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

Setting the Record Straight: William Stafford’s Spiteful Sale of the Proctor Homestead

Volume 3, Issue 43

The trial of George Wilson, accused of murdering his wife Alice in 1887, remains one of the most infamous stories in Orleans County. His trial and execution is a tale filled with speculation and accusation, while the later story of District Attorney William P. L. Stafford is shrouded in spite and hatred following his upsetting defeat in the 1895 election for County Judge. Despite its popularity, much of the story exists as hyperbole and conjecture concerning Stafford’s motives following his embarrassing loss.

I was contacted by Gerard Morrisey following my article featuring John Newton Proctor and kindly reminded that the property, which was so scandalously sold to the Catholics by William Stafford, was in fact sold by his wife Clara. It is important to trace the lineage of the property itself to better understand the situation in which the Staffords were faced with in 1896. It is also important to note that in 1848, New York passed the Married Women’s Property Act that gave married women the right to own real and personal property that was not “subject to the disposal of her husband.”

John Newton Proctor entered the employ of William Gere upon his arrival in Albion and shortly after married Gere’s daughter, Orcelia.… More

Centuries Old Church was Once Worship Site for Orleans County’s Polish Community

Volume 3, Issue 35

Centuries ago, the Teutonic Knights established themselves within the Chełmno region of Poland. The country’s long and complex history is mired in conflict and subdivision, suffering its most catastrophic partition in the latter half of the 18th century. This once autonomous region was dominated by the Prussians and would remain so for over a century.

This beautiful church in Wabcz, constructed during the time of the Teutonic Knights, was a sacred place of worship for the Polish immigrants who arrived at Medina and Albion starting in the late 1870s. Oppressed culturally and religiously under German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, the free practice of the Catholic faith and retention of Polish culture was under threat. The Kulturkampf or “Culture Struggle” sought to decrease the power of the Catholic Church, imprisoning priests, making marriage a civil ceremony, and pushing German settlement of Polish lands.

The city of Chełmno, approximately 15 minutes from Wabcz, served as a central location for conscripting young men into military service.… More

Albionite’s Prolific Life Concluded with Philanthropic Gifts to Those in Need

Volume 3, Issue 32

We often read stories of men and women who committed themselves to charitable acts and endeavors, giving time and money to efforts they felt best contributed to the needy. This portrait of John Blodgett Bordwell provides a glimpse into the eyes of a man who was passionate about the betterment of his community. While we explore his genealogy, his lineage suggests that the drive to overcome adversity ran deep within his blood.

John was the son of Joseph Bordwell, an immigrant from French Canada in the late 1830s. Joseph’s parents, Amab and Ursula Martelle Bordwell, died when he was 12 years old, leaving him an orphan. When he reached the age of 17 he traveled to Brockport where he arrived with two shillings in his pocket, unable to speak English. Joseph found employment in a local brickyard and eventually transitioned to the trade of blacksmith, working with Mitchell Gardner at Albion.… More

Albion Monsignor Dedicated to Advancement of Catholic Community

Volume 2, Issue 43

On May 19, 1897 the Albion community was kindly blessed by the arrival of Rev. Francis Sullivan, a Catholic priest from Silver Springs, New York. Sullivan was born on December 13, 1855 to Timothy Sullivan and Mary Meagher at Hartland, New York. Through his Catholic upbringing, he was encouraged to attend Our Lady of the Angels Seminary in Niagara Falls, now Niagara University, where he graduated in 1883. The following year on May 19, 1884 he was ordained by Bishop Stephen Ryan at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Buffalo.

Rev. Sullivan arrived shortly after the departure of Rt. Rev. Msgr. John D. Biden, the man responsible for securing the land for the current site of St. Joseph’s Church. Many Albion residents are familiar with the local lore surrounding the purchase of the old “Proctor Homestead” and parcel of land adjacent to the Baptist Church from local District Attorney William Stafford.… More

Albion Knights of Columbus Welcomed 65 New Members in 1910

Volume 2, Issue 42

This image, taken around 1910, is believed to show members of the Albion Council #1330 Knights of Columbus. Established on June 2, 1908, the organization was first led by Grand Knight Thomas A. Kirby and Deputy Grand Knight John Cleary. When this image was taken, Thomas Kirby was serving his final term as leader of the organization and was replaced by James Kennedy the following year.

