Weedsport History

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This page contains the articles written by Denny Randall, which are posted monthly in the Auburn Citizen Newspaper.

Denny also writes articles in the IN PORT newspaper, which is also now on-line: http://www.inportmagazine.com/About.html
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More on Weedsport Football Through the Years.

     In 1956, after the Brutus St. high school was built and the Jr. Sr. high classes moved in, Weedsport football had by then morphed from 6 man to 8 man squads.  The first 8 man game was played on Sept. 20, 1956 against Moravia.  Weedsport football was in a state of flux for several years.  For a time the field at the Jackson St. building was continued to be used for practice and games, which continued to be played on Friday nights under the lights.  This situation was unsatisfactory for several reasons, not the least of which was the long hike from the high school, over science hill to the old field and back, which ate up a lot of practice time.

     In due time, a field was laid out at the Northwest corner of the athletic field at the high school.  The site was never satisfactory for many reasons, including the fact that lying as it was along the toe of the slope of the hill it was soggy much of the time from run-off coming off the hill.  Another issue was that the portable lights had to be left behind since there was no way to power them at the new field and thus the team was relegated to playing Saturday afternoons and attendance dropped precipitously.  The old Cayuga County League had by then disbanded and we were playing in the much larger Onondaga county League with 11 man teams.


     In 1972 a committee was formed of community minded individuals and groups to form a plan for a new football field.  After many fits and starts, the site selected was an area directly east of the high school building. There were a couple of flaws in this plan!  The worst one was a matter of elevation.  The land in question ran down a steep slope to Putnam Brook and would require untold amounts of fill, which the school system simply could not afford.  Art Sayles of Shepherd Rd. owned a largely abandoned gravel pit on his land and he agreed to furnish whatever fill was required at no cost.  The Village of Weedsport and the Town of Brutus and several individual contractors agreed to the use of their equipment if operators could be located.  That was how a number of us spent that entire summer evenings and weekends, hauling hundreds if not thousands of truckloads of gravel.

     As kind of a note aside, at the time the village had acquired a deuce and a half army truck as war surplus.  Clever Weedsport DPW Superintendent Ralph Black had mounted a huge 20 cubic yard box on it for the purpose of hauling snow away from the streets in the winter.  He sure never designed it to haul full loads of gravel on the spindly single rear wheels.  The thing had a Hydramatic transmission and you could never tell when it was going to shift up, or down and it shifted hard!  Eventually with fireman and town employee John Fitzgerald volunteering his time with the Town's Galion grader, the grade slowly started to come up to a reasonable level and over the course of a little more than a year we had built the area up to where it could be seeded and a field laid out, much as you see it today.

     Continuing on in 1973, it was  decided that we were not going to regress back to playing Saturday afternoons, having played under lights for so long.  Accordingly, yet another committee was formed, "Operation Lights", chaired by Ray and Bonnie Swim. Just about every type  of fundraiser you can imagine was used to generate funds.  On April 1, 1973 a pancake breakfast was held at the Grange Hall which netted $100.00, a snowmobile raffle was held which earned $960.00.  The fire department donated $200.00 and sponsored a spaghetti dinner for $160.00 more.  Nearly every church group and organization in the village got involved and it wasn't long before the lights were on order.

    Something which has always been a mystery to me to this day is Weedsport resident Alex Weiczorek, who worked for Niagara Mohawk managed to talk his bosses into donating the 65 foot poles, transporting them from Syracuse to Weedsport under permit and sending out a Dingle Digger to set them! They also donated all the heavy wire needed to make the connections.  This would be remarkable even if we were in Niagara Mohawk's service area, but we are NYSEG!  The actual wiring of the lights were done by Alex, Andy Vesosky and other linemen in the community.  In the fullness of time Weedsport football again was played under the lights on a field which had the advantage of being in a natural amphitheater, where the action is all viewed from above. It was decided to name the field the Clinton Eddy Goodwin Memorial field after WCS alumna and former football player Eddy Goodwin who suffered a broken neck playing football for Duquesne University and subsequently died from his injury.  In a bit of irony, his grandfather  Dr. C. E. Goodwin, after whom he was named was a star running back  on the Syracuse University squad, and was Weedsport's team physician for decades.  The Warrior booster club donated the electronic scoreboard and built the 3 story press box.

     Eventually, the school took over, installed drainage, updated the lighting, installed a magnificent all weather running track around the perimeter, put in a state of the art P.A. system and many other improvements, however the community is still involved.  A couple of years ago one of the alumni classes donated a pair of digital play countdown  clocks.  I attach a photo of the 1908 football squad posed in front of the old high school which was next to the Chirco home on Jackson St.  What is now the elementary school was not built until 1910.  See if you remember any of the names:  Front row L-R Grover Trumble, Harry Eldridge, James Wright, Harry Sheldon and Ray Putnam.  Middle row Glenn Gilbert, B.C.Harrington, William Stevenson, Ray Abbot and Clare Gilbert.  Back row Leroy Oliver, Harold Follett, George Robinson, Harold Hoyt, Neal Sheldon, Joe Gibbs, Ray Traver, and Allen Lamphere.


Denny Randall, Past President 

OBHS

Please click on thumbnail to see much larger view:

Weedsport Football 1908 Th
Weedsport HS  Football Squad 1908



 

Always Champions

 Weedsport Central recently completed another successful football season, advancing to the sectionals.  Over the years I have been one of many faithful fans following the teams.  For several years I have sat at the top of the bleachers on the 50 yard line with retired Weedsport teacher Keith Davis, Dave Fults and his family and others. If inclement weather is forecast, Dave comes up ahead of time and rigs a tarp down the back of the bleachers and over our heads to keep us warm and dry.  What a Guy!

 Weedsport has a rich football tradition going back beyond when my dad played in the 1920's, after transferring from Jordan.  In those days the football field was between what is now the Elementary School and Science Hill and games were played Saturday afternoons. Some will remember an ice skating rink being there in the 50's and 60's.  Other locals that played in that era included Bill Sullivan, Lamont Hoffman and others.  The story used to be told that during a game against long time rival Port Byron, on of the local guys who had apparently been sipping some cider, or some such stationed himself well up on the hill with a shotgun loaded with birdshot.  When a Port Byron quarterback threw a pass that looked like it might connect, BOOM and he shot the football out of the air.  Fortunately our fervor has toned down a bit since then

 Fast forward a generation to when I was in school.  Weedsport was the first  school in central New York other than city schools to play under lights. Games were Friday nights, as they still are. Principal Wm. Lampman had concluded that much more community spirit could be raised by playing Friday evenings under lights than Saturday afternoons when residents had lawns to tend, gardens to keep and other such mundane activities.  Accordingly he acquired through war surplus enough equipment to do the job.  The lights were portable, and I use the term loosely.  They were originally made to light up newly created airfields in the South Pacific during WWII.  The football field had by then morphed to the west side of the athletic field, parallel to the rear of the homes on Jackson Street and several large power boxes were installed on the fence at the rear of people's backyards.  Similarly several more were installed along the fencing around the tennis court, which was on the other side of the field.

 Now imagine this--remember, I  said these lights were portable. They were stored a good ways away in a storage area under the school, and on game days the football team, coaches, managers, janitors and willing fans would tote the twenty some four foot diameter weighted bases, weighted so they wouldn't tip in a wind from their storage area out to the field.  They were pretty heavy and awkward to carry, so usually they were rolled on edge like a giant hoop.  After they were placed in position every twenty yards, the poles were next.  15 feet tall, made out of three inch tubing, with a twist light socket at he top and a power junction box near the bottom.  After the poles were mounted on the bases, back to the school for the lampheads themselves.  These were also pretty heavy, hard to handle and of course pretty delicate as they all contained a 1,500 watt incandescent bulb. A couple of guys would tip the pole over and the lampheads would be twisted into place. Finally, the worst part of the whole deal--wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow load of huge and heavy power cable, perhaps an inch, or inch and a quarter in diameter.  The cables were all tagged where they went and they were dragged around and connected and the lamps tested.  The only thing that remained was for someone to come back after dark and aim the lights.  Guess what the football team , et al did on Saturday mornings after the games Friday nights?  Reversed the procedure and put every thing away.  These lights were used for several years even after the high school was built and then several years until the football field was constructed there, which is another story.  You know what though?  Lampman was right, as usual and attendance at the Weedsport games under the lights was and is  amazing to this day!  As a note aside, I got another dose of the "portable" lights.  When the school finally got done with them, they gave them to the Fire Department and we used them for years at our annual field days, first on West Brutus Street and finally on Rt. 31 until we finally set poles and installed street lights.  Next month, building the football field at the High School.

Denny Randall, Past President
OBHS


HISTORY VISITED

     In the middle of September I was fortunate enough to join nearly 50 other like minded people on a bus trip to the Gettysburg Battlefield sponsored by the ACC/CCC Alumni Association and conducted by CCC Professor and Dean John Lamphere.  John was of course a Cayuga County Deputy Sheriff for many years and has now morphed into academia.  Other Weedsport area folks on the trip include Town of Victory Historian Beverly Sayles, Rich and Jake Weiczorek, and former Weedsport resident Claire Chayka Fisher and her husband Jim, now of the Rochester area.  I have been to Gettysburg probably 15 times over the years and I can honestly say that I enjoyed this trip more than all the others combined.  Part of this was due to the relatively fast paced itinerary but mostly to the amazing knowledge John has of the battle and his incredible power of recall for names , dates, places and the other minutia that is history.

     The Battle of Gettysburg has long been considered the "high water" mark of the Confederacy, although they did briefly get as far north as Carlisle and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.  It's odd how history treats different people.  Robert E. Lee has long been venerated as a hero both in the South and the North, however the truth of the matter is that he blundered incredibly at Gettysburg by ordering an attack across nearly a mile of open field with the union artillery well entrenched firing right in their faces.  Similarly General James Longstreet and George Pickett have long been regarded as goats in the battle, but the truth of the matter is that they both tried to dissuade Lee from his foolhardy plan.  James Longstreet was  certainly one of the most capable Generals in the war and in fact General Lee himself referred to him as "my old warhorse". Not until just a few years ago was a monument to Longstreet erected, while nearly 1,400 other monuments have been put up for flag bearers, buglers and even dogs.

     Longstreet questioned Lee about the proposed charge nearly to the point of insubordination as did Pickett, but Lee stated the  "enemy is here and I am going to strike him".  History has shown what a bum decision that was, as the Confederate troops were slaughtered.  After the battle when Lee admonished Pickett to "see to his Division"  Pickett's retort was "General, I have no division" .  George Pickett never forgave Lee for ordering the charge for which Pickett got the blame.

      Lest you think all the bad decisions were on the Southern side, sometime take up a book on the life and conduct of General Daniel Sickles of the Union Army.  Not only was he absolutely insubordinate, but downright dishonest and a man of low moral character to boot.  He lost a leg in the battle, but still managed to flim flam his way through life serving in Congress, was the first  superintendent of the battleground  Association and promptly embezzled $41,000 from the association. He was appointed Ambassador to Spain and reportedly had a 2 year affair with Queen Isabella II, then became enamored of her niece.  Because of his actions his monument does not contain the bronze bust originally planned for it.  When told this, he brazenly stated that he didn't care, "the whole battlefield was his monument".

     215 men from the Weedsport area went to war for the North and many of them either didn't return or came home terribly wounded, both mentally and physically.  After the war a group called the "Grand Army of the Republic" was formed and the Weedsport Chapter was the Whiteside Post named after John Whiteside who had fallen in battle.  In the fire of 1871 they lost their meeting room on Furnace Street.  Membership increased for a few years until it reached about 90.  The grim work of time then began it's slow but steady work until they ceased to meet in 1928.  In the rural Cemetery are buried many GAR members including many in the triangle where the flagpole is located.  Francis M. Hunting, born in 1843 was the last area Civil War Veteran, passing to his reward on December 19, 1937

    The accompanying photo, taken at another time shows the memorial in the National Cemetery where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address.  It was not possible to photograph the site this time as the memorial has been completely disassembled for rebasing.  If you want to hear a presentation by John Lamphere he will be making an appearance at the Victory Fire Department on Sunday November 2 at 2:00 PM.  The topic will be the "Gettysburg Address". Refreshments will be served.

(Click thumbnail below for larger view)

Gettysburg Statue Th


Denny Randall, Past President
OBHS


 

 LOCAL WAR HERO (ONE OF MANY)



    When you enter the Village of Lyons, NY  from any direction, large orange signs proclaim it as the birthplace of Syracuse University Hall of Fame basketball coach Jim Boeheim.  While those who know me will vouch for the fact that I am a steadfast Boeheim fan, another sign might also have been erected there.

    In 1940 a sophomore at Lyons High school, alarmed with what was happening in Europe joined the Citizen's Military Training Corps, or CMTC and spent his summer vacation drilling and learning  gunnery at Fort Niagara.  Shortly after Pearl Harbor at 17 years of age, his father signed for him to enter the armed services.  I'll skip over the multiple snafus that one would expect, but eventually that 17 year old boy, Leroy L. Compson Jr. became an Air Cadet at Camp Croft, SC.

    After several more snafus he ended up in Santa Ana, CA training on an old Steerman biplane.   Due to the number of pilot candidates and the lack of anything flyable to train on he was told that he was washed out.  Not one to give up easily he insisted that he wanted to stay in the Army Air Corps, and the next day was transferred to Harlingen, TX for aerial gunnery school, eventually moving to Bruning, NE, where they were assigned B24 trainers and separated into specific crews.  Shortly thereafter they were issued a B24H Liberator bomber.  At first they had trouble starting it, so after considerable discussion, they named it "RELUCTANT LIZ" after the pilots wife.  She was not happy with the scantily clad "LIZ" painted on the front of the plane  After lots of practice flying in formation and precision bombing they moved on to Topeka KN briefly and then to Morrison Field, FL and then on to Tindouf Airfield in the middle of the Sahara desert after a couple of refueling stops.

    After a short stay there they moved on to Tunis and then to Grottaglia, Italy where they would be based.  By now time had passed to January 1, 1944 and Roy's 449th bomb group was really in the war.  8 missions were flown that January over Italy and Yugoslavia.  Roy was the tail gunner and assistant navigator on LIZ.  On one mission they took heavy flak and one engine was knocked out, and shortly the second engine on the same side failed.  After scrambling out of his turret after the flak attack he discovered his parachute had been shredded by the flak.  With the plane flying at 45 degrees and losing altitude preparations were made for bailing out.  One of the crewmen,  Staff Sgt. Loren Massey said if they needed to bail out for Roy to take his parachute since he was the oldest.  They finally decided that if they had to bail they would both use the same chute.  Roy decided  in that moment that if he ever had a son, he would name him Loren.  Miraculously the pilot was able to get LIZ on the ground and they counted over 500 holes in the fuselage between the wing and the tail.

    5 missions were flown in February over Italy, Germany and Austria, while 6 more were flown in March over Italy, Yugoslavia, Austria and Bulgaria. In April 9 missions were flown over Rumania, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria and France.  During April Roy developed a bad head cold which kept him grounded on April 4th.  As luck would have it, LIZ was shot down  over Yugoslavia.  2 of the crew men were killed and the rest became POW's after bailing out   Roy was then assigned to  a new Liberator "OLD IRONSIDES".  He also switched from tail gunner to right waist gunner.  During April the 449th bomb group lost 23 planes.  On a bombing mission to Yugoslavia 2 engines went out and they couldn't climb over the mountains.  After circling for awhile trying to gain altitude, but steadily losing it was decided that they would have to bail out. The Yugoslavian partisans had heard the plane in trouble and were right there on the ground to greet them.  The partisans which included women and kids so young their guns dragged on the ground hid sheltered and fed the crew from May 18th to June 2nd.  After walking most of the way out of Yugoslavia Roy and his crew were evacuated to the hospital in Bari, Italy.  After recovering and being assigned yet another plane Roy flew 6 more missions in June over Italy, Germany, Romania, Austria and Yugoslavia. He concluded his 50 missions in June and was put aboard a Liberty Ship for home.  I'll not go into the more , or less routine conclusion of Roy's service stateside, but some will wonder why I'm writing about  a kid from Lyons , no matter how deserving.

    As the late Paul Harvey used to say, here's the rest of the story--Roy married and he and his wife Agnes operated L.L. Compson Jewelers in Weedsport for many years, first on S. Seneca St and then on E. Brutus St. where the gun shop is now.  They did have a son and as promised, named him Loren.  Roy and Agnes live in retirement now and their grandchildren are older than Roy was when he went to war.


Denny Randall, Past President

OBHS


 

WEEDSPORT'S BLIZZARD OF 1888 -

(Great White Hurricane)

 

     THE BLIZZARD OF 1888--Last winter, although fairly harsh by modern standards (not so harsh in sunny Land-O-Lakes, Florida where I choose to hang out during the winter months) was nothing to compare with other periods of dreadful winter weather in the past.  Let me bring just one storm to mind-The Blizzard of '88, or the Great White Hurricane as it became known. In the not too distant past,  not only was it generally colder, and the snow heavier, but as a populace in general we were ill-equipped to deal with it.  No powerful snow removal equipment, or plows existed.   Moderate amounts of snow were just tromped down by the feet of horses and men and in many cases the result was an improvement over the mud which the packed snow replaced.

     The blizzard started around midnight on March 12 after a period of unseasonably warm weather with heavy rains, which turned to snow as the temperature dropped.  The blizzard affected the whole northeastern United States and the Canadian Maritimes.  Including areas all the way to Chicago.  Snowfalls recorded included:   50 inches across Connecticut, while much of New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York had an average of 40 inches.  Vermont had 30 inches.  58 inches were recorded in Saratoga Springs, 48 inches in Albany, 45 in New Haven, Connecticut and 25 inches in New York City.  Winds were reported as high as 80 MPH and temperatures were in the single digits.  The record snowfall and unbelievable winds resulted in drifts of 30 to 40 feet, or more, from New York City to New England and well inland.  A drift was measured in Gravesend(an area of Brooklyn near Coney Island) of 52.5 feet.

     Rail and road travel was not possible for many days all across New York, including Weedsport.  More than 400 people died from the storm--over 200 in New York City alone.  More than 200 ships were grounded, or sunk resulting in the deaths of at least 100 seamen.  The storm finally dissipated on March 14 leaving weeks of work of removing snow and repairing storm caused damage behind.  Damage was estimated at 25 million dollars in 1888 money. Weedsport was not spared--See the accompanying photo dated 1888, showing a crew with a 2 horse road grader and several shovelers clearing one of the streets in the village.  Some things never change--note everyone leaning on their shovels!

     The photo was reproduced as a trade card by the W.H. Eldridge Company, dealer in coal, flour, wood, and feed, as well as sewer pipe, Portland cement, salt, bricks, lime, fire brick, wall plaster, road wagons, bob sleighs and the availability of long distance telephone service.  Strangely, on the card reverse is a photo of the 4 year old Weedsport firehouse with the WFD standing at parade dress in front of the building, also included is a map of the village streets showing the location of all fire hydrants.

More next month

(Please click on thumbanil below, to see a much larger version:)

Blizzard 1888


Denny Randall, past President
OBHS



 

                                          TRANSPORTATION HAS ALWAYS BEEN WEEDSPORT'S STRONG SUIT


   Weedsport has always been noted for it's association with transportation--in fact exists because of it.  At first what is now Weedsport was a tiny hamlet called Macedonia, located near the intersection of what is now Rude St. and Rt. 34(Seneca St.).  It must be remembered that at that time, what is now Rude St. was the main east-west route across central New York.  It ran across what is now Shepherd Rd., behind the cemetery and connected with what is now Cottle Rd., to continue meandering easterly. To the west, it ran up over the giant hill west of Seneca St. and joined up with what is now Hamilton Rd. at Northbrook Farms.

   When the Erie Canal was dug, the community morphed northward toward the canal, much as it is doing today toward the Thruway.  When Elihu and Edward Weed constructed a turning basin on the canal, the community became Weed's Basin, later Weedsport, thus it came to exist because of the canal. Eventually the iron horse began to edge out canal travel and freight tonnage since it was so much faster and tracks could be laid almost anywhere.  Imagine at one time Weedsport had over 30 train departures a day, with 4 tracks on the New York Central and 2 each on the West Shore and Lehigh Valley, plus the light rail trolley system.

   Eventually Henry Ford did to the railroads what they had done to the canal.  The availability of inexpensive autos and the improving highways sounded the death knell for short haul passenger service and heavy trucks ate into the railroads freight business. It is about the improving highways that I'll write and that fact alone keeps Weedsport a transportation related community and one which thrives compared to most small towns in the area.

   During WWII  General Eisenhower greatly admired Hitler's Autobahn and came home to eventually become President and made one of his pet projects the creation of an interstate highway system, similar to Herr Hitler's. The fact of the matter is New York State had already a plan in the works. In 1942 a bill was passed in both houses of the legislature and signed by the Governor that plotted the general route of a cross state highway clearing the way for the planning, design and construction.  In 1944 Governor Dewey authorized the state DOT to proceed with construction as funds  were available.  In 1948 a 4 mile section near Canandaigua was opened to traffic on a toll free basis.

   In 1950 construction was expedited and the Thruway Authority was created, and on June 24th of 1954 amid great hoopla the first toll section of the road opened between Rochester and Westmoreland.  A 5 mile long parade marked the opening and among the vehicles in the parade were Ted Trice and his family from Sennett in their 1920 Studebaker, Guy Lanphere in his 1919 Chevrolet and George Harris in his Watkins Glen Grand Prix winning Cadillac Allard J2  There was a program hosted by local dignitaries and politicians at the Weedsport interchange and  the cover of that program is shown.
In 1964 the name of the thruway was changed to the "Thomas E. Dewey Thruway"  , or as Deacon Doubleday used to call it the "Deweythruwy"

   Many local people have worked for the Thruway Authority in the past 50 years. Harry Weeks was the first Section Maintenance Supervisor and Lindsford Parker was Section Foreman  Among the first crew of toll takers dressed in their natty air force blue pants, jackets and police type hat with grey shirts were Glenn O'Hara and Chet Hazzard.  There does not seem to be anything in the offing  that will prevent us from driving on the Thruway (and paying tolls) for the next 50 years.

(Please click on thumbnail below, to see larger view)

Thruway Opening Program

Denny Randall  '57
Past President OBHS


 

"The Class of '57 Had a Dream"


     As some of you know, I was a member of the class of 1957 at Weedsport Central School, in fact, I was class President, elected on a straight party line vote--there were more boys than girls in the class!  It's hard to believe that this year we are celebrating our 57th anniversary of alumniship.  Most of us by now have raised families, had careers and are now at last enjoying some form of retirement, although in a lot of ways retirement is just work by another name.

     We have always been a very close class, graduating just 50 members in 1957, but small class size is one of the things that makes attending school at Weedsport so special and so rewarding.  The school system is ALWAYS rated as one of the best in the area and if you want further proof of that, check out the New York State School report cards issued annually.  For that matter look at the realty ads in this paper where one of the first attributes of a property listing in our area is "WEEDSPORT  SCHOOLS"!

     We have always celebrated the same weekend as the annual school alumni banquet, renting a local hall and enjoying a meal together Friday night, spending Saturday together, going to the alumni banquet Saturday evening and having a brunch somewhere Sunday morning before going our separate ways for another year. Although with the ravages of time , our class has shrunk from 50 to 40 members the rest of us soldier on as if we just came down the long driveway on E. Brutus Street last week.

     Although we have always had a close relationship with each other , it takes a bit of grunt work to keep us together.  Our local planning committee consists of Judy Lofft, Connie Bolton, Alicia Procino, Barbara Ryan, Bruce Christopher, Burt Ward and me.  Anchoring the whole shebang is our webmaster, Joan Higham in New Port Richey, Fl. Joan lists every class member's address,  phone# and e-mail #. She sends out birthday notices for everyone, keeps track of illnesses, who's been where, or doing what. All of the writing that I have done for this paper and Inport may be viewed on this site. Writings by classmate Bob Leonardi may also be viewed here. It is a wealth of information with links to the village, the library and the school among others.  Joan also hosts a winter mini-reunion in February for those of us fortunate enough to be able to escape the ice and snow.  If you wish to climb aboard our "information highway" and find out what the "class of '57" is up to go on  joanhigham.com and try to keep up with us.


     We have always been proud of the fact that we were the fist class to attend school in the Brutus Street building and always enjoy going back. If we have one wish for the "class of 2014" it is to come together often, preferably in conjunction with the alumni banquet and always have as much fun together as we have had for the past 57 years.  The accompanying photo courtesy of Joan Ashby shows us at the Alumni banquet on June 21.

     Shown front row L-R are: Lorna Jones Sande, Judy Kappesser Smith, Barbara Melvin Martino, Marcella Jorolemon Navarro,  Sister Phyllis Tierney SSJ, Joan Spier Higham,  and Judy Williams Lofft.  The top row shows David Keel, Gordon Weller, Peter O'Hara, Alicia Rosencrans Procino, Connie Goodrich Bolton,Ron Berry, John Ashby, John Bankert, Sue Whitman Guszcza, Denny Salsbury, Denny Randall, Joan Wethey Jones, Dan Jeffers, Mary Jane Shepherd DeNike, Barbara Ward Ryan, Bill Babcock and Burt Ward.  Holding the banner are Dick Brown and Bruce Christopher.

     Until next year, when like the swallows of Capestrano,  the "Class Of A Lifetime" will return to our childhood home, we wish you all the very best.


     Denny Randall  '57
     Past President OBHS

Click on Thumbnail photo below to see a much larger view:

57 57th reunion Weedsport

Front row:

Lorna, Judy S., Barb. M, , Marci, Sister Phyllis, Joan H., and Judy L.

Back row:

Dave K., Gordie, Pete, Alicia, Connie, Ron Berry, Jack Ashby, John Bankert, Sue, Denny S., Denny R., Joni J., Dan J., Janie, Barb. R., Bill B., and Burt W.

Holdilng up the sign, which reads: "The Class of '57, is a Class of a Lifetime - Our 57th Reunion",
are Dick Brown and Bruce Christopher.

 


I Love A Parade

  In small town America, the long awaited appearance of Memorial Day signifies that parade season is finally here. It takes little to inspire Americans to parade, in fact, almost any excuse will do!  Not only are National holidays, such as Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Day, Easter and many other less known holidays, or days of note for some special interest group cause for a parade but there are lots of locally inspired parades.

  A parade was held in Weedsport in 1916 when Seneca St. was paved with brick.  A parade was held after the fire in 1871 to show the town folks appreciation to the local vamps for their efforts in keeping the whole caboodle from going up in flames.  The end of both world wars inspired parades, but it doesn't take something that grandiose for reason to march down the street.  The Farmer's Picnic featured a parade, as did the much acclaimed Weedsport Community Fair which operated for many years.  My favorite part of the Fair parade was seeing Guy Lanphere purr down the street in his 1919 Chevrolet--my modern 1930 Ford wouldn't hold a candle to it. Halloween has a parade as does the annual firemen's field days.  Enjoy this year's firemen's parade at 7:00 PM, on June 6.

This photo taken in front of the A&P and Ken Heffernan's market on N. Seneca St. shows the WFD marching in the community Fair parade of 1949. Shown in the photo carrying the banner are classmate Judy Williams (Lofft) and Nancy Hubbard (Short). The curb side file shows Chet Hazzard, Gabby Dutton, Bull Bennett, Don Zellar, Earl Bates and Howard Forbes. Leading the other file is Doc Goodwin, followed by Joe Kosters, Floyd Goodsell, Ed Babiarz, Jack Gridley and Morris Gifford. Marchers beyond those listed could not be identified.

Denny Randall, Past Pres. OBHS

* OBHS

* The "Old Brutus Historiocal Society" now has a nice, new website, if you would like to view it:

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nycayuga/obhs/index.html


See you at the parade!

(Click on thumbnail below to view a MUCH LARGER photo)

1949 Weedsport Parade



 

WORDS OF WISDOM FROM THE PAST

     I have been doing a bit of research since I returned from Florida, using mostly old Cayuga Chief newspapers as my source.  The Cayuga Chief was a weekly that was published in Weedsport for over a hundred years, and at one time was a complete newspaper, giving world, state and local news as well as editorial opinions and classified advertising.  Remember there was no radio, or TV to get your news from.  As I struggled through these papers viewing them page by page through a microfilm reader screen I could hardly keep from reading each page completely. The style of writing was so direct and to the point that I found it refreshing.  Below are some quotes from the September 25, 1883 edition:
 
     “The Auburn Independent appropriates items from our columns without credit rather too freely, we think.”
 
     “Abram Coppernoll, the victim of the  recent shooting affair in Cato, contrary to first indications is improving and will recover, which is lucky for Mr. French.
 
     “Some idea of the extent of the business of the Weedsport Skirt & Dress Company may be obtained when we state that last week the firm shipped no less than two thousand dozen hoop skirts.  This was exclusive of their large shipments of fly nets, which are in great demand and are consequently sent to all parts of the country. “  MY NOTE  Fly nets went over the backs of horses to keep the flies off.
 
     THE TERRIBLE BARBED WIRE!—A bay mare belonging to W. Sturge’s livery, on Monday night last, became the latest victim to the barbed wire nuisance.  The animal was being driven by Mr. Overhiser, one of the West Shore employees, who was returning to Weedsport from the west.  The night was dark and arriving at  a point where the highway now branches off towards the new bridge, the horse kept on the old and beaten track, which had been left without guard of any kind.  The animal soon came in contact with the barbed wire  fence and was nearly prostrated by her struggles to free herself.  The mare’s legs were cut and torn in a frightful manner, but she is receiving good care and may recover.  It is rumored that a horse belonging to a Mr. Bell was badly injured at the same spot a few nights ago.  It is the same old story. Accident accumulate wherever the atrocious barbed wire is put up.  Some day the people will rise up, en masse and demand the abatement of this intolerable outrage upon civilization”
 
     “The following brace of items from the Rochester Post-Express illustrates a slip-shod manner in writing news paragraphs.  ‘Two horses were killed near Cayuga the past week by barbed wire fence’     ‘ A Cayuga insurance firm now issues policies against tornados and cyclones’  Both of these items were taken from the Chief, but the blunderer who wrote them has not yet discovered that the paper is published at Weedsport—not at Cayuga Bridge—and the facts, such as they are referred to Weedsport.  It used to be different when that  keen and spicy paragrapher , Mr. Ellwanger used pen and scissors on the Rochester paper.”
 
    “ Mr. Irving J. Keyes, who came from Olean, N.Y. has been in the employ of the proprietors of the Chief for several weeks as a printer, during which time his conduct was most exemplary and in every way satisfactory to his employers.  He walked out of the office at about 8 o’clock on Monday evening last, since which time nothing has been heard of him.  He was a young man of more than ordinary intelligence and his relations with us had been uniformly pleasant and satisfactory.  We sincerely hope no evil has befallen him and will gladly receive any intelligence of his safety”  MY NOTE I looked through several later editions to see what happened to Mr. Keyes and found nothing.  A couple of weeks later I did find a large box ad for a printer with SOBRIETY a major consideration.   Draw your own conclusions,
 
   The  Weedsport Carriage Company on Furnace Street advertises Buffalo robes, Wolf robes and horse blankets, also side bar and end spring buggies—handsome, durable and cheap.
    
 

D. Randall, Past Pres

* OBHS

* The "Old Brutus Historiocal Society" now has a nice, new website, if you would like to view it:

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~nycayuga/obhs/index.html


 

FIRE! - April Article

   I  guess for the time being at least I'll get off the old post card kick and talk about something else.  Recently our society submitted a proposal for a grant to the Pomeroy Foundation to have a New York State historical marker placed in front of, or on the Weedsport firehouse.  The firehouse, which was built in 1884 was a direct result of the disastrous fire of 1871 in which most of the center of the village was destroyed.  Progressive Fire Chief Henry Brewster realized that the growing Village of Weedsport required better equipment and facilities than currently existed, which were hand operated pumpers and hand drawn hose reels.  Lest you think that Chief Brewster was not progressive it took him only a short time after the fire (1874) to convince the village to contract with the Silsby Manufacturing Company of Seneca falls to provide a steam powered fire engine for the village.  Also during this era, he found enough time to found the "American Order of Firemen", located and acquired the grounds for the New York State Volunteer Firemen's Home in Hudson, NY and was elected statewide to serve on the administrative board of that home as a charter member.  As a note aside ,the Home is still operating today serving indigent volunteer firefighters and their spouses.  In a moment of braggadocio let me say how proud your author was to follow Chief Brewster serving on that board from 1988 to 1998, only the 2nd person from Cayuga County to so serve.

   But I digress--It was soon obvious that the make-do firehouse on Furnace Street, which was little more than a shed was inadequate. Accordingly a new 2 story firehouse was soon built on South Street at the head of Furnace St.  People touring our museum have said that apparently no one in the village ever threw anything away--as witness to that, we have the entire build package for the firehouse, right down to the last brick and nail.  All of this material was very helpful in preparing our grant application.

   Attached are 2 photos-- the first one showing it as it was built and the second showing it's second iteration as reconstructed in 1950.  In the first photo  immediately evident is the hose drying tower which was removed during the 1950 rebuild as electric hose dryers were then available.  Also noticeable was the removal of the beautiful arched swinging doors at the same time. This change was necessary to accommodate  the newer and bigger equipment of the day.  We didn't know what bigger was!

   Wouldn't it be nice to know who the folks were standing in front of the building in the original picture?  If you think the village wasn't proud of their new steam fire engine, cast into the cornices at each upper side of the building is an "H" on the left and "S" on the right--Hose and steamer.

   The other photo shown after the building was altered in 1940 shows the first addition to the south and the façade put across the front to accommodate overhead doors  The building was modified and extended again in 1974.  It kind of reminds me of the story about the old farmer who treasured his family ax--the handle had bean replaced 5 times and the head twice but it's still the same old ax!

   The equipment shown in the 1958 photo shows L-R 1937 Dodge Brothers/Cayasler pumper, 1947 Cadillac/Superior Ambulance, 1954 GMC/Sanford Squad car, 1939 Autocar Model U tanker acquired from Socony-Vacuum oil (Mobil) and the newest piece of apparatus a 1950 Ford/ Sanford.  Not shown was the 1925 Sanford which was still in service.

  More when I return from the sunny south. 

D. Randall, Past Pres
OBHS

(Please click on thumbnails below to see larger views:)

Firehouse 1 Firehouse 2

 


Weedsport Stuff - March Article

Continuing our pictorial history of Weedsport we have another couple of interesting pictures. The first one is a view of the west side of North Seneca Street taken from the center of the four corners. I hate to sound redundant but this is the best shot yet of Weedsport's electric carbon arc streetlights, of which they were very proud. Most other communities were still struggling along with kerosene lamps, or at best gas lights. Unlike the other open flame forms of lighting the arc lamps required little attention. Power was turned on from a central location and turned off, usually at midnight when the need for lights had diminished.

Before the building where our Museum was built, the Cayuga Chief newspaper was printed on the second floor of the corner building. They also did considerable job printing, as seen by the sign. The building was occupied on the first floor by the Burrill Drug store. Apparently an insurance office and realty firm were also on the second floor with the print shop. A short ways down the block can be seen the sign of the Weedsport Construction Company, who were bridge builders. Notice the number of cross arms on the telephone/telegraph poles.

During the time of the Erie canal and the hay day of the railroads there was an almost unbelievable amount of travel to and through Weedsport and to accommodate that travel there were many hotels of all types of accommodation from the luxury of the plush Willard House to many of lesser status.
Shown in the second photo is one of these lesser places of rest. It is the Hotel Sabin, toward the end of it's useful life in 1910. It was located on the west side of South Seneca Street where the parking lot of Nickel Back Jack's is now located. Another time I will do a series on just Weedsport Hotels.
(Please click on thumbnails for much larger views:)

W Side N Seneca St Hotel Sabin

D. Randall, Past Pres
OBHS


 

DON'T THROW BRICKS!

I'll continue my pictorial history of old Weedsport this month by focusing on an event that was monumental in the village at the time.  I speak of the appearance of PAVED streets in the village.  While this may not seem of earthshaking importance today, believe me in the early 20th century this was a big deal!  For perhaps a hundred years residents and visitors had suffered the indignity of having to slog through mud every time it rained, or after every thaw in the wintertime.  Add to this fine mess the excrement of hundreds of horses who used the village streets every day and you can only imagine making your way through this evil smelling morass to get from one side of the street to the other.

Eventually wooden sidewalks were laid to at least keep a person out of the mire while in front of the stores and wooden cross walks were installed at key places of crossing, however this wasn't a particularly good solution either, as every day the mud had to be shoveled off the crosswalks where the horses had tracked it.   In 1915 the residents of the village had seen enough of mud and the village, after considerable study decided to pave the village roadways, starting with Seneca St.

In the fullness of time all the streets were paved.  The first ones were done with locally made brick and later on some of the others were done with the enterprising Scotsman's patented process "McAdam", or asphalt.

The first photo shows the paving under construction on N. Seneca St.  The building shown stood where the vacant "Burritt's" is now. The building was occupied by Henderson, Mack and Company, while one of the upper offices was utilized by Dr. Horace Stone, Dentist.  Notice the roadway has been dug out and a large pile of bricks are there waiting installation.  The buggy doesn't have high wheels just because they look nice (which they do) , but to be able to get thru knee deep mud in the streets and roadways.

The second picture, taken from very close to the same spot shows the parade held in observance of the brick pavement on Saturday, September 30th, 1916.  The parade is being led by the Weedsport Cornet Band.  Notice the bicycles taking advantage of the new pavement! 

 Still today when the pavement in the area of the four corners is compromised, You will drive on the original brick until repairs can be made to the blacktop.

Please click on the thumbnails below, to see larger views:

Weedsport Brick Paving Weedsport Brick 1916

D. Randall, Past Pres
OBHS

 


 

    MORE INTERESTING OLD POSTCARDS OF WEEDSPORT

  At one time , before traffic became the hazard that it is today, and indeed, before there was such a thing as traffic, unless you counted the occasional horse and buggy It was very common to move buildings, including commercial establishments as well as homes if they were in the way of progress, or just because they could.  It was done with large jacks, rollers and horses or perhaps block and tackle for motive power.

Photo number one this week shows several buildings that were moved;   The site was directly across South Seneca Street from the Presbyterian Church and the reason that the buildings had to be moved was that the site had been chosen as the lot where the new Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern trolley station was to be erected in the summer of 1909.  As an aside, the trolley station eventually became the Grange Hall when the trolley went out of business and is now a private residence. Many people in the community will recall going to square dances in the Grange Hall in the 1940's and '50's


From left to right in the picture is the blacksmith shop operated by Jacob Rheubottom (the card is continuously misidentified on e-bay as  the Weedsport Firehouse)--not so, it was a black smith shop with a residence above, as witness the outside staircase. That building was deemed not worthy of moving and was razed.  The next building with the light colored front was the office and residence of Dr. Clinton E. Goodwin and the 3rd building was another residence, as was the fourth building.  The Goodwin building was gathered up and moved down the street to the four corners, up E. Brutus to South Street  where it still stands today as the two family house on the South-West corner of the intersection.  The third house was moved around the corner and the full length of Liberty Street where it still stands on the North-West corner of Liberty and South Streets.  The fourth building was moved a short distance around the corner onto Liberty Street.

Nearly every street in the village had buildings moved in or out during these busy times of growth.  James Street (the Jackson Street school driveway) at one time ran all the way up Science Hill to the Lehigh Valley Railroad and there were several residences on the street, most of which were eventually moved.  When the Jackson Street school was built in 1910 all the residences which were on what is now the front lawn were  relocated elsewhere in the village.

The other photo is a rare and unusual picture of the overpass which carried the Lehigh Valley Railroad over S. Willow Street.  Many of us that started driving in the 1950's will remember that narrow  shot through those sturdy looking abutments! The picture is looking downgrade on Willow Street to the north and a boxcar can be seen standing on the West Shore Railroad siding beyond the bridge. For as little traffic as there was on S. Willow St., the RR would never have bothered to bridge the street, however they had to be elevated anyway to go over the busy West Shore Railroad and they then stayed elevated to get over E. Brutus Street where the Library now stands. Remember that the West Shore passenger depot stood just under this bridge and around the corner on East Street and the stairway was for the convenience of passengers disembarking from the north-south Lehigh on top of the bridge to enable them  to make east-west connections on the West Shore.  Notice there was enough foot traffic in the area that the village installed one of their new fangled electric arc street lamps to light the stairs.


More next month.

Please click on thumbnails below, to view larger photos:

Weedsport Buildings Weedssport Overpass



D. Randall, Past Pres
OBHS


 

Weedsport Trivia - Old Post cards - The Fountain

 

   This month, continuing our tour of  the village via old postcards of the early 20th century we have a couple of interesting photos.

The first picture shows a view looking north on Seneca Street through the four corners.  The shot was taken from near the Furnace Street intersection. The undated picture was taken sometime after 1928, since that's when the traffic light was installed.  Note one of Weedsport's famous electric arc streetlights high in the air over the stoplight.

The business on the right with the white awning was the restaurant and ice cream parlor operated by Vassos and Idamay Saroodis.  Previously, it had been run by the Daniels family.  Beyond that, the next white awning shaded the front of Elliot's "White Front " market.  Immediately in front of the first automobile at the curb on the right hand side of the street may be seen Weedsport's highly  acclaimed fountain.  The fountain was gravity fed from a spring on the east side of South Seneca Street directly across from Saint joseph's Church.

The other picture shows the fountain in considerable detail. The illuminated fountain had street levels bowls for dogs and cats, a circular trough for horses and several continually running spigots for human refreshment above that.  This photo, taken before the street was paved in 1916 shows the fountain very well.  People wonder why the fountain was put in the street--it was done as a convenience to the horses.  Who would want to drive a horse and wagon up on the sidewalk so the horse could get a drink?

The fountain just about opposite where the stairway leads up to the martial arts studio.  As to what happened to it,, in the late 1930's the state decided to widen and straighten Route 34 (Seneca Street) and they demanded removal of the fountain. As witness all the automobiles on the street, there weren't many horses stopping by for a drink anymore anyway and accordingly the fountain was auctioned off for scrap.  Local rigger and ice man Clint Hazzard and a gentleman from Centerport bid on the bronze fountain for scrap value with the man from Centerport winning.  Clint had the last laugh though.  The other man couldn't move it and had to hire Clint to haul it to Centerport where it was broken up for scrap.

Please click on the thumbnails to see larger views:

Weedsport Fountain Postcard Seneca St

D. Randall, Past Pres
OBHS


 

More Old Weedsport Postcard Photos -

   Here's another couple of early postcards of old Weedsport.  

The first one is a view of the west side of S. Seneca St. where Brewster's Cleaners was recently located.

   Shown is the livery, harness shop as well as the wagon and buggy sales and service facility of Fred D. Lanphere. Note the sign  high on the building advertising "Studebaker" wagons and buggies.  Studebaker was the only wagon maker that successfully phased into making automobiles, although a few truck manufacturers had made the change, notably IH and  Brockway.  Many of the covered wagons used by the pioneers westward bound across the U.S. were Studebakers.  Fred Lanphere later sold autos from the same location, including Studebaker, Essex and others.  One of the others was the famous air-cooled Franklin, made in Syracuse.  Fred's son Guy went on to become a very successful Chevrolet dealer in the village at the other end of town.  The last automobiles sold at the S. Seneca St. location were the "fabulous"  Hudsons sold by Eidman Motors during the '40's and 50's.

   The other photo, taken almost directly across the street in 1908 shows left to right the Presbyterian Church, The 3 houses built by O.W.Burritt, sided with steel and once known as "Tin City" (now church lawn) and the Burritt Opera House where a Dollar general now stands, as well as a parking lot and pizza parlor. The Opera House burned in the mid 1930's.  The building on the left is the front of the famous "Willard House" with what appears to be a brand new sidewalk.  In this day when the horse was king, it was necessary for the village to hire someone in the DPW to rake up and dispose of the considerable amount of daily horse manure.  Note the neat little piles of excrement  in the street awaiting pick up!  Although the horse was still king there is a very early auto parked in front of the opera house.

Please click on the thumbnail photos below, to view larger photos:

Seneca St Weedsport 1908 S Seneca St

D. Randall, Past Pres
OBHS


 

More Postcard Photos -

This month, we'll take a look at a couple more postcard views of old Weedsport.

The first one is a 1908 view of the venerable Tudor & Jones Company which is still in business today locally. They are a jobber for all manner of farm equipment and related merchandise. The building shown, which was vacated by Tudor & Jones long ago has not changed a great deal in appearance. You would know it today as the "Weedsport Auto and Truck Supply" on North Seneca street. Standing in the doorway are Carrie Detsel Kincaid and James Wright, while owner D.C.Jones is on the shipping dock. The tall chimney is actually on the building next door, which was the "Weedsport Lighting Company" offices and power station where electricity was generated by means of a large steam engine in the basement. Eventually, "New York State Electric and Gas" bought them out and ran a local office there for many years. It is now occupied by an attorney and an insurance agency.
Note that the street is not yet paved and a boardwalk was provided to cross the muddy road.

The second photo is kind of an interesting aerial view which was taken from the steeple of the old Methodist Church. The Baptist Church on Liberty Street is visible on the left side of the photo. Note the Fellowship Hall had not yet been built. The red brick church was painted white in this photo, taken in 1907. The tall steeple beyond the Baptist Church is atop the Presbyterian Church on S. Seneca St. The building seen in the left foreground in the Skaden and Kerns shirtwaist factory, which was torn down in 1974. Weedsport was once known as the "shirtwaist capital of New York State". The building was removed to allow for expansion of the firehouse, which is seen in the center foreground.The firehouse, still in use today, was built in 1884, with additions made in 1950 and 1974. The hose drying tower was removed during the 1950 rebuild and the village jail (lock-up) was removed during the 1974 remake of the building. The jail is the small appendage at the rear of the firehouse. The large white building in the photo center is the rear of the Willard House (Weedsport Hotel). What else can you spot in the picture?

Please click thumbnails for larger views:

Tudor & Jones 1907 Post Card

 

D. Randall, Past Pres
OBHS


 

Postcards

We have many "Weedsport" postcards in our museum collection and I intend to write a series of columns on some of them.  At the end of the 1800's and the early part of the 20th century any small occasion was enough to warrant the printing and mailing of a postcard.  They were very inexpensive to print and cost but a penny to mail, thus a child borne, a new home, or automobile, birthdays, holidays and about any other occasion was fair game for a postcard.  There was a firm in Jordan that specialized in printing postcards and perhaps that is one reason that there were so many Weedsport related cards.  As I write this, there are no less than 65  cards listed on E-Bay ranging in price from $1.50 for an Easter card embossed "Weedsport" to $75.00 for a card showing a trolley car swinging from East Brutus St. onto South Willow Street near the #2 Weedsport stop which was at that intersection.

I have selected a couple of our cards to show.  One of them is the Section Seven "Hurry Up" boat on the Erie Canal taken in the late 1800's. The canal was of course where Erie Drive (Rt. 31) is now.  The boat is tied up behind what is now the Pizza Parlor on North Seneca Street. Notice the rear of the buildings haven't changed much in the more than 100 years since the photo was taken.  Today the lower level of windows as shown are only half windows as a result of the canal being filled in and the state raising the grade to build  Route 31 shortly after WWII.  The "Hurry Up" boats were emergency maintenance vessels, pulled by fast horses for speedy response, instead of the plodding mules which pulled commercial shipping.  They answered all kinds of emergencies on the canal including grounded boats, low, or high water,, etc.  One of their biggest concerns was the breeching of an embankment which could empty out a whole section of the canal if not attended to at once. It was reported that burrowing woodchucks caused more breeches than all other combined causes.  The high stack seen in the distance was the vent stack for the Miller and Kirby Malt House which stood where our museum now is located.

The other card is a view of North Seneca Street taken in 1908.  Note the street has not yet been paved.  It was paved with locally made brick in 1916. Very recognizable still are most of the buildings on the East side of the street.  From the left( North)  The Security Company (Barr Typewriter to my generation) which is now Purple Monkey Antiques.  The next tall building was the Congress Hotel, now long gone.  Next was the National Bank Building, now Lin Bo Chinese restaurant.  The lighter colored building was the J. D. Kanaley Grocery and the long building to the right of that which still looks pretty much the same as "Old Erie Restaurant" was occupied at the time by a tobacco shop and confectionary with a barber shop at the south end.

The gizmo hanging over the street shown in front of the decorative parapet wall of the Security Company was one of Weedsport's carbon arc street lights.  The village never utilized gas lamps as most municipalities did, but morphed right from kerosene to electric carbon arc lamps which gave a bright white light.

Denny Randall, Past President

OBHS

Please click on thumbnails below, for larger views:

Hurry Up Boat Seneca St 1908

 


 

HAVE A BALL!

 



    Thinking back to a couple of months ago at the Weedsport Central School alumni banquet, several of us were talking about what we had enjoyed most about attending school at Weedsport.  One of the things that always comes to mind at these times is the fun and excitement that we used to have putting on and attending the two formal dances held each year.

    The Senior class annually sponsored the Junior Prom for the Junior class and they in turn sponsored the Senior ball.  The dances were held in the school gym which had been beautifully decorated for the occasion by the sponsoring class with help from parents, the school administration and townsfolk.

