Vol. 4, No. 50
The Christmas season is upon us and it is customary to write a piece about Charlie Howard, his Santa Claus School, or Christmas Park. If I had the privilege of sitting on Howard’s lap, what would I ask for? Simple answer; historic preservation.
Unfortunately, our history is marred by poor decisions even though we make some of those decisions with the best intentions. The protection of our historic treasurers is perhaps the best representation of this. Material culture serves a valuable purpose in the process of interpreting the past. Void of any physical representation of past cultures, we would lose all ability to understand the lives of those who lived without a voice.
Historic preservation is one of the four basic functions of the municipal historian; preservation of documents, records, diaries, ephemera, and photographs, but also the preservation of structures deemed important to the history of our communities.… More
Vol. 4, No. 49
After years of diligent work by the residents of Holley, the long-term preservation of the old Holley High School is finally secure. Historians commend those who undertake such noble work as communities so often set aside the difficult task of investing in historic treasures, instead investing in new construction as a symbol of “progress.”
The history of this particular structure dates back to 1930, but the story of the particular lot upon which it rests dates back to the 1840s. In 1847, the community selected Hiram Frisbee, Augustus Southworth, and William Hatch as members of a committee tasked with gathering subscriptions to establish an academy. This industrious team procured the necessary resources – money, lumber, millwork, timber, lime, brick, building stone, plows, boots and shoes, teaming (horses), and labor – so that a two-story brick building could be constructed on a $300 lot of land donated by Frisbee.… More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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