Story of Rev. Dykal Highlights Accomplishments of Polish Americans

Vol. 4, No. 41

October is Polish American Heritage Month, first celebrated in 1981 by the Polish American Cultural Center in Philadelphia. It is an opportunity to call attention to the accomplishments of the roughly 9.5 million self-identified Polish Americans in the United States. In Orleans County, the Poles found employment in the local sandstone quarries scattered along the Erie Canal, just as countless other immigrant groups had in prior years.

I was given this photograph of an unidentified priest several years ago and through a bit of luck was able to identify him as Rev. Leonard F. Dykal of Albion. Dressed in his cassock and wearing the liturgical biretta, the three-peaked hat common of Roman Catholic clergy prior to Vatican II, Dykal appears to be relatively young. I would presume that this image, printed on a postcard, was taken around or shortly after his ordination.

Leonard Dykał was born at Albion on April 30, 1889 to Frank and Mary Lubomska Dykał.… More

The Angelus Bell

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

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

Sacred Heart of Jesus Served Medina’s Polish Community for Nearly 100 Years

Vol. 4, No. 23

Shortly after starting my tenure as County Historian in 2015, I wrote a short piece about a photograph of Sacred Heart Church given to me by Mary Ann Tillman of Albion. I stumbled upon the photograph again this week and thought that perhaps my initial article on the subject was rather short, lacking a more detailed account of the earliest years of the parish.

In the early 1970s, Helen Allen compiled a thorough record of historical accounts from various churches throughout Orleans County. She notes that Medina’s first Polish settlers came to the area in the early 1880s in search of work within the area’s sandstone quarries and factories. Facing language and cultural barriers, the growing community lacked a space for meeting their spiritual needs so local Poles attended St. Mary’s Church until a priest was available to say Mass in their own language.

Ks. Stanislaus Bubacz (Ks.… More

Orleans County Has Deep Connections to Titanic Sinking

May Howard

Vol. 4, No. 16

Although Lillian Bentham remains one of the more detailed accounts from a local survivor of the Titanic sinking, Orleans County has several other connections to the tragic disaster. On May 2, 1885, a baby girl was born to William and Martha Howard at North Walsham in Norfolk, England. May Elizabeth Howard was one of eight children born to the English couple, the father working as an agricultural laborer.

At the time the Titanic was set to sail on her maiden voyage, the 27-year-old Howard planned on visiting her brother in Toronto before traveling to Albion to stay with her sister, Jane Hewitt. Her intention was to move in with the family of County Sheriff William Kenyon to work as a nanny. May secured a ticket on a smaller vessel that was set to sail in the days leading up to the Titanic voyage, but a coal strike forced her to travel aboard the unsinkable ship.… 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

Route for early immigrants was not easy, nor legal

Volume 3, Issue 26

Dating back to the earliest years of the United States, immigration was a welcomed occurrence; the arrival of new European immigrants was believed to bring desirable traits that would strengthen American stock. Despite this early stance on a process that was of little concern to most Americans, groups surfaced with the intention of restricting or ending waves of immigration.

The emergence of the Know-Nothing Party of the 1840s and 1850s brings forth a “Gangs of New York” image to the minds of many. The exact level of activity of such groups in Orleans County is uncertain, but we do know that men such as John Hull White of Albion and Elisha Whalen of Medina were aligned with these political ideas. White, a Conservative Democrat in the years when Republicans considered themselves the “Party of Lincoln,” found it impossible to win an election in our Republican-dominated county.

An influx of Irish and German immigrants established an unfounded fear of the Catholic Church, while many of these immigrants flooded into the emerging sandstone quarries of our region, bringing with them a willingness to toil amidst dynamite and heavy stone.… More