     In the week preceding the dances gym classes met elsewhere if the weather did not allow outdoor classes, as the gym was strictly off limits to any but the sponsoring group.  The theme had been set months earlier and considerable work had already been done prior to that week including purchasing crepe paper, slitting the paper to the proper width and then rolling it into rolls  to facilitate the stringing of the streamers, which often included working from huge stepladders. There is an art to stringing crepe paper, which involves, among other thing making sure the twists were always the same, since it looks strange if done otherwise, and also that you have to pull it pretty tight, or the humidity and moving air from the heating units would cause it to sag unbelievably. Other tasks done ahead of time included making hundreds of tissue paper roses, borrowing such items as garden furniture and arbors and the like and the engineering of any "special effects" that would be included.  Some of the designs over the years were amazingly beautiful.  The Friday before the dance was the grand unveiling as the entire school was trooped through the gym accompanied by many "oohs" and "aahs".

     Another item of great importance was the selection of the orchestra.  Yes, that's what I said, an orchestra.  Not a DJ with their million watts of amplifier and silly patter, not two guitars and a drum set, but a bona fide five, or seven person orchestra. A couple of local dance orchestras included Hal Baker and Frank Lentini, among others.  The orchestras  played big band music and early rock and roll all evening with a short intermission.  During intermission cookies, punch and tea sandwiches were served by local parents.  After the dance the involved class would either go to a particular place for further entertainment, or sometimes the Zimmer family would open up their Weedsport Recreation Center where the class could enjoy movies at the theater, or go next door for bowling, billiards or food without having to endure the logistics of today, arranging limos and the like.

     While there was obviously some expense involved (the girls had to have a new formal gown and oftentimes the boys a new sports jacket), corsages and boutonnières and usually a meal somewhere, I'm sure it was insignificant compared to the expenses of today.  Transportation usually involved borrowing the family sedan for the evening, since it was always newer, more reliable and generally cleaner than our cars, if we had a car.  Those who did not doubled up with those who did and it always worked out.  The classes of today are missing out on some of the best fun and the satisfaction of putting on one of these gala formal affairs.

     Our class (1957) was the first to attend school in the Brutus Street building and we were anxious to put on a good show and that we did, although it was a challenge compared to the relatively small gym at the Jackson Street building.  We decided that in order to break up the huge expanse of the gym floor we would put a garden setting in the middle of the area.  Accordingly, one of our classmates whose parents ran a nursery brought in many potted and balled trees and shrubs. Artificial grass was borrowed from a local undertaker and arbors and garden furniture was obtained from local townfolk.  We decided to include a fountain in our presentation and accordingly sheet plastic was laid down to protect the floor from accidental water spillage and a large kids wading pool was installed compete with fountain and large goldfish. The problem of power for the pump and indirect lighting was solved by removing a volleyball net anchor plate from the floor and dropping a wire down into the sub-basement.  It worked perfectly and was talked about for years.

     I mentioned that the gym and decorating was a closely held secret which was respected not only by the other students but the administration as well.  The only staff that had seen the gym during this week had been our class advisors, Miss Palmer and Mr. Gasket.  Not until the Friday afternoon before the dance did Principal William F. Lampman lead the under classmen into the gym and see a water fountain operating in the middle of a brand new hardwood basketball floor. You can only imagine his reaction.  After we explained the precautions that we had taken he calmed down and there was no problem whatsoever.  By noon on Sunday every thing was dismantled , borrowed items were returned and other classes began thinking about how they could top our presentation.

Denny Randall, Past Pres. OBHS

Also see article in Auburn Newspaper:

http://auburnpub.com/columnists/denny_randall/weedsport-school-alumni-banquet-brings-good-music-great-memories/article_20c6a6a5-9418-5c96-aae3-34ab15069d3d.html

 


 

The Willard House

I am often asked whatever happened to the "old"  Weedsport Hotel, so I'll summarize the history of the grand  old building from it's beginning in 1871 as the elegant "Willard House" operated by Mr. and Mrs. Edward Sturge.  The hotel was one of the largest in Cayuga County and boasted 45 rooms.  The hotel was second to none in the area for appointments, boasting central steam heat and lighted by gas.  The hotel even had their own spring, located in the basement to provide pure water of such quality as to bring forth remarks of commendation from guests.
 
The rooms were furnished tastefully and with considerable skill.  The dining room was second to none in the area and was presided over by Mrs. Sturge.   The location of the hotel in the center of the village made it accessible via rented hacks which were kept in a livery stable immediately behind the hotel (this was a similar service to the valet busses offered by inns and hotels today) to the depots of the New York central, West Shore and Lehigh Valley railroads  The opera house was directly across the street and all manner of mercantile establishments were within easy walking distance.
 
The Sturges used to brag that the Willard House  was more like your own home than any hotel you have ever visited in your travels.
 
Unfortunately, no matter how grand the hotel, continuing even today, they automatically become dated as times, customs and tastes of the public changes.   After the passing of the Sturge family , the hotel went through a succession of owners, with some more successful than others in the operation of the aging hotel.
 
During the 1950's and 1960's the hotel enjoyed a rebirth as a going establishment under the ownership of Chet and Anne Golamb.  In the early 1950's Hurricane Hazel had removed most of the roof of the building and The Golambs removed the third floor entirely and all the porches and balconies. A false facade was installed where the third floor had been and the first floor was sided with perma-stone, while asphaltic shingles were used above that.  The hotel, while still offering some rooms, was converted to a  bar and restaurant, offering excellent meals at a very reasonable price
 
I list below several items taken from  a 1952 menu from the hotel:
   Fresh Shrimp Cocktail -60 cents, All soups -25 cents,   Broiled Lobster Tails w/ drawn butter- $2.50,  Oyster stew with cream-85 cents,  Complete roast turkey dinner including rolls ,choice of potato, fresh vegetables beverage and dessert- $2.00  An extensive sandwich and short order menu was also offered as were home made pies and other desserts.  Occasionally a special would be run in the dining room.  We have an ad from about the same time frame advertising a fish fry for 10 Cents!
 
After the Golamb's retired the hotel again began to regress and eventually became basically a bar with LOUD live music performed on weekends.  Eventually in April of 1988 an unruly patron was ousted from the bar and apparently a sore loser, went to a local gas station, purchased a can of gasoline, went back to the crowded hotel, poured the gas on the south wall of the building and lit it.  It was discovered almost immediately, however first efforts had to be to get the many patrons out of the building.  Although the fire department was there very fast, the fire went with amazing speed through the false facades and blind cocklofts that had been created when the building was renovated.  After a short period of indecision on whether to rebuild, or not, the building was demolished and the property sold to the funeral home next door for use as a parking lot.
 
The pictures show the Willard House at it's grandest and as the Weedsport Hotel the day after the fire.
 
Denny Randall, Past Pres. OBHS

Please click on thumbnails below to see larger views:

Willard House Weedsport Burned Hotel

 


WHAT'S A CHAUTAUQUA?
 
Chautauquas were traveling programs that brought adult education  and entertainment to rural America at the turn of the 20th century.  The Chautauqua circuits were a summertime event, since in more rural areas it was necessary to hold them in large tents, similar to revival programs.  The traveling Chautauquas took their name from a two week meeting of some 2,000 educators and clergymen held in Chautauqua, N. Y. in 1874.  Originally intended to upgrade the teaching done in Sunday Schools, the gathering combined lectures and debates with music and outdoor recreation.  It proved so popular that the Chautauqua Assembly became an annual event.  As it grew in size and scope the sessions stretched to 8 weeks and began including art, crafts, and music lessons, along with lectures on science and current events.
 
Imitators sprang up and by  1884 there were about 50 chautauquas in the nation, traveling the roads , pitching tents and presenting lecture programs enhanced with operatic divas, magic acts and ventriloquists. 
By 1909 there were 554 Chautauquas making the rounds and  "Chautauqua Time" had become the high point of the summer in small towns across the country.  In their peak year of 1924 Chautauquas played before more than 30 million people in over 12,000 communities.
 
William Jennings Bryan was a favored speaker, while everything from Swiss bellringers , Hawaiian guitarists and Mademoiselle Ernestine Schumann-Heink singing Schubert could be counted on for entertainment.  Alas, radio, motion pictures and the depression ended the circuit.  Seen below is the schedule for a Chautauqua presented  at the Burritt Opera House in Weedsport on August 19-23 1918.
 
PROGRAM
FIVE GREAT PATRIOTIC DAYS OF THE BIG WAR PROGRAM
 
FIRST DAY-LIBERTY DAY
Afternoon and evening concerts by the "LIBERTY MAIDS"  Singing old time songs of the 1860's
The Honorable Harry G Seltzer, U.S. Consul in Germany  will tell of his experiences with " Kaiserism"  Evening performance only.
 
SECOND DAY-NATIONAL SERVICE DAY
The cathedral choir in a full afternoon concert  and 30 minute prelude at night.  Two magnificent programs of great arias, choruses, hymns and national songs.   Governor Chester Aldrich of Nebraska, father of 2 boys in France will lecture on how the win the war!
 
THIRD DAY- INSPIRATIONAL DAY
The Theresa Sheehan Concert Company  will give an interpretive recital of readings and music afternoon and night.  Denton C. Crowl, the famous Sam Jones man  will give a "Sam Jones " lecture, "A Medley Of Philosophy,  Facts And Fun."
 
FOURTH DAY-COMMUNITY MUSIC DAY
A popular concert in the afternoon and a grand double concert at night by the Arcadian Symphony Orchestra, personally directed by Donald C. Abbott.  Preceded at night by a community sing-a long of the songs the boys are singing in the trenches.
 
FIFTH DAY-ALL-AMERICAN DAY
The Junior Chautauqua will give a PAGEANT OF OUR ALLIES  at 2:30 o'clock with a big musical concert following.  At night, noted traveler,, lecturer, story-teller and Indian authority Richard Kennedy will give a recital of Indian legends and an exhibition of Indian curios.  The musical company for this last afternoon has not been selected as this is written but it will be a strong closing number to bring this Chautauqua to a grand climax.
 
Denny Randall, Past Pres. OBHS

 

"WEEDSPORT, NEW YORK"

 

A short time ago I ran across the following poem in the museum.  

It was written by Weedsport resident C. H. Trumble, and published in the Weedsport Cayuga Chief on August 22, 1896.  

Titled simply "WEEDSPORT, NEW YORK" , it seems appropriate to publish it,  as Memorial Day is near.

 

"WEEDSPORT, NEW YORK"

 

         Eastward from our village about a mile, or more,
         Among the trees and evergreens are vaults and tombs galore.
         Underneath these little mounds, of earth with flowers strewn,
         Lie our friends with buried hopes, which came to all too soon.
         Some fell in battlefield, some with sickness died in bed,
         All met a common fate and are numbered with our dead.
         We may deck their graves with roses and cherish their memory long,
         But we too must die and join that unnumbered throng.
 
         We miss them by the fireside as the evening shades come down,
         We miss them in our lodge room, the church, the school, in town;
         Some of our noblest  Christians, and some our brightest men,
         Whose lives and works have helped us with heroic sword, or pen.
         And as I gaze before me upon these broken homes,
         My heart goes out in sympathy, which I cannot speak in tones.
         I see these stately steeples, I hear the music sweet,
         Of worshippers giving praise to God in those churches at my feet.
 
         I hear the mighty Central, the Lehigh and West Shore,
         I hear their panting engines bringing commerce to our door.
         As I view the raging Erie, with her boats of spotless white,
         Bringing cargo from the westward, toiling on both day and night.
         I see the electric telegraph with it's hundred wires, or more,
         From Atlantic to Pacific carrying messages shore to shore.
         As I gaze off in the distance, a sight now greets my eye,
         I see our farm and vineyards and the cattle grazing by.
 
        Our people are hospitable and charitable to a fault;
        Our soil is very fertile for our vineyards, grain, or fruit.
        Our schools and our shipping are of the very best,
        With healthy climate and pure water we are blest.
        Our winters they are milder than other climes around,
        Our summers they are cooler than in many counties found
        It is true this is no Eden, but in Weedsport may be found,
        The sweetest place on earth to live, as life's shadows gather 'round.

C. H. Trumble

 

Denny Randall Past President OBHS

 

LOCALLY GROWN PRODUCT

March 31, 2013

 

It is a little known fact that at one time considerable tobacco was grown in the Weedsport area, in fact , in 1864 364,379 pounds of tobacco was harvested and processed locally. The tobacco industry contributed greatly to the area economy. Tobacco is thought of as mainly a southern crop but it was raised very successfully for years in this area.

Tobacco growing was a time consuming process, mostly done by hand until about 1910 when the industrial revolution caught up with tobacco farming and machines became available. Prior to 1910 children were employed to pick the tobacco worms off the crop. Harvest time was the first 2 weeks of September. The tobacco was first cut by hand, then "spudded" (hung on strings) to dry in specially made sheds. During the winter months the tobacco was sorted, graded, packed and pressed into bales for "sweating".. The crop was eventually sold, often by auction the following year. The ready availability of tobacco and easy access to cheap transportation (the Erie Canal) brought tobacco dealers, cigar makers and processing plants to the area. At it's heyday, Cayuga County tobacco was ranked among the best in the country.

One of the local concerns was the "Charles Cusick and Son Leaf Tobacco" warehouse on Graham Street. They also had plants in Meridian and Plainville. The plant operated from 1899 until 1941. The picture shows the plant about 1930, while the other photo shows it as an apartment house today. In 1882 the Cayuga Chief reported that Charles L. Smith is now manufacturing cigars and is putting on the market a new brand--the "Charlie Ross" the "long lost, found at last!". In 1894 they reported that the M. A. Flint Co. now makes the "Happy Dream " cigar in Weedsport. "Look for the Happy Dream when you want a good smoke". Hoyt & Kilgus also started cigar making that year. In 1899 the E.C. Stain concern started cigar manufacture, but went bankrupt in 1903. By 1905 three more firms, Clinton Burdick, Milton Cortright & Son and Ernest Hunter had joined the crowd of cigar manufacturers in the village. The tobacco trade continued to flourish until just before World War 1 and finally ended in 1965. To my knowledge Clarence Blumer on Bonta Bridge Rd. was the last area farmer to raise tobacco commercially.

In our museum we have a bale of locally grown tobacco on display, as well as several cigar molds. Penney and her crew have been working diligently all winter to change out the exhibits. Stop in and check out what the mannequins have been up to over the weather months.

Please click on the 2 thumbnail photos for a larger view:

Apoartment House Cusick

Denny Randall Past President OBHS


 

OLD, OLD , WEEDSPORT

We have at the museum a mimeographed spiral bound pamphlet put together by Weedsport Central School teachers Miss Charlotte Merriman, Mrs. Thelma Starks, and Mrs. Elsie Smith. It was edited by Miss Eula Lanphere. It sure is interesting reading and much of this column was taken from that brochure.

It was originally compiled to provide an outline on early American life as background information for WCS junior high school social studies courses. The author's foreword contains the note "In reading this material, remember the people mentioned since the Revolutionary War were no different from people today. They lived, loved, worked and practiced their trades and religions and eventually died after having added something to our inheritance. Let us hope we will do as well! This was written about 60 years ago and is just as true today.

After the revolution, the government granted land bounties to men who had fought in the war. A Colonel received 500 acres of what was at that time frontier land, among which lands were Central New York in general. A Lt. Colonel got 450 acres, a Major 400 and so on down the line with a Private getting 100 acres. Lt. James Fairlie drew lot #65 in the Onondaga Military tract, which included all of the land now occupied by the one mile square Village of Weedsport. One square mile equals 640 acres. He promptly sold this tract to Jedidiah Sanger, who in turn sold off different parcels of various sizes as settlers started to come in.

To give you an idea of how travel has improved, Utica is now about 90 minutes away, whereas in those days it was a difficult and arduous journey of at least 15 days. The settlers came mostly from New England and eastern New York, carrying all their goods with them in an oxcart, or on their backs. Featherbeds, pots and pans, tools, chests and tables, whatever they could somehow transport to the new land. Women drove the teams and often brought along a couple of settings of eggs, keeping them warm and turning them regularly so they could start a flock of chickens. They also brought seeds with them to start a garden. Usually while the women drove the teams the men and older children walked behind carrying what would not fit on the carts and driving a small herd of cattle, or other livestock.

Aaron Frost was the first settler who eventually built a small grist mill on Cold Spring Brook (Ball's Creek). In 1800 William Stevens and Sunderland Sweet became the first permanent settlers in what is now Weedsport. A story often told is how James Young came to town. He came here from New England, and by his bad luck he happened to end up on the north side of the Seneca River where the Cato Road bridge is now located. At that time, there was a rope ferry there, and the ferryman refused to take him across the river stating " Go away, there are enough poor people around here now". Nothing to do but walk all the way back to the Quimby Bridge area where he could get across and come to our area from the southern side of the river.. Apparently Mr. Young had the last laugh however. He became an extremely wealthy farmer and now resides in one of only two private mausoleums in the Weedsport Rural Cemetery.

The main east-west road ran across what is now Rude Street, crossed what is now Shepherd Rd, ran behind the Weedsport Rural Cemetery, eventually joining what is now Cottle road which proceeded east to Jordan. In the opposite direction it crossed what is now Rt. 34 and went up over the huge hill behind Elvin Dolph's house and joined up with what is now Hamilton Rd. at Northbrook Farms.

Before long, activity was noted somewhat north of the community, which was currently called Macedonia. Red survey stakes were being driven into the ground everywhere and soon work started on the original Erie Canal. Hand dug with pick and shovel 350 miles through the wilderness, 4 feet deep and 42 feet wide, with locks, feeders, bridges and other engineering features built with native limestone blocks and huge local timbers. In 1819 the first boat passed through what would become the Village of Weedsport. It was now possible to travel from Montezuma to Utica by water, thus now only taking a couple of days to get to Utica and in relative comfort.

In 1821 brothers Elihu and Edward Weed came to the area and created a "basin" on the canal for the turning of boats and thus Macedonia became Weeds-Basin, then Weeds-Port and finally Weedsport. The village was incorporated in 1831 with about 60 residences. (Syracuse only had about 400 at that time) It was a hard place to live. Deaths were frequent. 3 out of 5 children died before they were 5 years old. Typhoid fever, diphtheria and Tuberculosis were common fatal illnesses.

Transportation has always been the forte of our community since those early days. After the canal came the hey day of rail travel and transportation, when no less that 4 rail lines (New York Central, West Shore, Lehigh Valley and Rochester , Syracuse and Eastern) served the village. When Henry Ford's notion of travel pretty much spelled the end of rail travel, along came the New York State Thruway and two major New York highways giving almost unbelievable traffic through the village.

Denny Randall Past President OBHS


 

BRRR!

According to the Weedsport Cayuga Chief newspaper (which was published where the OBHS museum is now located) The village had the lowest temperature in the state on Friday, February 16, 1934. The lowest temperature recorded was 54 degrees below zero early Friday morning. This was long before there was any such thing as "wind chill factor". This was the real deal!

Authority for the lowest drop the mercury ever took in this community was the thermometer on the flagman's shanty at the New York Central Railroad tracks. The flagman's shanty stood at the grade crossing, where, since the late 1930's a bridge has carried Rt.34 over the tracks. It is that part of the community that is lowest and hence where the lowest temperature might be expected to be found.

At the four corners at eight o'clock Friday morning the mercury stood at 45 degrees below zero. Those few that ventured out on the streets did not tarry to gossip about the weather, but hustled along to their point of destination. Water pipes and automobiles were frozen up and plumbers as well as garage men were in great demand. Farmers were especially hard hit what with the difficulties of milking and then having the milk freeze and be ruined as it waited for pickup at roadside. Tales were told of driving by and seeing the covers of the milk cans sitting atop a tower of frozen milk, having been forced off the cans by the frozen milk. Many homeowners stood a fire watch to keep the furnace stoked all night rather than banking them for the night which was customary, as to do so would increase the risk of frozen pipes.

It was the second and severest cold spell of the winter, the first coming a month previous when thermometers read between 35 and 40 degrees below zero. The temperature rose Saturday, only to again drop and maintain zero all day Sunday. The cold wave did not break until Tuesday when a mild thaw set in and the mercury climbed to about 40 degrees above zero, however Wednesday again found temperatures around the zero mark.

It seems appropriate to publish this column while I am fat, dumb and happy in central Florida. I'll return the first of April, just in time to plant my peas.

Denny Randall, Past Pres. OBHS


 

FIRE!

Presbyterian Church Fire of Saturday, February 22, 1947

Every community has had it's share of sever fires and Weedsport is certainly no exception.

This month I'll write about the Presbyterian Church fire of Saturday, February 22, 1947 which occurred at 4:00 in the afternoon The fire, which followed a coal gas explosion in the boiler room was made more problematic by a raging blizzard with winds up to 40 MPH howling that afternoon. The fire was controlled in 3 hours and 40 minutes without summoning mutual aid, according to Fire Chief Fred Smith.

The altar, choir loft and pipe organ were destroyed in the 90 year old church building according to Chief Smith and the basement dining room and Sunday school rooms were totally wrecked. Reported as still intact was the building proper, the sanctuary and the floors and roof, although pews and cushions were burned.

Firemen used four 21/2 inch hose lines and two booster lines to fight the blaze. Some of the memorial stained glass windows on the north side were shattered, but those on the south side were undamaged.

It was reported that Paul and Charles Gifford were passing the church on S. Seneca St. when they heard the explosion and stopped to investigate and subsequently turn in the alarm. A stiff wind was blowing from the Northwest and had the flames broken through the roof the building would likely have been lost and taken other exposed property with it. Chief Smith praised his men , who were also praised by the minister, Reverend Allan G. Mackenzie and other townsfolk.

The enclosed photo shows what the church interior looked like prior to the fire. Extensive repairs were made to the building, but alas , the pipe organ was never replaced. The chandelier seen in the photo was the first electric chandelier in Weedsport and was severely damaged in the blaze. It was removed and put in storage and a few years ago, the church gave what was left of it to our museum. We had it restored and it now illuminates our meeting room at the museum. Actually, the chandelier is our version of building a boat in the basement. It's bigger than it looks! When it came back from the restorer, we couldn't get it in the building. We had to disassemble it and bring it in piecemeal and then reassemble it.

The other photo shows the Weedsport Fire Department apparatus in service at the time of the fire.

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS

(Please click on thumbnails below, for larger views)

Presby Church WFD 1947

 


 

THE AMERICAN DREAM

 

A couple of weeks ago Lynn Cheche Baker interviewed and wrote an article in this paper about a truly remarkable woman, Nellie Kinney. On New Year's eve Nellie passed away at age 94 leaving a void in the village which will not soon be filled. In a few days I will be 74 years old and Nellie was my 4th grade teacher. I always told her that if she could get enough long division into my head for me to earn a modest living as an engineer, she'd done one heck of a job. I'd like to touch on some of the things Lynn didn't, and some things which few people were aware of. As an aside, at her memorial service, probably a third of the congregation stood up as former pupils.

Her Memorial service at the Weedsport Presbyterian Church started out with son David holding aloft one of her bright red shoes with a 3 inch heel. Nellie always dressed to the nines and her heels were her trade mark. I remember one time when we were on the Beautification Committee together, we were tying swags on all the light poles on Seneca Street at Christmas time, and here was Nellie, then in her seventies ,standing on a 5 foot stepladder on the four corners in her 3 inch pumps and billowing full skirt, wind and snow whistling around us, trucks roaring by , unconcernedly arranging the swags.

The early life of Nellie Kinney was not easy, she was born to a young mother in 1918 who died of Spanish Flu shortly after Nellie was born. Her father with two other children aged three and five would have had an awful time with a newborn, so at her mother's funeral her father's cousin Clint Goodsell and his wife who had no children offered to take her--no adoption papers, they would take her and raise her. They did just that, and became the only parents that Nellie ever knew.

Her new father worked tenant farms in the Fair Haven area until he saved enough money to buy his own place. The farm was 3 miles from Fair Haven so Nellie Walked 3 miles to and from Fair Haven School from first grade until she graduated as Salutatorian in 1936. She wanted passionately to be a teacher and saved every penny she could earn picking berries, cherries and weeding onions on a neighbor's farm at the going rate of 2 cents per quart of berries and cherries. She also worked on the home farm, feeding chickens and milking the cows before walking to school in the spring and fall when her father was working in the fields . During the summer, she drove horses in the fields. When FDR became president the banks were all closed and she and her father lost every cent they had saved and had to start over.

Eventually she managed to save up enough money to go to nearby Oswego State Normal School (now SUNY Oswego) and worked in the library to pay for her room in a nearby home, there were no dorms then. Her mother packed a basket of food for her to last the week and she would go home and help on the farm weekends She graduated from Oswego after 3 years and was awarded a Teacher's Certificate in June of 1939. She returned to Oswego weekends and summers until she had earned her Batchelor's Degree. It was a difficult time to look for a teaching positions , as teachers were " a dime a dozen"

She was fortunate to know Ray Sant of Cato, who was Cayuga County School Superintendent, and he arranged an interview for her with the Trustees of a one room school in Onionville. She was hired there and stayed 2 years then went on to a 2 room school in Sterling Center at a salary of $1000.00 per year. By then WWII was upon us and the school teachers were required to register all men in the area for the draft. A member of the Cayuga County Draft Board, J. Austin Howe of Weedsport came to check on her. He was also a member of the Weedsport Central School Board and talked to other members about Miss Goodsell that he had met in Sterling Station.. As it happened Her Uncle Leslie Goodsell worked for the school district as a janitor and bus driver. He drove to Sterling to tell Nellie to apply for a job in Weedsport as they were interested in hiring her. Accordingly, she wrote a letter to the school board asking to be considered.

Shortly thereafter, to the townsfolk's amazement, a large 60 passenger , green and white Weedsport Central school bus (buses were painted school colors back then) pulled up in front of the small 2 room school in Sterling Station with Professor William F. Lampman at the wheel, for the purpose of interviewing Nellie. The Lampman Ford sedan was low on gas and there were no more ration coupons available, however the school had lots of gas, which he would not dare put in his car, soooo! She was offered a job teaching fourth grade for $1000.00 per year. She refused, saying that was her present wage and she had no living expenses, living at home. She then went on to canvas the Fair Haven -Sterling area for the USO and after the drive, a dinner was held at the Auburn Inn for the participants of the USO drive. Mr. Lampman was there and he offered her $1100.00, so she moved to Weedsport in 1942. He delighted in tormenting her for years afterward , telling her if she had held out , he was authorized to pay more!

In October of 1943, her fiancé Fred Kinney came home on furlough and wanted to get married before shipping out to Europe. After a week they decided that they would marry, and he shipped off to eventually command a tank battalion under George Patton and near the end of the war was instrumental in liberating the awful Dachau concentration camp, but I digress. A standard contract clause in those days for teachers was the paragraph "Said teacher hereby represents that she is unmarried and in the event of her marriage at any time prior to the termination of this contract, this contact shall become null and void and she agrees to resign." Mr. Lampman called every member of the school board and told them if she was to be fired, they would have to do it , because he would not.

After teaching at Weedsport for 30 years, Nellie , of course went on her well documented second career in local politics and civic involvement and was married to Fred for over 65 years until his passing in 2009. It is impossible to sum up such a career given the limited space available. However to me one sentence will do it. At the close of her memorial service, the church organist broke into the Tennessee Waltz, and anyone who had ever seen her and Fred dance knew why. She was a beautiful, graceful and always gracious person and the community will miss her terribly. Her name will live on in Trolley Park,on which she worked so tirelessly for so many year to become a reality . The pavilion in the park is named the "NELLIE A. KINNEY PAVILION."

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS (Nellie was also a Past President of the society!)

Photo of Nellie Kinney -

Please click on the thumbnail below, for a larger view:

Nellie Kinney


 

More Weedsport Stuff

Another Weedsport "old Tyme Christmas" has come and gone and it seems to get better every year. This year we had a record breaking number of people tour the museum, including many from out of town and many local people for the first time. Just as a reminder, the front window displays , changed monthly by Historian Jeanne Baker and Penney Cosentino are kept up year round and are illuminated until 11:00 PM. When you're out walking around town , scope them out! Speaking of Weedsport's Christmas celebrations , who recalls when Ed Robinson used to deliver Santa Clause to the four corners in His Bell helicopter, The "Bug Beater"? Ed was a pioneer in aerial crop spraying and worked the entire east coast. He even had a specially built Ford cabover truck, similar to a moving van to transport the chopper in once the rotors were removed.

This month I'll write about some more do you remember items. We have been able to procure for the museum a second Barr typewriter. This one was made in 1938 for the Macy Department store in New York City. In those days there was only the one store. The typewriter was made of course at the large brick building nearly across the street from the museum which now houses the "Purple Monkey" antique business. The building is referred to locally by my generation as the "Barr" building, although it has housed many other businesses over the years, including a long stint as a textile mill. Barr built typewriters there in the thirties and then, along with every other manufacturing concern switched to war production, making artillery fuses and parts for Norden bomb sights. After the war they never went back to making typewriters, but went into clocks, cigarette boxes, and everything from electric fry pans to kid's strollers, nonetheless it is, at least to a lot of us in the village the "Barr " building.

I found at the museum an undated pamphlet of over 200 "Helpful Household Hints" put out by the ladies of the First Baptist Church and sold for 25 cents.. It must have been a while ago, because NOTHING has sold for a quarter for a long time. Some of the"hints" are interesting--To cut marshmallows, "dip your knife in powdered sugar before each whack and there will be no sticking." How about-"lettuce can be colored by filling a small bowl with water and sprinkling paprika on the top of the water. Revolve the lettuce in it and the leaves will be fringed with red paprika." Here's a good one-: When frying eggs add some flour to the grease and the eggs will not "pop" and scatter grease all over". I might have to try this " cabbage odor can be avoided by dropping two English walnuts (uncracked) into the kettle while cooking". Here's one of my favorites- "To clean bathtubs, use kerosene on the cloth with which you wipe out the tub" I'll give you some more of these hints another time

Several of us were talking the other day about the amount of snow we used to get and the conversation slid into the blizzard of "66. Now that was a snowstorm! After about a foot and a half of snow had fallen with no let up in sight, I decided to get the snow off the roof of the carport. In a moment of good thinking I backed the car out from under it and got a ladder and climbed to the roof of the aluminum carport at my home next to the Baptist church. I wasn't there very long! Down came the carport with a crash with me landing in the middle of about 4 feet of snow and assorted aluminum sheeting. No wonder you don't see them much around here anymore!

We recently acquired at the museum a 1949 AP wirephoto from a private archival seller. The photo, seen here was taken when classmates Max Appleby and Donald Wallace were both 14 years old. The photo was titled "the long and the short of it" and shows the 2 seventh graders up against a wall in the Jackson Street school with Max at 6 "2" and Donnie at 3' 10". More next month

Denny Randall, Past Pres.
OBHS

(Please click on thumbnail below, to view a much larger size.)

DonnieWallaceMaxAppleby

(SUB) - Weedsport, NY, March 16-- - CLASSMATES -

Here's the long and short of it at Weedsport Central School -

Max Appleby, (R), Six feet two inches tall,

Towers over classmate Donald Wallace,

Who is three feet, eleven inches tall.

Both are 14 years old, and in the 7th grade.

(AP Wirephoto) (msc41035hj) - 1949

 


 

Bridges over troubled waters

Other than giant spans which are sky high and seem to go on forever, bridge building apparently is becoming a lost art. At one time every piddling brook had to have a bridge over it to carry traffic, be it horse drawn, or motorized. Accordingly, most communities had a local bridge building firm specializing in timber, or iron spans.

Now days, most streams are easily crossed by putting a large corrugated pipe in the streambed , backfilling around it and poof! Instant bridge. As iron bridges in the area have been removed in favor of the "covered culvert" approach, we have been successful in snagging some of the old builder's plates from them and have them on display in the museum.

I attach a small sample of area bridge photos from the long ago:

Photo 1 taken in 1908 shows the bridge in the center of Weedsport carrying W. Brutus St. over the Erie Canal. The canal ran where the present Rt. 31, or Erie Drive is now. Note the towpath running along the canal. If the backs of the buildings look familiar, they're the same ones there today, just a century older.

Photo 2 is the bridge over "Putnam Brook" (Oliver's Creek) near the intersection of what is now Rt. 31 and Towpath Rd. Notice that this shot of the road taken around the turn of the century shows a dirt road where Rt. 31 is now. The many crossarms and insulators on the poles were for carrying not only electricity, but myriad telephone and telegraph wires

Photo 3 shows a bridge being erected by a crew of the Weedsport Construction Company, owned by Charles B. Whitman.

Don't forget to visit the museum during Weedsport's "Old Tyme Christmas" which will be held Dec. 8th from 9:00 till 3:00

Denny Randall, Past President
OBHS

Please click on thumbnails for larger views:

W Brutus St Bridge Oliver Creek Bridge Oliver Creek Bridge 001

 

Do You Recall?

 

It has been quite awhile since I wrote one of these "remember when" columns and a lot of people (at least two) have asked me why I never mention this , or that, so here goes with "this, or that".

Avis Ball called me last month and congratulated me for finally mentioning the large iron foundry which was located where the Stevenson farm pasture is now across from the Thruway entrance. She also noted that her grandfather William Lehman was one of the West Shore Railroad crossing guards on S. Seneca St. before the automatic gates were installed

Who remembers hot dog roasts and picnics in Putnam's (now Weller's ) woods? How about listening to Saturday night band concerts at the park at the corner of South and E. Brutus Streets? The bandstand was removed when the siren on top of the firehouse became unbalanced and exploded, sending a large portion of it through the roof of the bandstand and destroying it. The property was sold to Clayton Miner who then built a new building to house his Ford dealership which he had been operating in the former wood shop of the Barr Manufacturing factory. The woodshop building then became Weedsport Tool and Machine and the Building which operated as a Ford dealership for many years is now Air Krete Inc. Mr. Miner also operated a very successful gunsmithing operation in the rear of his shop.

Is there anyone left who recalls having dinner at the Lindberg House on the corner of Jackson and E. Brutus? It was formerly the Quick house, and after Signe Lindberg Valentine closed it , the restaurant was operated for a time as the Bil - May restaurant, run by Vassos and Ida May Saroodis after their eatery on the 4 corners was destroyed by fire in March of 1940. The house was the Ernest Barber home for many years after being a restaurant and is now the John Zimmer family home.

Speaking of restaurants, who recall the "Hazmore" restaurant on N. Seneca St. run by Hazel and Morris Gifford, later named the Cozy Corner and run by Ruth and Francis Holman? It was later operated by Mildred and "Hap" Hunter, then Olive St. John and is now the site of a gas station and convenience store. Not many will remember Percy Ewins who live on Rt. 34 (the Bowden farm) driving his team into town every morning pulling a democrat wagon. On the back were 2 filled milk cans and when housewives came outside with their pitchers and containers he would ladle out the amount of milk wanted.

Who remembers Clint Hazzard and his ice wagon, later a Studebaker truck? Speaking of ice, is there still anyone around that remembers the big freeze of 1932 when it was 54 degrees below zero on the 4 corners? How about Guy Lanphere's 1919 Chevrolet, his stretched Austin "limousine", or his "Leaping Lena"? The rear axle had been moved ahead so when the car was accelerated the front wheels would come off the ground and it could be steered by individual brakes on the rear wheels. You could do pirouettes and drive for blocks with the front wheels 3 feet in the air.

I'm sure no one now recalls it but when A. D. Oliver was principal of the school students were seated in study halls according to their marks, with the lower grades seated in front and the better students in the rear. Who remembers the noon whistle at Whitman and Robinson on Graham St.? It never did seem to agree with the noon whistle at the firehouse.. How about the roller skating rink on Furnace St? People ask me what was where the tiny "Whittler's Green" park in the center of town is now. At one time it was Roland Stickles Variety Store and then was the Keystone Grill for many years operated by Lester Hazzard. After that it was a restaurant, an auto parts store and was finally torn down when the brickwork became unstable. and dangerous.

The firemen's field days have now been held for many years on Route 31 on a lot which was kindly donated by Olive St John, but who will recall that for years it was held at Smitty's "Wee Ranch", where LaFleur Logging is now located. Previous to the fair being held there, it was held in a building on South Seneca St. which eventually was torn down and the Zimmer family built a bowling alley and billiard room on the site.

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS

 

More about Trains in Weedsport

 

When writing historical items about Weedsport, it is impossible to long stay away from either the Erie Canal, or the railroads. We have recently acquired several interesting photos regarding the latter.

The first photo is a 1951 picture of a West Shore train traveling west at the South Seneca St. crossing, which was at the foot of the hill in front of St. Joseph's Church. A lot may be learned from carefully studying a picture. The loaded coal train is being pulled by New York Central engine number 1008, which was an Alco diesel locomotive. The pall of smoke over the engine shows why these early Alco engines were known in the trade as "Smokers". The white building on the right is the house at the foot of the Horton Street hill. At the extreme right may be seen the watchman's shanty. The watchman had to manually flag traffic so these long freights could cross busy Rt. 34 (Seneca St.). The bridge in the background was the span carrying the Lehigh Valley over the West Shore on East St.

Evidently construction had just started on the placement of automatic crossing gates at the intersection. In the foreground may be seen a small square pedestal type of base for placement of the gates.

The other 2 photos were taken much earlier, shortly after the turn of the century and they were real estate evaluation pictures taken by the New York central Railroad of all their properties in Weedsport. We have the whole set including the passenger station, the freight station, the section house, the scale house and many others. The photos were referred to as the "North Weedsport Yards". The first of the 2 that I include shows the large water fill tank for the steam locomotives and the adjacent pump house. Water was pumped from the nearby creek by means of a small steam engine and used as needed by gravity fill from the tank. A couple of section hands are looking on for the photo op. Note the cool motorcycle type inspection car in front of the pumphouse! It ran with 2 wheels on one rail, while an outrigger wheel rode the other rail. The smokestacks in the background belonged to the defunct iron foundry which had been just north of the yards.

The second New York Central photo shows how diverse the North Weedsport yards were. Cattle pens and a loading ramp are in center photo, and the loading ramp even had a second level to facilitate the loading of smaller livestock like sheep and pigs in double deck cars. The overhead petroleum storage tank seen in the background served as a fuel depot for the community. Petroleum was brought in by tank car, pumped into the overhead tank and dispensed by gravity as need arose. There were darn few cars at that time, so it wasn't gasoline and certainly not diesel. Most homes were heated by wood, or coal so it probably wasn't fuel oil either. Most probably it was kerosene, since many homes used kerosene lamps for light.

Another time I'll show some of the other buildings of the "North Weedsport" yards.

Denny Randall, Past President

Click on thumbnails below to see much larger views:

 

Alco Engine Norh Weedsport Yard 1 North Weessport Yard 2

 


 

"Weedsport Cayuga Chief's"
(Of the past)

Again this month, I'll resort to blatant plagiarism from "Weedsport Cayuga Chief's" of the past.

From the December 13, 1956 issue comes the note that Frank Drabel Jr. of Erie Drive has been home on leave from Portsmouth Naval Yard. The Kupples Klub of the Baptist Church will meet at the Fellowship Building on Saturday at 8:00 PM for the purpose of trimming the church Christmas tree and filling candy boxes for the Christmas program which will be held next Sunday. Mr. and Mrs. Elvin Dolph and Mr. and Mrs. Burton Ogden will be hosts. It's been so darn hot, I thought I'd talk about Christmas !

The September 6th issue of 1952 notes that Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Barber and daughters Marilyn and Nancy have returned from a trip to Saranac Lake and Potsdam where they visited relatives and friends. Jimmie Barber and Melvin Marshall took Jimmie's nephew, Tommy Harrison to Montgomery , Alabama where they have been visiting Tommy's parents, Merrill and Betty Harrison, formerly of Weedsport. Miss Ann Gardiner , teacher at Weedsport has returned to her home in Sennett after taking a 4 week summer school course at the University of Colorado in Boulder. The second of a series of public meetings in opposition to a proposed sales tax in Cayuga County is scheduled for Friday evening.

It was reported that Mr. and Mrs. Robert Seger, owners of "Seger's Flower Shop" are now living over the shop at 24 N. Seneca St. Mr. and Mrs. George R. Harris left for New York city on Monday to attend the first showings of the 1957 Pontiacs.

From the June 18, 1957 issue---"Weedsport tossers " beat Sherwood 15-7. Stan Weller and Jim Skvorak pitched for Weedsport. Weedsport hitting was led by Bill Blackman with 3 hits. 2 each were made by Jim Skvorak, Dave Bowden and Ray King. Dave Bowden was the senior with the highest batting average and he was selected to play in the all-star game at Cooperstown. Speaking of baseball, the Weedsport Watson's prevailed in a 4-3 victory over Fair Haven in 11 innings. Fair Haven was previously unbeaten. League standings are--Fair Haven and Auburn both 5-1, Weedsport 4-2, Port Byron 2-4, Union Springs and Hannibal both 1-5.

Going back a good bit further in time the July 10, 1874 issue reported that the poisoning at the Presbyterian picnic on Saturday last was determined to have been caused by an imperfection in the ice cream freezer, causing metallic zinc to get into the cream. All those affected are well on their way to recovery.. Shortly after the turn of the century, the Northern Central Volunteer Firemen's convention was held in Weedsport. The visiting firemen were served dinner in the old malt house on N. Seneca St.. Mrs. Charles Hudson, whose husband was Fire Chief had charge of the dinner.. Speaking of fire business, occasionally someone asks me "what ever happened to Doc Goodwin's fire truck"? As it happens, I know what happened to it! Through the generosity of Doc's daughter and son-in law, Mike and Donna Glowacki, the engine was donated to the American Museum of Firefighting in Hudson NY to join nearly 100 other pieces of fire apparatus in what is most significant collection of fire memorabilia in the world. The apparatus was completely restored and here is a picture of it as it appears today, like new. Photo by Mark Carpenter.

(Please click on thumbnail below to see larger view of photo:)

Sanford

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS

 


 

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FAIR IN CENTRAL NEW YORK

As we swing into summer with graduation and all kinds of activities out doors, we are reminded of what was eagerly looked forward to each year for several years, The "Weedsport Community Fair". The fair was held for many years on the grounds and in the buildings of the Jackson Street school. The August 29, 1957 edition of the Weedsport Cayuga Chief reported that the recently wrapped up fair had topped all predecessors and was a financial success as well.

Sharon Smith, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Earl Wraight of Weedsport who was last year's queen crowned the new queen, Nancy Hurd of Elbridge to start the festivities. Ideal weather prevailed through the 3 days of the fair, which was always billed as the "biggest little fair in central New York" Good crowds, and hungry too--- enjoyed the eye catching displays placed throughout the school building. One of most eagerly watched demonstrations was the color television operating in the Whitman's Hardware display. Various livestock exhibits and shows were held in the bus garage and tractor pulling and horse shows were staged on the athletic fields. One of my early memories of the fair was marveling at the new tractors and farm equipment on display.

The Lions Club operated a dunking booth, there were 4H cooking demonstrations, and style show demonstrations (I was more interested in the tractors). Miss Nellie Hanlon demonstrated how to make a banana chiffon cake and Bruce Donahue demonstrated his chiffon cake. Bruce will also give his demonstration at the New York State Fair as a result of winning at the county level. Miss Elaine Shepherd played the piano between demonstrations. Local teens taking part in the style show include Miss Donna and Ann Baker, Linda Ashby, Shirley and Rosemary Halstead, Jane and Judy Bibbens, and Miss Shepherd, wearing the clothing with which they had won ribbons earlier.

There were 178 entries for the 4H clubs in the homemaking department. including canned fruit & vegetables, floral arrangements, yeast breads, cookies, biscuits, and cakes with the largest display of clothing ever exhibited in Weedsport. The senior division (adults) exhibits included handwork, such as crochet bedspreads , quilts, tablecloths, hooked rugs, embroidery, china painting, hat making and baked goods. The Weedsport Garden Club had an outstanding exhibit . Mrs. William Allyn of Skaneateles was chief judge for the flower show and Mrs. William Sullivan was the grand prize winner.

A 4H talent show under the direction of Mrs. Ernest Behling took place in the bus court, among the participants were Bobby Golamb playing the accordion, David Lyon and Fran Backman with steel guitar solos, Roxanne Backman with her flute, Nellie Hanlon doing a tap dance routine, and many others.

Earl Smith with his black horse and silver trappings led the grand parade on Friday night with an amazing array of participants. Besides the usual bands, floats, scouts, fire departments , little leaguers and a tremendous display of farm equipment including Massey Harris , Minneapolis Moline, and Allis Chalmers tractors (you've probably figured out by now that I like tractors) The John Pawling Circus Ring wagon was pulled by Ernie Luke's matched Belgian horses. Ralph Mazzoli Jr. announced the parade in front of Harris Buick-Pontiac. The Weedsport Little League and Babe Ruth League sponsored a raffle with a television set as grand prize. The TV was won by Mrs. Esther Ray of Auburn who considered herself very fortunate as she had no TV.

Joe Molloy's clown show and a grand fireworks display ended the fair for another year. One of the funniest situations at the fair included one of the cows in the bus garage trying to eat the flimsy gown of one of last year's queen. Despite repeated slaps on the nose she persisted and the queen had to move.

All proceeds from the fair went to the Weedsport Youth Recreation Commission.

This story above, was printed in the Auburn Newspaper, Sunday, July 1st, 2012,
and you may also view the article at their site on-line at:

http://auburnpub.com/columnists/denny_randall/looking-at-the-biggest-little-fair-in-central-new-york/article_8904bb3c-e17b-5322-a82e-7232241eafac.html

 

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS

From some old "Cayuga Chiefs", of the 40's and 50's

I really miss having a local newspaper with local comings and goings and pretty much local advertising. I never pick up an old Cayuga Chief, or Sentinel without finding something of interest in it. Maybe it's just the nostalgia bug in me, but I love to peruse these old tidbits of yore.

I was looking through some Cayuga Chiefs recently from the '40's and '50's. Let me share some of my findings with you. As a note aside, the Cayuga Chief was published in what is now our museum!

The April 6th 1950 issue features a quarter page ad for The "new automobile idea for 1950!". The delightful new way of motoring--the brand new Hudson, with step down design. More room! Best ride! Safest! Prices up to $166.50 less than comparable models last year. The Hudson automobile was sold locally by Eidman Motors Inc. Which was located on South Seneca St where Brewster's Cleaners is now. When Bill Humphrey was Chief of Police in the village, he drove one of these powerful Hudson's and believe me, nothing could outrun it. The "fabulous" Hudson Hornet's dominated the NASCAR circuit for several years and Jack Roberts had considerable success locally with one. The "FABULOUS" Hudson Hornet had a resurgence of fame a couple of years ago as "Doc" Hudson in the Pixar movie "Cars."

George E. Wethey offered expert bottled gas service as well as sales of Andes, Dixie, Florence, Magic Chef and Estate ranges, While James L. Compton sold Delco furnaces and stoves by General Motors. E. C. Curry was selling "Hot Point" appliances and Whitman's.Hardware advertised a 9 cubic foot " Frigidaire " for $269.50. It was great also having our own lumber yard and Chapman Lumber was running an ad for building material for your every need. The local Market Basket grocery was advertising Jell-O at 3 packages for 20 cents, new potatoes at 10 pounds for 57 cents and cottage cheese at 19 cents a pound.

General news reported a rabid fox being killed on Clinton Rd., near Putnam. Captain Wendell Linnenbach of the Auburn Fire Department spoke at the monthly Lions Club meeting and emphasized the importance of proper safety equipment for the fire department. Fire Chief George Wethey stated " that for the 35 active firemen in the WFD he had 7 each of helmets, coats and pairs of boots. Even at that the coats are so old that the water goes right through them" Apparatus consisted of a 1924 Sanford engine, a 1937 Dodge-Cayasler engine and an old LaSalle which the firemen had converted from a passenger car with a front mount pump and tank. The LaSalle is not safe to drive as it is carrying much more weight than the chassis was designed for.

The Winton Shoppe is having a once a year sale, selling winter weight "union Suits " for $1.59. While E.F. Barber advertises that he can handle all kinds of machine work, expertly done at reasonable rates. No job too small, no job too big. Zimmer's Weedsport Theater was showing Gene Autry in "Riders in the sky" on Fri. and Sat. and on Sun., Mon. and Tues. Van Johnson and John Hodiak starred in " Battleground.".

The W.S.C.S. of the Weedsport First Methodist Church was sponsoring a spring luncheon for 75 Cents. Please reserve to Mrs. Harold Dickinson. The personal items were always interesting--Miss Jeanne Lampman, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. William F. Lampman has arrived home from Plattsburg State Teachers College to spend the Easter holidays at home. I have to get back to reading my papers--more next month.

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS

Remember those who have served

As we approach Memorial Day, it seems fitting to mention that the Old Brutus Historical Society Museum display this year is "Keeping America Free" The exhibit vignettes depict various wars and wars that weren't called wars from the French and Indian War to today's conflicts in the far East. The regular monthly program this month will be held on May 21st at 7:30 in the evening at the museum on North Seneca St.

The program will feature the return of many servicemen and women from World War II. With amazing foresight, William F. Lampman who was Principal of the Weedsport Central School took 8 mm movies of Weedsport war veterans as they returned home on furlough, or at the end of the war. Several years ago Vic Sine took the old and deteriorating film and put it on VHS tapes with each individual identified by narration and with appropriate background music. We have recently had them put on DVD's, as we try to keep up with technology. We have some of these for sale at a very modest price. Vic will be presenting the program on the 21st and we urge you to attend. If you can sit through this without chills running up your spine, there's something wrong with you. Also featured on the film is the first Memorial Day Parade after World War II in 1946.

Regretfully, I'm old enough to remember some of the days of World War II, for instance, when the Japanese captured the Philippine Islands, our supply of "kapok" was cut off. Kapok was the cotton like product of a certain tree in that part of the world which was used as the filler in life rings and Mae West life jackets. Remember, this was long before the days of foam rubber and the like which is used today. The government discovered that a reasonable substitute was milkweed pods! Accordingly ,every schoolchild in rural America went out scrounging for milkweed pods and we dragged them to school over our shoulder, or on the bus in huge burlap bags. We were all sure that we had saved dozens of sailors lives through our efforts and maybe we had. It is hard today to imagine the patriotism of the country during that war and the amazing ability of the country to mobilize.

