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
Vol. 5, No. 28
This photograph shows the Wesendorf House that operated at Fancher. Although this photograph is not labeled, it is presumed that the image was taken in the early 1900s and one of the men standing on the porch is the proprietor, John Wesendorf, Jr. It appears these men have stepped outside from the establishment to pose for this photo as a young boy stands with them holding what appears to be a milk can. The building functioned as a saloon and hotel for a number of years in the early half of the 19th century.
John Lewis Wesendorf, a native of Germany, immigrated to Hamlin, New York with his family in the early 1870s. The Wesendorfs were part of the large settlement of Germans at that location, many whom arrived between 1865 and 1880. At some point in the late 1880s, the Wesendorfs relocated to the Town of Murray where John Wesendorf, Sr.… More
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
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
Volume 3, Issue 42
Did you know that Orleans County has the most lift bridges along the Erie Canal? Of the 16 vertical lift bridges that exist between Lockport and Fairport, seven are located within our county; Monroe County contains five, while Niagara County holds four. This Warren pony truss style vertical lift bridge that stands at Hulberton is 145 feet long by 18.6 feet wide, curb to curb.
Taken on November 23, 1922, this image shows the Hulberton Lift Bridge as it appeared approximately nine years after it was completed. On April 19, 1912, Skene & Richmond of Louisa, Kentucky were awarded Contract 104 by New York State to construct a number of bridges along the Erie Canal including spans at Spencerport, Adams Basin, Brockport, and Gasport in addition to the Hulberton structure. The contract, totaling $245,688 (approximately $6.2 million today), was completed the following year.
The photograph was taken approximately 100 feet south of the bridge by the NYS Engineering Department of the Western Division looking north across the Canal.… More
Volume 2, Issue 50
This photograph is part of my personal family collection, what I believe to be an image of the Joseph B. Pierce homestead on Route 31 in the town of Murray, immediately west of Hulberton Road. Taken in the late 1870s we see a man, presumably Joseph Pierce, standing along the roadside with a team of horses. Standing in the front yard is Emma Brown Pierce and her four daughters Edith, Fanny, Florence, and Nettie – the latter clinging to the fence.
Joseph was the grandson of Aretas Pierce, Sr. who brought his family from Vermont to Murray in 1815. Upon their arrival to the virgin wilderness of Western New York, the family lived in a log schoolhouse for two weeks while they constructed a log cabin in April of that year. The family lived on provisions brought with them from New England for their first year on the land, but the poor harvest of the following year forced them to live on purchased food including salted pork.… More
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
Old-Time Orleans, Vol. 1, Issue 6
MURRAY – This image taken in the late 1920s shows the interior of a classroom at the Murray District No. 6 School located on the corner of West Brockville and Fancher roads. Unlike other rural schoolhouses in the area, this building had four classrooms used to teach over 100 students enrolled in the district.
This particular school was constructed in 1911 and was likely built to accommodate the Italian families living in the area. Guy D’Amico served as the first teacher and instructed all eight grades in three of the classrooms. Mabel Brockway and Ella Clark were the last two teachers to serve the district.
The school was closed in 1947 and in 1955 the district allowed the Fancher Legion Post to use the building following a devastating fire that burned their former post building the previous year. When the Fancher Post disbanded in 1971, a heated debate over ownership ensued.… More