Volume 3, Issue 40
The collections within the Department of History contain newspaper clippings, genealogies, published histories, and photographs, but a number of interesting artifacts and ephemera items serve as a window into Orleans County’s material culture. This photograph shows a collection of souvenir tickets from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, Illinois. The collection once belonged to Dr. Frank Haak Lattin, a dealer in natural specimens, a physician, and Assemblyman from New York.
Nearly 125 years ago, the United States prepared to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the new world in 1492. In order to host this massive event, 200 new but temporary buildings were constructed upon 600 acres of land using neoclassical architecture. A large central pool represented the long cross-Atlantic voyage of Columbus four centuries prior, a true symbol of American exceptionalism. Dedicated on October 21, 1892, the fair officially opened to the public on May 1, 1893 and ran through October 30, 1893.… More
Chester Harding (American, 1792 – 1866 ), Self-Portrait, c. 1825, oil on canvas, Andrew W. Mellon Collection
Vol. 3, Issue 18
A considerable amount of information that appears within the pages of this column often constitutes some sort of overlooked aspect of Orleans County. On occasion, I have the privilege of writing about something that is truly ignored, or perhaps long forgotten in our area’s history. The story of Chester and Horace Harding is one of those stories of men who, at one time or another, passed through our corner of Western New York while leaving their mark on history.
Born at Conway, Massachusetts, the fourth child of twelve to Abiel and Olive Smith, Chester Harding grew up in a large family with a poor economic disposition. Abiel was a veteran of the American Revolution, working in a distillery and claiming status as an “inventor.” Failing to create anything of need or want in this endeavor, the family had little money which often forced the elder siblings to care for themselves.… More
Photograph courtesy of the Wellcome Trust of London, England licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Volume 3, Issue 10
Perhaps one of the most frequently overlooked story in Orleans County history is that of Silas Mainville Burroughs and the development of the pharmaceutical company that would become one of the largest in the world. The son of Silas M. Burroughs and Laura Bennett of Medina, Mainville as he was called by friends and family was born on December 24, 1846. At the age of five he suffered the loss of his mother and nearly nine years later his father, a Republican Congressman, died unexpectedly leaving an aunt and uncle to raise the young boy.
After attending local schools in Medina, Burroughs attended the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy where he qualified for graduation in 1877. His thesis focused on the development of compressed tablets as a more effective alternative to the traditional rolled pills; the former dissolved far better in water than the latter.… More
Volume 3, Issue 7
The records of Orleans County history are quite definitive concerning the role in which George M. Pullman played in the development of his famed sleeping cars. What appears to be left for interpretation is the specific role in which local politician Benjamin Collins Field played in that venture. It is clear that without the aid of Mr. Field that Pullman’s vision for the palace car may never have come to fruition.
Born June 12, 1816 at Dorset, Vermont, Ben was brought to Albion around 1828. His father Spafford was a marble dealer and operated a business out of the Lockport area for a number of years in conjunction with his son Norman. As a young man, Ben read law with Alexis Ward of Albion before his admittance to the bar. He worked with his father’s business, engaging in headstone lettering and marble cutting before determining that politics was of interest.… More
Volume 3, Issue 3
On occasion I stumble across rather interesting photographs that grab my attention; either the image itself is intriguing or the inscription contains a fascinating tidbit of information. While uncovering a box of photographs and albums, I discovered an image with the inscription “F. J. Wickham Lyndonville, N.Y. this man went to Panama and helped build the Panama Canal.” So who was Mr. F. J. Wickham and how did he end up in Panama?
Born to Samuel Kenyon Wickham in Yates, Jeremiah Fernando Wickham grew up in Orleans County with his brothers George and Dewitt working the family farm and attending the district schools of the area. When the Civil War broke out in 1861 both Dewitt and Jeremiah enlisted with the 8th New York Heavy Artillery, but Jeremiah despised his first name (his grandfather’s name) and elected to enlist under his middle name. He served the duration of the war while earning the rank of corporal, his brother Dewitt rising to the rank of lieutenant.… More
Volume 2, Issue 52
There is no better way to reflect upon the holiday season than to recall the story behind the foundation of the world’s first Santa Claus school established in Albion. Thankfully, the history of the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School was recorded in 1966 in Charlie Howard’s own words before his passing on May 1st of that year.
