Vol. 4, No. 12
While cataloging the Department of History’s collection of rare books, I came across a small booklet entitled From Serfdom to Culture written by “a white-haired Rochester confectioner” named Alfred F. Little in 1939. Interestingly enough, my discovery of this item happened in the same way in which C. W. Lattin encountered this story back in 1996.
Presented with two volumes from a blind Chinese woman named Jessie Gutzlaff, Little felt encouraged to record a few brief memories regarding the life of a remarkable woman. As he wrote nearly 80 years ago, “few persons, if any, now living in Albion, ever heard of Miss Gutzlaff, or knew of her connection with the village…” Those two volumes, authored by Samuel Smiles, were donated to the Swan Library in 1910.
The story of Jessie Gutzlaff dates back to 1842 when, as a young girl, she arrived in New York City with two other Chinese girls named Fanny and Eliza, all three accompanied by Mary Gutzlaff.… More
Vol. 4, No. 11
Over 200 years ago, Caroline Phipps was born near Rome, New York on March 2, 1812 to Joseph and Mary Eames Phipps. Arad Thomas writes in the Pioneer History of Orleans County that her “early education was superintended by her father with more than ordinary care at home, though she had the advantages of the best private schools and of the district schools in the vicinity.” After her father relocated the family to Barre, Caroline attended school at Eagle Harbor before starting her career in teaching at the young age of 14 in a one-room schoolhouse at Gaines Basin. It is presumed, based on available information, that Phipps was the school teacher while Charles Anderson Dana was attending the log schoolhouse (Overlooked Orleans: v.1, no.13).
A passionate educator even at a young age, Phipps enrolled in the Gaines Academy at the age of 20 and eventually attended the Nichols Ladies’ School at Whitesboro, New York.… More
Vol. 4, No. 5
The history of Orleans County’s African American population in the earliest decades of our area is scarce and unknown in many aspects. Some residents may be familiar with the story of Richard Gordineer who, as an infant, was sold by his father to Joseph Grant; Grant eventually settled in the Shelby/Medina area. After New York abolished slavery in 1827, Gordineer became a free man and a well-respected citizen of Medina. Other stories involve families, like those of Henry Spencer and Jacob Carter, who came to Western New York with local Union army officers at the conclusion of the Civil War.
Spencer came to Orleans County with Lt. Hiram Sickels of the 17th New York Light Independent Artillery sometime around 1866. After earning enough money working for George Sickels, he brought his wife and children to this area. One of Spencer’s sons, Henry Austin, spent the majority of his teenage years working for Asa and William Howard as an errand boy until he reached adulthood.… More
Volume 3, Issue 33
Studying the earliest history of Orleans County shows us that education was a foundational element on which our pioneer settlers invested a great deal of funds and effort. The Yates Academy, Phipps Union Seminary, and Albion Academy, all represent prestigious institutions that produced prominent and influential attorneys, politicians, educators, and philosophers. Perhaps one of the most notable products of one of these institutions was Ely S. Parker, the Native American from Indian Falls who attended the Yates Academy and later served as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs under President Grant.
This photograph shows Professor Charles G. Fairman, an important figure in the growth of the Yates Academy. Born on August 6, 1823 at Northfield, Massachusetts, Fairman was educated at the Townshend Academy in Vermont, the Black River Academy, the Hancock Literary & Scientific Institute of New Hampshire, and Waterville College (now Colby College). Shortly after his graduation from Waterville, he travelled to Orleans County to teach in the Yates Academy where his skills as an educator earned him an early promotion to the position of principal in 1853.… More
Volume 3, Issue 14
This photograph, taken circa 1917, shows the Ladies’ Triangular Debating League Society of Medina High School. Seated center is Myra Coon, behind her is Ethel Willis, and left to right is Florence Gray and Doris Webb. The Interscholastic Triangular Debating League was established in 1910 and provided teams of boys and girls from Albion, Medina, and Lockport to debate against one another on preselected topics. Each school would submit three questions and the schools would vote to select one of nine submitted questions. The question returning the highest number of votes was used for that year’s debates.