During World War II nearly 300 men and women from the Weedsport area served and unfortunately 10 of them did not return. Those ten were: Roger Daly, Richard Dutton, Albert Faatz, Alfred Gallagher, John Heck, John Michalec, John Pacana, Donald Schramm, Robert Stevenson and Willard St. John. A couple of years ago a letter came from Brussels, Belgium simply addressed to the "Village of Weedsport, New York State, USA". It ended up at the Village office and they quickly passed it on to us. It was from a family in Brussels who had adopted the grave site of Willard St. John in the American Cemetery in Belgium and wondered if anyone could tell them anything about Mr. St. John. As it happens, we could and did! His family even turned his purple heart over to the museum. We had photos of him in high school and in uniform and we were pleased to send copies of all the material that we had. We have since learned that the American Cemetery in Belgium is still , after all these years tended to by grateful Belgians for the sacrifices made there on their behalf.

Come and enjoy the program and listen as our new state of the art sound system, purchased in memory of long time Director Ray Baker is given a second test drive! Refreshments will be served.

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS


Something to Ponder

On Sunday,May 24th 1959, rifle teams representing Weedsport Central School climaxed their most successful season ever by winning the New York State team championship award in the 50 yard outdoor category. The winning scores were posted by John Whyte, Dave Stebbins, Roger Gates and Ted Bogenschutz. Since the organization of the squad in 1950 they produced many fine marksmen and participated every year in sectional matches.

The rifle program in Weedsport started with students in the 7th grade and progressed grade by grade until the 10th grade when individuals were eligible to try out for the Varsity team. Membership was not limited to boys and some of the best shots over the years were girls. In fact, the first rifleMAN from Weedsport to win the coveted "Distinguished Rifleman's Award", the highest honor that could come to any shooter was Frances Backman, daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Ralph Backman of Cato Road.

While Weedsport was the first school in the area to field a rifle team others soon followed, including McGraw, Auburn, Ithaca, Geneva, Oneida, Waterloo and others.

Roger Hutchinson, long time math teacher was the coach of the rifle squads and enjoyed terrific success with his teams. Imagine in your minds eye a fully equipped rifle range in the school, or seeing rifles kept in the hall lockers during the day! Imagine driving down almost any village street and seeing students walking to school with a 22 carried over their shoulder. When it was time for practice, the halls contained students heading to the basement where the range was, again toting their weapons, with ammo in their pockets. Does any reader recall hearing of any problems?

Along those same lines, nearly every boy and many girls carried a pocket knife. How times have changed! Now you're lucky if you can carry nail clippers.

As a note aside, we have just returned from a couple of months in Florida, and while there, we enjoyed a visit with former Weedsport residents Mel and Helen Marshall. We journeyed with them one day to Sarasota to visit the Ringling Museum of Art, The Circus Museum and the Ringling Home. I was amazed to see an account of the wedding of General Tom Thumb, P.T. Barnum's famous midget and the beautiful and even smaller Lavinia Warren who lived on the north east corner of Horton and Bell Street in Weedsport as part of one of the displays in the Circus Museum.

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS


LOCAL DOCTOR FETED ON HIS 77TH BIRTHDAY

On Thursday May 26, 1955 the Village of Weedsport, The Weedsport Central School District and The Town of Brutus jointly sponsored a birthday party for Doctor Clinton E. Goodwin. The party celebrated his 77th birthday and 50 years of service to the community and school.

The school gymnasium on Jackson Street was transformed into a festive banquet hall and the school kitchen served perhaps it's best meals ever. Tickets were sold out well in advance of the celebration and messages were received from far and wide from people who wanted to be part of the celebration, but could not be present in person. Flowers, music, good food and warm recollections that reached back half a century surrounded Dr. Goodwin in the Gym. It was appropriate to hold the banquet in the school as Dr. Goodwin was the revered school physician for 30 years and was on the Board of Education for 26 years.

The banquet was not much to the Doctor's liking as he was the quintessential "quiet" man , going about his business with no fuss, or fanfare. However , his neighbors and friends thought it was high time that he was recognized for his dedication. School Principal William F. Lampman was toastmaster and the invocation was given by the Reverend Doctor Herman H. Downey who was a classmate of Dr. Goodwin's in the Syracuse University class of 1900. LaDette Cross, a member of the SU football squad that Dr. Goodwin played on was also present, as well as Dr. William Harris, Dean of the Syracuse University Medical School who spoke during the program. As a note aside , well known Auburn physician Dr. George Sincerbeaux who had served Auburn for 50 years was also present.

Mayor David Coyle gave the village's greetings and the benediction was given by the Reverend Leo Jones of St. Joseph's Church. Music was handled by the WCS Adult Education Orchestra, under the direction of Ellis K. Atwater. Many members of the community gave their wishes to Doctor Goodwin, and almost all had some tale to tell. One of these tales is related below:

Dr. Goodwin got his first car in 1913. It was a Model "T" Ford touring car and was the ninth car in the village. His old friend, the late Ray Cottle told the following tale. Shortly after he got the car he invited Ray to go along for the ride to the doctor's old home in Maine. They got as far as Chester, Massachusetts on the first day (250 miles).. The next day they went to a ball game in Boston and they arrived in Maine the 3rd day. The old Ford had crossed the state on Route 5 and that highway was far from complete in 1913, but the Ford, the farmer and the doctor had made a fine trip to Maine with only one flat tire despite the rough road. I guess Ray Cottle had rattled around in the Ford enough and was anxious to get back to his horses on the farm, because he took a train home. ( I have a 1930 Ford Model "A", and I sure would hate to start out for Maine with the great highways of today and a good deal more substantial vehicle).

We have several pictures of Dr. Goodwin's Ford in the museum, which he used to fit with ski's on the front wheels to get around on the rural roads around Weedsport ( remember, this was before snow plows). Not only do we have pictures of the car, we have the original 1913 New York State license plate from it, all donated by Dr. Goodwin's son Dwight (Doc) in later years. Dwight told how as a young lad he and the Doctor had taken his mother's ironing board to the trolley station which was next door to his home and office to use as a stretcher for an injured person whose automobile got squeezed between an incoming trolley and a power pole.

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS


MORE WEEDSPORT STUFF

Stevens Duck Decoys

Sometimes I write about famous, or near famous people in Weedsport's past and this month we'll write about the famous Stevens brothers. The name is probably only familiar if you collect duck decoys, and then, there is no mistake who the Stevens brothers were. Harvey, George and to a lesser extent Fred Stevens created what many consider the finest hand carved wooden duck decoys in the world! A decoy that sold for 83 cents in the 1890's can easily fetch a five figure sum in an auction today.

For the purposes of this column, which has to be kept to a reasonable length, we'll discuss only the 3 brothers who worked on the decoys, although it was a larger and much storied family. Amos and Sarah Lamphere Stevens were married in 1846, with Amos being 20 years older than his bride. Eldest son Harvey was born in 1847, George in 1856 and Fred in 1864. The 3 brothers, along with 2 other brothers grew up on the family farm which was located on the extreme southern edge of Weedsport

Harvey became a fine cabinet maker and dabbled in taxidermy. He decided to make decoys as a second source of income. Younger brother George, who had been born a hunchback, became a truck farmer, supplying fruits and vegetables to the surrounding area, also decided to make decoys as extra money. The youngest brother Fred was a paperhanger and painter and probably still today some of the older homes in the village have paper, or paint applied by Fred. He was also a skilled baseball player and played semi-pro ball well into the 20th century . When not playing ball, or plying his own trade, he also worked in the tiny shed where the decoys were produced.

In the 1870's Harvey Stevens journeyed to New York City and managed to sell some of his decoys to a couple of very prestigious sporting goods concerns. Thus encouraged, in 1876 he started advertising in the still prestigious "Field & Stream" magazine. His small ad on page 63 containing a return address of Weedsport, New York stated " Decoy Ducks---Send For Price List---Best In The World". This small ad was the beginning of something big! This same year came the invention of the phonograph, the telephone and Sitting Bull annihilated General Custer and his troops. Thousands of the decoys were produced over the next several years, but on August 28, 1894, Harvey Stevens , the designer and principle in the firm died of tuberculosis at age 47, followed by his brother George in 1905 from the same dread disease. Fred opted to not continue the decoy business after George's death. Perhaps he made the right decision, since he lived to be 75 years old and died in 1939. The brothers are united today in Weedsport Rural Cemetery.

Because of their authentic design, delicate carving and beautiful detailed painting the decoys by the Stevens brothers are not only among the most sought after in the world, but also the most often faked, or misrepresented. Caveat Emptor.

The accompanying ad is from 1891 . A definitive book " The Stevens Brothers, Their Lives, The Times And Their Decoys" has been written by Dr. Peter Muller and Peggy Lane Muller. Copies of the book are available at the Old Brutus Museum.

You can click on the thumbnail below, to see a larger view: (Then, you may have to click on THAT photo 2ce for the larger size)

Stevens Ducks

 

Denny Randall, Past President OBHS

MORE WEEDSPORT STUFF
(With a little personal touch)

Does anyone but me miss the personal touch of the articles written in the newspapers of the past? We have in the museum the entire production of the Weedsport Cayuga Chief newspaper, both original and on microfilm. We also have several other Weedsport papers including several copies of the Sentinel and others. I've been snooping through some of these old papers lately and they have brought back some memories. This month, I've chosen to quote some of these precious old papers.

From the April 14th 1955 edition of the Cayuga Chief come the following articles: Whitman's Hardware recently sponsored a "Bake-Off" with many local folks entering the contest. Among the first place winners were Mrs. Lyle Dennison with her fudge cake with date cream filling and chocolate frosting. Dwight Kelley whipped up a delicious chocolate cake to take top prize in the men's division. One of the features of the show was Joe Whitford demonstrating his method of separating eggs. After breaking the shell he would let the whites slip slowly through his fingers, retaining the yolk in his hand. He may have started something, because that's what most of the high mucky-muck chefs on TV do today! Space constraints do not allow me to print the winning recipes here, however, if anyone has a burning desire for either one of the winning recipes stop in at the museum.

Several Weedsport High students including Diane Wolford, Dorothy Spier, Ann Marie Ryan, Geraldine Muth, Ann Schnauber, Joan Wethey, Pat O'Neil, Connie Goodrich, Joan Spier, Ezio Leonardi, Gail Harding, Joan Cuddy, Barbara Melvin, and Joan Cheeseman were awarded prizes for their typing expertise.

Chamber of Commerce President George Harris announced that there will be a public hearing at 7:00 PM next Monday on the State's plan to widen S. Seneca Street. The plan will cause the removal of almost all of the stately Maple trees on both sides of the street.

Weedsport had only one fire during March, although 5 false alarms were intercepted by Mrs. Smith. according to Fire Recorder John Arndt. On May 10th the Clark -Heck American Legion post and Auxiliary will meet jointly to discuss a new building. Ross Shepherd has returned to Harvard after spending spring vacation at home. Mr. and Mrs. Cerdric Jones and family will leave Friday morning for a weekend sightseeing tour of Washington D.C. Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Goodwin are the parents of a daughter born Monday at Auburn Memorial hospital. Victor L. Sine of West Brutus Street was appointed a Notary Public April 6 by County Clerk James Shayler.

The A & P grocery store advertised freshly ground beef for 39 cents per pound, while sliced bacon was 49 cents. Ivory Soap was selling for 8 bars for 43 cents! O'Hara's restaurant advertised their homemade ice cream which is delicious "today, tomorrow and everyday". The Weedsport nickel to a dollar store advertised fresh flowers daily from Cosentino Florists in Auburn.. Mrs. J.R. Putnam is trying to sell a K

"Used 1938 Packard car, radio and engine fine" I sure wish I had it!!

Other local concerns advertising various items for sale included Hammond Sales, of W. Brutus St. selling Fairbanks Morse scales, The Winton Shoppe, doing expert watch repair, bottled gas by George E. Wethey, and insurance of all kinds by D.C. and C. G. Jones. A new Ford could be purchased locally at C. E. Miner Ford, while a Chevrolet could be obtained at Guy H. Lanphere and a Buick or Pontiac at Harris Buick Pontiac.

These old papers fascinate me and I'll quote some more from time to time.

Denny Randall, Past President Old Brutus Historical Society OBHS


WEEDSPORT FIRE 1940

Over the course of the past 180 years Weedsport has been plagued with many "great" fires including the one which virtually wiped out the center of town in 1871.

I'll write today about the fire of March 8, 1940 which destroyed 4 major stores in the center of the village. The 2 story block was located on the northeast corner of the "4 corners", and was owned in part by Vassos Saroodis, who ran a restaurant , Charles , Sterling and Harold Whitman who operated a hardware store, The Market Basket Grocery and Alsever's Drug Store which were owned by Mr. & Mrs. Warren Dursten. Also destroyed was the venerable Franklin Hall, located on the 2nd floor which was used for community functions and performances.

As Weedsport Police Chief W.D. Gallup , walking a beat, turned from S. Seneca onto E. Brutus Street at 1:55 AM he observed a tractor trailer out of control on the icy E. Brutus St. hill suddenly jack knife and careen into the front of Saroodis' restaurant. The gasoline tank on the truck ( this was before diesel) immediately exploded and the front of the eatery was engulfed in flames. Chief Gallup turned in the fire alarm on a call box which was right there on the corner in front of the Putnam Drug Store. He then rushed to the truck and pulled driver Brontislau Permoda 29, of Buffalo from the burning rig. The driver escaped with only singed hair and clothing due to Chief Gallup's fast action. In less than 3 minutes 2 of the 3 Weedsport fire companies were on the scene.

The 1931 LaSalle pumper was positioned at the fire, while the 1937 Dodge-Cayasler caught the hydrant at the corner of South St. The 1925 Sanford , Weedsport's most powerful pumper caught the hydrant at the corner of Liberty and S. Seneca Streets, and soon 4 powerful streams were directed on the flames by Chief Fred Smith. Village officials, fearing the flames might get out of control and spread northward through the business district on N. Seneca Street telephoned the Auburn Fire Department for aid at 3:00 AM. Hose 4 and a company of firemen, under the personal direction of Chief Fred Washburn soon arrived and set up at the hydrant in front of the firehouse on South St. Sizing up the fire as soon as he arrived, he realized the blaze was under control and told Chief Smith " You've done a fine job, no one could have done better. I didn't realize the efficiency of your department before"

Heat from the flames cracked more than 30 plate glass store windows on the opposite side of Brutus and Seneca Streets. Several fires erupted in various storefronts as well, but were quickly extinguished. Other firms sustaining damage included: The Weedsport Post Office, Tanner & Blaisdell, Robertson's Bazaar, May Morrison Millinery, Folletts Department Store, E.B. Devitt, Rockwell's Corner Barber Shop, Lerner's Five & Ten, Putnam's Drug Store, The A & P Grocery, Coyles Bakery, Burritt Machine Shop, The Winton Shoppe and others.

Leaving the scene at 6:00 AM Auburn Chief Washburn stated that " I want to tell you that your Weedsport boys did a wonderful job in containing that fire to a lone block. No fire company could have done better" In the following days a letter was received by the Weedsport Cayuga Chief newspaper from Syracuse Fire Department Captain Robert Kramer who noted that " Chief Smith and the members of the fire department are to be congratulated for the fine accomplishment in controlling the blaze. The residents may well be proud of their efficient fire department."

After the fire, an exhausted Chief smith praised his men and asked the newspaper reporters present to express his thanks and gratitude to townspeople who aided the firefighters with hose lines and especially to the proprietors of the Hotel Weedsport who stayed open all night and furnished hot coffee and sandwiches to the fire crew. "The hotel management refused to be compensated for their food and efforts, Chief Smith said"

Denny Randall, Director OBHS

PS - You also can read Denny's articles on the Fire of 1871, which are located near the bottom of this page.

Scroll down to the article which was written about Nov., 2005 - Entitled 'Autumn of Fire".

Also, just above that particular article, he wrote another article on Dec. 2005, Entitled "Weedsport After the Fire of 1871".


WEEDSPORT CITY DIRECTORY - 1899

We have in the museum collection a "Weedsport CITY Directory", dated 1899 in which Weedsport is described as a "hustling town of about 2600 people. Noted also was that it was " foremost among the most interesting and prosperous villages in the great Empire State" The directory lists each business in the village, with a short sketch about each, the history of the place and a listing of every person in the village over 18 years of age.

Although city directories were more for business reference than anything else (remember there were no yellow pages), they have evolved into very collectable artifacts, with regards to a communities past. The price of the directory was not inexpensive--$1.00 in 1899, which was considerable money then.

One of the business listed and pictured was the photo studio operated by the Statham Brothers, which was located in one of the buildings referred last month as "tin city" which were three steel clad buildings put up by O.W. Burritt north of the Presbyterian Church. The directory featured pictures of the Opera House, both inside and out.

Some of the societies list include these, which are long gone:

The R T of T-----A group of railroad telegraphers

The O A F-------The Order of American Firemen,of which Weedsport Fire Chief Henry Brewster was a national proponent (More on Chief Brewster another time).

The G A R-------The Whiteside Post of the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) was made up of Civil War veterans.

The N P L--------The National Protective Legion--Veterans of various wars up to that time.

The W R C-------The ladies auxiliary of the GAR.

These and many other mysterious groups are listed.

An institution which gives Weedsport a national reputation (according to the directory) was the Crotty and Mitchell Corset factory, manufacturers of corsets, skirts, and the celebrated "Sterling" dress stays , of which they make a specialty. Over a hundred people are employed daily in this endeavor. " No house in the country takes more pains with their goods and no house in the world manufactures and sells to the trade better dress stays."

One of the businessmen listed is C.W.Hudson, blacksmith and general repairer, as well as a dealer in "all kinds of bicycles, sundries and repairs". His business is situated just north of the corset factory on Seneca Street. He is considered one of Weedsport's brightest young businessmen. He is one of the village trustees, and has been foreman of the hose company for the past ten years, as well as being a member of the Weedsport Lodge#385, Free and Accepted Masons.

The "Willard House" advertising steam heat and hot & cold water baths advertised prominently in the directory. The photo shows the Willard house around 1910, since there is a car sitting in front, however the street is still unpaved which was done in 1916. Not to be outdone, the Hotel Stevens advertised electric lights, as well as steam heat! Their ad states "Give us a trial, we will please you. Sample Rooms" Hmmm.

The Riley Bakery advertised "fresh baked stuffs daily" I wonder what a baked "stuff" is?? Barber William Searle's notes in his ad that a "smoothly ironed face makes any man look like a gentlemen, no finer tonsorial work in town." However W.D. Erb maintains that his tonsorial parlors are new, up to date and sanitary. Don't fail to give him a call if you want a neat shave, or a first class haircut.

If you haven't yet stopped at the museum and seen our 2011 display " KEEPING OUR NATION FREE" Make sure you stop some Monday, or Tuesday morning to check it out. The time is fast approaching when the ladies take down the existing display and set up a new one for the coming year. More from the Directory next month.

Click on image below, to view a larger photo of the Willard House:

WilardHouse1916Th

Denny Randall, Director OBHS


MEMORIES OF WEEDSPORT

People have sent me a slew of things that they recall, so I'll put them together in this column so you can test your memory.

How many of you will recall Fred Burlingame's "DAY-LEE" photo service? Fred would pick up camera film left at various stores in the area, develop and print pictures in one day. Fantastic service in the 40's and 50's.

Who remembers Miller Ceramics who made "slip" for people who poured their own ceramics? They operated out of part of the Barr Typewriter complex. For that matter, who remembers Barr and Poole clocks?

How about Wally Goodman used cars on Erie Drive? Did you as a kid take the short cut over the fence at the end of Cottage Park to get back to school on time from downtown? Remember at that time you could go home, or downtown for lunch. Many will remember the watch shanty for the West Shore Railroad at the foot of the hill by the Catholic Church, not so many will recall the one at the New York Central Crossing on The Cato Road before the overpass bridge was built.

It's fun to remember Earl Smith's dancing palomino leading every parade in the village for many years. Speaking of Smitty, how many know that his right hand man "Speedy" who drove his Ford 8N tractor everywhere was named Edgar Millis? How many of you will recall with fond memory the WCS "Adult Education Orchestra" I recall a couple of the musicians--Butcher Ken Heffernan played first violin and Frances Sine played tuba, which was kind of unusual for a woman at that time.

How about the Donna Rae Beauty Salon, or the ice skating rink behind the Jackson Street school? I recall Bob Fults homey columns written for many years in the Cayuga Chief under the pen name "Old Dawk" Speaking of the Cayuga Chief, how about the columns of personals written every week by Thelma Mappes? Here's a couple of samples from June 11, 1959: " Miss Marcella Jorolemon was guest of honor at a variety shower given by her aunts, grandmother and cousins. Twenty -two were present She was also given a surprise kitchen shower at the home of Mrs. Gertrude Marshall by the Senior Choir of the Baptist Church."

"Mr. and Mrs. Hurlon Mappes and son Gordon visited the Seneca Falls picture tube plant, a division of Sylvania during an open house Sunday afternoon."

Who can remember Professor Lampman clearing his throat as an attention getter for the morning announcements in school? How about When Otis Jorolemon and Son's sold Massey Harris tractors and Blumer Supply sold Cockshutt? Who recalls the Egypt Fryers who went around to different churches and other groups and put on fish fry's? Lastly for this month, check out the photo which shows the Presbyterian Church, the 3 houses which were steel sided and referred to locally as "tin city", the Burritt Opera House and the store fronts on the Burritt block. Note the buggies in front of the Opera House. The photo is obviously from before 1916 since Seneca Street is still dirt!

Denny Randall, Director OBHS

 

SouthSenecaStTh


MORE ON THE NEW YORK CENTRAL RAILROAD

(Oct. 2011 Article)

This month I'll wrap up, at least for the time being this series of columns on the railroads of Weedsport with a rambling bunch of unrelated events of local interest about the New York Central. The New York Central and all railroads for that matter in the hay day of the railroads communicated and ran the semantics of their operations by telegraph. In the accompanying undated photo is shown the Weedsport "station crew" posing in front of the station at North Weedsport. Note the oil lamp on the station wall and the "Western Union" telegraph office. Among those shown in the photo is Miss Sarah Deverell, the first and only woman telegrapher at the time.

In another interesting historical note, William G. Fargo was brought up in the Onondaga County Town of Pompey, eventually moving to Weedsport in 1840 where he became the freight agent for the Auburn & Syracuse Railway, later absorbed by the New York Central. He became associated with a young man from Port Byron, Henry Wells. Between them they started many endeavors and of course operated the famous Wells-Fargo stage line and express operation between the east and California during the gold rush. They even operated the famous "Pony Express" during the last few months of it's operation in 1861. Their original operation became the "American Express" company in 1873, operating not only the express lines but banks and other related businesses. By then Henry Wells had retired from the Presidency of the company to Aurora, N. Y. where he founded Wells College. William Fargo went on to live in Buffalo, where he was active in civic affairs and served as the Mayor of Buffalo from 1862 to 1866.

In 1920, John Goff of Weedsport was operating a "speeder" (work car) east from Weedsport to install some new rails near Amboy. Around the Bonta Bridge grade crossing the rivets came out of a wheel and the speeder derailed and overturned. Charles Czarnecki, Daniel Cooney, and Tom O'Connell were riding with Goff in the speeder. Mr. O'Connell rolled two freight car lengths in the stone ballast and Mr. Cooney was decapitated by the overturned car.

In November of 1941 a spectacular 23 car pileup occurred near Weedsport, due to a hot journal. The crack "North Shore Limited "which was following the wrecked freight was flagged in Port Byron and had to back all the way to Lyons for switching to the West Shore Railroad. At that time the West Shore was basically used for hauling heavy freight and it must have been something to see the crack passenger trains rip through the grade crossings at Goff, S. Seneca, South, Willow and E. Brutus Streets when people were used to the lumbering freights.

Lastly, please see the freight bill, dated September, 1885 from the New York Central Railroad for transporting a 1,500 pound bell from the Meneally Foundry in Troy, to be installed in the recently completed firehouse in Weedsport. Cost of the freight was $3.60 ! Both the firehouse and the bell,which is now used only for the funerals of firefighters are still in use, 126 years later!

(Click on the image below, for enlargement)

Bell Receipt

Click on photo below for a larger view -

Sarah Deverell, shown in the photo below, was the first and only woman telegrapher at the time.

This undated photo shows the Weedsport "station crew" posing in front of the station at North Weedsport.

SarahDeverell

Denny Randall, Director OBHS


THE GREAT TRAIN ROBBERY

(September 2011 Article)

One often hears of train robberies in the past, although they were generally associated with the wild west.  This was not always the case as you'll see by the following tale, according to an account written in the Syracuse Herald American in 1969

The episode happened in February of 1892.   The 26 year old man's name was Oliver Curtis Perry and he had been a cowboy, evangelist and petty thief.  He numbered among his ancestors the famous Oliver Hazzard Perry of Lake Erie fame.

The slender young man, inconspicuous in his gold framed eyeglasses and derby hat was seen waiting on the station platform at Syracuse.  As train #38 departed the station,  he leapt unnoticed onto the icy platform of the car just in front of the Railway Express, or "money" car.  He had some experience with train robberies, having robbed this very train only four months previously at Utica , escaping with over a thousand dollars in cash.   He was out for a bigger payday this time however, having learned that there was over $600,000 dollars in the express car.

After passing Jordan, as the train approached Weedsport he managed by means of a rope ladder to go down the side of the express car.  He kicked out the side window of the car and swung in, gun in hand.  Guard Daniel McInerney whirled and reached for his revolver.   Perry fired and the bullet grazed his McInerney's forehead.  The guard pulled the emergency signal cord for the engineer as Perry fired again, hitting the guard in the leg and knocking him down.  By now several trainmen had hurried to the platform of the express car in response to the emergency signal.  Perry opened the side door and fired twice whereupon the trainmen retreated rapidly.  One fleet of foot brakeman was sent running back along the trackbed to Jordan to telegraph the alarm.

Since they could not locate Perry, the train crew continued on westerly.  The crew assumed that he had jumped from the train in the confusion and disappeared into Weedsport.  This was not the case.  He had climbed to the top of the express car and was lying flat on the roof, his guns ready, but  with no money.  The $600,000 was still safe in the express car, now under careful watch.  He slipped off the train unnoticed at Lyons and was recognized by the train  Conductor on the platform.  He was pursued through the rail yard and he held his pursuers off with a pair of pistols.  He ran to an idling switch engine and forcing the astonished Engineer and Fireman to jump off, he unhooked the engine, mounted the cab, blew the whistle twice and departed, still heading west.

The train crew took off in pursuit on an adjacent track and soon caught up with the slower switch engine.  As the two engines passed, considerable gunfire was exchanged which discouraged the trainmen such that they backed up to Lyons to organize a posse.   Unfortunately for Perry, his luck was running out at the same rate as his steam pressure.  Between Lyons and Newark he abandoned the engine and he took off on foot to a nearby farmhouse and commandeered a horse at gunpoint.  The horse gave out after only 4 miles in the heavy snow and he walked on to another farmhouse where he stole a horse and sleigh and headed into Benton's Swamp, about 10 miles north of Newark, where the posse caught up with him.  After a long stand-off he was taken into custody and jailed at Lyons.

Subsequently, he was sentenced to 49 years and 3 months in Auburn Prison.  Within a year he was transferred to the Matteawan State Prison for the criminally insane.  In 1895 he and several others escaped,  after recapture, he was transferred to solitary confinement at Dannemora.  In 1899 he stuck hot needles into both of his eyes, which blinded him instantly.  He died September 5, 1930 in Dannemora, blind and insane.   His well to do and respected family did not claim his body and he was buried in the prison cemetery.

Denny Randall, Director OBHS


MORE ON THE NEW YORK CENTRAL SYSTEM

(August 2011 Article)

This month I'll relate a story told by my late friend Ed Dusinberre.  About ten years ago he put down on paper some of his life experiences and anyone who knew Ed would find them interesting to say the least.
 
When Ed returned from the service after World War II, he went to electronics school for a year and then went to work for the New York Central as a Telegrapher, Leverman, Freight Agent.  He first  worked the east end of the Syracuse Division  on both the New York Central and the West Shore. Eventually he got transferred to the NYC main line manning the Jordan switch tower. In those days there was so much rail traffic that despite having 4  tracks, occasionally a slower train would have to be side tracked to allow a faster one by.  To accomplish this there were sidings to clear the main line of the slower train. The switches were thrown manually by means of large levers in the control towers (thus the " Leverman" designation in the job title.)
 
Between tracks 3 & 4 in Jordan was a dead end siding which was used for backing off passenger trains when one was put around another.  One night while working the midnight to 8:00 AM shift, the dispatcher called and  said " put a hold on track 2 , train 2 has steamer trouble and I may have to put train 8 around him". According to Ed  "I put the signal red and promptly fell asleep."
 
" When I woke up, it seemed like every bell in the tower was ringing.  I pushed the "Approach" buttons and some of them stopped.  I said 'Jordan' to the dispatcher and all the bells stopped. "   The dispatcher said "Where the hell have you been?"  Ed replied that he guessed he had dozed off.  The dispatcher asked "Where is number 2?--I looked out and told him " sitting at my stop signal"   Well then,  the dispatcher asked ,where is number 8?--I told him "sitting right behind him"  He yelled , well let them go, you've got the whole railroad shut down!
 
According to Ed he stated that he didn't know how long he had been asleep,  however the first train was just east of Rochester when the dispatcher first called and  number 2 had stopped at Ed's red signal.  Number 8 had stopped at a red block signal  east of Weedsport and then came up at a slow speed to right behind number 2 to see what the trouble was and so it went back many miles to the west.
 
According to Ed the incident resulted in an official investigation as to the cause of the delay to Trains #2 and #8 at tower SS-6 in Jordan on July 10, 1950, with Telegrapher, Leverman E. P. Dusinberre on duty. According to Ed, " I was interviewed by Ken Sprague, representing the New York Central Railroad."  The upshot of the hearing was that he had to promise to stay awake in the future.
 
The photo shows what the New York Central main line grade crossing on Cato  Road looked like before the overpass bridge was completed in 1937 at a cost of over $100,000.   The house seen on the left hand side was the Otto Stevenson farm and just beyond that now is the Thruway entrance.  Note the crossing gates which had to be lowered manually by a watchman. The work crew is apparently doing some work on the crossing.  Nice cars!!
 
Denny Randall, Director

OBHS

(Click on thumbnail below, for a much larger view:)


 

The New York Central System

 

(July 2011 Article)

On May 17, 1853, the New York Central System was created from the merger of 10 small railroad lines in New York including the Mohawk and Hudson line which dated from 1831.  Erastus Corning acquired 6 more regional railroads after he gained control, which gave him direct access to New York City.    In 1867 "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt acquired control of the New York Central Railroad and in 1869 merged it with his own Hudson River Railroad.  The 2 railroads, as well as 4 other lines already owned by Vanderbilt were operated as the NYC & HRRR.

In 1906 the railroad took control of the Cleveland, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad , giving access to the upper Midwest, as well as Chicago and St. Louis.  In 1914 the name was changed to the New York Central System.   Through the halcyon years of the railroads the New York Central maintained their position as one of the foremost systems for passenger travel and freight haulage, but the times they were a-changing.

After getting a bit of a late start on dieselization in 1957, the line was taken over by Robert Young, who committed suicide after failing to meet dividend promises to stockholders.  Alfred Perlman assumed control and immediately pursued a merger with the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad in an attempt to stabilize the New York Central.  While the New York Central name lives on still today, it is "not your father's New York Central". All of the preceding was necessary to set the groundwork for a series of columns on the New York Central System as it related to Weedsport.

One of the most interesting tales of the New York Central involves famous engine 999.  Today one hears a good deal about "bullet trains" and high speed rail travel.  Here's something to ponder--Engine 999, which regularly pulled the "Empire State Express" ran a 36 mile straight stretch of track west of Batavia on May 10, 1893 at a mind boggling speed of 129.5  miles per hour!  The "Empire State Express" left New York City at 9:00 every morning and pulled into Buffalo at 6:35 in the evening, passing through Weedsport daily. (No, it didn't stop here).  The photo shows 999 roaring west past the Weedsport Terminal on Station Rd,  while a freight chugs it's way east.  Note the sign on the station.  The NY 312 and  B 128 indicate mileage to New York and Buffalo.  The bridge seen in the background carried the Southern Central (Lehigh Valley) over the New York Central. Often times on the crack trains such as the Empire State Express and the Twentieth Century Limited, which ran from New York to Chicago an overabundance of passengers would force the railroad to add a second "section" or a second train which ran close behind the first.  On the first section green flags were flown from the front of the engine to warn people that a second train would be hot on the heels of the first one.

Weedsport was once known as the community with the most retired railroad mail clerks in the nation per capita.  For many years nearly all mail sorting was done on the run in the mail cars.  Mail was picked up at nearly every station by grabbing a heavy canvas bag from a gantry beside the track with a mechanical arm that was extended from the mail car.  It was pretty spectacular to watch.  Once in a while the arm would miss (remember, they were going 70 miles per hour) and the mail would get scattered.   Stationmaster  Otto Stevenson would round up a couple of kids and give them a quarter to pick up the mail which was scattered all the way to the Lehigh bridge.  The last mail bag was grabbed at the Weedsport station in 1952.  We have a list in the museum of no less than 42 retired mail clerks living in Weedsport at one time.   More next month on the New York Central.

Denny Randall, Director  OBHS

NYCTerminal002


 

The Lehigh Valley (Southern Central) Railroad

(June 2011 Article)

To continue the tale of the Lehigh Valley Railroad (formerly the Southern Central)--Although the railroad was a full service line, the Auburn branch never achieved the relative success of the rest of the system, partly because of the marginal engineering and construction which had been done by the Southern Central.  The Lehigh Valley depended to a large extent on the transportation of anthracite, or "hard" coal from the mines of Pennsylvania.  As a matter of fact their crack  passenger train which ran from New York to Buffalo was called the "Black Diamond ", a reference to the anthracite coal which made up much of their payload.  The railroad adopted as their logo the "ROUTE OF THE BLACK DIAMOND".
 
Although the Black Diamond never ran through Weedsport, lots of anthracite coal sure did.  In fact on June 24, 1871, a load of coal was delivered to a dock which had been constructed on the Erie Canal, and a news item in the local newspaper four days later reported that five canal boats had  been loaded with coal (by hand) in  an hour and twelve minutes!  Soon the coal was rolling through Weedsport by the train load to a new unloading trestle which had been built on Fair Haven Bay.  Export coal to Canada was tendered to lake freighters from that trestle which remained in service until the 1930's when it was abandoned.  A new state park,  Fair Haven State Park was built on the site with the help of several "New Deal" programs.
 
The Auburn branch of the Lehigh valley struggled along until 1958, when the roadbed was abandoned.  The bridge over East Brutus Street where the library is now was taken down in March of 1958.
 
James B. Swarthout was stationmaster at Weedsport for 38 years, retiring in 1937.  As the Lehigh Valley slowly downsized, the time came when they could not afford agents, stationmasters, section crews, or any of the other personnel generally associated with a working railroad.  Many in Weedsport will recall the late Ralph Mazzoli Sr. (referred to by almost everyone as "Mayor", since he had an opinion on about everything).  Ralph was the chief cook and bottlewasher when the railroad finally closed.  It was common in the mid 1950's  to see Ralph roll his motorized "speeder car" out of the terminal building on Erie Drive, lever it onto the tracks with a crowbar and set forth, all by himself for Cato, Ira, or some other points to the north to do track maintenance all by himself.  Ralph was the last employee of the Lehigh Valley to be based in Weedsport.
 
Denny Randall, Director  OBHS

 


 

The Southern Central (Lehigh Valley) Railroad

(May 2011 Article)

Oh, alright, just one more picture of the West Shore.    The photo  taken in 1925 shows an old Model T Ford wading through the waters of the creek flooding the road under the bridge carrying the West Shore RR over West Brutus Street in the village.   Not only are the railroad and bridge gone, but so too is that section of Brutus Street.
 
As early as 1852 an attempt was made to construct a rail line from Pugsley's Station ( south of Ithaca) to Fair Haven.   About $375,000 was expended in securing the right of way and in grading.  This attempt at railroad construction failed for lack of funds to complete the road.   In 1858 the effort was renewed, this time to build from the Erie Canal in Weedsport to Lake Ontario at Fair Haven.  Some $450,000 had been expended when work was interrupted by the Civil War.
 
After the war in 1865 there was a reorganization of the company, additional capital was secured and the railroad, the Southern Central was completed from Sayre, Pennsylvania to Fair Haven, New York.  Some towns and villages along the line of the road issued bonds to help finance the construction.  The Town of Brutus did this to the tune of  $50,000.   The Lehigh Valley Railroad advanced a large loan, taking a mortgage on the road which was foreclosed in 1887.  The high bidder on the foreclosure was the Lehigh Valley, to protect their own investment.  The Southern Central thus became a part of the Lehigh Valley system and was known thereafter as the "Auburn Branch of the Lehigh Valley".  The stockholders and the municipalities lost all of their investment in the railroad.
 
Trains first began running over the Southern central in 1869 and at first a large amount of business was done.  Rolling stock consisted of 16 locomotives, 9 passenger cars, a considerable quantity of boxcars and 128 coal cars.  Later, when competing parallel roads were built, both east and west of the LV, business decreased greatly.  Less and less freight was shipped over the line.  The use of automobiles deprived it of passenger business and by 1932 only one passenger train each way was run every 24 hours.
 
Unlike the other railroads in the area, which spared no expense on construction and engineering the Southern Central seemed to have been built on the cheap, and so was plagued by many more accidents and engineering disasters than one would expect.  In the spring of 1873 after the heavy snow melt of winter a large bridge set on pilings settled into Dryden Lake under the weight of a  heavily loaded coal train.. The bridge and 30 cars sank out of sight.  The railroad had to operate in two halves for many weeks while the wreckage was removed and the bridge rebuilt. In 1875 a fire broke out at the engine house in Fair Haven, completely leveling the building and severely damaging the 2 engines inside.  One on them, the "C. C. Dennis" was returned to duty after rebuilding, but the other, the "Weedsport" was never heard from again!
 
In 1877, the hard luck "Dennis" was again involved in an accident, rear ending a stopped coal train near Owego. All personnel jumped before the crash, but the" Dennis" and the coal train caboose ended up in Owego Creek.  By far the worst accident, and there were many others that I have not mentioned was the tragedy which unfolded on the bridge over the Seneca River, north of Weedsport.  Train #19, consisting of the engine "Owasco", 2 box cars, a caboose and 1 passenger car, due in Weedsport at 3:40 PM on Feb. 14, 1884 started to cross the bridge when the first span collapsed,dropping the engine and box cars into the river. The engineer, fireman and a brakeman riding in the cab drowned, while 2 other crew members and 7 passengers riding in the passenger car which remained on the rails were uninjured..  After 6 weeks of patient dragging by the Weedsport Fire Department and others, their bodies were finally recovered.  A long winded maudlin poem in memoriam to Engineer Burr Ridgeway, Fireman  John Straight and Brakeman Timothy Danahey was written by Southern Central  Car Inspector John Steele.  I'll give you the first stanza and the other 7 are in a similar vein:
                                THREE NOBLE MEN, THEIR LIVES LOST
                                       IN SENECA'S SLUGGISH STREAM
                                EACH  MAN  DYING  AT HIS  POST
                                       EXPOSED TO SCALDING STEAM.
 
With that, I'll leave the rest of the Lehigh Valley for next month.  The photo shows the Weedsport depot which was located on what is now Rt. 31 across from the Henderson residence.  Note the semaphore signal and water tank. Incidentally, the large round stone which is affixed to the rear wall of our museum is not a millstone, as is commonly thought.  It is the foundation for the center bearing of the turntable at this depot where it was possible to turn an engine around.  So delicately balanced was the turntable that an engine could be easily moved with one hand.
 
 

Denny Randall,
Director OBHS

You can click on the thumbnail photo below, to see a larger view of the 'Lehigh Valley" Photo:

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MORE WEST SHORE

(April 2011 Article)

It's always gratifying when someone makes mention of your work and the West Shore" articles which I'll conclude this month seemed to evoke more than the usual comments.  I mentioned last month, that on July 5, 1938 a major derailment occurred on the West Shore Rail Road underneath the Lehigh Valley overpass just east of Willow Street in the village.  I received a very interesting letter from  Mr. Herbert Trice, of Auburn who recalled as a 20 year old ( I'll let you do you own math as to Mr. Trice's present age) spending much of his free time riding the Lehigh Valley trains coming out of Auburn, either in the engine cab, or in the caboose.
 
On the day of the derailment, the Auburn milk train was scheduled to originate and terminate in Auburn.  This run was to be the last milk train to run north of Auburn and knowing that this was a special event, Mr. Trice finagled a ride to Fair Haven and back.  There was concern at the time that they would be held up south of the West Shore tracks in Weedsport because of a major derailment had occurred and the Lehigh Valley overpass bridge had been struck.  When the site of the pile up was reached, it was determined that although the bridge had been skidded east toward Syracuse a short distance, the Lehigh Vij alley track had remained securely spiked in place with disturbing the gauge.  (Gauge is the distance between the rails)    Despite a plainly visible offset, or jog in the tracks, the milk train eased through with no problem and returned from Fair Haven later in the evening.  Thanks to Mr. Trice for sharing this tale with us, and I've placed his letter in both our Lehigh Valley and West Shore files.  What a wonderful memory!  As a reward to him, I include with this article a Syracuse Herald photo of the cars piled up under the Lehigh Valley overpass.
 
I mentioned that in the early days of the West Shore, they erected an adjunct station on South St. where the Lehigh valley crossed to accommodate passengers who wished to transfer to the Lehigh to travel north, or south.  I include a photo of that tiny station which was located on the point of land at the end of Lockwood Ave.  The picture , which was taken in 1920 shows not only the station, but the house behind the station which was occupied by the Pichany family for many years.  It also shows the house across South St. which was home to the Everett Hazer family for an equally long time.  A close eye will be able to see manually operated crossing gates at the bottom of the hill guarding the West Shore Crossing.  The Lehigh Valley crossings in the village were all unguarded.
 
As you can imagine, we have a lot of info at the museum on Weedsport railroads in general--even to the extent of knowing the names of many of the watchmen that lowered the gates manually at the approach of a train.  Some of the West Shore watchmen were Leander McAllister, Jack Enright, Pat O'Neil, J. Dunn and John Malarkey. A local tale told of Mr. Malarkey noted that a pie  at a home along the railroad tracks had been set to cool on a window sill and it turned up missing.  Somehow it was determined that Mr. Malarkey was the culprit, which he vehemently denied (apparently, there was no evidence, not even crumbs left). Bringing the matter up would vex him to the extent that he was known to have left his post at the S. Seneca St crossing to chase kids all over town when baited with the cry "Who Stole The Pie?  Jack Malarkey, That's Who"
 
When the West Shore opened on January 1, 1884, the Weedsport Cornet Band was on hand to greet them, cannons thundered and 3 hearty cheers went up from the crowd.  It was reported that only Newark had such a fond welcoming.
 
I was surprised that no one chided me when I was noting the street grade crossings that I omitted both Goff and Horton Streets which had unguarded grade crossings.   We have in our files a receipt dated 1889 in the amount  of $2.03 for bring 2900 pounds of cast iron pipe and fittings to the Village of Weedsport DPW from Syracuse.  What do you think $2.03 would get you today?  Apparently the village only ordered pipe as they needed it sincere we have several receipts for varying amounts of pipe.
 
So much for the West Shore.  Next month, again noting the kindness of Mr. Trice , I'll start a series on the Southern Central, or Lehigh Valley Railroad.
 

Denny Randall,
Director OBHS

Photos:

On left - West Shore Little Station 001 (Click on thumbnail for larger view.)

On right --- West Shore Derailment

 

 

WestShoreLittleSta001Th..WesdtShoreDerail

 


 

More on the West Shore Railroad
(March. 2011 Article)

In this issue , I'll tell some of the local tales about the West shore railroad in and around Weedsport.   As I mentioned last month, the West Shore was originally a full service railroad, which  was reduced to a heavy freight line when passenger fell off.
 
It has to be remembered that in the early days of railroading there was no automobile traffic and only the occasional horse drawn vehicle, or pedestrian for the train crew to worry about at the grade crossings on S. Seneca St. , S. Willow St. and  E. Brutus St.,  as well as Putnam and Clinton Roads.   As time went on and traffic became more common, so also did collisions  on the crossings.   One of the earliest recorded accidents occurred when  an omnibus drawn by a fine matched team and owned by Wesley Hunter was struck on the S. Willow St. crossing.   The team was killed, although Mr. Hunter and the passengers escaped with minor injuries. The "bus" was used to pick up  and transfer passengers between the terminal of all three lines. (West Shore, New York Central and Lehigh Valley)
 
The railroad was built with mostly Italian immigrant workers imported specifically for the job.  There were few Italians in the U.S. at this time and some of their habits seemed a bit odd to the local folks.  For instance,  when they were working in the area of  East Brutus St. near the creek, they would catch what they called "lobsters" (we call them crabs) and put them in their hats and then clap the hat on their heads .  By the end of the day it was not unusual for them to have a couple of dozen crabs crawling around on top of their heads.under their hats.  The crabs were boiled and made into soup which was eaten with great relish according to accounts of the day.  It was reported also that the 129 Italians were providing a great boost to the local economy spending as much a 25 cents per day on living expenses!.
 
The big iron bridge which carried the West Shore over first the Erie Canal and the Route 31 was completed in 1883 at a cost of over $60,000.  The bridge was removed in 1961 and, however one  abutment remains which now contains a mural of the Freedom Train painted by local artist Dawn Jordan.
 
The worst derailment came in July  of 1938 when 8 boxcars of a 129 car heavy freight east bound derailed underneath the Lehigh Valley overpass at S. Willow St. The cars were thrown about like jackstraws and 7 of them were crushed to splinters..A bit of a mystery ensued as Weedsport Police Chief Walter Gallup discovered a coat, hat and thermos bottle filled with hot coffee near the scene, none of which was  owned by any of the train crew.  It was thought that someone who
was riding the rails had leaped from the train at the time of the derailment and fled the scene, since no body was ever found.
 
The unguarded crossing at the "S" curve on Clinton Road just east of Putnam Road was the scene of many disastrous collisions between trains and motor vehicles due to limited sight distance of approaching trains.  Pictured are several spectacular  crashes involving trucks  on the Clinton Rd. crossing.   Also pictured is the S. Seneca St. crossing after the installation of the automatic gates and elimination of the watchman in the late 1940's  Note the beautiful tree shaded street before the state decided to widen Route 34.     The last picture depicts the iron bridge on Route 31 being taken down in 1961.
 
#1Truck 1 #2Truck 2 #3Truck 3 #4WSSenecaSt4

 

 

 

#5WSSIronBridge5

 

 

 

Denny Randall,
Director OBHS


 

The West Shore Railroad
(Feb. 2011 Article)

It is no secret that Weedsport has always been a transportation hub, from the days of the Erie Canal, to the  railroads that followed, to the New York State Thruway.  One of the reasons for this is certainly the fact that everyone sought the most level route across the state, or the "Water Level Route" as the New York Central called it.  Weedsport had at one time 4 tracks of New York Central, 3 tracks of West Shore and a single track of Southern Central which became the Lehigh Valley.  Additionally the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Electric Railway (The Trolley) also had a single track and 2 stations in town.
 
At the height of railroad travel you could board in Weedsport east bound 6 trains daily on the New York Central  and 2 on the West Shore and 3 trains westbound on the New York Central as well as  2 on the West Shore.   The Lehigh Valley offered 3 northbound and 3 southbound.  Additionally the trolley stopped hourly in both directions, east and west.  This added up to an amazing 19 train and nearly 20 trolley stops a day!  This incredible amount  of train travel went away virtually overnight thanks to a guy named Henry Ford and his affordable and dependable automobile, the Model "T", or tin lizzie.  We'll write today a bit about the West Shore Railroad, and conclude with more West Shore next month.
 
The New York West Shore and Buffalo Railway, (so named because it came up the west side of the Hudson river as opposed to the New York Central which used the east side) was an abortive attempt by the J.P. Morgan family in 1883 to break the monopoly  of the New York Central System which was operated by the Vanderbilt family.   As it happens, it sure didn't work that way.
 
A newspaper clipping in our museum summarizes the development of the road and documents the first passenger train to pass through the village on January 1, 1884.  A description of the cars noted that they were heated by steam, lighted by gas,  had plush seats, large plate glass windows, carpeted aisles, and a rest room in each car!  There were also Pullman accommodations in many of the cars.  Unfortunately for the Morgans, they had both overextended themselves building the railroad and  underestimated the determination of the Vanderbilts.  They were finally able to borrow 2 million dollars from Central Trust of New York for operating expenses.  Cut throat competition on both freight and passenger rates ensued between the lines which ran parallel across the state, with passengers paying as little as a penny a mile.  The rate war went on for over a year before the West Shore and Buffalo had to cry uncle and leased the railroad to the Vanderbilt interests for nearly 500 years at a very modest rate.  The railroad was re incorporated as simply the West Shore Railroad, a subsidiary of the New York Central System.  Eventually the passenger trade was phased out and the railroad became strictly a heavy freight line.
 
