Fruit farmers fret with snow-covered orchards

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 April 2021 at 11:56 am

Buds of trees in sensitive stage after warm start to spring

Provided photos: These peach trees at Hurd Orchards are in the blossom stage and now covered in snow.

The snow-covered landscape today in Orleans County is more than an annoyance for local fruit growers, who are concerned their crop of cherries, peaches, apples and other fruit could be damaged from the cold temperatures.

Fruit growers are hopeful they will get by without significant damage, because the temperatures aren’t expected to go below 28 degrees where there can start to be damage.

These apple buds at Kast Farms are just breaking out of the tight cluster stage, where they are more vulnerable to cold temperatures.

Although the snow-covered orchards is a scary sight for fruit growers, the bigger worry is tonight with how low the temperatures will go and for how long, said Craig Kahlke, a fruit specialist for the Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Lake Ontario Fruit Program.

If it drops to 28 for about 4 hours, growers can expect a 10 percent loss in the crop. Dropping to 25 degrees in the full blossom stage could result in a 90 percent loss, according to Michigan State University which has developed a chart of critical spring temperatures during bud development.

Kahlke has worked as a local fruit specialist for 14 years. He recalled 2012 when half of the fruit crop was wiped out when freezing temperatures killed buds in early May.

He doesn’t expect the snow today and cold later tonight to do much damage. But he worries the buds still have two or three more weeks of being vulnerable to the cold.

It hit 80 on one March day and locally there have been other days in the 70s. That has the fruit trees more advanced than normal with their budding stages. Many of the apples trees broke bud in late March, Kahlke said, when there are still several weeks remaining where the weather could drop to damaging freezing levels.

Amy Machamer, co-owner of Hurd Orchards, said she is concerned for the crop, but remains hopeful. Last year, the temperatures dropped to dangerous cold in early May and on Mother’s Day. She thought the crop would be significantly diminished but Hurd Orchards had a full crop in nearly everything.

“We are hoping beyond hope that that kind of mini miracle will be the reality for 2021,” Machamer said.

If the buds aren’t damaged, Machamer said there is also the worry that the blossoms may not get properly pollinated due to the snow.

Machamer said the temperatures don’t affect the orchards and farmland uniformly.

“There are micro-micro climates,” she said.

There can be pockets with slight temperature variances, and a contrast by even a couple degrees can make a huge difference in damage.

“It’s not a one size fits all,” she said. “And there are different varieties at different stages. It’s certainly scary but hopefully it will be OK.”

Brett Kast of Kast Farms in Gaines was nervous with the snow last night, but felt better the temperature didn’t drop below 30.

“28 is the magic number (when there can be damage),” he said. “Tonight will be a cold one and that is a concern.”

He also was encouraged checking the orchards and spotted a bee out looking to pollinate despite the cold.

The snow could benefit the sensitive peach blossoms by providing some insulation with expected low temperatures tonight.

Historic Childs: Italianate mansion on Route 98 was once known as ‘The Castle’

Posted 17 April 2021 at 7:42 am

Site was well known in WNY as a speakeasy during Prohibition

Photo courtesy Orleans County Historian

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

GAINES – What was once called “The Castle,” a white Italianate, 19th century mansion in the Hamlet of Childs, has been the scene of several ups and downs over its storied lifetime.

A point of interest, which is no longer to be seen, was a “200 foot cathedral aisle of trees which serves as an approach to the house from the road.”

In the winter folks could get a glimpse of the mansion, but in the summer, “the arching limbs of the trees are heavy with foliage, offering only a dim glimpse of the home at the end of the shadowy avenue.”

An early 1900s newspaper headline, seen here, describes the property as an “Empty Mansion Dimly Seen from the Road – Intrigues Passers-by.”  The writer went on to describe the scene of “the house which sits back from the road, just south of Fairhaven, or Childs, as it is now called.”

It was said at that time, that perhaps the stone wall fronting the property is even more striking and attention-getting than the shadow of a house that was visible from the road. Close inspection of the wall at 2755 Oak Orchard Road showed its hand-carved stones, and vertical projecting stone posts which support a chain with “catenary curve.” At the time of construction, the stones were joined without mortar or cement in the wall. All of the materials were bedded using lead. Early reports state that over a ton of metal was used.

The mansion itself is credited to a certain John Dixon, who came to Albion in the mid-1800s as a wealthy man, after a successful career as a ship chandler. Once here, Dixon married a young girl from Gaines, and carried out his ideas for a house that would “surpass in luxury of construction any residence known in this part of the country.” Much of the building materials and interior furnishings of the place were imported at considerable expense. Hand-cut stone foundations formed the two foot thick cellar walls.

Each of two front rooms in the house had round arch, grey Italian marble fireplaces. A pair of central glass doors opened into a long hall with a circular staircase. The balustrade and large walnut posts were said to date to Dixon’s ship supply business.

The second floor bedrooms were similarly equipped. The third floor attic room contained a large lead lined cistern to provide rain water to the house. From there, an open stairway led to the widow’s walk and cupola on the roof, which was said to “afford an excellent view of the Canadian shore.”

A later owner imported a good deal of wrought iron work that served as trellis arch and entryway around the estate.

Dixon was described as an eccentric by his contemporaries.  After completing the house, he moved out and left it for his wife’s occupancy.  He moved next door in a smaller home and his wife lived in the mansion until her death. The two had no children.

After Dixon, the succession of ownership went first to William DeWitt Merrick and then to Frank (“Patty”), Mary and Leo Majewski in 1925. The Majewskis opened up a “speakeasy” and continued to operate a country saloon for about ten years. The place gained a colorful reputation during Prohibition and became known throughout Western New York as “The Castle.” As stated earlier, the tree lined drive and deeply wooded front lawn provided the necessary privacy and intrigue.

The next owner was Elizabeth Keeney Hart (Mrs. Elizur Kirke Hart II), who acquired the property from the Majewskis in 1935. At that point, the home had fallen into one of its periods of disrepair but still had strong “bones.” After “Bess” Hart’s death a year later, the property passed to her son, E. Kirke Hart III and his wife Marcia. Mrs. Hart offered that she believed the house was once decorated about 1894 by the Tiffany Glass & Decorating Company, when that firm was doing work on the new Pullman Memorial Church in Albion. Marcia and her husband Kirke proceeded to remodel the home through the 1930s.  Marcia’s reflections follow:

“The property Kirke inherited was The Castle, two large barns, outbuildings and ten acres of land. A long time employee of the Hart family, Wonderful Raduns and his wife Daisey and son Eric, moved into the house to become its caretakers. Daisey told of turning away many former customers of the speakeasy. Almost immediately, Kirke and the Raduns started the job of cleaning up the years of neglect.  They removed 68 trees from the front yard to let in more sunlight. A tall pine was stripped of its branches to become a flagpole. Behind the house overgrown bushes, grape vines and dead fruit trees were pulled out. It took several trips to the dump at Five Corners to clear away the large pile of bottles, broken glass, tin cans, etc. from outside the backdoor.

“Kirke and I decided to remodel the house to live in after our marriage. All of the floors had to be hand sanded and varnished because Albion Electric service was 25 cycles and Rochester Flooring couldn’t use their 60 cycle equipment.” 

The Harts were married in June 1938 and daughter, Marcia Elizabeth, was born in July 1939. After Mr. Hart’s death in 1953, Mrs. Hart and her daughter continued to live at the Castle. In 1955, Mrs. Hart left the home but returned frequently.

During the night of October 31, 1959 tragedy struck and the house was partially destroyed by fire. Following the fire, the second story and attic were removed by the next owner. Those who had seen the house’s splendor, reflected that the grandeur was never the same again.

A series of owners followed, including the McMurray family, Wilson family, Marty and Kathy Worth, and a more recent occupancy as “Piccolo’s Italian Bakery and Gift Shop.” Another period of neglect followed, but it’s good to see a new restoration taking place on this landmark property by the current owners, El and Susan Roberts.  This duo has ambitious plans for restoration/renovation of the main house and barns, icehouse and more.  They look forward to returning the beautiful trees, gardens and ponds once associated with the property. The five-year plan will find the couple living in the restored barn and using the Castle as an Airbnb.

