Vol. 4, No. 19
Last week’s article featured the story of William Collins of Albion who claimed that he was present with the detachment of cavalrymen from the 16th New York Cavalry responsible for the capture of John Wilkes Booth. Occasionally I receive feedback from readers that pushes me in a particular direction and this week just happens to be one of those occasions. Steven Miller of Illinois, an expert on Boston Corbett, contacted me about John Chamberlain Collins and encouraged me to explore his story. So I thought it would be of interest to share more about the life of John C. Collins.
John Collins was born September 19, 1850, at Albion to Michael and Susan Collins; one of nine children born to the couple. He was raised Roman Catholic, presumably attending St. Joseph’s Church after its establishment, and attended the local schools in the village. At the outbreak of the Civil War, his brother William enlisted with the 28th New York Infantry raised under the command of David Hardie.… More
Vol. 4, No. 18
As I prepared last week’s article about Asa Hill of the 28th New York Infantry and his beautiful monument situated at Millville Cemetery on East Shelby Road, I stumbled upon an image of another soldier from the same unit. Several years ago I encountered the story of William Collins but was unable to locate an image of him. As the 153rd anniversary of the capture and death of John Wilkes Booth passed on April 26th, I thought perhaps it would be worthwhile to recall this particular story.
William Collins was born September 28, 1843 to Michael and Susan Collins of Albion. His father was an Irish immigrant who worked as a day laborer in the village, raising a rather large family in the vicinity. Little is known about William’s early life, but shortly after the outbreak of the Civil War in April of 1861, the 17 year old enlisted and as was mustered into service on May 22, 1861 with Company G of the 28th New York Infantry, one of the first units raised in Orleans County.… More
Vol. 4, No. 17
Our rural communities are filled with strikingly beautiful landscapes and recognizable landscapes scattered throughout the region. As I passed through Millville this week, I thought about one of my favorite “little” landmarks in Shelby, a cemetery marker that has always grabbed my attention since I first visited Millville Cemetery.
The stone is rather remarkable, aside from its overwhelming appearance, towering over the seemingly smaller stones placed around it. Rarely does an attractive statue such as this adorn the burial site of an individual and perhaps its location in a rural cemetery makes it all the more unique. Yet the story of Asa Hill, the man memorialized by the granite obelisk and stoic soldier standing guard, adds a degree of mystery to the stone itself.
A native of Shelby, Asa Cummings Hill was born August 19, 1837 to William and Clarissa Miller Hill. When the South seceded from the Union in April of 1861, Asa found himself drawn to military service like so many other local men as indicated by his enlistment on November 14, 1861.… 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
Vol. 4, No. 12
While cataloging the Department of History’s collection of rare books, I came across a small booklet entitled From Serfdom to Culture written by “a white-haired Rochester confectioner” named Alfred F. Little in 1939. Interestingly enough, my discovery of this item happened in the same way in which C. W. Lattin encountered this story back in 1996.
Presented with two volumes from a blind Chinese woman named Jessie Gutzlaff, Little felt encouraged to record a few brief memories regarding the life of a remarkable woman. As he wrote nearly 80 years ago, “few persons, if any, now living in Albion, ever heard of Miss Gutzlaff, or knew of her connection with the village…” Those two volumes, authored by Samuel Smiles, were donated to the Swan Library in 1910.
The story of Jessie Gutzlaff dates back to 1842 when, as a young girl, she arrived in New York City with two other Chinese girls named Fanny and Eliza, all three accompanied by Mary Gutzlaff.… More
Vol. 4, No. 11
Over 200 years ago, Caroline Phipps was born near Rome, New York on March 2, 1812 to Joseph and Mary Eames Phipps. Arad Thomas writes in the Pioneer History of Orleans County that her “early education was superintended by her father with more than ordinary care at home, though she had the advantages of the best private schools and of the district schools in the vicinity.” After her father relocated the family to Barre, Caroline attended school at Eagle Harbor before starting her career in teaching at the young age of 14 in a one-room schoolhouse at Gaines Basin. It is presumed, based on available information, that Phipps was the school teacher while Charles Anderson Dana was attending the log schoolhouse (Overlooked Orleans: v.1, no.13).
A passionate educator even at a young age, Phipps enrolled in the Gaines Academy at the age of 20 and eventually attended the Nichols Ladies’ School at Whitesboro, New York.… More
The Pioneer Homestead – Historical Album of Orleans County, New York
Vol. 4, No. 10
A question recently surfaced following my last article about Elizabeth Denio, one pertaining to the life of the pioneer settler Elizabeth Gilbert of Gaines. The question made me think about how women have appeared in the earliest recollections of our area’s history, if they make an appearance at all. I was reading through Carol Kammen’s On Doing Local History and focused in on a common pitfall of local historians; trusting the published local historical narrative. What Kammen means by this is that we often fail to revise “what is held as truth.”
Much of our understanding of local history in Orleans County comes from the pages of Arad Thomas’ Pioneer History of Orleans County and Isaac Signor’s Landmarks of Orleans County, the second publication drawing from the chapters of Thomas’ publication. In these pages, the pioneer woman rarely makes an appearance and when she does her name is obscured by the significance of her husband.… More
Vol. 4, No. 9
The month of March is Women’s History Month, a designation dating back to 1987. The question of why this particular designation is needed surfaces frequently and the simplest explanation is that the presence of women in the national historical narrative went unnoted in schools for centuries. Today, historians focus attention on previously marginalized groups in history to provide a more thorough and balanced image of the past. The narratives of local history are often filled with the stories of white men who made their mark on early settlements and only infrequently do we hear the stories of women such as Elizabeth Gilbert and Polly Burgess who braved the virgin forests of Western New York.
Elizabeth Harriet Denio was born to John and Celinda Weatherwax Denio on August 3, 1842 at the family’s farm in Albion, now part of the Correctional Facility. A printer by trade, John Denio became a respected citizen of Albion due in part to his time as publisher of the Orleans American.… More
Vol. 4, No. 8
As I perused the pages of a death ledger from the Orleans County Home, covering the years 1873 to 1902, the phrase “inmate” appears quite regularly. Today we associate that term with people who are involuntarily held at a jail, prison, or psychiatric facility; a rather focused description which has evolved over the last few centuries. In its earliest meaning, dating back to the 1500s, inmate was used to describe someone who shared a residence such as a visitor at a hotel, a boarding house, or a college student living on or around campus.
The Poor House was a common place for “inmates” to gather, not because they were confined to a cell as we have come to accept the word, but because they shared a common residence. In many cases, the confinement of one to a county poor house was, in fact, involuntary. A wife whose husband skipped town may not be capable of financially supporting herself or her children.… More