The West Shore operated a passenger station, and freight house on East Street, as well as an auxiliary station at the intersection of South St. and Lockwood Ave. where Lehigh Valley passengers arriving from the north, or south had merely to walk down the hill on South St. and a short distance on East St. to the West Shore Station.  When the passenger business was terminated ,  part of the depot property became a milk receiving and shipping station and part of it was moved across East St. where it remains today, a private residence.  The last train on the West Shore ran in the late 1950's, and the tracks were subsequently removed, as well as all local bridges.  Little remains today of this once proud line.   In 1889 local assessment for the West Shore in the Town of Brutus and Village of Weedsport was an astonishing $80,000!  More on the West Shore next month.
 
The picture shows the passenger terminal on the right on East St. and the siding and freight house on the left where an apartment complex now stands.  The bridge in the distance carried the Lehigh Valley over the West Shore.  Note the telegraph poles along the side of the tracks.
 
 
Denny Randall, Director
OBHS

 

Please click thumbnail below, for larger view:

WestShoreTh

West Shore RR Depots

Note Lehigh Valley Overhead in Background, Looking East


 

REMEMBER WHEN?
(Jan. 2011 article)

Going to the NYC passenger station to watch the trains, or how about the grade crossing on Rt. 34 before the bridge was built ?  Here's one that few will remember--how about the concrete steps that allows passengers to get out of cars on top of the bridge and walk down to the station.  They were also used by the Maitland kids to walk up and catch the school bus.  Who recalls chasing the trucks and farm wagons loaded with peas up the Brutus Street hill  to grab a handful of fresh peas. For that matter, who remembers the pea vinery on Rt. 31B.
 
As Science Hill gets smaller and smaller with each iteration of the Jackson St. school how many recall going down the toboggan run there, or ice skating on the make shift rink behind the school.  Who recalls having Sunday dinner at Signe Lindberg's restaurant, which then turned into the Quick residence, then the Ernest Barber home and now presently the John Zimmer house.  Speaking about restaurants, how about the Hazmore Restaurant, run by Hazel and Morris Gifford, which became the Cozy Corner, operated by Ruth and Francis Holman and then by "Hap"  and Mildred Hunter,and  even later by Olive St. John.  Eventually the restaurant was torn down and it became an Atlantic Gas Station, then Keel Mobil oil and is now the site of convenience store and gas station.  How about the "Big Freeze" of 1934 when the mercury plunged to 54 degrees below zero?
 
Does anyone recall Charlotte Bakers "little store" on the corner of Bell and Horton Sts.?  Many of us recall the "tabloid" type news reporting of the school newsletter, the "Sparkler" which was published monthly.   How about Parson's Millinery who made displayed and sold stylish hats for men and women?  Harry Blumer's garage and junkyard on Furnace Street?   Photography by Harry Muggleton, Jon Canolesio, or Bob Statham?Joe Koster's or Jack Holihans radio and TV repair?  Many will recall George E. Wethy's plumbing heating and LP gas service.
 
Some more recent memories might include:Pantusi Shoe Repair, Bill's Servicenter, Ken Biss' Laundromat, Peter Pysnack's Liquor Store, The Howe Insurance Agency, where it "paid to know Howe", Fletcher Heating, Gordies Tire Service, HEP Building Supply,  3D Auto Parts,  The Tastee Freeze,  Don Elliot's Service station,  Don Squire's Noah's Ark,  F. H. Tuxill & Son Building Movers, The In-Between Gift Shoppe, George Gorton's Pharmacy, Dr. Paul J. Doran DVM,  Rick Catheys Roofing & Siding,  Corostone Silo, Jaymar Terminal Boards,  E.C. Curry Appliances, Wally Goodman Used cars,  Zonolite Insulation,  Otis Jorolemon & Sons Farm implements,Jim Bates Home Improvement, Mel Keim Small Engine & Mower Repair, the Grand Union, or Market Basket grocery stores, or the A & P, Baran's, Harry Tanner's IGA, Coyle's Red & White groceries.
 
How about the C & K gift shop which was located in the bank building which is now a Chinese restaurant? , or Segers Floral Shop, the Kinney Funeral Home, Kelly Funeral Home,  Carl's Grill, later Big Guy's,  Edna Patterson's Craft Shop, the Port 40 Motel.  The list goes on and on.  the next time that you think nothing ever changes in Weedsport, make a list of the changes that YOU have seen in the past 20 years.  I guarantee that you'll be amazed.
 
Denny Randall, Director
OBHS

 

Electrifying
(December article)

I was perusing E-Bay recently for Weedsport related items and I came across a postcard  "N L and O" workcar, Weedsport, NY.  My curiosity got the best of me and I dug through  some files at the museum and found out who N L & O were.   The N L & O (Niagara, Lockport and Ontario) power company was a concern that provided street lighting and other electricity to various concerns across New York State.  They used the generating facilities of several interurban systems (trolleys) for power production.

Let me back up a bit to the long and storied evolution of street lighting and subsequent electrification of the Village of Weedsport.   As early as 1888 there was interest in construction of a lighting plant and distribution system in the village.  One of the reasons was to eliminate the expense of paying Mr. Albert Radford the going rate of $1 per day for lighting, filling, cleaning and trimming the approximately 40 kerosene (not gas) street lamps in the village.

A lot on South Seneca St. (probably owned by Village President (Mayor) Michael Grace was purchased for $175.00 for the purpose of building a powerhouse.  Over the next several years several proposals were made, with none passing the needed referendum for bonding.  As a matter of fact, by the late 1890's Mayor Grace had become Assemblyman Grace and introduced a bill in the State Legislature authorizing the village to issue bonds in the amount of $12,000 for the purpose of building an electric plant and installing electric streetlamps.  One of the stipulations of the bill was it had to pass a public vote by the affected taxpayers before it was made law.  Many issues were raised with the practical aspect of the plan in general.  The original plan called for incandescent streetlights rated at 16 candlepower each (now folks, that ain't much).  A single car tail light is 32 C.P.!).  It was finally decided that 120 lamps of at least 25 C.P. would light the most important one third of the village streets adequately.  Also recommended  was the purchase of enough capacity for 200 incandescent lamps for businesses and homeowners.  

Finally the progressive voters in the village got their way in 1898,  and  after many proposals, both for construction and bonding, the village was in the electricity business.  A strong selling point for the street lights favored arc lamps over incandescent by reason of brighter light and lower operating cost.  The arc lamps were less expensive to run based on power consumption  by 10 to 1. Recommendations from as far away as Charleston, SC came in in favor of the arc lamps.

Cost of a powerhouse was set at $1,500, 80 horsepower boiler and steam engine $1,500, arc dynamo, lamps, hoods, and all station appliances belted to the engine $3,854, Incandescent converters belted to the engine, lines,wires and fixtures $1,350.  Operating expenses per annum were estimated to be $2,190, which included labor, coal, repairs and ash removal.  Revenue was estimated to be $4,300 per year. One of the "perks" offered by one bidder was to install 2 "free" 16 candlepower lamps on top of the fountain on S. Seneca St.   The building next door to the museum was built as a powerhouse for the Weedsport Electric Company.

The Village of Skaneateles conferred with the Village of Weedsport many times as they were also trying to get electrified at the same time.  Continual problems with the plant and unseen expenses continued to plague the village and in 1906 a public vote decided to privatize the electric work.  Accordingly , a  contract was signed with  Niagara ,Lockport & Ontario Power Company to provide electric service for the village including complete management of the street lamps.  The mystery was solved.  The work car on rails was necessary to get to the generating plant of the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trolley, which was in Port Byron!

The Weedsport Electric Company continued to operate for a time providing electricity to commercial and residential customers, but in 1918 it was bought out by the "Empire Gas & Electric Company", which later became NYSEG.   As a note aside, Skaneateles, along with Solvay,  and several other central New York villages stayed the course and still  today enjoy municipally supplied power at a cost of about one third what we pay.

Reading these old contracts are pretty interesting--They stipulate that only  the best AMERICAN  carbons are to be used for the lights.  Another paragraph in the contract states that " the streetlights shall run all hours between dusk and  2 :00 AM  when the moon is obscured from view.

The electric bill dated July 1907 shows the firm of C.J. White and Sons owes $1.77.  

Them were the days!

Denny Randall, Director
OBHS


More Groups
(November article)

It seems that Weedsport has never suffered from a lack of organizations.  These groups have ranged from the ones with which everyone is familiar such as the various Masonic groups, the Lions, the Garden Club, the Grange, the Chamber of Commerce and other such well known organizations to many others which have come and gone over the years.   Such groups include the "LADIES FORTNIGHTLY CLUB" who met every 2 weeks to discuss in great depth nearly every subject imaginable, the "JAYCEES", a group that was formed nationally as a spin off from chamber of commerce groups.  It was originally started to enroll young men between the ages of 21 and 35 who were interested in the betterment and progress of their communities.

The "CHEMICAL PEOPLE OF WEEDSPORT" was a group set up in the 1980's to combat what was felt was a growing drug problem.  In 1969 a local group was formed to help people who had critical needs and did not know how, or where to turn  to for help,  "FRIENDS IN SERVICE HERE", Or "FISH". The group, which had over 60 volunteers at one time included charter members Rev. Elmer Heindl, Rev. William Fairhurst, Cerdric Jones, Francis Becker, Eleanor Follett, Glenn O' Hara, and John Yurco.   The "BASIN CLUB" was a beautification group that operated in the village for several years during the 1980's and '90's, promoting clean-up and beautification.  Principals included Nellie Kinney, Dave & Elinor Fults, Chris Baker, Bernie Weatherstone, Carl Sande, Dave Taylor, Sue Fields, Danny Gonnella, Marcia Schram and yours truly.  Our projects were many, but we sponsored a farmers market, planted flowers in the Spring, put up Christmas decorations, and made some of the first improvements to what is now Trolley Park, among other things.

One of the oddest groups had to be the "HELLERS".  I guess they must have been a forerunner of the present day "Red Hat" ladies.  This was a cadre of local ladies who met  and did who knows what in the 1930's and '40's.  The photo shows the Hellers in 1942 including, Front row, L-R Nellie Smith, Mrs. Tracy, and Edna Brewster.  Back row shows Loretta Schoonmaker, Marie Kelsey,Belle Stone,  Mrs. Ely, Frances Bradley, Alice Bibbens, Fannie Hoffman and Elsie Brewster.  The WEEDSPORT SENIOR CITIZENS have come and gone, as well as the "WHITTLER'S CLUB", the "ODD FELLOWS", and many others. 

Lesser known groups included the "ORIOLES" and the "FRATERNAL ORDER OF REDMEN".  We currently (until the end of the year) have on display in the museum some of the regalia worn by members of these organizations.  We have the bright red feathered headdress worn by the "Redmen" and  the cute little orange and black beanies worn by the "Orioles" and other such paraphernalia.  Most of these types of groups had their own songbooks, and we have a nice collection of them as well.  When I look at this regalia, all I can think of is the late Tom Bosley as Howie Cunningham climbing into his DeSoto with his headgear on heading for his lodge meeting, or Jackie Gleason on his way to the Loyal Order of Raccoons.

Other groups have included the "ANCIENT, MYSTIC ORDER OF SAMARITANS" , the "KNIGHTS TEMPLAR", and even the "KU KLUX KLAN".   The August 21, 1924 issue of the local paper reported that the " large crowd gathered for the annual Farmer's Picnic were enjoying a block dance on the pavement when a fiery cross was set ablaze in a lot at the rear of the business section.  The crowd gazed at the blazing emblem of the KKK in curious surprise."

The Hellers

The photo shows the Hellers in 1942 including, Front row, L-R Nellie Smith, Mrs. Tracy, and Edna Brewster.  Back row shows Loretta Schoonmaker, Marie Kelsey, Belle Stone, Mrs. Ely, Frances Bradley, Alice Bibbens, Fannie Hoffman and Elsie Brewster. 

Denny Randall, Director
OBHS


THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING
(October Article)

To continue the series of articles on organizations in Weedsport, this month's topic will be Civil Defense.   The  National Civil Defense organization which was started in January of 1942 in our early days of World War 2, rose to a near fever pitch during the 1950's and '60's when the cold war was at it's hottest and slowly faded away in the 1970's and '80's  Some will remember that at one time there was actually a "National Civil Defense Day" celebrated annually on the "Date which will live in infamy"  December 7 (Pearl Harbor Day).

The local group was formed on November 28,1957 with Bill Humphrey as Commander and George Plunkett as Auxiliary Police Chief.  Nearly every level of government had their own Department of Civil Defense. The federal government, state , county, city towns and villages all issued fallout shelter protection and survival tactics and other information mostly aimed at surviving a nuclear holocaust.  When no holocaust was forthcoming, many groups, including the local group branched out into other areas, such as traffic control duties during times of emergency, assisting in search and rescue and eventually traffic control during local celebrations and other non-emergency functions.

At one time the Federal and State Civil Defense Departments had huge budgets and for many municipalities, the 2-way radios provided on grants from them were the first radios owned by the local groups. Some will remember the triangle CD logo carried by such equipment to show the merchandise remained the property of National CD.  Some communities even received big ticket items, such as dump trucks , or fire apparatus.

The photo shows the cover of a 1966 "Citizens Handbook on Nuclear Attack and Natural Disasters".

The local operation was well represented by members of the community.  Some of these members over the years included: Elfred Valentine, Russ Gridley, Joe Sheets, Leigh Van Vliet, Joe Ostrowski, Ray Hazzard, Ray Weller, Howard Evans, Ralph Christopher, Charlie Hewitt, Squeak Bowden, Jack Holihan, Howard Jennings, Arold Weatherstone, Ellis Lyon, Willis Hammond , Dick Colvin, Milo Hudson, Lew Goodelle, Roger lasher, Jim Pacholyk, Elwood Lamphere, Herb Stevenson, Ernie Taylor and many others.

Many people of our generation will recall the "Go Home " drills held in school, or standing in the hallway facing the lockers until the "All Clear" sounded.  Since the schools did not have a specific alarm for air raids,  Principal William F. Lampman would walk the halls of the school winding a hand cranked siren.  The all clear was announced on the PA system.  To show how seriously this was taken, on Tuesday May 3, 1960, as well as at other times a nation wide alert was sounded.  Everyone was asked to take shelter immediately from an atomic attack.  During this period all radio and television broadcasting was suspended and in their place the emergency broadcasting system called CONELRAD would be transmitting CD info.

At least one Weedsport resident took these precautions very seriously.  Ellis Lyon converted an old fruit cellar in his basement to a well stocked and fortified air raid shelter with radiation shielding and provisions according to CD recommendations.  The local group even had their own shelters.  The first one was the dry cistern in the basement of the firehouse and the next was the underground reservoir meter pit at the intersection of South and Rude Streets.

The photo below, shows the cover of a 1966 "Citizens Handbook on Nuclear Attack and Natural Disasters".

Denny Randall, Director
OBHS


MORE ON THE WEEDSPORT ROD & GUN CLUB
(September Article)

To continue a bit more on the very successful Weedsport Rod & Gun Club, I received several inquiries about whether the group actually paid a bounty for crow's feet, etc, etc.   They sure did and Charter President Evrand Kerns was so passionate about the subject that the New York State Library in Albany has a file full of letters from Mr. Kerns drumming up support for his position  to and from various state officials, scientists, other sportsman's groups and magazine editors!  Sorry for those looking to make a quick buck, but the practice was discontinued many years ago.  As a short side note, Mr. Kerns was a partner in the Skaden and Kerns Manufacturing company which manufactured ladies garments.  The factory, which was torn down in 1974 to make room for an expansion of the village firehouse was located where the fire department parking lot is now on South St.

The 80 acre wooded property and fine clubhouse and facilities now enjoyed by the club has been expanded and improved regularly since acquisition of the property in 1953.  The property which had become essentially landlocked after the construction of the New York State Thruway was purchased and then access was attained by the construction of a bridge over the large drainage ditch owned by the Thruway, and then extending Trombley Road to the premises.  It is hard to imagine a finer location for a sportsman's club!

In addition to a fine clubhouse complete with a modern kitchen,  where various events are held, for the club and other organizations, the property boasts shooting and archery ranges and a trap shooting set-up.  The ranges and trap stations allow the club to host shooting events and on August 21 the Central New York Tri-County area had their summer shoot off at the club.  Entries included Baldwinsville, Salmon Creek, Otisco, Auburn Falcons, Jordan and others.

The club routinely holds gun safety and other related courses and  for many years held an annual beef and pork roast. For information on how to become a member of this long standing community organization, contact any member.

Denny Randall DIRECTOR
Old Brutus Historical Society    
OBHS


The Weedsport Rod & Gun Club
(August Article)

Surely one of the longest lived organizations in the Weedsport area is the venerable Weedsport Rod & Gun Club.  Organized on January 20, 1936, as a successor to the previously written about "Hamilton's Club".   The sole purpose in their formation was to "destroy the different kinds of vermin that are exterminating the native song and insect eating birds and frogs as well as other fish and game", according to club President Ev Kerns.

The Secretary's report for that first year noted that the club started paying a bounty for the feet of crows and starlings and the tails of red squirrels and in eight months they have paid  for the killing of 972 crows, 354 red squirrels and 200 starlings.  Two contests have been put on since the club started.  The last one between Ernie Whitman's "Go-Getters" and Cecil Colvin's "Sharpshooters" ended with the Go-Getters having about twice as many kills as the Sharpshooters.  Grove E. Rich of Port Byron led all other competitors by shooting 132 crows, 4 red squirrels and 2 snapping turtles.   Besides the crows, starlings and red squirrels, there also have been done away with by club members one grey fox, 46 black water snakes and 38 snapping turtles.  Nearly all of this great number of song bird and game destroying  vermin were shot within a couple of miles of Weedsport and there are  thousands more living in the same few square miles.

Mr. Kerns went on to state that The State Conservation Commission  requests the farmer feed the pheasants, partridges and other game in the winter months and in case he tries, the crows, starlings and red squirrels eat what he has distributed before he gets back to his house.   He notes that " when you read the report of the Weedsport Rod & Gun Club you will see what has happened to the partridges, bluebirds, wrens, flickers, goldfinches, barn swallows, nuthatches, brown creepers, all manner of woodpeckers, meadow larks and Baltimore orioles, the beautiful creatures that sang so sweetly and lived on the insects that are eating our vegetation today.   Don't you care?   Are not these vermin the cause of  the farmer, gardener, or fruit grower having to spend his time and money to kill the insects that are now destroying his crops?  Why do cities and villages have to spray their shade trees to keep them from being devoured by these insects? "

"The New York State Conservation Commission has spent untold thousands of dollars raising partridges, grouse and quail and liberated them all over the state including  some near Weedsport, and when a crow , or other such vermin get into their nests they have had a breakfast which cost us hundreds of dollars.  Statistics show that nearly all such nests are robbed. "  The Weedsport Rod & Gun Club wants everyone to help in any way they can to  save our beautiful songbirds from extermination!

On this somber note the Rod and Gun Club was formed. Early members included Abner Hoyt, Dave Coyle, Clayton Miner, Don Bibbens, Harold Harmon,  and Harold Hinman, among others.  The organization first met in a shack on East Brutus Street about where the village well pump house is now located.  Around 1940 they moved to a piece of property off of Hamilton Street, near where Herb Upfold now lives, where they built a clubhouse with volunteer help.  In 1953 the group incorporated so that they could buy an 80 acre piece of property, known colloquially as "Jimmy Dunn's Woods".  The woods had become mostly landlocked after the construction of the New York State Thruway.  Eventually a new clubhouse would be erected there which still is very much in use today.   Next month, more about the Rod & Gun Club.

Denny Randall DIRECTOR
Old Brutus Historical Society    
OBHS


THE WHITTLER'S CLUB
(July Article)

Perhaps you have wondered about the significance of the name of the tiny "Whittler's Green" park in the center of Weedsport.  This dedicated park is surely one of the smallest in the state, measuring a mere 1,500 square feet, or about the same size as an average ranch house.  The park occupies space that previously held a typical post 1871 fire 3 story brick building which had housed everything from bars to restaurants to even an auto supply store.  By the early 1970's the building had become dangerously deteriorated and had to come down.  In 1974 the small park created where the building had been was named for the members of the Whittler's Club which operated in the village from 1914 until 1974.  We have in the museum a couple of actual pieces carved by members of the club.

The membership, which was a cross section of the "movers and shakers" in the village routinely met at  McWethey's Boat and Woodworking (later McWethey's Tire &  Battery) Shop on North Seneca Street, just a short walk from the present park.  Once in a while (two, or three times a year) they would meet secretly elsewhere.  The members would meet at the intersection where the park is now located and follow the lead car , which was marked with a large flag.  The other cars carrying small flags would follow to a destination known only to the lead driver.  Given the years of operation of the club , this must have sometimes been quite an adventure, with destinations as far away as 3 River's Inn in Phoenix, the Hotel Syracuse,  or some other far off place!

According to the late Dwight "Doc" Goodwin, who was one of the last members, the meetings had no redeeming qualities and served no avowed purpose, although they had a very strict and conservative set of by-laws, which stated among other things their belief in the democratic principles of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  They believed in the inherent goodness of man and urged honesty and fairness toward others.  They urged aliens to learn the English language.  (They) stressed the need for labor and management to work together to assure a better life for all.  They even stated their sincere belief in the provisions of the Monroe Doctrine!  At one time membership in the group numbered well over a hundred.

The influence exerted in the village by the Whittler's was apparently considerable, since Historian Jeanne Baker notes that when her mother complained about the amount of time that her father, the long time Principal of WCS William Lampman was spending "with the boys", his reply was that he was building job security!  Similar to most Lion's Clubs the group had their own song book, of which we have several copies.  Let me set down the words to one of them, sung to the tune of  "It's A Long Way To Tipperary"

To be sung to the tune of  "It's A Long Way To Tipperary"

It's a good time to get acquainted,
It's a good time to know
All the hustlers and the live ones
That in Weedsport make things go.
Good-bye chilly shoulder,
Good-bye glassy stare,
When we all join hands, and pull together,
We're sure to get there.

 

.On April 11, 1974, the remaining 7 members, Ken Biss, Howard Finley, Ross Marshall, Guy Lanphere,  William Lampman, Winthrop Hamilton, and Dwight Goodwin voted for dissolution, thus the club was gone but their name lives on in the tiny park on the four corners.  The remaining funds in their treasury were turned over to the Old Brutus Historical Society.  The attached picture (seen below), is a very detailed old carved high top shoe, plainly marked on the sole  "WHITTLERS, WEEDSPORT,NY.

Denny Randall, Director
Old Brutus Historical Society
OBHS


 

Women had clubs also
(June 2010 Article)



To continue the series on the social and fraternal organizations of Weedsport, this month we'll discuss the "Ladies Fortnightly Club", which was a ladies literary group that operated from 1879 to about 1920.

It was composed of enlightened ladies of the village and met on alternate Saturday evenings at the homes of members. They even had an official flower (Rose) and official colors (green & white). Their club motto was "The Best Is Yet To Be". Annually they published a rather elegant "yearbook" listing officers, members and their program in great detail for the entire year. Shown is a photo of the 1909-1910 program book. Each page of the program book also carried a famous literary quote. For instance, in October of 1905, the quote was "The seeds of knowledge may be planted in solitude, but must be cultivated in public" by Johnson.

The topics of their group discussions were unbelievably varied and included such topics as "Resolved, that the modern woman has had too much of delsarte, elocution and physical culture and thereby has lost many of her natural graces", or "Ought woman to ride the wheel?" (bicycle)

The 1907 book list Mrs. Henry Burritt as President, Miss Sarah Deverell, 1st VP, Mrs John Kingston 2nd VP, Mrs Edna Van Duzer, Secretary, Mrs. Ernest Bradley, Treasurer and Miss Ida Williams as Librarian. Members included: Mrs. Arthur Putnam, Mrs. James Swartout, Mrs. George Harrington, Mrs. Gilbert Benedict, Mrs. Wright Bibbens, Mrs. Irving DeLamater, Mrs. D. Clifford Jones, Mrs.William Lee, Mrs. Frank Lamphere, Mrs. Andrew Moll, Mrs. Marion Putnam, Mrs. John Rockwell, and Mrs. Dunlap Snow.

As a sample of their programs, at which the hostess was expected to serve refreshments, in 1895 the year's agenda included the following: All months included at least two meetings.

October--A Review Of Current History
*******A Talk On Elizabethan England

November--Topography and Geology Of New York State
**********The Cliff Dwellers
**********A reading; "Sam Weller's Valentine"

December--Aboriginal Inhabitants of New York State
**********Early Settlers Of The State
**********A Symposium Of Woman's Education

January--A Reading Of "Heartsease"
********Sanitation
********The Story Of Oswego As A Frontier Port
********The Philosophy Of Fashion
********Battlefield Of The State And It's Part In The Revolution
********Relics Of State History

February--A Reading "Wheest"
*********Natural Resources Of The State
*********The True Use Of Books
*********Governors, And For What They Are To Be Remembered
*********Recitation "The Cane Bottomed Chair"

March--Review Of State Politics
*******Is Conversation A Lost Art?
*******Clinton And His Ditch
*******An Evening With American Authors

April--New York's Constitution
*****Celebrated Persons, Authors, Artists, Scientist, Etc.
*****Functions Of Fiction
*****Recitation "The True Story Of Eliphatel Dole"

May--New York's Large Cities In 1894
*****How Do US Colleges Compare Worldwide?
*****A Study Of Municipal Government

June--A Shakespearean Evening
*****Sanitation (again!)

In July, August and September the club did not meet, but were probably dreaming up subjects of discussion for the coming year. Next month another group.

Photo of the 1909-1910 program book

A photo of the 1909-1910 program book

 

Denny Randall, Director
Old Brutus Historical Society
OBHS


What's In A Name?
(May article)

This article will start a series on various social, or service clubs which have at one time, or another thrived in the Weedsport area.   These clubs enjoyed such distinctive names as The Order of Owls, The Orioles, The Ancient Order of Redmen and many more.

This month I'll write about  a predecessor to the present day Weedsport Rod & Gun Club, which is actually a fairly youthful group--only about 60 years old!   The club I'll write about was called the "Hamilton Club".  They were incorporated on June 24, 1899 in the names of J.H.Hamilton, F.N.Burritt, J. Marquisee, Abram Walrath, Willard Sturge, F. L. Durbin, W.H.Eldridge and F.S. Tryon.  The club was organized for the purpose of protecting fish and game from "Pot Hunters" (Poachers?) and others who violate  the state game laws.  Their name was a tribute to Mr. Hamilton on whose property  on the "Oaklands" the group was allowed to build a clubhouse on the Seneca River. Access to the club was by a laneway straight down to the river past the barn on what is now the John Roden farm.

In a copy of the original by-laws which we have in the museum, membership was limited to 40 members and the desk officers "shall have the exclusive management of the clubhouse"   The entrance fee was (at that time a rather steep) $15.00. presumably to maintain exclusivity, thereafter , dues were a more modest 3 bucks a year. "At the time of the death of any member, his privileges rights, and interest in and to the property of the association shall revert to and vest absolutely and forever in the association."

Presumably things went along well for a time and then several members from the Syracuse area(all the rest were from Weedsport) got into a snit with the Weedsport group and the Weedsport men took their ball and went home---that is, they built themselves a new clubhouse on the North side of the river, almost across from the original.  The later clubhouse (see picture)  was accessed by a lane on the Rhoades farm, near the intersection of River Rd. and Emerson Rd.

The group was a virtual who's who of prominent Weedsport  citizens and businessmen.  One of the photos which we have shows Nate Durston, Fred Burritt, Will Palmer,  and James Palmer in the front row and Herbert Morrison, Charles Adams, Charles Whitman, Henry Brewster, Abe Hallett, Abner Hoyt, and Frank Tryon in the rear. (L-R)  Just to single out one stalwart in the group, Henry Brewster was Weedsport Fire Chief at the time and it was he who was responsible for the purchase of a "modern" steam powered fire engine and he had the still utilized firehouse on South St. built in 1884.  More notably he was the mover and shaker with  past Chief Harry Howard of the New York City Fire Department who were responsible for building the  Volunteer Firemen's Home in Hudson, N.Y and indeed, it was he who obtained the vast acreage for it from NYS in his job as state assessor.    But I digress!

As these types of organizations are prone to do, eventually interest flagged and the last record of an annual meeting was 1938 , we believe.  It is thought that the late George Valentine, Publisher of the Weedsport Cayuga Chief newspaper for many years was the last living member of the "Hamilton's".

Photo is of the Hamilton Clubhouse:

Photo - The "Hamiltons":

Nate Durston, Fred Burritt, Will Palmer, and James Palmer in the front row.

Herbert Morrison, Charles Adams, Charles Whitman, Henry Brewster,
Abe Hallett, Abner Hoyt, and Frank Tryon in the rear. (L-R)

 

Denny Randall, Director
Old Brutus Historical Society
OBHS


April Article - More Weedsport Stuff:

The brick building at 8932 North Seneca Street was erected in 1840 for the specific purpose of being a bank, and so it was for nearly 140 years. It currently houses the Lin Bo Chinese restaurant and the family lives in the apartment above.  Let me give you some of the history of the building, as researched in 1973 by Dwight "Doc" Goodwin, who was himself a former employee of the bank when it was the 1st National Bank of Weedsport.

The building was originally 24 feet wide and 45 feet deep.  An addition was made in 1875 adding 15 feet to the whole depth of the building on the south side.  In 1917 another addition was made adding 15 feet across the entire rear of the building.  A close examination of the window trim and the facade will show you a bit of mismatch that is not evident to the casual passerby.  The first addition had a storefront entrance and a separate entrance for the stairway to the second floor, which is still in use.  When the 2nd addition was constructed in 1917 the bank offices were refurbished and modernized.  A vault was built as well as an indoor toilet and a private office for the transaction of business.  An inside stairway to the basement and to the 2nd floor director's room was also built.  Local retired farmer Ed Copp built the vault.  It is a solid pour of concrete with a 10 foot thick floor, 3 foot thick side walls and a 2 foot thick ceiling, reinforced not only with many large field stones but with wire fencing, bed springs and other parts from many old iron beds.  The thickness of the floor was to prevent someone from undermining and blowing up the vault.

In the 1950's, would be thieves worked many hours trying to drill through the side walls.  They gave that up and tried to go through the ceiling.  Failing that, they knocked the combination dial off, but never did gain entry.  Several early banks in the building failed as was common then, and the "Weedsport Bank" was established in 1854 and survived until the financial unrest after the Civil War in 1866.  Mack, Treat & Co. started business in1869.  After several personnel changes the bank name was changed in 1889 to S. W. Treat & Co.  After Mr. Treat died in 1913, his son Ernest (E.G.) took over and in 1917 reorganized as the 1st National Bank of Weedsport.  One of the first of his employees was a young James Dumary, who was hired in 1920.

During the great depression, this bank did not even quiver. Although the doors were closed for awhile during the Roosevelt bank moratorium, a limited amount of change making and safeguarding of local business men's money went on unofficially.  The bank continued to prosper until large city banks forced successful small institutions into merger, or outright sale.  The National bank chose to sell out to the First Trust & Deposit Co. of Syracuse on March 16, 1956.  Since then First Trust has themselves been swallowed up by larger banks and it's now Keybank.  In the 1970's the bank moved across the street into a new modern office.

We mentioned that the south side addition was a separate storefront from the bank.  Over the years many businesses have operated out of there., among them, W.A.Warren's harness shop, a meat market, an insurance agency, the Weedsport Independent Telephone Co., D.W. Wright Hay & Grain, Fred C. Smith Electrician, Jon Canolesio, Commercial Photography, The Town of Brutus offices and polling place, and the local public health nurse..

Before the days of electronic alarms and cameras, the Weedsport bank had their own security system.  Tim McCarthy slept in the bank at night with a revolver by his side, and silent alarm buttons were located at the tellers  windows which rang bells in Smith's Drug Store, Miner Ford and Kanaleys Grocery.  One time a button was pushed inadvertently and in less than a minute a shotgun was trained in the rear window while another covered the front door.

The next time you buy some Chinese take out,  think of the history of this 170 year old building!

Denny Randall, Past President

OBHS


Weedsport Hotels

April column for the Auburn Citizen Newspaper

In the earlier settlement of Macedonia which was approximately where the intersection of Rude and Seneca Streets is now was located the first hotel in the area.  It must be remembered that there were very few roads and in fact the main road was the Montezuma Turnpike.  This "highway" (which is stretching a point) came straight across from what is now Cottle Road, then behind, or south of the Rural Cemetery, across what is now Shepherd Road, along what is now Rude Street, straight up over the hill behind Elvin Dolph's and into Hamilton Road at the present Northbrook Farm.  This hotel, or tavern was located where the small house is to the south of the mansard house.  The inn did a good business until the Erie Canal was built and the whole settlement in general moved about a half mile north and became Weedsport.  Sometime after this,  part of the inn was moved to the northeast corner of Seneca and Cottage Park where it remains a private residence.  The old kitchen area of the establishment also became a private residence, the aforementioned small house where the Colvin family lived and operated a dairy,  thus both parts of this historic building are still in use.

The site where the " Weedsport Hotel"  formerly stood until destroyed by fire late in the last century was the location of the first hotel in what is now Weedsport.  A gentleman by the name of Spafford Fields opened a hotel on that site in 1814.   In 1871 the old hotel was razed and a magnificent  new 3 story edifice , the " Willard House"  was erected by Willard Sturge.  The photo shows the Willard House in it's heyday.  Notice the stage coach and unpaved street!    That same building, remodeled many times became the Weedsport Hotel that many of us remember.  The last major renovation came in 1954 by owner Chester Golamb who removed the third story after Hurricane Hazel had started the job for him.  Chet also removed all of the porches and balconies  seen in the photo and installed a Permastone front on the building.  The entries were changed with separate entrances created for the lobby, the dining room and the bar.  The rooms were reduced from 32 to 15 and the barber shop on the south end was also removed.   At one time between the ownership of the Sturge's and Golamb's the establishment was called the "Scattergood Tavern".  The building went into gradual decline following the retirement of  the Golambs until it was destroyed in the fire mentioned above which was set by a disgruntled bar patron.  The site is now a parking lot for a funeral home.

Another "Weedsport Hotel" was kept by Samuel Henry at the northeast corner of  E. Brutus and N. Seneca  where Scott's auto service is now located.  This hotel eventually became the " Eagle Hotel".   The " Mansion House"  was where the Dollar General is now and was operated by Henry Stickle.   The " Congress Hotel"  stood where the Weedsport Tool &  Machine building is now.  The building was razed during World War 2  to make room for the present building which was part of the Barr operation and the additional space was needed for the war effort.

A bit earlier,  the "Striped Hotel "  was on the towpath of the canal  and was kept by Alpheas Rawson.  The "Red Tavern" was operated by a Mr. Suits, the "Farmer's Exchange" by Rice Carpenter and the "Coffee House" by Robert Gault.  The Coffee House was reputedly the largest and best built of them all.  Alas, there is no longer a single hotel in Weedsport.

Photo of Willard House:

 

Denny Randall, Past President

OBHS


(January 2010 submit to Citizen:)

In the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century and indeed up until World War Two, cards advertising nearly anything imaginable were handed out by merchants eager to please the customer.  Many of the cards were very high quality chromo-lithographs, often made in Germany.  We have in the Museum a wonderful collection of these "trade cards".  For the most part, they must be seen in order to really appreciate their brilliant color  and extraordinary artwork, in many cases over a hundred years old.

One card shows a beautiful pink ladies high heeled pump with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers in it.  On the reverse is inscribed  "Moore & Holcomb, Weedsport, N. Y.  The Live and Let Live Boot, Shoe & Rubber Dealers.  Our Motto Is Latest Styles, Lowest Prices, Largest Assortment".     Another card shows among other scenes, a cute little girl cutting her equally cute little sister's hair with a pair of E.B. Terry's scissors, as sold by the Kevand Brothers, Weedsport, N. Y.

H.L. Burrill of Weedsport advertised "Green's August and Boschee's German Syrup" ( See Photo).  A different Burrill card shows a great colored bouquet advertising " books, drugs, stationary, perfumery &c".   Howland's Market on Main St.(sic) in Weedsport advertised fresh & and salt meats, poultry, fish & oysters.  Their card in stunning pastel colors shows a young lad who had apparently been out hunting ,with a shotgun over his shoulder presenting a  sweet young thing with a bouquet over the garden gate while bluebirds sing sweetly in the trees above.

Some cards were plain and businesslike.  M. Coyle, dealer in staple and fancy groceries is an example (see Photo), although they did extol the virtues of Alden's Fruit Vinegar (see  photo) .  Many cards interjected humor into their effort to make a sale.   We have a card from M.A.Flint, Manufacturer of Fine Cigars, Weedsport, N.Y. showing an ornery pig grabbing the seat of the pants of the farmer scaling the fence as he tried to escape.  The card is titled " A Pig-A-Rious Position".   A. H. Todd,  Druggist and Pharmacist, Weedsport, N.Y. shows an annoyed mule kicking people in all directions.

It was not unusual for concerns to issue a series of cards to encourage collecting.  The venerable Arm & Hammer Company issued several series of 30 cards each of "Useful Birds Of America".  When they ran out of birds, they did fish!  Ira Carl of Weedsport advertised "First Class Sewing Machines, Pianos and Organs.  The Grand Union Company issued at least one collectors series of stylish ladies shoes filled with beautiful cascading bouquets of flowers.

We have stunning cards advertising Kapo Corsets, Ayer's Sarsaparilla, Straiton & Storm's Cigars, Waterbury Watches, Gowand's & Stover's Soap, Horsford Acid Phosphates, Sapolio Soap, Tarrant;s Seltzer Aperient, Bertier Parabola Spectacles, White Sewing Machines, Nichol's Bark & Iron Tonic,  Lautz Bros. Soap,  Carter's Little Liver Pills,  Granite Iron Ware, Niagara Gloss Starch,  J. P. Coats Threads,  Good Morning Soap, Acme Laundry Soap, (sold in a full 1 lb.cake), Hood's Pills, Williams and Clark  Bone Fertilizer, Summit Stoves, White Swan Soap, Fleischman's Yeast,  New Departure Coaster Brakes for bicycles (remember them?) Dr. Thomas Eclectric Oil(see photo) , Coraline Corsets, Burdock Blood Bitters, Liver Pills and Vermifuge, and hundreds more.  We even have cards advertising cards for merchants to purchase. Stop at the museum sometime to view the whole collection.

Denny Randall, Past President

OBHS


(December 2009 submit to Citizen:)

Periodically people stop me on the street and ask "how come you didn't mention so and so in your reminisce columns.   Well, here's  another dose.

Who recalls the early days of stock car racing in Weedsport, long before there was a Weedsport Speedway?   Several locals raced at the old Brewerton Speedway including Bob Lamphere, Bill Vess, Ralph Mazzoli Jr. in his car "The Hound", and Ed Schmidt in the "Little Miss Linda" named after his daughter. I have left out several and I know that I'll hear about it shortly.

Who remembers picking the "bloodsuckers" off your legs after swimming in Ball's Creek?   How about the 8:00 O'clock and Bokar coffee being ground at the A & P?   Remember the mouth watering fish sandwiches served at Priebe's Erie Fish Fry?   They still may be the best I've ever eaten!   Does anyone recall Rollie McWethey going across the street from his Tire and Battery shop on N. Seneca St. to the bank several times a day to make a bank deposit after virtually every sale?

I remember with fondness the stylish 1928 LaSalle operated by the Fire Dept. as Engine 2 until the delivery of the 1950 Ford/Sanford.  The LaSalle then went to the Varna Fire Dept. near Ithaca where it served for many more years as a light rescue and parade vehicle.  It was only recently sold, parted out and the parts used to refurbish a LaSalle Victoria which had been damaged in the Elmira floods some years back.

Who remembers Barber Welding where the Presbyterian Church parking lot is now?  Or even before that in a small shed on N. Seneca St. where the Village Diner was later located? Who recalls that Ernie Barber used to make "house calls" with a welder mounted on the back of a Model A Ford truck? Does anyone remember the wonderful "Toyland" on the second floor of the Weedsport Nickel to a Dollar Store? How about  when Bonta Bridge Rd. from Clinton Rd. to Cottle Rd. was known as Berry Hump Rd. after John DeWispelere's Berry Hump Farm?

Who recalls better than me learning to write with a "nib" type pen and ink in school.  No one was happier than me to see ball point pens invented!  Can anyone else still make a pretty accurate outline map of New York State using Miss McPeak's 9 square method?  How about when doing penance in school meant having to help run "ditto" copies of work sheets and other material and ending up being covered with purple ink?  How many of you used to sprint downtown during lunch at the Jackson St. school to Coyles Bakery for a long john and then having to hustle back in the nick of time?

What boy of the 40's and 50's don't recall eagerly waiting at the several local car dealerships to see the unveiling of the new models every fall? The cars were even transported under tarps so they could not be seen until the same minute all across the country.   Many people will recall O. W. Burritt's "tin City" , the 3 steel clad homes located between the Presbyterian Church and what is now Dollar General.

Who now remembers the nasty mess the Erie Canal was behind the stores on N. Seneca St. before the State decided to fill it in and create the new Rt. 31?  Does anyone remember that Rude St. used to run all the way through to Shepherd Rd?   How about camping in "Doc" Goodwin's woods, or for that matter, the "haunted" house on Lovers Lane (Hoyt Rd)?   Do you recall that Trolley Park was once a bog?  How about when every light pole on Seneca Street was decorated for the holidays with evergreen swags by the Weedsport Beautification Committee?

How about the great calendars, thermometers and other nice give a way items distributed to loyal customers by local merchants?  Lastly who recalls that it cost 3 cents to mail your Christmas cards , 2 cents if you didn't seal them and for a single cent your greeting could be sent on a Post Card?

Denny Randall,

Past President OBHS


The recent decision by the Weedsport Village Board to no longer supply water to the East Brutus St. Road (Rt. 31B) and Cottle Road area and the subsequent decision by the Town of Brutus Board to form a water district for that area, which has been hashed over periodically since 1974 prompts me to write this article  This article is a very abbreviated history of the Village of Weedsport's municipal water system.

Many would wonder why in the world the Village would be in the water business way out there anyway--well, read on.  The answer is very simple as you shall see. Much of the material included in this article is derived from a history of the water works written in 1953 by Village Clerk and Water Commissioner Walter F. Schoonmaker.

The first actual water works, other than private wells was from a spring behind the house on the N/E corner of Bell and  S. Seneca Streets across from St. Joseph's Church.  The water ran thru wooden pipes along the East side of Seneca St. to the ornamental fountain which stood in front of what is now a tattoo parlor.  The fountain had drinking areas for humans, horses and dogs!  The next line was from "Circle Pond" which was across from where the Jr.-Sr High School is now located.  The line ran along the south side of E. Brutus Street to a water tower located at the intersection of South and E. Brutus Street where Aircrete is now located.  In 1884 several prominent citizens on the south end of Jackson Street proposed digging a well erecting a windmill for pumping so that the residents could "sprinkle the street and water their lawns". " The whole village needs water works."

The system of mains and laterals pretty much as used today dates back to 1896.   A private  corporation  "Weedsport Water Company" was formed by John Taber who owned White Springs in the Barker Road area.  Much of the area including the pumphouse was in Onondaga County and the Village of Weedsport actually had to pay taxes for many years to the Town of Elbridge.  Stock offerings were made in1896 and enough capital generated to  pay for the construction costs, which were considerable due to the distance from the Village of Weedsport. To gain easements across private properties of the several miles involved, the company agreed to supply water to those parties involved, at a cost of course.  This offer was snapped up by most persons, since maintaining a well  was a nuisance, particularly for a dairy farmer.

The system was purchased in total by the Village in 1925 for $45,000 and the bond was paid off in 1953.  The water shed was improved with about 10,000 Red Pines, Norway Pines and various types of Spruce trees planted with the assistance of the New York State Conservation Department and the agriculture class of Weedsport Central School.   About 50 acres of land comprised the Barker Road water shed and the spring would yield  just over 35,000 gallons per day.  The entire system consisted of just over 18 miles of cast iron pipe of 8,6 and 4 inch diameter with some smaller diameters in low usage areas.

The original billing procedures includes flat rate as follows:  First faucet in kitchen--$6.00 annually, 2nd faucet in house $2, any additional in house $1 each.  Bath tubs, where water is already used in the kitchen, $4,  wash basins  $2, Wash tubs and hot water boilers $4, Toilets $4, urinals $2, Street sprinkler $10.  If the dwelling was plumbed complete the yearly charge was $16.    Other interesting charges included : First horse $4, each additional horse $1.  For construction purposes, 10 cents per thousand brick and  5 cents per perch of stone was the fee .  Fire hydrants were rented to the village  at the cost of $15 per year.

Eventually  the springs could not keep up with the demand and a large well and pumphouse as well as an open reservoir were constructed at the intersection of South and Rude streets to augment the supply from the spring line.  The cost of the well, pumphouse and reservoir was $14,500.  Water supply continued to be a problem however and subsequently  a deep well and pumphouse were constructed on East Brutus Street just east of where the Jr. Sr. High School is now located at a cost of $4,500.   Eventually the springworks could not even keep up with the demand on the Cottle Road line and the Village was forced to "pump back"  from town to supply that area.  In 1975 a small earthquake altered the flow of the springs to the extent that the village decided to abandon and sell the springworks.  An interesting anecdote concerning the spring follows:  The settling pond at the spring had to be cleaned out periodically as it tended to silt up.  The village DPW Supintendent at that time was Ralph Black and he had stocked the pond with Rainbow Trout to aid in keeping the water clear.  Preparatory to cleaning the pond with a backhoe, a small depression was created and lined with plastic and then as the pond was drained the fish were netted and put into the shallow "holding pond" so they could be returned to the pond when the water cleared.  The next day, all there was left of the fish were bones--the raccoons in the neighborhood had a feast overnight,  wading in and eating every fish.

There were also other changes afoot---in 1966 an era came to an end when meters were installed and flat rate billing ended.  Water shortages and the dreadful high grain hardness of the well water continued to plague the Village.  In 1965 the Town of Sennett agreed to  supply up to 125,000 gallons daily which would be mixed  half and half with the well water.  This would alleviate the supply problem and   greatly reduce the hardness of the village water.  Accordingly, a meter pit was constructed at the Sennett-Brutus town line and a transmission main was laid basically along the Weedsport Sennett Rd., although a detour had to be made down Hoyt Road to avoid the elevation of Fisher's Hill.  Now days all the municipal water in Weedsport is Owasco Lake water, pumped first by Auburn, then by Sennett and finally by Weedsport.  In 1982 the reservoir was covered at the insistence of the State DOH, and in 2000, after the collapse of the cover during a heavy snowfall a new 450,000  gallon tank was erected on the site of the reservoir with the help of a $407,000 federal grant.

Denny Randall,

Past President OBHS


WEEDSPORT LIONS

The Weedsport Lions Club was started in 1948 by a group of civic minded businessmen in the community.  How many of these men do you recall? Ernie Blumer, E. M. Bradley, Frank Canale, Ed Curry, Cecil Colvin, Ralph Christopher, Ray Clancy, Hobart Conover, Fancher Follett, Harold Hinman, Austin Howe, Frank Tuxill, Earl Wolford, Jim Dumary, Roger Eidman, Howard Finley, Ollie French, Bob Fults, Willis Hammond, Dr. W.S. Herrling, D.C. Jones, Dwight Kelly, Ralph Ketcham, W.F.Lampman, Guy Lanphere, Sal Leonardi, John Miller, Clayton Miner, and B.W. Mower.   Also,  Les Partelow, Lloyd Phelps, Joe Picciano, Ray Picciano, Peter Pysnack, Earl Smith, Joe Solon, Jim Stafford, Rod Stickle, Charles Sloan, Harry Tanner, Gordon Thompson, George Wethey, Stub Whitman, George Whitman, Fay Wolford, Joe Wright, and Earl Zimmer.    In the over 60 years of operation in Weedsport they have been involved in an incredible number and variety of endeavors and have donated thousands of dollars annually to such causes as  Annual High School Awards,  Little League sponsorship, Old Brutus Historical Society, Student Night Dinners, Town Clean Up Projects (see accompanying photo), Schools for the blind, The Lighthouse, Playground equipment for Trolley Park, The Kidney Foundation, CNY Eyebank, Leader Dogs for the Blind, Physician Recruitment,  and many others, but their crowning achievement remains the Centreport Aquaduct Park which was conceived by them in 1960 and finally completed a couple of years ago. Over the years they have used nearly every possible means to fund their projects, from broom sales, gasoline sales, light bulb sales, pancake breakfasts, Variety Shows, Community Calendar sales, community auctions and many others.  I can speak first hand of the good done by Lions Clubs International.  A few years ago I volunteered to help decorate a Rose Parade float in Pasadena, CA.  The Lions Club has participated in the parade for many years.  In the large "Rose Palace" where several floats were being built, the float next to ours was the Lions float--being decorated by members of the Lions "Leo's" group, who are blind.  That's right folks,  the beautiful Lions Club floats seen in the parade every year are decorated by smell and feel.  Only a couple of people on the crew were sighted. It is not by chance that I write about the Lions Club this month.  The Weedsport Lions are in danger of extinction.  Membership has dwindled to a dangerous low,  We mustn't let this great organization fade away.  Call any member for info on how to join. The attached photo shows a 1953 clean-up parade sponsored by the Lions near the intersection of South and E. Brutus Sts.  Leading the parade, L to R are Professor W.F. Lampman, D. C. Jones, Harry Muggleton and Lawrence Hewitt.  Behind them are Jim Sullivan, Bob Leonardi, and Gerald "Punch" Dickinson.  On the Bikes are Dick Streeter and Dave Curry.  Note the homely "bathtub" Nash in the Miner Ford parking lot and Fire Chief Fred Smith's 1934 Ford coupe in front of the firehouse.

