The Assassination of Frank A. Burton

Vol. 4, No. 48

Occasionally, an interesting story with local ties surfaces while researching an unrelated subject. The story of Frank A. Burton would fall into that category; a man with local ties, but not necessarily a local man himself. Although unknown in Orleans County, Burton’s story represents one of the most heinous crimes in the history of La Crosse, Wisconsin.

The tale of Frank Burton begins with his grandparents, Joshua B. and Clarissa Adams, who arrived in Western New York prior to 1818. The young couple established themselves in the wilderness of the Genesee Country as one of the pioneer families and founders of the Town of Sweden. Available resources reveal that the couple reared at least two children in Monroe County, two daughters named Clarissa and Charlotte. Clarissa, the older of the two and named in honor of her mother, married Albion attorney Hiram Slade Goff and remained in Albion for the duration of her life.… More

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

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