This Catholic fraternal organization was first established by Fr. Michael J. McGivney at New Haven, Connecticut in 1882. During a time when Catholics were excluded from unions and other fraternal organizations, Fr. McGivney noticed a need for an alternative fraternal organization that could provide mutual benefits to members. In particular, those members with families were insured in case of death, reducing the financial burden placed on widows and orphans. By 1909, the Order consisted of over 1,300 councils with over 230,000 knights, including those members of the newly established council at Albion.… More

Landmark Presbyterian Church Stands as Testament to 19th Century Prosperity

Volume 2, Issue 34

Few churches in Orleans County can boast such an extensive and prosperous history at the First Presbyterian Society. The earliest roots of the Church date to 1816 when the First Congregational Society of Barre was formed at the home of Joseph Hart. Nearly twenty years later members from that church showed preference towards the Presbyterian style of church government and opted to relocate to the fledgling village that would later become Albion.

The founding members of that congregation included prominent residents such as Joseph Hart, Jedediah Phelps, and Harvey Goodrich who were subsequently selected as elders of the church; Hart was also selected as deacon. Following the organization of this new congregation, the church welcomed their first new member by baptism, the infant Flora Ann Hopkins, daughter of Milton Hopkins. Services were held in several locations including a schoolhouse on Main Street, a local barn, and for a period of time, the court house.… More

“Burrows Concert Hall” Once Home to Baptist Church

Volume 2, Issue 26

Over two hundred years ago as the pioneer settlers first established themselves in the wilderness that was once Genesee County, education and religion became fundamental pieces in daily life. It’s no surprise that the first church constructed in this region was situated along the heavily traveled Ridge Road in the town of Gaines. A partnership between Baptists and Congregationalists led to the erection of a church edifice to the west of the old Gaines Road.

Upon the opening of the Erie Canal, traffic, industry, and eventually wealth transitioned southward into the Village of Albion and of course so did the demand for schools and churches. The Baptists, once practicing their faith in their shared sanctuary at Gaines, pushed to split the congregation in order to establish themselves within the village. With pressure from many prominent citizens, the First Baptist Church of Albion was organized on April 17, 1830 at the Court House; Phineas Briggs and Barnuel Farr were selected as deacons.… More

Kuck Led Efforts to Establish Church at West Carlton

Volume 2, Issue 15

Taken around the turn of the century, this image shows the West Carlton Methodist Episcopal Church more commonly referred to as the Kuckville Methodist Church. The Greek Revival building was constructed in 1835 near the mouth of Johnson’s Creek thanks in part to the diligence and hard work of George Kuck.

A native of England and resident of Canada, Kuck arrived at Carlton in 1815 having absconded to the region from York, Upper Canada (now Ontario). He was issued a commission as an Ensign with the 3rd Regiment of York Militia in 1812 and later attained the rank of Lieutenant. When his step-father, Matthias Brown, was accused of high treason for deserting the 3rd York, Kuck was forced to leave Canada with fears that he may be implicated in Brown’s case.

Kuck was an industrious an intelligent man who made quick work of establishing a grist mill at Johnson’s Creek and opened the first store north of Ridge Road in 1816 to serve the infant settlement.… More

First Church West of Genesee River Served Many Congregations

Volume 2, Issue 13

Situated on Ridge Road in Gaines, this structure served multiple organizations during its lifetime and is regarded as the first church constructed west of the Genesee River. As the pioneer settlers arrived in Gaines, cleared land and established farms along the historic route, they sought to establish their community with meeting halls and churches. Roughly seventeen years after Elizabeth Gilbert settled her parcel along the Ridge Road near Brown Road, the Congregationalists and Baptists constructed this building to serve as a union meeting house. Each group agreed to share the edifice, holding services on alternating Sundays.

In 1834 the Congregationalists purchased a site on the north side of the Ridge, just east of the Gaines Road intersection. It was at this time that the congregation sold their interest in the building to two men, who later sold their interest to John Proctor. The Baptists, meanwhile, remained active in the building despite losing a portion of their congregation following the establishment of the Baptist congregation at Albion in 1830.… More