Orleans County’s Elite Led Temperance Reform Efforts

Volume 3, Issue 47

Following the passing of New York’s amendment that extended voting rights to women in 1917, the subsequent election involving the question of whether Albion would remain a “wet” or “dry” town was decided by the female vote. Although the vote was later deemed invalid, the local temperance organizations mobilized a sufficient number of new voters to end the sale of alcohol in Orleans County, even if only for a brief moment.

This Thomas Nast cartoon appeared in Harper’s Weekly on March 21, 1874 and depicted the debaucheries commonly associated with the saloon. A man of the middle-class accepts a drink of rum from the bartender who is depicted as death. The man’s young daughter pleads for her father to come home while his son looks on with concern and a man lays to the right, passed out in the corner of the room. In the distance is the man’s home and his wife, dressed in black, weeps behind her children.… More

Setting the Record Straight: William Stafford’s Spiteful Sale of the Proctor Homestead

Volume 3, Issue 43

The trial of George Wilson, accused of murdering his wife Alice in 1887, remains one of the most infamous stories in Orleans County. His trial and execution is a tale filled with speculation and accusation, while the later story of District Attorney William P. L. Stafford is shrouded in spite and hatred following his upsetting defeat in the 1895 election for County Judge. Despite its popularity, much of the story exists as hyperbole and conjecture concerning Stafford’s motives following his embarrassing loss.

I was contacted by Gerard Morrisey following my article featuring John Newton Proctor and kindly reminded that the property, which was so scandalously sold to the Catholics by William Stafford, was in fact sold by his wife Clara. It is important to trace the lineage of the property itself to better understand the situation in which the Staffords were faced with in 1896. It is also important to note that in 1848, New York passed the Married Women’s Property Act that gave married women the right to own real and personal property that was not “subject to the disposal of her husband.”

John Newton Proctor entered the employ of William Gere upon his arrival in Albion and shortly after married Gere’s daughter, Orcelia.… 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

Sheriff’s Tenure Marred by Local KKK Activity

Volume 2, Issue 48

The history of Orleans County at the turn of the 20th century is dotted with snippets of crimes, both infamous and petty, covering intoxication and theft on one end of the spectrum up to homicide and murder on the other. With the enactment of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 came a decade-long period of crime and corruption marred by illegal booze manufacturing, rum running, racketeering, and murder. Local men, such as Horace Kelsey, were tasked with the role of Sheriff and found themselves responsible for many of these cases.

Kelsey was born on October 13, 1866 and was raised in Carlton and Murray, working on area farms as a young man. His earliest experiences with the criminal justice system resulted from his work as a custodian for the courthouse and jailor at the county jail. His name was put forth as a candidate for county sheriff in 1922, which he easily defeated his opponent, Charles Bacon of Medina.… More

Albionite Speculated Bank’s Wealth on Wall Street

Volume 2, Issue 45

One of the most infamous stories to occupy the annals of Orleans County history is that of Albion resident Albert S. Warner. Regarded as one of the most “flamboyant” citizens in the area, Warner was a prominent and respected member of local society who participated heavily in Democratic politics, serving as County Treasurer in 1869 and president of the Albion Board of Education in 1881.

In 1863, Roswell and Lorenzo Burrows reorganized the Bank of Albion into the First National Bank of Albion, placing Roswell at the helm of the institution as bank president. An extremely wealthy man, Burrows invested heavily in mid-west real estate, coal mining in Virginia, railroad bonds, stock in the Suspension Bridge Company at Niagara Falls, and countless other securities. One day, the young Albert Warner ventured into the bank in search of a job; Burrows took a liking to “Allie” and hired him immediately.… 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

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

1885 County Jail One of Four on Same Site

Volume 2, Issue 19

Nearly 180 years ago, the first jail in Orleans County was constructed at Court House Square of hewn timbers. Prior to the completion of that building, jail cells in the basement of the first court house were used to hold prisoners. During the county’s infancy, criminals were sent to Batavia for confinement.

This image shows the second jail, constructed of stone, as it would have appeared in 1885. Looking south on Platt Street, we see Sheriff Sullivan E. Howard of Holley seated in the front lawn of the jail. The wood structure to the right of the jail provided housing for the sheriff and his family. To the immediate right of the sheriff’s home and just out of view sits the court house. We can assume that the woman seated in the hammock to the left of Sheriff Howard is his wife Phina Cole Howard, their son William Howard leaning against the tree and their daughter Bessie Howard is likely one of the two young women seated in the front windows.… More

Canned Moonshine: Troopers Seize Largest Still in County History

L-R: NYS Trooper J. P. Fisher, Undersheriff Lawrence Higley, Sheriff Ross Hollenbeck, Deputy Matthew McGlen, NYS Trooper, B. L. Brine.

Volume 2, Issue 18

Taken on October 13, 1927, these five men headed one of the largest raids on an illegal liquor manufacturing operation in Orleans County. Pictured from left to right are NYS Trooper J. P. Fisher, Undersheriff Lawrence Higley, Sheriff Ross Hollenbeck, Deputy Matthew McGlen, and NYS Trooper B. L. DeBrine; the plate on the motorcycle shows that the men were stationed at the Troop A barracks in Batavia.

Just after midnight on the 13th of October, police surrounded the abandoned canning factory once owned by Thomas Page at the corner of King Street and West Avenue. Upon entering the building they located one the largest alcohol stills ever seen in the area, allowing for the manufacture of over 5,000 gallons of moonshine liquor. Also seized was a truck carrying 205 gallons of alcohol stored in 5 gallon cans, which was to be shipped to Rochester that night.… More

Noted Albion Attorney Presided Over “Boss” Tweed Trial

Standing (l-r): Charles Henry Moore, Julius Heath Royce. Seated (l-r): Joseph Mason Cornell, Judge Noah Davis, Norman Spafford Field.

Volume 2, Issue 1

Taken sometime in the early 1880s, this image shows five of Albion’s most prominent and well respected citizens. Heavily engaged in commercial interests and local politics, we would consider these men as the “movers and shakers” of their time.

Seated center is the Hon. Noah Davis, one of the most notable attorneys and politicians from Orleans County. Born September 10, 1818 to Noah and Freelove Davis in New Hampshire, Noah was brought to Orleans County at a very young age and received his early education in the public schools of this area. After studying at the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary at Lima, NY, Davis studied law for a brief time in Lewiston before his admittance to the bar in 1841. Several years of practicing law at Gainesville and Buffalo concluded his endeavors in that region and he soon returned to Albion.… More