19th Century Post-Mortem Photographs Included in Recent Donation to Department of History

Vol. 6, No. 5 

Popular during the Victorian era, post-mortem photographs provided family members with an opportunity to capture a lasting likeness of their deceased loved ones. In this particular case, a young child passed before his parents could arrange a formal studio portrait. The boy is peacefully posed on a fur blanket on the front porch of the family’s home in Yuba City, California, holding a rose in his left hand with another laid beside him. 

The appearance of the child may seem peculiar given his clothing and hairstyle. Breeching remained a common practice through the late 19th century. As infants, boys often wore dresses that covered their legs down to their feet which made ambling difficult. Once they began walking, these knee-length dresses allowed the child to walk while facilitating easy toilet training. After toilet training was complete, the boy went through the “breeching” process at which point he was dressed in trousers for the first time.More

Sandstone Monument Marks Burial Site of Five English Quarrymen

Vol. 6, No. 4 

The use of Medina sandstone to craft headstones was rather limited in the nineteenth century. County Historian C. W. Lattin has speculated that the common use of the stone for curbing and paving blocks made the durable material undesirable for such a noble purpose. In Orleans County, sandstone within cemeteries is often observed in hitching posts, carriage steps, and monument foundations. However, the presence of sandstone monuments became common among immigrant quarry laborers. The stone represented the livelihood of the deceased individual. It was readily accessible, often affordable, and on other occasions, a quarry owner might gift a slab of stone for use in the case of an untimely death. This particular monument at Mt. Albion Cemetery represents a rather unusual occurrence. Five English quarrymen are buried on this lot with this large, beautiful sandstone monument erected to their memory by friends and fellow quarry laborers.More

Early Newspapers Directly Served Political Interests

Vol. 6, No. 2 

Although society laments the apparent death of objective journalism, bias in the media is far from a new phenomenon. In fact, the concept of nonpartisan news is just over a century old as journalism developed as a profession at the turn of the 20th century. Newspapers of the early 19th century provided political parties with official “organs” that disseminated platform-based editorials and spewed vitriol about rival candidates. 

The history of newspapers in Orleans County is a lengthy one, but a story that originates in the early 1820s. Attributed as the first published newspaper in Orleans County, Batavia-native Seymour Tracy produced the short-lived Gazette in Gaines. Tracy, known locally as “One-Legged Tracy,” was recognized throughout Batavia for his intemperate habits leading fellow printers to attribute that behavior to the sudden failure of his paper. John Fisk, who worked with Tracy, picked up the loose ends and continued the newspaper as the Orleans Whig in 1827.More

Pharmaceutical Researcher was Grandson of Albion Pioneer Physician

Vol. 5, No. 13

On March 30, 1842, Dr. Crawford W. Long of Jefferson, Georgia, became the first physician to administer diethyl ether to remove a tumor from the neck of James Venable. Four years later, Dr. William T. G. Morton would administer the same inhaled anesthesia to extract a tooth from Eben Frost of Boston, Massachusetts. For centuries, physicians have experimented with various chemicals to perfect the way in which medical procedures are conducted, but also to change the way in which diseases and symptoms are treated.

Francis Edward Stewart was born September 13, 1853, to Johnathan Severance Stewart and Ada E. Nichoson at Albion, New York. Unbeknownst to his parents when he was born in the home of his maternal grandfather and pioneer physician, Dr. Orson Nichoson, Stewart would become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and a pioneer in the pharmaceutical industry. The family relocated to Philadelphia in 1872 when Jonathan Stewart accepted a position as superintendent of the American Dredging Company in that location.… More

“And When We Die We Shall Go to the Pullman Hell”


“The Condition of the Laboring Man at Pullman” Political Cartoon, circa 1894

Vol. 5, No. 9

March 3rd marks the 188th birthday of George Mortimer Pullman, born in 1831 to James Lewis and Emily Caroline Minton Pullman. In 1845, George had reached the age of 14 and received a sufficient level of education in the common schools to enter the workforce. It was around this time that James Pullman brought his family to Albion, “where he became widely known as a useful and upright citizen,” according to W. B. Cook.

