Medina Entrepreneur Provides Power to Orleans County

Volume 2, Issue 14

On May 23, 1898, the A. L. Swett Electric Light & Power Company was incorporated by Albert Swett with a capital stock of $50,000. Swett, a prominent and respected entrepreneur in Medina, was quick to notice the local need for electricity. That need would be satisfied through a power plant constructed along the Oak Orchard Creek in the vicinity of the falls. Purchasing a parcel of land where an old mill had previously burned, Swett cleared the debris and constructed a plant to take advantage of the water power.

That plant was quickly overtaxed by the high demand for electricity and a steam plant was constructed to supplement the output of the first plant. Swett was an intelligent businessman with the foresight to purchase as much land along the creek as possible. Over the course of twenty years, he amassed a large holding of property to the north of Medina that would be used to expand his electric company.… More

First Church West of Genesee River Served Many Congregations

Volume 2, Issue 13

Situated on Ridge Road in Gaines, this structure served multiple organizations during its lifetime and is regarded as the first church constructed west of the Genesee River. As the pioneer settlers arrived in Gaines, cleared land and established farms along the historic route, they sought to establish their community with meeting halls and churches. Roughly seventeen years after Elizabeth Gilbert settled her parcel along the Ridge Road near Brown Road, the Congregationalists and Baptists constructed this building to serve as a union meeting house. Each group agreed to share the edifice, holding services on alternating Sundays.

In 1834 the Congregationalists purchased a site on the north side of the Ridge, just east of the Gaines Road intersection. It was at this time that the congregation sold their interest in the building to two men, who later sold their interest to John Proctor. The Baptists, meanwhile, remained active in the building despite losing a portion of their congregation following the establishment of the Baptist congregation at Albion in 1830.… More

The Ontario House: Troutburg’s Successful Temperance Hotel

Volume 2, Issue 12

The stunning view provided by Lake Ontario led to the formation of hamlets and cottage communities along the lakeshore and eventually caused the establishment of numerous hotels and summer resorts in Orleans County. The wealthiest members of society used these locations as an escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, resulting in the growth of lakefront property serving as a seasonal destination for the out-of-towners.

In 1860, land originally purchased by Asa Lee at Troutburg in Kendall was transferred to his daughter-in-law Sarah J. Lee who oversaw the construction of what would later become the Ontario House. This large, luxurious hotel was “first class in every respect” and catered to locals and visitors alike.

Situated on the west side of the Orleans/Monroe county line, the complex consisted of a house, dance hall, and barn. Standing just to the west of the main house, the dance hall served as a “picnic house” for excursionists who were visiting the area by way of boat.… More

Waterport Trestle Carried Railroad Traffic for Over 100 Years

Volume 2, Issue 11

Constructed in 1876, the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg trestle over Oak Orchard Creek provided a crossing point for the rail system in its earliest years. This particular image shows the first trestle constructed on that site in Waterport using lightweight iron trusses and planks. As the railroad grew, a new bridge was constructed in 1892 to facilitate increased traffic.

The RW&O Railroad was first established in 1842 with the purpose of linking Watertown and Rome. As the years progressed, the rail system merged with various lines throughout New York to produce a somewhat successful system of transportation along the southern shore of Lake Ontario. Although the line was popular amongst excursionists the railroad developed a reputation as a poorly maintained rail system, earning the eloquent nickname “Rotten Wood & Old Rusty Rails.” The railroad later earned the nickname “Hojack.”

The source of the name “Hojack” is unknown, but the most common origin story describes a farmer riding in a buckboard drawn by a stubborn, bulky mule.… More

Superintendent Dedicated Life to Growth of Albion Schools

Volume 2, Issue 10

In the earliest years of settlement in Orleans County, the establishment of religious and educational institutions was of the upmost importance. Pioneers cleared their land of trees, constructed cabins, planted crops, and once all other necessities were met, established rural schools to educate their children. In Albion, Caroline Phipps Achilles became a driving force behind the creation of female-only institutions for education when she constructed her seminary in 1840.

It was soon after that other academies developed throughout the region including the Albion Academy and Yates Academy, which would produce highly successful and industrious graduates. These tuition-driven institutes provided a valuable service to the community, although limited to those families who could afford it. The concept of using taxation to support the common school system allowed for the creation of the union school, providing education beyond the rural one-room schoolhouse.

Freeman Abram Greene was a product of the early academy system.… More