Denny Randall,
PP  OBHS

 

The above photo shows a 1953 clean-up parade sponsored by the Lions near the intersection of South and E. Brutus Sts.  Leading the parade, L to R are Professor W.F. Lampman, D. C. Jones, Harry Muggleton and Lawrence Hewitt.  Behind them are Jim Sullivan, Bob Leonardi, and Gerald "Punch" Dickinson.  On the Bikes are Dick Streeter and Dave Curry.  Note the homely "bathtub" Nash in the Miner Ford parking lot and Fire Chief Fred Smith's 1934 Ford coupe in front of the firehouse.


 

Sixty Years of Flowers

In this, the 60th year anniversary of the "WEEDSPORT GARDEN CLUB", an era has ended with the recent passing of Founder, First President and active member until the end Frances Sullivan.  If you don't think 60 years is a long time, Harry Truman was President and the "cold war" was just warming up.  Think how old you were, if you were born yet!

Fran founded the club in 1949 with the motto "To Beautify Weedsport" and to that end they have worked over the years.  Dues started out at a modest $2.00 annually and they had plant sales and other fund raisers to further their efforts.

For 40 years, starting in 1950 an annual flower show was held, sometimes in the Spring and sometimes in the Autumn in order to vary the flowers shown.  One of the Spring shows for which we have a program offered an amazing 6 prizes each for:Table Arrangement, and arrangements for ; Tulips, Iris, Baskets, 3 flower, Any Plant Material In Any Container, Men's Arrangements, Foliage With No Flowers, Any Junk Container, Coffee Table Arrangement, May Basket, Miniatures, Dish Garden, Corsage, Children under 16, Cut Flowers of  16 different varieties, Garden Blooms not Otherwise Described, Potted Plants, 5 Houseplant Collections, Cactus, Ferns, African Violets  and on and on. Charter Members of the group included Mrs. Sullivan, Bess Van Alstine, Florence Scwartz, Elizabeth O'Hara, Rosalie Mower, Lorna Lamphere, Ginny Buzik, Alice Bibbens, Ruth Benedict, Mrs. Ron Penny and Mrs. Fred Foote.

Over the past 60 years their work has been evident to all who travel our streets.  In 1950, '51 and '52 they planted trees and landscaped the Grange Hall.  In 1954, as a result of a group of exhibits on travel shown at the Weedsport Community Fair they were invited to take the exhibit to the State Fair to decorate the entrance to the Horticultural Building.  In 1969 they started the practice of planting the giant concrete "pots" around the Village.  The pots were made by Ralph Black, who was DPW Superintendent at the time.  The pots and planting go on to this day.

In 1971 they started planting the Jackson St. "triangle".  Other locations over the years have included the "Welcome to Weedsport" sign,  Village entry signs,  flower boxes at the Village offices, the Library, Trolley Park and even the Rural Cemetery.  In the mid 1980's,  with the cooperation of Jim Sullivan they gave hundreds of trees and shrubs to residents of the Village.  Annually, they even supply the floral arrangements for WCS graduation  and Baccalaureate ceremonies.

Over the years the Club has helped decorate the Village for Christmas, toured formal gardens in other communities and even donate to the local food pantry.  On their 30th anniversary it was decided that it would be the "Year of the Rose" as a tribute to the Sullivans and their love of roses.  At the 40th Fran wondered aloud "who would fill the rolls in the future as no one seems to have the extra time today"  At 50 years, when asked how she could continue, she replied " I just like growing flowers".

The club celebrated 60 years of service to the community  on September 14th at a luncheon held in the St. Joseph Parish Hall.  Village Mayor Jean Saroodis praised them for their dedication over the years.  A program was presented by yours truly about my experiences helping to decorate a Rose Parade float in 2005.  Janice Fluery played the piano and former Mayor Vic Sine led the singing in a group of "floral" songs ranging from "When You Wore A Tulip" to " My Wild Irish Rose"

For more information on the Weedsport Garden Club, call Kathy Blumer at 689-7005, or Fran Picciano at 834-6348.  Here's hoping for 60 more years of dedicated service to the community  (and hopefully a little enjoyment personally).

Denny Randall,

Past President OBHS


MORE ABOUT BARR TYPEWRITER

It will be recalled that earlier I mentioned that the original owners who purchased Barr from Morse Chain were Richard Koret, a handbag maker from New York City and Malcolm Kingsberg, an RKO movie executive.   In 1943 at the height of their operation, the plant was sold to a group of NYC investors, which included Ben Cohen, Herman Cohen, Charles Hughes, Albert James, Walter Smith and Martin Kowalski.  Mr. Kingsberg presumably went back to Hollywood and Mr. Koret returned to NYC to resume the manufacture of handbags.

One of the products marketed to some degree by Barr was a handbag frame  which Mr. Koret had seen in Paris on a trip to Europe.  The device was called a "facile".  Purses with faciles by Barr were carried by Women Marines all around the world.  It consisted of a spring snap frame which would hold a handbag open, and snap it securely shut when finished with it.  Eventually 2 Barr executives would leave Barr and form their own companies.  Salvatore (Sam) Leonardi started Leonardi Mfg. in Weedsport, and John Treacy started a concern in New York City manufacturing this "facile" type closure.  Leonardi's were known as "Leonardi Spring Snap Frames" and Treacy's were known as "Facile Fasteners".  Although similar in principle, they had their own characteristics.  A competition began for the business of the handbag industry which lasted a lifetime.  In fact as a one time Leonardi employee, everytime I see a hand bag, or diaper bag in a garage sale with that type of frame, I can't resist looking to see if the end rivets have the stylized "F" for Facile, of the bold capital "L" for Leonardi stamped on them.

Leonardi has changed and expanded their product line many times over the years, and are now well into their third generation of family operation, however the Leonardi Spring Snap Frame is still offered.  As the Barr operation broke up, Hugh Kane who was Toolroom Supervisor started his own firm and eventually moved into the Barr wood shop after Miner Ford moved out. His Weedsport Tool & Machine only recently closed after 2 full generations of Kane family operation.

Since Barr there have been numerous concerns in the various buildings. The main building which now houses the Purple Monkey Antique dealership has had several tenants over the years, including the Jordan Paper Box Company, various warehousing firms, a wooden pallet making operation, and others.  The "new" building has fared a bit better over time, with General Electric, Miller Ceramics and several other businesses including the present occupants.  The wood shop once again has a machine shop operating there.  The building at the intersection of South and E. Brutus Streets where the baby strollers and such were built was torn down in the 1950's and is now a vacant lot.

The museum has searched for a "Barr" typewriter for many years and recently was able to purchase a nicely working model on E-Bay.  Stop in and see it!  Still today older members of the community remember the "Barr" and it's halcyon days with great pride.

The photo is another of the many Barr products, in this case , a predecessor to the popular "Razor" scooters of today.

Denny Randall   Past Pres. OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


MORE ON BARR TYPEWRITER

To continue the saga of the "Barr" as everyone  in town called Barr Manufacturing, in 1945 after war production ended the future looked bright indeed for the firm which had a varied product line which included clocks, women's vanity items, children's toys, smoking accessories, baby strollers, electric fry pans and much more.  Among the sales projections were the following for the last 6 months of 1945:      

*****Walk-O-Ride (a 3 wheeled tricycle like affair) 120,000 units,  Doll Baby Carriages  20,250,   Childs Wheelbarrow  61,000 (3 different models)  Ash  Trays  22,000,  Cigarette Cases  56,200   Jewelry Boxes  18,000 (3 different models)  Defroster Clocks   30,400      
*****2 Wheel Scooters  170,000,  Barr Glass Dome Clock  30,900,  Barr Numeric Clock  (one of the first digital reading clocks)  57,000 Cigarette Box  31,000.

As you can see by the numbers projected on this small portion of their product line, this was a big business indeed.  I mentioned last month their use of the old "Security" building, now the Purple Monkey and the "new" building which opened in 1943, now the Stepping Stone Fitness Studio, however, there were several other buildings owned, or leased by Barr which were used in the manufacturing, or warehousing of their products.  At one time the " Barr" completely surrounded the bank, now Lin Bo Chinese restaurant.  The Weedsport Tool & Machine building was Barr's woodworking facility and the long extension behind it was a huge wood drying kiln.  This extension extended to the rear of the lot all the way to behind the library.  After Barr closed, some of the connecting buildings were torn down and the wood shop became C.E. Miner Ford until Clayton Miner built a new dealership at the intersection of South and E. Brutus Sts. where the village bandstand had previously stood.  The wood shop then became for many years Weedsport Tool and Machine, operated by Hugh Kane, who was himself an alumni of Barr.

Another of their buildings stood at the intersection of South and E. Brutus St.  In this facility they assembled baby strollers and the like. Hardly anyone in this area was not affected in some manner by the Barr.  They were very involved in community affairs and we have a great photo of a baseball team the "Barr Typewriters" which was sponsored by them  The team included: Connie Lanphere, Gabby Dutton, Paul Griffith, Earl Lanphere, Tony Dutton, Gerald Daly, Jack Holihan, Bill Matty, Arnie Bennett, George Donahue, Arde Schram, Rupert Woodcock, Bob St. John and Harold Schram.

Among the items in our collection is badge # 23 of the Barr security force which was worn by Walt Gallup who was also Weedsport's Chief of Police.  Head of the security force was  A.D. Bradley, who was also a deputy sheriff and a local artist and sign painter of note. We have several photo ID badges including that of Vivian Mathews and John DeWispelere among others. We have interoffice letterhead, invoices, checks, packing lists and much other material, including several issues of the Barr News, an in house newsletter.  We even have minutes of various engineering and  manufacturing meetings for various product lines. 

A free night class for machinists was operated by them and among the first graduates awarded immediate employment were: Claude Ankin, Clyde Randall, Frank Pierce, Ernest Oliver, Harold Hiserodt, Al Garhartt, Ray Clifford, Harold Emerson , Lloyd Gettman , Ray Pichany and Wm. Muldoon.  We'll wind up Barr next month.

Denny Randall,
Past President OBHS
Old Brutus Historical Society


More About the Barr Building

As reported last month, The Vulcan Knitting Mill, which was the last of several textile firms to operate in the building closed in 1929 during the depression.  After a vacancy of 8 long years, the building hummed again with activity seldom seen in Weedsport!

A little background follows:  A man who worked for Smith-Corona named John Barr had a conception for a new style portable typewriter.  He was unable to talk his employer to market  his new machine, so he took his ball and went home.   He was able to convince Frank Morse of Morse Chain in Ithaca to produce the typewriter in the early 1930's.   Mr. Morse also gained controlling interest in the clock business started in 1923 in Connecticut  by Arthur Poole.   Unfortunately when Frank Morse died the company decided to return to it's origins of making roller chains and the Barr Typewriter operation and Poole Clock  were sold to Richard Koret , a handbag manufacturer and a Mr. Kingsbury , who was a Vice President of RKO  Movies.  One of the people acquired in the transaction was a man who took over the plating operation, and eventually the manufacturing department at the company, Mr. Salvatore Leonardi.

After inspecting the premises, the partners decided to move into the former Vulcan Knitting Mill in Weedsport.   Typewriter production began in 1937.  As our involvement  in WWII loomed, business at Barr skyrocketed. As principle supplier to Scintilla Corp. of Sidney, N.Y. a  company  which supplied aircraft magnetos  to the Allied powers , it was necessary to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  After our actual entry into the war, another building was erected to the south of the original in 1942 and nearly 550 workers were employed. At the building grand opening a gala celebration was held  featuring  the WCS band under the direction of Maurice Rose and a  war bond and stamp dance.  A new army vehicle called a Jeep was on display.

Chamber of Commerce President J. Austin Howe stated  that the chamber had passed a resolution praising the efforts of Barr and urging all villagers to attend the party.   Barr had a very newsy monthly newsletter, which we have many of in the museum.  The facility received several War Dept. "E"s  for excellence and eventually manufactured bomb fuses, detonators, parts for Norden bomb sights and many other military items, in addition to the magneto parts.

As was the case with many manufacturers who lived " high on the hog"  during war years, Barr  was never quite able to do well in the post war years despite a varied  product line which no longer included  the typewriter, but did include over 20 clock models, including a refrigerator defroster clock, toys, baby strollers, scooters,  cigarette cases,  ash trays, candle sticks and many other items.

On Thursday, July 15th, 1948 the proud Barr  Manufacturing Company went  under the auctioneers gavel and the buildings again went vacant. The photo shows a selection of the Poole clocks manufactured by Barr.

   

Next month: from then to now.

Denny Randall,
Past President OBHS
Old Brutus Historical Society


What's in a Name?

Often I'm asked what was made in the large building kitty-corner across the street from the museum, where the Purple Monkey antique business is now housed.   The history of the building (known by most people my age as the "Barr" building is too extensive to be covered in one article, so this will start a short series on the "Barr Typewriter" building.

The original company was started in 1890 as the " Weedsport Skirt & Dress Co." in a building that was destroyed by fire in 1898.  The building was rebuilt pretty much as you see it today.  The concern was started by a gentleman named A. E. Rheubottom, manufacturing hoop skirts of his own patent.  Over the years, Mr. Rheubottom took on several partners and the company became "Rheubottom & Mack" and " Rheubottom & Teall " It was eventually bought out by Mr. Mack, who brought with him another partner as "Mitchell & Mack".  Shortly, Mr. Mitchell took over the operation with a Mr. Crotty and the concern became "Crotty & Mitchell"

The company was acquired in 1903 by Carl Bennett and Walter F. Schoonmaker and reorganized under the name of the "Security Company". The machinery was powered by a steam engine in the basement that ran by way of flat leather belts many overhead jackshafts throughout the 3 story building.  Electrical power for lighting and other purposes was generated by a dynamo, which was powered by that same steam engine.  By 1905, the company was producing over 15,000 dozen petticoats and 12,000 dress skirts annually.  One of the selling points was that the "goods we are turning out are made under perfect sanitary conditions".  More than 400 people were employed at the concern.

After the Security Company, which was arguably the most successful of the women's clothing manufacturers operating the plant, the long storied tale of the company continued as the " Weedsport Skirt & Waist Co." , "Bush, Jackson & Bush",  "Bush & Kerns",  "Skaden, Kerns & Co.",  "The Scanlon Corp.", and finally "Vulcan Knitting Mills", which shut down in 1929 during the depression.  Eventually and until the demise of the Vulcan Mills, they were under the ownership and management of the Sudbury family of New York City.  One of the brothers, Gordon was the local manager and he remained in Weedsport for many years after the mill closed residing on Mechanic Street.  Another brother, Edward Jr. was apparently a tyrant.  He was the go-between and he traveled continually between NYC and Weedsport.  On one of his trips here he discovered his secretary out in the factory assisting in the manufacturing process.   He fired her on the spot for not being in the office!  Another brother committed suicide over the bankruptcy and subsequent loss of the business.

Products produced by Vulcan included ladies gloves, hose, skirts and sweaters.  It was said of the material knit by Vulcan "that a sweater made from it would stand up by itself"    The picture shows the building in 1913 as the "Security Company"    Next month, the building becomes the "Barr Typewriter Corp".

CLICK FOR LARGER VIEWS

(Click thumbnail above for larger views)

Denny Randall
Past Pres. OBHS
Old Brutus Historical Society


THE JACKSON STREET SCHOOL

As another school year winds down, it seems appropriate to write about the Jackson Street Elementary School which celebrates it's 100th birthday this year.

The original building was built in 1907 and 1908 and the first class attended school there in 1909.  This new high school building replaced a building further south on Jackson Street at the head of Franklin Street.  At least two homes were moved from what would become the front lawn of the new school.  One of these homes is now the residence of the Kevin Ryan family on Centennial Street.

As an interesting bit of trivia, as late as 1957 when the new high school was built on E. Brutus St., it was customary to ask to "go to the basement" if  you had to use the restroom, and the older teachers still routinely referred to the toilets as "basements".  Here's the rest of the story!  When the school was built and until 1936 when flush toilets were installed, the restrooms were in the basement.  We even have the original blueprints in the museum with detailed drawings of the facilities which were next to the boiler room where the girls locker room would later be built.

The facilities consisted of  5 stalls and a trough for the boys and 6 stalls for the girls.  The effluent went into a large vat which was fired with coal (much like making maple syrup) over each weekend by the long suffering , one and only janitor Will Rose.  When the cycle was complete, a small amount of ash was raked out and disposed of with the boiler ashes.  Will kept the place clean, mowed grass, shoveled snow,  hand fired the coal fired boiler and carried out the ashes, seven days a week, if necessary.  Obviously a man destined for early sainthood!

In the second iteration of the building in 1936 the combination gymnasium and auditorium was added as well as flush toilets, a home economics room and a cafeteria.

In 1939, with centralization, the north wing including an industrial arts shop and agriculture department was added along with many classrooms.  James Street was terminated in the new bus court area and a new bus garage was built.  The houses that were on James St. well up on Science Hill along the Lehigh Valley Railroad which ran between where the two school campuses adjoin were moved and relocated within the village.  Some trimming of Science Hill was necessary for the construction of the North wing and the bus garage.

In 2004 a magnificent new gym was built, a new library and many class rooms added along with a new cafeteria which was now combined with the auditorium. Among the many other changes was the removal of the bus garage. A new garage was built on Towpath Road.  Again it was necessary to somewhat reduce the scope of Science Hill.

Included are pictures of the building as constructed in 1909, as rebuilt in 1936, and again in 1939.  I intentionally omit a current picture so you can go and see for yourself  how a building can be preserved and utilized for over a hundred years, through dozens of school boards, a like number of administrations and nearly countless faculty members,staff and especially students.  Community pride goes a long way toward maintaining and updating a building such as this!

Photo 1 shows the building as constructed 100 years ago.
Photo 2  shows the addition of the gym/auditorium at right rear.
Photo 3 is an aerial view in 1939 showing the north wing and bus garage.

Denny Randall
PastPresident OBHS
Old Brutus Historical Society

 

As constructed 100 years ago Shows addition of gym/auditorium at right rear Aerial view in 1939 - Shows N Wing and bus garage

 

90 Years of Patriotism and Service

The Weedsport American Legion was chartered on October 17, 1919 as the "Clarence Clark Post 568".   It was named after U.S.Marine Pvt. Clarence Clark who was killed in action in France on September 28, 1918.  Other local men killed in WWI were  Dewey Exner, James Flynn, Edward Pease and Glenn Hall.  Some of the early members of the Legion included Ralph St. John,  Dan Fisher, Sam Errico, Guy Lanphere, Lewis Brewster, Jim Dumary, Tom O'Connell, Ellis Robillard, Otto Stevenson,  Harry Smith, Fred Sturgis, Carl & Alfred Gierke, Grover & George Petrie, Frank Drable, Clarence Schwartz,  Stewart Parkman, Edward Graney, Martin Dutton, Clarence Blumer and Harry Traver.   Also Ray Vroman, George Davis, Carl Hunter, Don Devitt, Ken Floyd, Robert Stumm, Lewis King, Mike Skalad and Dr. C. E. Goodwin who was elected the first Commander of the Post.

In 1946 the name was changed to include that of  Army Pvt. John Heck who was killed in the battle of Algeria in Africa on April 23, 1943.  Other area men killed during WWII included Robert L. Stevenson, John Michalec, Willard St. John, Roger Daly, Richard Dutton, Albert Faatz, Alfred Gallagher, John Pacana and Donald Schramm.

The group originally met in various member's homes and then for some time met in a room on North Seneca Street over the Putnam Drug Store.  Eventually they moved to better accommodations in the Odd Fellows Hall over Harry Tanner's Grocery. In the mid 1950's, when the Odd Fellows shut down their Weedsport lodge due to declining enrollment it was again necessary to find another meeting site.  Several alternatives were proposed including the purchase of deceased member William Kuziemka's home on South Seneca St, and building a new hall on Erie Drive where Arnold's Restaurant is now located.   All options seemed to be beyond the fiscal means of the group.

In 1957, St. Joseph's Church was forced to erect a new building due to the failure of the structural integrity of the existing 100 year old frame building.  The parish also owned a parish hall to the north of the church, which had originally been a private residence.  In order to accomodate the new construction, it was necessary to remove both the old church and the parish hall from the site.  The St. Joseph's Parish graciously offered the parish hall to the Legion if they could move it.  After conferring with world famous building movers F. H. Tuxill & Son, it was decided to accept the church's offer.  The Tuxill firm donated their services and accordingly on June 6, 1957 the old parish hall was transported across busy State Rt. 34 (Seneca St.) to be placed on a foundation which had been erected by the Legionnaires on a lot which had been purchased by the group.

The porch was removed and the building modernized including the installation of a large kitchen.  Not only were the Legion members themselves kept busy, but the Auxiliary appointed a committee consisting of Grayce Mason, Beverly Clark, Harriet Moody and Florence Schwartz to assist in the refurbishment of the building.

Clark-Heck Post 568 continues to improve the appearance of the Post by placing the large commemorative monument on the lawn which had previously been on the lawn of the Weedsport Free Library until the old library building was sold as a private residence.  A memorial bell has also now been placed on the front lawn.  The Clarence Clark and later Clark Heck Post 568 has always been heavily involved with community affairs. They have always sponsored the annual village Memorial Day parade (in 1924 35 members marched in uniform).  They participate proudly in the annual Veterans Day program presented by the Government Class of Weedsport Central School.

The Legion and Auxiliary have been a familiar sight on village streets for many years selling poppies in support of disabled veterans.  They annually sponsor high school trips to Boys State.  Over the years they have held various  functions to fund their endeavors.  These functions range from a  musical play  "Oh, You Wildcat" on the stage of the Burritt Opera House in  the mid 1920's to the pancake breakfasts held monthly during the winter currently.

Clark Heck Post 568 proudly carries on the tradition of the American legion on their 90th birthday!

Pictures include the moving of the St. Joseph Parish Hall across the street and the facility pretty much as it appears today.

 

Denny Randall,

Past Pres. OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


************************************THE BIGGEST LITTLE FAIR IN CENTRAL NEW YORK

That was the way the Weedsport Community Fair billed themselves. The fair ran from 1946 until 1969, and was created to fill the void left when the annual Farmers Picnic ended as a result of World War II. The first officers included William F. Lampman, Bert O'Hara, Dwight Goodwin, Howard Finley, Winthrop Hamilton, Lloyd Phelps and Charles Shepherd. The fair was a classic example of community cooperation, with businesses, the school, churches, civic organizations,and individuals making it a resounding success.

The school bus garage became the cattle and poultry barn (to the distress of school bus mechanic Ray Pichany), the hallways and classrooms became exhibit halls for various merchants and organizations. The athletic fields were converted to farm machinery displays and the parking areas and bus court were areas where various churches and other organizations set up tents and booths for everything from bingo, to food , to even a dunking booth. Door prizes donated by local merchants and concerns including the Barr Manufacturing and Poole Clock Co. were given away all day. Most village businesses were closed on this last Wednesday in August and everyone was urged to attend the fair. The next year the fair expanded to 3 days and featured an unbelievable range of events ranging from helicopter rides in Ed Robinson's new "bugbeater" to a baseball game played between Weedsport and Port Byron merchants.

Some of the features of the fair were: various athletic (?) events including potato, sack, 3 legged and wheelbarrow races, 100 yard dash, and tug of war. 3 prizes were given in each contest with $1.50 for the winner and $1 and 50 cents for the runners up. Armature talent contest were also on the bill of fare, with prizes up to $5. Homemaking awards consisted of prizes given for both Jr. and Sr. Floral Arrangement, 13 different classes of dressmaking and needlework, 4 classes of baked goods and 6 classes of home canning. Other interesting prizes included the Best Organizational Exhibit, Most Original Piece of Homemade Farm Machinery, Best Dancer, Best Waltz, The Individual Making The Most Entries, and many others.

Prizes were handed out in the amount of 50, 35 and 15 cents for both Jr. and Sr. sections of vegetable growing as follows: Beets, Carrots, Purple Top Turnips, Rutabagas, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Green Snap Beans, Yellow Snap Beans, Red Tomatoes, Green Tomatoes, Red Peppers, Green Peppers, Crookneck Squash, Acorn Squash, Kohlrabi, Sweet Corn, Chinese Cabbage, and the most unusual vegetable. I don't know what could have been more unusual than Kohlrabi! I'm a little miffed because they left out my favorite, Swiss Chard. Of course dairymen were not left out, with both Jr. and Sr. awards for Holstein, Guernsey, Jersey and Ayreshire calves and cattle. Categories within each breed included Junior Calves, Senior Calves, Yearlings and others. Special awards were given for showmanship. One of the cows ate their blue ribbon one year and the Fair Committee had to replace it. Another time an unruly bovine ate part of the dress of the queen. Poultry including ducks and rabbits were also exhibited (I wonder why rabbits are included in poultry?? Maybe they taste like chicken.) Even today if you go into the Poultry barn at the State Fair, sure enough, it's half full of rabbits.

Crop Farmer? Yup! Awards for them too! White oats, Yellow Oats, Red Winter Wheat, Winter Barley, Dry Beans, Soy Beans, Field Corn, Clover, or other hay, Potatoes, large & medium White Eggs, large & medium Brown Eggs and tallest corn stalk. Other attractions included a huge parade, baseball games between the famous Weedsport Watsons and visiting teams, a band concert on the school lawn, and a dance in the school gym ( in 1946 the music was provided by the "Plowboys") A terrific fireworks display atop Science Hill always ended the Fair.

A "Board of Electors" from various organizations in the Village "elected" members of the community to the Fair Executive Board. Early members of the Board included Dwight Goodwin, Don Powers, Irma Goodrich, William Lampman, Helen Whitman, and Harold Hawley. Others to follow were many and were a representative sample of our community. Other members included: Frank Tuxill, Francis Gross, Stewart Whitman, Fred Kinney and even Me! In 1949 the following youngsters exhibited in the Jr. Dairy Cow category: Ross Shepherd, Phil Shepherd, Mary Jane Shepherd, Bill Behling, Ann Marie Behling, Roberta Keifer, Don Keifer, James Pacholyk, Neil Kimberly and Gaynard Baker. Also in 1949 carnival rides were added to the Fair.

The fair ran along well through the 50's and into the 60's, however, times and people change. By the mid 1960's dozens of small fairs and celebrations about the country folded and the local fair was no exception. On October 4, 1971, I had the dubious distinction of writing the last minutes of the Weedsport Community Fair Association, which directed that it's remaining assets be distributed to the Weedsport Free Library and the Old Brutus Historical Society.

Denny Randall, Past Pres. OBHS


Still More "Do You Remember?"

It seems that there is no end to Weedsport area " Do you remember" items.  How about these?   Van's Tavern, operated by Jack Van Dusen, and after he retired, remember the bike shop he operated out of his home at the intersection of Cottle Road and Rt. 31B?

Perhaps you will recall Ed Robinson's "Bug Beater" service, one of the first commercial helicopter services in the United States.  How about the many iterations of the Riverview Hotel?   Many I'm sure will remember Eva Oliver's Produce stand, or John DeWispelere's Berry Hump farm.  Going back a bit, who can recall "Jumbo" Hanlon's pool hall, or his slaughterhouse for that matter?

Can anyone forget Earl "Smitty" Smith and his "Wee Ranch" right in the center of the Village?  Don't forget his satellite operations:  The " Lone Star Farm" where cattle dealer Francis Gross later operated and farther North on Rt. 34 the "Echo Valley" farm.  Speaking of Smitty , how about his beautiful dancing palomino which led every parade in the village for many years.  No discussion of Smitty would be complete without mention of Spiegel "Speedy" Millis his long time hired man who made the rounds of the farms daily on a well worn Ford 8N tractor.

Who can remember Fred Burlingame's Day-Lee photo service on Maple Park?  Even Maple Park which was later changed to Station Road is gone!  Who can recall Walt Gallup's, or Frank Wood's greenhouses?  Perhaps Curry Appliances, Skvoraks Store, the Market Basket grocery, or Albert Lanphere, Furs and Hides will strike a memory.  Who remembers when the Weedsport Village DPW garage was on South Willow Street, or the various iron bridges around town carrying different railroads over other railroads, or streets?

Speaking of iron things, who remembers better than I the iron catenary towers which remained for over 30 years after the trolley went out of business in 1931? I remember them very well because shortly after I started driving, I clobbered one on what is now Weller Road.  It didn't even scuff the tower, but the Ford was never the same!  It required a "new" used radiator and it sported a purple right front fender until I sold the car.  Can you imagine in this day of traffic and bustle through the center of the village waiting for one of the long s-l-o-w freight trains on the West Shore to clear the crossing on Seneca St. beside the Catholic Church?  Traffic would be backed up to the river bridge!

Speaking of trains, does anyone recall the "Beeliners"?  They were self propelled diesel railcars that ran by themselves from Buffalo to New York City several times daily on the New York Central Railroad.  Even after regular passenger service was discontinued in Weedsport, Assemblyman Charles A. Cusick continued to ride the Beeliners back and forth to Albany.  Did anyone swim in Ball's Creek, or the"quarry" on Monroe Road?

Many, I'm sure will recall Donetta Lansbury's gift shop and Frank Drabels Septic Tank Service.  Who remembers the huge Sears Roebuck, or Montgomery Ward catalogs received annually?  How about Allen Lanphere riding his bicycle , fair weather, or foul from his home on Green Street to the boat house at the bridge over the Seneca River. His job was making the daily rounds from mosquito point to Cross Lake refueling the kerosene fired buoys on the canal.  Perhaps a few will recall the apple orchard at the corner of Ryan Road and the Weedsport Sennett Road.

I recall with fondness the newsy columns written by Thelma Mappes in the Cayuga Chief which were a microcosm of our community.  How about the Salisbury family's pet burro Pedro who lived so long that he had to be "grandfathered" into the  "no livestock in the village" law?

I'll save the rest for another time, but some recent departures from our scene include Carl's  and Big Guy's Tavern, Otis Jorolemon and Sons Farm Implements, Fult's Furniture and the Village Diner.  More another time.

Denny Randall
Past President
OBHS


ANOTHER FAMOUS WEEDSPORT PERSON

Every so often I like to write about a local  person who is known beyond the local level.  The man that I write about this month is a shirt tail relation of mine, being the great, great, great grandfather of my cousin Dick Robillard.  Here then is a very condensed story of  Revolutionary War hero Lieutenant Adam Helmer.

In 1725 the Helmer family (who were Palatine Germans) were given a tract of land  along the Mohawk River.  These tracts were granted to a large number of these Palatines in an effort to provide a buffer colony between the English settlements along the Hudson River and the French and Indians to the North and West.  The settlement was eventually called "German Flats".

In 1757 The French and Indians attacked the little hamlet and killed 40 people.  Many others were carried away to Canada as prisoners.   Sixty homes were burned, along with all the outbuildings.   As fast as it could be rebuilt the next year, it was attacked again and 30 more inhabitants were killed.  From then on until the end of the Revolutionary War a militia was kept in training and several forts were built.

John Adam Helmer was borne in 1754 in the Mohawk Valley into these troubled times.  At that time, of course that area was the northwestern frontier of the state.  The inhabitants were never free from fear of Indian raids, or invasion by the French in Canada and later from the Tories and English.

By 1777 Adam Helmer was  a trusted scout in the militia, and in 1778 he was promoted to Lieutenant.  He served with General Nicholas Herkimer  up and down the Mohawk Valley from Fort Stanwix (Rome) to Albany.   In June of 1778 the community of Andrustown was attacked by Indians and many residents were again killed,  and all the buildings burned.   A few neighbors escaped to the fort at German Flats during the night.  The tales that they told so alarmed the commander of the fort that he sent a squad of 9 men out under Lt. Helmer to watch the movements of the Indians along the Unadilla River. Somehow the watchers became the watched and soon the group was set upon by the Indians and several of them were killed.

Adam Helmer hid until the Indians had gone and then began his epic 35 mile run to Fort Herkimer to warn of the impending attack.  On his way he stopped at several settlements just long enough to warn them and then on he sped.  An eyewitness was quoted as saying " when he reached the Valley, his clothing was torn to shreds, his eyes were bloodshot and his hands, face and limbs were lacerated and bleeding from the effects of the brambles and bushes through which he had forced his headlong flight"   He halted at various settlements just long enough to shout "Flee for your lives, the enemy is not an hour behind"  As soon as he reached the fort, cannons boomed again and again to call the residents in to safety.

The next day they watched as the Indians burned 63 homes, 59 barns, 3 mills and killed, or drove off 235 horses, 269 sheep, 63 oxen and an unknown number of cattle and swine.  That was the bad news--the good news was that  thanks to Adam Helmer only one life was lost, a man who refused to leave his home.  The next day a party went out from the fort and engaged the Indians, recovering a few cattle.  From this time until the end of the revolution Helmer was in many scouting parties and carried messages from the forts to the Committee of Safety in Albany.  After the war he lived for a time in the hills south of  what is now Mohawk in a small hamlet called "Kingdom"   In 1804 he received a federal grant of land in the Town of Victory, Cayuga County.

He sold this piece of land almost immediately and purchased a large farm of 640 acres in the Town of Brutus, East of what would shortly become Weedsport.  In 1936 Walter D. Edmonds wrote his famous "Drums Along The Mohawk" with an account of Lt. Helmer's heroics. Much  Helmer research was done by Mrs. Mildred Robillard Staunton, sister of my Uncle Ellis Robillard. and a great, great,  granddaughter of the scout.

Monuments to Helmer stand in front of the church which is located where Fort Herkimer once stood and at his burial place on Cottle Road just outside of Weedsport where a NYS historical marker was erected in 1937.  Over the years his tomb stone had been chipped away by souvenir seekers and in 1969 new stones were purchased for him and his wife and erected on the Robillard plot in Weedsport Rural Cemetery to preclude further vandalism.  In 2006 Weedsport Eagle Scout Adam Sweet cleaned up and fenced the tiny gravesite on Cottle Road which is on a knoll, just beyond the old Erhlich farm.

Denny Randall, Past President
Old Brutus Historical Society

(There is a two year limit, to being President of the OBHS
- and Denny completed his term.)

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

HAPPY DAYS

One of my fondest memories has to be my high school years.  The 1950's was a wonderful time to grow up in a small town like Weedsport.  When people today watch reruns of "Happy Days" they think it was just another fanciful sit-com.  Not so!   We can relate very closely with the scenario and characters.  We even had our own "Fonz".  Harry Surdam had the coolest car, loudest pipes, DA haircut--the works!

We didn't have "Arnold's Drive In" , but we had something just as good--Zimmer's Weedsport Theatre and Recreation Center.  The Zimmer family (and it was a true family operation) which included 3 generations of Zimmers.  Grandpa( Fred) and Gramma (Christine) , Earl and Ann and their 5 children  Fred, John, Henry, Joe and Christine.  Besides the movie theatre they operated a great little drugstore and confectionery accessible from the street and also from the lobby of the theatre. The confectionery was Grandpa and Gramma's domain where one could get popcorn, fountain drinks, candy and their delicious home made ice cream.  I recall on Mondays you could get a "Lucky Monday Sundae" at a reduced price.  The elder Zimmers lived in an apartment over the theatre lobby during the week, retreating to their Syracuse home on weekends.

The theatre itself with it's marquee, box office and neon sign over the sidewalk was the next door to the North.  Beyond that was the Recreation Center which included 4 bowling alleys, several pool tables, and a lunch room with a juke box and booths-just like Arnold's!   Alcoholic beverages were never sold at Zimmer's , so parents didn't mind if their kids hung out there.  Earl ran the bowling alleys, Ann ran the lunch room and the rest of the family filled in wherever needed, be it making popcorn, running the box office, cleaning the restrooms, running the projectors, or whatever.

A pizza parlor type diner was eventually added on Erie Drive behind the Rec. Center. The Zimmer family had many "casual" employees over the years and I have always been proud to have been one of them.  They seemed to have a knack for providing a paying job for a kid that really needed one and boy! ,I was that kid.  I started working for the Zimmer family as a pin-setter in the bowling alleys.  At a time when gas was 26 cents a gallon, a couple of nights pin setting at $7.15 per night enabled you to live pretty good as a high school student.  Eventually I ran the projectors in the  theatre for several years. It was a great job for a student, because you were by yourself with no distractions, so you might as well do homework.  I'm sure many folks in the village can remember the blue neon W.H. Smith Buick Sales clock high on the wall in the upper right side of the auditorium  and there are still probably people in the village using dishes that were given away as premiums for attending movies on week nights.

Before they had continuous tape and high powered projection bulbs, movies came to the theatre in large 15 inch diameter reels which were necessary to change about every 18 minutes, so a more or less standard hour and a half movie would have 5, or 6 reels.  In the projection room were a pair of 35 mm Simplex projectors standing about 6 feet tall, with a carbon arc lamp attached.  The machine had to be threaded to a certain point on the leader.  Near the end of each reel will be seen a series of "dots" in the upper right side of the  screen, followed by another set 5 seconds later.

As a reel of film was running out, a little arm riding on the top of the film fell and struck a small bell with about a minute left on the reel.  At that point you had to strike and trim the carbon arc lamp, and peer out of the porthole at the screen.  When the first set of dots flashed on the screen you opened the heat shield on the arc lamp and turned on the projector.  When the second set of dots went by a few seconds later you stepped on a foot switch which opened the shutter on one machine and closed it on the other.  At the same time you flipped a wall switch which changed the sound track from one machine to the other.  Done correctly, the result is a seamless change which cannot be detected by the audience.   Still today 50 years later if I am kind of dozing watching a movie on TV , I'll snap awake with a start if I see the dots go by!  There is little more disconcerting than hearing the bell ring and discovering that you've neglected to thread the alternate machine.  If you can't get it done in time you get the dreaded "white screen" and the accompanying jeers and cat calls, which can plainly be heard in the projection booth!

The Zimmers were always willing to let us hang around the Rec. Center and there was much there to amuse us, from watching an exciting bowling match, or sometimes a straight pool match that would go on for hours.  I remember several times when Earl's brother Leonard ,  who was a fine pool player would arrange for Babe Cranfield who was then the best pool player in the world to come out from Syracuse and show off for us.

Unfortunately, the theatre is now a Dollar General store and a parking lot paves over where the  Rec. Center was.  As television became more popular and affordable in the 1960's it sounded the death knell of nearly all local theatres.  During this same time there was a national trend toward large automatic bowling alleys, and soon a 4 alley operation could not survive.  Finally, Grandpa and Gramma had passed on and the younger generation had their own careers and lives to live.  Thus did our "Arnold's" pass into history, much to our loss, but many of us remember with fondness and gratitude the Zimmer family's contribution to Weedsport.

Denny Randall, President OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


Yet More "Do You Remember" ?

One of the Local places of business that I left out of the first couple of  columns of this type  was Agosti Pantusi's  Shoe Repair.  Believe it or not, I hadn't really forgotten it, I just ran out of space.  As a matter of fact, the South window in the museum featured Weedsport cobblers during November and among the artifacts in the display is a photo of "Augie" Pantusi at his bench. Another photo is shown here.  Unfortunately, the cute little shop with the living quarters above were torn down after his death several years ago.

It was with some surprise recently  when I noticed that when the Weedsport Central School bus numbers got to "99", they started over with bus number "1".  Who can remember (besides me) the original bus # "1"?  I believe it was a GMC, while numbers 2 and 3 were International Harvesters.  4 was a Ford, 5 another IH, 6 was a Mack and the personal favorite of long time Chief Mechanic Ray Pichany.  Bus 7, (the crackerbox) was an IH and then started a long series of REO's.  The busses were green and white and several of the early ones sported fender skirts!

The storefront which is now "Nickel Back Jack's" has a long history, including many restaurants and luncheonettes, among which were Canolesio's, Jack Miller's, Matty's, George & Madeline Wescott, Butler's, the Hiron's family and others.   It was also Elvin Dolph's Barber Shop,  Gary Sine's magazine store, a real estate office and tanning salon, as well as other uses which escape me at the moment.

Who recalls Hoopers Dairy, or market?  How about the tin shop on Bell Street?  How many of you used to ride down the milk can conveyor at the milk processing plant on East Street?  I was reminded (by classmate Bob Hirons, no less) that he purchased the ice delivery business from Clint Hazzard for $1.00 and operated it as "Bob's Ice and Delivery Service".  I recall he used to pick up unbelievable loads of ice at an icehouse in Auburn and bring it to Weedsport with the front wheels of his old Dodge half ton pick up truck just barely touching the road.  He had several large commercial customers, among which was the Weedsport Speedway.

The Weedsport Fire Department is reputedly the first volunteer fire department in New York State to operate an ambulance for their constituency (since 1934).  How many of you recall that until the mid 1960's the way to summon the ambulance was not a simple 911 call, or even the 6111 number that was used to report a fire.  One had to call a member of the First Aid Squad of the Fire Department from a list that was published and hung next to everyone's phone.  The person called would then contact a second attendant.  While this sounds remarkably casual, it worked very well for many years.  The siren was never blown for ambulance, or rescue calls.  Speaking of ambulances, who remembers several members of the WCS class of 1956 purchasing the old Buick ambulance from the fire department when the FD upgraded to a newer Cadillac?  The guys had a map of NY painted on the sides of it with a star for the location of Weedsport and they drove all over the Northeastern US with this unlikely vehicle.  It was rumored that they had to use the red lights and siren a couple of times , after going through a speed trap a bit too smartly!

How about the huge malt houses that used to dominate N. Seneca Street?  Barber Harold Morrison?  Putnam's and then Dickinson's Drug Store?  The A & P, or Grand Union grocery stores?  Finally this month ,who recalls the  whimsical humor written by  Bob Fults in the local papers under the pen name "Old Dawk"?

I still have lots more for yet another column sometime.   Next month, I'll write about one of my own favorite personal memories, The Zimmer family operations, which included the movie theatre, the bowling alley and billiard parlor, the restaurants operated by them and the drugstore adjoining the theatre.

Agosti Pantusi

 

Denny Randall, President OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


GUNS IN THE SCHOOL

One hears so much these days about weapons being brought to school and sometimes used for nefarious purposes. Who doesn’t long for the time that most of the boys in the school carried a jack knife in their pants pocket and many of the girls had a pen knife in their purse. I don’t recall anything bad ever happening. As a matter of fact I just stopped carrying a small folding knife a few years ago when it became such a hassle trying to remember it when flying about the country on business.

This was the same period of time that it was not unusual to see a student trudging up Jackson Street on his, or her way to school toting a rifle over their shoulder. It was also common to see them being carried by students waiting for the school bus, or routinely seeing them carried down the school halls , or placed in hallway lockers.

The fact of the matter is that Weedsport and many other schools in the area had a Junior Varsity and Varsity rifle team. Weedsport even had their own rifle range in the basement of the Jackson Street building. Other schools with rifle teams in the league included Auburn, Waterloo, Clyde, Central Square, Pulaski, Jordan-Elbridge, Manlius, Mount Carmel of Auburn, McGraw, Vestal, Ithaca, Candor and Norwich.

From 1950 when the rifle squad was first organized until it faded away as a varsity sport in the late 1970’s, Weedsport’s varsity shooters dominated the league. Math teacher Roger Hutchinson was always the coach and the success of his shooting teams was legendary.

Much was made a few years ago (and rightly so) about the boys varsity football team working their way through the sectionals to become New York State champions. It was said at the time that it was the first time that a Weedsport sports team had become state champ. This was not quite true.

In 1968, the Weedsport Johnny Green shooters defeated Clarence Central School, shooting 1386 out of a possible 1500 at the State championships held in Hempstead, N.Y. on Long Island to claim the State Varsity Rifle Championship. Members of that squad included: Bill Corgnell, Bill Welch, Joe Ostrowski, Doug Millis and Ed Hazzard.

Many girls participated on the team and in fact, the first Weedsport team member to earn the coveted “Distinguished Rifleman” award was a girl, Frances Backman. (You have to admit that Distinguished Riflelady, or Rifleperson doesn’t sound very good.) Subsequent winners of that prestigious award included Dave Stebbins and John Whyte

 

The photo shows the 1961 team which won the regional NRA competition in that year. Seated L-R are Ann Schnauber, Karen Van Vliet, Kitty Bogenschutz and Mary Sullivan. Standing are L-R Coach Roger Hutchinson, Dick LaDue, Joey Hutchinson, Bob Cronk, Tony Atkins, Jeff Goodrich, John Mathews, Ed Cooper, George Bogenschutz and Jim Littlefield.

Next Month--More “Do You Remember” as I’ve been beaten up by people from coast to coast telling me I forgot XXX.

Denny Randall, President
OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


DO YOU REMEMBER?

The column that I wrote several months ago "Do You Remember?" generated more phone calls and notes than probably all the others combined.  Not being one to fault success, here's another dose.

Do you remember being able to go down the street to Sloan, or Chapman Lumber to pick up a 2x4, or whatever else you needed along those lines without having to run to Auburn?  How about stopping at the Brutus Roller Mill for some chicken feed?

Who recalls the Skadan & Kerns Shirtwaist factory on South St.?  The building was torn down in 1974 to provide additional parking for the fire department.  Speaking of the fire department, who remembers the 1928 LaSalle Pumper, the 1925 Sanford Pumper, The 1937 Dodge/Cayasler pumper, or for that matter the 1939 Autocar tanker, which had previously been owned by the Socony Vacuum Oil Company and was driven by Dan Fisher out of the Weedsport terminal near the barge canal for many years.

Does anyone recall that the apartment building on Graham St. used to be the site of the Charles Cusick Cigar Factory, and a later iteration of that building and it's successor after a fire was the Whitman & Robinson Corp, producers of the first "Bobcat" tractor?

How many remember going out into the fields during World War II and picking milkweed pods, which were dragged to school in large gunny sacks and dumped in a small mountain on the bus garage floor.  This was the governments answer  to the shortage of Kapok, the product of a tree grown in the Philippines which was used to stuff life preservers (remember, this was before foam). We were all sure that we had saved some drowning sailor's life since there was no kapok available until after the Japanese were evicted from the Philippines.

Who has ever seen a "Barr" typewriter?   Everyone in town refers to the "Purple Monkey" as the Barr Typewriter building.  Over the years there were many diverse products made there, from Norden bombsights to baby strollers, but has anyone ever seen a "Barr" typewriter?  Does any one recall the long slow freights on the West Shore Railroad that used to tie traffic up for what seemed forever?  Can you imagine it with today's traffic?

How about going to Zimmer's Weedsport Theatre on a Saturday afternoon and for a quarter being able to see a double feature, a newsreel, a couple of cartoons and perhaps a Pete Smith one reeler, or maybe a serial.  Between features you could go to the attached drugstore through the lobby and get a small bag of popcorn for ten cents, or a large one for fifteen!  You could also enjoy some of "Pop" Zimmer's homemade ice cream, although trying to sneak the ice cream back into the theatre would generally bring a sharp rebuke from the tiny, but feisty "Gramma" Zimmer.

How many can remember being able to buy jewelry, or get it repaired at L.L.Compson, Jeweler?  Did your family have a running tab at Harry Tanner's IGA?  The tab would be added to all week long as kids were sent to the store for one thing, or another and would be settled up on Saturday.  Who recalls Clint Hazzard, the iceman with his Studebaker truck?   How about Percy Short who had the NYSEG line truck home with him so he could respond to emergencies in a timely fashion--Boy, those days are gone forever.

I sit here trying to remember some of the local concerns which were in business just 50 short years ago and the list I came up with, which  is far from complete is amazing.  How about: Coyle's Bakery, Weedsport 1st National Bank, D.C. & C. G. Jones Insurance, Holihan TV, The Howe Agency, Kelley Funeral Home,  Christopher & Wright Mobil Products,  The Erie Fish Fry, Dr. P.J. Doran DVM, The Weedsport Hotel, Colvin Dairy, Guy H. Lanphere Chevrolet, Bill Vess Richfield Service, Leroy Washington Tires,  Manley Erb Upholstery, M.J. Almstead Optometrist,  Al Simkulet's Shell Service,  Fancher Follet Coal & Gas,  Otis Jorolemon & Sons,  O'Hara's,  Borst Brother's Coal, and E.H. Hazer Plumbing.

Also, Blumer Supply, Pete Pysnack's Weedsport Liquor Store, C.E. Miner Ford, James L. Compton Electrician, Bill's Servicenter & Sporting Goods,  Jean's Specialty Shop, The Winton Shoppe, Whitman's Hardware,  Fult's Furniture, Geo. E. Wethey LP Gas,  George & Madeline's Luncheonette,  Baran's Weedsport Supermarket, Seger's Flower  Shop,   Van's Tavern, Mc Wethey Tire & Battery, Eddie's Bar & Grill,  GLF Egg Marketing ,  Frank Campbell's Texaco Service, Weedsport  5 & 10, Donetta's Gift Shop,  Kinney Funeral Home, O'Hara & Cuddy Meats, Harris Buick Pontiac, Fred Rowe Barber Shop,  Edith LaPlante's Luncheonette, Kenny Heffernan's Meat Market, The Keystone Grill and many more.  Try making your own list, forward it to me and I'll include it the next installment!

Denny Randall, President
OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


 

HOME CANNING AND PRESERVATION    

I was making bread & butter pickles the other day and Nancy casually asked me what I was going to write about this month and I said, half in jest, making pickles maybe.  the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it was a good idea.   

It was only a couple of generations ago that home canning and preservation was a way of life for nearly everyone who didn't live in a big city.  I can remember picking elderberries, black caps and thimble berries in hedgerows which were turned into jams and jellies.   Tomatoes were either canned whole, or turned into chili sauce, which smells wonderful while it was cooking, but you couldn't stop stirring it for a split second, or it would scorch on the bottom  imparting a miserable taste to the whole batch.  Peas, green and wax beans, and other vegetables were "put up" for winter use. Peaches, pears, plums and many other not so common fruit such as crab-apples, quince and seckel pears were also utilized.   