As a young child, Howard enjoyed crafting toy furniture and wagons from wood, which friends and neighbors adored so much that they often gifted them to loved ones. His mother sewed a suit for him as a boy to play the role of Santa Claus as he was “a short fat boy.” Wearing a “false face,” his blue eyes were filled with joy but he felt the mask was “more frightening to children than his own.”
He always admired the store Santa, but was never able to work up the courage to do it himself.… More
Volume 2, Issue 36
As many of us prepare to enjoy a few moments of vacation time this Labor Day, it is important to reflect upon the origins of the holiday. Today, we see the first Monday in September as an official end to the summer season; a day for picnics, trips, and rest. Yet over 100 years ago, the federal holiday was established as a day to honor the American labor movement and the continued commitment of the U.S. labor force to the development of the country.
In the 1840s, a young George Pullman arrived in Albion with his father’s family and settled down in the village. Pullman’s father, James, was a prominent member of the Universalist Church in Brocton, NY and often filled the pulpit in that vicinity in the absence of a minister. Upon their arrival in Orleans County, the Pullmans attended the nearest Universalist society, which was located in the town of Gaines.… More
Volume 2, Issue 27
Orleans County boasts a long an impressive lineage of entrepreneurs, inventors, and local celebrities so it should be no surprise that this week’s column features yet another area native who developed an illustrious career for himself. The child of John Babbage and Fanny Wescott, Edward Frederick Babbage was born along the Oak Orchard River in Carlton, New York around 1841. His mother was an English immigrant arriving in the United States in 1837 and marrying her husband the following year.
After spending their earliest years in Orleans County, the Babbage family relocated to Rochester where the father worked as a fruit peddler. It is said that Edward was always on the “large” side, being exceptionally big at the age of six and weighing in at 200 pounds at the age of fourteen. His interests were varied, so much of his early working career was spent experimenting in various vocations; first as a hotel porter, then as a hotel manager, a traveling salesman, museum manager, and eventually a glassblower.… More
Volume 2, Issue 6
I received a few calls and inquiries about Thomas A. Kirby following the recent news article highlighting newly established scholarships through the Albion Central School District – who was he and why a scholarship in his name? Albion Council #1330 Knights of Columbus developed an annual memorial award for a deserving graduating senior who showed commitment and service to the community. This image shows Thomas A. Kirby as a young man, a freshly minted lawyer eager to establish a local partnership in Albion. The photograph is paired in the collection with that of Thomas L. Hughes.
Thomas Kirby was born on March 22, 1869 in Albion to John and Catherine Hayes Kirby. As a young man, he was no stranger to patriotic duty and service to the community. Undoubtedly a young Thomas would have heard the stories told by his father, who served with the 8th New York Cavalry during the Civil War, was taken prisoner at Gettysburg, and sent to Andersonville Prison Camp.… More
Image courtesy of The Fort Dalles Museum in Oregon
Volume 2, Issue 4
Born July 26, 1822 at Albany, New York to Rufus and Margaret Bullock Brown, Joseph Lee Bullock Brown received his early education in the Albany area. He later attended the Albany Medical College where he graduated from that institution, likely in the early 1840s and shortly after the establishment of the school in 1839.
Appointed physician at Clinton Prison in 1845, the year after the institution was established, Dr. Brown remained in that position for nearly three years before he removed to Detroit, Michigan to practice surgery.
In 1849, he received an appointment as a surgeon with the U.S. Regular Army and received a commission as Assistant Surgeon from Zachary Taylor the following year. Stationed at Ft. Dalles in the Oregon Territory, Dr. Brown also served in Texas and the Washington Territory up until the start of the Civil War.… More