to commemorate the national celebration.

Curiously enough, the Orleans Chapter has no records of putting up “The Historic Ridge Road” markers, and yet a sign which closely matches the description in the newspaper stands next to the Village Inn at Childs.

The above photo shows Katherine Rowley on the far left on the day of the dedication of the marker, on Oct. 12, 1935. This is most likely the last known photo of her, as she passed away three days later. Next to Miss Rowley is Barbara Balcom, and the girl holding the flag is Elda Barnum, both great great grand nieces of John Proctor. The woman wearing gloves is Grace Bliss, then Regent of the Orleans Chapter, D.A.R.  The observant local reader will notice that in the photograph of the marker, the west side of the Proctor House is visible, and yet today, the marker is on the east side of the property. About fifteen years ago, the marker was moved in order to make it more visible to the public, as it was somewhat hidden by the hedgerow and low branches of the large black maple which sits in the northwest corner of the yard.

The program for the dedication of the Proctor Marker, printed on a patriotic-looking red, white and blue mottled paper.

This photo was taken on May 22, 1983 for the dedication of the historic marker at the Village Inn as part of the kick-off for the Gaines Jubilee, celebrating the 175th anniversary of the Town of Gaines. Pictured from left to right are Ernest Leonardi, Masonic Grand Master of New York; Charles Aldrich, Niagara Orleans District Masonic Deputy Grand Master; Ronald Radzinski, Gaines Supervisor; C.W. Lattin, Curator of Cobblestone Museum; William Tillman, Proprietor of the Village Inn; and R. Stephen Hawley, New York State Assemblyman.       

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Log cabin from 1930 makes a delicate and successful journey

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 October 2020 at 8:13 pm

Historical Association moves cabin from Albion backyard to behind Gaines Basin cobblestone schoolhouse

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – A log cabin, built by Boy Scouts and one of their dads in 1930, was moved about 4 miles today from a backyard in Albion to behind the historic Gaines Basin No. 2 cobblestone school on Gaines Basin Road.

Keeler Construction volunteered to take the cabin on this flatbed trailer. It is shown in the top photo headed down Route 98 in Albion near Oak Orchard Lanes.

“I’m very relieved,” said Rick Ebbs, who braced the cabin, wrapped it in plastic and coordinated the move. “I was worried it would fall apart.”

Keeler employee Chad Plummer and three highway workers from the Town of Gaines – Seth Dumrese, Jeff Page and Brian Burke –  showed up at about 8 this morning in Ralph and Patricia Moorhouse’s backyard on Linwood Avenue. They donated the cabin to the Orleans County Historical Society.

Mrs. Moorhouse’s father, Faris Benton, was one of the scouts who built the cabin with help from his father, Fred Benton. The scouts dragged logs from the nearby woods. They built a fireplace on the inside and outside. That fireplace has deteriorated but will be reset and repaired in its new location.

Mrs. Moorhouse said three generations of the family and many neighborhood kids enjoyed the cabin. Her husband put a new roof on about 40 years ago and that helped preserve the cabin.

Mike Gillette takes a photo of the site where he often hung up with friends as a kid. He is joined by his dog, Cooper. The fireplace will be moved and reset at the new spot for the cabin on Gaines Basin Road.

Gillette, 57, took a day off from work to see the cabin’s move.

“We spent a lot of time in the cabin as kids,” he said. “It was the neighborhood fort.”

After trick-or-treating on Halloween, Gillette said he and his friends would gather in the cabin to check out their candy and trade. They had cider and doughnuts.

The 10-by-14-foot log cabin had withered in recent years, partly due to woodchucks. They damaged the concrete floor causing it to heave.

“It was pretty feeble,” he said about the cabin. “I am impressed with the job they did bracing it to get ready for the move.”

Keeler starts the trip down Linwood Avenue. It took the cabin down Main Street (Route 98) before turning left on Bacon Road. From there it turned left to Gaines Basin Road, stopping at the school just north of the Erie Canal.

Pat Moorhouse said it was difficult to watch the cabin be moved today.

“It’s a lot of memories for our family,” she said. “It’s so sad to see it go. But knowing it will be preserved, it just makes sense.”

That schoolhouse, built in 1832, has been the focus of an intense preservation effort in recent years by the Orleans County Historical Association. It is the oldest documented cobblestone building in the area.

The Historical Association thought the log cabin, which was built by children, was a good fit next to a school.

The Town of Gaines Highway Department brought a payloader and backhoe to help lift the cabin onto Keeler trailer and then take it off. Brian Burke is at left and Seth Dumrese is at right.

