“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

Catastrophic Canal Break put Eagle Harbor Under Water

Volume 3, Issue 30

The success of the Erie Canal was not without trials and tribulations over its 200-year history. These photographs, taken in August of 1927, show the damage sustained during an extensive break in the canal wall near Eagle Harbor.

On August 3, 1927, local farmers observed a slight leak in the south wall of the canal near the Otter Creek gully. L. E. Bennett reported seeing a three-foot square hole open up, spilling thousands of gallons of water out of the waterway in a matter of minutes; the initial opening formed approximately 100 feet west of the Otter Creek culvert. Within a relatively short period of time, the flooring of the canal gave way and the south wall broke free, creating a hole that spanned 50 feet in length and 7 feet in height.

Newspapers reported that over 1,000,000,000 gallons of water had spilled into the neighboring fields surrounding Eagle Harbor, creating a large lake that reached 20-60 feet in depth in certain areas.… More

Bailey’s Grocery was a Staple in Albion

Volume 3, Issue 13

In the years preceding massive department and grocery stores, smaller family owned dry goods and grocery stores occupied the storefronts of small-town America. This image shows the store owned by James Bailey of Albion, taken sometime in the late 1890s.

Bailey was raised on a 240 acre farm on the Transit Road and sometime in the 1850s entered the employ of Harvey Goodrich, a grocer and dry goods dealer at Albion. After a short stint with that interest, James entered the produce business with Charles Baker and worked under his employ for nearly 15 years before starting his own grocery store. During his time with Baker, Bailey developed a sizable farm west of Albion, later owned by John H. Denio on land now occupied by the Albion Correctional Facility.

Herbert J. Bailey, pictured center, was brought into the trade in 1882 when the business became known as James Bailey & Son.… More

The Birth of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School

Volume 2, Issue 52

There is no better way to reflect upon the holiday season than to recall the story behind the foundation of the world’s first Santa Claus school established in Albion. Thankfully, the history of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School was recorded in 1966 in Charlie Howard’s own words before his passing on May 1st of that year.

As a young child, Howard enjoyed crafting toy furniture and wagons from wood, which friends and neighbors adored so much that they often gifted them to loved ones. His mother sewed a suit for him as a boy to play the role of Santa Claus as he was “a short fat boy.” Wearing a “false face,” his blue eyes were filled with joy but he felt the mask was “more frightening to children than his own.”

He always admired the store Santa, but was never able to work up the courage to do it himself.… More

Growth of Sandstone Industry Was a Contribution of Rev. Edward Fancher

Volume 2, Issue 47

Over a century ago, Orleans County was dominated by the Medina Sandstone industry which was directed by Edward Fancher of Albion for a number of years. Born January 6, 1854 to John and Effie Bogardus Fancher, Edward engaged early on in the quarry business gathering much of his knowledge from Charles Gwynne. After the untimely death of his wife Lucy in 1892, Edward remarried to Ida Baldwin the following year and raised his young family in the Hulberton area.

On February 20, 1902 a new quarry syndicate was established in the area, uniting nearly 50 quarries sprawled throughout Orleans County. The Orleans County Quarry Company was incorporated with $2,000,000 in capital and employed over 1,200 men. Initial startup funds were directed towards operating the quarries, paying salaries, and most importantly, developing the infrastructure to support the refinement of stone, sale, and transportation across both railroad and the Erie Canal.… More

Contentious 1896 McKinley v. Bryan Election Reminiscent of Recent Campaigns

Volume 2, Issue 46

120 years ago, on November 3, 1896, Republican candidate William McKinley defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan as President of the United States during a period known at the Fourth Party System. The United States was amidst an economic depression with origins in the Panic of 1893. President Grover Cleveland’s efforts to deal with this crisis led many Americans to withdraw funds from banks and investors across the globe sold stocks in favor of investing in gold-backed funds. Questions surrounding low prices, low profits, high unemployment rates, and ongoing labor strikes plagued the part platforms. Most important to the outcome of the election was Bryan’s support of a currency backed by gold and silver in an effort to push for inflation to reestablish a declining economy.

In this political cartoon published on the front page of the New York Herald, September 6, 1896, we see a stoic William McKinley atop a chariot drawn by a team of horses.… More

Western House of Refuge

Volume 2, Issue 37

Nearly 125 years ago, the Western House of Refuge was constructed on farmland located west of the village of Albion. It was largely due to the work of E. K. Hart that this location was selected as the site for this new establishment, which was opened on December 8, 1893. For nearly a month, the institution went without receiving a single inmate until the first woman was “brought in” during the early part of January 1894.

The House of Refuge provides insight into an interesting period in the U.S. penal system. Women ages 16 to 30 who were charged with crimes ranging from petit larceny to public intoxication, prostitution, or “waywardness” would find themselves confined to the Refuge for a period of three to five years. During a time when crimes of a sexual nature, such as prostitution, provided a double standard in society between males and females, women were sent to the House of Refuge by cuckolded husbands or families.… More

Alms House Hospital Wing Dedicated in 1905

Volume 2, Issue 33

This image taken in 1905 shows a gathering of local officials and community members at the opening of the hospital wing at the Orleans County Alms House. The estimated $20,000 extension of the Poor House was designed by architect Fred Harvey Loverin of Buffalo and completed with much anticipation from local officials.

The main building, pictured right, consisted of an administration building, a men’s ward, and a women’s ward all constructed in 1878 by Frank Downing. The building replaced the badly deteriorated County House, which was deemed obsolete by a committee consisting of John Hull White, Burton Keys, and Julius Harris. The committee reported that “…the roof leaks badly…” and that “…the walls appear to be infested with vermin, and there is no way to exterminate them except by building the walls anew.” It is shown in the papers of Frederick Law Olmstead that he was consulted in the planning of the new Alms House building.… More

Portrait of a Murderer: William Coniber, Jr.

William H. Coniber, Jr. – Murderer of Horace Halpin

Volume 2, Issue 30

The history of Orleans County is littered with the stories of cold-blooded murder, perhaps some cases more infamous than others. Of course, capturing wanted criminals connected to these cases was a far more difficult process over a century ago, but local officials did the best they could in apprehending suspects. In one particular case occurring at the turn of the 20th century, several years would pass before a suspect was arrested in one of the most grievous murder cases in local history.

One Thursday morning, September 14th to be exact, back in 1899 Horace Halpin left the family homestead at Rich’s Corners. John Halpin, Horace’s father, was a local grocer and had sent his son to make the daily deliveries at approximately 11:00am. While traveling towards the “Lattin Swamp,” Horace encountered a tramp walking north. The man told Horace he was seeking employment with Oscar Brown’s merry-go-round outfit in Albion and that he had walked some distance from Batavia to do so.… More

Founder of Santa Claus School also was a farmer


Old-Time Orleans, Vol. 1, Issue 4

ALBION – This photograph shows Charles W. Howard playing an unusual role; that of the secretary of the Orleans County Fair Association.

Taken sometime in the late 1910s, Charlie is shown standing on the race track of the old county fairgrounds in Albion. A number of men are lined up in the background, sitting atop the fence.

Born and raised at the family homestead on the corner of Route 31 and Gaines Basin Road, his earliest years were spent partaking in household chores and working the family farm. He was active in local agricultural societies and the Orleans County Fair Association for many years.

In 1926 Howard suffered injuries to his legs after falling from the top of a silo, 20 feet to the cement ground. After taking the plunge, he was rushed to the local hospital where it was discovered that he had broken his leg and broken bones in the other foot.… More