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
Vol. 5, No. 39
October is American Archives Month and is a wonderful opportunity to feature some of the collections within the Department of History. Although the County Historian maintains an extensive collection of published works, documents, photographs, ephemera, and other paper materials, a number of textile and 3D artifacts exist within the office. This “prize banner,” awarded to the Orleans District Lodge of the I.O.G.T. (2019.010), recognizes the organization’s membership growth during the 1908-09 year.
Established in 1850 as the Knights of Jericho by Daniel Cady, the organization merged the following year with a similar lodge from Oriskany Falls to form the Order of Good Templars. A schism in the organization in 1852 caused a number of members to form the Independent Order of Good Templars, renumbering Excelsior Lodge of Syracuse from Lodge No. 14 to Lodge No. 1. Although it started as a fraternal organization, the I.O.G.T. mission spanned beyond abstinence from alcohol.… More
Vol. 5, No. 12
The recent vote by the Hoag Library Board of Trustees to sell the 26th U.S. Colored Troops “National Color” in March has raised questions about local connections to that particular unit and other Colored Infantry regiments. U.S.C.T. regiments, established under the direction of the Bureau for Colored Troops, appointed white officers to lead black soldiers. According to a dissertation entitled “The Selection and Preparation of White Officers for the Command of Black Troops in the American Civil War,” by Paul Renard, the government utilized various methods of electing officers to lead U.S.C.T. regiments. Early U.S.C.T. regiment officers were selected by a board of divisional officers while others were selected in a process similar to white regiments. Renard argues that the selection of officers through an examination board overseen by the Bureau for Colored Troops was the most effective method used.
Racism permeated throughout the Union Army, which refused equal pay to black soldiers and relegated segregated units to manual labor behind the front lines.… More
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
Vol. 4, No. 50
The Christmas season is upon us and it is customary to write a piece about Charlie Howard, his Santa Claus School, or Christmas Park. If I had the privilege of sitting on Howard’s lap, what would I ask for? Simple answer; historic preservation.
Unfortunately, our history is marred by poor decisions even though we make some of those decisions with the best intentions. The protection of our historic treasurers is perhaps the best representation of this. Material culture serves a valuable purpose in the process of interpreting the past. Void of any physical representation of past cultures, we would lose all ability to understand the lives of those who lived without a voice.
Historic preservation is one of the four basic functions of the municipal historian; preservation of documents, records, diaries, ephemera, and photographs, but also the preservation of structures deemed important to the history of our communities.… More
Vol. 4, No. 37
Some of the best local history stories are those that are rediscovered and built upon by each historian. While organizing a collection of newspaper clippings, I stumbled upon a particular story that holds a special place in my heart. “Why the Bell Rings,” vol. XXIX no. 1 of Bethinking of Old Orleans authored by Bill Lattin recounts a story relating to St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Albion. His discovery of a newspaper clipping within a scrapbook led him to write a short piece about the Angelus Bell.
As a young boy, I can recall the frequent tolling of the bell at our parish on Brown Street. In my naiveté I thought for sure that the evening bell was a simple curfew reminder, but over the years I have developed an appreciation for the deeper meaning of the scheduled bell tolling. Even though the bells now stand silent, except for the Sunday call to service, the story is an important one centered on tradition and faith.… More
Vol. 4, No. 10
A question recently surfaced following my last article about Elizabeth Denio, one pertaining to the life of the pioneer settler Elizabeth Gilbert of Gaines. The question made me think about how women have appeared in the earliest recollections of our area’s history, if they make an appearance at all. I was reading through Carol Kammen’s On Doing Local History and focused in on a common pitfall of local historians; trusting the published local historical narrative. What Kammen means by this is that we often fail to revise “what is held as truth.”
Much of our understanding of local history in Orleans County comes from the pages of Arad Thomas’ Pioneer History of Orleans County and Isaac Signor’s Landmarks of Orleans County, the second publication drawing from the chapters of Thomas’ publication. In these pages, the pioneer woman rarely makes an appearance and when she does her name is obscured by the significance of her husband.… More
Volume 4, Issue 4
As we near Black History Month in February, I was researching local African American families in Orleans County and attempting to assemble an understanding of this particular topic in local history. Without a doubt, it is an area that requires deeper research and is indicative of larger gaps in our understanding of how history was traditionally recorded; ideas of power and disparity. I am assembling a small display of local historical photographs pertaining to African American communities in Orleans County from the 1820s through the 1920s, which will be on display at the Hoag Library in February, but I thought it pertinent to recall some early pieces of abolitionist history in our area.
In 2015, the Orleans Renaissance Group erected a historic marker in Medina to commemorate the site of an address delivered by Frederick Douglass entitled “We Are Not Yet Quite Free,” on August 3, 1869.… 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 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