During World War Two Swiss Chard was touted as an alternative to meat as a protein substitute.  Accordingly, my mother raised rows of Swiss Chard and canned it.  I apparently acquired a taste for the stuff, because I still raise it in my garden and can it for winter use. Also during the second world war meat and eggs were very scarce due to war time rationing and my folks, as well as many others decided to raise a few chickens for the eggs and occasional chicken dinner.  I can still remember the gruesome business of watching the chickens being beheaded and then run around the yard literally like a chickens with their heads off while they bled out.  Then came an even worse ordeal, the evisceration of the carcass and then dunking them in a big pot of boiling water to loosen the feathers.  Plucking and rubbing the hot soggy stinking foul (maybe that's why they call them that?) got most of the feathers off the bird and onto you!  The remaining feathers and pinfeathers were singed off over an old kerosene stove.  Talk about a bad smell!    At any rate some were eaten and some were canned using an old Burpee pressure canner.  While the chickens thus processed tasted good in a stew or fricassee they sure weren't anything to look at in a glass Mason jar on a basement shelf!   

I got so I kind of liked to can produce in season and for years I canned applesauce, pickles of many kinds, beets, spaghetti sauce, tomatoes, beans and peaches, pears, plums and other produce.  I've gotten kind of lazy and now only do tomatoes, Swiss chard, and several kinds of pickles, most of which I give away.  I mentioned above that I was making bread & butter pickles--here is the recipe that I use, which requires no water bath processing and can easily be done in an afternoon.   Give it a try!

BREAD & BUTTER PICKLES

1 peck small diameter cucumbers,

4 medium cooking onions,

2 bell peppers, red, or green,

1 cup canning salt and some ice cubes.

Scrub the cukes thoroughly with a brush, slice very thin, a food processor works best.

Quarter the onions and slice thin and cut peppers into a coarse dice.

Mix the salt with the 3 vegetables in a stainless steel, or enamel pot.  DO NOT USE ALUMINUM

Bury 2 quarts of crushed ice in the mixture and let stand 3 hours

MEANWHILE

Mix together 5 cups sugar,

1/2 tsp each turmeric and ground cloves,

1 tsp celery seed,

2 tbsp mustard seed,

3 cups cider vinegar

and 2 cups of water. 

Heat to almost boiling.

Drain pickles and rinse once,   drain well again. 

Add boiling syrup to pickles and bring to a boil again. 

Pack in jars and seal. 

Makes about 10 pints. 

Good luck!

Denny Randall, President
OBHS


GET A HORSE!

     Those who know me very well will realize that it was only a matter of time before I wrote a column about one of my favorite subjects--antique automobiles.  I decided to take this opportunity having just returned from the annual  AACA car meet at Emerson Park. The local chapter organized in 1970 and I believe that I have been to every meet at the lake.     

When I say "antique automobiles" I don't mean "rodded", or " enhanced" vehicles, I mean genuine, legitimate old motor vehicles.  I own a 1930 Ford "Fordor" (Hey ,don't  criticize my spelling, that's how Henry spelled it!) and I drive it all over.  Last summer we went to Bennington, Vermont where Hemmings Motor News, the bible of the hobby is published.  Every year they sponsor a show and concourse on top of Stratton Mountain.  Of the more than 200 cars which made the 50 plus mile climb, the Ford and I were the only ones silly enough to go up with an unpressurized cooling system and probably even worse, came back down with mechanical brakes.  It was a tough fight ma, but we won!     

This is not an acquired taste.  I remember as a child watching parades in Weedsport.  My favorite part was always the 1919 Chevrolet  owned by local Chevy dealer Guy Lanphere purring down the street.  Guy came by his vocation naturally, since his father had owned a dealership which pre-dated motor vehicles.  He sold carriages, buggies, farm equipment and Studebaker wagons.  With the advent of motor vehicles it was only natural that Fred D. Lanphere morphed right into automobiles and trucks.  Besides Studebaker, he also sold at one time , or another,  Franklin automobiles, which of course were built in Syracuse,  Pope, REO,and Willys-Knight cars.     

In the museum we have a photo taken in 1913 showing the 9th car in the village.  It was a Model T  Ford of that vintage. The car was owned by Dr. Goodwin, and is shown parked on Liberty St., around the corner from his home.  The license plate is very visible in the picture and displayed directly above the picture is that license plate.  In the winter Dr. Goodwin would mount skis, on the front wheels , ( which were an after market option on the Ford) for making his rural rounds.     
Other old cars in town included an Auburn limousine owned by Wellington Blaisdell, a Stutz Bearcat owned by Nick Goss, Ab Hoyt used a Franklin in his funeral business and Floyd Clark drove a Scripps Booth.  Warren Dursten had a 16 cylinder Cadillac and not to be outdone Dwight LaDue had a 16 cylinder Marmon.  There were of course many Model "T"  and later Model "A" Fords and the occasional Chevrolet, Studebaker, Nash, or Hudson among others.     

Dealers in Weedsport included Ralph St. John who sold Plymouth, Dodge, DeSoto,  and Chrysler,  Willis Hammond who sold Willys Overland,  Roger Eidman who was the Hudson dealer and C. E. Miner, Ford & Mercury,  Walt Smith sold Buicks and Pontiacs, and later George Harris and then Mendel-Parker at the same location.  As we mentioned above Guy Lanphere sold and serviced Chevrolet , and was later bought out by Humphrey-Spingler.  Nastri sold Chrysler product and was later bought out by Fox.  I list all of these dealers, (and there were probably more) simply because there is today not a single dealership left in our area.     

Not only have the fine names of Packard, Studebaker, Franklin, Pierce Arrow, Auburn, Cord, Dusenberg, Hudson, LaSalle Plymouth, Desoto, Oldsmobile, Kaiser and many more gone, but one has to go to a mega-dealership now to even buy a car. No longer is there the trust and faith that a buyer had when dealing with one of their neighbors.

Denny Randall, President
OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


ANOTHER FAMOUS WEEDSPORT RESIDENT

I will write this month of another more, or less famous Weedsport resident, Mr. Orrin W. Burritt. I quote extensively from the Saturday afternoon, Feb. 15, 1893 edition of the Post Express. Mr. Burritt was born in 1827 and died in 1898.

No one in town has done more to build up and improve this place! He has ever been solicitous for the welfare of the village and zealous in all matters of public improvement, in which direction he has done his duty as a good citizen. Mr. Burritt is one of the leading hardware merchants of Weedsport and is among it’s most influential and prosperous citizens. He is a gentleman of many excellent qualities and is highly deserving of all the kind words spoken regarding his enthusiasm and enterprise.

He is originally from Roxbury, CN and learned the hardware business in New Milford and Bridgeport. After moving to Weedsport as a young man he went into the dry goods and hardware business. He was of an inventive turn of mind and invented several excellent devices connected with the application of metal roofing for which there was a great demand. Besides the Burritt Hardware and machine shop, he was also connected as a partner with the dry goods operation of Donovan, Palmer and Company and the Burrill Medicine Company in the manufacture of several popular patent medicines. Another of his enterprises was the real estate market in the village.

He erected within eighteen months on the site of the Stickle Hotel which was destroyed by fire in the great fire of 1871 several “fireproof” buildings which were faced inside and out with sheet steel. Some of you may remember the three ”tin City” houses on S. Seneca St. between the theater (now Dollar General) and the Presbyterian Church. These houses were some of OW’s effort to fireproof frame buildings. The Burritt Opera House stood where Zimmer’s Theatre and bowling alley would later stand. Although the opera house was also proclaimed to be “fireproof” the fire that destroyed it in the late 1930’s would demonstrate once again that NOTHING is fireproof! Also housed in the block was a photographic studio, cigar factory, medical truss factory ( if you don’t know what a medical truss is, it’ll not be a topic for discussion here) , a music store, and the Post Office.

Many of his inventions and tools live on. Available often on E Bay are his post drills and roof crimpers and less often vises and drills made by his Weedsport Drill Company. We have many of his tools in the museum and we even have the foundry pattern for the post drills in case we want to go into the manufacturing business!

Mr. Burritt was President (Mayor) of the village two terms and sat on the Village Board of Trustees for many years. He also served nine years on the school board, was Secretary of the Weedsport Rural Cemetery Association for an amazing 30 years and then 12 years thereafter as their Treasurer! One of the private vaults in the cemetery is the Burritt family resting place and it was designed and built by O.W. The Post Express concludes the article on O.W. by noting that he is the personification of the true American citizen

Still seen today are the Burritt family mansions on Van Buren Street and the name lives on in the form of Burritt’s Café which operates in the old Burritt Machine Shop building.

Denny Randall, President
OBHS

Old Brutus Historical Society


THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD

The Weedsport Fire Department is thought to have  existed prior to the actual incorporation of the Village in 1831.  Unfortunately all records of early operation were lost in the great fire of 1871  which destroyed many buildings in downtown Weedsport, including the fire department engine house on Furnace St.

In the early days, all fire apparatus was hand drawn to the fire and then hand operated.  A fine example of this is the 1832 Lewis Selye pumper "Neptune" which is still owned by the department and amazingly still works.  As the nineteenth century progressed a man in Cincinnati, Ohio invented a dependable pump operated by a wood, or coal fired boiler.  In the 1890's a Silsby steamer manufactured in Seneca Falls was purchased by the village and put into service at the new (1884) fire house on South St.  It was beyond the village means to stable their own horses and so offered the princely sum of five dollars to the man whose team made the hitch to the steamer when the fire bell rang.

As the twentieth century moved along a new and wonderful invention had been made--the automobile.  Soon the Weedsport fire department replaced the hand drawn hose carts and other such apparatus with various  types of automotive power.  The "Eagle" Seagrave hand drawn hook & ladder was even converted with a model "TT" Ford tractor rigged up to pull the piece.  Other early pieces of automotive apparatus include Atterbury, LaSalle and Sanbert makes, among others.

In the early 1920's the village started looking for a replacement for the Silsby steamer.  Coincidentally, the Sanford Motor Truck Company of Syracuse which had been building commercial trucks since 1910 had decided to concentrate their efforts on custom fire apparatus.  Their "Greyhound" models had found great favor in industry and were seen throughout the northeast with van bodies, snow plows and the occasional fire truck.  As a matter of fact the neighboring Port Byron Fire Department was using a piece of Obenchain Boyer apparatus which was built in Logansport, Indiana on a 1923 Sanford Greyhound chassis and they were well pleased with it.

The Sanford company built a demonstrator, bearing the serial number 501, which after considerable negotiation was delivered  to the Weedsport Fire Department on June 25, 1925.  The rig was powered by a massive (in those days) Continental engine and was equipped with a 500 GPM Waterous rotary gear pump, which needed no priming.  This was the first apparatus owned by the department that carried it's own water (a pair of 45 gallon chemical tanks), ladders and hose,  making it a triple combination engine.  Sanford wanted this piece special, so instead of the typical gold leaf, which is still seen on fire apparatus today, it was lettered in "silver" leaf which was actually white gold, outlined in dark green instead of the usual black and detailed with a tremendous amount of white accents.  This elaborate white " piping and flagging" was to remain a Sanford trademark until regrettably they went out of business in 1990.

Apparently the recommendation of Sanford by the Port Byron Fire Department was a good one , for Sanford s/n 501 served the Weedsport community for an amazing 38 years until it's retirement in 1963!  "Old George" as it came to be known became a legend in it's own time.  It's thought that it acquired the nickname from Chief George E. Wethey, as it was his favorite engine. As an item of note, on draughting 10 feet from the Seneca River at the state dock, Old George could consistently throw a straight steam over the river. Many pieces of  apparatus came and went without being able to meet this challenge.  During the 1950's a serious flood in the downtown area resulted when ice dammed up Putnam Brook east of the village which sent millions of gallons of water  through the old mill race into the basements of the businesses on E. Brutus St.  Old George was called upon and pumped day and night for three days, never shutting down.  Gasoline was poured in from jerry cans and a clever floating oil gauge on the engine allowed oil to be added without having to shut down and use a dipstick.

In 1962, upon delivery of the Ford/Howe, space  became a problem (some things never change) and the village sold the Sanford to longtime President of the fire department Dwight "Doc" Goodwin.   Doc drove the Sanford to musters and parades all over Central New York and for years kept it on the lawn outside the Port Forty Motel (now Day's Inn) that he and his wife Fran operated.  The motel became known nationally as the one with the fire truck.  Eventually a large garage was built behind Doc & Fran's home on Green  St. and the Sanford more, or less retired there.  As the Goodwin's grew older it became impossible for them to drive and maintain this vintage truck and it sat for many years.   After Doc passed away,  his daughter and son in law Mike and Donna Glowacki saw fit to donate this historic rig to join the approximately one hundred other pieces of antique fire apparatus at the FASNY American Museum of Firefighting in Hudson, N. Y.

The museum staff has lovingly restored "Old George" to as new condition in Doc & Fran's memory, where it may be seen today in all it's original beauty.

Denny Randall,
President OBHS


Memorial Day

Memorial Day, or as it used to be called Decoration Day was conceived in nearby Waterloo, New York  shortly after the Civil War as a way of showing our gratitude for the sacrifices made by the members of the armed services.  I thought it appropriate at this time of year to write about Weedsport's last Civil War veteran, Francis M. Hunting.

Mr. Hunting was born in 1843 in Euclid,  Onondaga County, moving to this area (Brick Church) in 1856.  Mr. Hunting, at the age of 13 drove the family herd of cattle from Euclid to Brick Church on foot.  Five years later, the Civil War broke out and with the patriotic fervor of youth, he left the farm and enlisted September 16, 1861 in Company G, 75th New York Volunteer Infantry.  The regiment which was recruited basically in Cayuga County went into training in Auburn.  On December 13th, 1861 the group arrived at Santa Rosa Island in Florida where he received his first baptism of fire in the army.  In one of the early engagements in that place he was slightly wounded, but able to continue on duty.  They were next assigned to garrison duty in Pensacola until August of 1862.  From there they went to New Orleans which had just been captured by the Federal troops.  Fighting their way from New Orleans through the swamp eliminating pockets of resistance until June of 1863.  They then returned and captured Port Hudson suffering heavy losses.  Mr. Hudson was severely wounded during this action and was actually in the hospital when the rest of Company G was captured at Sabine Pass.  His ardor for fighting for the cause had not dissipated, and although his enlistment was up, he re-upped in Company D and was sent back to New Orleans for garrison duty.  Leaving New Orleans in July of 1865 he and his company were ordered to join General Philip Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley and he was with them for the duration of the war, including the battle of Cedar Creek.  In his later years Mr. Hunting used to tell of General Sheridan galloping down Winchester Pike on his famous black charger to rally the men for the immanent assault by Confederate General Jubal Early.  This incident later inspired the poem "Sheridan's Ride"

Mr. Hunting returned home in 1871 to marry Miss Minnie Rude,and went west to Missouri with his bride.  He then spent several years in Colorado,returning first to Meridian and then spent the last  48 years of his life back in Weedsport.  Francis Hunting passed away on December 18, 1937 at the age of 94, our last surviving civil war veteran.   For many years Weedsport had a very active G.A.R. Post (Grand Army of the Republic).  The Chester Whiteside Post was of course comprised of veterans of the civil war and with Mr. Hunting's passing, the Whiteside Post also went into the files of history.

We are fortunate at the museum to have considerable material on such local heroes and shown is Mr. Hunting's  Commission Certificate into the Grand Army of the Republic.  Shown also is the Weedsport Cornet Band leading the 1908 Memorial Day Parade up Brutus Street on the way to the cemetery.

Denny Randall,
President OBHS

Weedsport Cornet Band leading the 1908 Memorial Day Parade up Brutus Street on the way to the cemetery:

Cornet Band 1908

Mr. Hunting's  Commission Certificate into the Grand Army of the Republic:

Grand  Army of Republic Certificate

(click on thumbnail above, for larger view.)


 

Main St Downtown Weedsport 1920's Seneca St

(Click thumbnail for larger view)

DO YOU REMEMBER?

The column this month will test your memory, (or your age).  Do you recall the bandstand that stood on the corner of South and E. Brutus Streets?   How about Fred Fellow's beautiful fields of gladioli on Hamilton St. ?  Do you remember when the Weedsport Fire Department's engine 2 was a 1928 LaSalle?    Who among you recalls when Bill Humphrey was the Chief of Police in Weedsport and the police car was a gold colored "fabulous" Hudson Hornet sold by Eidman Motors on S. Seneca St.  The Hudson could catch anything on the road then and most cars now!

How many recall that before the Jr. Sr. High School was built, it was permissible to leave the building for lunch.  Many students who lived in the village walked home for lunch, or downtown.   Speaking of which, who remembers the Bavarian cream filled long johns at Coyle's bakery?  There are lots of pictures of it around, but who actually remembers the wooden St. Joseph's church and how it used to shake and tremble when one of the West Shore RR heavy freights went by right next door where the parking lot is now.  For that matter, who recalls the watchman having to stop traffic on S. Seneca St. and  S. Willow  St. when the trains passed before there were crossing gates?

One of my fondest memories is the penny candy counter at Edie LaPlante's luncheonette on N. Seneca St. , while down the street was the Weedsport First National Bank, which at one time printed their own legal tender!   How many of you recall school being held in various churches and other available space in town including the fire department before the "new" school was built? Who remembers the release of new model cars being so secret that they were kept under wraps until exactly the same time on a certain day, coast to coast.  While being transported they were even covered with tarps!   How many will recall Ralph Mazzoli Jr. driving a '56 Buick hardtop demonstrator for Harris Buick-Pontiac with a custom candy striped roof, or for that matter, George Harris' Cadillac-Allard grand Prix car?

Does anyone else remember the open outside grease pit at Fancher Follett's Cities Service station at the intersection of Seneca St. and Erie Drive where kids could work under their cars on the weekends, or evenings?  Who in their minds ear can still hear the noon whistle blown at Whitman and Robinson on Graham St. ?  Can anyone else conjure up the smell of soft coal smoke that sometimes permeated the village from the pasteurizer at the milk plant on East St?

Who recalls the world famous F. H. Tuxill & Son building movers with their (for the time) monster trucks?  I recall how easy it was for them to slide the St. Joseph's Parish Hall across the street to become the American Legion Post.   Can any one remember "the iceman", Clint Hazzard?, who not only sold ice from the icehouse on Furnace St., but also did moving and storage.  It was said that he was able to rope an upright piano to his back and carry it up two flights of stairs in one of the downtown blocks!

Who remembers  milk being delivered to school in GLASS one half pint bottles by the local Colvin Dairy?  Can anyone else remember sitting in O'Hara's Restaurant drinking a lemon-lime phosphate and hear the teletype machine start chattering away and wonder what important message someone would be getting?  How about Streeter's Rabbitry, or Kenny Heffernan's meat market?  Do you remember when Joe Kosters, or Jack Holihan could fix your TV, instead of simply throwing it away and having to buy a new one?  Who recalls having no less than 3 coal dealers in town?  Can you name them?

Shown is a street scene from the late 1920's looking north on Seneca St from approximately the intersection of Furnace St.  The "Livery" sign is pointing up Furnace St.  Seen directly in front of the first car at the right hand curb is the famous fountain which stood in Seneca St for many years.  It had drinking areas for humans, horses and dogs!

Denny Randall,
President OBHS


What's going on at the museum?

Those of us at the Old Brutus Historical Society Museum are excited about several changes made to the exhibits over the winter.   2008 marks the 40th anniversary of us obtaining our state charter, so we're probably going to throw ourselves a birthday party this summer.  Let me review some of the exhibit changes:

The ladies (Jeanne Baker, Barbara Ward, Penney Cosentino, Alice Mattison and Vivian Randolph) have been busy making the change-out of the annual museum theme exhibits in the upper exhibit hall.  For the coming year the theme will be "ART" which includes many pieces by local artists past and present.  Paintings , carvings and other artwork by local artists Ella Joyce Schoonmaker, Sue Guszcza, Bessie Parkman, Allen Lanphere, Harry Tryon,  Helen Longendyke, Henry Aadahl, Fred Rowe, Chris Baker, Liz Cirillo, Penney Cosentino, Geraldine Dickinson, Emily Nekritz,  Marie Kelsey, Ruth Sine, L. K White, Ethel Cameron, Bob Randolph,  Frank Barney, Frank Tanner, Walter Long, Guy Lamphere, Tom Piascik, the Steven's brothers and many others. The mannequins are dressed in period costumes from the movies, Broadway shows and operetta.

The men of the maintenance Committee (Charlie Kreplin, Paul Bates, Joe Marshall, Bill Saroodis, Vic Sine, Earl Ward, Arold Weatherstone,  and I) have been hard at work in the lower level.  We have painted and reorganized the kitchen exhibit including building a partition wall to separate the "kitchen" from the rest of the exhibits. Our biggest project, however was the formation of a new display area "From Seed To Harvest" featuring farming,ice harvest and other such subject matter.  It has long been our dream to suitably display a working OSBORNE reaper which was built in Auburn.  The machine was donated to us several years ago by Joe and Gwen Ostrowski and until now we were unable to exhibit it.  Our hard working crew renovated a storage area by constructing walls and installing a ceiling.  Dawn Jordan painted a backdrop of the harvest of a wheat field long before the days of combines.  The exhibit will be dedicated to the late Jean Woodcock, herself a farmer and for many years a Director, President and active member of OBHS.

A couple of other interesting items in the exhibit are a " #2 Cayuga Chief " one horse walking plow, made in Weedsport and a 42 row hand seeder, which is pushed like a wheelbarrow.  OBHS Past President  Charley Kreplin recalls trying to balance one of these beauties as a youth on his parents farm in Throop.

A monthly program is held at the museum featuring guest speakers on any subject imaginable the 3rd Monday of every month at 7:30 PM.  Refreshments are always served, everyone is welcome and there is no charge.  The museum is open every Monday and Tuesday morning from 9:00 until noon and Sunday afternoons from 1:00 until 4:00 Memorial Day through Labor Day.  Next month (April 21) the featured speaker will be retired County Clerk and long time OBHS member Joe Marshall who will show his NYS license plate collection, which dates from the early days of the automobile.

Come visit us and help us celebrate our 40th anniversary this year!   Back to Weedsport History next month.

Denny Randall,

President OBHS


Made in Weedsport

Old Malt House

(Click thumbnail above, for larger image.)

Over the years many products have been manufactured by Weedsport firms dating from the earliest of local history.  Sawmills, grist mills and cooperage concerns were among the first local industries, other than service and mercantile establishments.  Malting grain and brewing beer was another early industry in town along with ice harvest and storage, with ice being cut on local ponds and waterways during the winter, packed in sawdust  in icehouses and used all the next summer.

Another natural product was the mineral water bottled and sold nationally under the name of "WEEDSPORT MINERAL SPRINGS"    The springs, wellhouse and bottling works for this sulphurous product was located directly behind the Best Western Motel. The Stevens Brothers (Harvey and George) produced a wonderful line of duck decoys from 1870 to 1910 which are highly prized today.

Eventually considerable trade goods manufacturing was done  with several concerns producing ladies dress goods including shirtwaists, hoop skirts, and bustles.  The Burritt concern manufactured many different tools including drills, drill bits, vises, bullet molds various wrenches, pliers and their world famous standing seam roof crimper which made them the wealthiest family in the area.  Cigars and cigar filler was produced by the Cusick Cigar Company.

The W. G. Adams Piano Co. manufactured, among other things the famous "ORIOLE" phonograph of which we have 3 in the museum. They were reputed to have a much better tone than a comparable RCA Victrola of the same time period.  The Barr Typewriter Company manufactured not only typewriters, but during WWII they made bombsights and bomb fuses , among other wartime products.  After the war they manufactured baby strollers, one of the first electric frying pans,  and many other consumer products such as cigarette cases, jewelry boxes and one of the first digital clocks.

The Poole Clock Co. also manufactured a wide variety of clocks including early battery powered models.  Another of their products was a well designed wall clock that hung over your refrigerator.  The clock was plugged into the wall, the refrigerator was plugged into the clock and once every 24 hours the clock would turn of the power to the refrigerator allowing the unit to defrost.  All this before the days of self defrosting refrigerators!  Another clever device built by them was the "Clereline" device which was clamped to a handsaw and by means of a small piston which rode back and forth as the carpenter sawed it "poofed" the sawdust off the line  so the line could always be seen.

No one who attended St. Joseph's Church could forget the Phoenix Tool Company which was directly across the street and who produced among other things custom drop forgings created with a drop forging hammer.  The Weedsport Construction Company built iron bridges for many years and eventually became one of the most innovative manufacturers in the area.  The Whitman & Robinson Company as it came to be know produced Nautilloy marine hardware, Sagen Boat Hoists, and most famously one of the first skid steer tractors in existence.  Marketed originally as the BOBCAT, that name was taken over by others and they became the CAYUGA tractor.  Other products manufactured by W & R included an early 4 wheel ATV and  golf carts.

Corostone and Grange silos, as well as Vermiculite insulation were Weedsport products for many years.  The Weedsport Tool & Machine Company custom made high precision turned and machined parts for decades until closing recently and Adder Tool & Die custom made high precision dies and plastic molds as well as general machine work.

Although all of the previously mentioned concerns have gone the way of the flesh for one reason, or another, over the years there are a couple of concerns locally still which continue to produce products labeled "Made In Weedsport NY"  Barber Welding manufactures a line of large shallow draught boats built specifically to cut and harvest aquatic weeds.  The other concern is The Leonardi Manufacturing Company which was started right after WWII.  The firm originally manufactured handbag and other "snap"  type frames.  They have prospered and done well as a result of their ability to change with the times and are now among the leading producers of carbide stump chipper teeth in the country.  High precision laser cutting and several digitally controlled machining centers make almost no mechanical part out of their realm.

I expect that I have forgotten any number of concerns and that I'll hear about it shortly.The photo shows one of the 4 large grain malting facilities in town at one time.  This was the Miller & Kirby facility and was located where the Big M parking lot and Cottage Park extension are.

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


More Trolley Tales

EAST BRUTUS TROLLEY

East Brutus Trolley - Click on Thumbnail above, for larger view

****To continue the saga of the trolley as it pertains to Weedsport and the surrounding area let us review more of the information which we have at the Museum.

    While the trolley was in operation it was utilized for diverse purposes including freight and courier service, as well as passenger.  The late Cerd Jones recalled that Weedsport's longest operating company, the more than 100 year old Tudor & Jones Co.  used to ship their very heavy and awkward baling wire  to many areas via the trolley.  He recalled that the trolley men didn't like their freight much, preferring instead dry goods , or courier items.

     Devitt's Bakery (predecessor to Coyle's Bakery)  used the trolley everyday to deliver freshly baked bread to Jordan and Port Byron.  Because the trolley had a heated station and freight house, as well as heated freight cars , perishables such as fruit and vegetables were brought into the village in the winter on their cars. Another advantage of using the trolley for freight was  that they would accept LTL, or less than carload freight whereas the railroads would only accept full car loads.

       Many local people worked for the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern  system including long term employee Oliver French who started with them working after school and during the weekends and was with them to the end.  Mr. French is better remembered as the long time manager of the Weedsport A & P grocery store.

     The late "Doc" Goodwin recalled an accident involving a wedding party where the automobile carrying the party was parked next to a power pole too close to the tracks near the Seneca Street station.  The trolley came along and squashed the car against the pole.  Doc recalled watching them carry the injured to his father's medical office which was next door to the trolley station.  His mother's ironing board was utilized as a stretcher!

     A favorite children's trick was placing pennies on the tracks, or carefully crossed common pins.  After the car had passed the pennies were very thin and a very neat pair of crossed swords was what remained of the pins.

     Despite the operating success of the trolley, they had a net income in the black only in three years, 1908, 1910 and 1911.  The end came on June 12, 1931 when the company was sold under foreclosure proceedings to the R & S Liquidating Company.  All operations were discontinued on June 27th and the property was all dismantled and sold.  Lest you think that the pilferage of copper and brass so widely reported today is something new,  the liquidation company decided to keep the power lines "hot" for a few months to discourage thievery of the copper wires.

     The picture shows a rare view of Weedsport stop number 2 at E. Brutus and S. Willow Streets.  The car is seen swinging from Willow onto Brutus after letting the lady passenger off.  Hopefully this series of articles on the trolley will help explain why Trolley Park in the village was so named.

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


 

More Trolley Trivia:

RS&E Station Brutus St. Station Trolly Passengers all dressed up!

(Click above thumbnails for larger views)

 

The Weedsport Cayuga Chief of July 5, 1909 reported that "the Italians employed by the I. M. Luddington & Son Construction Company, the contractors building the Rochester, Syracuse & Eastern Trolley in this area had decided to go on strike. The men had been receiving wages of $1.40 per 10 hour day and demanded an increase to $1.65. A compromise was reached at $1.50 per day and construction was resumed.

In the road's heyday , weekend travel was so heavy that a 2nd car was often added, making a 2 car train. The Motorman controlled both cars front the front of the first car. The Conductor was typically in the second car. When he wished to communicate with the Motorman he used a signal cord that was strung overhead. Pulling the cord once signaled the Motorman via a buzzer in his cab to stop. Two yanks on the cord was the signal that it was OK to go. Another safety feature was a white light that showed at the edge of the front window of the first car indicating that all doors on the second car were closed securely. Additionally, when a second car was added, a third man (actually in most cases a teenage boy) was added to the crew. His job was to stand on the rear platform, or vestibule and limit the number of passengers to the capacity of the cars and to signal the Motorman when that capacity was reached. A snappy uniform with a visored cap came with the job. The cap had "Bell Boy" lettered across the front. The Bell Boys were paid 20 cents an hour for a 12 hour day.

It was the Bell Boy's job to solicit the passengers as they got on to find out who was getting off where and to make a list in order of the stops so that he could signal the Motorman when unscheduled stops were necessary to let a passenger disembark. Part of their job also included changing the trolley pole to reverse direction , throwing switches and other such work, however most of their time was spent on the rear vestibule.

Mr. R. A. Dyer, the General Manager of the trolley company would only hire big, tall men as Motorman as he felt they inspired confidence in the public. Accordingly, he only hired small slight men as Conductors as they could slip through crowded cars more easily in order to collect fares.

Local cars (cars that stopped at all stations and would stop at any intermediate stop when signaled) ran on the half hour while limited cars which only stopped at major stations ran on the hour. The last car of the day westbound left Weedsport at 11:30 PM and eastbound at 12:18 AM. In December of 1909 the Cayuga Chief reported that including the trolley Weedsport now had 58 PASSENGER trains every weekday and 52 on Sunday.

In the trolley's years of operation no passenger was ever killed, however accidents were common with horse & buggy and later automobiles. When approaching a grade crossing they sounded their gong and a substantial electric horn but still many people felt they could beat them to the crossing. Because the cars were so swift and silent , pedestrian accidents were also not rare. The Chief reported that on April 24, 1931, Mary Bates, 2 year old daughter of Mr. & Mrs. Earl Bates wandered onto the tracks from her grandparents home on the Jordan Road a mile east of Weedsport. She was struck and killed instantly by a westbound car.

Another story is told of a local clothier named Abe Farber stalling his Model "T" Ford on the tracks near the Brutus and Willow Street stop. A young lad named Fred Carner was ride
with him. They heard the trolley horn and jumped for their lives. The trolley hit the flivver at nearly full speed and witness Harold Whitman reported that the car went up into the air high above the trolley and came down a pile of junk. Abe's comment to Harold was "Dere she goes".

Several pictures accompany this article. One shows an eastbound car stopped at the station on Seneca Street with several passengers boarding. The Presbyterian Church is clearly visible across the street. The next picture shows both an eastbound and westbound train at the station with many stylishly dressed passengers both boarding and disembarking. Notice the Motorman adjusting the trolley pole on the wire. The final picture is a rare view of the stop at East Brutus and South Willow Streets. The trolley has just left Willow Street after letting the lady passenger off and is swinging onto East Brutus. Note the horse & buggy on the far side of Brutus.

We'll finish up with the trolley next month.

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


CLANG, CLANG, CLANG WENT THE TROLLEY!

      It has been said and it is certainly true that there is no purpose to be served by re-inventing the wheel and to that end for the next couple of columns I will shamelessly plagiarize research done on the Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Interurban Railroad (the trolley) by Mert Chomyk of Auburn and the late Janice Robertson of Weedsport.

         Although the trolley went through Weedsport for only a relatively short period of time (1909 to 1931), it's memory lingers on in the village.  The village park on South Street is known as Trolley Park because the trolley passed through there after leaving the station (more recently the Grange Hall and now a private residence at the corner of Liberty and S. Seneca Sts.) on it's way to Weedsport Stop 2 at E. Brutus and S. Willow Sts.  Stop 2 was put there specifically so that people could take the trolley into the village and transfer to the Lehigh Valley at that location to travel North to Cato, or Fair Haven.

        The trolley was described as a double tracked high speed electric railway running 86 miles from Rochester to Syracuse. The cars were routinely operated at speeds up to 70 miles per hour and were said to be very comfortable. The RS & E was reputed to be the safest and best operated of the many similar systems in the country.  They were also known as the "on time" line since they had an on time rating of over 99%.  Try to get that today from any means of travel!  Unfortunately the line faced an uphill battle from the beginning since there were already 3 steam railroads in town, the New York Central, the West Shore and the Lehigh Valley,  and worse than that, Henry Ford and his associates were trying  with considerable success to put an automobile in every garage.  Possibly if the trolley had been able to become better established prior to the arrival of paved roads and the mass produced car they may well have still been part of our nation's economy.

        As a bit of trivia on the RS & E, one of the investors and the 1st President of the company was  Mr. L. C. Smith of Syracuse typewriter fame. The bridge over the West Shore Railroad a mile east of Weedsport is believed to have been the longest bridge on the system spanning over 600 feet.  Interline connections could also be made, for example a connection could be made in Port Byron with the Auburn & Northern Electric Railway to go to Auburn.

       The R S & E was completed in sections and the section between Syracuse and Port Byron was started in April of 1909 and completed in an astounding 8 months, including roadbed, trackage, electrical work, bridges and stations.  Power was generated in Lyons with a coal fired steam plant at a voltage of 33,000  volts AC 3 phase and stepped down with transformers to the 600 volts DC used for motive power.  Stations similar to the one in Weedsport were built in Fairport, Palmyra, Newark, Lyons, Clyde, Port Byron ( now the American Legion) and Jordan.  In between were more than 100 "intermediate stops" , of which 64 of them were provided with the classic octagonal  10 foot diameter buildings.  While the stations had pot bellied stoves for heat, the Intermediate stops boasted electric heat!  The stops also had signal lamps to turn on to alert the motorman that a passenger awaited.  If the signal lamp was not turned on, the trolley zipped through without stopping.

      The overhead wires were supported from Rochester to Weedsport on pole and span construction, while from Weedsport to Lakeland near the State fairgrounds steel towers, or catenaries were used.  These catenaries were finally taken down and went to a trolley museum in Maine.  I recall coming to grief with my first car (a '47 Ford) racing with a classmate on the trolley bed (now Weller Rd.) when the catenary towers were still in place.  The Ford got away from me in the loose gravel and I slid into one of the catenaries which was not even scuffed up, but the Ford was hurt bad!

      During sleet storms when the wires got coated with ice you could see and hear the normally silent cars coming for miles as the trolley wheel went trough the ice  with the resultant arcing looking and  sounding like fireworks.  There was no turnaround to trolley travel.  When the car got to the end of the line, the motorman changed the trolley pole on the roof, walked to the other end of the car and went the other way.  Similarly, the seating was also reversible.  Cars were somewhat elaborate with Philippine mahogany paneling, leather seats and a toilet.  The cars were orange with red trim and black roofs in their last iteration.  It must have been a sight to see them streaking through the countryside at 70 MPH on a warm summer afternoon.  The cars were 54 feet long weighed 42 tons each equipped, and cost $13,500 each.  Cars often held over 100 passengers including standees.

        One way fares to Syracuse from Weedsport was 50 cents and a book of 50 tickets for commuters could be purchased for $23.50.  In Weedsport the trolley ran on Hamilton, Watson and E. Brutus Streets, crossing Cool, Hanford (now Lincoln), S.Seneca and South Streets.   We have so much on Weedsport trolley history at the museum, I'll have to continue next month.

Denny Randall,
President Old Brutus Historical Society


Penny Postcards

     It is amazing how many postcards have been made featuring Weedsport over the years.  "Penny" postcards in the early days of photography were quite a novelty, were inexpensive to produce and cost only a penny to mail.  Of course there were many "commercial" type cards printed including many scenic cards that could have been from anywhere, but were marked "Weedsport". The same card could well say Port Byron, or Bangor, Maine for that matter. There were also lots of humorous cards with a joke, or cartoon on one side and room for a message on the other.     

Much more interesting to my way of thinking were the cards that were produced to actually show scenes of the area, either by some commercial entity such as a store promoting their services, or by a family, or organization showing off their building, auto, horse, new home, or whatever. Many times a family would make a family portrait into a postcard and mail it to everyone that they knew.     

We have hundreds of postcards of Weedsport in the early days at the museum, among which are the interior and exterior of various stores including Follett's Sun Grocery in the Burritt Opera House Building,  J.F. Smith & Son's Drug Store on South Seneca St., The Security Company in the same building as the current "Purple Monkey", The Congress Hotel, which was just up the street and the Hotel Sabin which was where Brewster's Parking lot is now.     

Also the Jacob Routstone Clothing Store, The Good Barn Hotel which was where Potter's Pub is now, Burritt's original store in 1907, F.D. Lanphere, dealers of Studebaker wagons and carriages where Brewster's Cleaners are now located.  The famous Willard House, ( much later the Weedsport Hotel) is featured on many cards.  Other businesses shown were the huge malt house on N. Seneca St. and  Skadan, Kearns & Co. which was torn down in 1974 to allow expansion of the fire department parking lot.     

The Jas. K. Bust Carriage and Harness Co, The Riverside Hotel when it was a 3 story building (now DeVaneys, and the only company still in business the venerable Tudor & Jones which is shown in 1918.  There are also dozens of cards showing the busy downtown area with views of the Masonic Block,  The Post Office block (Winton Shoppe), The S. Seneca St. fountain, which had drinking areas for horses, humans and dogs!.  There are several views of the Brutus St. bridge over the canal as is depicted by our new mural on the museum  wall.  There is also a view of the canal looking west from the West Shore RR bridge that was behind my house.  I'm sure glad I didn't live here then, with the West Shore whistling for the Seneca St crossing , the cursing and racket of the mule skinners on the canal and the clatter of the trolley, all of which were right behind my house on Hamilton St.!     

Many cards show different aspects of the R.S.& E. RR (the trolley), including cars, stops, the station and bridges, including the more than 600 foot long bridge over the West Shore RR at Clinton Rd.  There is a view of the village from atop the Methodist church clock tower, a view looking south on S. Seneca St of the Opera house, "tin City"( the 3 tin sided houses that used to stand there) and the Presbyterian Church. The Weedsport Cornet Band is seen playing in concert on the 4 corners prior to the street being paved in 1916.  Another card shows the services at the GAR plot in the Rural Cemetery on Memorial day in 1908.  There are many cards of both the Rural and St. Joseph's Cemeteries.     

The Fire Department is well represented with cards showing several early parades, the chemical cart and hose cart standing in front of F.D.Lanphere's carriage sales Co, the brand new firehouse in 1884, the Neptune pumper and hose cart standing in front of the firehouse.  The Lewis Selye pumper has it's original wheels and is hitched to horses, although it was normally pulled by hand.  A card shows the upstairs meeting room decorated for a dance.  Another shows fire apparatus prior to 1916 and yet another shows the Cornet Band in front of the firehouse.      We have many cards showing Seneca, Brutus, Franklin, Jackson, Bell, Green, Centennial, Liberty, Willow and other  streets as dirt roads. 

We have many cards of all the churches in the village, both inside and out including several before renovations were made which changed their appearance, or prior buildings.  Local bridges shown were the iron bridge over the Seneca River,  the bridge over Putnam Brook on Shepherd Rd., the original wooden Bonta Bridge, The West Shore RR bridge over W.Brutus Street, the Lehigh Valley bridge over  the West Shore at East St., The trolley bridge at Clinton Rd, and the towpath bridge at the aqueduct.  Other period cards show the old high school on Jackson St. (next door to the Chirco residence), the new high school on Jackson St. and the central school, both on the location of the present Elementary School. Many cards also show various classes and faculty groups.     

Several cards show the Seneca River including the State Dock and the Buoy Tender's boathouse.  The congregation of the Presbyterian Church is shown at a picnic in Hamilton's Grove on W. Brutus St., as well as the 1909 Farmers Picnic at the same location. A view of the beautiful Hudson Park (near the present Day's Inn) is seen and another shows the famous engine 999 at speed passing through Weedsport on the New York Central RR.  Dozens of other interesting cards are in the collection at the museum.  The latest cards we have are the opening of the Port 40 Motel and the new Post Office building.

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


**************************************Signs Of The Time

In this day of vulgar advertising, where it seems that nothing is out of limits as far as personal, or questionable taste it seems appropriate to talk about BURMA-SHAVE.

The product was produced by the O'Dell family is a small factory in Minneapolis--the Burma-Vita Company. They originally made and sold liniment and most of the essential oils in the product came from Burma and the "Vita" was Latin for life, thus the name meant "life from Burma". Unfortunately, sales were disappointing and it was pointed out to the O'Dells that in order to sell liniment you had to find someone who wasn't feeling well, and even then as soon as they felt better there was no repeat business. They decided to search for a product which had wider appeal and decided to experiment with the brushless shave cream which had been used to some extent during World War One.

In a note to history, shaving had always been somewhat of an ordeal, requiring a mug with soap, warm water and a soft bristled brush. Brushes all had the same problem--they mildewed, stunk and were generally an unsanitary item. Many other manufacturers had the same idea and there was considerable competition, including Barbisol, Molle', Krank's, Colgate, Williams, Palmolive and many others.

After about 300 formulations they went back to #143 and decided to go with it and market it as BURMA-SHAVE. Over the years, the Burma-Vita Company would market many products including hair tonic, razor blades, tooth paste and powder, but make no mistake, it was the brushless shaving cream for which they were famous, as a result of a whim of advertising dreamed up by Allen O'Dell. He decided to erect a set of sequential signs along the highways leading from Minneapolis to Red Wing and Albert Lea, Minnesota. The original signs were not in verse; SHAVE THE MODERN WAY / FINE FOR THE SKIN / DRUGGISTS HAVE IT / BURMA SHAVE. In those days advertisers preferred long blocks of copy composed around the reason "why". Various soap manufacturers tried to convince everyone that they were needlessly malodorous and numerous manufacturers were preaching that infrequent and faulty bowel movements were both a national disgrace and a grievous personal failure.

It was upon this scene that the O'Dells arrived with their distinctive and ironic humor. Over the years more than 600 verses were placed alongside the roads of America in every state except Utah, Nevada and Massachusetts and in more than 16,000 locations! Originally the O'Dells wrote the verses themselves such as; HE PLAYED / A SAX / HAD NO B.O. / BUT HIS WHISKERS SCRATCHED / SO SHE LET HIM GO / BURMA SHAVE. There was always an underlying message including safety, patriotism, opposite sex attraction, product quality and complete irreverence to other advertisers.

The format decided on was 6 signs with the 5th one delivering the "punch line" and the 6th always BURMA SHAVE. There were only 2 "anonymous" verses ever put up--JUST THIS ONCE / AND JUST FOR FUN / WE'LL LET / YOU FINISH / WHAT WE'VE BEGUN / ??????? and the famous IF YOU DON'T KNOW / WHOSE SIGNS / THESE ARE / YOU CAN'T HAVE DRIVEN / VERY FAR. Over the years some verses became more popular than others and were recycled, such as THE BEARDED LADY / TRIED A JAR / SHE'S NOW / A FAMOUS / MOVIE STAR / BURMA SHAVE. As electric shavers became more common, the following appeared along the roads; A SILKY CHEEK / SHAVED SMOOTH / AND CLEAN / IS NOT OBTAINED / WITH A MOWING MACHINE / BURMA SHAVE.

Eventually yearly contests were held and 100 dollars paid for winning verses. they first contest drew over 20,000 entries and the final selection was made by one of the O'Dell's. Absolutely nothing in poor taste was ever used. Safety was a common theme--one of my favorites; REMEMBER THIS / IF YOU'D BE SPARED / TRAINS DON'T WHISTLE / BECAUSE THEY'RE / SCARED / BURMA SHAVE, or; AT INTERSECTIONS / LOOK EACH WAY / A HARP SOUNDS NICE / BUT IT'S HARD / TO PLAY / BURMA SHAVE.

The signs that I remember being closest to Weedsport were going out of Elbridge on Route 5 where for many years you could read CATTLE CROSSING / MEANS GO SLOW / THAT OLD BULL / IS SOME / COW'S BEAU / BURMA SHAVE. The shortest verse ever? FROM / BAR / TO CAR / TO GATES / AJAR / BURMA SHAVE. Another of my favorites; WHEN THE STORK / DELIVERS A BOY / OUR WHOLE / DARN FACTORY / JUMPS FOR JOY / BURMA SHAVE.

Although the signs were with us for nearly forty years from 1925 to 1963, they've now been gone longer than that, but still widely remembered and quoted. In 1963 the aging O'Dell's decided to sell their company to a major tobacco firm and predictably the first thing they did was to take down the signs. within just a few years the company was out of business.

Still today however, visitors to the Smithsonian Institute Transportation Center, or the Henry Ford Museum may view forever the O'Dell family's personal favorite; WITHIN THIS VALE / OF TOIL / AND SIN / YOUR HEAD GROWS BALD / BUT NOT YOUR CHIN / BURMA SHAVE.

I couldn't resist writing about one of my favorite topics this month. I have the entire collection of verses, including some which were never used. One last verse---SHAVING BRUSHES / YOU'LL SOON SEE 'EM / ON THE SHELF / IN SOME / MUSEUM / BURMA SHAVE. Sure enough we have several in the museum!

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


Another of Weedsport's Favorite Sons

Every so often I like to touch on someone from the area who made it "big".  This month I'll write about a man who was very famous in his time, but who is largely forgotten today.  A couple of months ago I went to a local auction and picked up, among other things , a colored pen and ink drawing of a stylish lady dressed in a  long form fitting gown, a wide brimmed  fancy hat and carrying a parasol.   I didn't buy it particularly because I was interested in women's fashion, but because I recognized the name of the artist---Harry Tryon.

Harry Tryon was born in Weedsport in 1886, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Tryon of North Seneca St.   At the tender age of three he was creating hats on pictures in fashion magazines.  This was the beginning of the career of  Harry who went on to achieve fame as a designer of ladies clothing from Broadway to Europe.  He attended Weedsport Schools, Syracuse University and went on to study in New York.  Color and design seemed to come naturally to him and he seemed to be able to almost magically transform the female form into something beautiful.  Typical of His work was the "Gibson" girl look, when women wore large hats topping heads of flowing curls.  The hats featured bright colors, birds, flowers, drapes of fabric, lace, feathers and fringe.  One of his creations, a large black velvet hat with a huge aqua plume and lace band is a treasure artifact in our museum.  It was donated to us many years ago by Harry's sister, Hazel Tryon.

He was to become one of the most famous Broadway designers of the time, designing costumes and stage settings  for the Ziegfield Follies,  The Triumph of an Empress, and for producers such as Schubert and Lasky.  His pen and ink drawings similar to the one I acquired at the auction regularly appeared in the New York Herald and the American Journal.  He also designed clothing specifically for many New York socialites such as Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish and famed actress Mary Astor.  Tryon  was employed by Lady Duff Gordon, who was a fashion promoter in London.  Known as "Lucille of London" she started the craze at the time of wearing a wide satin band around the head.

By 1912 Harry had accomplished another of his goals--designing for famous actress Lillian Russell.  Russell liked the work of the young artist and felt his designs  made her appear more slender.  Harry designed the gowns worn by Miss Russell when she appeared in the show "Hokey Pokey" which opened on Broadway in February of 1912.

At the very zenith of his success he became ill with consumption (tuberculosis) and returned to Weedsport to die at the age of 27 in the spring of 1913.  Before his passing he had been ill for about a year and had plenty of time to design and create a setting for his own funeral.  He arranged to be buried in a white kidskin casket with his head resting on a pillow of violets and lilies of the valley, with a cross of white roses at his feet. He chose  the decorations for the church and the music which included the hymns "Sometime We'll Understand" and "He Knows".   Many of Harry's friends and acquaintances from the Broadway stage attended his funeral.  Harry lies at rest in The Weedsport Rural Cemetery.

At the Museum we have about 50 of his watercolors and pen and ink drawings , including a large oil painting of Lillian Russell where we strive to make people of today aware of  the long and storied history of our community.

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society

 


WEEDSPORT  RURAL CEMETERY

(Continuation)

To continue the history of the Weedsport Rural Cemetery, several plots of grave sites are owned, or have been owned by veterans, or civic organizations. Among these are the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic), and the Weedsport Volunteer Fire Department. As would be expected the individuals buried in the GAR plot were veterans of the American Civil War. mainly members of the local John C. Whiteside Post of the GAR. In the late 1800's a well respected young member of the Fire Department who worked at a local brewery was killed leaving a young family behind with little means of survival, let alone a burial plot. Out of gratitude for his service to the community, the Cemetery Board met and conveyed to the Weedsport Fire Department a plot of land suitable for several burials intended for use in similar situations. Many years later in 1925 another member of the Fire Department was also put to rest there. During the 1970's, the late Dwight (Doc) Goodwin prevailed upon the Fire Department to erect head stones for the two gentlemen interred there, and a few years ago the Fire Department had a beautiful piece of statuary placed on the plot.