Rick Ebbs watches to see how the cabin is lining up on a concrete pad and a new base. Ebbs prepped the cabin for the move and also built the new base for the cabin.

The Gaines highway workers set the cabin in place. The entire process took about 2 hours this morning.

Bill Lattin, the retired county historian, thanked the Moorhouse family for donating the cabin.

“It’s a unique building,” he said. “It’s a facet of local history involving scouts. It shows the ingenuity the scouts took in creating such a structure.”

Al Capurso, one of the leaders of the Historical Association, talked a few years ago about building a new log cabin at the Cobblestone Museum. Lattin was aware of the log cabin in the Moorhouse backyard. He thought it would be better to preserve the cabin rather than try to build a new one. Capurso supported that effort.

The Moorhouses were receptive, and even donated $1,000 to help with the relocation effort.

Lattin sees the cabin being used again by scouts once the chimney and fireplace are reset and the cabin strengthened. The scouts have plenty of space to camp with tents and do cookouts.

“Once this is done it will be a very good camp site for scouts,” Lattin said.

He marveled at the cabin which has endured nearly a century. The scouts in 1930 dragged logs from nearby woods. They did all the notching, so the logs would fit tight.

“It was all hard hand work,” Lattin said. “It’s the only one like it in the world.”

Anyone interested in donating to the cabin, chimney and fireplace restoration is welcome to a send a check to the Orleans County Historical Association, PO Box 125, Albion NY 14411.

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Historic Childs: The Cobblestone Universalist Church continues as focal point of museum

Posted 26 September 2020 at 10:45 am

Provided photos courtesy of Cobblestone Museum: The Cobblestone Universalist Church was erected in 1834 on Ridge Road, just east of Route 98. It is the oldest cobblestone church building in North America.

(Editor’s Note: This is the seventh article in a series about historic Childs in the Town of Gaines. The hamlet of Childs lies just north of Albion at the intersection of Routes 104 and 98. In 2019, Childs was selected to be on the Landmark Society of Western New York’s “Five to Revive” list. In 1993, the federal U.S. Department of the Interior declared the Cobblestone Museum in Childs a National Historic Landmark, the first site in Orleans County with that distinction.)

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Society & Museum Director

In 1833, the First Universalist Society was organized at Fairhaven (now Childs) and a building committee consisting of John Proctor, Joseph Billings, and William W. Ruggles was selected.  The First Universalist Church just east of the four corners in Childs was built by John Proctor in 1834 and given to the congregation.

Built in the Federal style, the Universalist Church represents the oldest cobblestone church in North America. Bricks were used for lintels and the sills were fashioned from wood. Masons used the depressed hexagonal or “Gaines Pattern” of mortar embellishment.

The inscription on the front of the church reads, “ERECTED BY THE FIRST UNIVERSALIST SOCIETY: AD 1834. GOD IS LOVE.”

In 1960, the State Board of the Universalist Church declared the Childs church abandoned and had considered selling it. Church services were no longer held there, and in fact, the church had been converted into a cabbage storage facility.

To avoid potential demolition by commercial interests, the Cobblestone Society Museum was formed and purchased the building. It was during this time, in the 1960s, that the museum carefully repaired and restored the interior and exterior.

In July of 1964, thanks to a generous donation from John Brush, the church’s tower was reconstructed and installed in the same location as the original tower.

The interior of the church is arranged to look as it would have in the 1880s and is included in public tours offered at the Cobblestone Museum.   Here, “Elderberry Jam,” a local fiddlers group, entertains a full house crowd in 2019.

Weddings continue to be held in the church, just like they would have in the earliest days in Childs.

In 1993, the Cobblestone Church, parsonage and District School #5 were designated the Cobblestone National Historic Landmark District, the highest distinction recognized by the National Department of the Interior.  The latter two sites will be presented in future articles.

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Historic Childs: More than cobblestones in the hamlet with many brick buildings

Posted 19 September 2020 at 10:20 am

Provided photos: A brick building from 1836 was built next to the Cobblestone Universalist Church, which was erected in 1834. They remain next to each other on Rpute 104, just east of the intersection with Route 98.

(Editor’s Note: This is the sixth article in a series about historic Childs in the Town of Gaines. The hamlet of Childs lies just north of Albion at the intersection of Routes 104 and 98. In 2019, Childs was selected to be on the Landmark Society of Western New York’s “Five to Revive” list. In 1993, the federal U.S. Department of the Interior declared the Cobblestone Museum in Childs a National Historic Landmark, the first site in Orleans County with that distinction.)

