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

The Angelus Bell

Vol. 4, No. 37

Some of the best local history stories are those that are rediscovered and built upon by each historian. While organizing a collection of newspaper clippings, I stumbled upon a particular story that holds a special place in my heart. “Why the Bell Rings,” vol. XXIX no. 1 of Bethinking of Old Orleans authored by Bill Lattin recounts a story relating to St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Albion. His discovery of a newspaper clipping within a scrapbook led him to write a short piece about the Angelus Bell.

As a young boy, I can recall the frequent tolling of the bell at our parish on Brown Street. In my naiveté I thought for sure that the evening bell was a simple curfew reminder, but over the years I have developed an appreciation for the deeper meaning of the scheduled bell tolling. Even though the bells now stand silent, except for the Sunday call to service, the story is an important one centered on tradition and faith.… More

White Bronze Markers Provided Alternative to Traditional Stone

Vol. 4, No. 36

During tours of Mount Albion Cemetery, it is nearly impossible to visit a section of the cemetery that is void of at least one zinc marker. The “stones” themselves are a rather unique feature given their short-lived history, but the variety of sizes, shapes, and iconography provide visitors with a unique look into the beautiful art of cemetery monuments. This particular stone, belonging to Amos and Rosamond Whaley Grinnell, stands near the front of the cemetery on Hawthorn Path and displays a stunning urn draped in a cloth that symbolizes the veil that separates Heaven and earth.

The Monumental Bronze Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut commenced the manufacture of these memorials in 1875. In addition to the company’s headquarters, subsidiaries opened in Des Moines, Detroit, and Chicago where the final stage of the manufacturing process was completed; all casting was performed in Connecticut.

It is important to note the use of the term “bronze” to describe these unique monuments.… More

“Hope” Showcases Artistry of Local Monument Dealers

Vol. 4, No. 34

August 26th will mark the final tour of Mt. Albion Cemetery this summer, which starts at 6:00pm and will travel a path across the western end of the cemetery. Over the last several weekends, I found myself intrigued by the visual representations of social and cultural changes throughout the cemetery. The earliest sections of the cemetery are characterized by a lack of uniformity, whether one looks at the varying size of lots, the random distribution of lot numbers, or the diverse styles of monuments. As one travels into the “newer” sections of the cemetery, lots are set out in uniform size, orientation, and cemetery monuments appear more similar to one another.

While preparing for these tours, I stumbled across excerpts from a Sears, Roebuck & Company catalog for marble cemetery monuments. An individual could purchase a headstone of modest size at a cost of $7.00-$8.00, plus additional rates for lettering and shipping.… More

Demisemiseptcentennial: Mt. Albion’s 175th Anniversary

Vol. 4, No. 29

“We have met to provide a mansion for the dead. We have come out from our quiet homes and the bright sunlight and the crowded streets and all the garish show of life, to this secluded spot to set apart a last final resting place where the weary pilgrim…may come and lay down his burden forever…” – Daniel R. Cady, Esq.

Benjamin Franklin once said that there are but two certainties in life; death and taxes. For the pioneers of Albion, the question of a sacred final resting place plagued them from the earliest years of settlement. Small burial grounds existed within the village limits, but the harsh realities of life and death proved problematic for these noble citizens.

It became apparent soon after the incorporation of the village that a cemetery on East State Street would be quickly overcome with the bodies of those who succumbed to the tribulations of pioneer life.… More

Albion Native Illustrated Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Vol. 4, No. 26

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, released in December of 1937, is perhaps one of the most iconic animated cartoons ever produced by Walt Disney. As the first full-length animated cartoon, Snow White is one of Disney’s more recognizable characters even today. So, would you believe that this artistic masterpiece was made possible, in part, thanks to a man from Orleans County?

