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
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
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
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 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 44
This stunning photograph shows the storefront of John DeValson Daniels, a local jeweler who operated his business out of the old Empire Block at the intersection of North Main and East Bank Streets. Daniels, standing to the left and wearing a hat, ran this successful commercial venture for nearly fifty years when he finally retired from the profession in 1935.
John Daniels was raised at Whitney Point, New York, where he attended the local schools until 1878 when he left to join his father in the jewelry business. Nearly ten years later, in 1887, he arrived at Albion and purchased this business from Hiram W. Preston the following year. His specialties, according to advertisements, included watches, clocks, jewelry, silverware, optical goods, musical instruments, and bric-a-brac (tchotchkes), which he sold out of “The Old Corner Store.”
It is clear that Daniels was fond of leisure activities, including cycling, as he assisted in the formation of the Albion Cycle Club in 1895 and was appointed as a sidepath commissioner charged with overseeing the construction of bicycle paths in areas west and northwest of the village.… More
Volume 3, Issue 41
The annals of local history are filled with stories of men who worked their way up the social ladder, starting from humble beginnings before leaving a lasting mark on the community. John Newton Proctor was no different. The son of Gershom and Emily Holland Proctor, John’s family was not in a position to provide him with an exceptional education. As a young boy, he attended the district schools in Gaines before enrolling in the well-respected Gaines Academy.
As an astute businessman in his later life, Proctor started his career as a clerk with Erastus Woodruff of Gaines and after two years ventured into Albion to seek employment with William Gere. The young man quickly earned the respect of his employer as a trustworthy and hardworking individual and was brought in as a partner in the business. Following Gere’s untimely death in July of 1865, the partnership transitioned to his son Isaac and remained in operation until his new partner died from dysentery the following year.… More
Volume 3, Issue 39
Taken sometime around 1913, this image shows the building occupied by William J. Gallagher’s transfer company on North Main Street in Medina. Situated out front is a wagon owned by Gibbons & Stone, a local dealer in pianos and organs. A man stands in the entryway to the building and a pile of wheels and axles are piled up on the front corner. A fleet of wagons are parked out front to the right of the building’s main door and the Erie Canal is visible in the background.
Originally opened by George Hall as “Dime Delivery,” William Gallagher purchased this business in 1906 and quickly began the process of expanding and developing the outfit. Prior to his entry into the moving industry, Gallagher spent two years working as a rural mail carrier out of the Medina Post Office. Shortly after this photograph was taken, William Gallagher’s Moving Vans outfit outgrew its current space and eventually relocated to a site on Orient and East Center streets.… More
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