Centuries Old Church was Once Worship Site for Orleans County’s Polish Community

Volume 3, Issue 35

Centuries ago, the Teutonic Knights established themselves within the Chełmno region of Poland. The country’s long and complex history is mired in conflict and subdivision, suffering its most catastrophic partition in the latter half of the 18th century. This once autonomous region was dominated by the Prussians and would remain so for over a century.

This beautiful church in Wabcz, constructed during the time of the Teutonic Knights, was a sacred place of worship for the Polish immigrants who arrived at Medina and Albion starting in the late 1870s. Oppressed culturally and religiously under German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the free practice of the Catholic faith and retention of Polish culture was under threat. The Kulturkampf or “Culture Struggle” sought to decrease the power of the Catholic Church, imprisoning priests, making marriage a civil ceremony, and pushing German settlement of Polish lands.

The city of Chełmno, approximately 15 minutes from Wabcz, served as a central location for conscripting young men into military service.… More

Medina Native Rests at Normandy American Cemetery

Volume 3, Issue 34

Over the summer I had the honor and privilege of visiting the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Dedicated in 1956, the cemetery encompasses 172.5 acres and serves as a final resting place for over 9,000 soldiers killed in action in Europe. Although the site was primarily used to bury those killed during the Normandy Breakout, many families requested that Normandy serve as the place of eternal rest for their deceased veterans regardless of where they were killed.

Wandering the sprawling fields lined with white crosses reveals ornately decorated stones etched in gold leaf, denoting the graves of men who received the Congressional Medal of Honor. One stone melds into the thousands of plainly lettered marble crosses, the stone of Sgt. George J. Quinn.

Born at Buffalo, NY on September 5, 1924, Quinn spent most of his life growing up in the vicinity of North Ridgeway. After graduating from Barker, he spent a short period of time working for Harrison Radiator in Lockport before he was inducted into service in March of 1943.… More

Yates Native Was Prominent Educator at Illinois College

Volume 3, Issue 33

Studying the earliest history of Orleans County shows us that education was a foundational element on which our pioneer settlers invested a great deal of funds and effort. The Yates Academy, Phipps Union Seminary, and Albion Academy, all represent prestigious institutions that produced prominent and influential attorneys, politicians, educators, and philosophers. Perhaps one of the most notable products of one of these institutions was Ely S. Parker, the Native American from Indian Falls who attended the Yates Academy and later served as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President Grant.

This photograph shows Professor Charles G. Fairman, an important figure in the growth of the Yates Academy. Born on August 6, 1823 at Northfield, Massachusetts, Fairman was educated at the Townshend Academy in Vermont, the Black River Academy, the Hancock Literary & Scientific Institute of New Hampshire, and Waterville College (now Colby College). Shortly after his graduation from Waterville, he travelled to Orleans County to teach in the Yates Academy where his skills as an educator earned him an early promotion to the position of principal in 1853.… More

Albionite’s Prolific Life Concluded with Philanthropic Gifts to Those in Need

Volume 3, Issue 32

We often read stories of men and women who committed themselves to charitable acts and endeavors, giving time and money to efforts they felt best contributed to the needy. This portrait of John Blodgett Bordwell provides a glimpse into the eyes of a man who was passionate about the betterment of his community. While we explore his genealogy, his lineage suggests that the drive to overcome adversity ran deep within his blood.

John was the son of Joseph Bordwell, an immigrant from French Canada in the late 1830s. Joseph’s parents, Amab and Ursula Martelle Bordwell, died when he was 12 years old, leaving him an orphan. When he reached the age of 17 he traveled to Brockport where he arrived with two shillings in his pocket, unable to speak English. Joseph found employment in a local brickyard and eventually transitioned to the trade of blacksmith, working with Mitchell Gardner at Albion.… More