The Assassination of Frank A. Burton

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

Alley Traces Name to Local Hatter

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

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

Story of Rev. Dykal Highlights Accomplishments of Polish Americans

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

Growth of Sandstone Industry Driven by Immigrants

Volume 4, Issue 38

The impact of Medina Sandstone extends beyond the beautiful structures that built from the durable material. Since the initial discovery of the resource during the construction of the Erie Canal and the subsequent opening of the first quarry by John Ryan in 1837, the sandstone industry was a driving force behind a diverse population in Orleans County. English, Irish, German, French, Polish, and Italian quarrymen traveled to this region in search of employment in the quarries, which provided the necessary funds to bring family and friends to the United States.

This image shows men in a local quarry who have paused to stand for a photographer. Scattered around the job site are a number of hammers and bars used for breaking and moving stone. The tools suggest that these men were responsible for dressing stone after it was extracted from the quarry. Standing at the front of the picture is a face hammer, which was used to roughly dress stones in preparation for detail work; several of these are positioned throughout the photograph.… 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

Benjamin Lisk Bessac

Vol. 4, No. 32

As tours of Mt. Albion Cemetery continue every Sunday through the month of August, I noticed a particular headstone that is frequently passed over each year. Progressing up the winding hills towards the Soldiers & Sailors Monument at the peak of the cemetery is a moderately-sized, dark greyish-blue stone that reads “Father – Benjamin L. Bessac, 1807 – 1871.” The stone is rather reserved in comparison to the larger, ostentatious obelisks and monuments that stand around it. Benjamin Lisk Bessac, the feature of this article, was one of the most notable attorneys in Orleans County who mentored the area’s premier lawyers.

Born on March 12, 1807 at New Baltimore, New York, Bessac’s mother died when he was just 12 days old leaving his father a widower with an infant child. Some reports differ as to who exactly cared for the child in infancy, some suggesting his grandparents while others suggest an aunt who lived in the vicinity.… More

Roy D. S. Bruner

Vol. 4, No. 31

On occasion I discover a photograph and set it aside for sorting, only to have it resurface several months later. The faces stare at me as if I know each person’s identity, their names, their characteristics, and personality. At times it becomes maddening when faces are recognized, and names not recalled; in reality, many photographs go unidentified.

This studio portrait taken by Francis Burnette shows a rather young Roy D. S. Bruner of Albion, NY. Inscribed on the reverse are dates, “Born March 12, 1873, Died Nov. 5, 1888.” The other markings, “Class of ’89, L. A. Achilles,” indicate that the photograph is part of a collection of images once belonging to Lillian Achilles of Albion. So, what can be said about this dapper young gentleman, with his brush-cut hair, rimless spectacles, and stand-up collar?

The brief story of Roy Bruner starts with his father, Henry A.… More