Gaines

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 GainesTownCourt@nycourts.gov. 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:

HISTORIC NEW YORK – THE LAKE PLAINS

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:

PIONEER SETTLER

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.

ORLEANS COUNTY COMMUNITY PRIDE

(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:

HISTORIC RIDGE ROAD

GENESEE TO NIAGARA

HOME OF JOHN PROCTOR

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.

TREK – DEWITT CLINTON – 1810

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:

BRICKYARD – THE BRICK POND

  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:

HISTORIC DISTRICT

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:

HISTORIC DISTRICT

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:

GAINES DISTRICT No. 5 1849 – SCHOOL HOUSE

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.”

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 lifestyle,” 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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