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Howard B. Owens's blog

November 9, 2008 - 9:00pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in thebatavian, help.

The following links are designed to help you better understand how things work on The Batavian.

 

May 28, 2015 - 3:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hunting, outdoors.

Press release:

A bill, S.1292, to allow the use of rifles for big game hunting in Genesee County has passed the State Senate by a vote of 52 to 4.  State Senator Mike Ranzenhofer is the bill’s author and sponsor in the State Senate.

“In several areas of New York State, sportsmen are allowed to hunt deer with rifles, and this change in law would allow the use of rifles in Genesee County,” said Ranzenhofer.  “I am pleased to report that the bill has passed the State Senate, and I am hopeful that the State Assembly will pass it before session ends next month.”

Last fall, the Genesee County Legislature and the Genesee County Federation of Sportsman Club requested the special legislation to be introduced at the beginning of the 2015 Legislative Session.

Existing environmental conservation law only authorizes the use of pistols, shotguns, crossbows, muzzle loading firearms or long bows when hunting deer from the first Saturday after November 15 through the first Sunday after December 7. 

The bill has been sent to the State Assembly.  Assemblyman Stephen Hawley is sponsoring the bill in the State Assembly.  If enacted into law, the bill would take effect immediately.

May 28, 2015 - 12:05pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Baskin Livestock, business, Bethany.
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File photo of Douglas Mess by Howard Owens.

There's nothing Bill Baskin wants more right now than justice served in the murder of his friend and key employee Douglas Mess.

The body of the 52-year-old Attica man was found buried under a manure pile on his farm at 1229 Exchange Street Road on April 20.

Baskin, owner of Baskin Livestock on Creek Road in Bethany, seems to know a lot about the case, but he's not sharing any of it for publication for fear divulging more than Wyoming County District Attorney Donald O'Geen is willing to disclose himself and jeopardize the prosecution of Charlene Mess, Douglas's wife, who has been held without bail since her arrest April 20.

A grand jury is hearing the evidence against her today and we should know within days whether she will face a trial as the alleged murderer. It may take a trial to publicly unravel the mystery of how Douglas Mess died and why. Some news reports say his death was a culmination of an argument that got out of hand. Some people who know Charlene Mess say she was domineering within her family. Friends of Douglas Mess, including Baskin, use words like "Teddy Bear," and say he was a man who just loved to farm and work on machinery and rarely had a cross word with anybody.

Farming and fixing things were pretty much how Mess spent all of his time, said friends and family. When he wasn't in a shop shoulder deep in steel and grease, he loved to be alone on a field driving a tractor, and about his only hobby was collecting models of the tractors he owned or repaired.

Mess was born in Rochester and spent the first 10 years of his life in the Town of Victor before his father bought a dairy farm in Castile. That's where Mess fell in love with farming, working with animals, driving tractors, but most importantly, learning how to fix farm machinery.

Like a lot of farmers, the Mess family liked to save a buck by repairing their own equipment and keeping it operational longer than perhaps normal wear and tear would dictate. 

By the time he was a teenager, by all accounts, Mess was a natural at the kind of tinkering that kept heavy equipment in tip-top shape.

After his father sold the farm, Mess took jobs at other farms before landing at a dealership in Alexander. He worked there 18 years, establishing himself as the go-to-guy on all kinds of repairs.

The job afforded him the chance to get manufacturer training, particularly on skid loaders, and further hone his own skills.

He may have had a photographic memory. Susan Blackburn, Baskin's wife and business partner. She said Mess could look at a part and tell you on what page it could be found on in a particular parts catalog.

"I've spent a lot of time at a lot of universities," Blackburn said. "He had a high school education and he was the most intelligent men I've ever known. The guy was very, very intelligent and just as humble as anybody you've ever known."

Baskin first met Mess while he worked at the Alexander dealership. At the time, Baskin Livestock was still a young company with just a couple of employees, but already, Baskin knew he needed somebody full-time to work on his farm equipment.

When Mess let Baskin know he was ready for a change of scenery, Baskin hired him on the spot.

At the time, the repair shop was Mess and one other guy who worked on the delivery trucks used in the feed side of the business.

"At one point in time he thought we did not have enough work to keep him busy," Baskin said.

By the time of his death, Mess supervised a shop of six people repairing farm equipment, trucks and all the machinery used in the feed operation. He was Baskin's go-to-guy on nearly all aspects of the business.