Wandering through the cemetery, one cannot help but admire the beauty of many of the older monuments, and wonder how they were transported and erected in a day before hydraulic cranes, trucks, and other such equipment. The tall Mack family obelisk is a good example. It stands as straight and level today as it did in 1880 when it was erected. To stroll through the grounds looking at the monuments, one cannot help but recall the names of families no longer on the local scene, but which at one time apparently had considerable influence in the community. The names are like a who's who of Weedsport history--Van Tine, Sittser, Hardy, Devlin, Austin, Brown, Sheldon, Caywood, Whaley, Dixon, Remington, Titus, Shaw, Stickle, Strong, Adams, Havens, Van Norstrand, Shurtleff, Sprague, Bentley, Fellows, Gildersleeve, Hunting, Holland, Putnam, Davie, Ingalls, Bell, Bryant and on and on. Many of these same names will still be seen today on road names, or buildings in the Village.

Originally the Cemetery entrance was at the lower end of the property, with a second entrance at the top of the hill. Due to the number of automobile accidents at the lower entrance (remember, it was horse & buggy for many years after the cemetery opened) an entrance was created about halfway up the hill. The main gate was originally an ornate frame structure, which eventually gave way to a wrought iron gate and sign along with a wrought iron frontal fence along Rt. 31B. The fence gradually deteriorated and was removed about 30 years ago. The wrought iron gate which severely limited the size of the trucks now necessary to do cemetery business was also removed and placed facing the highway as a decorational sign.

The headstone of Revolutionary War hero Adam Helmer is in the cemetery, as are many other heroes of every war ever fought by this country. The low point in the history of the cemetery came in 1994 when several teenagers from the Auburn area broke into one of the private mausoleums and stole a skull. The crime was quickly solved by the Cayuga County Sheriffs office and the miscreants brought to justice.

The cemetery still operates as it did when it was started all those years ago with a board elected by the lot owners, who do their best to ensure the tradition carries on as Secretary Remington said all those years ago " to provide a beautiful resting place for all eternity" for members of the community. The Cemetery grounds are kept immaculate by a dedicated crew of groundskeepers under the direction of Superintendent Ray Swim.

Denny Randall , President
Old Brutus Historical Society


The Erie Canal in 1900

     On August 11th the new mural on the side of the Old Brutus Historical Society Museum in Weedsport will be dedicated.  It had been our ambition for some time to have a mural depicting the canal when it ran directly behind our building where Erie Drive (Rt.31) is now located.  After viewing the workmanship and detail of  the mural in Port Byron we had concluded that we wanted local artist Dawn Jordan for the project.  Dawn was no stranger to us, having painted several exhibit scenes in the museum.     

Only one large problem remained---we knew what we wanted for subject matter, we knew where we wanted it on the open East wall,  we knew who we wanted to paint it, the large problem that remained was how in the world would we pay for it.  We are a small volunteer operation with modest dues and low expenses due to the fact that we have a dedicated volunteer staff, with no paid employees.  Our means are very limited and after exhausting all our usual political and foundation sources we began to wonder if we could pull it off.   Enter our fiscal savior.  Out of the blue one day Mrs. Jean Carrington came into the museum and asked about making a substantial contribution.  Quick thinking Historian Jeanne Baker mentioned our dream of a canal mural on the outside wall and Mrs. Carrington thought that was a great idea, as many of her ancestors had been canalers and she agreed to pick up the entire cost of the project!     

After several joint meetings with the artist, the subject matter was decided on.  The mural would show a "tow boat", or motorless barge drawn not by mules as was common, but an early steam powered tug, such as would have been seen in 1900.  The scene would be looking back up the canal behind the museum to the bridge connecting Brutus Street over the canal.  Visible in the picture would be several buildings still seen today including the Presbyterian Church, which includes the steeple that was removed in the late 1930's.  The steam tug is shown with it's funnel lowered to allow bridge clearance.     

Our benefactor Mrs. Carrington's family were the Ray's, of which several generations worked on the water.  Several of them are depicted in the mural.  Her Great Grandfather George Hill Ray is there as well as Jean's parents Hazel Ray and Elmer Darrow, (they're the lovebirds). Other family members are there as well and using a bit of artistic license, the lady in the long lavender dress surveying the scene is Jean Carrington herself.     

Local people have watched with interest as Dawn has progressed with her work over the summer.  Some of the detail is amazing.  For instance, the prices on several men's hats in a store window are easily read.  An "A"frame sign along the canal advertises a baseball game between the famous Weedsport "Watsons" and the "Crickets and  a sign shows that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" is playing at the Burritt Opera House.     

Dawn comes by her trade honestly--Her father is caricature artist and sometime tennis player Walt Schoonmaker and her grandmother was well respected local artist Ella Joyce Schoonmaker. On July 11th the Ray family had a family reunion at Emerson Park, broke up and reconvened in the parking lot next to the museum where they not only got a preview of the mural but met the artist.  Remember to put August 11th (2002), on your calendar for our dedication.  Refreshments will be served and of course the museum will be open, including our Erie Canal resource center.   Please join us!

 


WEEDSPORT  RURAL CEMETERY

The first burials in the Weedsport area were in God's Acre on South Seneca Street, or in private family graveyards. When Gods Acre, which was severely landlocked by residences and businesses became full after a quarter century of use , need dictated a new location for a community cemetery. Accordingly, on June 2, 1860 a meeting was held and a new cemetery association organized. The first Trustees were Caleb Whiting, James M. Bryant, Ebenezer Turner, William Watson ( yup, the same Uncle Billie Watson of Weedsport Watson fame), Solomon Giles and James Henderson.

Articles of incorporation were filed on June 5, 1860 under the name "Weedsport Rural Cemetery Association" and on August 1, of that year the original 8 3/4 acres of the present cemetery were purchased. Soon another acre was purchased and 28 years later 8 1/2 more acres to the East were purchased. Since then several more purchases have been made to make the cemetery the size seen today. The services of a Landscape Surveyor was contracted for, a Mr. Burton A. Thomas of Rensselaer, and most of the property was laid out in lots, walks and roads.

In 1892 the receiving vault was built for the purpose of storing remains of persons who expired during the winter months. It was virtually impossible to dig a grave through frozen ground using a shovel and pickaxe. The following year a windmill , tank and pump were installed to provide water for sprinkling and for horses. The well was hand dug 75 feet deep. O.W. Burritt, a man whose name is mentioned in Weedsport history often had charge of the committee that constructed the well and windmill system. Mr. Burritt was on the Cemetery Board for over 42 years as Secretary and Treasurer. Incidentally, the largest private vault, or mausoleum in the cemetery was designed , built and is occupied by O. W. In 1894 the remaining lots were laid out and a list of lot owners compiled. At this same time a list of interments was made and brought up to date. More than 80 years ago the well and windmill were removed and connection was made to the Village of Weedsport municipal system.

In 1895 a handbook of the rules of the Association was set up and published. While many graveyards use a methodical "grid" pattern of layout, this cemetery has always offered more to individual choice and beauty over systematic location. In each section an arbitrary point is located, and from that point a land survey is conducted to establish each site. The original price of lots was very low and until the 1880's many residents of surrounding towns as well as Weedsport eagerly sought the opportunity to secure for themselves and their posterity permanent and attractive burial places. A large part of the frontage on the main avenues as well as much in the rear was taken and rapidly occupied by "death's silent tenants" according to early records of the Association. In 1880 the Trustees voted to fix the price of lots fronting the drives to the depth of 16 feet at 25 cents per square foot and all rear lots at 20 cents. This action seemed to stop the land rush.

To quote Mr. M.C. Remington of the Board in 1895 "we take a just pride in making attractive and beautiful homes to be occupied only during our brief stay here on earth; how much more should we care to provide and beautify a last resting place in the home of the dead where we will lie for all time?" A bit maudlin to be sure, but true nonetheless. Original lot owners were responsible for their own maintenance, including mowing. If the premises were not properly cared for, the association saw to it's doing and billed the lot owners accordingly.

Among the duties of the Superintendent were listed several items which seem rather odd today--for example; he shall expel from the cemetery any person driving stock through, or anyone who allows their stock to stray upon said grounds. Such conduct shall be immediately reported to the President of the Board with names of the offending parties. In 1904 the price for opening a full size grave for burial was $4.00. Please remember, this was a pick and shovel job.

Some of the early rules for visitors included: If on horseback, or in carriages they must stay on the designated carriageways and walk only in the paths and avenues laid out for such purpose. They must allow no horse unattended without tying. No firecrackers, nor refreshments other than water are permitted. There shall be no smoking during ceremonies, or internments. No one shall pluck any flowers, either wild or cultivated. Anyone under 12 years of age shall be attended by some person who will be responsible for their conduct. All visitors shall observe in all respects such rules of decorum and propriety as shall be inoffensive to others and befitting well bred visitors to the resting place of the dead.

Judging from the beauty of some of the early monuments the next "suggestion" must have been taken very literally. " Special attention is called to the necessity of permanence in sepulchral architecture. Dilapidation is very common and is a painful sight. A leaning monument by reason of insecure foundations, or dilapidation caused by the elements of cheap and worthless material , or improper construction must be avoided . The form and style of monument is of course entirely a question of choice of the lot owner. In that matter we have no advice to offer, except to say that it is always in bad taste to copy after others in adjoining , or near-by lots. Continuous uniformity in the same immediate locality should always be avoided. Variety of monument produces a much more pleasing effect."

More on the cemetery another time. Next month the new mural on the museum wall, what is it, whodunnit, how it came to be and other pertinent information about it.

Denny Randall , President
Old Brutus Historical Society


GENERATIONS OF WEEDSPORT ALUMNI



On June 16th, the Weedsport Alumni Association will gather for their annual banquet at the high school. The group is fortunate indeed to have bound minutes dating from the first gathering on July 8, 1910. On that date the Alumni Association held a reunion and informal reception in honor of retiring Principal Lazelle R. Hopkins. About 125 alumni passed a pleasant evening " recalling old times, listening to a short musical program and regaling themselves with punch, while the younger members danced." At the business meeting it was voted to hold a reunion the next year. Proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished, the recently retired Professor Hopkins was elected President of the group.

The original Treasurer's report showed the magnanimous balance of 39 cents in the treasury! The school (Weedsport High School in those days) was organized in 1877 and at the 1911 reunion only 7 classes from the preceding 34 were not represented. An annual "tax" of 25 cents was assessed for membership in the association. In 1912 the program was greatly expanded to include considerable entertainment. Noted in the minutes were the following: an instrumental duet by the Morrison sisters, a vocal duet by Mrs. J.R. Putnam and Miss Grace Putnam, a reading by Mrs. Carrie Treat Whitman, a vocal solo by Miss Florence White, the singing quartet of Mrs. Putnam, Miss Putnam, Mr. Jay Putnam and Mr. Grant Jacobs.. Also on the program was a reading by Miss Beatrice Bibbens and the entertainment portion of the meeting ended with further renditions by the quartet. A motion was made and passed that the Alumni Association spend $8.00 for a painting "STRATFORD ON AVON" to be placed prominently in the school.

Jumping ahead, more, or less by decades , we find by 1920, 104 members were present with 29 classes were represented. The high school orchestra played and other entertainment included a violin solo by Harold Hoyt and a solo saxophone performance by Sterling Whitman. The treasury now had a healthy balance of $33.75. In 1923 it was decided to hold a banquet in conjunction with the reunion and so it has been ever since.

In 1930 the banquet was held in the Methodist Church hall with 159 present. Winthrop Hamilton was elected President. In 1936 Professor William Lampman gave remarks about the new school addition as the district proceeded toward centralization. In 1937 the tradition was started of having the graduating class attend the banquet.

For 1940 the banquet was held in the cafeteria of the new WCS building on Jackson St. and was attended by over 200 alumni. Dinner was served by the Altar Society of Saint Joseph's Church. President Harold Whitman welcomed 2 members of the class of 1875, notably Mrs. Nan Daniels Hopkins and Mrs. Ida Streeter Sheldon. Charles A. Cusick was elected President for the following year. 1950 showed the amazing Mrs. Hopkins still in attendance! Rupert Woodcock was elected President, with Elmerina Leonardi as VP and Helen Cottle as Secretary-Treasurer.

1960 showed the organization very much alive and well with an extensive program. In 1961 Charles Pine of the class of '58 made a motion to establish a scholarship fund and a hat was passed. $106.80 was collected and in 1963 the first alumni scholarship was awarded to Edward Robinson Jr. in the amount of $100.00. Through the kindness and generosity of the WCS alumni the Association now awards thousands of dollars annually to deserving seniors to help further their education.

By 1970 the annual banquet had settled into a routine which has changed little over the past 37 years. Several members were present from the class of 1914 and Donald Bibbens had attended the most consecutive banquets at 47. Joe Moody Jr. was elected President, Charles Ball VP, Bonnie Johnston Kosters, Secretary and Bonnie Kiefer Chamberlain ,Treasurer. In 1980 President William Saroodis noted that the group was trying something new--a catered buffet by a professional catering concern. (as a note aside, with no particular reflection on the caterer) the association has reverted back to a family style dinner prepared and served by local church groups.

At the banquet in 1990 President Ray Weller convened the meeting and it was noted that 5 families had 3 generations of alumni present. The Jorolemons, Jones', Sturgis, O'Neil and Colvin families were so represented. Four $250.00 scholarships were awarded to Bridget Vesosky, Chris Jorolemon, Keith Willis and Kelly Turner. For 2000 those in attendance paid special homage to the class of 1950 on the occasion of their 50th anniversary. Among those so honored was Dr. Paul Parkman, the Weedsport alumni who isolated the cause and discovered an immunization procedure to prevent Rubella (German Measles). His accomplishment has resulted in virtual worldwide elimination of this terrible scourge, which once crippled and blinded thousands of children annually.

Jumping ahead to this year, the class of '57 will be celebrating their 50th anniversary, the association will once again give out thousands of dollars in scholarships, the Methodist Church will serve a roast beef family style dinner, Bunny Moody will attend her 55th consecutive alumni banquet and as a new presentation this year, the WCS Board of Education and administration have created a prestigious new award. The first annual "Alumni of Distinction" award will be presented for the at the banquet on June 16th. And oh , by the way, the attendees will still regale themselves with punch as they did in 1910!

The Alumni Association asks that you be sure to contact them for address and name changes at PO Box 764, Weedsport, 13166, or by e-mail at wcs_alumni@yahoo.com

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


WEEDSPORT FARMERS PICNIC

The first annual Weedsport "Farmers Picnic" was held on August 29, 1912. Formally known as the "Cayuga and Onondaga Basket Picnic", the affair was promoted annually by the Weedsport Businessmen's Association, the Chamber of Commerce of it's day. Ice cream, popcorn, hot dogs and other venders plied a lively trade at the picnic which was first held in Hamilton's Grove on West Brutus Street and in later years at Palmers Grove on East Brutus.

The picnic conveniently served and entertained villagers and farm families from the area until our entry into World War II was immanent. The first several picnics were community holidays. Merchants closed their doors and joined several hundred people in the shade of the grove for a picnic lunch. Tables and seating were provided, courtesy of the local undertakers.

Early programs included oratory and state wide known speakers appeared on the program. At the first picnic, the speaker was William W. Giles who was Secretary of the New York State Grange, and in 1913 the speaker was Calvin J. Hudson, NYS Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets. Also in 1913 sports and athletic programs were inaugurated and remained an important part of the agenda from then on. Baseball always occupied an important part in the day's entertainment, with the Weedsport Watsons, one of the strongest teams in Central New York playing morning and afternoon games.

Individuals, families and church groups came to the picnic by way of packet, or excursion boats on the Erie Canal, railroads, trolley, horse and buggy, bicycle, the infrequent auto, or just plain "hoofed it" in the early days.

Down through the years the picnic grew and the program changed as interests changed. Horse racing, balloon ascensions, aerobatics, fireworks, homemaking competition and even beautiful baby contests were on the program over the years. I was amazed while researching this article to find out my big burly cousin Dick Robillard won the beautiful baby contest in 1928 at seven months of age---who knew? Other competition in 1928 included a greased pole climb, and a hotly contested flower show with prizes awarded for best floral presentation, best Gladiolus, as well as Rose, Larkspur, Dahlia, Sweet Pea, Lily, Calendula and of all things, Southern Cotton!

Other attractions included a large parade, farm machinery exhibits, band concerts and block dancing. In the 1928 parade the oldest auto prize was awarded to a gentleman driving a 1907 Winton. The Southern Cayuga County Band , directed by Frank Stewart of Moravia played on the picnic grounds and at the village grandstand, while the Fair Haven band played on the four corners far into the night for block dancing, both round and square.

By 1938, as war loomed in Europe, interest in the picnic started to wane, however the program for that year still showed many events which included a parade, picnic lunch, various sports for youth and adults, band concerts by the Weedsport, Cato and Port Byron High School bands at various places throughout the village and picnic grounds, political oratory, flower show, a pie eating contest, the famous beautiful baby show, a base ball game between the Watsons and the Meyers Rock Salts, drum and bugle drills and competition and a talent show. Also on the agenda was square dancing on South Seneca Street in front of Hanlon's Tobacco Shop and Billiard Parlor (where C.J.'s Restaurant is now), fireworks and armature boxing bouts.

The fun and excitement of the "Farmers Picnic" was looked forward to from year to year with great anticipation by young and old alike. After the war in the late 40's and into the 50's the picnic was somewhat resurrected by the Weedsport Community Fair, but more on the Fair another day!

Next month-- the amazing history and continuity of the Weedsport High School, (later Weedsport Central) Alumni Association.

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


CELL PHONES---NOT!



The earliest telegraph service in Weedsport probably came with the railroads since they were among the first users of the service. With three busy railroads in town its seems logical that this was the case. By 1850, most communities in this area were connected by telegraph. Though somewhat expensive, messages could be sent to other cities and states much faster than a posted letter, thus when time was of the essence telegrams were the most efficient way of getting a message through quickly. Oftentimes telegrams were dreaded because they brought bad news, such as the death of a friend, or loved one. If a person had good news it was generally conveyed in a letter.

The oldest telegram in the museum collection is a night message (rates were cheaper at night) dated November 1, 1900. By 1908 N. G. Taylor, a prominent Weedsport jeweler was manager of the local Western Union Telegraph office. Previous to that the office had been in the Burritt Opera House Building. In those early days the operator had to learn Morse code and actually key out each message and listen to the chatter of the key and be able to decode the incoming messages, according to the dot-dash, or long-short of the code. Eventually electric typewriter type devices were invented which allowed operators to type the message on a more, or less standard keyboard which converted the message to code, sent it over the wires and printed it on a thin strip of glued paper at the receiving end which was then cut and pasted (literally) to a blank telegram form. Delivery was then made, often by a young lad on a bicycle

I believe the last Western Union office in Weedsport was in O'Hara's Restaurant where it was not uncommon to be sitting drinking a lemon-lime phosphate and all of a sudden the electric printing typewriter would start up and chatter away. It was a source of amazement to a young mechanically minded kid!

The telegraph was eventually done in by it's close relative the telephone. Although the telephone also used wire for the transmission of messages, it was able to transmit voice messages direct instead of having to put the messages into electrical code. An article in a February 1880 edition of the Weedsport Sentinel stated that Weedsport, Port Byron, Auburn and Throop would soon be connected via telephone.

An invoice dated October 2, 1899 which is in the museum collection requests that the Village of Weedsport pay $1.30 for "telephoning to Auburn twice and to Syracuse three times". The invoice was from the Empire State Telephone Company which eventually became New York Telephone. For a short time another company, the Weedsport, Jordan and Elbridge Telephone Company also operated in the village.

By 1912 the N. Y. Telephone Co., a Bell subsidiary was providing service to Weedsport and the surrounding area, with the switchboard at first on the south side of the second floor of the Weedsport First National Bank (the present Lin Bo restaurant) and then on the 2nd floor of the Burritt Building on South Seneca St. where the parking lot of Dollar General is now located. In 1939 the telephone company built the building at 8810 S. Seneca St. and upgraded the service to a rotary dial type and so on June 13th of that year the Weedsport operator service passed into oblivion.

Twenty eight year employee Mildred Dolph was operating the switchboard when the changeover was made. Others who served long periods as local operators included Doris Lockwood, Frances Howland, Mary Doyle Moore, Ann Klink, Ada Campbell and beloved school teacher Marie McPeak. In 1958 more terminals were added which virtually eliminated party lines and in 1961 it became possible to call Auburn and Jordan toll free. The independently owned (Weston family) Port Byron Telephone Company joined the toll free arrangement in 1963. Direct dial long distance was initiated on June 14th of 1964. In 1967 the letter/number system was discontinued and the all number system now in use has been used since.

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


STRUGGLING WITH PROGRESS

Howard J. Finley taught agriculture in the Weedsport School system for many years and in his retirement was instrumental in forming the OLD BRUTUS HISTORICAL SOCIETY and was also Weedsport and Brutus Historian for many years. Along the way he also wrote " A Brief History of Weedsport & Brutus" in 1976. Much of the material in the following several articles has been unashamedly plagiarized from "Huck" Finley's book.

Electrical service is the topic this month. Electricity didn't come to Weedsport easily! For nearly ten years various factions in the Village alternately favored and disapproved of the several companies requesting operating franchises. The first proposal to light the Village came on June 23, 1888. Meanwhile kerosene lamps lit the homes and streetlights of Weedsport. Mr. Menza Campbell was the respected lamplighter. One franchise was granted to the Weedsport Spring Wire Trust Company, whatever that was. No further information can be found as to the disposition of that franchise.

Fed up with the delays a group of Weedsport men including Wilbur Howe, Will Statham, Ernest Putnam, J.J. Riley and 50 other men pooled their resources and purchased a plot of land in the Village of a little over an acre for $1250.00 in 1892. A special election was held and the proposed plant lost by a 192 to 120 vote. Hopefully they were able to recoup their investment! In 1893 the question of a municipally owned power plant was again voted down by the taxpayers. Fear of accidents from falling trees, fires and of electricity itself were cited for the reasons for the negative vote. Generally speaking, the older citizens were against the proposal. In 1897 the vote finally approving the establishment of a municipally owned power plant was 102 for and 48 opposed. Mr. J.D. Edwards of Decatur, Indiana was hired to build and operate the power plant.

Power was first generated and sold on April Fools Day in 1898 at 17 cents per kilowatt hour. The company was known as the Weedsport Electric Light Company. In August of 1915 the plant was taken over by the Empire Gas & Electric Company which eventually became the New York State Electric & Gas Company, which still serves the community.

The Weedsport power plant was located where the Malvaso Agency is now on North Seneca Street (next door to our museum). A huge smoke stack at the rear of the building was one of Weedsport's important landmarks for many years. The electrical power was generated by a steam engine powered by a coal fired boiler. Originally power was generated at 25 cycles but in 1940 the company changed the generating equipment and all the motors and other such apparatus in town to the standard 60 cycle power used today.

Eventually power was no longer generated in Weedsport and the North Seneca Street office became a business office, supply depot, work shop and garage. In 1965 New York State Electric and Gas closed the Weedsport office and moved the operation to Auburn. An interesting method of demolition was used in the removal of the huge chimney. The contractor removed several groups of bricks near the base of the smokestack, replacing them with softwood blocks. When enough had been removed a fire was lit in the base of the chimney, the blocks burned and the stack came tumbling down! These accounts were related by Percy Short, the last man to run the Weedsport office.

It was not unusual into the 1950's for rural homes in the area to still not have electric power as it was terribly expensive to run power poles and lines sometimes miles down a secondary road for a couple of customers. Windmills, hit and miss engines and other means were used to generate power in some locations. Rather than creature comfort, probably more farms were electrified to take advantage of another new fangled gadget , the vacuum milker than not.

Next month--telephone and telegraph come to Weedsport.

Denny Randall, President
Old Brutus Historical Society


Gas From The Past

Weedsport has at the present time 3 gas stations, all of which may be considered "convenience store" operations, as opposed to true "service stations" where automotive repairs and service may be obtained.  Three filling stations seems adequate for a community of this size, however this was not always the case.

When I was growing up there were not only many more choices of gasoline, but most of the filling stations also offered automotive service such as tires, batteries, tune-ups, brake and muffler work, as well as many other repairs.

Gasoline itself in those days was specifically formulated for each company thus Sunoco had "Blue Sunoco", Gulf had "Good Gulf" , Texaco had "Fire Chief" and so on.  Now days most gasoline comes from a couple of suppliers and it varies little brand to brand.

Let me review some of the gas stations of the '50's in Weedsport.  Guy Lanphere sold Mobilgas at his Chevrolet dealership located where Arby's is now, while across the street Fancher Follett sold Cities Service where the Pit Stop is.  Atlantic was sold  where the Fast Trac now operates.  Moving up Seneca Street Richfield gas was sold by Bill Vess where  Weedsport Electric Motors is now.  A bit later Gulf was sold at that location by Ray Swim and Bob Bates.  Next door Bud Gauthier sold Texaco Fire Chief and Sky Chief  at the location currently of Performance Automotive, while across Cottage Park Extension where the Big M parking lot is  Al Simkulet sold Shell products.

Across from Leonardi Manufacturing on Erie Drive Gene Priebe sold Gulf products as did Charley Legg at the Brutus Roller Mills on E. Brutus Street where the apartment building behind the firehouse is now located.  Bill Saroodis sold Esso (later Exxon) on the 4 corners where Scott's Auto service is and in one of the more unusual arrangements Harold Lamphere and Clarence Van Hoover operated a service station on the corner of West Brutus Street and Erie Drive. The station featured Tydol on Erie Drive and Sunoco on the Brutus Street side.

Other purveyors of gasoline included Rollie McWethey's Tire & Battery Shop where the Key Bank parking lot is who sold Mobil products, C. E. Miner Ford at the intersection of South and E. Brutus  also sold Mobil as did Eidman Motors, the local Hudson Motor Car dealership in the building where Brewster's Cleaners now is located.  There were other gas stations as well, even including what is now a private residence at the intersection of Cottle Road and E. Brutus St. (Rt. 31B)

This was all in a day when gasoline could be bought for pennies a gallon and pulling up to a full service pump for a " buck's worth" was more common than not.  For 26 or 27 cents a gallon you would get your gas pumped, windshield washed, oil checked and even battery water, tire pressure, or other such service items done cheerfully and without charge.

Even at that reasonable cost, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence and it was not uncommon for us as kids in Weedsport to go to Auburn to the Rotary station on North street where you could often buy 4 gallons of gas for a dollar!  Sometimes one wonders how far we have come in certain areas.  One area that has been a real improvement is that in those days gas stations kept more or less  "regular business hours", and if you got caught in the evening low on gas chances were great that you would have to wait until morning for a refill.

At one time the Weedsport Police had access to a certain gas station for the occasional traveler who got off the Thruway in the middle of the night and were desperate for gas.  The officer on duty could open the station and dispense enough gas to help them on their way.  Once in a while they would also call out a station owner to help someone out.

I wondered the other day as I poured $47.00 worth of gas into my SUV how far we have come when in 1957 $4.50 would have done the job!

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


ANOTHER FAMOUS PERSON FROM WEEDSPORT

A young lady was born in Middleboro, Massachusetts in 1842 who eventually moved to Weedsport with her sister to live with her cousin, John Wood. The two girls came to Weedsport in the hopes that Mr. Wood, who was a small time theatrical producer and sometimes scam artist would find a position for them in one of his "shows".  As a note aside, Mr. Wood's most famous gambit was the "Cardiff Giant" hoax.  He did however own a floating showboat in the Midwest, working the Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Illinois rivers with minstrel shows and vaudeville type performances.  The two sisters, Lavinia and Minnie Warren went to work on the showboat as performers in a "freak show" , for you see both of the girls were affected with "dwarfism"  and Lavinia although beautiful was but twenty-nine inches tall and her sister twenty-four.

In between engagements, the girls traveled back to Weedsport, or Middleboro on the train and then would rejoin the troop at the next location.  Eventually, the great showman himself, P.T. Barnum heard of the beautiful girls from Weedsport and asked them to join the ranks of his famous American Museum in New York City.  One of Barnum's stars was the diminutive Charles Stratton, or as he was billed, "General Tom Thumb".  The two soon fell in love( probably with some prodding from 'ol P.T.) and were married on February 10, 1863.  Actually, P.T. had another "midget", as they were known in those days in the show and there was considerable competition between "General Thumb" and "Commodore Nutt" for her hand, with the General winning out.  Ever the showman, Barnum then wanted  her sister Minnie to marry Nutt, but such was not to be. Actually, Minnie married another Lilliputian named Major Howell, who was billed as "General Grant Jr.".  Unfortunately  the tiny Minnie passed away shortly after her marriage.

The Tom Thumb/Lavinia Warren wedding was the social event of the year in New York City.  Held in the famous Grace Church, all the notables and dignitaries of the time were there, including Governors from several states, Members of Congress, army officers and all of  New York's most prominent people. Gifts were received from President and Mrs. Lincoln, Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt , Mrs. Horace Greeley  Mrs. John Jacob Astor and hosts of other equally well known persons.  A couple of the gifts included a miniature silver horse and chariot ornamented with rubies from the firm of Tiffany and Co. and Barnum himself gifted them with a " singing bird automaton, purchased in London for one hundred pounds" 

Quoting the New York Times, who had covered a reception for Lavinia preceding the wedding, they noted " We attended Miss Warren's reception yesterday at the St. Nicholas Hotel.  It was a festive gathering.  All were paying court to a very beautiful and exceedingly symmetrical, a remarkably well developed and absolutely choice specimen of feminine humanity, whose silken tresses were beautiful and adorned her head, the top of which was not quite thirty- two inches from the floor.  In other words,  we saw a miniature woman-aye, and the queen of them.  Her face is bright and sweet, her eyes brilliant and intelligent, her form flawless and her manner that of a woman of the world.  What more could we desire?"

The couple lived very happily and well,  traveling the world and making millions of dollars for themselves ( and I'm sure even more for Mr. Barnum), but still occasionally visited in our area.  The "General" dropped dead of an "stroke of apoplexy" in 1883 and after a bit of time Lavinia remarried, again to a diminutive person,  the Italian Count Boni Magri.  She continued to tour for a time and then retired to Middleboro, Massachusetts where she passed away in 1919 at the age of 77, after being widowed a second time.

Shown in the photos is a picture of the home where she lived as it appears today at the North-East corner of Bell and Horton Streets, and a vintage photo of the couple.

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society

Note - Sorry I was not able to download the photos sent to me in an e-mail from Denny.
Hopefully, we will be able to get them in the future, since we all would like see them.


December article -
(2006)

More on WCS

On July 8, 1910 the Alumni Association of WCS met and held a reunion and reception to honor the retirement of Professor Lazelle R. Hopkins as Principal.  About 125 alumni of the school "passed a pleasant evening recalling OLD times, listening to a short musical program and regaling themselves with punch"  At the business meeting it was decided to continue having annual reunions and so it is today with the alumni flocking back to Weedsport every June like the swallows of Capistrano.

Carried below are several excerpts from the meticulously kept minutes of the Association. On June 30th 1911 the group met at the high school.  Only 7 classes out of the previous 34, (dating back to the start of the school) were not represented.  Elected officers included Jay Putnam as President, Mrs. John Churchill as Sec/Treas and an arrangements committee consisting of George Churchill, Miss Jane Henderson and Mrs. Arthur Putnam.  At the end of the meeting ice cream and wafers were served at a cost of $6.10.

By 1914 an extensive program was presented each year. In that year, the program consisted of The address of the president by Mr. Fred Sheldon,  Words of welcome by VP H.T. Morrison,  selections by the orchestra which included  Miss Mabel Morrison, Mrs. Abner Hoyt, Harold Follett and Prof. R. Stephens.  Next was a solo rendered by Miss Florence White, a piano duet by Miss Doris Harrington and Miss Marjorie Palmer, 3 short selections of verse by Mrs. Genevieve Sleight, a vocal solo by Frank Purce and more selections by the orchestra.  The business meeting followed, after which refreshments were served by the Junior class.  Dancing followed.  Treasury balance on hand showed 7 cents!  Expenses included 35 cents for napkins, $1 for floor wax and 25 cents for cartage.

The 1920 minutes showed the association well established with over a hundred alumni representing 29 classes present. Among the entertainment that year was a saxophone solo by Sterling Whitman. The welcome address was given by president J. Austin Howe and the response was given by class president Harold Whitman. Apparently a very closely balanced budget was enacted that year because the treasurers report shows a zero balance.

Jumping ahead to 1930, the gathering had grown to 159 and had outgrown the high school, so it was held in the Methodist  Church hall in that year and for several years was held in various church halls in the village.  In a tradition extending to this day  the congregation of the church prepared a dinner for the group.  A balance of $18.54 was brought forward.

By 1940 over 200 alumni were on hand with dinner served by members of Saint Joseph's Church Altar Society.  40 classes were represented including Mrs. Nan Hopkins and Mrs. Ida Sheldon from the class of 1875.  The nominating committee consisting of David Coyle, George Valentine and Barbara Klumpp placed the following names in nomination: President, Charles A. Cusick, VP Mrs. Harlan Andrews, Miss Audrey Oliver for Sec/Treas and Asst Sec. Elfred Valentine.

In 1950 the banquet was held in the Baptist Fellowship Hall where a baked ham dinner was served by the ladies of the church.  Prior to the meeting, a reception was held in the church and several selections were played on the pipe organ by Miss Barbara Howe.  Guest of honor was Mrs. Nan Hopkins of the class of 1875.  Officers selected were President , Rupert Woodcock, VP Elmerina Leonardi and Sec/Treas, Miss Helen Cottle.

In 1960 over 400 members attended, with a delicious meal served by the W.S.C.S. of the Methodist Church.  Mr. John Skvorak was made an honorary member of the association.  Mr. Ernest Whitman of the class of 1895 was the oldest member present.

By 1970 the total organization numbered over 2000 members and many improvements had been made within the last ten years including the establishment of a scholarship fund, as suggested by Prof. Lampman. Officers selected for the following year included Joe Moody Jr., Charles Ball, Bonnie Kosters and Bonnie Kiefer Chamberlain.

The 1980 minutes reveal that the longest distance traveled was Marilyn Jewell coming from California.  14 past Presidents of the organization  were present. Recognition from the group was give to Seniors Mike Devin who has been appointed to the Naval Academy and Jacques Leonardi who will be attending the Coast Guard Academy.  it was announced that Barbara Klumpp had decided to retire after 44 years of service.

In June of 1990, President Ray Weller welcomed the returning Alumni.  The 60 year class of 1930 had 7 members present out of 21 remaining. School Superintendent Gary Gilchrist gave the State of the School address. Other officers included David Kinney, Linda Willis and Charles Kreplin.

By the year 2000  five $500.00 scholarships were being awarded annually to deserving Seniors. A special guest at the banquet that  year was Dr. Paul Parkman who was here with a large delegation from the class of 1950.  Dr. Parkman of course developed the Rubella vaccine which has virtually eliminated the scourge of "German" measles.

Many of us look forward to the banquet which will be the 16th of June this coming summer.  To show the dedication of some of the members, Bunny Moody Vella has never missed one, last year logging her 55th consecutive Alumni reunion. The association has been able for the last several years to give several $500 dollar awards and one of $1000.00(  The Francis Hoffman Sine Award) through the generosity of our members. 

Address and name changes which are crucial to the ongoing success of the association may be sent to Box 764, Weedsport, NY 13166, or by e-mail to wcs_alumni@yahoo.com .

Next month--another famous person from Weedsport.

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


November article -

The weedsport Central School System -
(Continued)


As Prof. Lampman neared the end of his long and successful career at Weedsport, the winds of change, they were a-blowing. The New York State Department of Education was well on it's way to becoming the bureaucratic juggernaut that it is today, with more and more administrative detail required.

Until the late 1950's, Each centralized school district in the county had a principal and one superintendent served the entire county. As a matter of fact Charles Owen of Sennett was not only the County Superintendent of Schools for many years, but had time to establish a successful apple orchard which remains a going business today under the direction of his grandson and great grandson.

One of the difficulties of these new state edicts was that there was less and less of a tendency for a teacher to spend their entire career teaching in a community. The temptation was more and more to pursue the job as a "career path", with teachers becoming principals and principals becoming superintendents, usually not in the same district. Despite this tendency, Weedsport has managed to stay the course and historically has been at, or near the top of any academic scale used. They have also, despite the fact that they are the smallest school system in the county excelled in sports, music, and about every other measurable subject including community involvement. The veterans program and related activities honoring our veterans are second to none.

The district has just finished a complete update of the Jackson Street building which was built in 1916 and added to in 1939. A walk through this building will demonstrate the degree of support that the community gives it's school system. Weedsport has played football under lights since the 1950's. They are probably still the only school in the county with a swimming pool. Weedsport was an early advocate of girls sports, fielding a girls basketball team in the 1920's. Just recently, in 2004, they won the New York State Class "D" football championship and the State environmental science competition.

Through the years, the community has elected dedicated long serving individuals to the Board of Education, who in turn have hired exceptional ,talented, and fair instructors in all disciplines who "get the job done" Check out the State scholastic "report cards" which appear periodically in this paper and you will always find Weedsport at, or near the top of each category.

It has been said that one of the measures of a successful school is the respect that the alumni have for their Alma Mater. The Weedsport Central School System has a very active Alumni association which has held an annual banquet on the Saturday night before graduation since 1910. It is both gratifying and amazing that every June WCS grads flock back to Weedsport from all over the world. The Alumni Association annually awards deserving seniors several $500.00 scholarships and one of $1000.00. The entire senior class is invited to the annual banquet. This banquet will be on June 16th this year, and all WCS alumni are invited to attend. We have also been fortunate that the minutes of the Alumni Association have been kept meticulously and make for some interesting reading. The very first Treasurers report in 1910 showed a balance of 39 cents! Next month more from the minutes of the WCS Alumni Association.

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society

As Prof. Lampman neared the end of his long and successful career at Weedsport, the winds of change, they were a-blowing. The New York State Department of Education was well on it's way to becoming the bureaucratic juggernaut that it is today, with more and more administrative detail required.

Until the late 1950's, Each centralized school district in the county had a principal and one superintendent served the entire county. As a matter of fact Charles Owen of Sennett was not only the County Superintendent of Schools for many years, but had time to establish a successful apple orchard which remains a going business today under the direction of his grandson and great grandson.

One of the difficulties of these new state edicts was that there was less and less of a tendency for a teacher to spend their entire career teaching in a community. The temptation was more and more to pursue the job as a "career path", with teachers becoming principals and principals becoming superintendents, usually not in the same district. Despite this tendency, Weedsport has managed to stay the course and historically has been at, or near the top of any academic scale used. They have also, despite the fact that they are the smallest school system in the county excelled in sports, music, and about every other measurable subject including community involvement. The veterans program and related activities honoring our veterans are second to none.

The district has just finished a complete update of the Jackson Street building which was built in 1916 and added to in 1939. A walk through this building will demonstrate the degree of support that the community gives it's school system. Weedsport has played football under lights since the 1950's. They are probably still the only school in the county with a swimming pool. Weedsport was an early advocate of girls sports, fielding a girls basketball team in the 1920's. Just recently, in 2004, they won the New York State Class "D" football championship and the State environmental science competition.

Through the years, the community has elected dedicated long serving individuals to the Board of Education, who in turn have hired exceptional ,talented, and fair instructors in all disciplines who "get the job done" Check out the State scholastic "report cards" which appear periodically in this paper and you will always find Weedsport at, or near the top of each category.

It has been said that one of the measures of a successful school is the respect that the alumni have for their Alma Mater. The Weedsport Central School System has a very active Alumni association which has held an annual banquet on the Saturday night before graduation since 1910. It is both gratifying and amazing that every June WCS grads flock back to Weedsport from all over the world. The Alumni Association annually awards deserving seniors several $500.00 scholarships and one of $1000.00. The entire senior class is invited to the annual banquet. This banquet will be on June 16th this year, and all WCS alumni are invited to attend. We have also been fortunate that the minutes of the Alumni Association have been kept meticulously and make for some interesting reading. The very first Treasurers report in 1910 showed a balance of 39 cents! Next month more from the minutes of the WCS Alumni Association.

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


October 2006 Article:

Weedsport Central School


To continue the history of the Weedsport Central School System as mentioned previously , Lazelle R Hopkins was Principal of the school from 1881 to 1921, an almost unparalleled forty years of service. In the 1920's and 1930's several individuals came to work in the school system who would have a profound effect on many students for many years. Among them were Agnes Enright, Marie McPeak, Geraldine Palmer, John Skvorak and William Lampman and others. Of the aforementioned, Mr. Lampman's longevity and dedication were truly legendary as he served an amazing 35 years, or nearly as long as Professor Hopkins.

William Lampman served as Principal from 1931 to 1966 through centralization, three major building projects and countless daily travails. He and a secretary were the COMPLETE administration. He also found time to teach various subjects over the years, including Driver Education and filled in as bus driver when necessary! The story is told of Professor Lampman traveling to Sterling to interview Nellie Goodsell Kinney for a teaching position. It was war time and gasoline was rationed very tightly. The Lampman family sedan did not have enough gas to make the trip to Sterling, however the school had plenty of gasoline, so he took a school bus and went to Sterling. His tenacity and resourcefulness paid off as Nellie went on to teach for many years at Weedsport.

Anyone who walked the hallowed halls of Weedsport during the 35 years that Mr. Lampman was Principal cannot forget his loud A-Hem as he cleared his throat over the microphone as a way of getting attention for the morning announcements, nor can one forget his almost uncanny sense of when someone was up to no good, if no more than being late for class. No one wanted to turn a corner in the hall and come face to face with him coming the other way. The routine was very predictable. With his short mustache bristling, it was "____________" (fill in your last name) "Where are you supposed to be?" After a stammered answer, the response was also predictable "Then I suggest you get there", and you got!

The job of principal did not pay the large salary that it does now and money was tight in the Lampman household. As you walk the village today you are walking in many areas on sidewalks poured by professors Lampman and Skvorak as summer work. After retirement he went on to become the Mayor of Weedsport for several terms. The swimming pool which he insisted be built in the Jr-Sr High School is the " William F. Lampman Pool". He was a charter member and president of the Old Brutus Historical Society and a member of the Weedsport Volunteer Fire Department. One of his accomplishments which we in the local historical society treasure most was his amazing foresight in filming the return of all WWll servicemen who had attended WCS on 16 mm movies. This was usually done on their first furlough. Several years ago these short film clips were set to music of the time and put on video cassettes by Vic Sine. We have several of them for sale at the Museum. This past Spring, we gave a video presentation of the Lampman films as one of our monthly programs and 5 of the returning WWll veterans were in the audience! Digressing even a bit further, it is worth noting that Weedsport and Brutus Historian Jeanne Baker is a daughter of Professor Lampman.

The second person whose name is synonymous with Weedsport during this period was Professor John Skvorak. He came to Weedsport as a science instructor and went on to become one of the winningest coaches in New York State history, coaching successfully in everything from football, basketball, girls basketball, and his great love, baseball. For years he played on the Weedsport Watsons semi-pro ball team and eventually came to manage the team when his two sons were playing. Again, salaries were not that great in those days and not only did he also lay sidewalks in the summer, but owned a successful wholesale glove operation which still exists today. Prof Skvorak went on to become Principal of the High School when the jobs were separated and also served his entire career at Weedsport. Next month--more on WCS

Denny Randall
Vice President OBHS


September 2006 article:

MORE ON WEEDSPORT SCHOOLS

Continuing the series on the Weedsport Central School system and it's
predecessors, at least some of the students from the various "Common" , or
rural (typically one room) schools eventually merged into the Weedsport
School System. One small school not mentioned last month was the Weedsport
"Village' school which was located on Furnace Street near where the Baptist
Fellowship Building now stands.

In 1846 several of the outlying districts were united with the Village
school to form Brutus District 8 and a new "modern" school was erected on
Jackson Street at the head of Franklin Street. The building erected was a
plain substantial brick structure two stories high with a wooden addition in
the rear for stairwells, a storage room on the first floor and a library
room above. The main building contained four schoolrooms accommodating
about sixty students each. There were large folding doors between the class
rooms so that the whole area could be opened up for assemblies and civic
gatherings.

Under a special act of the State Legislature on April 14 of 1858
certain corporate powers were vested in the Board of Education of District 8
and the school was reorganized as "Weedsport Union School". A third story
was added to the brick structure in 1871 to accommodate the high school
students which until that time still had to attend school in the "one room"
schools scattered around the area. The school roster listed 388 resident
pupils and 24 "foreign", or non resident students. The faculty consisted of
five teachers, four women and a man. The school year was trimestered, or
divided into three terms. School began the 1st of August and continued until
the end of June the following year, amounting to forty two weeks of school.
Each non-resident student was required to pay $3.00 per term tuition.

The course of study embraced the common branches of reading, writing
and arithmetic, as well as algebra, civil government, "higher" arithmetic,
bookkeeping, astronomy, chemistry, geometry, trigonometry and surveying.
The principal was M. McNeil Walsh, who also taught high school classes.

The building and lot were sold in 1907 and used after removal of the
third floor, and installation of a mansard type roof and many other
modifications as a private residence which continues today. In that year
(1907) a " modern " building was erected farther North on Jackson Street.
The new building , built of hard brick was modern in every aspect. It
contained spacious halls, and many cloak rooms on each floor, It also had a
teachers rest room, principal's office, a library, eight grade rooms and a
large study hall. Excellent laboratories , well equipped for the purpose of
teaching agriculture, music, physics, chemistry, and biology were also
included, as well as a commercial studies room for instruction in business
courses and several class rooms for the purpose of teaching other high
school coursework.

The building, much of which still stands today as the Elementary School
was built at a cost of $ 30,862.35, which include lighting, heating and
architects fees. It also included the cost of moving two homes which were
located on what would become the front lawn. One of the gothic style houses
was moved to Centennial Street and was the Skvorak residence for many years.
It is now occupied by the Kevin Ryan family. The other similar home was
moved to Green Street where it also remains a private residence. A bonded
indebtedness was incurred which was paid off in 1928. A record of
dedication and diligence was the teaching record of Miss Mary Barnes who
taught school in the Weedsport system from 1871 to 1921--an incredible fifty
years!

The annual budget for the school system in 1887 was $ 4,653.48 and by
1908 it was $12,491.27 which included debt payments on the bond issue for
the new school. It was also necessary to expand the faculty during that time
to nine teachers.

Principal of the school from 1881 to 1910 was Professor Lazelle R.
Hopkins, who published the privately printed "FACTS REGARDING WEEDSPORT'
in 1933 and from which much of what I share with you is unashamedly
plagiarized. "Hopkins" as it is known locally is the virtual bible of
Weedsport history.

Next month-more on the Weedsport School System as it creeps closer to
centralization.

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society

 


August 2006 article:

The History Of The Weedsport Central School District

The long and storied history of the Weedsport School system began as did most public schools in New York State with several "common", or rural schools including many which were of the "one room" variety. Students from more than 25 schools in the towns of Sennett, Cato, Mentz, Conquest, Elbridge and Throop, as well as Brutus and the Village of Weedsport eventually came to become what is now known as Weedsport Central School. Among the schools were the following, in no particular order:

Bonta Bridge Road-Town of Cato District 13-erected in 1871 and still standing.

Christopher District School-Town of Cato, at Christopher's Corners (Intersection of Bonta Bridge and Jorolemon Rds.) Still standing as a private residence. The late Freda Wheeler taught there prior to coming to Weedsport in 1936.

Lemon School-Town of Conquest District 10, was located at the intersection of Town Line and Lemon School Rds.
Annie Backman attended and later taught school there before coming to Weedsport after centralization.

Van Nostrand School-Town of Conquest-Located on Slayton Rd, between Cato and Conquest.

White School-Town of Cato-Located on Smith Road. Virginia Streeter's mother ( Mabel Dickinson) was a teacher there.

Emerson School-Town of Cato The building still exists in the hamlet of Emerson.

River Road School-Town of Cato Several families still in the area attended school there, including Ella Joyce Oliver Schoonmaker.

Brick Church School-Town of Cato District 2, On Rt. 34, across from the intersection of Shortcut Road. Preserved as a museum by the CIVIC Historical Society. Open to the public on Sundays It is as true an example of an unrestored one room school as can be, with many of the original books, the original black paint on plaster blackboard, maps and even a framed piece of the original wallpaper. The building was built in 1871 and in remarkably good condition. To give an example of where we have gone in school costs, the building was built in two weeks at a cost of $75.00!

Everett School-Town of Elbridge District 8, on Clinton Road, just beyond the Robillard farm. Still exists as a private residence.

Bates School-Town of Brutus District 4, located on Clinton Road at the Bates Rd. intersection. Built in 1885, and survives as a private residence.

McCreedy School-Town of Brutus, near the intersection of Rt. 34 and Downs Road. Possible the first school in the area. Also used by several early congregations for worship services.

Pump School-Town of Brutus on Pump Rd. Not a lot of information exists, even as to exact location, however we do have several class pictures in the Museum.

Jericho School-Town of Brutus District 6, located at the intersection of Ryan and Jericho Rds. Now the private residence of the Thomas Ryan family.

Cobblestone School-Town of Sennett, located on Rt. 5 near the Jericho Rd. intersection. Completed in the fall of 1835 at a cost of $ 305.00 and used until 1912. Now a private residence. After 1912 some of the students went to Sennett Village School and the rest to various Town of Brutus schools.

Pantico School-Town of Sennett District 1 was located at the intersection of Center Street and Parsell Rd. Now a beautifully preserved private home. After centralization, some of the Pantico students went to Skaneateles to school, and the rest went to Weedsport.