Cobblestone Museum acquires barn to showcase transportation relics

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 30 March 2021 at 11:01 am

1920 peddler’s wagon, carriage steps with a buggy and a fully restored Civil War-era sleigh among the collection

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Bill Lattin, former director of the Cobblestone Society Museum, stands in the entrance of the new Transportation Barn on the Vagg property, which the museum has just acquired. Lattin stands next to a Civil War-era sleigh donated by Elba historian Earl Ross.

CHILDS – After a year of being mostly closed due the Covid-19 pandemic, the Cobblestone Society Museum is ready to move ahead with several projects.

Following the announcement of the opening by appointment only of a Currier and Ives exhibit in the Art Gallery in the brick house next to the Cobblestone Church, Cobblestone Museum director Doug Farley and former director Bill Lattin are ready to develop a Transportation Exhibit in the barn on the Vagg property, which the museum recently acquired.

“We have had several transportation-related pieces that we haven’t had room to display,” Farley said. “We are pulling it all together and moving it into the Vagg Transportation Barn.”

Several items will highlight the exhibit, including a circa 1920 peddler’s wagon, carriage steps with a buggy and a fully restored Civil War-era sleigh.

The peddler’s wagon was donated by Donna Rhodey from West Barre, whose father used the cart to deliver groceries from 1928 to 1959.

The buggy was donated by Tillman’s Village Inn when they converted their carriage house into the Carriage Room at the restaurant. The inn is the last remaining structure on Route 104 which was formerly a stage coach stop.

The sleigh was donated by Elba historian Earl Ross. He received the sleigh from a friend many years ago. He said it was in bad shape he got it. It had been stored in a barn and a ton of hay fell on it. He hired Amish craftsmen to repair it and it is in excellent condition now, he said.

The sleigh was manufactured in the 1800s by Excelsior Carriage Company in Watertown. It has a beautiful canopy and is unusual in that it has working doors on its sides.

These carriage steps are shown with a buggy which was donated by Tillman’s Village Inn across the road from the Vagg Transportation Barn. The carriage came from their carriage house when they converted it into the Carriage Room at the restaurant.

Lattin is looking forward to pulling the exhibit together. He plans to move some of the museum’s vehicles out of storage, including the peddler’s cart.

“I’ve only seen one other like it and that was at the Cooperstown Farm Museum,” Lattin said.

The cart belonged to Donna Rhodey’s father LaVerne, who ran a general store in West Barre for almost 60 years.

Two other items in the Transportation Exhibit are a pickle dish cutter and a little red wagon.

Lattin said the pickle dish cutter predates him, so it came there in the 1960s. He remembers his father, who was former Orleans County historian, calling it that, but he can’t find any other information on it.

The little red wagon is c. 1905 and once belonged to Harold Root.

Farley said the museum isn’t soliciting any added items for the Transportation Barn because they already have enough to fill the space.

For the immediate future, the museum and Vagg property will be open by appointment only by calling (585) 589-9013.

A peddler’s cart like this one was donated to the Cobblestone Museum’s Transportation Barn by Donna Rhodey, whose father used it for 45 years delivering groceries from his store in West Barre. This picture is courtesy of the Hadley Farm Museum in Hadley, Mass.

Historic Childs: 2 Cobblestone homes near Museum on the Ridge stand test of time

Posted 28 March 2021 at 9:09 pm

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Society and Museum Director

GAINES – The Historic Hamlet of Childs is home to the National Historic Landmark Cobblestone District with three cobblestone structures that comprise a portion of the buildings owned by the Cobblestone Society & Museum.

In addition, two other cobblestone buildings serve as private residences for their current owners. Those two buildings are the subject of this article.

This image depicts what the larger of the two homes looked like in the late 1800s. It was originally a two-story Greek Revival farmhouse with a one-story wing. William Cook, the minister at the Universalist Church, bought this home in 1850. He chose not to live in the church’s two bedroom cobblestone parsonage, because he had 12 family members under his care. Note the entablature, the wooden trim just under the eave of the second story.

Historic market in front of the larger cobblestone home now owned by local historian Dee Robinson.

The Robinson’s home has undergone a number of additions that have given the home a truly unique appearance today. It was substantially altered in appearance at the turn of the 20th century when a wooden second floor was added to the east portion, along with a full attic with a central bay window. Most distinctive of these alterations is that the gable was rotated 90 degrees.

The Greek Revival entablature was removed and replaced with clapboard. This gives us a peak at construction details normally hidden. Near the top of the cobblestones of the west wall, we can see the wooden blocks that were originally inserted in the stonework to allow the bottom of the entablature to be nailed. It also indicates that cobblestones were not laid behind the original entablature.

Here we can clearly see the large sandstone quoins that form the corners of the structure. Cut stone quoins were used to give cobblestone buildings watertight corners. Also shown here is the difference in the size and pattern of stones used at the front and sides of the building. The highly visible front has six rows of small water-washed cobblestones per sandstone quoin and the sides were constructed more hastily with large glaciated fieldstones, three rows to the quoin.

The smaller of the two “extra” cobblestone structures in the Cobblestone District was built by John Simmons on land purchased from community founding father, John Proctor. We know of another cobblestone building constructed by Simmons: Carlton’s Baldwin Corners District #6 schoolhouse.

Cobblestone mason John Simmons also built a brick blacksmith shop on the site of the wooden blacksmith shop on the corner of Routes 98 and 104. The original blacksmith shop burned and Joseph Vagg rebuilt the current structure at that site, now owned by the Cobblestone Museum.

New exhibit at Cobblestone Museum features prints more than a century old

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 27 March 2021 at 11:52 am

Museum welcomes visitors to see display of ‘Americana’

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Doug Farley, left, director of the Cobblestone Museum, and Bill Lattin, former director, show a giant book of Currier and Ives prints which is part of a Currier and Ives exhibit now on display at the Cobblestone Museum’s art gallery.

CHILDS – After being limited for the past year due to the Covid pandemic, the Cobblestone Society Museum has decided to resume programming with an exhibit of Currier and Ives prints in their art gallery.

Director Doug Farley said he and former director Bill Lattin were talking recently about ways to increase visitation in the off season.

“This building is heated all year, unlike the other buildings in the Cobblestone Complex, and it has a public restroom, so it made sense to use it during the fall and winter,” Farley said.

They developed a plan to keep exhibits up year-round for a couple of years, he said. After the Currier and Ives exhibit is taken down in September, local artist Tom Zangerle of Medina will have a one-man show of his paintings through next spring. He will also have things for sale, Farley said.

“It’s good to give local artists a chance to show their works,” Farley said.

Lattin said the next exhibit after Zangerle’s will likely be of a historic nature.

Of the 75 prints hanging now in the gallery, 95 percent belong to Lattin’s collection of more than 200 Currier and Ives prints, and the other five percent are the museum’s.

“Currier and Ives is certainly Americana,” Lattin said.

He explained Currier and Ives prints date from 1834 to 1907. He said Nathanial Currier established his printing business in 1834. In 1867, he took on a partner, James Merritt Ives.

While Lattin is an avid antique collector, he prefers things from the 19th century, he said. He acquired his first Currier and Ives print of President Garfield in the late 1950s as a gift. It was colored, and he explained if Currier and Ives prints are colored, they were colored by hand.

Doug Farley, director of the Cobblestone Museum, stands next to one of the most popular Currier and Ives’ prints, “Little Daisy,” which is part of an exhibit now on display at the Museum’s gallery.

Lattin also said Currier and Ives were way ahead of Henry Ford. They had long tables in their print shop and hired women to color the prints. One woman would have red watercolor and would color all the parts that should be red, then pass the print to the next woman, who might have the blue color. She would then pass it on to the next to paint the green parts. They had the original assembly line, Lattin said.

He said Currier and Ives appealed to a wide spectrum of the population.

“We normally think of Currier and Ives as pictures of bucolic countryside scenes, such as the Homestead in Winter,” Lattin said. “This collection is not what you’d expect. These prints are smaller and represent the prolific imagery they produced.”

His collection includes prints of political nature, religion, Temperance and death bed scenes which were popular in their day.

One of the most popular Currier and Ives prints was “Little Daisy,” which was given as a free gift to anyone who subscribed to Young Folks Gem Magazine, which was established in 1872. Lattin said he was at an antique mall in Salamanca a week ago the Little Daisy prints were selling from $40 to $60.

The exhibit is open by appointment only any time Monday through Saturday by calling (585) 589-9013. Evening or Sunday appointments may also be possible.

