Story of Rev. Dykal Highlights Accomplishments of Polish Americans

Vol. 4, No. 41

October is Polish American Heritage Month, first celebrated in 1981 by the Polish American Cultural Center in Philadelphia. It is an opportunity to call attention to the accomplishments of the roughly 9.5 million self-identified Polish Americans in the United States. In Orleans County, the Poles found employment in the local sandstone quarries scattered along the Erie Canal, just as countless other immigrant groups had in prior years.

I was given this photograph of an unidentified priest several years ago and through a bit of luck was able to identify him as Rev. Leonard F. Dykal of Albion. Dressed in his cassock and wearing the liturgical biretta, the three-peaked hat common of Roman Catholic clergy prior to Vatican II, Dykal appears to be relatively young. I would presume that this image, printed on a postcard, was taken around or shortly after his ordination.

Leonard Dykał was born at Albion on April 30, 1889 to Frank and Mary Lubomska Dykał.… More

Apple Shipping at Knowlesville

Vol. 4, No. 40

October is National Apple Month! This photograph, likely taken in the latter quarter of the 19th century, shows the New York Central Railroad Depot located at Knowlesville. This particular image was taken east of the Rt. 31 Bridge that crosses over the railroad tracks; the photographer has pointed his camera to the southeast. A number of horse-drawn wagons are pulling loads of apples to be loaded into refrigerator cars positioned along the tracks.

In the earliest years of the county’s history, wheat was the primary product shipped out of the area. The opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 drastically cut shipping rates for grains and produce, but demands for apples increased gradually starting around 1845. That increase in demand led Isaac Signor to include the following account of apple orchards in Landmarks of Orleans County, New York published in 1894;

“The fruit has flourished exceedingly in most parts of the county, the climatic influence of the winds, which from the north, northwest, and northeast, pass over open water before striking this territory, becoming thereby tempered and raising the average of winter temperature, and at the same time serving as protection against late spring and early autumn frosts.… More

Centenary of Meuse-Argonne Offensive


Grave of Cpl. James P. Clark of Company F, 108th Infantry, 27th Division – Somme American Cemetery

Vol. 4, No. 39

Amidst the commotion of political malfeasance, the excitement of football season, and the stress of a new school year comes the centennial of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. The massive campaign initiated on September 26, 1918 marked the beginning of the end for Imperial Germany. Over 1.2 million American soldiers participated in the advance that spanned the nearly 50 days leading up to the Armistice of November 11th.

Over the last three years, I have authored numerous pieces on the men of Company F who marched across the fields of the embattled French countryside. All of that research culminated with the opportunity to stand upon the hallowed ground that refused to release the bodies of so many young men. Now that 100 years have passed, a little interest has stirred up locally in an effort to commemorate this monumental anniversary.… More

Growth of Sandstone Industry Driven by Immigrants

Volume 4, Issue 38

The impact of Medina Sandstone extends beyond the beautiful structures that built from the durable material. Since the initial discovery of the resource during the construction of the Erie Canal and the subsequent opening of the first quarry by John Ryan in 1837, the sandstone industry was a driving force behind a diverse population in Orleans County. English, Irish, German, French, Polish, and Italian quarrymen traveled to this region in search of employment in the quarries, which provided the necessary funds to bring family and friends to the United States.

This image shows men in a local quarry who have paused to stand for a photographer. Scattered around the job site are a number of hammers and bars used for breaking and moving stone. The tools suggest that these men were responsible for dressing stone after it was extracted from the quarry. Standing at the front of the picture is a face hammer, which was used to roughly dress stones in preparation for detail work; several of these are positioned throughout the photograph.… More

The Angelus Bell

Vol. 4, No. 37

Some of the best local history stories are those that are rediscovered and built upon by each historian. While organizing a collection of newspaper clippings, I stumbled upon a particular story that holds a special place in my heart. “Why the Bell Rings,” vol. XXIX no. 1 of Bethinking of Old Orleans authored by Bill Lattin recounts a story relating to St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Albion. His discovery of a newspaper clipping within a scrapbook led him to write a short piece about the Angelus Bell.