The untimely death of James in 1853 forced George to care for his mother and younger siblings. Working as a cabinetmaker, Pullman was best known locally for building furniture in a business that would eventually transition through the hands of George Ough, to the partnership of Reynolds & Flintham, to J. B. Merrill, and eventually transition to the business formerly known as Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Home.… More

When Coal Was King

Vol. 5, No. 8

This photograph shows John Howard’s Coal Yard, located at the “foot” of North Clinton Street on the south side of the Erie Canal around 1904/05. Born August 23, 1868 at Albion, Howard would eventually enter the business that his father William Alanson Howard started in 1870. The coal sheds in this image were likely constructed around 1873.

According to a 1903 business directory, several other coal yards were operating in Albion. Morgan & Linson and Ezra Skinner both operated yards on Clinton Street near the New York Central Railroad crossing while Charles Porter and the Shourds Brothers operated yards in the vicinity of East Bank and Platt streets. In this particular operation, a packet boat delivered coal by way of the Erie Canal. When the boat docked on the south side of the Canal, a team of workers shoveled coal into a large bucket which was then hoisted up to a second-story opening.… More

Albion Dentist Patented Improvement for False Teeth

Vol. 5, No. 4

On January 26, 1875, the first electric drill was patented by George Green of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Although the device revolutionized dentistry, it fails to negate the fact that so many of us dislike our regular visits to the dentist.

This advertisement, taken from the 1869 Orleans County Directory, shows an advertisement for Doolittle & Straight in Albion. The two dentists, located on the second floor of the Granite Block on the southwest corner of North Main and West Bank streets, operated this business during the 1860s and 1870s.

Horace Doolittle, at the time of his death, was believed to be the oldest practicing dentist in New York State at the age of 86. Born and raised in Malta, New York, Doolittle relocated to Rochester at the age of 18 to study dentistry in the office of Dr. Ansel Morgan for a period of two years. In 1850, he moved to Albion and opened a practice with Dr.… More

Hollywood Prize Fighter with Roots in Albion

Vol. 5, No. 3

The pages of the sacramental register at St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Albion contain an entry for the marriage of Antoni Stabenau of Buffalo to Marianna Gminska of Albion. The couple was married by Ks. Piotr Basinski on January 24, 1899 and removed to Buffalo soon after. Marianna’s father, Simon Gminski, remained in Albion where he worked as a quarry laborer until his death in 1920.

On July 23, 1901, Marianna gave birth to her first son, Anthony, in Buffalo. The young Stabenau’s early life remains somewhat of a mystery until May 14, 1923, when he made his debut as a boxer. That evening, Stabenau started his amateur heavyweight career facing Dixie Kid at the Broadway Auditorium in Buffalo. Although his first match ended in a draw, he went on to win eight straight fights; some newspaper articles claimed his win-streak extended to 17 with 15 knockouts.… More

The First Lady of American Football

Vol. 5, No. 2

Medina claims Frances Folsom Cleveland, an official First Lady of the United States of America, as her own and in 1952 apparently tried to claim the First Lady of American Football as well. Henry Clune wrote in a September 16th edition of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that he “…expressed the opinion that the wife of the former famous University of Chicago coach, [Alonzo Stagg], had come from Medina.” Fred Tanner of Albion quickly pointed out that Clune was incorrect.[i]

Another football season has passed and there is no playoff football for fans of the Buffalo Bills. Instead, I received a rather interesting message from Daniel Hurley earlier this week highlighting an old newspaper clipping authored by County Historian Arden McAllister in the early 1970s. In this article, McAllister notes that he held in his possession “a picture of the Class of 1891 of Albion High School which includes a young woman he says may be perhaps the only unofficial woman football coach in history.” So instead of watching the Bills push for the Lombardi Trophy, a quick read about Orleans County’s connection to one of the greatest football pioneers will fill that void.… More

Albion’s Meeting of the Ku Klux Klan

Vol. 4, No. 51

This photograph, taken September 7, 1925, shows the Western New York Province 8 Klonverse held at the Orleans County Fairgrounds on the western end of the Village of Albion. The term klonverse is likely foreign to most readers, as it should be, since the term was used to describe a convention of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Pulled from a collection of negatives within the Department of History, the photograph shows a number of robed men intermingled with common folk at the conclusion of a parade through Albion. Papers throughout Western New York published news of the impending gathering, the Buffalo Evening News noting that this particular meeting was the first of its kind in Orleans County.

Chester Harding, president of the Orleans County Agricultural Society rented the fairgrounds to the Klan for $100 “…and considerable criticism [was] heard of the action,” and Hiram Wesley Evans, Imperial Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from Atlanta, Georgia, was scheduled to headline the festivities.… More