Albion will study if fire district is good fit for fire department

Photo by Tom Rivers: An Albion firefighter directs traffic on March 19 at a car accident with minor injuries on Route 98 in Gaines near the five corners.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 March 2021 at 3:03 pm

ALBION – A committee of Albion firefighters and village officials will be studying if a fire district would make more sense for the fire department, rather than having it part of the village budget.

The fire department is in the village budget, with the towns of Albion and Gaines paying the village in a fire protection contract.

In a fire district, the fire department expenses would be removed from the village budget and the fire district would be its own taxing entity.

The Holley Fire Department recently was moved out of the Holley village budget and is now part of a joint Murray Fire District with the Fancher-Hulberton-Murray Fire Company.

The Albion Village Board on Wednesday voted to research the formation of a district. Joe Grube, a former Gaines town supervisor, will lead the study. Grube is the current vice president of the Albion Fire Department. He is in line to become the president in May.

He sees the biggest benefit of a fire district is the clear breakdown of the costs of operating a fire department. Right now, the costs are blurred in the village budget. For example, a mechanic in the DPW of the village works on fire trucks while on “village time.” That cost as well as insurance and upkeep of the fire hall aren’t necessarily defined in the village budget.

Grube said the possibility of creating a fire district is “very preliminary.” One issue that needs to be resolved is whether a fire district can cover two towns. Grube said he has only seen fire districts in one town or in part of a town.

The village and fire department discussed exploring a fire district about three years ago, but the effort has been languishing. Grube wants to see the “benefits and detriments” of a district for the towns of Albion and Gaines, and the village of Albion.

“The biggest benefit will be transparency in the costs,” he said. “Right now it is very cloudy because so much of the costs are buried in village budget.”

If Albion does form a fire district, there would be elected commissioners. There would be public hearings and a public referendum for a district to be created.

If the district moves past the preliminary stage, Grube said he expects the committee would expand to include representatives from the two towns.

If there is a new fire district, there would be a separate tax from the fire district that would be part of the tax bill that comes out in January. It would also mean the village tax rate would likely go down because the fire department wouldn’t be included in the village budget. However, there would be a new tax for village residents with a fire district.

Gaines Town Court first in Orleans given approval for virtual proceedings

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 March 2021 at 10:30 am

GAINES — The Gaines Town Court is the first town court in Orleans County granted permission to conduct virtual proceedings.

The NYS Office of Court Administration approved the Gaines Town Court’s application.

There is no a timeframe yet for when the court proceedings will be available virtually, said Town Justice Bruce Schmidt.

Once the virtual calendar is in place, additional information will be posted on the Town of Gaines website and Orleans Hub for those who wish to participate.

The virtual court proceedings will be open to the public upon request by emailing Once a request is received the court will forward a link to the proceeding. There will also be an informational link on court proceedings for litigants to explore. Participants will be able to log in 15 minutes before the session begins.

“The move to virtual court is in response to the need to resolve a backlog of cases put on hold due to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic,” Schmidt said in a news release.

Joe Cardone, Orleans County district attorney, would like to see more courts have the option for virtual proceedings to work through the backlog of cases. Cardone would also like to see the return of in-person court sessions, now that the state is easing restrictions on indoor dining.

“If restaurants can be open up to 75 percent capacity there is no reason why courts can’t be open,” Cardone told local elected officials during a conference call last week.

For more information on virtual court at Gaines, stop by the Town Hall at 14087 Ridge Road or call the Town Court at (585) 589-4592 ext. 11.

Historic Childs: The Upper Gallery at the Brick House showcases modern art

Posted 21 March 2021 at 10:40 am

The Cobblestone Museum and Town of Gaines celebrated the opening of the Upper Gallery at the Brick House, a building from 1836 next to the Cobblestone Universalist Chruch on Route 104. There was an official ribbon cutting ceremony on June 15, 2007. Town of Gaines Supervisor Richard DeCarlo and Cobblestone Society Board President Paul Letiecq are seen here cutting the ribbon. Looking on are: Bill Lattin, Museum Director; and Board Members Peg Letiecq, Dee Robinson, Gloria Neilans, David Heminway, Elsie Davy and Georgia Thomas.

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

GAINES – The year 2007 saw several improvements at the Cobblestone Museum campus, most notable was the addition of the “Upper Gallery” in the Brick House (1836), which created a modern art exhibition space in the Hamlet of Childs.

Beginning in January of that year, the second story of the Brick House was completely gutted and then reconstructed to house an ideal 15’x26’ exhibition space for art exhibits, along with several new storage closets that lined the sides of the room.

The curator, Bill Lattin, reported that with help of volunteer Lee Minier, the duo removed the “what-not” that had accumulated in the second floor space since the building was acquired in 1998. Bill then turned his attention to gutting the plaster walls and removing all of the debris to an awaiting dumpster. He reported at that time that he worked on the project almost every weekday for two months.

For the reconstruction, Joe Baker and David Heminway were consulted to provide help with the structural modifications. They decided that extra bracing in the roof rafters was needed, along with reinforcing scissor trusses that gave the room extra height. The team installed the framing so it was ready for wallboard.

Dave Heminway also donated plywood sheets. Dale Adomo provided a refurbished track lighting system with 20 lamps. This was a truly significant gift that helped to lower the cost of remodeling the room. Richard Cook donated the electrical work. Joe Baker came to install the wallboard and Bill Lattin finished up the trim work, installed period stairway spindles and sanded/finished the wood floor.

The Upper Gallery held an official ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, June 15, 2007. The Cobblestone Society board had previously decided that the room would be dedicated to the memory of past president and board member, George W. Zeis (1918-2002), seen here in 2000.  Mr. Zeis in addition to his years of service, had provided a legacy gift of $75,000 to the Society through his estate.

A bronze plaque was ordered and installed to commemorate the dedication.

The opening exhibit was entitled, “Victorian Angels,” which consisted of a vast array of 19th century lithograph prints, some from famous religious paintings that contained angels. This exhibit was followed up in 2008 by “Saints from Whom Their Labors Rest,” and “The Life of Jesus” in 2009.

In 2010, a multimedia exhibit entitled, “Contrasting Champions” was installed integrating modern ceramic sculpture with antique prints. Local sculptor, Heather Boyd, provided 12 modern sculptures which were matched by an equal number of Victorian religious prints.

In more recent years, former Director, Matt Ballard, created an exhibit of WWI photos and poster art. Most of the posters were received, on loan, from the Hoag Library in Albion. Mr. Ballard framed the prints using a grant from Genesee-Orleans Art Council.

“Church Benches” by Tom Zangerle

A future exhibit in the planning stages for the Upper Gallery for autumn 2021 is a one-man show of paintings by Medina artist Tom Zangerle.

The current exhibit in the Upper Gallery was created this winter and opened in March. Bill Lattin provided a loan of his Currier & Ives art prints to create a curated display of 19th century lithographs. About 75 pieces of hand colored and black & white art prints are displayed within various themes and genre. Also, a 19th century lithography stone is on display to show how studios, such as Currier & Ives, produced over 7,000 different art prints in their time period.

Little Daisy, Currier & Ives most popular print, creation date circa 1872

The Currier and Ives exhibition is currently open to the public by appointment. The exhibit is free of charge, but donations to the Museum are gladly accepted.  Call the museum at (585) 589-9013 to set up an appointment to visit The Upper Gallery.

Historic Childs: Tillman family has been dedicated stewards of Village Inn

Posted 13 March 2021 at 6:45 pm

Restaurant has been mainstay in hamlet for two centuries

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

The genesis of the Tillman family’s involvement in the Hamlet of Childs dates back to the early 1950s.

Before that, Sam Tillman and his son, William, were living and working in Rochester. Sam had a successful career with Kodak at the time, and William was finishing up a tour of duty with the Army Air Corps.

Like any good father, Sam wanted to help his son get established with a meaningful career. The duo decided to investigate the prospect of buying a bar. They traveled along the Ridge Road leaving Rochester and stopped at the Country Kitchen, near Kirby’s Farm Market. The two decided that the restaurant was not in their price range.

The Tillman duo then came to Childs, and pulled into the old stagecoach stop, known then as the Fairhaven Inn. The building (seen above) had not been well cared for, but still had a small clientele including a fresh produce operation with sales from the front porch.