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

When we think of buildings in the historic Hamlet of Childs, the mind is quickly drawn to the amazing cobblestone structures that are located there.  But, perhaps equally interesting are the red brick structures that were built in the hamlet.  Brick construction in Childs actually predates the advent of cobblestone masonry by almost a decade.  There are brick homes here that date back to the 1820s, and the first cobblestone building was the Gaines-Basin schoolhouse built in 1832.

We know of three brickyards that operated in the vicinity of Childs including the Laffler brickyard at the site of the current Brick Pond on Route 98 near Route 104, and another at the intersection of Routes 279 & 104 and a third owned by William Babbitt at Route 104 & Crandall Road which was actually the first brickyard in the area established about 1820.

The Laffler Brick Yard had a storied history that included some game-changing technology for the time. Laffler built and patented an Iron Clad Brick Machine that changed brickmaking from a hand pressing process to mechanical.  His invention was said to produce 2,000 to 3,000 bricks per hour.  Enough bricks to build the average house could be made in a few hours instead of several days. Laffler’s machine took the first place award at the New York State Fair in the 1860s for several years running.  A photo of his workplace is shown.

The Laffler Brick Yard also has an interesting connection to the Cobblestone Museum. When the Cobblestone Universalist Church was built in 1834, it originally had a set of high wooden steps that were attached to the front of the building.  In 1870s a stone and brick terrace was built to replace the treacherous wooden stairs.  The height of the terrace was designed to accommodate easier entrance and egress from horse drawn carriages.  The flat surface of the terrace was constructed of red bricks from the Laffler Brick Yard as seen in the photo above.

Another amazing brick building in Childs was home to none other than founding father, John Proctor. Also known as “Paul Revere of Ridge Road,” Proctor is remembered for his heroic horseback ride to alert settlers of the advance of the British along the Ridge Road during the War of 1812. Proctor’s patriotism is venerated on a plaque in the front yard of his former home in Childs as shown.

The Cobblestone Museum is also a proud red brick building owner, with the residence they have dubbed, “The Brick House.”  Now currently serving as the Museum’s administrative office and Resource Center, the beautiful red brick home was built in 1836 as part of John Proctor’s prototype community, later dubbed Proctor’s Corners. A close up of the modern entrance is shown.

Photo from the collection of Kathy Staines

After the Proctor’s Corners years, the same brick building was enlarged with another brick wing, and later, a concrete block building was added at the front-west side. From the final addition, the Radzinski family operated a wine and spirits store for many years.  In 1998 the property was nearly destroyed when a prospective buyer thought the building should be razed to make more room for his planned convenience store on the corner. Shortsighted individuals remarked, “No one famous slept there, so tear it down!”

Fortunately, a groundswell of community support for the 1836 brick structure saved it from the wrecking ball to be preserved for historical purposes.  The Cobblestone Museum’s Research Center is located on the ground floor and the second floor is used as an art gallery and exhibition space.

Another interesting red brick home in the Hamlet of Childs is at least very rare, if not unique to the hamlet. This hybrid structure was built with cobblestones for the first story, and the second story is red brick.

Photo from the collection of Kathy Staines

The same brick/cobblestone house is shown here as it looked painted white in the mid-1900s. An interesting fact here is how the small structure played a role in entertaining America in the 1930s and beyond. A chance encounter with the home owner in the 1930s led Ferrin and Beatrice Fraser to rent the home for $10 a month.  Fate, being fickle, called the couple away to NYC to continue their careers in music and radio.  But whenever they could, they returned to their little home in Childs and worked there on the script for the radio series, “Little Orphan Annie.”  The couple wrote four children’s books with a musical theme. Ferrin Fraser authored over 500 short stories for many leading magazines and Beatrice served as a local organist and formed several hand bell choirs.

One more red brick building in the Hamlet of Childs stands as proud today as it was in 1834 when built by the Everett family. It sits masterfully overlooking the scene of what was once Proctor’s Corners and the Cobblestone Church.  This stately red brick home shown features two parlors and a grand foyer.  It is beautifully embellished with crown molding and six fireplaces.  Open hearth cooking tools are still present in the kitchen.

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Historic Childs: Gaines community embraced temperance, fought alcohol consumption

Posted 12 September 2020 at 9:11 am

By Freeman Lattin, Cobblestone Museum intern

Joseph and Nellie Vagg are pictured here on their 45th wedding anniversary in 1948. The Vaggs were lifelong residents of Childs and pillars of the community.