"About every decision I had to make, in some way shape or form, I had some input from him," Baskin said. "Not every decision, but a huge percentage of the decisions I had to make, I relied on him for some percentage of the input to make that decision. He had a good feel for the big picture and the details."

There was little Mess couldn't do with machinery, from design of equipment used throughout the operation, to the creation of parts and tools, to taking something that was out of service and getting it to run again.

"He was a MacGyver type," Baskin said. "If there was something he couldn't fix, we had a problem, a real problem."

Mess had four sons, all of whom in one form or another have followed in his footsteps. Three of them work for Bill Baskin. Douglas G., the oldest son at 29, said he admired his father's love for what he did and how well he did it.

"He loved taking something that was broken, not even running, taking it apart and putting it back together like it was new, even better than new," Douglas said. "He was proud of that. 'I fixed it. It's usable again.' "

The oldest son said he'll never forget his father's mischievous smile. He loved a good practical joke and he enjoyed watching trainees trying to figure out how to fix something Mess could easily piece together himself. 

"He'd let you work on it a little while and then come over and show you," Douglas said. "'Hey, this way's a little quicker and a little easier,' and he was always right."

A frequent target of Mess's joking around was Jackie Murphy.

Murphy and Mess worked together daily over the past four years, starting with Murphy's transfer from the front office to an office in the repair shop, at about the time Mess's supervisory duties had him sitting at a tan metal desk a little more and spending a little less time loosening or tightening bolts or welding this part to that.

Mess teased Murphy about her boyfriend's loyalty to International Harvester (Mess was a John Deere man) and one of his favorite jokes to play on her was to make up names for new truck drivers, letting her use the made-up name for weeks until she figured it out herself, such as the Marty she called Theodore until she finally met him in person.

That joke would be worth at least two days of laughter.

"He was a funny, amazing guy," Murphy said.

And helpful. Clearly, nobody knew more about what parts were in the shop than Mess. At inventory time, he helped Murphy with the task. He would teach her anything she needed to know to do her job better.

He was always big-hearted with everybody around, she said.

That's how Douglas remembers him, too, and how he was recalled at his funeral service, Douglas said, which was attended by more than 350 people.

"You know the saying, give somebody the shirt off your back, he was the guy who did that," Douglas said. "He met other people's needs before he met his own."

How do you replace somebody like that, Baskin wondered.

Right now, the duties of Mess have been divided among four different workers. 

"Will we have at some point in time somebody with that ability?" Baskin said. "Sure, maybe. Everybody's replaceable, including me, but he ain't walking in the door tomorrow. (Mess) brought a big skill set with him and he learned and grew a lot. He learned as the business grew. His knowledge grew and his ability grew. That's hard to just drop somebody in that spot."

Baskin said Mess was like a member of the family, and he was bigger than Baskin, but younger.

"He was the big little brother I never had," Baskin said.

The loss of Mess is being felt throughout the company by all of the employees, Baskin said. 

"We've got guys who are really, really good and really, really competent," Baskin said, "and the comment's been made by more than one of them, 'I'm comfortable with what I'm doing and I like what I'm doing, but there are a lot of times where I got to the point where I had to ask him, 'what do you think about this or what do you think about that?' and who are you asking now?' "

As fast as the business has grown, it hasn't always been gold-dappled mornings over green, rolling hills around Baskin Livestock. There have been some tough times, but nothing compares to the murder of Douglas Mess.

"We've had two fires, got a guy, 52 or 53, who worked for us, who died in his sleep, and another guy we were quite close to who committed suicide, and this was the worst," Baskin said. "There are 85 and 95 guys who die all the time, they had a good long life and it's not unexpected and unnatural, but this was a complete shock, nonsense."

Which is why Bill Baskin doesn't particularly want to discuss the details of the legal case against Charlene Mess. There's stuff he may know because he's close to the situation, but he will leave that to the professionals in law enforcement to handle.

Douglas Mess can't be replaced, at least not easily, but justice can be served.