The owner, Carrie Welch, set a price of $5,000 for the business. Sam told his son that he would invest $2,500 if Bill could come up with the remainder. Bill didn’t have ready access to the funds, but he knew his wife, Lynn, did. Lynn’s father, Mike Elinski, had been a prominent blacksmith in Rochester and had amazed a good deal of money prior to his retirement. At the time, Lynn, herself, was already a successful model who trained with Barbizon in New York City and then worked for Sibley’s in Rochester.

Lynn agreed to front the purchase money needed as long as she could be made a full partner.  So, the partnership of Sam Tillman and his wife Mary, and Sam’s son Bill and his wife Lynn, purchased the Fairhaven Inn in 1952 and shortly thereafter opened the Village Inn (seen above.) This began a lifelong family business relationship that has stretched 70 years, and with the addition of Bill and Lynn’s children, Tom and Mark, has continued the life of the historic stagecoach stop for almost 200 years.

Mark’s mother Lynn, in addition to working as a model for Sibley’s in Rochester, soon began work as a bartender at the Village Inn. Mark said, “That was the arrangement until my mother’s boss from Sibley’s happened into the establishment and saw her tending bar. He fired her on the spot because no one working for Sibley’s was going to be seen tending bar.”

Then, with the income from the restaurant providing the family’s sole support, it became imperative that the business needed to quickly become successful. One only need look at what the restaurant has become today to realize that the Tillman family’s years of hard work has created a fine dining establishment, unparalleled in the region.

“The $2,500 my mother used to buy the restaurant was the best investment she ever made,” Mark said. He explained that he and his brother, Tom, bought out their parents in 1982, and agreed to provide a lifetime income for both parents, setting them up to enjoy their retirement for almost four decades until Bill’s death in 2017 and Lynn’s in 2020.

Mark Tillman, born in 1956, remembers literally growing up in Tillman’s Historic Village Inn.  Bill, Lynn, and children Tom and Mark lived in the upstairs rooms above the old bar. There were originally five small guest rooms and several rooms for the Tillman family. Mark recalled having the run of the establishment as a child, and played with his brother in the old dance hall above the restaurant.

The dance hall was a large unfinished room that sports open beams and supporting cables that were added in the 20th century to pull the leaning walls back into shape.  Mark’s childhood bedroom still sports the crayon marks he made on the wallpaper. “Boy, did I get a whooping for that!” he said. Today the room, under lock and key, is used for liquor storage, so Mark said, “It’s still my room.”

Mark offered, “My parents worked hard, but they played hard, too.” Mark recalls that his parents took many trips to exotic destinations. “They left me and Tom with the restaurant’s cook or bartender for a few weeks every year.” He described one such trip in 1958, seen above, where his parents (left) and grandparents (right) travelled by car, cross-country, into Mexico, ending their road trip at Acapulco where they enjoyed fishing and all the resort had to offer. “This was a day and age before interstate highways!” Mark reflected.

Later, continuing their tradition of vacation junkets, Mark said his parents traveled to Naples, Italy in 1974 to visit him when he was stationed there in the military.

The original Fairhaven House (seen above around 1860) got started in 1824 and went through a series of owners and expansions over the years.

This later view from about 1900 shows the addition of a two story porch, a much larger tree on the east side, and a name change to Fairhaven Hotel.

At some point in the early days, Bill Tillman acquired and stored the original bar from the Fairhaven Inn in his barn. Mark (seen here) recently moved the 20-foot cherry bar into the newest room at the restaurant, an 1,800 square foot addition, that was added in 2014.

The original bar is an amazing piece of finely crafted furniture. Mark believes that at one time the bar probably sported brass eagles to complement carvings in the wood itself.

The Tillman family made a series of additions to the restaurant including what they call The Main Dining Room with its beautiful stone fireplace. Mark said the fireplace cost $500 at that time it was built.

A later addition utilized the site’s original carriage house to become “The Carriage Room,” with its large wall of glass facing Ridge Road which replaced the old barn doors. The carriage house at one time had stalls for 13 carriages and horses. Mark uses this large dining room to display photos and artifacts from the restaurant’s storied past. With the most recent addition to the north-end of The Carriage Room, the seating capacity of the restaurant grew to 400 people.

Mark reflected on his life at Tillman’s and said, “It’s been an amazing life. I got started as a kid by washing dishes.”

Mark got more involved with the restaurant following his tour of duty with the Marine Corps.  “My dad told me and my brother we had to learn the ropes, so I worked a year each as cook, bartender, and host,” Mark said. “I trained under our cook at the time, Joyce Mack, in 1974.  She worked me so hard, I just about quit! Even the Marine Corps was easier!”

Mark described working with family as “the best of times and the worst of times.” After Tom and Mark bought out their parents in 1982, they divided up the duties so the two wouldn’t “bump heads.” Tom supervised the bar and kitchen and Mark handled the dining room, hiring staff, and bookkeeping. Mark and Tom worked together to make annual changes to the menu and other tasks that needed mutual agreement.

Tom decided to retire from daily operations in 2009, but continues as a joint owner with his brother. Mark said, “I’m going to be 65 years old this year. This has been a labor of love, but there has to be an end in sight. I’ve always said I hope I can make it until the restaurant’s 200th anniversary in 2024.”

Other extended Tillman family members have been involved throughout the years as well.  Mark said, “My wife Susyn worked with me in the restaurant for five weeks as a hostess. After that, we both knew we couldn’t continue with that and maintain a happy marriage.”

Susyn elected instead to pursue her mental health counseling business, “All About You,” and opened an office in the Village Inn. She also has separate facilities in Brockport and Batavia.  Mark and Susyn’s daughter Samantha is currently working at the restaurant as a manager alongside Victoria Mortensen.

Mark proudly displays a small portion of his family’s bottle collection that goes back to the earliest days of the restaurant.

“At one point, we had over 2,000 bottles,” Mark said. “Whenever a new collector’s edition bottle became available, my father and grandfather would buy it, pour the contents into a decanter and add the collector’s edition to the growing bottle collection. When my Dad passed away, I offered the bottles to family and friends with the stipulation that they had to display the bottles, not sell them.”

When asked about the restaurant’s signature dish, prime rib, Mark responded, “Prime rib has not always been on the menu.” (Original menu shown here.) “Our cook in the 1960s, Bertha Beam, asked if she could try cooking prime rib for a Sunday special.”

The item was such a huge hit that it was extended, first to a special every Sunday, and eventually available every day.

“Our prime rib supplier is Kip Palmer from Palmer’s Food Service, a business that was started in the 1850s,” Mark said. “Kip and my grandfather became good friends. We are their oldest customer.”

Mark recalled that a few years back he attempted to estimate how many pounds of prime rib the Village Inn has served. In the course of doing so, Palmer’s offered to give him an exact accounting from their records. As of three years ago, the Village Inn has served 3,500,000 pounds or 1,750 tons of prime rib.

Mark Tillman wanted to be sure to acknowledge that the success of the Village Inn is not just about the Tillman family. Many others have worked hard to create the Village Inn today. He said, “This has been a labor of love, and I’m looking forward to whatever is next.”

Historic Childs: The H&A Superette – Radzinski family operated store for nearly 50 years

Posted 6 March 2021 at 10:23 am

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director  

GAINES – Every community is enhanced by the presence of a grocery store providing the basic essentials for its residents. Throughout the 20th century, that presence was found in the hamlet of Childs in the H&A Superette. This longstanding enterprise owed its existence to Henry & Agnes Radzinski who were, of course, the namesake “H” and “A” in H&A Superette.

Their story begins in 1950 when Henry and Agnes purchased the former Balcom Brothers market at the intersection of Routes 104 and 98 in Childs. Ortis and Walter Balcom’s enterprise in Childs went back deep into the early history of Childs, and set the stage for the presence of a community store at that location that continues even to this day.

In reality, the Radzinski family’s mercantile experience goes back much earlier than 1950. Agnes (Daniels) Radzinski’s father, Adam Daniels, operated Daniels Provisions, a meat business that was located at 337 Caroline Street in Albion. Henry, and later his son Ron, born in 1934, trained in meat cutting at Daniels, a skill that would carry them both forward to form the basis of their own successful business together.  Henry, was one of twelve children, which certainly provided him with a strong work ethic.

The H&A operated for its first decade in what family members now call the “old store.”  It was similar to Balcom’s, but with a change in merchandising to create a “self-service” grocery store with an emphasis on fresh cut meats. Ron Radzinski is seen here pumping Texaco gas from the front porch of the old store.