(Editor’s Note: This is the fifth article in a series about historic Childs in the Town of Gaines. The hamlet of Childs lies just north of Albion at the intersection of Routes 104 and 98. In 2019, Childs was selected to be on the Landmark Society of Western New York’s “Five to Revive” list. In 1993, the federal U.S. Department of the Interior declared the Cobblestone Museum in Childs a National Historic Landmark, the first site in Orleans County with that distinction. The NYS Barge Canal was later declared a National Historic Landmark in 2017.)

GAINES – Although Childs today maintains much of its small hamlet charm, it has never been immune to the economic, technological, or social changes of America. The country, the county, and Childs itself have changed immensely since John Proctor first settled here.

One thread of American history that Childs (or Fair Haven) was wrapped up in was the temperance movement. Beginning in the 1870s and peaking in popularity around the time of Prohibition, the second wave temperance movement in America was an attempt to reform society by doing away with the supposedly corrupting influence of alcohol.

Nellie Vagg would have been a member of the Gaines chapter of the WCTU. This banner hangs in the Ward House at the Cobblestone Museum in Childs.

The crowning achievement of the temperance movement was undoubtedly the 18th amendment, or Prohibition, which was ratified in 1919. Of course, even though the government had made the sale of alcohol illegal, it was definitely still consumed in Childs and in speakeasies across the country.

It was said that during the prohibition years, just as many customers stumbled out of the Village Inn as they had before. This was much to the chagrin of Mrs. Nellie Vagg, a staunch temperance advocate who lived on the corner of routes 104 and 98.

As a lifelong member of the Gaines chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, Nellie had a deep aversion to the consumption and sale of alcohol. The WCTU was an organization formed in 1874 with the goal of creating a “sober and pure world.” Although the group pushed for other reforms such as the abolition of tobacco and labor protections, its chief goal was the prohibition of alcohol.

This ribbon is from the I.O.G.T. hall at Fair Haven (now Childs).

Nellie was deeply devoted to the cause of temperance, and she always wore the WCTU’s signature white ribbon which was a symbol of purity and abstinence from alcohol. Mrs. Vagg is a great example of how staunch many temperance advocates were in that era. As Erin Anheier, Cobblestone Museum president, mentioned in last week’s article on the Vaggs, Nellie was very prominent in the local temperance movement and even served as a delegate to the statewide WCTU convention.

The other pillar of the temperance movement in Childs were the Good Templars. The International Order of Good Templars was a fraternal group founded in 1851 to promote temperance and total abstinence from alcohol and drug use.

In contrast with the WCTU, the Good Templars were a traditional fraternal organization based on Freemasonry, so they had a greater focus on rituals, ceremonies, and regalia. Their building was located across from the Village Inn, two houses away from the Vagg property.

Being situated across from the main watering hole in Childs, the Good Templars took it upon themselves to put on small “home talent” plays to provide the community with wholesome entertainment and an alternative to the boozing that took place across the road.

Today in Childs, you can still buy a drink at the Village Inn or a six pack at Crosby’s, so it’s obvious that booze has outlasted its most vocal detractors. The temperance movement in Childs, like the rest of the country, fizzled out with the repeal of prohibition and never regained its former prominence.

Pictured here is Norris Vagg, the son of Joseph and Nellie, and the Good Templars’ meeting hall in the background. Unfortunately this is the only known picture of the building.

This advertisement is an example of the wholesome home spun entertainment the Good Templars put on in Childs. Admission to this play cost 10 cents, or 15 cents for reserved seats.

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Grant allows Cobblestone Museum to double donations

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 11 September 2020 at 7:54 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: Rachel Lockhart of Rochester portrayed a teacher in the Cobblestone School during a Ghost Walk at the museum last October. The museum has had to cancel most in-person events and fundraisers this year due to Covid-19.

CHILDS – After receiving notification the Cobblestone Museum is one of 21 history-related organizations selected to participate in a matching grant program from the Pomeroy Foundation, Museum director Doug Farley has issued a plea for donations to meet the two-for-one goal.

The grant program is geared toward raising funds to support safely reopening under New York state guidelines. Up to $50,000 in matching grants in total will be awarded.

Farley learned about the grant through the Museum Association of New York, a group of about 650 museums and historical societies in New York that work together for the betterment of New York state museums.