As a young boy, I can recall the frequent tolling of the bell at our parish on Brown Street. In my naiveté I thought for sure that the evening bell was a simple curfew reminder, but over the years I have developed an appreciation for the deeper meaning of the scheduled bell tolling. Even though the bells now stand silent, except for the Sunday call to service, the story is an important one centered on tradition and faith.… More

White Bronze Markers Provided Alternative to Traditional Stone

Vol. 4, No. 36

During tours of Mount Albion Cemetery, it is nearly impossible to visit a section of the cemetery that is void of at least one zinc marker. The “stones” themselves are a rather unique feature given their short-lived history, but the variety of sizes, shapes, and iconography provide visitors with a unique look into the beautiful art of cemetery monuments. This particular stone, belonging to Amos and Rosamond Whaley Grinnell, stands near the front of the cemetery on Hawthorn Path and displays a stunning urn draped in a cloth that symbolizes the veil that separates Heaven and earth.

The Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut commenced the manufacture of these memorials in 1875. In addition to the company’s headquarters, subsidiaries opened in Des Moines, Detroit, and Chicago where the final stage of the manufacturing process was completed; all casting was performed in Connecticut.

It is important to note the use of the term “bronze” to describe these unique monuments.… More

Ziba Roberts

Vol. 4, No. 35

Ziba Roberts was born July 31, 1840, near East Shelby to Ziba and Susanna Wolcott Roberts. This image, which appears within A Brief History of the Twenty-Eighth Regiment New York State Volunteers by C. W. Boyce, shows Roberts in his mid-50s. Pinned upon his chest is the medal of the Grand Army of the Republic, typically worn by members of the fraternal organization. Roberts was an active member of the S. J. Hood Post GAR in Medina, serving as the organization’s commander and chaplain.

Nearly seven months after the Confederate attack on Ft. Sumter, Roberts enlisted with the 28th New York Volunteer Infantry on November 11, 1861, at Rochester; he was placed with Company D with other men from Orleans County. During the Battle of Winchester on May 25, 1862, the 28th New York faced a force of Confederate troops nearly four times greater in size under the command of Gen.… More

“Hope” Showcases Artistry of Local Monument Dealers

Vol. 4, No. 34

August 26th will mark the final tour of Mt. Albion Cemetery this summer, which starts at 6:00pm and will travel a path across the western end of the cemetery. Over the last several weekends, I found myself intrigued by the visual representations of social and cultural changes throughout the cemetery. The earliest sections of the cemetery are characterized by a lack of uniformity, whether one looks at the varying size of lots, the random distribution of lot numbers, or the diverse styles of monuments. As one travels into the “newer” sections of the cemetery, lots are set out in uniform size, orientation, and cemetery monuments appear more similar to one another.

While preparing for these tours, I stumbled across excerpts from a Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog for marble cemetery monuments. An individual could purchase a headstone of modest size at a cost of $7.00-$8.00, plus additional rates for lettering and shipping.… More

Gandy Dancers Provided Maintenance Services to Local Railroads

Vol. 4, No. 33

This rather interesting photograph shows five men working as part of a section gang along the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad. It is believed that this particular crossing was located somewhere in the town of Kendall and the photograph was taken September 11, 1897. The men appear to have stopped for dinner (the midday meal) as several metal pails appear on the car. One of the young men appears to be holding his pocket watch as if to show that it is noontime.

The Lake Ontario Shore Railroad was chartered in 1858, and like all great projects, was delayed for nearly ten years until the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad Company was formed on March 27, 1868. It would take another three years before construction commenced at Red Creek, New York and within two years the railway was operational from Ontario, Wayne County to Oswego. The rails eventually stretched to Kendall but the Panic of 1873 forced the company’s mortgage bonds to be called in early, which drove the railroad into bankruptcy.… More

Benjamin Lisk Bessac

Vol. 4, No. 32

As tours of Mt. Albion Cemetery continue every Sunday through the month of August, I noticed a particular headstone that is frequently passed over each year. Progressing up the winding hills towards the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at the peak of the cemetery is a moderately-sized, dark greyish-blue stone that reads “Father – Benjamin L. Bessac, 1807 – 1871.” The stone is rather reserved in comparison to the larger, ostentatious obelisks and monuments that stand around it. Benjamin Lisk Bessac, the feature of this article, was one of the most notable attorneys in Orleans County who mentored the area’s premier lawyers.

Born on March 12, 1807 at New Baltimore, New York, Bessac’s mother died when he was just 12 days old leaving his father a widower with an infant child. Some reports differ as to who exactly cared for the child in infancy, some suggesting his grandparents while others suggest an aunt who lived in the vicinity.… More