Agnes Radzinski is behind the counter at the old store with her sister, Gertrude Kaniecki. At the time the old store was torn down, it was discovered that it actually had cobblestone walls. Historian Bill Lattin recalls, “Hank got in touch with me and told me to come see the discovery.”  The old cobblestone walls had been covered with stucco at some point in the buildings early history. Bill said, “Henry felt bad but it was too late to save it.”

In 1961, after ten years of operation, the Radzinski’s reinvested into their business, to create what became known as the “new store.”  The transition was nothing less than amazing. The change essentially involved building a new one-story building behind the earlier store, and then removing the old two-story building.

Painting by Roy Bannister of Carlton, 1983

The new store was built with concrete block construction with large glass windows in the front. The inside was painted in pastel shades of peach and green. A large meat case extended across the end of the store.  A frozen food section and produce coolers ran along the sides. Besides groceries and meat, the store was well equipped with hardware, clothing and other necessities. The Radzinskis really wanted to provide a “one-stop” shopping experience in Childs.

Local contractors involved with the construction of the new store included Grillo & LaMartina, Ralph’s Plumbing & Heating, Canham Electric, Donald Rorick, Docks’ Flooring, Richard Shepard, and Maine Lumber.

The official grand opening of the new store took place on June 1, 1961 as demonstrated by the newspaper ad as shown above. The new store had two cash registers, several aisles of grocery staples, a full service meat department, produce, as well as beer and cigarettes. The store purchased local whenever possible, including a longstanding arrangement with Bob Kelsey of Carlton to provide local fresh strawberries in season.

The grand opening staff, shown here in 1961 in their grocers’ white aprons, proudly recall that the store suffered no down time in the transition.  One store or the other was open every day during the changeover. Bottom row: Ronald Radzinski, Agnes and Henry (Hank) Radzinski, and Daniel Radzinski.  Back row: Gertrude Kaniecki and her son Roger Kaniecki, Pauline Radzinski and Marilyn Mack. Ronald and Daniel are sons of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Radzinski.

Henry and Agnes, seen here in 1959 on their 25th anniversary, transferred ownership of the store to their sons Ronald (Butch) and Danny in 1986.  Ron continued to run the store until 1999. The H&A grew in popularity, largely due to the friendly neighborhood service it provided. A culture of service was the hallmark demonstrated by every member of the team that worked there.

The Radzinski family loomed large in the enterprise. In addition to Henry & Agnes, other family members included son Ron who cut meats, Ron’s son Mark who was taught to make Polish and Italian sausage, and Ron’s daughter Gayle who served as cashier. Ron’s wife, Pauline, though she was a career nurse, was sometimes seen running cash register when others were not available.  The family connections at the H&A went on to include sons, sisters, brothers, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and more.

Anyone familiar with a “mom and pop” grocery store can attest to the fact that everyone in its employ has to learn to be a “jack-of-all-trades.” If not trimming produce or cutting meats, any employee may be called on to unload truck, stock shelves, run cash register, clean floors, shovel snow, and on-and-on.

Ron (Butch) Radzinski worked about 50 years in the grocery business.  He only left it for about two years for military service in Germany after WWII. He built up a reputation as a friend to everyone that crossed his path. He even extended credit to his customers, if they needed it. He made sure no one went without. During and following his many years in business, Ron served as Town of Gaines Councilman, then Town Supervisor, and eventually Orleans County Legislator, where he served as Vice Chairman. Sadly, Ron passed away in 2020.

Mark Radzinski, born in 1959, got started working around his grandparents’ store as a young child, stocking shelves, cleaning up, and many other tasks. At age 16, he got an actual “job” at the store, even though he didn’t have an official paycheck to show for it, because, he said, “My Dad paid me cash.”  He left the store for two years to attend college and then returned and worked at the H&A until 1999 when it closed.

Mark recalled, “My grandfather taught me to make sausage. Every year at Christmas I would make about 800 pounds of sausage for the holidays.” Following his years as a grocer, Mark worked for the Orleans County Highway Department for a year, followed by working for the Town of Gaines Highway Department, where he currently serves as Highway Superintendent.

Ron and Pauline’s daughter Gayle (Radzinski) Ashbery, born in 1958, worked in the store growing up, and then followed her father’s footsteps into public service, becoming, first, a Town of Carlton Councilmember and currently serving as Town Supervisor. Gayle recalled, “I worked at the store as a cashier, but also stocked shelves and swept the floor. The favorite memory I have is just talking to people and enjoying their company.”

Talking to people seemed to be what made the store so successful. It was the personal interactions between staff and customer that made the store a friendly place where folks enjoyed shopping and catching up on the latest news of the day. Former Cobblestone Museum Curator Bill Lattin offered, “You couldn’t ask for a better neighbor than the H&A and the Radzinski family.”

Bill recalled that on more than one occasion, Ron Radzinski went out of his way to help the Cobblestone Museum in its historic preservation mission. Bill said, “Ron tipped the balance and helped the museum acquire the brick bulding which had originally been part of the H&A property for many years.”

Both Mark and Gayle reflected on the many sights, sounds, and smells that provided customers a sensory experience in addition to a shopping experience at the H&A. Gayle said, “Agnes had a kitchen in the store and she always made lunch for the workers. I still remember the boiled hotdogs. Somehow, they tasted better then.”

The H&A owned the neighboring brick house, built in 1836, seen here in the 1950s. Ron and Pauline Radzinski used the house as their residence from 1957 to 1965, at which time they built a new house on Oak Orchard Road in Childs. Following that period, Henry and Agnes moved into the house. Its proximity to the store must have been a mixed blessing, close to the store when attention was needed, and conversely creating a 24-hour, 365 days a year, on-call situation when troubles developed.

Gayle Ashbery, on a recent visit to the brick house remarked, “This is the wall that Mark and I scribbled on with crayon as kids. I think my parents must have forgiven us by now.”

In later decades, the Radzinski’s remodeled the brick house, removing the porch and awning and building an addition at the front of the building seen here. With this addition, they opened the H&A Liquor store, as an adjunct to their successful superette. The photo shows a square dance in the H&A parking lot for the “Farmers’ Parade” in 1980.

The H&A legacy came to an end in 1998 when the business was sold to Dennis Piedmonte, who removed 18 feet from the front of the building and changed the format to a convenience store. The downsized market was known as “JP One”, and a second store opened later in Holley that was called “JP Two.”  The store in Childs is currently operating as part of the “Crosby’s” chain.

The Brick House (1836) became part of the Cobblestone Museum in 1998, after Ron Radzinski agreed to save the historic structure from the wrecking ball.  The museum removed the liquor store and side addition, returning the building to its original 1836 configuration.  Currently, the Museum’s office and Resource Room are located here.

In another family connection to Childs, Mark Radzinski and his wife Brenda, purchased the wood framed house directly behind the H&A as their first residence, early in their marriage in 1986. The young couple lived in that home until 2000, when they purchased a residence on Oak Orchard Road in Childs, near the home of Mark’s parents. Later, the Cobblestone Museum purchased the house, as seen here behind the Cobblestone Church, to provide rental income, additional museum parking and access to Route 98.

Mark Radzinski and his sister, Gayle, offered their thanks to many of the longtime employees at the H&A who went “over and above” to make the store a treasured community staple over the years. They thanked everyone, and specifically mentioned Gert (Daniels) Kaniecki, cashier; Jim and Bob Wells, who cut meat and made deliveries; and Patty Avino, cashier.

Also, they thanked the many, many customers that patronized the store for decades that made it all possible.

Historic Childs: Markers highlight local history in Gaines hamlet

Posted 20 February 2021 at 8:15 am

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

GAINES – Orleans County is fortunate to have over 100 historical markers and monuments that have been erected, largely in the 20th century, to highlight the region’s storied past.

Many are NYS Historic Markers, previously made of cast iron, but more recently aluminum, which are painted the traditional colors of blue and gold. The small Hamlet of Childs is also fortunate to host six of the historic markers.

Part of the problem with counting the number of markers in Childs is that the geographic boundaries of the hamlet are not well defined. No local government exists solely in the hamlet, but the old Town of Gaines School District #5 gives a good approximation of boundaries for Childs, centered on the intersection of Routes 104 and 98, and running about a half mile in each of the four directions.