MARK YOUR CALENDAR: There will be a benefit for Doug Mess's boys starting at 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, at the Alexander Firemen's Recreation Hall, located at 10708 Alexander Road in Alexander. Enjoy a delicious spaghetti dinner for $10, eat in or carry out. Tickets are presale and also available at the door. There will be 50/50 raffles, basket raffles, and a baked goods table. Enter for a chance to win a trip to JAMAICA! (7 night, all-inclusive for two, including airfare) For more information or to buy tickets, call Jackie Murphy at (716) 481-6662.

May 27, 2015 - 10:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in weather, alexander.

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Alexander resident Liz Farmer shared this photo of a tree that was damaged by the storm that passed through the area about 7:30 p.m. She said the strong winds and heavy rain had some trees blowing sideways. This tree damaged the roof of her shed.

Send storm damage photos to howad@thebatavian.com.

May 27, 2015 - 4:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, crime.

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Batavia PD is looking for help in identifying the woman in this picture. She is suspected of stealing from West Main Wine & Spirits.

Police believe she was with a small child (she is seen carrying him in another photo) and two other females, both African-American, one dressed in all black and the other in a black top and torn, faded blue jeans and carrying a red purse.

If you have information to share, contact Officer Christopher Lindsay, Batavia PD, (585) 345-6350.

May 27, 2015 - 3:30pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in VA Hospital, batavia.

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The VA Hospital in Batavia held a luncheon at the Clarion Hotel this afternoon to honor its dozens and dozens of volunteers, some whom have been giving their time to serve veterans for decades.

Emerson Campbell (center, above) has logged more than 17,500 volunteer hours. Paul Judkins, 15,000 hours and John Scott, 12,500.

Below, the Brockport Elks delivered a $1,000 donation.

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May 27, 2015 - 2:55pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in EPA, agriculture, farm bureau, chris collins, NY-27.

From Rep. Chris Collins:

Congressman Chris Collins (NY-27) today released the following statement after the Obama Administration finalized its Clean Water Act "Waters of the United States" Rule.

“The Obama Administration's ruling today is a continuation of their regulatory assault on our nation's farmers," Congressman Collins said. "The EPA’s overreach is causing real harm for local farmers and stalling business development. When I visit with local farmers, the heavy burdens under the Clean Water Act come up each and every time. When the bureaucrats at the EPA decide to call a divot in the ground that fills with rain a ‘navigable waterway’ under the CWA, we know our federal government has run amuck. I will continue to do all I can to fight this burdensome and business crushing ruling."

Last May, Congressman Collins led a bipartisan letter, signed by a majority of Congress, to the EPA Administrator asking for the Waters of the United States Rule to be withdrawn. Full text of the letter can be read here. This Congress, Congressman Collins co-sponsored H.R. 1732, the Regulatory Integrity Protection Act of 2015, which would require the Administration to withdraw its Waters of the United States Rule. H.R. 1732 passed the House of Representatives earlier this month.

From Dean Norton, Elba farmer and president of the NYS Farm Bureau:

“Today the Environmental Protection Agency released the final rule on the definition of “Waters of the United States” in the Clean Water Act. New York Farm Bureau members have been strongly opposed to the changes proposed by the EPA because of the potential regulatory overreach that will allow for federal control over land that is typically dry. Clean water has always been a priority and necessity for farmers, but we are concerned that the rule will strip property owners of long-held land rights.

New York Farm Bureau has serious concerns that the EPA has failed to take into consideration the thousands of comments from farmers, business owners, and property owners, who feel this rule would add unnecessary burdens on their land. EPA would have accomplished much more working with farmers than just brushing their legitimate concerns aside. We will be carefully reviewing the final rule, but based on comments from EPA, we remain concerned that the agency did not listen to our nation’s farmers or made significant changes to the rule,” NYSFB President Norton said.

May 27, 2015 - 2:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in jobs, economy, business.

Genesee County's unemployment rate dropped in April to 5.1 percent, according to Labor Department statistics released today.

That's down from 5.5 percent a year ago.

The last time April unemployment was lower was in 2007, when the local rate was 4.4 percent, though the rate has been lower in the past 12 months, when it was 4.8 in October.

The Department of Labor says that there are 28,400 residents of Genesee County with jobs, up 100 from the prior year. There are 1,500 people counted as unemployed, down 100 from a year ago.

The jobs data comes out a week after Scott Gage, director of the local job bureau said that his department currently lists 400 job openings and the number of employment seekers coming into his office is dwindling.

