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

Early Calls for Abolitionist Lectures Fell on Deaf Ears in Orleans County


Frederick Douglass

Vol. 5, No. 6

As we celebrate 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 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. As the marker notes, a large crowd traveled from across New York to hear the renowned abolitionist speak; the engagement was focused on celebrating the 30th anniversary of emancipation in the British West Indies.… More

“The Mother of All Storms”


A Hough 100 Loader removing snow on East Shelby Road, February 3, 1977.

Vol. 5, No. 5

A couple feet of snow, sub-zero temperatures, and forty mile-per-hour wind gusts make for an unbearable week of Western New York weather. Although for many long-time residents of Orleans County, these winter storms are dwarfed by the fierce Blizzard of ’77. Growing up in Western New York, the “Great Blizzard” as I will call it, is the stuff of legend. Over eight feet of snow accumulation in some areas, peak wind gusts topping out at sixty-nine miles-per-hour, and snow drifts reaching thirty or forty feet in height; it is likely that no winter storm will ever challenge the Blizzard of ’77.

The brutal winter weather system hit Western New York on the morning of January 28th and continued into Tuesday, February 1st. Frigid temps reaching -70 degrees Fahrenheit and excessive winds packed snow so tightly that road travel was impossible.… More

Albion Dentist Patented Improvement for False Teeth

Vol. 5, No. 4

On January 26, 1875, the first electric drill was patented by George Green of Kalamazoo, Michigan. Although the device revolutionized dentistry, it fails to negate the fact that so many of us dislike our regular visits to the dentist.

This advertisement, taken from the 1869 Orleans County Directory, shows an advertisement for Doolittle & Straight in Albion. The two dentists, located on the second floor of the Granite Block on the southwest corner of North Main and West Bank streets, operated this business during the 1860s and 1870s.

Horace Doolittle, at the time of his death, was believed to be the oldest practicing dentist in New York State at the age of 86. Born and raised in Malta, New York, Doolittle relocated to Rochester at the age of 18 to study dentistry in the office of Dr. Ansel Morgan for a period of two years. In 1850, he moved to Albion and opened a practice with Dr.… More

Hollywood Prize Fighter with Roots in Albion

Vol. 5, No. 3

The pages of the sacramental register at St. Mary’s Assumption Church in Albion contain an entry for the marriage of Antoni Stabenau of Buffalo to Marianna Gminska of Albion. The couple was married by Ks. Piotr Basinski on January 24, 1899 and removed to Buffalo soon after. Marianna’s father, Simon Gminski, remained in Albion where he worked as a quarry laborer until his death in 1920.

On July 23, 1901, Marianna gave birth to her first son, Anthony, in Buffalo. The young Stabenau’s early life remains somewhat of a mystery until May 14, 1923, when he made his debut as a boxer. That evening, Stabenau started his amateur heavyweight career facing Dixie Kid at the Broadway Auditorium in Buffalo. Although his first match ended in a draw, he went on to win eight straight fights; some newspaper articles claimed his win-streak extended to 17 with 15 knockouts.… More

The First Lady of American Football

Vol. 5, No. 2

Medina claims Frances Folsom Cleveland, an official First Lady of the United States of America, as her own and in 1952 apparently tried to claim the First Lady of American Football as well. Henry Clune wrote in a September 16th edition of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle that he “…expressed the opinion that the wife of the former famous University of Chicago coach, [Alonzo Stagg], had come from Medina.” Fred Tanner of Albion quickly pointed out that Clune was incorrect.[i]

Another football season has passed and there is no playoff football for fans of the Buffalo Bills. Instead, I received a rather interesting message from Daniel Hurley earlier this week highlighting an old newspaper clipping authored by County Historian Arden McAllister in the early 1970s. In this article, McAllister notes that he held in his possession “a picture of the Class of 1891 of Albion High School which includes a young woman he says may be perhaps the only unofficial woman football coach in history.” So instead of watching the Bills push for the Lombardi Trophy, a quick read about Orleans County’s connection to one of the greatest football pioneers will fill that void.… More

Express Train Collides with Locomotive in Holley, 1926

Vol. 5, No. 1

This photograph, taken September 25, 1926, shows the aftermath of a locomotive collision at Holley. Looking south on South Main Street, the Holley Electric building is pictured on the left. A few individuals are in the vicinity, including a young girl standing between the tall white fence and truck along the left side of the road. Upon closer inspection, a bicycle is lying on the curb near the railroad overpass, possibly left there by the girl.

At 3:33pm on September 24, 1926, an express train, Engine 3373, pulling 28 cars and two coaches departed the Fancher station on the New York Central Railroad. Meanwhile, Engine 485 operating at a local quarry just east of Holley was pulling two cars along a segment of track. According to reports following the accident, Engine 485 was switching cars near the Holley station located immediately west of the railroad overpass as the express train approached.… More

Re-framing Our Understanding of the Ku Klux Klan in Western New York

Vol. 4, No. 52

An article published last weekend in the Orleans Hub entitled “KKK meeting in Albion in 1925 included parade with 900 Klansmen” was met with mixed reactions and controversy, labeled as “glorifying” the organization or what it stood for. It seems that a follow-up piece is necessary for clarification.

In 1992, C.W. Lattin wrote an article on the same subject entitled “Ku Klux Klan Hold Picnic at Fairgrounds Labor Day,” taken from the headline that appeared in the Orleans Republican newspaper in 1925. Ray Cianfrini, an attorney in Oakfield and retired Genesee County legislator has also authored pieces on the same subject, presenting on the activities of the Ku Klux Klan in Genesee and Orleans counties. The study of these disturbing pieces of history demonstrates that all history is local and small, rural communities were not exempt from the type of racial, ethnic, social, and political turmoil experienced in other regions of the United States.… More

Albion’s Meeting of the Ku Klux Klan

Vol. 4, No. 51

This photograph, taken September 7, 1925, shows the Western New York Province 8 Klonverse held at the Orleans County Fairgrounds on the western end of the Village of Albion. The term klonverse is likely foreign to most readers, as it should be, since the term was used to describe a convention of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

Pulled from a collection of negatives within the Department of History, the photograph shows a number of robed men intermingled with common folk at the conclusion of a parade through Albion. Papers throughout Western New York published news of the impending gathering, the Buffalo Evening News noting that this particular meeting was the first of its kind in Orleans County.

Chester Harding, president of the Orleans County Agricultural Society rented the fairgrounds to the Klan for $100 “…and considerable criticism [was] heard of the action,” and Hiram Wesley Evans, Imperial Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan from Atlanta, Georgia, was scheduled to headline the festivities.… More

All I Want for Christmas is Historic Preservation

Vol. 4, No. 50

The Christmas season is upon us and it is customary to write a piece about Charlie Howard, his Santa Claus School, or Christmas Park. If I had the privilege of sitting on Howard’s lap, what would I ask for? Simple answer; historic preservation.

Unfortunately, our history is marred by poor decisions even though we make some of those decisions with the best intentions. The protection of our historic treasurers is perhaps the best representation of this. Material culture serves a valuable purpose in the process of interpreting the past. Void of any physical representation of past cultures, we would lose all ability to understand the lives of those who lived without a voice.

Historic preservation is one of the four basic functions of the municipal historian; preservation of documents, records, diaries, ephemera, and photographs, but also the preservation of structures deemed important to the history of our communities.… More