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

Community Hoped “Frog-Breeding, Health Menacing Open Ditch” Would Become Holley Terminal

Revisiting Old Orleans, Vol. 2, Issue 1

In February of 1913, State Engineers visited Holley to inspect the Erie Canal as a possible location for a terminal; officials were accompanied from Rochester by Assemblyman Marc Wheeler Cole. After taking taxis to Brockport, the group boarded the B.L.&R. Trolley, eventually arriving at the Holley lift bridge. The State Engineer noted that the only potential location for a terminal was this small stretch of vertical wall, which was likely too small to serve in that capacity.… More

Growth of Sandstone Industry Was a Contribution of Rev. Edward Fancher

Volume 2, Issue 47

Over a century ago, Orleans County was dominated by the Medina Sandstone industry which was directed by Edward Fancher of Albion for a number of years. Born January 6, 1854 to John and Effie Bogardus Fancher, Edward engaged early on in the quarry business gathering much of his knowledge from Charles Gwynne. After the untimely death of his wife Lucy in 1892, Edward remarried to Ida Baldwin the following year and raised his young family in the Hulberton area.

On February 20, 1902 a new quarry syndicate was established in the area, uniting nearly 50 quarries sprawled throughout Orleans County. The Orleans County Quarry Company was incorporated with $2,000,000 in capital and employed over 1,200 men. Initial startup funds were directed towards operating the quarries, paying salaries, and most importantly, developing the infrastructure to support the refinement of stone, sale, and transportation across both railroad and the Erie Canal.… 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

Prominent Holley Native Runs Lucrative Practice in Brooklyn

Old-Time Orleans, Vol. 1, Issue 29

Born June 27, 1854 and a Kendall native, Henry Dwight Bliss was the son of Edwin and Mary Seymour Bliss. Receiving his earliest education from the one room schoolhouses of Kendall, Henry moved to Holley as a young man where his father was to take over as manager of Luther Gordon’s newly constructed lumber and coal yard. Bliss grew up around the construction and lumber business so it was only natural that he would attend the Rochester Business School after assisting his father with accounting and bookkeeping duties at the yard. Henry decided quickly that the merchant business wasn’t for him and he left the business school in Rochester after one year.

Bliss redirected his focus towards bigger and better things, starting in 1876 when he enrolled at Cornell University. Three years later, he transferred to the University of Rochester where he graduated in 1880.… More

Herbert Taylor and the 140th New York Infantry

Old-Time Orleans, Vol. 1, Issue 28

A recent article in the Orleans Hub centered on Assemblyman Hawley’s 8th annual Patriot Trip to Washington D.C. and other important national landmarks, including the Gettysburg Battlefield. I had the pleasure of visiting Gettysburg for the first time in nearly 10 years, a trip I last made as a senior in high school. Naturally, a new perspective and better understanding of the historical events of July 1st through the 3rd left me with a different impression of the site.

The monument to Col. Patrick Henry O’Rorke features a bas-relief set in granite. Standing over eight feet tall, the marker rests atop the spot where O’Rorke was killed. His nose is polished as a result of visitors rubbing it for good luck, although he had little luck himself that day.

Upon Little Round Top rests a large monument dedicated to Col. Patrick O’Rorke, the site where New York’s 140th Volunteer Infantry made a valiant and daring charge down upon Hood’s Texans.… More