(Map location 1) The largest historic marker in Childs is located in the parking area in front of the Lake Ontario Fruit plant on Route 104.  It might qualify as one of the largest markers erected in New York State. The history of the historic marker, itself, is now an interesting story.

This marker didn’t come into existence without a little controversy along the way. Linda Schwartz was a youngster when her father, Robert Schwartz, transferred title to the New York State for the farm land used to create the parking area. Linda said, “The state took the land by eminent domain. They told my father to accept what he was offered or he would end up with nothing.”

Schwartz agreed when NYS promised to build a complete year-round rest stop with heated restrooms and picnic tables. A quick inspection of the parking area today would indicate the powers-to-be at NYS dropped the ball. John Russell, co-owner/manager of Lake Ontario Fruit, said he reluctantly took the bull by the horns several years ago and placed a rented portable restroom on the site to make it more user friendly and to make up for its lack of amenities. Russell said he’d love to get that item off his budget, but without another source of funding, he feels obligated to continue.

To history buffs, the state historic marker erected in the parking area is a bright spot in a less than satisfactory fulfillment of a state promise. Former Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin remembers that his father, Cary Lattin, was asked to create the text for the large historic marker in the parking area in 1961 during the latter’s tenure as County Historian. The actual text he used was:


The Neutral Nation of Indians, an Iroquoian group affiliated with the Erie, were early inhabitants of this area. About 1650 they were conquered by the Senecas of the Five Nations Confederacy. French explorers and raiders crossed this area and English expeditions along the lake shore entered the small streams, but extensive swamps deterred settlement.

After the Revolution a few settlers came from Canada but development awaited the formation of speculative land companies. The Pulteney Purchase and that of the Holland Land Company divided the land area into tracts for settlement. Inhabitants fled the area for a time after the fall of Fort Niagara in the War of 1812. Then came the building of highways some of which ran along old Indian trails. The Ridge Road opened in 1809 became a principal east-west route. Completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 spurred the building of towns along its route and the growth of commerce. There early settlers built unique cobblestone houses, many of which are still standing.

Geography and climate have favored fruit culture and made packing and canning a principal industry.

Education Department – State of New York 1961. Department of Public Works

(Map location 2) The “Pioneer Settler” historic marker is located at Gaines Carlton Community Church at the end of Brown Street Road and Ridge Road. It celebrates Elizabeth Gilbert, described as the first settler in the Town of Gaines, who purchased 123 acres of land at this location in 1807, at a time that usually saw men owning property. Local history books retell the stories of “Widow Gilbert” who used her team of oxen to assist other settlers move their belongings onto their own recently purchased parcels of property. The full text of the sign reads:


March 3, 1807 This land was chosen by the first settler in the Town of Gaines,

And on Ridge Road in Orleans County, Mrs. Elizabeth Gilbert.


(Map location 3) The founding father of the Hamlet of Childs (once known as Proctor’s Corners and Fairhaven), John Proctor is often referred to by historians as the Paul Revere of Ridge Road. On a cold December night in 1813, Proctor rode by horseback on the Ridge Road from Gaines to Clarkson to warn the settlers of the approach of British and the Indians after the burning of Lewiston during the War of 1812.

A historical marker on a large stone explains the story of John Proctor. The stone is on the south side of Ridge Road, a few houses west of the Route 98 intersection, in the lawn of a home currently occupied by Town of Gaines Historian, Adrienne Kirby, and her family.

The marker was put up in 1935 by the NYS Education Department and the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). It is one of a series of historical markers along Ridge Road that were erected in the 1920s and ’30s.

The Proctor marker also notes that the site was once occupied by a primitive log cabin owned by Elijah Downer. When Gov. DeWitt Clinton passed through in 1810, looking for a possible route for the Erie Canal, he stopped at the cabin for breakfast.

The full text of the monument reads:




Who on horse during a December night in 1813 warned the settlers along the Ridge Road from here to Clarkson of the approach of the British and Indians after the burning of Lewiston. In the morning he joined the regiment of Captain Eleazer McCarty which proceeded toward Lewiston. The next night they surprised and captured the enemy forces quartered at Molyneaux Tavern.


Nearby at the primitive log cabin of Elijah Downer, Dewitt Clinton and his companions stopped for breakfast on their eventful trip over the Ridge Road in 1810.

Erected by the Ridge Road Improvement Association

Orleans Chapter DAR State of New York 1935

(Map location 4) The Hamlet of Childs is the site of historic Laffler Brick Yard built in the mid-1800s, and a state historic marker and a massive stone monument mark the spot on Route 98 a half mile south of Ridge Road.  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.

The full text of the historic marker reads:


  1. A. Laffler opened a brickyard here in the 1850s. He produced drainage tile and brick for local buildings. Patented a brick machine – 1863.

Orleans County Historical Association 2001

(Map location 5) The Historic Hamlet of Childs is home to the National Historic Landmark Cobblestone District with three cobblestone structures that comprise a portion of the buildings owned by the Cobblestone Society & Museum. In addition, two other cobblestone buildings serve as private residences for their current owners and are the subject of a two-sided state historic marker located between the two houses on Ridge Road depicted here.

The sign facing west reads:


At left: Cobblestone House built in 2842 with field or glaciated stones in the Gaines Pattern also known as Depressed Hexagonal. Mason – John Simmons

Marker Erected 2001

The sign facing east reads:


At right: Cobblestone House built in 1844 and remodeled in 1910. Makes use of lake washed stones in the façade. Fieldstones were selected fro the west end and wing.

Orleans County Department of History

(Map location 6) The National Historic Landmark Cobblestone Schoolhouse (District #5) has its own state historic marker. The school, built in 1849, was constructed with a wooden frame and a facade of lake washed cobblestones. The one-room schoolhouse was used from 1849 to 1952 until the small local school districts were centralized and included in the Albion School District. The school serves as a time-capsule of early education in the county.

The sign reads:


Was used until 1952. Make of lake-washed stone, it is one of over 900 cobblestone masonry buildings built in N.Y. State from 1825 to 1860.

Marker in Memoriam Elwood Lawrence, Teacher 1951-1952

Historic Childs: Reflections, Part 2

Posted 14 February 2021 at 11:45 am

Mary Ann (Janus) Spychalski recalls 5-cent ice cream, button collection, doll hospital and her family’s service station

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

Author’s note: It was a great pleasure to meet and share Mary Ann (Janus) Spychalski’s life reflections. At 90 years young, she is remarkable force to be reckoned with. I greatly enjoyed our short time together. 

Mary Ann (Janus) Spychalski, (right) at age 3 with her cousin John Stucko, has many stories to tell about growing up in the Hamlet of Childs. Her father and mother, Joe and Lucy Janus, bought the filing station on the north side of Ridge Road (next to the Cobblestone Schoolhouse) in 1926. The gas station pumps are also shown in this image looking north from Ridge Road.

Mary Ann, now 90 years old, said, “I was born in the house at the filing station in 1930. I went to school next door at the cobblestone school through the seventh grade, then finished up in Albion.” 

Mary Ann shared that living next door to the school opened up some interesting opportunities for her family. She said, “It’s true that it takes a village to raise kids.” Her mother, Lucy, was known to keep watch over the children as they arrived for school. If any of them had happened to get dirty on their walk to school, which seemed to be a frequent occurrence, especially for the boys, Lucy would dust them off and take a washcloth to their face and hands. Lucy said she didn’t want the teacher to have to look at dirty faces all day. Mary Ann described her mother as a hard worker. She was one of 9 children in her family and she went to work at age 14 and never stopped working. 

Mary Ann was 8 years old in 1938 when this class picture was taken at the District #5 Schoolhouse in Childs. Her teacher shown at top left was Mae Hollenbeck. Mary Ann (front row, second from right) said, “The girls wore dresses to school every day.”  

The students shown are: (Front row) Jack Murray, Janice Murray, Phyllis Brown, Geraldine Hewitt, Lillian Wildschultz, George Ingraham, Russell Williams, Rosalie Canham, Frances Burgio, Mary Ann Janus and Tony Burgio. (Row 2) John & George Donovan (twins), Janice Barnum, Betty Janus, Elizabeth Nickerson, Beverly Murray, Peggy Donovan and Joyce Ellis. (Top row) Mae (Canham) Hollenbeck, Bob Moore, George Murray, Iva Pask, Martha Henshenmacher, Edith Knickerbocker, Marian Williams, Virginia Kelly and Doreen Brown. 

