Lyndonville Canning Company Pioneered Applesauce Production

Vol. 5, No. 18

Taken some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s, this image shows thousands of bushels of apples piled outside of the Lyndonville Canning Company. Yates farmers established a cooperative canning company in 1916, which was then purchased by Theodore and Frank Visscher in 1917. The Visschers marketed their products under the “V.B.” label, which stood for “Visscher Brothers.”

In the early 1920s, the Visscher Brothers advertised the sale of Cumulative Preferred Stock at a cost of $100 per share; the annual dividends of seven percent were paid to owners on a quarterly basis. Shortly after, William A. Smith and Wilson McCagg purchased 50 percent of the business and the two men began to gradually shift production from a variety of vegetables to apples.

The Visschers previously manufactured applesauce in large batches using copper kettles, producing as many as 24,000 cases of applesauce in 1924. Smith brought with him an interest in innovating and improving that production process, inventing a method for continuously cooking the apples to improve uniformity and quality.… More

Blacksmiths Provided Essential Services for Local Farmers

Vol. 5, No. 17

Taken after 1903, this photograph shows the blacksmith shop of Frank W. Donohue as it appeared on Mechanic Street in Holley, just south of Public Square. This building and the billiards room showing to the left were situated south of the block currently occupied by Holley Falls Bar & Grill. Frank “Duff” Donohue, pictured right, stands in front of his business with George Jenks (left) and Joseph Haight (middle). Mag the horse is the centerpiece of this photo, demonstrating the work primarily carried out by blacksmith shops; the sign reads “F. W. Donohue, Horse Shoeing and Repairing.”

At the time this photograph was taken, all three men were well versed in the work of the blacksmith. Originally a native of Albion, Joseph Haight worked as a stableman before entering the blacksmith trade. He eventually relocated to Sandy Creek where he opened a blacksmith shop on Rt. 237 just north of Rt.… More

Pharmaceutical Researcher was Grandson of Albion Pioneer Physician

Vol. 5, No. 13

On March 30, 1842, Dr. Crawford W. Long of Jefferson, Georgia, became the first physician to administer diethyl ether to remove a tumor from the neck of James Venable. Four years later, Dr. William T. G. Morton would administer the same inhaled anesthesia to extract a tooth from Eben Frost of Boston, Massachusetts. For centuries, physicians have experimented with various chemicals to perfect the way in which medical procedures are conducted, but also to change the way in which diseases and symptoms are treated.

Francis Edward Stewart was born September 13, 1853, to Johnathan Severance Stewart and Ada E. Nichoson at Albion, New York. Unbeknownst to his parents when he was born in the home of his maternal grandfather and pioneer physician, Dr. Orson Nichoson, Stewart would become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and a pioneer in the pharmaceutical industry. The family relocated to Philadelphia in 1872 when Jonathan Stewart accepted a position as superintendent of the American Dredging Company in that location.… More

The Local Legacy of U.S. Colored Units, American Civil War

Vol. 5, No. 12

The recent vote by the Hoag Library Board of Trustees to sell the 26th U.S. Colored Troops “National Color” in March has raised questions about local connections to that particular unit and other Colored Infantry regiments. U.S.C.T. regiments, established under the direction of the Bureau for Colored Troops, appointed white officers to lead black soldiers. According to a dissertation entitled “The Selection and Preparation of White Officers for the Command of Black Troops in the American Civil War,” by Paul Renard, the government utilized various methods of electing officers to lead U.S.C.T. regiments. Early U.S.C.T. regiment officers were selected by a board of divisional officers while others were selected in a process similar to white regiments. Renard argues that the selection of officers through an examination board overseen by the Bureau for Colored Troops was the most effective method used.

Racism permeated throughout the Union Army, which refused equal pay to black soldiers and relegated segregated units to manual labor behind the front lines.… More

Wickham’s Work with Interstate Commerce Commission Led to Panama Canal

Volume 5, Issue 11

On occasion I stumble across rather interesting photographs that grab my attention; either the image itself is intriguing or the inscription contains a fascinating tidbit of information. While uncovering a box of photographs and albums, I discovered an image with the inscription “F. J. Wickham Lyndonville, N.Y. this man went to Panama and helped build the Panama Canal.” So who was Mr. F. J. Wickham and how did he end up in Panama?

