19th Century Post-Mortem Photographs Included in Recent Donation to Department of History

Vol. 6, No. 5 

Popular during the Victorian era, post-mortem photographs provided family members with an opportunity to capture a lasting likeness of their deceased loved ones. In this particular case, a young child passed before his parents could arrange a formal studio portrait. The boy is peacefully posed on a fur blanket on the front porch of the family’s home in Yuba City, California, holding a rose in his left hand with another laid beside him. 

The appearance of the child may seem peculiar given his clothing and hairstyle. Breeching remained a common practice through the late 19th century. As infants, boys often wore dresses that covered their legs down to their feet which made ambling difficult. Once they began walking, these knee-length dresses allowed the child to walk while facilitating easy toilet training. After toilet training was complete, the boy went through the “breeching” process at which point he was dressed in trousers for the first time.More

Sandstone Monument Marks Burial Site of Five English Quarrymen

Vol. 6, No. 4 

The use of Medina sandstone to craft headstones was rather limited in the nineteenth century. County Historian C. W. Lattin has speculated that the common use of the stone for curbing and paving blocks made the durable material undesirable for such a noble purpose. In Orleans County, sandstone within cemeteries is often observed in hitching posts, carriage steps, and monument foundations. However, the presence of sandstone monuments became common among immigrant quarry laborers. The stone represented the livelihood of the deceased individual. It was readily accessible, often affordable, and on other occasions, a quarry owner might gift a slab of stone for use in the case of an untimely death. This particular monument at Mt. Albion Cemetery represents a rather unusual occurrence. Five English quarrymen are buried on this lot with this large, beautiful sandstone monument erected to their memory by friends and fellow quarry laborers.More

Architecture Destroyed: Stoddard-Downs House

Vol. 6, No. 3 

In November of 1984, County Historian and Cobblestone Museum Director C. W. Lattin published a book entitled Architecture Destroyed in Orleans County, New York. The focus of this work was to call attention to the numerous homes, civic buildings, and houses of worship lost to “progress” throughout the history of our county. Over the thirty-five years since that book was published, our community has lost countless other structures due to accidents, neglect, or other reasons beyond our control. After the recent unfortunate loss of a beautiful Italianate house on South Main Street in Holley, I thought it would be fitting to highlight the history of past owners of the home while calling attention to a very important role of local historians; the role of documenting current events. 

The origins of the home date back to Moses N. Stoddard, whose personal biographical information is drawn from his obituary appearing in the Holley Standard on June 3, 1886.More

Early Newspapers Directly Served Political Interests

Vol. 6, No. 2 

Although society laments the apparent death of objective journalism, bias in the media is far from a new phenomenon. In fact, the concept of nonpartisan news is just over a century old as journalism developed as a profession at the turn of the 20th century. Newspapers of the early 19th century provided political parties with official “organs” that disseminated platform-based editorials and spewed vitriol about rival candidates. 

The history of newspapers in Orleans County is a lengthy one, but a story that originates in the early 1820s. Attributed as the first published newspaper in Orleans County, Batavia-native Seymour Tracy produced the short-lived Gazette in Gaines. Tracy, known locally as “One-Legged Tracy,” was recognized throughout Batavia for his intemperate habits leading fellow printers to attribute that behavior to the sudden failure of his paper. John Fisk, who worked with Tracy, picked up the loose ends and continued the newspaper as the Orleans Whig in 1827.More

Orleans I.O.G.T. Received Banner for Membership Growth

Vol. 5, No. 39

October is American Archives Month and is a wonderful opportunity to feature some of the collections within the Department of History. Although the County Historian maintains an extensive collection of published works, documents, photographs, ephemera, and other paper materials, a number of textile and 3D artifacts exist within the office. This “prize banner,” awarded to the Orleans District Lodge of the I.O.G.T. (2019.010), recognizes the organization’s membership growth during the 1908-09 year.