“The Cobblestone didn’t qualify to apply for the first grant due to the size of our budget,” Farley said. “The first grant was intended for very small museums only. The second and third rounds opened up to museums with slightly larger budgets, so we were able to apply. I felt we had a compelling grant proposal, but I knew there were more than 1,000 museums and historical societies in the state that could also apply, so the numbers game always troubled me.”

During the application process, Farley asked himself how the museum would handle the matching fund requirement, because they had recently conducted a very successful fundraiser for their 60th anniversary, that they called “Sixty for Sixty,” in which they asked supporters to donate $60 in honor of the museum’s 60th year.

“We had more than 100 individuals lend a hand with that effort which was very gratifying,” Farley added. “So when approached the Pomeroy Challenge Grant, I was a little worried about how the same people would react to a second request so quickly on the heels of the first campaign. In the end, we decided to hem the Pomeroy event around our annual campaign, which we usually conduct in November. We moved the timing of that request up to August/September to coincide with the Pomeroy Fund’s timeline and reminded our donors this will be the final fundraising campaign for 2020.”

The Pomeroy grant is a 2:1 match, meaning they will match $1 for every $2 the museum raises, to a limit of $6,000. Sept. 30 is the deadline to make a donation. Checks can be made payable to Cobblestone Society and mailed to P.O. Box 363, Albion, 14411. Donors may also use the online giving tab at Membership renewals made during this time will also apply to the matching grant.

“I hope the challenge is well accepted, and folks realize their donations can go a lot further to provide us with needed support, because of the Pomeroy Fund’s 2:1 match,” Farley said.

In spite of this being a challenging year, Farley said the Cobblestone Society is continuing to explore the Visitors’ Center concept.

“We feel it would be a win/win for us and for Orleans County tourism in general,” he said. “We would all benefit by having a long-term partnership with Orleans County to provide the traveling public with much needed information about tourism options in the county, including sport fishing, cobblestone architecture, the Medina Railroad Museum and much more. The Cobblestone Museum would be an ideal location to catch the ‘wave’ of travelers moving across the state to reach other tourist destinations, like Niagara Falls or New York City.”

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Cobblestone Museum asks congressman to help with visitor’s center

Photos by Tom Rivers: U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs and Orleans County Legislature Chairwoman walk together on the grounds at the Cobblestone Museum on Route 104 in Gaines on Friday. Jacobs, who was sworn into office on July 21, made his first visit to the museum, which is a National Historic Landmark.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 September 2020 at 11:07 am

GAINES – Leaders of the Cobblestone Museum met with Congressman Chris Jacobs for an hour on Friday and asked him to pursue federal assistance for a visitor’s center in the historic Childs hamlet and also to help make the area safer for pedestrians.

Jacobs, who was sworn into office on July 21, made his first visit to the museum, which is a National Historic Landmark, the top historic recognition given by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Congressman Chris Jacobs said he has experience with historic properties in Buffalo’s Theater District. He said federal tax incentives are critical for projects at historic sites.

“History is the best thing Orleans County has to sell to visitors,” Erin Anheier, the museum president, told Jacobs.

She thinks the county has many historic sites that could be promoted as part of heritage tourism. The museum could be the center of those efforts, working with other partners in the county, Anheier said.

The museum has expanded its programming, drawing more visitors and members in recent years. (The Covid-19 pandemic has limited the museum to tours by appointment in 2020, but the museum has a full calendar of activities planned for next year, said Doug Farley, the executive director.)

The museum will soon acquire the home next to the blacksmith shop at the southwest corner of routes 98 and 104. It will be decorated in a 1920s style and offers more space for exhibits, Anheier said.

The museum would like to work with other local agencies – perhaps the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce and Orleans County Tourism Department – to develop a visitors’ center in the historic Childs hamlet. The site could be used promote many attractions in the county, including sportsfishing, Farley told Jacobs.

The hamlet in October 2019 was named one of “Five to Revive” by the Western New York Landmark Society. That designation brings awareness to important sites in the region that are in need of protection and investment.

Congressman Chris Jacobs, right, hears from Cobblestone Museum President Erin Anheier about concerns over traffic and available parking near the museum on Route 104.

The hamlet is unusual in WNY, with so many cobblestone buildings and other historic sites on a busy road that is largely devoid of chain store commercialism, said Larry Francer, associate director of preservation for the Landmark Society of WNY.

She praised the museum and other Gaines residents for their work to preserve so many sites from the 1800s.

“This is great example for the rest of our region,” Francer said about the Childs hamlet.