The unemployment rate in Wyoming County dropped from 6.6 percent to 5.8 percent, in Orleans from 7. 7 to 6.4, and in Livingston, from 5.6 to 5.2.

New York's rate is 5.5 and the national rate is 5.5.

May 27, 2015 - 2:11pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, batavia, schools, education.

district.corey_.data_cafe.dr_.reed_from_fisher_website.jpgPress release:

Batavia City School District will host a Data Cafe on June 2, from 4:30 - 6:30 p.m. in the High School’s library. At this cafe, Diane Reed, Ph.D., our Outside Educational Expert (OEE), will share information from the Data Triangle Survey, completed by our community last fall, and then will facilitate conversation regarding the information. Light refreshments also will be provided.

As a certified OEE, Reed is approved by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) for working with Focus Schools and Focus Districts as they measure their effectiveness based on six tenets which have been proven to be key factors in school effectiveness: District Leadership and Capacity; School Leader Practices and Decisions; Curriculum Development and Support; Teacher Practices and Decisions; Student Social and Emotional Developmental Health; and Family and Community Engagement.

Reed worked with our District to facilitate the Data Triangle Survey -- the three-pronged survey approved by the State which uses the six tenets as a guide in gathering input from staff, students and families. That input was used in the evaluation of District and school effectiveness and then was used in creating strategic plans for improving effectiveness. Reed continues her assistance in preparing the District for its reviews by the NYSED.

In addition to her work as a consultant at the international, national, state and local levels, Reed is the director and an associate professor in the master's degree program in Educational Leadership at St. John Fisher College. She co-authored a book titled "Resilient Leadership for Turbulent Times," and has written chapters that have been included in several others. She has also received numerous awards for her leadership in education. During her 15 years as a superintendent in New York State, her district was named in the top 1.5 percent of the school in the nation by Newsweek magazine and in the top 3 percent of school in Upstate New York by BusinessWeek.

All are encouraged to attend this informative evening.

May 27, 2015 - 9:38am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, pembroke.

Kirk A. Thomas Jr., is indicted on counts of criminal possession of a controlled substance, 3rd, criminal possession of a controlled substance, 7th, first-degree escape, criminal possession of a hypodermic instrument, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, 2nd, and public lewdness. Thomas is accused of possessing heroin with the intent to sell on March 17 in the City o Batavia. On that date, having been arrested, he allegedly escaped from custody. On that date, he allegedly possessed a hypodermic instrument. He allegedly possessed glassine envelopes with the intent to distribute drugs. He is accused of exposing himself and masturbating in public with the intent of being observed.

Ronald M. Markek is indicted on counts of felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and is accused of having a prior DWI conviction on Oct. 11, 2011, in the Town of Pembroke. Markek is accused of driving drunk Nov. 28, 2014, on Route 63, Town of Batavia.

May 27, 2015 - 9:26am
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, elba, bergen, Attica.

Cody Matthews Bedard, 21, of Lake Road, Corfu, is charged with DWI, DWI drugs, DWI with a child less than 16, endangering the welfare of a child and back seat passage age 4-6 without appropriate safety restraint. Police responded to the area of 240 Richmond Ave. at 7:27 p.m. Friday after a report of a driver "not acting right." Bedard was arrested by officers Darryle Streeter and Jamie Givens.

Michael B. Neth, 37, of Summitt Street, Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Neth allegedly made contact with a person he was barred from contacting by court order while at a store in City Centre at 6:25 p.m., Saturday.

Lois Omar Perez Lopez, 34, of Trumbull Parkway, Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, failure to stop at stop sign and failure to signal. Perez Lopez was stopped at 2:22 a.m. Sunday on Trumbull Parkway by Deputy Chad Richards.

Joey Robert Tatro II, of Main Street, Attica, is charged with trespass and criminal mischief, 4th. Tatro was arrested on warrants related to the charges. He was jailed on $250 bail or $500 bond.

Ryan Michael Byrnes, 28, of Maple Street, Elba, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, failure to keep right and driving while using a mobile phone. Byrnes was stopped at 9:35 p.m. Monday on Main Street, Byron, by Sgt. Gregory Walker.

May 27, 2015 - 8:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia.

Press release:

On Wednesday, May 27,  the Bureau of Maintenance facility will have a power shut-down that will that will disable telephone and computer communications for the day. Anyone needing to contact the Bureau of Maintenance is asked to contact the Department of Public Works Administration at telephone number (585) 345-6325.  