Established in 1850 as the Knights of Jericho by Daniel Cady, the organization merged the following year with a similar lodge from Oriskany Falls to form the Order of Good Templars. A schism in the organization in 1852 caused a number of members to form the Independent Order of Good Templars, renumbering Excelsior Lodge of Syracuse from Lodge No. 14 to Lodge No. 1. Although it started as a fraternal organization, the I.O.G.T. mission spanned beyond abstinence from alcohol.… More

Scandalous Heart Balm Suit Accused Ridgeway Native of Impropriety

Vol. 5, No. 38

I do not love thee! – yet, I know not why,
Whate’er thou dost seems still well done, to me:
And often in my solitude I sigh
That those I do love are not more like thee!
– Caroline Elizabeth Sarah Norton

Did you know that until 1935, an individual could file a lawsuit against their sweetheart for “breach of promise to marry?” Although both men and women could initiate such a lawsuit, “Heart Balm Statutes” commonly provided a jilted lover with an avenue for seeking financial reparations against their darling gentleman. Sweeping reforms in the 1930s resulted in the passing of “Anti-Heart Balm Statutes” that abolished the ability for parties to bring action “for alienation of affections…seduction and breach of contract to marry,” as well as the right to “recover sums of money as damages…”

This photograph, taken by the Dunshee Brothers of Rochester, NY, shows Edgar Z.… More

Jeddo Merchant Lived Double Life in Chicago

 

Vol. 5, No. 37

This photograph, taken some time in the 1860s by an unknown photographer, shows Philetus and Eliza Bates of Jeddo; an inscription on the reverse reads “Bates and wife, storekeeper at Jeddo.” The Bates family was well known in Ridgeway near the Niagara-Orleans County Line thanks, in part, to Philetus’ father. An early settler of Orleans County, Orlando Bates constructed the first mill at Jeddo Creek and the location was quickly referred to as “Batesville” in honor of its pioneer founder.

On the surface, the life of Philetus Bates appears relatively uneventful. An obituary published in the days following his death on November 26, 1913, notes that he was a successful merchant at Jeddo and Middleport. At the close of the Civil War, his business suffered, and he turned to hotel proprietorship in order to make a living. Upon his departure from the earthly realm, he was laid to rest next to his wife and daughter in the West Ridgeway Cemetery.… More

Millville Stone Store Eligible for National Register Status

Vol. 5, No. 36

In January of 2019, I received a request for information on the old stone store once belonging to T. O. Castle of Millville. Daniel Hurley purchased the building and pushed for the State Historic Preservation Office to consider the building for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places. I was informed that the building is eligible for inclusion on the National Register and the process of researching and documenting the building’s history has commenced.

This photograph of the stone store appeared in “Bethinking of Old Orleans” volume 24, no. 1 authored by Bill Lattin. The article, entitled “Winter Gathering,” called attention to the large crowd gathered in front of the store, located at the intersection of Maple Ridge Road and East Shelby Road. Although the occasion for the photograph is a mystery, Lattin wrote, “Whatever was going on at the time must have seemed like a worthy event for taking a picture.” Several teams of horses are visible in the image, including at least one hitched to a bobsleigh.… More

Wesendorf Hotel Served Fancher Community

Vol. 5, No. 28

This photograph shows the Wesendorf House that operated at Fancher. Although this photograph is not labeled, it is presumed that the image was taken in the early 1900s and one of the men standing on the porch is the proprietor, John Wesendorf, Jr. It appears these men have stepped outside from the establishment to pose for this photo as a young boy stands with them holding what appears to be a milk can. The building functioned as a saloon and hotel for a number of years in the early half of the 19th century.

John Lewis Wesendorf, a native of Germany, immigrated to Hamlin, New York with his family in the early 1870s. The Wesendorfs were part of the large settlement of Germans at that location, many whom arrived between 1865 and 1880. At some point in the late 1880s, the Wesendorfs relocated to the Town of Murray where John Wesendorf, Sr.… More

Vosler Honored for Courageous Effort Over Bremen, Germany

Vol. 5, No. 27

Until David Bellavia received his Medal of Honor on June 25, 2019, John Butts was the most recent recipient of the prestigious honor. However, Forrest Lee Vosler was the last Orleans County native to receive the medal while still living. Born on July 29, 1923 at Lyndonville, New York to William and Lottie Vosler, Forrest graduated from Livonia High School and enlisted in the U.S. Army at Rochester on October 8, 1942. Following basic training at Atlantic City, he received training as a radio operator at Scott Field, Illinois and later completed gunnery training at Harlingen, Texas. He received a promotion to the rank of Sergeant in May of 1943 and was again promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant in October of 1943 as his unit prepared for deployment overseas.

Vosler was assigned as a radio operator and aerial gunner aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed the “Jersey Bounce Jr.” with the 358th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group stationed out of England.… More