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
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
Frances Folsom Cleveland
Vol. 4, No. 13
“I am waiting for my wife to grow up.” – Grover Cleveland
As a young bachelor in Buffalo, Cleveland was said to have muttered these very words to his sisters who frequently asked him about his intentions to marry. His statement, although witty, held a certain degree of truth and it is with that truth that the story of Frances Folsom is told. In 1996 an historic roadside marker was installed at the corner of Main and Eagle Streets in Medina, denoting the structure that Folsom called home for a brief moment in her life during the 1870s. The marker reads:
“Frances Folsom lived here in the mid-1870s with her grandmother and attended Medina High School. In 1886 at age 21 she wed Pres. Grover Cleveland.”
The daughter of Oscar and Emma Harmon Folsom, Frances was born July 21, 1864 at Buffalo, New York where her father practiced law with Grover Cleveland in a firm known as Lanning, Cleveland and Folsom.… 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 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
Volume 3, Issue 39
Taken sometime around 1913, this image shows the building occupied by William J. Gallagher’s transfer company on North Main Street in Medina. Situated out front is a wagon owned by Gibbons & Stone, a local dealer in pianos and organs. A man stands in the entryway to the building and a pile of wheels and axles are piled up on the front corner. A fleet of wagons are parked out front to the right of the building’s main door and the Erie Canal is visible in the background.
Originally opened by George Hall as “Dime Delivery,” William Gallagher purchased this business in 1906 and quickly began the process of expanding and developing the outfit. Prior to his entry into the moving industry, Gallagher spent two years working as a rural mail carrier out of the Medina Post Office. Shortly after this photograph was taken, William Gallagher’s Moving Vans outfit outgrew its current space and eventually relocated to a site on Orient and East Center streets.… More
Volume 3, Issue 35
Centuries ago, the Teutonic Knights established themselves within the Chełmno region of Poland. The country’s long and complex history is mired in conflict and subdivision, suffering its most catastrophic partition in the latter half of the 18th century. This once autonomous region was dominated by the Prussians and would remain so for over a century.
This beautiful church in Wabcz, constructed during the time of the Teutonic Knights, was a sacred place of worship for the Polish immigrants who arrived at Medina and Albion starting in the late 1870s. Oppressed culturally and religiously under German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the free practice of the Catholic faith and retention of Polish culture was under threat. The Kulturkampf or “Culture Struggle” sought to decrease the power of the Catholic Church, imprisoning priests, making marriage a civil ceremony, and pushing German settlement of Polish lands.
The city of Chełmno, approximately 15 minutes from Wabcz, served as a central location for conscripting young men into military service.… More
Volume 3, Issue 34
Over the summer I had the honor and privilege of visiting the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. Dedicated in 1956, the cemetery encompasses 172.5 acres and serves as a final resting place for over 9,000 soldiers killed in action in Europe. Although the site was primarily used to bury those killed during the Normandy Breakout, many families requested that Normandy serve as the place of eternal rest for their deceased veterans regardless of where they were killed.
Wandering the sprawling fields lined with white crosses reveals ornately decorated stones etched in gold leaf, denoting the graves of men who received the Congressional Medal of Honor. One stone melds into the thousands of plainly lettered marble crosses, the stone of Sgt. George J. Quinn.
Born at Buffalo, NY on September 5, 1924, Quinn spent most of his life growing up in the vicinity of North Ridgeway. After graduating from Barker, he spent a short period of time working for Harrison Radiator in Lockport before he was inducted into service in March of 1943.… More
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
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