Volume 3, Issue 52
Another year has passed, and another volume of Overlooked Orleans has concluded. To write another article about Charlie Howard and his Santa Claus School is perhaps cliché for the Christmas season. Those years of perfecting the spirit of Santa, dating back to his childhood days when as “a short fat boy” his mother sewed a suit for him to play the role, brought about a more meaningful understanding to the holiday season. A man whose passions rested with the children, who anticipated the abundance of gifts and dolefully observed the quick passing of this festive time of year.
While perusing old issues of the Orleans Republican, I was drawn to a column which appeared during the month of December in which the newspaper accepted letters to Santa Claus for publication. The short notes written to Kris Kringle during the Great Depression reflect a gentle consciousness of the hardships associated with the time.… More
Volume 3, Issue 51
Around this time last year, I authored a piece about Charles Howard and the founding of the Santa Claus School (v.2, no.52). As Christmas approaches, I thought it appropriate to once again recall the life of an influential and beloved man who left a lasting impression on many Orleans County residents.
Starting in the mid-1950s, Howard started the process of converting his farm and barns to a Christmas Park. On Saturday, September 22, 1956, this “entertainment, education, gift, and amusement center,” opened for a short, 13-week season. Mrs. Henry Greene of Medina provided “Christmas Village,” a collection of 20 small houses, schools, churches, and other structures, fully furnished and lighted – an endeavor that required 25 years of collecting to complete. Also included was “Toy Lane,” a collection of 23 window scenes aimed at simulating store fronts. Children had opportunities to visit with Santa Claus, see reindeer in the stables, and visit Mrs.… More
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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