Orleans I.O.G.T. Received Banner for Membership Growth

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

Blacksmiths Provided Essential Services for Local Farmers

Vol. 5, No. 17

Taken after 1903, this photograph shows the blacksmith shop of Frank W. Donohue as it appeared on Mechanic Street in Holley, just south of Public Square. This building and the billiards room showing to the left were situated south of the block currently occupied by Holley Falls Bar & Grill. Frank “Duff” Donohue, pictured right, stands in front of his business with George Jenks (left) and Joseph Haight (middle). Mag the horse is the centerpiece of this photo, demonstrating the work primarily carried out by blacksmith shops; the sign reads “F. W. Donohue, Horse Shoeing and Repairing.”

At the time this photograph was taken, all three men were well versed in the work of the blacksmith. Originally a native of Albion, Joseph Haight worked as a stableman before entering the blacksmith trade. He eventually relocated to Sandy Creek where he opened a blacksmith shop on Rt. 237 just north of Rt.… More

Express Train Collides with Locomotive in Holley, 1926

Vol. 5, No. 1

This photograph, taken September 25, 1926, shows the aftermath of a locomotive collision at Holley. Looking south on South Main Street, the Holley Electric building is pictured on the left. A few individuals are in the vicinity, including a young girl standing between the tall white fence and truck along the left side of the road. Upon closer inspection, a bicycle is lying on the curb near the railroad overpass, possibly left there by the girl.

At 3:33pm on September 24, 1926, an express train, Engine 3373, pulling 28 cars and two coaches departed the Fancher station on the New York Central Railroad. Meanwhile, Engine 485 operating at a local quarry just east of Holley was pulling two cars along a segment of track. According to reports following the accident, Engine 485 was switching cars near the Holley station located immediately west of the railroad overpass as the express train approached.… More

All I Want for Christmas is Historic Preservation

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

Holley High School

Vol. 4, No. 49

After years of diligent work by the residents of Holley, the long-term preservation of the old Holley High School is finally secure. Historians commend those who undertake such noble work as communities so often set aside the difficult task of investing in historic treasures, instead investing in new construction as a symbol of “progress.”

The history of this particular structure dates back to 1930, but the story of the particular lot upon which it rests dates back to the 1840s. In 1847, the community selected Hiram Frisbee, Augustus Southworth, and William Hatch as members of a committee tasked with gathering subscriptions to establish an academy. This industrious team procured the necessary resources – money, lumber, millwork, timber, lime, brick, building stone, plows, boots and shoes, teaming (horses), and labor – so that a two-story brick building could be constructed on a $300 lot of land donated by Frisbee.… More

Growth of Sandstone Industry Driven by Immigrants

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

Gandy Dancers Provided Maintenance Services to Local Railroads

Vol. 4, No. 33

This rather interesting photograph shows five men working as part of a section gang along the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad. It is believed that this particular crossing was located somewhere in the town of Kendall and the photograph was taken September 11, 1897. The men appear to have stopped for dinner (the midday meal) as several metal pails appear on the car. One of the young men appears to be holding his pocket watch as if to show that it is noontime.

The Lake Ontario Shore Railroad was chartered in 1858, and like all great projects, was delayed for nearly ten years until the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad Company was formed on March 27, 1868. It would take another three years before construction commenced at Red Creek, New York and within two years the railway was operational from Ontario, Wayne County to Oswego. The rails eventually stretched to Kendall but the Panic of 1873 forced the company’s mortgage bonds to be called in early, which drove the railroad into bankruptcy.… More

Holley Woman Survived Titanic Disaster, 106 Years Ago

Vol. 4, No. 15

April 14th marks the 106th anniversary of the sinking of the R.M.S. Titanic and although I share a common surname, I can assure you that Dr. Robert Ballard is no direct relative of mine (that I am aware of). On that fateful day in 1912, the exquisitely decorated vessel struck an iceberg at 11:40pm and was fully submerged within a matter of three hours. Of the 2,224 passengers, over 1,500 perished in the frigid waters of the Atlantic Ocean nearly 400 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, making it one of the most devastating maritime disasters in modern history.

Over the years, newspapers have recounted the stories of survivors while paying tribute to the victims as each landmark anniversary passes. Of the most notable local residents connected to the catastrophe, the story of Lillian Bentham of Holley is most frequently recalled. Of course, the story of May Howard (buried in Boxwood Cemetery) is also shared.… More

Holley Native Became Johnson & Johnson Matriarch

Vol. 4, No. 14

After a three-year stay in Medina, Frances Folsom became one of the area’s most beloved young women after her marriage to President Grover Cleveland. Yet I was hoping that March would provide me with six Saturdays to write about notable women from Orleans County, but I suppose that I should not feel limited to writing about such subjects to a single month!

The only lasting local memory of Evangeline Brewster Armstrong exists within a stained glass window at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Holley. The window reads, “Presented by Mrs. Evangeline A. Johnson A.D. 1894” featuring an image of St. Paul “posed in this window holding a book and pointing upward to heaven as though he were giving a benediction,” as described by C.W. Lattin. Evangeline was born in 1865 at Rochester, New York to Edwin Rutherford Armstrong and Martha Gifford, who were married on August 13, 1857.… More

Orleans County Defeated Suffrage Amendment in 1917

Volume 3, Issue 46

On November 6, 1917, half way across the world, the October Uprising was in full swing as the Bolsheviks led a revolution against the Tsarist government of Russia. In the United States, New York voters decided that it was time to extend suffrage to women.

Orleans County was at the center of suffragist activity and notes pertaining to Susan B. Anthony’s visits to the area can be found within the local papers. As early as October of 1859, Anthony attended a local women’s rights convention along with Frances Dana Barker Gage and Hannah Tracy Cutler, noted abolitionists and movers in the women’s suffrage movement. In a later visit on January 22, 1894, Anthony spoke at the Court House, along with Mary Seymour Howell and Mary G. Hay, on the subject of extending suffrage to women by amending law at the constitutional convention. The event led with a symposium on the subject of equal suffrage and involved a number of notable suffragists.… More