Wesendorf Hotel Served Fancher Community

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

Remains of Medal of Honor Recipient Returned to Medina 71 Years Ago

Vol. 5, No. 26

Of the five Medal of Honor recipients from Orleans County, John E. Butts of Medina was the only county native who received the award posthumously for his heroic actions near Cape La Hague, France. The son of Jerry and Anna Hogan Butts, John was born August 4, 1922 at Medina, New York. As a young man, he attended the St. Mary’s parochial school, joined Boy Scout Troop 25, and played right guard for the Medina High School football team before enlisting with the New York National Guard on October 12, 1939.

When Company F of the 108th Infantry was federalized, Butts was 17 years old and lied about his age in order to join. He was sent to Hawaii in the months following the attack at Pearl Harbor and later returned to the mainland in November of 1942 to enroll in the Officer Candidate School at Ft.… More

Shelby Native’s Distinguished Service During Boxer Rebellion

Vol. 5, No. 25

According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, nearly 3,500 soldiers have received the Medal of Honor since its inception in 1862. Of those medals awarded, nearly half served with the Union Army during the Civil War. Between the conclusion of the American Civil War and World War One, 765 men received the medal, the largest number serving during the Indian Campaigns (426) and the smallest number serving in the Dominican Campaign (3) during the U.S. occupation of the Dominican Republic from 1916 to 1924. Of those 756 medals, 33 were awarded to Marines serving during the Boxer Rebellion, a nearly two-year uprising led by the Yihetuan (or Boxers) against foreign imperialists in China. Thomas Wilbur Kates, a native of Orleans County, was one of those men who received the Medal of Honor for his actions during this uprising.

Born on May 7, 1865 at Shelby, Thomas was the son of English immigrants Charles and Mariah Caple Kates.… More

Lyndonville Canning Company Pioneered Applesauce Production

Vol. 5, No. 18

Taken some time in the late 1920s or early 1930s, this image shows thousands of bushels of apples piled outside of the Lyndonville Canning Company. Yates farmers established a cooperative canning company in 1916, which was then purchased by Theodore and Frank Visscher in 1917. The Visschers marketed their products under the “V.B.” label, which stood for “Visscher Brothers.”

In the early 1920s, the Visscher Brothers advertised the sale of Cumulative Preferred Stock at a cost of $100 per share; the annual dividends of seven percent were paid to owners on a quarterly basis. Shortly after, William A. Smith and Wilson McCagg purchased 50 percent of the business and the two men began to gradually shift production from a variety of vegetables to apples.

The Visschers previously manufactured applesauce in large batches using copper kettles, producing as many as 24,000 cases of applesauce in 1924. Smith brought with him an interest in innovating and improving that production process, inventing a method for continuously cooking the apples to improve uniformity and quality.… More

Blacksmiths Provided Essential Services for Local Farmers

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

Pharmaceutical Researcher was Grandson of Albion Pioneer Physician

Vol. 5, No. 13

On March 30, 1842, Dr. Crawford W. Long of Jefferson, Georgia, became the first physician to administer diethyl ether to remove a tumor from the neck of James Venable. Four years later, Dr. William T. G. Morton would administer the same inhaled anesthesia to extract a tooth from Eben Frost of Boston, Massachusetts. For centuries, physicians have experimented with various chemicals to perfect the way in which medical procedures are conducted, but also to change the way in which diseases and symptoms are treated.

Francis Edward Stewart was born September 13, 1853, to Johnathan Severance Stewart and Ada E. Nichoson at Albion, New York. Unbeknownst to his parents when he was born in the home of his maternal grandfather and pioneer physician, Dr. Orson Nichoson, Stewart would become one of the foremost experts on pharmacology and a pioneer in the pharmaceutical industry. The family relocated to Philadelphia in 1872 when Jonathan Stewart accepted a position as superintendent of the American Dredging Company in that location.… More

The Local Legacy of U.S. Colored Units, American Civil War

Vol. 5, No. 12

The recent vote by the Hoag Library Board of Trustees to sell the 26th U.S. Colored Troops “National Color” in March has raised questions about local connections to that particular unit and other Colored Infantry regiments. U.S.C.T. regiments, established under the direction of the Bureau for Colored Troops, appointed white officers to lead black soldiers. According to a dissertation entitled “The Selection and Preparation of White Officers for the Command of Black Troops in the American Civil War,” by Paul Renard, the government utilized various methods of electing officers to lead U.S.C.T. regiments. Early U.S.C.T. regiment officers were selected by a board of divisional officers while others were selected in a process similar to white regiments. Renard argues that the selection of officers through an examination board overseen by the Bureau for Colored Troops was the most effective method used.

Racism permeated throughout the Union Army, which refused equal pay to black soldiers and relegated segregated units to manual labor behind the front lines.… More

Barre farmer, an immigrant, enlisted with Union Army and later became US citizen

Vol. 5, No. 10

This photograph shows Johann George Singler around the time of his enlistment in the Union Army during the American Civil War. Born March 28, 1829 in the territory of Baden to Joseph and Mary Greisbaum, Singler received his common education (equivalent to a high school course in the United States) while in Europe. At the age of 22 he emigrated to the United States on a 49-day journey across the Atlantic, settling at Cleveland, Ohio. Six months later he traveled to Buffalo where he worked as a carpenter for eight months and finally relocated to the town of Barre sometime around 1853. On February 10, 1855, he married Eva Rupp at Clarendon and the couple raised eight children together on a modest farm in Barre.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Singler enlisted with Company G of the 151st New York Infantry at the age of 33.… More

“And When We Die We Shall Go to the Pullman Hell”


“The Condition of the Laboring Man at Pullman” Political Cartoon, circa 1894

Vol. 5, No. 9

March 3rd marks the 188th birthday of George Mortimer Pullman, born in 1831 to James Lewis and Emily Caroline Minton Pullman. In 1845, George had reached the age of 14 and received a sufficient level of education in the common schools to enter the workforce. It was around this time that James Pullman brought his family to Albion, “where he became widely known as a useful and upright citizen,” according to W. B. Cook.

The untimely death of James in 1853 forced George to care for his mother and younger siblings. Working as a cabinetmaker, Pullman was best known locally for building furniture in a business that would eventually transition through the hands of George Ough, to the partnership of Reynolds & Flintham, to J. B. Merrill, and eventually transition to the business formerly known as Merrill-Grinnell Funeral Home.… More

When Coal Was King

Vol. 5, No. 8

This photograph shows John Howard’s Coal Yard, located at the “foot” of North Clinton Street on the south side of the Erie Canal around 1904/05. Born August 23, 1868 at Albion, Howard would eventually enter the business that his father William Alanson Howard started in 1870. The coal sheds in this image were likely constructed around 1873.

According to a 1903 business directory, several other coal yards were operating in Albion. Morgan & Linson and Ezra Skinner both operated yards on Clinton Street near the New York Central Railroad crossing while Charles Porter and the Shourds Brothers operated yards in the vicinity of East Bank and Platt streets. In this particular operation, a packet boat delivered coal by way of the Erie Canal. When the boat docked on the south side of the Canal, a team of workers shoveled coal into a large bucket which was then hoisted up to a second-story opening.… More