May 26, 2015 - 6:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in steve hawley.

Press release:

“As a public official, I have sworn to protect the citizens of my district and taxpayers of New York State by honoring my office and embracing integrity, openness and transparency in my role as an elected leader. It is repugnant to have taxpayers fund the pensions and retirement benefits for public officials convicted of corruption and other felonies related to their official duties. It is morally and professionally irresponsible to ask the residents, whom we have betrayed and stolen from, to line the pockets of public officials who have used their power and social status for personal gain. We are public servants and our focus should be on improving the public’s faith in government and serving our constituents to the best of our abilities.

“The Assembly Minority Conference has led the charge on stripping corrupt public officials of their state pension and retirement benefits. I sponsor bipartisan legislation, A.4643-A, that would accomplish these goals. We were told by the Assembly Majority and Gov. Cuomo that a pension forfeiture bill would be voted upon during budget night this year. To the surprise of many, no such bill reached the Assembly floor for a vote for unknown reasons and we are still waiting on this initiative to pass. With only 12 session days left, and overwhelming support from across the aisle and the governor’s office, I cannot imagine why this bill has not reached the legislature for a vote. This common-sense measure is way past due and cannot wait until next January for action. I will continue to push this measure to do what is right for the people of New York State.” 

May 26, 2015 - 3:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, corfu, pembroke, Alabama, bergen, Darien.

Shane P. Buyck, 26, of North Bergen Road, Bergen, is charged with burglary, 2nd. At 6:21 p.m. Monday, deputies and troopers were dispatched to a residence on North Bergen Road after the homeowner returned home to find an intruder in his house. The intruder fled on foot, leaving a car in the driveway. The registration reportedly came back to Shane P. Buyck, a resident of North Bergen Road. Buyck was located in a wooded area near the house by Deputy Chris Erion and K-9 "Destro" while lying in thick brush. Buyck was identified as the alleged intruder. He was jailed without bail.

Tonya M. Doell, 45, of East Main Street, Batavia, is charged with open container in public. Doell was allegedly in possession of an open container at 577 East Main St., Batavia, (Family Dollar). Doell reportedly refused to identify herself to police because of her probation status.

Matthew P. Parker, 25, of Eagle Street, Medina, is charged with trespass. Parker was arrested following an investigation into reports of vehicles being broken into in the City of Batavia on Sunday Morning. He was located in the parking lot of UMMC at 4:30 a.m. and jailed without bail.

Matthew C. Payne, 33, of Chestnut Street, Batavia, is charged with illegal disposal of items. Payne is accused of illegally dumping trash into a trash container owned by the Batavia Housing Authority at 193 S. Main St., Batavia.

Susan R. Fabretti, 52, of Swamp Road, Byron, is charged with petit larceny. Fabretti is accused of shoplifting at Tops Market. 

A 17-year-old, name and residence withheld by Batavia PD, is charged with harassment, 2nd. The youth is accused of striking a female several times after a verbal argument escalated.

Angela Irene, 45, of South Gravel Road, Medina, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater and failure to stop at at stop sign. Irene was stopped at 1:41 a.m. Sunday on Lewiston Road, Alabama, by Deputy Joseph Corona.

Alan James White, 18, of South Lake Road, Bergen, is charged with criminal possession of a weapon, driving while ability impaired by alcohol and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Deputy Chad Cummings along with Mercy EMS were dispatched at 7:51 a.m. Sunday to Dublin Road, Bergen, for a report of an unresponsive male behind the wheel of a stopped car on the road. White was treated and released at the scene by medics. He was allegedly found in possession of a switchblade knife.

Sandra Lynn Fry, 43, of Sunset Park, Oakfield, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Fry allegedly violated a complete stay away order of protection.

Jason Scott Stanley, 22, of Judge Road, Alabama, is charged with DWI on an ATV, unlawful operation of an ATV on private property, unregistered ATV and driving an ATV without insurance. Stanley was arrested following an investigation into an ATV accident on Hutton Road, Oakfield, at 6 p.m. on Monday.

Mark David Heidenreich, 25, of Sumner Road, Darien, is charged with criminal contempt, 2nd. Heidenreich allegedly violated a complete stay away order of protection by placing phone calls to the protected person.

