Vol. 4, No. 5
The history of Orleans County’s African American population in the earliest decades of our area is scarce and unknown in many aspects. Some residents may be familiar with the story of Richard Gordineer who, as an infant, was sold by his father to Joseph Grant; Grant eventually settled in the Shelby/Medina area. After New York abolished slavery in 1827, Gordineer became a free man and a well-respected citizen of Medina. Other stories involve families, like those of Henry Spencer and Jacob Carter, who came to Western New York with local Union army officers at the conclusion of the Civil War.
Spencer came to Orleans County with Lt. Hiram Sickels of the 17th New York Light Independent Artillery sometime around 1866. After earning enough money working for George Sickels, he brought his wife and children to this area. One of Spencer’s sons, Henry Austin, spent the majority of his teenage years working for Asa and William Howard as an errand boy until he reached adulthood.… More
Volume 4, Issue 4
As we near 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 am assembling a small display of local historical photographs pertaining to African American communities in Orleans County from the 1820s through the 1920s, which will be on display at the Hoag Library in February, but 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.… More
Volume 4, Issue 3
Of the New York State Historic Markers erected by the NYS Department of Education, the overwhelming majority cover locations deemed significant to the earliest history of Orleans County including Native American and pioneer sites. The marker situated at the Town Park on Holley Byron Road in Clarendon calls attention to one of the earlier settlements in our area.
The marker reads, “Farwell’s Mills, here Eldred Farwell, first white settler of town, built the first mills in Clarendon, saw mill in 1811, grist mill in 1813.”
While consulting several seminal publications on early Orleans County history, the spelling of Farwell’s name is clearly debated; here, the State Department of Education uses a shortened spelling. Arad Thomas records Farwell’s name as Eldridge in Pioneer History of Orleans County, New York, but this historian would prefer to reference Farwell’s name as spelled by David Sturges Copeland in his History of Clarendon from 1810 to 1888 where he records the name as Eldredge.… More
Volume 4, Issue 2
Nearly thirty years ago, an historic marker was installed on the corner of East State and Platt Streets in Albion to mark the location of the first Free Methodist Church. Installed in 1990 by the County Department of History to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the establishment of the church, the marker reads:
“The first Free Methodist Church in the denomination. Rev. Loren Stiles founded the congregation in 1859, Norman Revival in style it was dedicated May 18, 1860.”
The history of this particular congregation dates back to the pastorate of Rev. Benjamin Titus Roberts, who was appointed to the Methodist Episcopal Church at Albion in 1855. Upon his arrival, the congregation was the second-largest in the Genesee Conference with a membership of 285. After the completion of his second year at the pulpit, the numerical growth of the congregation was stagnant.
In August of 1857, a two-part article written by Roberts entitled “New School Methodism” appeared in the pages of the newly established Northern Independent.… More
Volume 4, Issue 1
Another year has passed, and I often wonder if I will have enough “new” material to write 52 articles. Reflecting on the number of requests for information that flow through my office on a weekly basis, I started thinking about the number of questions I have received about the various New York State historic markers. Although the State no longer funds the purchase, installation, or upkeep of these important monuments, those installed since the program started in 1926 showcase locations that are significant to the development of our communities. Perhaps utilizing some space in this column will help add to the information cast upon these blue and gold signs.
In 1989, an Urban Development Corporation grant was used to install fifteen historic markers in towns and villages throughout Orleans County. The project was initiated through the Orleans County Tourism Board and is noted on each marker as “Orleans County Community Pride” (Bill Lattin wrote about this project in his column Bethinking of Old Orleans vol.… More
Volume 3, Issue 53
During the holiday season, I often think back to the years I spent as a young boy, enjoying Christmas with family and friends; simpler times. The memory that remains fresh in my mind is Christmas Eve Mass at St. Mary’s Assumption on Brown Street in Albion. We would walk down the street to church and visit with parishioners, young and old, before walking to my grandmother’s house for Christmas dinner. I always remember being enamored with the beautiful artwork that adorned the ceiling of the nave, but at that time I had no idea of the significance of the paintings, who completed the work, or what the paintings depicted. I am sure the question of how an artist managed to paint on such a high ceiling was the predominant thought circling in my head.