The hamlet would benefit from sidewalks along the stretch of cobblestone buildings that are part of the museum (from the Cobblestone Universalist Church to the former one-room schoolhouse), and historic-looking street lights, said Richard Remley, the museum’s vice president.

Cobblestone Museum Executive Director Doug Farley, left, speaks in the lower level of the Cobblestone Universalist Church, a building constructed in 1834. Farley said the museum maintains three important cobblestone structures, as well as other important buildings near the routes 104 and 98 intersection. Others in the photo include, U.S. Rep. Chris Jacobs, Cobblestone Museum President Erin Anheier, Cobblestone Museum VP Richard Remley and Larry Francer, associate director of preservation for the Landmark Society of WNY.

Farley said the museum needs more parking. It would like to upgrade its bathrooms for the public, and have meeting space for up to 100 people with a kitchen facility.

It could pursue a new structure for a visitor’s center, but Farley and museum leaders believe a brick house from 1834 across the street from the church offers a lot of potential as a visitor’s center. The 3,000-square-foot site is owned by Ray and Linda Burke and is for sale.

Museum leaders asked Jacobs to help pursue funding for the visitor’s center and the pedestrian improvements in the district.

Lynne Johnson, chairwoman of the Orleans County Legislature, said the county would benefit from a welcome center. She said the Legislature values the museum and has recently contributed $3,000 in annual funding for the organization.

The Legislature also ended a hiring freeze on Aug. 27 and appointed a new county historian, Catherine Cooper of Medina. She recently retired as the director of the Lee-Whedon Memorial Library in Medina.

Jacobs said he knows the value of well-maintained historic sites. As a real estate developer, he worked on several historic rehabs in Buffalo’s Theater District. He said maintaining state and federal tax incentives for those projects is critical for developers.

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Historic Childs: Nellie Vagg, wife of blacksmith, was active leader in temperance movement

Posted 5 September 2020 at 8:05 am

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in a series about historic Childs in the Town of Gaines. The hamlet of Childs lies just north of Albion at the intersection of Routes 104 and 98. In 2019, Childs was selected to be on the Landmark Society of Western New York’s “Five to Revive” list. In 1993, the federal U.S. Department of the Interior declared the Cobblestone Museum in Childs a National Historic Landmark, the first site in Orleans County with that distinction. The NYS Barge Canal was later declared a National Historic Landmark in 2017.)

By Erin Anheier, President, Cobblestone Society

Nellie Vagg

GAINES – In our last installment we learned about Joseph Vagg, the last practicing blacksmith on the Ridge.  This time let’s focus on his wife, Nellie.

You already know that Nellie was civic minded as she donated Joseph’s blacksmith shop to the Cobblestone Museum after his death. She wanted to assure that his legacy was preserved and that future generations learned about the importance of the village blacksmith.

Today we might call Nellie a citizen activist, as she tirelessly worked to improve the lives of her neighbors.

Nellie not only maintained the home, raised two children and frequently assisted Joseph in the blacksmith shop, she was active in the church and community. She was a member of the Home Bureau and Extension Service since its inception.

Nellie Vagg taught many classes for the Home Bureau.

Similar to the Farm Bureau, the Home Bureau sought to bring scientific information to the rural communities in curriculum formulated by Cornell University. Classes for local women which she hosted at her home included Elementary Meal Planning, The Study of Meat, A Place for Everything, General Mending, Nutrition, The Amount of Food Required, Salad Making and Whole Wheat.

She herself conducted classes at other locations including What Makes A Good Day for the Homemaker, Family Fun and Morale in War Time, and Hazards to Our Youth in Our Present World.

Nellie was a long-term member of the Orleans County Women’s Christian Temperance Union rising to the position of delegate to area and state conventions. Her commitment to the Temperance Movement was strong; a local resident recalls that when the corner store across the intersection from her home began to sell beer, she told the proprietor that she would “no longer be able to trade with him.”

The white ribbon of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union

Local residents recall she wore the white ribbon of the WCTU, a symbol of purity, until her death in 1975.

Ironically, she maintained this stance from her home located directly across the road from the tavern that is now Tillman’s Village Inn.

As the Cobblestone Museum uses the story of Joseph and his blacksmith shop to educate visitors about the past, next year they plan to include Nellie’s story.

The Vagg home is being purchased by the museum and will become a new exhibit. The interior of the home maintains the decorative style of the 1920-30’s and will help illustrate rural life in the early 20th century as well as Nellie’s role in the community.

The Cobblestone Museum is acquiring the Vagg home at the southwest intersection of routes 104 and 98.

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