Mary Ann has become an ardent button collector and has even made a shadow box using her class picture and a swatch of the dress that she wore for the photograph. She remains a button collector today. 


Mary Ann’s brother, Ed, is shown here with a snowman he made in the school’s side yard. Mary Ann has many great memories of life at the District #5 School including how her teacher, Julia McAllister, would make baked potatoes in the school’s wood furnace in the basement. During the WWII years, Mary Ann remembers Miss McAllister making hot cocoa using war surplus cocoa provided by the federal government. Also in the winter, Mr. Barnum would bring his sleigh to the school and take all the kids for a sleigh ride.  

Another highlight of Mary Ann’s one room schoolhouse education were visits by Howard Pratt. Mr. Pratt came to the school to teach children about their local history. He went on to write several books about life on the Ridge Road which are still widely enjoyed today.  


Mary Ann also enjoyed playing on the swings at the school playground at recess. Her father, Joe Janus, was a school trustee for several years in the 1930s. Mary Ann said that even though she lived right next door and could walk home for lunch, she would rather bring a bag lunch so she could eat with the other students and spend more time on the playground. 

Advancing into her teen years, Mary Ann, seen here at age 15, said the kids would hang out at Balcom’s Store at the intersection in Childs. The store sold food and farm supplies to local residents. Kids would walk to Balcom’s to get the school bus to Albion High School. Mary Ann still remembers the name of her bus driver, Kirke Bell. While at Balcom’s the kids would catch up on the latest neighborhood news away from earshot of their parents.  


Mary Ann said, “Life at my family’s Service Station was always exciting.” Her mother pioneered roadside cuisine in a day-and-age before fast food.  “My mother served up ‘minute steaks’ and hot dogs to hungry motorists. She made her own homemade pickle relish.”  The service station had the first freezer in the community so Lucy could freeze meat and ice cream to serve at the lunch counter. Mary Ann’s sister Betty and neighbor, Levi Woodcook, are seen here at the roadside window in the 1940s. 


Photograph courtesy Spencerport Depot & Canal Museum

Mary Ann recalls how much she enjoyed the ice cream cones, two dips for 5 cents. The Service Station bought their ice cream from Matheos Brothers in Spencerport. “Velvet Ice Cream” was delivered in three gallon metal containers. Mary Ann fondly remembered an ice cream treat called “OO-La-La’s,” which was a chocolate covered confection on a stick.  She said, “If lucky, the stick would say ‘FREE,’ meaning your next treat was on-the-house.” 


To better serve local farmers, Mary Ann recalled that her father, Joe, built a jitney of sorts, an old car chassis with four wheels and a welding machine attached to the top.  Joe drove that contraption right into the farmers’ fields and used it to weld and repair their farm equipment, on the spot. Joe and his brother, Phil, are seen here in 1932 working at the Service Station’s open grease pit that was used to service tractors and cars.  A ladder extended down into the pit so Joe could service the vehicles, standing up, underneath. Remnants of the pit still exist today next to the schoolhouse. Mary Ann said, “Mom and Dad warned us kids to stay away from the pit. We didn’t listen very well, but the worst thing that happened was we got pretty dirty playing down there.” 


Mary Ann said her father died in 1945, and his brother Frank Janus and Frank’s wife Vicky took over the operation of the Service Station, as seen here in 1946. She said, “Frank and Vickie had lived in the city in Buffalo, and it was a big shock moving out to the country. It took a while for the pair to get used to country life and also for the ‘locals’ to get adjusted to them.”  She reflected, “In the end, it worked out well, and they extended the life of the service station another couple decades.” 

McCormack-Deering Wooden Thresher – 1923

Mary Ann recalls the excitement each year surrounding the arrival of Charley Plummer’s threshing machine when it was time for wheat harvesting.  All the neighborhood kids would gather around and watch the machine at work.  She said, “The kids were told to stay out of the way of the threshing machine. Good advice, but sometimes not well heeded.”

Another highlight for Mary Ann was the Doll Hospital at the Murray Farm in Childs. Mary Miller Murray, shown here, took in “injured” dolls and would repair their broken limbs and smudged faces. The Doll Hospital was a local landmark that had a following that stretched across the country. 


Mrs. Murray and her children, George, Joyce and Janice, known as the “Marionette Merrymakers,” created a “Disneyesque” experience for local children complete with marionettes and stage and much more.  The Murrays would put on puppet shows, a wonderful diversion in a day and age preceding television.  


Mary Ann said, “Mrs. Murray even made me a doll using my own hair for a wig. I had braided hair then, and she used one of the braids to give my doll, ‘Shirley Temple,’ that look-like-me appearance. Coming off the Depression, this was great fun!” Mary Ann and her doll, are shown in the center of this dress-up-day photo. Her cousin, Herman, and sister, Betty, joined in the fun.

In 1949, after her school days, Mary Ann went to work at Landauer’s at age 19. She sold fabric, notions and buttons. (Perhaps this is how she developed her life-long fascination with buttons.) The store, opened in 1865, was located on the west side of Main Street in Albion at the site of the current Browsery.  Mary Ann left her employment after a few years to marry and raise her family, but returned for Landauer’s last two years of operation before closing.  

Historic Childs: History of Agriculture, Part 6 (a focus on the Swierczynski family)

Posted 30 January 2021 at 9:22 am

Loss of processing plants in Albion hurt family farms in Childs

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

Ted Swierczynski in 1966

GAINES – Stanley Swierczynski got involved with farming in Gaines during the Great Depression. In 1950 he and his son Frank acquired 104 acres in the Hamlet of Childs on the south side of Ridge Road.

Later, Frank’s brother Ted got involved in the farm in the 1950s after he came home from the Korean War. The principal crops in the region at the time were tomatoes and cucumbers.  They operated under the banner of Fair Haven Farms.

Fair Haven also had a small peach orchard across from the Cobblestone School.  During this time period most local farmers sold peaches at the side of the road. Ted said, “It was easier then, less regulation.”

Ted Swiercznski remarked, “We later acquired or rented more land to eventually farm a couple thousand acres in the region.  We had to use migrant farm labor out of the southern states.  Still in need of even more laborers, we bussed in about 200 laborers a day from Rochester to hand pick snap beans and tomatoes.”

Ted Swiercznski considered his farm to be a family operation, seen here in 1977 driving tractor with the help of a few neighbors to round out his cabbage planting team. Manning the planter were (left to right) John Stirk, Colleen Swiercznski, Maureen Swiercznski, Cathy Swiercznski, Chris Swiercznski, Tim Stirk, Patrick Swiercznski and Tod Swiercznski.

Chris and Karen Watt are well known in the local farming community.  In addition to their Farm Market at Five Corners, they have maintained orchards in Childs, too. In 1990, Chris took over farming Eugene Leigh’s apples on Route 98 and also his pears on the south side of Route 104 in Childs.

Chris said the Farm Market got started with a tent by the side of the road. In the 1980s, he and Karen worked under a tent for several years and then decided to build the Watt’s Farm Country Market to avoid the elements. They later added the ice cream stand. Watt Farms sells a large variety of local fruit including apples, pears, cherries, peaches, strawberries and melons. Chris said, “We farmed a total of seven different farm orchards.”

When questioned about the future, Chris said, “What we used to call a farm, is nothing but a field today.” Farms are getting bigger and bigger. “I’m winding down. I’ve got no kids who are interested in farming, so the operation might eventually become part of a larger farm. I’ve held the same job for 40 years. How many people can say that?”

In a small way, even the Cobblestone Museum can trace its own roots to a history of agriculture in Childs. In the period 1930-1960, before the Cobblestone Society was formed, the Cobblestone Universalist Church was rented out by the Balcom Brothers, Walter and Oris, to store cabbage in the church basement.  Mike Zambito, who operated Zambito Produce across the street from the church reflected on this. “The Balcom’s were notorious for storing cabbage in every available space.  They rented out every conceivable nook and cranny they could to store cabbage. They filled the space by hand, starting by laying down straw and then stacking cabbage on top of that up to the rafters.”

He recalled that the cabbage was delivered using 10 wheelers or “canvas trucks.”  He said, “Those old trucks had charcoal heaters.” Years of cabbage storage had taken a toll on the Cobblestone Church and one of the early tasks that the Cobblestone Society tackled in the early 1960s in preparation for public tours was adding a concrete floor to the Church basement.