Born to Samuel Kenyon Wickham in Yates, Jeremiah Fernando Wickham grew up in Orleans County with his brothers George and Dewitt working the family farm and attending the district schools of the area. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 both Dewitt and Jeremiah enlisted with the 8th New York Heavy Artillery, but Jeremiah despised his first name (his grandfather’s name) and elected to enlist under his middle name. He served the duration of the war while earning the rank of corporal, his brother Dewitt rising to the rank of lieutenant.… More

Barre farmer, an immigrant, enlisted with Union Army and later became US citizen

Vol. 5, No. 10

This photograph shows Johann George Singler around the time of his enlistment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Born March 28, 1829 in the territory of Baden to Joseph and Mary Greisbaum, Singler received his common education (equivalent to a high school course in the United States) while in Europe. At the age of 22 he emigrated to the United States on a 49-day journey across the Atlantic, settling at Cleveland, Ohio. Six months later he traveled to Buffalo where he worked as a carpenter for eight months and finally relocated to the town of Barre sometime around 1853. On February 10, 1855, he married Eva Rupp at Clarendon and the couple raised eight children together on a modest farm in Barre.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Singler enlisted with Company G of the 151st New York Infantry at the age of 33.… More

“And When We Die We Shall Go to the Pullman Hell”


“The Condition of the Laboring Man at Pullman” Political Cartoon, circa 1894

Vol. 5, No. 9

March 3rd marks the 188th birthday of George Mortimer Pullman, born in 1831 to James Lewis and Emily Caroline Minton Pullman. In 1845, George had reached the age of 14 and received a sufficient level of education in the common schools to enter the workforce. It was around this time that James Pullman brought his family to Albion, “where he became widely known as a useful and upright citizen,” according to W. B. Cook.

The untimely death of James in 1853 forced George to care for his mother and younger siblings. Working as a cabinetmaker, Pullman was best known locally for building furniture in a business that would eventually transition through the hands of George Ough, to the partnership of Reynolds & Flintham, to J. B. Merrill, and eventually transition to the business formerly known as Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Home.… More

When Coal Was King

Vol. 5, No. 8

This photograph shows John Howard’s Coal Yard, located at the “foot” of North Clinton Street on the south side of the Erie Canal around 1904/05. Born August 23, 1868 at Albion, Howard would eventually enter the business that his father William Alanson Howard started in 1870. The coal sheds in this image were likely constructed around 1873.

According to a 1903 business directory, several other coal yards were operating in Albion. Morgan & Linson and Ezra Skinner both operated yards on Clinton Street near the New York Central Railroad crossing while Charles Porter and the Shourds Brothers operated yards in the vicinity of East Bank and Platt streets. In this particular operation, a packet boat delivered coal by way of the Erie Canal. When the boat docked on the south side of the Canal, a team of workers shoveled coal into a large bucket which was then hoisted up to a second-story opening.… More

Early Calls for Abolitionist Lectures Fell on Deaf Ears in Orleans County


Frederick Douglass

Vol. 5, No. 6

As we celebrate Black History Month in February, I was researching local African American families in Orleans County and attempting to assemble an understanding of this particular topic in local history. Without a doubt, it is an area that requires deeper research and is indicative of larger gaps in our understanding of how history was traditionally recorded; ideas of power and disparity. I thought it pertinent to recall some early pieces of abolitionist history in our area.

In 2015, the Orleans Renaissance Group erected a historic marker in Medina to commemorate the site of an address delivered by Frederick Douglass entitled “We Are Not Yet Quite Free,” on August 3, 1869. As the marker notes, a large crowd traveled from across New York to hear the renowned abolitionist speak; the engagement was focused on celebrating the 30th anniversary of emancipation in the British West Indies.… More

“The Mother of All Storms”


A Hough 100 Loader removing snow on East Shelby Road, February 3, 1977.

Vol. 5, No. 5

A couple feet of snow, sub-zero temperatures, and forty mile-per-hour wind gusts make for an unbearable week of Western New York weather. Although for many long-time residents of Orleans County, these winter storms are dwarfed by the fierce Blizzard of ’77. Growing up in Western New York, the “Great Blizzard” as I will call it, is the stuff of legend. Over eight feet of snow accumulation in some areas, peak wind gusts topping out at sixty-nine miles-per-hour, and snow drifts reaching thirty or forty feet in height; it is likely that no winter storm will ever challenge the Blizzard of ’77.

The brutal winter weather system hit Western New York on the morning of January 28th and continued into Tuesday, February 1st. Frigid temps reaching -70 degrees Fahrenheit and excessive winds packed snow so tightly that road travel was impossible.… More