The debate teams argued on topics that were pertinent to current events at the time, just as debate teams today do. Going back to 1913, the selected question was “Resolved, that the Government should own and control all coal mines of the United States.” The Medina boys won the debate with a unanimous 3-0 decision, while the Medina girls won in a split 2-1 decision.… More
Volume 2, Issue 20
This image of Lt. Col. Henry Ludwig Achilles shows him garbed in his Union officer’s uniform taken sometime around 1862 at the studio of George Hopkins in Albion. A New Hampshire native, Achilles established himself in Rochester as a young entrepreneur and man of religious conviction. As an established tinsmith, he was responsible for starting one of the first foundries in Rochester where he engaged in the manufacturing and sale of sheet metal and tin. His early successes in business allowed him to contribute to the purchase of property for the construction of the First Baptist Church of Rochester of which he was a superintendent in the early 1830s.
When the First Baptist Church split into two congregations due to the overwhelming growth of the group, he assisted in establishing the Second Baptist Church in Rochester and was selected as one of its first trustees. As a respected gentleman in the city, he served a short term as town clerk of Brighton and local fire inspector.… More
Volume 2, Issue 16
As the American Library Association closes 2016’s National Library Week, we take a look back at this interior image of the Swan Library taken in 1900. This year’s theme for library week was “Libraries Transform,” meaning libraries transform the lives of those who use them and transform the communities they serve. Of course, this also means libraries physically transform how they serve their communities.
This image shows the north room of the library known as the reading room, one of the few public spaces in the original building. We see a sign atop one of the tables in the rear of the room that says “HUSH,” the library’s original reference section with two shelves in the back, and numerous resources set out on the tables. Miss Lillian Achilles sits at the front desk, situated to look over the reading room, and the antiquated card catalog positioned near the librarian.… More
Volume 2, Issue 10
In the earliest years of settlement in Orleans County, the establishment of religious and educational institutions was of the upmost importance. Pioneers cleared their land of trees, constructed cabins, planted crops, and once all other necessities were met, established rural schools to educate their children. In Albion, Caroline Phipps Achilles became a driving force behind the creation of female-only institutions for education when she constructed her seminary in 1840.
It was soon after that other academies developed throughout the region including the Albion Academy and Yates Academy, which would produce highly successful and industrious graduates. These tuition-driven institutes provided a valuable service to the community, although limited to those families who could afford it. The concept of using taxation to support the common school system allowed for the creation of the union school, providing education beyond the rural one-room schoolhouse.
Freeman Abram Greene was a product of the early academy system.… More
Volume 2, Issue 5
George W. Ough, pronounced “Uff”, was born on February 12, 1827 at Cherry Valley, New York. As a child, he worked on the family farm in Otsego County until he reached the age of fourteen, when he moved north to Fort Plain, New York to work as a store clerk. Following a short stay in Lockport, Ough later moved to Albion where he operated a crockery store, which he later sold to purchase the furniture business formerly owned by George M. Pullman. His eldest daughter, Jennie, later married Cassius M. C. Reynolds who would eventually take over the business located in the Ough Block on North Main Street.
By the late 1890s, Ough had the distinction of being one of the longest tenured members of the Albion Board of Education, of which he was a founding member. After he was elected to his first term as President of the Village of Albion, he resigned his position on the Board of Education.… More
Old-Time Orleans, Vol. 1, Issue 6
MURRAY – This image taken in the late 1920s shows the interior of a classroom at the Murray District No. 6 School located on the corner of West Brockville and Fancher roads. Unlike other rural schoolhouses in the area, this building had four classrooms used to teach over 100 students enrolled in the district.
This particular school was constructed in 1911 and was likely built to accommodate the Italian families living in the area. Guy D’Amico served as the first teacher and instructed all eight grades in three of the classrooms. Mabel Brockway and Ella Clark were the last two teachers to serve the district.
The school was closed in 1947 and in 1955 the district allowed the Fancher Legion Post to use the building following a devastating fire that burned their former post building the previous year. When the Fancher Post disbanded in 1971, a heated debate over ownership ensued.… More