House of Refuge was Center of Social Reform for Delinquent Women

Volume 3, Issue 48

This photography, taken prior to 1915, shows the main office located within the administration building of the Western House of Refuge (now the Albion Correctional Facility). Miss Alice E. Curtin, the superintendent, stands in the center of the room shaking the hand of a young woman who is preparing to depart the facility on parole. Standing near the door is Miss Katherine Capitola Grinnell, the institution’s parole officer, who is prepared to escort the young woman to the railroad depot.

Miss Curtin ran a conservative operation at the House of Refuge as the institution was intended to rehabilitate young women who failed or refused to adhere to the strict gender norms of the time. The 1914 annual report for the Western House of Refuge shows that the inmate population totaled 238 women at the conclusion of the fiscal year with an annual average of 229 inmates; the facility’s capacity was rated at 215.… More

Orleans County’s Elite Led Temperance Reform Efforts

Volume 3, Issue 47

Following the passing of New York’s amendment that extended voting rights to women in 1917, the subsequent election involving the question of whether Albion would remain a “wet” or “dry” town was decided by the female vote. Although the vote was later deemed invalid, the local temperance organizations mobilized a sufficient number of new voters to end the sale of alcohol in Orleans County, even if only for a brief moment.

This Thomas Nast cartoon appeared in Harper’s Weekly on March 21, 1874 and depicted the debaucheries commonly associated with the saloon. A man of the middle-class accepts a drink of rum from the bartender who is depicted as death. The man’s young daughter pleads for her father to come home while his son looks on with concern and a man lays to the right, passed out in the corner of the room. In the distance is the man’s home and his wife, dressed in black, weeps behind her children.… More

Orleans County Defeated Suffrage Amendment in 1917

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

“Raising Bees” Served as Community Building Activity

Volume 3, Issue 45

No building served a more important function to society on the frontier of Western New York than the barn. This structure was essential to the operation of infant communities across the United States and we find numerous examples throughout local history of the significance of the barn. In Barre, the First Congregational Church (later the First Presbyterian Church of Albion) was organized in the barn of Joseph Hart and the barn of Ezra Spicer at Kendall was the focal point of Methodist revivals during the Second Great Awakening. The first town meeting for Murray was held in the barn of Johnson Bedell outside of Brockport and the small village of Hulberton utilized a barn south of the Erie Canal for a school until a framed building could be constructed in 1828.

Barn raising, or “raising bee,” was an important piece of rural life in the 18th century.… More

Department of History Holds Collection of 1893 World’s Fair Tickets

Volume 3, Issue 40

The collections within the Department of History contain newspaper clippings, genealogies, published histories, and photographs, but a number of interesting artifacts and ephemera items serve as a window into Orleans County’s material culture. This photograph shows a collection of souvenir tickets from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago, Illinois. The collection once belonged to Dr. Frank Haak Lattin, a dealer in natural specimens, a physician, and Assemblyman from New York.

Nearly 125 years ago, the United States prepared to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the new world in 1492. In order to host this massive event, 200 new but temporary buildings were constructed upon 600 acres of land using neoclassical architecture. A large central pool represented the long cross-Atlantic voyage of Columbus four centuries prior, a true symbol of American exceptionalism. Dedicated on October 21, 1892, the fair officially opened to the public on May 1, 1893 and ran through October 30, 1893.… More

Orleans County Heroes Buried in the Fields of Picardy

Volume 3, Issue 36

A quiet drive through the French countryside reveals the sprawling fields of golden wheat and green stalks of corn, the wind rushing through the hedgerows, and faint sounds of cattle. The openness of the landscape is broken up by the occasional town that contains century-old homes, churches, and schools, with the irregular modern buildings that house every amenity needed for the local community. After passing eastward through the small village of Bony, one is greeted by an immense marble structure that displays the French phrase “Morts pour la patrie,” or “To those who died for their country.”

The Somme American Cemetery, situated on 14.3 acres of rolling countryside in the Picardy region, is the final resting place for over 1,800 men who died during the assault on the Hindenburg Line on September 29, 1918. The cemetery was peaceful while a small crew of caretakers meticulously aerated the grass amidst the rows of marble crosses.… More

Catastrophic Canal Break put Eagle Harbor Under Water

Volume 3, Issue 30

The success of the Erie Canal was not without trials and tribulations over its 200-year history. These photographs, taken in August of 1927, show the damage sustained during an extensive break in the canal wall near Eagle Harbor.

On August 3, 1927, local farmers observed a slight leak in the south wall of the canal near the Otter Creek gully. L. E. Bennett reported seeing a three-foot square hole open up, spilling thousands of gallons of water out of the waterway in a matter of minutes; the initial opening formed approximately 100 feet west of the Otter Creek culvert. Within a relatively short period of time, the flooring of the canal gave way and the south wall broke free, creating a hole that spanned 50 feet in length and 7 feet in height.

Newspapers reported that over 1,000,000,000 gallons of water had spilled into the neighboring fields surrounding Eagle Harbor, creating a large lake that reached 20-60 feet in depth in certain areas.… More

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