The Mighty Oak Orchard

Vol. 4, No. 47

While digging through a box of negatives, I discovered this image of the Oak Orchard River and Marsh Creek from the 1920s. Absent from the photograph is the Route 18 bridge that crosses over the Oak Orchard, so at this point in time the little hamlet pictured here was known as “Two Bridges.” Thinking about the origin of names, a letter within the Department of History’s files provides some insight into the source of the Oak Orchard name.

The letter, addressed to Samuel C. Bowen of Medina, is from Arthur C. Parker, the Secretary Treasurer of the Society of American Indians (and grand-nephew of Gen. Ely S. Parker). In the letter, he writes “Albert Cusick the Onondaga authority defines Ti-ya-na-ga-ru-nte creek as “Where-she-threw-a-stick-at-me,” which was the label for a river to the east of Johnson’s Harbor. Parker offers an alternative name for the creek; “two-sticks-approaching” from the Seneca name “Da-ge-a-no-ga-unt.” This name is recorded in other records, along with “Skano-dario,” the Mohawk word meaning “beautiful lake” and the origin of the name Ontario.… More

Place Names Offer Look Into Past Communities

Vol. 4, No. 46

The abundance of town, village, hamlet, road, and street names provides an opportunity to understand the past. Many of the towns and villages in Orleans County are named in honor of prominent men in the United States; Kendall, for example, is named in honor of U.S. Postmaster General Amos Kendall (an ardent supporter of President Andrew Jackson). Hamlets often serve as an indicator of local status or early settlement; Kuckville in honor of George Kuck, Hindsburg in honor of Jacob Hinds, or Knowlesville in honor of William Knowles. The origins of street and road names, on the other hand, are more elusive. In some simple cases, they indicate early settlement, in other cases they may indicate the past presence of an early service offered in the area, but on occasion the names seem rather silly and lacking in sensibility.

Beaver Alley in Albion is a clear oddity, but considering the possible origin of the name, perhaps it makes sense.… More

Alley Traces Name to Local Hatter

Vol. 4, No. 45

Toponymy, the study of place names, origins, meanings, and use, is an area of focus often overlooked locally. The history of Orleans County is a mixture of the ordinary and the extraordinary, so it is no surprise that the origins of place names in our area would follow a similar pattern. A recent influx of questions regarding name choices for various hamlets, towns, and streets sparked an interest in digging deeper beyond the brief notations found within the files of the Department of History. A file marked “Place Names” reveals very little about the variety of titles affixed to points of interest in our area, so I thought it would be worthwhile to delve into a few examples over several articles.

Beaver Alley is perhaps the most notable local street oddity and is likely to arouse a chuckle or two on occasion. Neil Johnson described several street name origin stories in his column “Albion, Oh Albion” (no.… More

Tenure of Training School Superintendent Marred by Controversy

Vol. 4, No. 44

This photograph, from a collection donated to the Department of History from Ruth Webster Howard, shows the rear side of the Administrative Building at the Western House of Refuge in Albion. The structure sat at the west end of the main walk and served as the residence for the superintendent, assistant superintendent, marshal, parole officer, purchasing agent, and housekeeper, and housed offices for the institution.

The Western House of Refuge opened on December 8, 1893, but did not “receive” any inmates until January of 1894. This institution represented a rather interesting period in the U.S. penal system, where women between the ages of 16 and 30 were sent for “rehabilitation.” Those guilty of crimes ranging from petit larceny to public intoxication, prostitution, or “waywardness” found themselves committed to the institution for a period of three to five years. During that time they received instruction in the domestic sciences; cooking, housekeeping, sewing, laundry, etc.… More

Free Silver Candidate Attracted Attention at Knowlesville

Vol. 4, No. 43

Amidst the Gilded Age, American workers experience a spike in perceived prosperity as average wages rose above those in Europe and immigrants flooded into the United States. Yet, as the name suggests, the Gilded Age provided the outward appearance of growth and success while a run on currency, closing banks, and overextended industry led to a severe economic crisis extending from 1893 to 1897. The appointment of receivers for the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad on the advent of President Grover Cleveland’s inauguration indicated a serious and extended financial situation looming on the horizon.

The issues facing many Americans, circulating around questionable capitalist practices, produced an environment in which political candidates such as William Jennings Bryan could rise to prominence. Born in Salem, Illinois to Silas and Mariah Jennings Bryan, young William became familiar with politics at a young age, his father aligning himself with Jacksonian Democrats and serving several terms as an Illinois Senator.… More