Photo courtesy Orleans County Historian

In its heyday, most local farms sold their tomatoes to Snider Packing in Albion which became a part of the Birdseye Division of General Foods in 1943, and then became Hunt-Wesson. An early morning delivery tie-up at the Snider plant is shown here in the 1950s. Ketchup, chili sauce and tomato paste were the principal products produced here.

Albion also had Dailey’s sauerkraut plant which processed 500 tons of cabbage each year and employed 100 workers.  A canned cherries plant and several other local food plants thrived in the area following WWII including Comstock, Duffy-Mott, Lipton, Forman’s Pickles, Tree Pickles and H. J. Heinz.

The large food processing plants in Albion left the region in the 1960s and moved on to greener pastures in California. Ted Swiercznski said, “In the late 60s and 70s it all disappeared. Albion couldn’t compete with the better weather and longer growing season in California.” Local farmers also needed to find hundreds of hired hands to harvest their crops, and finding those hand laborers became increasingly more difficult. Machines were used to harvest the crop in California, making it much easier and cheaper to process food there instead.

Food processing plants, just like the farmers, had a hard time securing enough labor to package the food products. Here, in 1946, Snider Packing is shown with one of their expensive full page newspaper ads that they used each week to try to get workers to process all of the crops that farmers took to the plant. Snider Packing supplemented its labor force during WWII by operating a prisoner-of-war facility behind their plant. German war prisoners were barracked on site and used as laborers in the food plant.  Similar provisions were used in nearby Medina, as well as Youngstown in Niagara County where prisoners were housed in special barracks at Fort Niagara and were used to harvest the fruit crops.

An employee badge from Snider Packing is shown here. The demise of the local processing plants eventually led to the end of the small family farm era in Childs, too. Orleans County IDA administrator Raymond Pahura remarked in 1977 that the region had been lulled into a false sense of complacency in the post WWII years. He said, “I can remember a few years back when people were smug about our employment situation. Heinz, Hunt-Wesson, Duffy-Mott and Birds-Eye were fixtures in our community. We woke up one morning and they were all gone.”

Ted Swiercznski eventually sold his farming interests in 1981.  He also served as Town of Gaines Supervisor, along with Ron Radzinski (left), who are both seen here in Childs participating in the Town’s Bicentennial Parade in 2009.

Agriculture in the Hamlet of Childs is now continued in part by Kirby Farms.  Their lineage is traced to brothers Robert, John, Francis and George Kirby. Now, Bob’s son Jim is farming both sides of Ridge Road in Childs, along with his son Adam.

Sadly, for the most part, the era of small family farms came to an end in the 1970s and large corporate farms took their place.  In Childs, the Zambito, Albanese and Swiercznski families actually joined forces to form ZAS Inc. to continue the farming tradition into the transition years. The three local farming families purchased an old building on Route 31 (across from current day Tops Market) where A&P Packing packaged onions and potatoes during the 1960s and 70s.

The Swiercznski family legacy continues in the region today operating in conjunction with Dragan Farms headquartered in Albion.  Dragan principals, Steven Swiercznski and his cousin Tod Swierczynski, are farming about 2,000 acres of soybeans and wheat in the region with Dragan Farms.

Jim Kirby has continued his family’s farming legacy stretching back to 1878, including tending this field of corn behind the Cobblestone District #5 Schoolhouse in Childs.

History of Childs: Farming – Part 5

Posted 23 January 2021 at 2:06 pm

Before Intergrow, Harding family worked the land on 98, north of Cobblestone Museum

By Doug Farley, Cobblestone Museum Director

GAINES – The Harding family is another long standing farming family in the Hamlet of Childs, going back to Joseph Napoleon “J. N.” Harding, in the late 1800s. J.N.’s granddaughter, Linda Harding Prince, remembers several family stories that have been passed down to her by her father, Joseph Lee Harding and mother, Dorothy.

“I was told that my grandfather, J.N., took the train to Michigan and came home with a bride, Bertha Lee Harding,” Linda said.

Bertha had been teaching school in Mt. Pleasant and came back to Childs to be a farm wife.  Linda said, “Bertha was just a little bitty thing, she wasn’t used to preparing meals for everyone on the farm.”

J.N. Harding, shown above, and his wife, Bertha, had several children including Joseph Lee, born 1911, and his twin sister Josephine who died at birth, Hannah born 1913, Gertrude born 1916 and died two years later with complications from measles, Mary Jo and twin sister Ruth born in 1921, and Barbara born in 1923.

Linda Prince remembers being told that just before the children were born, J.N. sent Bertha to stay with his three sisters, Ruth, Mary and Hannah, who did midwife duties.

“Sometimes Grandma would stay for several weeks,” Linda said.

Linda shared that during the birth of the last set of twins, the three aunts kept the baby girl, Ruth, and raised her as their own. Linda remarked, “It sure sounds strange today, but times were different then.”

J.N.’s sister, Ruth, had a dairy farm and lived in the cobblestone house just north of Five Corners. (Dr. Mary Ruth Neilans lives in her ancestral property today.) From that farm, Ruth ran a milk-house and delivered milk and dairy products all around Albion for many years.

The Hardings established four farms in the area, about 100 acres each. They maintained a dairy operation at the homestead on Oak Orchard Road (shown above) at the site of what is now Intergrow. They also raised sheep and kept chickens.

“Growing up with sheep was an interesting experience!” Linda said. “When lambs were born, my Dad would stay up all hours of the night. If a little lamb was having trouble, Dad would bring it in the house and set it in front of the oven with the door open to keep it warm.”

She also remembered Roy Ford from Kent Road who would come to the farm every winter to shear the sheep.

Medina Daily Journal, Tues. May 26, 1970

Tragedy struck the Harding Farm on the late night hours of Monday, May 25, 1970.  A lighting storm went through Childs about 9:30 p.m. Linda’s mother Dorothy went to bed around 10:30 p.m. and looked out the window to see that all was okay. At 10:45 p.m. she heard pounding on her window by Terry Williams, who had been driving by the farm and saw the fire. That’s when Dorothy saw the upper story of the dairy barn fully engulfed in flames.

Terry got a hold of a Trooper and the two men, along with Lee Harding and his son Howard, got all of the cows out of the stanchions and the heifers out of their pens.

“Unfortunately, like animals sometimes do, six cows ran back into the barn and were killed,” Linda said.

The barn was a complete loss. Without a place to keep the animals, Lee sold them all the next day to a farmer from Spencerport.

Linda said, “My father and brother were always very careful to turn off the electricity in the barn after they were finished with chores for the night.” The neighbors told the Hardings later that they believe they saw some bicycles at the runway leading up into the barn. Authorities speculated the fire could have been started by kids playing with matches or by lightning from the storm. They were never sure of the cause.

Linda recalls that after the fire, her father, Lee, was never quite the same. Linda’s mother, Dorothy, tried to keep the farm going for a few more years but couldn’t make it work. Lee Harding died in 1991 and Dorothy passed away in 1993. Linda said, “Lynn Roberts rented the farm for a few years, and I eventually sold the farm to Intergrow in 2002.”

The Hamlet of Childs is home to a new generation of agribusiness that stands out as unique among local farming interests, namely Intergrow Greenhouses located on Oak Orchard Road.   The business was sited at its current location because of its flat terrain and easy access to transportation.

Intergrow got started in the Town of Gaines in 2003 with a 15-acre facility built by owner Dirk Biemans, shown above.  It was the second greenhouse the company established after being formed in 1998 with an initial farm in Alleghany County. With several multimillion dollar expansions, the greenhouse operation has grown to over 55 acres under-glass in Orleans County. Additional greenhouses have also been added in Ontario County.

With a workforce of over 100 employees, Intergrow has maintained year-round production of many popular tomato varieties, supplying products to nearly all local supermarkets including Aldi, Tops and Wegmans.

Utilizing artificial light in the winter, Intergrow can create optimal growing conditions to produce delicious tasting tomatoes even during the cold winter months. The company’s computer controlled environment provides a safe, environmentally friendly solution to year-round farming.

Intergrow tomatoes are always fresh-picked and picked-fresh.  At just the right moment in their growth cycle, tomatoes are picked and shipped to their destination within 24 hours of ripening.  Intergrow utilizes their own fleet of trucks to get their product to their customers as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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.”