Steamboat Celina Provided Efficient Shipping by way of Canal

Volume 3, Issue 29

Western New York and Orleans County owe its success and growth of the 19th century to the Erie Canal. Breaking through the wilderness of our region, the Canal opened the Niagara Frontier to the world, distributing raw materials and importing necessities. This image shows the steamboat Celina docked at the canal terminal at Medina. The White Hotel is likely the most recognizable landmark in this photograph.

Part of the Buffalo & Rochester Transit Company’s Steamboat Express line, the Celina was regarded as one of the earlier freight steamers in this area. The vessel was operated by James Chamberlain and Judson Webster, father-in-law of Charlie Howard. The company operated eight boats in total, including the John Owens, C.H. Francis, William B. Kirk, C.H. Johnson, Frankie Reynolds, Tacoma, Deland, Consort, and Celina. Ruth Webster Howard recalled riding on this boat, stopping at Medina for dinner at the stately White Hotel.… More

Grain Barge Rammed Bates Road Guard Gate in 1925

Volume 3, Issue 28

Taken on August 19, 1925 by the New York Department of State Engineers, Western Division, this image shows Guard Gate 15 located at Bates Road in Medina. This gate was referred to locally as “Hastings Guard Gate” and provided workers with the ability to isolate sections of the Erie Canal during wall breaks, accidents, and high water levels. Orleans County has three guard gates; Gate 15 at Medina, Gate 14 at Albion, and Gate 13 at Holley.

This photograph raises an interesting question; what happens when the guard gate is involved in an accident? In August of 1925, a fleet of six barges from the “Green Fleet” under the charge of Captain Hickey were travelling westward. The vessels were pulled behind a tugboat, two abreast, when the southern barge rammed the center pier of the guard gate. The force of the impact jarred the gate loose from its hinges, dropping it onto the deck of the northern barge.… More

July 4th Marks Bicentennial of Erie Canal Construction

Volume 3, Issue 27

The Erie Canal has a long and illustrious history spanning over two hundred years starting on July 4, 2017. As we hit the bicentennial of the construction of the Canal, I thought it would be fitting to write a series of articles about some of the more interesting Canal images within the Department of History’s collections. I suspect that the passing of the July 4th anniversary will go without fanfare locally, but the eight years between the start of construction and official opening will provide many opportunities to celebrate the iconic waterway.

Dating back to 1699, the concept of constructing a waterway that would open the wilderness of New York to the rest of the world was first suggested by a French engineer named Sebastien Vauban. The radical idea remained in the minds of entrepreneurs and politicians throughout the 18th century, surfacing again after the establishment of the United States.… More

Remembering the Centennial of “The War to End All Wars”

Volume 3, Issue 15

With an 82 to 6 vote in the Senate, the United States Congress declared war upon Germany 100 years ago on April 6th. After campaigning in 1916 on the claim that he “kept us out of war,” the Southern Democrat Woodrow Wilson had reneged on this promise after asking a special joint session of Congress for the declaration just days earlier in 1917.

Men throughout Orleans County heeded the call to service by enlisting with local National Guard regiments or enlisting directly with federal units. Howard G. Hinckley, a Medina resident, was one of the men who signed up for service within a week of the declaration of war. The son of Thorn and Allie Garter Hinckley, Howard was raised on South Academy Street in Medina where his father worked odd jobs as a carpenter. The 22 year old was mustered into service with Company F of the 3rd New York National Guard, the unit stationed out of Medina’s Armory.… More

Medina High School Boasted Successful Debating Team in 1910s

Volume 3, Issue 14

This photograph, taken circa 1917, shows the Ladies’ Triangular Debating League Society of Medina High School. Seated center is Myra Coon, behind her is Ethel Willis, and left to right is Florence Gray and Doris Webb. The Interscholastic Triangular Debating League was established in 1910 and provided teams of boys and girls from Albion, Medina, and Lockport to debate against one another on preselected topics. Each school would submit three questions and the schools would vote to select one of nine submitted questions. The question returning the highest number of votes was used for that year’s debates.

The debate teams argued on topics that were pertinent to current events at the time, just as debate teams today do. Going back to 1913, the selected question was “Resolved, that the Government should own and control all coal mines of the United States.” The Medina boys won the debate with a unanimous 3-0 decision, while the Medina girls won in a split 2-1 decision.… More

Medina Native Influential in Development of Pharmaceutical Industry

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

Medina’s Empire Couch Company

Volume 3, Issue 2

One of Medina’s most prosperous businesses during the early portion of the 20th century was the Empire Couch Company established by Earl Card and Walter Marvin in 1901. Prior to establishing a factory in Medina, the small outfit operated out of Middleport with mild success. After the company purchased the Bignall Works facility and constructed a new building in its place, the business was sold to J. D. Smith.

With financial support from Alonzo Phillips, the company witnessed considerable growth during the following years. The original factory was a 40 foot by 140 foot building equipped with electric lighting, heat, and hot water but demand for merchandise forced the company to expand relatively soon after. This image shows the facility after that expansion, the photograph taken on March 20, 1913 as part of New York State’s assessment of land and property leading up to the 1913-14 expansion of the Erie Canal.… More

Turn of the Century Apple Packing was a Fine Art

Volume 2, Issue 51

Taken sometime in the 1890s, this image shows a group of men preparing apples for shipment at Watson’s Farm on Route 31 outside of Medina (likely the farm of Dudley Watson). The man standing on the rights is identified as Milton Johnson, a day laborer from Albion. Barely visible are the hindquarters of a camera-shy dog that is occupied with something behind the crates and barrels of apples. Johnson holds a hatchet in his right hand as he stands adjacent to a barrel header.

Coopers would manufacture wood barrels for shipping apples by way of the Erie Canal or by train. Each barrel was required to have six hoops (the rings which held the staves together); two bilge hoops, two quarter hoops, and two head hoops; the quarter and head hoops are placed closely together. The presence of quarter hoops allows barrels to be stacked more efficiently and prevented them from splitting during shipment.… More

Sheriff’s Tenure Marred by Local KKK Activity

Volume 2, Issue 48

The history of Orleans County at the turn of the 20th century is dotted with snippets of crimes, both infamous and petty, covering intoxication and theft on one end of the spectrum up to homicide and murder on the other. With the enactment of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920 came a decade-long period of crime and corruption marred by illegal booze manufacturing, rum running, racketeering, and murder. Local men, such as Horace Kelsey, were tasked with the role of Sheriff and found themselves responsible for many of these cases.

Kelsey was born on October 13, 1866 and was raised in Carlton and Murray, working on area farms as a young man. His earliest experiences with the criminal justice system resulted from his work as a custodian for the courthouse and jailor at the county jail. His name was put forth as a candidate for county sheriff in 1922, which he easily defeated his opponent, Charles Bacon of Medina.… More

Recognizing the Centenary of The Great War

The men of Company F gather at the New York Central Railroad Depot at Medina in preparation for their journey to Ft. McClellan.

Volume 2, Issue 44

Seventy-six years ago, on October 24th, the young men of Company F, 108th Infantry departed Medina for training at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Led by four officers, the 129 enlisted men proceeded from the Armory on Pearl Street to the New York Central Railroad Depot. At the helm of the parade was Albion’s Sheret Post Band, acting as official escorts, and led by Gen. John S. Thompson the acting parade marshal. The young men of Orleans County were later dispatched to Camp Forrest at Tennessee in June of 1941 for war maneuvers, roughly five months before the infamous Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

The parade, led by Gen. John S. Thompson as parade marshal and the Sheret Post Legion Band, escorts the men of Company F along Main Street in Medina as they approach the rail station.

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