Starting in the 1930s and continuing through the 1940s, the Polish Catholics in Albion realized as they neared their golden jubilee that the interior of the church was in need of considerable improvements.… More
Volume 3, Issue 52
Another year has passed, and another volume of Overlooked Orleans has concluded. To write another article about Charlie Howard and his Santa Claus School is perhaps cliché for the Christmas season. Those years of perfecting the spirit of Santa, dating back to his childhood days when as “a short fat boy” his mother sewed a suit for him to play the role, brought about a more meaningful understanding to the holiday season. A man whose passions rested with the children, who anticipated the abundance of gifts and dolefully observed the quick passing of this festive time of year.
While perusing old issues of the Orleans Republican, I was drawn to a column which appeared during the month of December in which the newspaper accepted letters to Santa Claus for publication. The short notes written to Kris Kringle during the Great Depression reflect a gentle consciousness of the hardships associated with the time.… More
Volume 3, Issue 51
Around this time last year, I authored a piece about Charles Howard and the founding of the Santa Claus School (v.2, no.52). As Christmas approaches, I thought it appropriate to once again recall the life of an influential and beloved man who left a lasting impression on many Orleans County residents.
Starting in the mid-1950s, Howard started the process of converting his farm and barns to a Christmas Park. On Saturday, September 22, 1956, this “entertainment, education, gift, and amusement center,” opened for a short, 13-week season. Mrs. Henry Greene of Medina provided “Christmas Village,” a collection of 20 small houses, schools, churches, and other structures, fully furnished and lighted – an endeavor that required 25 years of collecting to complete. Also included was “Toy Lane,” a collection of 23 window scenes aimed at simulating store fronts. Children had opportunities to visit with Santa Claus, see reindeer in the stables, and visit Mrs.… More
Volume 3, Issue 50
This photograph, taken some time around the turn of the 20th century, shows the storefront of Landauer & Strouse Dry Goods on North Main Street in Albion. Standing on the left is Simon Landauer and the young man standing on the right is his son, Jacob Landauer. A number of crates sit along the curb marked Landauer & Strouse Albion, NY, many of them coming by way of the New York Central Railroad; a young boy watches from the second-floor window as the photograph is taken.
Simon Landauer was born in Bavaria (present day Germany) in 1833, the son of a Jewish cattle farmer. He and his brother Moritz were trained in cotton weaving while living in Europe, leaving for America prior to forced conscription in the army. Although documentation of Moritz’s arrival has not been located, Simon arrived at New York City on August 21, 1852 aboard the Chancey Jerome.… More
Volume 3, Issue 49
These two photographs show the baseball grounds in Albion located on Caroline Street on land now occupied by the ARC of Orleans. A popular pastime in Orleans County, baseball teams commonly played on fields located at the County Fairgrounds until this site was created in the early 1900s. The top photograph shows the grandstand, situated in the northeast corner of the lot. A 1911 map shows the grandstand situated at an angle and a small structure to the immediate west of the grandstand. Based on the bottom photograph, we can presume that the small building on the map is the structure occupied by Robert Clark, who is selling popcorn and peanuts to those watching the game. Behind the grandstand, the peak of a house on the north side of Caroline Street is slightly visible. One would venture to guess that this is 137 Caroline Street.
In addition to the field itself, the photographs show the 1905 baseball club consisting of Howard Kilborn, 1st base; James Craffey, 2nd base and team captain; Frank VanStone, 3rd base; Ralph Vick, Shortstop; Herbert Reed, left field; Homer Brown, center field; Walter Radley, right field; Robert Clark, Jr., pitcher; Pete Galarneau, catcher; Arnold Donovan, mascot.… More