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Resurrected carriage step was a labor of love

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 September 2014 at 12:00 am

Step bears name of Danolds, who were friends with George Pullman and influential Universalists

Photos by Tom Rivers – David Heminway is pictured with his grandson Nathaniel Metzler, 8, on a carriage step that Heminway dug up and reset last year. He also repositioned the hitching posts and sandstone sidewalk panels.

A close-up view of the Danolds carriage step

EAGLE HARBOR – Most of the carriage step had disappeared into the soil. David Heminway saw the tops of letters on the step but wasn’t sure what it said because the majority of the stone was buried.

Last year Heminway set about unearthing the step. It was in his front yard in Eagle Harbor. Heminway and his wife Joanne bought a house in 2006 at 3209 Eagle Harbor-Waterport Rd. It took about two years of work before they could move in. The house wasn’t original at the site. The first house burned down more than a century ago. That original house was owned by the Danolds family.

When Heminway dug down to see what was on the carriage step, he recognized the Danolds name. Heminway, a machinist for the state Canal Corp., also has been an active volunteer the past 20 years for the Cobblestone Society and Museum. In the Cobblestone Church there is a Danolds Room, dedicated to Charles and Mary Jane Danolds.

Mrs. Danolds suggested the Cobblestone Universalist Church name its building “The Church of the Good Shepherd.”

Her husband was friends with George Pullman. In the 1850s, when the canal was enlarged, Danolds had a contract to expand the canal and he hired Pullman to move some of the houses that were in the way of the expansion.

Pullman was also a local furniture maker. He would move to Chicago and become a titan of industry with railroad sleeping cars.

Danolds kept up a friendship with Pullman and while the two were vacationing in the Thousand Islands in 1890, Danolds made a pitch for Pullman to help build a new Universalist Church in Albion. Pullman agreed as long as the locals would commit some of their own funds to the project.

The new church opened in 1895 as a memorial to Pullman’s parents, James Lewis Pullman and Emily Caroline Pullman.

Pullman was one of the great industrialists of the 19th Century, but Danolds was no slouch. He ran a mill in Eagle Harbor, where he ground wheat into flour, said Bill Lattin, Orleans County historian.

These portraits of Mary Jane and Charles Danolds hang in the Cobblestone Church in Childs.

Danolds also owned the Cobblestone Inn, sold horses to the Union during the Civil War, worked to enlarge the canal and was a key leader of the local Universalist Church.

“He was a real entrepreneur in his own time,” Lattin said.

The Danolds carriage step, once prominent in front of the Danolds homestead, gradually sank to the point only the top was visible.

Heminway decided to reset a sandstone sidewalk and two hitching posts last year. He also brought up the carriage step and hired Mike Jessmer to fix the sandstone steps by the house.

Heminway worked on the project for about six months. It was a lot of work. The carriage step weighs about 1,500 pounds. The sidewalk panels are also very heavy. He used a tractor with a fork lift to move them. He set the carriage step on about 2 feet of crusher run stone. That should prevent the step from sinking in the future.

David Heminway and his grandson Nathaniel Metzler pose the carriage step in front of Heminway’s house on Eagle Harbor-Waterport Road.

He considered move the hitching posts, carriage step and sidewalk panels closer to the house. He didn’t want to have to mow around a bunch of obstacles, but decided they wouldn’t look right back by the house.

“I think they belong out front where they are,” he said.

Heminway made the sure the hitching posts and carriage step were set far back enough out of the right of way by the the road. He didn’t want to be told he would have to move them again someday.

He is happy to have the step fully visible, and is pleased to have an artifact from a prominent community member from generations ago.

The step shows the talent of the stone carvers from that era with the inscription of “DANOLDS” and detailing on the front. The stone also has two steps where many of the carriage blocks were one-step stones.

Heminway is pleased to have the artifacts from the horse-and-buggy era in his front lawn.

“They’re not making any more carriage steps,” he said.

Lattin praised the Heminways for bringing a historical asset back to the local landscape.

“I thought it was great that they resurrected it,” Lattin said.