Sennett Village School District 7 located near the intersection of Turnpike Road and the Weedsport-Sennett Rd. Built in 1896. After closing as a school it was used for several purposes including a Grange Hall. it was eventually torn down to make room for the present Sennett fire house. Long time Weedsport teacher Mabel Hunting taught there at one time. The original school bell is preserved in the fire house.

Mutton Hill School-Town of Sennett, located between County House Rd. and Rt. 5. Now a private residence.

McMaster School- Town of Throop, located near the intersection of Turnpike Rd on Rt. 34. Now demolished.

Ingalls School-Town of Throop, was located on Highbridge Rd. across from the cemetery. It has been gone many years.

Bentley School-Town of Brutus District 5 Now a private residence at the intersection of Rt. 34 and Bentley School Rd.

Centerport School-Town of Mentz-The late Hazel Tryon of Weedsport reported that she used to take the Trolley to teach at Centerport School.

Oakland School-Town of Brutus, located at the intersection of Townline and Compton Rds.

Soule School-Now a private home on Chestnut Ridge Rd. in the town of Sennett.

Mudcoe School-Town of Sennett District 11-Located at the corner of Miller Rd and County Line Rd. Now a private residence.

Freeman St. School- Town of Sennett District 9 Located near Depot Rd. Eventually merged with District 7 and the building was torn down

A newspaper article published in 1868 gave some of what was expected of a rural school teacher. Imagine it today! Men teachers were allowed one night a week for courting, or two if they attended church regularly. Teachers each day will fill the lamps, clean the lamp chimneys and trim the wicks. Each teacher will bring in a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for each day's session. After 10 hours in school, the teachers should spend their remaining waking time reading the Bible, or other such good books. Woman teachers who marry, or engage in other unseemly conduct will be summarily dismissed. Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of their earnings for their declining years so that they shall not become a burden on society. More on WCS next month!

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


July 2006 article:

Weedsport Streets


While in California a few years back visiting a couple of Weedsport transplants, they were trying to recall street names of the village of Weedsport where they grew up. Ron and Diane Berry and Kirk and Elsie Wolford managed to name most of them although they had been gone from the area for many years, so just for fun, before you read this column, test yourself and see how many you remember!

The obvious SOUTH, EAST and formerly NORTH Streets need no explanation as to their origin nor do JEFFERSON, LINCOLN, WASHINGTON, HAMILTON, JACKSON, FRANKLIN and VAN BUREN. CENTENNIAL Street was named after the Nation's centennial celebration in 1876. MALT Street was named for the several large malt houses that once stood along the banks of the Erie Canal, while ERIE Drive and CANAL Street were named for and follow the route of the canal through the village.

BRUTUS Street was named for the Town of Brutus which Weedsport lies within. OAKLAND Street and OAKLAND Park were named for the many oak trees which once grew in the area. Similarly named was WILLOW Street. GOFF Street was named for the Goff family and WATSON Street was named for local undertaker and baseball pioneer "Uncle Billy" Watson. BELL Street was named Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and FURNACE Street for the several concerns located there that manufactured heating and forge equipment.

RUDE Street was named for the Rude family who were early settlers in the area and EMY, MARSHALL, SHARON and HOOPER Streets were all named for members of the Marshall family who developed the area. ROSS Drive, while technically not in the village was named after builder Joe Marshall's father. SENECA Street was obviously named for the Native American tribe of that name, while WEED and BASIN Streets were named after the brothers Elihu and Edward Weed who constructed a turning basin on the Erie Canal and after which the village is named.

HIGHLAND Avenue and EAST TERRACE Street were named for the geographic conditions where they were constructed while LOCKWOOD Avenue was named for a local family as were COOL and GRAHAM Streets. LIBERTY Street was named for the obvious reason, while HORTON, GREEN, and JAMES were also all named for prominent (at that time) local families. MECHANIC Street was apparently called that because someone lived there who had mechanical capabilities and finally COTTAGE Park was named that simply because it sounded nice.

There are 11 miles of streets in the village (if you don't believe it, try walking them) which includes some state and county roadways. Seneca Street is of course State Route 34, Erie Drive is State Route 31 and East Brutus and South Streets are Cayuga County roads. Of the 11 miles of roadway in the village 6.1 miles are village owned and maintained.

Several streets in the village have had other names over the years and were changed for various reasons. Jefferson Street was once Barn Street, James Street was called Rogers Street and it ran up over Science Hill to the Lehigh Valley Railroad tracks with several homes along the way. Centennial Street was at one time known as McCarty Street. There were several others changed as well over the years to accommodate local feelings at that time. How did you do on the test?

Next month will begin a series on the long and storied history of the Weedsport Central School District and it's predecessors.

Denny Randall
Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


June 2006 Article:

MORE ABOUT WEEDSPORT!


From time to time in these columns I will speak on "Famous People" who lived in Weedsport and who went on to make a name for themselves. I have mentioned in a previous column William Fargo of the famous Wells-Fargo partnership and others. In this month's article I will write about the Weedsport man who went on to become probably our most famous former resident.

In June of 1940, Weedsport Central School Valedictorian Phyllis Parkman was bed-ridden with German, or Old-Fashioned Measles at the time of graduation and despite having a grade average of 96.4% she could not take her scheduled Regents exams and consequently did not receive her Regents diploma until the following January when the tests were next scheduled.

"Old Fashioned" Measles, or Rubella was a serious illness , not in the fact that they caused young ladies to miss graduation ceremonies, or even that they were much of an illness to the one who had them. The dreadful effects to the unborn whose mother's had been exposed to someone with the disease was the horror of Rubella. There was a very high risk of new born death, blindness, deafness or mental retardation associated with children borne of mother's so exposed. In this county alone many thousands of such catastrophic births were recorded each year.

In 1950, ten years after Phyllis had missed graduation, her brother Paul graduated from Weedsport Central School as Salutatorian and while he didn't have the measles, his name is now synonymous with any discussion of that dreaded disease around the world. Paul was an excellent student, was Senior Class President, Editor of the yearbook, and played in the school band. Following graduation he began undergraduate studies at St. Lawrence University and completed his 4 year degree in 3 years. He then entered medical school at the State University of New York College of Medicine at Syracuse.

A scant 4 years after his graduation from medical school and just 11 years after he walked the halls of WCS, Doctor Paul Parkman achieved something so remarkable that it would literally change the world. Dr. Parkman isolated the Rubella virus! After successfully isolating the virus in 1961 he joined forces with Dr. Harry Meyer to develop the vaccine which has led to the virtual elimination of this dreadful scourge in most progressive countries.

After the work with the Rubella vaccine he went on to work for the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and was eventually named Director of the Center For Biologic Evaluation and Research and was the AIDS Coordinator for the agency. He is the author of over 100 scientific papers. Dr. Parkman's list of accomplishments and awards is astounding and cannot be shown in this brief column, however he received Presidential Citations from both Lyndon Johnson and George Bush. He received the prestigious Kennedy International Award for Distinguished Scientific Research and the E. Mead Johnson Award from the American Academy of Pediatrics. He also received the Parents Magazine Medal for Distinguished Service to Children and Honorary Doctorate Degrees from both St. Lawrence University and SUNY.

Dr. Parkman is now mostly retired and lives in Maryland with his high school sweetheart, Elmerina Leonardi who he married in 1955. As a short note aside, my classmate Bob Leonardi who also writes for the Citizen and who owns the Green Shutters Restaurant was an usher for his sister's wedding to Dr.. Parkman all those years ago! Dr Parkman was waiting to be interviewed on a Chicago TV station and the other guest was Frank Sinatra. The singer asked the doctor "What do you do?", to which Dr. Parkman answered "I developed the vaccine against German Measles" Mr. Sinatra's reply was "What took you so long?"

On the occasion of his retirement he was interviewed and remarked that when he was 17, his father asked him what he wanted to be. " He suggested music teacher, barber and several others and I said no, finally he got around to asking me about becoming a doctor and I said yes. He had hoped all along that would be my choice. My father worked hard for many years at 3 jobs to put me through medical school." Dr Parkman and Elmerina are still frequent visitors to the area with much family still living here. In 2000 Dr Parkman was honored by his high school class on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of graduation.

Although Rubella is now nearly a thing go the past in most progressive countries, it remains a scourge in some areas of the world where either ignorance, or poverty have forestalled the use of the vaccine. A campaign is now underway in Nepal where the government program last year cut by 90% the expected deaths of some 5,000 babies. Deafness,blindness and brain damage would have affected many thousands more. Dr. Mark Grabowski of the International Red Cross notes that "vaccinating children against measles is the greatest return on child health that we have. It's the low hanging fruit" Nonetheless, more than 450,000 babies still die needlessly per year in India and many African countries. Since the Latin American countries jumped on the bandwagon in 1994, measles has been virtually eliminated in the Western Hemisphere---All thanks to Weedsport native Dr. Paul Parkman!

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


May 2006 Article:

GOING LIKE THE WATSONS

PLAY BALL!--That was the cry heard in Weedsport this time of year for 100 years.  In the Spring of 1865 a team was organized to play in a district league to consist of 4, or 5 clubs.  About 45 potential players responded to the call and from them a first team was chosen which consisted of : Pitcher James Kiernan, Catcher Murray Duncan, 1st Base James Weed, 2nd Base Alonzo Fellows, 3rd Base George Beech, SS Julian Turner and outfielders Charles Robinson, Andrew Hine and O. C. Hinman.

Principle among the supporters of the team was local undertaker and furniture store owner William Watson, or "Uncle Billy" as he was commonly known. It was decided to name the team after him and so they were called for the next 100 years.  In a short paragraph it is worth noting a bit of the evolution of the game itself.  In the early days the ball was not thrown overhand, or sidearm as is common today but "pitched", or lofted underhand similar to the "slow pitch" softball of today, moreover, the batter had the option of requesting high, or low pitches!  According to a newspaper article written by retired banker E.G. Treat in the late 1800's Weedsport was playing an exhibition game against the Salem, Massachusetts "Live Oaks".  During the game Weedsport pitcher Jay Sheldon got fed up with the way the game was going and  started zinging the ball past the Salem batters. The Live Oaks protested vehemently, but the Umpire ruled in the Watsons favor-there was nothing in the rule book that forbid pitching fast and soon teams everywhere were following Weedsport's example. It was still to be many years before overhand pitching was popular. Gloves were not used until about 1870 and the Catcher was unprotected, standing about ten feet behind home plate and fielding the pitches on the 1st hop.  Bunting was socially not acceptable and an intentional walk would have been a disgrace.

The Watson's were so successful that the phrase "Going Like The Watsons" became a nation wide expression.  As a note aside the above mentioned Salem team played their way all the way across the country to California and back, playing every other day and they lost one game--to the Watsons.  The logistics of early scheduling can only be imagined. The first season in 1865 was played against Throopsville, Auburn, Baldwinsville, the "Haymakers" of Cato and the "Alerts" of Rochester. Bear in mind that this was before there were automobiles, or decent roads.  It must have been a considerable venture setting out in a horse drawn buggy, or train to play a game and then have to return by the same means. In 1868 the team had it's best season under the original organization and went undefeated beating teams from Syracuse, Rochester, Auburn,Oswego, Binghamton and Buffalo, among others.

The year 1895 was a banner year for the Watsons as they won 19, lost 6 and tied 1.  That was also the year that "Big Bill"  Dineen began playing for the locals. During the season Toronto played an exhibition game in Weedsport, which they won, however they were so impressed with Dineen that they offered him a contract on the spot.  Bill had a wonderful major league career ending up with Boston as the star pitcher in the 1903 World Series. Bill was to play in 417 professional games and 4 World Series before retiring to become a well respected American League umpire. Big Bill passed away in Syracuse in 1955.  Many Watsons went on to the big time among whom were Jay Faatz;Cleveland, Dan Sweeney; Louisville,  Marty McQuaid; St Louis,  Billy Stroh; Boston, and Harry "Zip" Northrup; Cuban Giants and several other players went on to major league careers.

The Watsons continued their winning ways and in the 1930's the chemistry teacher and coach of many sports at the local high school joined the roster and for over 20 years "Johnny" Skvorak was to be associated with the team, first as pitcher and finally as Manager, eventually with both of his son's also on the team role.  The July 1,1946 Cayuga Chief newspaper proclaimed the following Sunday as "O" (opening) day with a promise of an "important local civic leader" to throw out the first pitch.  I gather by that they had not yet been able to talk anyone into the honor!  Among the stars on that team were former County Legislator Earl Lamphere, Rupert Woodcock and  "The  Weedsport Milkman" Arnold Bennett.

The league changed names and make-up several times over the years, being known as the Central New York League, The Newspaper League, The Post Standard League and the New York State League among others.  The "State" league included the following:Auburn, Weedsport, King Ferry, Moravia, Seneca falls, Cortland, Groton, Port Byron, Fair Haven, Hannibal, Red Creek, Oswego, Fulton, Jordan, Camillus, Skaneateles, Marcellus, Parish, Split Rock, Central Square and Phoenix with the Watson's able to hold their own with the best of them.  Unfortunately, times, they were a-changing and small town baseball was dying everywhere and so it was that in 1965, a century after organizing,  the Weedsport Watsons proudly took the field the last time under Manager Terry Blumer.

Today, more than 100 years since "Uncle Billy" Watson went to his reward, his name lives on as Watson Street in the Village and more than 40 years since the once proud Watsons ceased to exist there is no lack of enthusiasm in the community for their sports teams.  A good example was the way the area followed the New York State Championship WCS football team in 2004, who were really "Going Like The Watsons".

At the Museum we have files and files of team rosters, photos, newspaper articles and other memorabilia from the earliest days of the Weedsport Watsons. Stop in and ask to see the files. We're open from 9:00 to Noon every Monday and Tuesday, and Sunday afternoons after Memorial Day.

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


April 2006 article:

OTHER CHURCHES OF WEEDSPORT

Other churches of Weedsport include the following:

     The St. John's Episcopal Church was organized on February 27, 1866 with 16 members.  Meetings were at first held in a frame building on East Brutus Street.  By 1882 the congregation had grown to the point where it was decided to build a "proper" church.  Accordingly in 1883 the cornerstone of a beautiful brick edifice was laid on East Brutus Street at the intersection of South Street.  Dedication of the new building was October 28, 1884.  In time, many members of the congregation moved away and it was found to be impossible for the remaining ones to support the church and services were discontinued around 1926.  In 1929 the building was sold to the Weedsport Free Library Association and the beautiful Gothic building served as the village library and American Legion memorial until recently when a new and larger library was built.  The war memorial was moved to the American Legion Hall and the building is now the private residence of  Mr. Joseph Guszcza who has recently installed stained glass sunburst windows on each side of the building in keeping with it's heritage

     The Weedsport Free Methodist Church of Weedsport was organized in 1892.  Meetings were first held in the Good Templar's Hall which was located in the Haven's Block in the village downtown section.  In 1893 the members erected a small frame church on the Southwest corner of South and Liberty Streets.  Never a large congregation, it gradually grew less until services were discontinued in 1925.  The property was sold and converted to a private residence.  It was used for a time as a residence for elderly individuals and is now again a private home.

     In more recent times, the Assemblies of God had an active congregation for a number of years.  The congregation worshipped in the American Legion Hall and in time a parsonage was purchased  on Jackson Street.   A large lot was purchased east of the village on E. Brutus Street Road near the intersection of Cottle Road with the intention of constructing a church building.  Unfortunately interest in the church waned, the church was never built, the land and parsonage were sold and the congregation ceased to exist a short time ago.

     There may have been other organized churches in Weedsport over the years, but if so they are not well documented

     At the museum we consider ourselves fortunate to have acquired several artifacts over the years from the churches of Weedsport.  We have the wonderful turn of the century chandelier from the Presbyterians as well as a portable reed organ that can be folded up and carried like a suitcase, which was convenient for providing proper music in a day when most funerals were conducted in the front parlor of the deceased person's home.  We also have pews from the Methodist Church and we recently have finished setting up a permanent exhibit of one of the acid etched stenciled glass windows from the Methodist Church.  It is mounted in an oak case designed and built by OBHS President Earl Ward and was donated to the museum by long time member Myrtle Chomyk of Auburn. It is absolutely stunning with the back lighting in the case turned on. We are also pleased to have an altar bell and one of the stained glass memorial windows from St. Joseph's Catholic Church. The window is built into the rear wall of the museum and with the setting sun beaming through the many colored panes, the beauty of it is hard to describe.

Denny Randall,

V.P. Old Brutus Historical Society


March 2006 article:

THE CHURCHES OF WEEDSPORT

St Joseph's Roman Catholic Church of Weedsport was started in 1854 as an adjunct of St. Alphonsus Church of Auburn which was organized in 1853, only one year before Weedsport. In the early days, Mass was said in local homes by the Rev Zacharias Kunze and his successors until an official church was established in Weedsport.  It must be remembered that the roads of the day were basically dirt---dusty in dry weather, muddy in wet, impassable in winter, so it must have been a terrific relief to the long suffering Auburn clergy when in 1862 St. Joseph's installed their first resident pastor.

Between the organization of the church in 1854 and 1862 a lot had been going on in the Catholic community in Weedsport, which was made up mostly of Irish who came to the area with their families to build the Erie Canal and the various railroads.  A lot was leased from Elihu Weed on the South side of Green St. near the Willow St. intersection and a crude building was constructed in the spring of 1854.  The new  "church", ignominiously called the "shanty church" by the locals was but 20 feet square built with rough cut lumber with vertical siding and no heat.  It was never even painted, nonetheless it served it's purpose for more than five years, until the need for larger quarters was evident. Again deferring to the better established Auburn Catholic community, in 1858 Father Michael Creedon of Holy Family Church was assigned the task, presumably in addition to his regular duties to build a proper church in Weedsport.

The lot on the North-West corner of the intersection of S. Seneca and Hamilton Streets was purchased from the Presbyterians whose church on the site had burned in 1855.  A beautiful frame church soon rose from the ashes at a cost of $1,600 and Father Daniel Moore was appointed first resident pastor in 1862.  The "shanty church" was sold and moved from Green St. to a lot on Graham St. where it was used as a storage shed for many years on the property now  owned by Ken Balch.

The home on the North West corner of Bell and Horton Streets was purchased for a rectory and served until 1884 when the present rectory was built by famous Weedsport architect, builder and politician Michael Grace, whose signature homes on the west side of S. Seneca St. are present day indicators of his skill and sense of everlasting style.  Turnabout is fair play and as the Catholics of Auburn had supported Weedsport, so now did Weedsport support parishes in Cato, Port Byron and Montezuma which were missions of St. Joseph's until the early 1900's.

In 1883 a plot of ground was purchased on Oakland Rd. for use as a Catholic cemetery at a cost of $1,200 and remains today a well maintained and beautiful place of final repose for area Catholics.  In 1898, the "Morehouse" residence to the North of the church was purchased and rented out until 1928 when it was decided to convert it to a parish hall.  Stained glass windows were added to the church around the turn of the century and one of these beautiful memorial windows is built into the rear wall of our museum through the courtesy of the Weiczorek family.

The local Catholics cruised through the first half of the 20th century with continued growth and improvements to the "Church on the Hill".  In 1956 the congregation was startled to enter the 99 year old building which at that time was the oldest continually open Catholic Church in Cayuga County  to find ugly steel beams framing the altar. It had been discovered that the building cupola, steeple and roof was in danger of falling into the sanctuary due to the failure of the tenons on the original main beams. A difficult decision was made to raze the beautiful old church and replace it with a new edifice with modern architecture on the same site.

During demolition and construction, services were held in the Weedsport Theatre through the courtesy of the Zimmer family and the Weedsport Central School auditorium. A decision was made to include a parish hall in the basement of the church and the "Morehouse" building was moved across the street by the world famous F.H.Tuxill & Son building movers to become the new home of the Weedsport American Legion.  Subsequent grade work and the purchase of the West Shore Railroad right of way from the Village of Weedsport resulted in the spacious parking area and the rectory gardens now seen.

Any discussion of St. Joseph's Church would be remiss if mention was not made of one of the most beloved men of God ever to walk the local scene.  Father Leo Jones  served the community for an amazing 30 years, from 1942 to 1972. His dedication to community was such that early in his pastorate during World War II when manpower was scarce he rode the Fire Department ambulance as a medic. Indeed, the affection for him crossed all faiths, extending even after his death when at his memorial service the Reverend William Fairhurst of the Weedsport First Baptist Church delivered the eulogy.

Today the Catholics of St. Joseph's Church are the largest congregation in Weedsport, continue to thrive as a parish and are involved in all facets of the community.

Denny Randall 
Vice president Old Brutus Historical Society


February 2006 article:

THE CHURCHES OF WEEDSPORT

WEEDSPORT FIRST BAPTIST CHURCH

The First Baptist Church of Weedsport was organized on December 4, 1837 with  31 members, and the Reverend T Adsit Jr. as Pastor. The present pastor , Thomas Cornell is the senior man of God in Weedsport having served the community since 1990.  During a revival meeting in 1837, 42 more members were added either by baptism, or letters of transfer. This was enough to encourage the building of a suitable place for worship.  In 1839 the beautiful old brick edifice on Liberty Street was erected and as a testimony to the dedicated maintenance and care the building has received in the past 167 years it remains the longest standing church in Weedsport.

In 1870 the church was enlarged and modernized and a pipe organ was installed in 1880.  This magnificent "tracker" type organ was originally hand pumped and was electrified with a blower system in 1910.  At the same time "Tiffany" type memorial windows were installed along both sides of the sanctuary. The windows on one side representing Bethany, Egypt, Nazareth and the Mount of Temptation, while on the other side are the Golden Gate, Garden of Gethsemane, Jerusalem and Calvary.  The windows were crafted by famous stained glass artist D. Maitland Armstrong who worked with Tiffany. The windows are among the most beautiful in Central New York and several times over the years church member Eula Lamphere has presented the story of the windows to the public.

At one time your writer did some maintenance work on the magnificent and powerful old Steere &  Turner organ. A "tracker" type pipe organ has the manuals, or keyboards and the clavier, or pedalboard connected directly to the pipe valves with thin strips, or splints of wood.  Occasionally one would break and it was necessary to enter the organ chambers to make repairs to eliminate a cipher on the manuals. At the right hand side of the organists position is a small door to allow access to the organ chamber.  Immediately inside that door is the old hand air pump handle which was used to pump air to the pipes manually.  On the stop panel is a stop marked "signal". By pulling this stop out and releasing it a spring loaded plunger would strike a wooden block inside the organ to signal the teenager sequestered within to commence pumping!  The graffiti carved and penned into the woodwork on the inside of the organ is a virtual who's who of early Weedsport Baptist men. Judging from some of the comments one has to believe that some of them were not there of their own Christian volition!  The organ is now the only remaining pipe organ in Weedsport.

In 1916, the Brown property west of the church was purchased for a parsonage at a cost of $2500.00. In 1969 the parsonage was torn down  to create a much needed parking  area. In 1921 the Fellowship Building was erected at a cost of $20,977.00.  The building contained a kitchen, a combination gymnasium and auditorium, which included  a stage and there were also bowling alleys in the basement. Prior to the centralization of the school district in the late 1930's the high school played their home basketball schedule in the Fellowship Building, and school plays and community stage productions were held there for many years.

Again, speaking from experience, I can relate to the bowling alleys. Longer ago than I like to remember, I set pins at the alleys. They were a brutal place to be a pinsetter as any one else who ever did so would probably agree. The pins were not set by an overhead rack, as was common, but had to be individually stood on dowels raised from the floor by a foot pedal. This meant that all of the pins had to remain in the  "pit" until the second ball was thrown if the first was not a strike, thus you had to set the full ten pins all at once. It also meant that there was no protecting rack to keep flying pins from exacting a toll on your legs.  Many nights I hobbled out of there crippled by pins flying from the fast straight balls thrown by Art Jorolemon , or Austin Howe among others. I for one was not broken hearted when the alleys were removed in the 1960's  to make room for additional Sunday School rooms!

For many years, the first nursery school in Weedsport operated out of the Fellowship Building with expert and loving care given to hundreds of young children by Kathleen Dolph, Marge Bowden, Eleanor Fults and others.  Many community functions are still held in the venerable old Fellowship Hall. As a matter of fact our Old Brutus Historical Society annual banquet was held there in November, catered by members of the church.

Over the years, when the school needed additional classroom space, or the Methodists, or Presbyterians needed a place to worship following building issues , the Baptists have always been pleased to help. The Brutus-Sennett Food Pantry has now operated out of the church for many years.  The Baptists epitomize the advantage of living in a small and caring community.

Denny Randall
V. P. Old Brutus Historical Society


THE CHURCHES OF WEEDSPORT ERRATA --

I reported here last month that the steeple was removed from the Presbyterian Church in the mid 1940's.  To show that some people do read these columns I soon received a phone call from  retired County Clerk and long time member of the congregation Joe Marshall who recalled seeing it brought down  in 1939 while a small child. It was rigged by Archie Short and lowered gently to terra firma. As a matter of fact, the small tree that adorned the top of the steeple has been preserved in a walnut display case made from a Barr Typewriter clock case.  Harold Sturgis tells me that the Electrolier which is now in our museum actually had been removed before the fire of 1947 and was in storage at the time of the fire and as long as I'm in a mea culpa mode let me tell you how much  I appreciate the Christian charity of the local Methodists.  I reported last month that the Presbyterians were the oldest local church group.  I received not a single lament from the Methodists , considering that they pre-dated the Presbyterians by  nearly ten years.

With my apologies for the gaffe, let me recall the history of the local Methodists from 1816 until now.  The Methodists also met for some time in the log schoolhouse in Macedonia near the McCreedy cemetery south of Downs Rd.  On May 8, 1822 a lot was purchased on East Brutus St., part of the lot still occupied by the Church.  A large wooden church of classical shape was soon constructed, and a large clock was placed in the bell tower. The clock was purchased by public subscription taken by Dexter Havens, local proprietor of a general merchandise store.  The cost of the church construction was $1500.00.  A very high pulpit was in the South end of the sanctuary and a gallery extended around three sides of the room, while box pews with doors at each end were on the floor level.  To quote a local wag of the day "When the galleries were occupied by young ladies and boys were in the pews below, the latter had no need for the old admonition to 'fix your thoughts on things above'  ".  In 1884 additional land on the south and West side of the lot were was purchased.

Soon outgrown, the wooden church was razed and replaced by a large brick structure in 1863 at a cost of $18,000. Additional galleries  and a choir loft were added in 1873 and a pipe organ was installed in 1888.  The sanctuary was refurbished in 1919 and a recreation hall added in 1921. The village clock had been transferred to the new structure.  Unfortunately it was removed and disposed of  shortly after world War II.   The present parsonage across the Street from the church was purchased in 1962 for $11,800, and on June 8th 1968 a beautiful Carillon Americana was dedicated and thereafter hymns could be heard in many areas of the Village twice daily.

In 1985, the unthinkable occurred and the building was declared structurally unsound and it was necessary to demolish the old landmark building. For several years, again by the kindness of the local Baptist congregation , the Methodists worshipped in the Baptist  Church while they pondered their options.  In 1989  an arrangement was made with the Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES construction trade group to revert back to a frame church, built by the students and volunteers and financed by the congregation. In 1991 the new church was opened and a church hall was added shortly thereafter. The carillon which had sounded from the Presbyterian church in the interim was returned to the Methodists, along with various and sundry other artifacts and property which had been stored in various areas of the Village.   In our museum we are proud to have one of the stenciled art glass windows from the brick edifice, as well as one of the curved pews.

The first pastor was Samuel Bibbens and for many years the congregation adhered to the custom of the day of "term limiting" ministers to a couple of years, so consequently in the first 100 years from 1816 to 1916 they had no less than 48 pastors!  The Methodists of our community have proven that they can weather hard times and thus the United Methodist Church of Weedsport survives and thrives  as our community's OLDEST congregation.

Denny Randall
V. P. Old Brutus Historical Society


January 2006 Article:

The Churches of Weedsport     

It seems appropriate to start a series of articles on the churches of Weedsport with the oldest one first.  As we have noted in a previous column the First Presbyterian Church of Weedsport actually started as a splinter group from the First Congregational Church of Sennett (now the Sennett Federated Church).     

In 1825  several members of that church from the Brutus, Macedonia area decided to break away and start their own church in what would later become Weedsport. On July 9,1825 they asked for and received letters from the Presbytery to form a new church.  After worshiping in the one room school for some time a rough timber church was built where St. Joseph's Catholic church now stands.   The Church was originally called the First Presbyterian Church of Brutus, N.Y.  There was no heat and foot stoves, hot water bottles and soapstones kept the parishioners warm during the lengthy services. Eventually two iron box stoves were installed along the sides, with long stove pipes running to the chimney in the rear     

The Reverend Justis S. Hough was the first regular pastor, installed on October 28,1825.  In 1855, carelessly discarded ashes from the box heaters totally consumed the church, including the new pipe organ which had crafted locally.  After considerable discussion, the land where the church had stood was sold to a group of Catholics who were by that time in the process of establishing a church.  The congregation voted to purchase land at the corner of Watson and S. Seneca Streets.  An old hotel on the site was demolished and two members of the congregation, Moses Dixon and Peter Douglas paid for the property.  As a note aside Mr. Douglas was one of the founders of the Auburn Seminary.     

An architect was hired and construction went along rapidly and on September of 1856 the church was ready for a dedication service.  Unfortunately, a severe storm blew up with rain, sleet and snow and their architects folly was soon apparent. The church had been constructed with a "battlement", or parapeted wall all around the roof, which retained water and snow on the roof, causing it to back up under the slate shingles then into the building.  One report was given that the minister at the time The Reverend George Washington Warner went out on the roof and shoveled snow over the battlement, came back into the edifice looking like a drowned rat and cried out"oh, what shall we do?"

Eventually the problem solved itself, the timbers holding the steeple rotted from being continually wet and in 1871 it toppled into the street, injuring no one and leaving the bell exposed in the belfry. A new steeple rising 116 feet was erected and finally, the parapeted roof was removed.  The longest serving pastor was the Reverend Almon R. Hewitt who came to preach as a guest speaker in 1866 and served an incredible 39 years .  Electricity was installed in 1900 and in 1904 a huge beautiful "Electrolier" was installed in the center of the sanctuary ceiling.  In 1908 an electrically powered pipe organ was installed at a cost of $2,500.00 of which $1,000.00 was paid by Andrew Carnegie.

W.G.Adams was appointed organist which sounds logical, since he manufactured and sold pianos and "Oriole" phonographs in the village.  We have a couple of these Oriole's in the museum and they still sound fine.  The Church at that time also had a full orchestra, which was also directed by Mr. Adams.  In 1916 another fire was extinguished by the fire Department with little damage.  A new kitchen was built in 1928.  The beautiful memorial windows have been added over the years at various times to honor dedicated members of the Church.  The spire which attracted lighting strikes was removed in 1944.

In 1947, yet another devastating fire hit the Church.  A coal gas explosion in the furnace room started a fire which completely gutted the church, destroying the pipe organ and the beautiful chandelier as well as most of the rest of the contents.  Most of the stained glass windows were saved although they needed much repair.  For the next 16 months the congregation met in the Baptist Church Fellowship Hall which had been  kindly offered to the Presbyterians.  A difficult time ensued for the congregation, with only modest insurance and over $60,000.00 in out of pocket loss. A committee was formed consisting of Edward Robinson, Donald Bibbens,  Winthrop Hamilton, Harold Hawley, Stuart Parkman and Fred Kinney to coordinate the reconstruction of the Church.

Local contractor and Church Elder Ross Marshall worked as supervisor and in September of 1948 the Church was reopened for services and has not looked back. The church hall was expanded, a large parking area was created and just recently a spanking new back lit sign was erected on Seneca Street in commemoration of their 180th anniversary.  Over the years the Presbyterian Church has been a vibrant part of  the Weedsport community with special support going to the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross.  Through the kindness of the Presbyterians we have in the museum, the huge and beautiful "Electrolier", the chandelier which was nearly destroyed in the fire.  We have had it professionally restored and it is in the assembly room at the museum. Again as a bit of humor which was not evident at the time, it went to the restorers in several boxes and came back fully assembled and we couldn't get it in the building!  It had to be taken apart and brought in in pieces, then reassembled!

Denny Randall
V. P. Old Brutus Historical Society


December 2005 article:

WEEDSPORT AFTER THE FIRE OF 1871--

On the Monday evening following the fire, indeed even while the winter supply of coal still burned slowly in each of the burned out businesses, the Weedsport Fire Department was invited to a supper at the Willard House, hosted by Donovan & Co., Burritt Bros., and Beach & Co., all of whose buildings had been saved by the most gallant and laborious efforts.

The firemen met at the remains of the engine house on Furnace St. where O. W. Burritt gave them a formal invitation.  Headed up by their band, they marched around in front of the Franklin Hall, where C. J. Beach delivered a speech thanking the firemen and the citizens of the Village for their part in subduing the flames.  They then marched to the Willard House for a splendid meal prepared by Mr. and Mrs. Sturge.

Almost immediately the Village government convened and attempted to relocate burned out businesses and merchants.  They also decided that the fire could ultimately be used to some advantage to the Village.  Seneca St., which previously had several "jogs" in it due to store fronts jutting out was straightened to it's present configuration and a local law was passed that forbid (in Weedsport as in Chicago) the construction of frame buildings in the business district of the Village.  A permanent grade was established for streets and sidewalks and discussions ensued about modernizing the fire department.

Pursuant to the new rules all buildings built on the ruins, or subsequently in the downtown area were required to be of "fireproof" construction.  This then explains the rather unimaginative architecture of the brick buildings on Seneca and Brutus Streets which were hastily erected shortly after the fire.

A fire chief was soon elected who would change not only the Weedsport Fire Department, but the entire volunteer fire service of New York State as well.  He went on to serve as President (Mayor) of the Village for several terms. His name was Henry D. Brewster and he was a director of several concerns, including railroads and the Peoples Savings & Loan Co of Syracuse.  More importantly to our story, Governor Roswell Flowers had appointed him New York State Assessor.  His office was in Syracuse and he commuted daily by train.

The job of the State Assessor was to set fair market value of property to be acquired by the State for public works projects, including those of eminent domain.  Chief Brewster was extremely progressive and immediately after taking office proposed the purchase of a new fangled steam operated fire engine.  Accordingly, in 1874 a spanking new Silsby steamer was delivered to Weedsport from the factory in Seneca Falls, which at that time was the fire engine capital of the world.  it was temporarily housed in a barn on Furnace St. until a suitable firehouse could be built.

The firehouse was built on South St. at the end of Furnace St. in 1884 and is still in use today, having been added to and modernized in 1950 and 1974.  Out of respect for Chief Brewster, what is now known as Company 3 was known for many years as "H.D. Brewster Steamer".  As a note aside the "H" and "S" on the cornice corners of the building stand for "hose" and "steamer".

The Village could not afford to stable horses for the infrequent fire calls, so they offered $5.00 , which was a handsome sum at that time to the first team to hook to the steamer when the alarm sounded.  When your writer first joined the fire department in the early 1960's an elderly retired fireman named Bill Johannes recalled watching as a young child as the horses raced to the firehouse as the bell was ringing. He also noted that if the drayman, or farmer didn't happen to be on the wagon when the alarm sounded he was liable to be about three blocks behind spouting a stream of curses that would wilt flowers. The horses had been beaten so many times to get to the firehouse to collect the five bucks that they were taking no chances!

I mentioned that the progressive Chief Brewster would have an effect on all Volunteer Firemen in the State.  He was elected on the very first Board of Trustees of the newly created Firemen's Home and through his efforts and influence a property outside of Hudson, N.Y., which had been purchased by the State for the erection of an insane asylum for women was signed over to the State Firemen's Association for a nominal sum.  Not until your writer was elected 100 years later was anyone from Cayuga County so honored. The Home is currently being replaced with a new building and remains a testimony to Chief Brewster and the others involved.  It is still the only retirement home for volunteer firemen in the world  which is not supported by tax dollars!

Chief Brewster went on to form the now defunct "Order of American Firemen" and the Weedsport chapter was predictably the "H.D. Brewster Chapter".  He and the publisher of the local newspaper, William Churchill were instrumental in founding the Northern Central Volunteer Firemen's Association, which is still going strong in a nine county area of New York.

In closing, to show you what a small, but convoluted world in which we live, Chief Brewster was married to Mary Louise Baum, the favorite sister of Wizard of Oz creator L. Frank Baum and the Baums were frequent visitors to Weedsport, even after they moved to California.  A daughter, also named Mary Louise died of diphtheria at age 11 and is interred in Weedsport Rural Cemetery, while Chief Brewster and his wife rest in the Baum plot in Syracuse's Oakwood cemetery.

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


November 2005 article:

AN AUTUMN OF FIRE


On October 8, 1871 a pair of the most devastating fires to ever hit the United States struck in close proximity to each other. One, the great Chicago fire in which hundreds of square blocks were burned and the city virtually destroyed but with relatively small loss of life. The other fire the same day was a different story. Although Chicago was (even in those days) a big city and got all the publicity, the worst loss of life fire coincidentally the same day was a forest fire in Peshtigo, Wisconsin which consumed over 1.2 million acres of forest, sixteen towns, including the city of Peshtigo and claimed over 1200 lives. 800 people were killed in the city of Peshtigo alone in less than an hour.

It is in memory of the above noted fires that a week is set aside in October of every year as Fire Prevention Week and as I write this article I am put in mind of another devastating fire in late 1871. Although certainly not on a scale with Chicago, or Peshtigo, nonetheless a severe hardship to the Village of Weedsport, New York.

It was 4:10 in the morning of December 14, 1871 when the first alarm was given and in three hours the central part of the business district was in ruins. Let us recall the location of some of the business places which were destroyed.

Commencing from the East on the South side of E. Brutus St. were the building owned by William Watson, Undertaker, Mrs. Bigsbee's Millinery Shop, The Good Templar Lodge, A.E. Rheubottom Hoop Skirt Factory, G.L Stevens Furnace Works, The C.B. & J.M Gill Store, The H.S. Tryon Store, Willis Watson, Cabinetmaker, Jacob Wise Shoe Store and the George Craddock building on the South East corner of Brutus and Seneca streets which contained a saloon on the 1st floor and the offices of H. R. Filley, Village Justice and the D. C. Knapp Claims agent upstairs.

The Atwood House Hotel was located on the West side of Seneca opposite Furnace Street, which housed a glove factory in the basement, as well as rooms and dining. South of the Atwood House was the Jacob Faatz Meat Market. Other losses included Brown & Benedict, Physicians, James Kirns, Shoemaker, J. Rude, Harnessmaker, the S.D. Eldridge Grocery, A. Wesley, Harnessmaker, Williams Cigar Manufacturing, N. Bucher Shoe Store, H. L. Burrill Drug Store, C. W. Sprague, Jeweler, the Masonic Building and the Fire Department Engine House, which was at that time on Furnace Street.

The hand pumped fire engine was set up in the mill creek and a stream from that engine, along with men using axes and pike poles checked the fire's eastward progress. The engine was then moved to the canal between Wilcox's Carriage Shop and the Whiting Marble Works ( about where Brewster's Cleaners is now) and again was worked with good effect. Heroic efforts were made on the South wall of the Atwood house, where in the narrow alley of three feet, men held the hose until nearly suffocating by the heat and smoke and plied pike and axe until exhausted, but their labors had been effective. The South wall went in with a crash and the progress of the fire was stopped!

At this time, the Jordan fire engine drawn by four foaming horses came thundering up the street. Although they were too late to render help in subduing the fire, every heart was filled with gratitude for the promptness with which our sister village answered our call for help and cheer after cheer went up for them. Thus did Weedsport pass through it's greatest disaster and with courage undaunted looked hopefully to the future.


Next Month--After the fire.

Denny Randall, Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


October 2005 article:

LOCAL INVOLVEMENT IN THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

There were at least 209 veterans of the Civil War from the Weedsport area--more than all of the other wars of this nation combined. In June of 1880 the "Whiteside Post" of the "Grand Army of the Republic" was formed , and eventually numbered 90 men. The grim work of time then started to take it's toll and they ceased to meet in 1928. Mr. Francis Hunting was the last of our civil war vets to pass on.

I have asked one of Cayuga County's foremost students of the civil war , John Lamphere, retired Deputy Sheriff and currently a member of the faculty at CCCC to write the rest of this month's article on the war between the states. He writes--

I suppose I was inspired by H.G. Wells and his time machine that I viewed so often and fantasized over so often growing up as a child. Now as an adult I know the one event that I would utilize such a device for to satisfy my historical craving. I would love to have had the opportunity to see and hear Abraham Lincoln speak. What would be the chances of some guy from Weedsport standing in the shadow of one of the greatest men in recorded history? How many people from Cayuga County would have had this privilege? I know of at least three from this area!

Of course, there is the most notable, Secretary of State William Seward of Auburn, who not only heard Lincoln speak often, but he had such influence on the President that he probably wrote some of the words said! Certainly my friend and Curator of the Seward House would have more to say about that and I challenge you to tour this historic home.

Auburn also sent many men and at least one woman off with the thought of "We'll Fight For Uncle Abe" as the singer Bobby Horton lamented. Miss Sporangia E. Bucklin was a young single schoolteacher who wanted to help with the war and it's wounded. Hearing the appeal for help, she traveled to Gettysburg where she eventually became a nurse at the huge Second Corps Hospital and later at Camp Letterman, the large facility set up just outside of town. Miss Bucklin was rewarded for her services by being asked to attend the dedication of the National Cemetery where the President had been invited to say a few "appropriate words".

As a note aside, Dr. Theodore Dimon, the surgeon of Auburn Prison is credited with initiating the concept of the cemetery! Sadly, she would record in her journal afterwards only that "we stood almost suffocated, for an hour and three quarters listening to the masterly oration of the lamented Edward Everitt. In fact Everitt's oration--done from memory would actual take nearly three hours to complete ,so it was no wonder that she was tired by the time President Lincoln would arise and complete his famous address within four minutes!

Another local person who was impressed with the President was the Assistant Regimental Surgeon for the 111th NY, Dr James Dana Benton of Cato. Hugely patriotic and a rabid supporter of the President, Dr Benton had been with the army at Gettysburg and Miss Bucklin had been a nurse in his hospital where he had been one of only 13 doctors to treat some 3,400 wounded Union and Confederate troops. While at the siege of Petersburg, Dr Benton became gravely ill and was sent to Washington to recover, while there he was well enough to join the throng and attend the President's second inauguration. In a letter home , he states that while he could not hear all that was said, he did have a good view of the President.

He noted that "Abraham's address was very short, but to the point. I am rather of the opinion that the occasion called for a more lengthy one. Still I doubt not but what he understood his own business best. The morning was rainy and unpleasant enough, but the west was clear and just as Abraham made his appearance on the platform the sun burst into view and continued bright all day. This is one of the good omens..Another is that during the afternoon a bright star made its appearance, although the sun shone bright and the sky was clear, this is another and you can attach whatever importance to them you wish. I never say a bright star in the daytime before."

In just 40 days President Lincoln would be dead, felled by an assassin's bullet.

Next month, the great fire of 1871 in Weedsport.

Denny Randall
Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


September 2005 article:

During the 1850's Weedsport fared about the same as most of the nation, in the grip of a general depression brought on by over speculation from the enormous production of gold by the new mines, not only in California, but in Australia. Many concerns and banks across the country entered into and went out of business in short order.

Among those so fated in Weedsport were: The Farmers and Mechanics Protection Company, which was not as you might suppose from the name an insurance company, but instead a large cooperative type operation with a huge store on N. Seneca where they sold dry goods, groceries, crockery, cutlery, boots & and shoes and clothing, both ready made and custom crafted by a tailor on the premises. It sounds like an early Wal-Mart! The store opened in 1854 and failed in 1861 with nothing for creditors, or stockholders.

The Weedsport Bank also failed in 1866 along with many other concerns. Other operations that did NOT fail included the following: A.O.Remington Foundry, S.H.Close Machine Shop, Howland & Baldwin Steam Planing Mill, O.W. Burritt, which operated not only a successful hardware store but also manufactured stoves, and tools which included their famous crimper for use in installing standing seam steel roofs. We are pleased in the Old Brutus Museum to have several Burritt tools on exhibit, as well as equipment from several other Weedsport manufacturers. Other manufacturing operations which survived included: The Batchelor & Putnam Sash, Blind & Door Co., Whiting Marble Works, and the A.E. Rheubottom Hoop Skirt Factory, among others.

The Rheubottom firm was to survive in many forms and names, such as : A.E. Rheubottom, Rheubottom & Mack, Rheubotttom & Teall, Mitchell & Mack, Crotty & Mitchell, The Security Company, Weedsport Shirt & Waist Co., Bush, Jackson & Bush, Bush & Bush, Bush, Skadan & Kerns, Skadan Kerns & Co., The Scanlon Company, Ginsburg Bros. and Vulcan Knitting Mills. The last remnants of this old and storied firm with the long pedigree was the large two story gray frame building which was south of the firehouse on South street. The building was torn down in 1974 to provide additional parking for the firehouse.

In this same period of time an undertaker opened up shop in Weedsport. His name was William Watson and he became the president of and one of the chief benefactors of the local semi-pro baseball team. In due time, the team came to be known as the "Watson's" and endured for over a hundred years into the 1960's. The Watson's always seemed to over achieve and in fact they gave origin of a common slang expression of the day. If someone was doing well, they were "going like the Watson's"! Uncle Billy Watson is still remembered in name as the first street south of the Presbyterian Church, Watson Street!

In an effort to please the venerable Leo Pinckney of the Citizen staff, we'll do a whole column on the Watson's at a later date.
About this same period of time a gentleman named E.G.Treat moved to the village and decided to start a bank. In a short time the "First National Bank of Weedsport opened with capital of $25,000 and surplus of $5,000. At one time the bank issued it's own legal tender and banknotes issued by the bank are still very much in demand by collectors. After succumbing to merger with First Trust & Deposit in the late 1950's the bank still survives as the Weedsport office of Key Bank. We have in the museum the ornate brass plates from the front of the old First National Bank.

Next month, we will touch on the local effect of the war of "northern aggression" as they still call the American Civil War in North Carolina where my daughter lives.

Denny Randall
Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


August 2005 article :

The  History of Weedsport During the Summer of 1848, one of the chief topics of conversation in Weedsport and Cayuga County, as well as the rest of the United States was the discovery of gold in California.  Marvelous stories were told of suddenly acquired wealth in that far off place.  It was reported that miners were taking three to four thousand dollars worth of gold a month from the sandy soil of the Sacramento Valley.

Almost inevitably a band of local men, including several from Weedsport formed the " Cayuga Joint Stock Company" for the purpose of purchasing a ship, loading it with dry goods, building materials and foodstuffs and sailing it around the horn to San Francisco, there making a financial killing by selling the goods to the glut of miners swarming to the gold fields.

Shares in the company were sold for five hundred dollars each and in due time a five hundred ton clipper, the "Belvedere" was purchased, a Captain Barney was hired who recruited a crew and in the spring of 1849 the Belvedere swung away from the dock and set sail from New York harbor.  On board from Weedsport were : Frank and Samuel Mills, William Evarts, Stephen Suits, James Cain, Walter Tuttle, Silas Page, Daniel Krim, Enos Hubbard and Frank Maddy.

Five men were dropped off at the isthmus of Panama to find their way across and take passage on the Pacific side to San Francisco to act as advance agents for the sale of the goods on board the Belvedere.  William Evarts was killed by natives on the isthmus and Walter Tuttle died on board the Belvedere and was buried at sea.

The trip to San Francisco from New York around South America took two hundred and twelve days and when Captain Barney and the Belvedere reached their destination they were distressed to find that many others had the same dream of sudden wealth by similar means and there was a poor market for their goods.  As a matter of fact much of the material aboard was sold at a loss and the Belvedere itself which had cost fifteen thousand dollars had to be sold for a paltry twenty five hundred dollars.  The venture was clearly a failure.  Few of the men ever returned to our area, finding employment, or further life on the West Coast, or the western states.  Perhaps the five hundred dollars a share that they had charged for enjoining the company from their friends and neighbors had something to do with their not returning!

On another subject, the " Weedsport Times" dated September 23, 1854 reported in an editorial that " It seems a little strange that the State Canal Board has not yet let the contract for the job of enlargement through this area, as almost every day we have a jam of boats detained for want of water to navigate in "  Still quoting the "Times", It reported that the "proposed Sodus Bay Railroad does not seem to be in very good repute at the present time, although strenuous efforts were being made to complete it from the Bay on Lake Ontario to Weedsport".  As a matter of record, Weedsport would have to wait until about 1870 for the railroad to be completed with the backing of the Lehigh Valley Railroad.

Using a bit of editorial license, I'd like to report on a trip that I recently made with a group of students from the language classes at Weedsport Central School.  The annual trip to Europe has been capably organized for several years by retiring French instructor Baschir Bserani.  Also accompanying the group were Spanish Instructor Christine Napolitano and science teacher John Lawler, as well as several other parents and adults.  I write in this column monthly of our local history and it seems like a couple of hundred years is a long time, but when you are walking the tiny narrow streets of Frankfort, Germany, founded in 794 AD, or of Barcelona, Spain which was urbanized by the Romans in the first century BC it is awe inspiring.

When we got to Nice and other cities in Southern France, as well as Florence and Rome in Italy and actually walked in buildings erected nearly two thousand years ago it was almost surreal.Visits to ancient Monaco and the Vatican completed the trip.  For an amateur historian it was fantastic.

More on Weedsport next month.

Denny Randall
Vice President
Old Brutus Historical Society


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