Henry Lyon Porter was born in 1901 in the Village of Albion to Wells H. Porter, a piano tuner, and Nellie Lyon. Porter spent his early childhood in the vicinity of West and West Bank streets and graduated from Albion High School in 1918. At the age of seven, his mother died of cancer leaving his father to care for him; Ella Jackson, the family’s housekeeper, helped raised Henry and his younger brother Allen. Porter was left-handed, and his artistic talents quickly surfaced as a young man, so it is no surprise that he was an illustrator for the Chevron and illustrated the cover for the 1920 Albion High School Yearbook; the cover shows a distressed graduate contemplating the various paths into the professional world.… More

The Soldiers & Sailors Monument: A County-wide Civil War Memorial

Volume 4, Issue 21

Passing through the sandstone arch of Mount Albion Cemetery, one may catch a glimpse of the towering monument atop the highest point in the area. The Soldiers & Sailors Monument is perhaps the most impressive and beautiful war memorials in our area, but the true significance of the shrine is often overshadowed by the novelty and “thrill of the climb” up the winding steel staircase. There is a commonality between the circumstances surrounding the efforts to erect this monument to the memory of over 450 men who lost their lives during the Civil War and the war itself. In the face of grave sacrifice, a community struggled to memorialize the hundreds of young men, sons, brothers, and fathers, who left the security of home for ideals far greater than themselves.

Efforts to construct a county-wide memorial were initiated in 1864, but the association struggled to raise the necessary funds to complete the project.… More

“Inmate” Was Term Used to Describe Poor House Residents

Vol. 4, No. 8

As I perused the pages of a death ledger from the Orleans County Home, covering the years 1873 to 1902, the phrase “inmate” appears quite regularly. Today we associate that term with people who are involuntarily held at a jail, prison, or psychiatric facility; a rather focused description which has evolved over the last few centuries. In its earliest meaning, dating back to the 1500s, inmate was used to describe someone who shared a residence such as a visitor at a hotel, a boarding house, or a college student living on or around campus.

The Poor House was a common place for “inmates” to gather, not because they were confined to a cell as we have come to accept the word, but because they shared a common residence. In many cases, the confinement of one to a county poor house was, in fact, involuntary. A wife whose husband skipped town may not be capable of financially supporting herself or her children.… More

House of Refuge was Center of Social Reform for Delinquent Women

Volume 3, Issue 48

This photography, taken prior to 1915, shows the main office located within the administration building of the Western House of Refuge (now the Albion Correctional Facility). Miss Alice E. Curtin, the superintendent, stands in the center of the room shaking the hand of a young woman who is preparing to depart the facility on parole. Standing near the door is Miss Katherine Capitola Grinnell, the institution’s parole officer, who is prepared to escort the young woman to the railroad depot.

Miss Curtin ran a conservative operation at the House of Refuge as the institution was intended to rehabilitate young women who failed or refused to adhere to the strict gender norms of the time. The 1914 annual report for the Western House of Refuge shows that the inmate population totaled 238 women at the conclusion of the fiscal year with an annual average of 229 inmates; the facility’s capacity was rated at 215.… More

“Bean King” Offered Fine Dining at Lone Star Inn

Volume 3, Issue 37

This photograph taken in the 1920s shows the Lone Star Inn as it appeared on Gaines Basin Road. Located on the old Thurston Farm, this property was located across from the current Orleans County Correctional Facility on 130 acres adjacent to the Howard farm.

In 1923 Lewis E. Sands established the Lone Star Inn, a “quaint homestead with glass enclosed verandas, set on a knoll a few hundred yards off the Million Dollar Highway.” Directions to the property instructed visitors to turn “at the cobblestone schoolhouse,” the old Loveland School since demolished near the intersection of Rt. 31 and Gaines Basin Road. The restaurant quickly earned a reputation as a destination for high-quality meals in Orleans County.

In November of 1930, Sands was operating a bakery out of the building in addition to the restaurant and inn during the summer months. While working in the kitchen, Lewis heard a faint crackling sound coming from the garage and after further investigation, was greeted by flames and smoke upon opening the door.… More