Samantha Rose Docteur, 24, of Ellicott Street Road, Pavilion, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana and facilitating aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, 2nd. Docteur was arrested following a traffic stop on South Main Street, Oakfield, at 11:55 a.m. Saturday by Deputy Michael Lute. She was allegedly in possession of marijuana, a grinder and smoking paraphernalia.

Andrew Michael Boyce, 20, of Oak Orchard Road, Elba, is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs, unlawful possession of marijuana and no seatbelt. Boyce was stopped at 4:18 p.m. Friday on Judge Road, Alabama, by Deputy Chris Parker, for allegedly driving without wearing a seatbelt.

A 17-year-old resident of Main Road, Pembroke, is charged with second-degree harassment and criminal mischief, 4th. The youth allegedly threatened another person and damaged property of that person. He was jailed on $250 bail.

Matthew Brian Starowitz, 26, of Whitney Mill Road, Batavia, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Starowitz was charged at 2:22 a.m. May 19 on Bank Street Road, by Deputy Chris Erion.

Nicholas Anthony Lord, 19, of North Division Street, Buffalo, is charged with criminal mischief. Lord allegedly damaged another person's property during a dispute.

Matthew J. Pasternak, 25, of Amherst, is charged with unlawful possession of marijuana. Pasternak was stopped by a trooper on Route 77, Corfu, for allegedly speeding. He was allegedly found in possession of five grams of marijuana after the trooper said he detected the odor of marijuana emanating from the vehicle. The search also allegedly led to the discovery of a multicolored smoking pipe with marijuana residue.

May 26, 2015 - 2:40pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Key Club, batavia, Memorial Day.

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Here's a picture that came in over the weekend that we didn't get to: Members of St. Joe's Key Club placed flags on the graves of VFW members buried at St. Joseph and Grandview cemeteries. 

May 26, 2015 - 11:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in indian falls, pembroke, history, civil war, Memorial Day.

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On a cloud-shrouded Memorial Day afternoon in Indian Falls, the folds in the fabric of history were visible in a short service that honored one of Pembroke's own fallen Civil War soldiers.

A headstone for Conrad Litt, a German immigrant who probably joined the Army so his family could have 100 acres of land after the war, was dedicated in a service conducted by members of Colonel John B. Weber Camp No. 44 and the Weber Guard, Sons of Veterans Reserve.

The spot chosen for the marker is next to those of his parents and other family members in the Old Indian Falls Cemetery. The location is at the rise of the hill in the southwest corner of the graveyard. There's an opening in the tree line that overlooks a lush valley. 

Clifford Anderson, one of the Litt Family ancestors, who now lives in West Seneca, purchased the headstone from the Veteran's Administration. He likes the idea that Conrad Litt's grave overlooks that idyllic valley that will become a national veterans cemetery.

"His spirit will look out over his fellow soldiers here, on this hill," Anderson said.

Conrad Litt enlisted in the 100th New York Volunteer Infantry, 2nd Brigade, Company C., on October 24, 1861 as a private. The 2nd Brigade was known as the “Eagle Brigade,” which was sponsored by the Buffalo Board of Trade.

Litt participated in the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, where more than half of his regiment was killed or wounded.

The Pembroke resident died in action July 18, 1863 during the Union’s night assault on Fort Wagner, Morris Island, S.C., when he was struck in the breast and died instantly.

The Second Battle for Fort Wagner was dramatized in the movie "Glory," which is about the 54th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first military regiment in the Army comprised entirely of African-Americans, mostly freed slaves. The 54th led the nighttime charge on Fort Wagner, suffering heavy casualties, and though Fort Wagner never fell, the manner in which the men acquitted themselves led to more freed slaves being allowed to enlist. These black regiments were a significant factor, President Lincoln felt, in the Union winning the war.

Buffalo native John B. Weber enlisted in the Army Aug. 1, 1861 as a private and quickly rose through the ranks, attaining colonel before his 21st birthday. His first command, granted September 19, 1863, two months after the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, was the 89th Regiment, designated "18th Infantry, Corps d'Afrique." It was a regiment of freed slaves. Weber turned down a command of 44th Regiment to lead the 89th. He resigned later after his men were reassigned to another outfit and promised replacements, more freed slaves, were not available. He returned to Buffalo and eventually was elected to Congress.

Litt's remains were never recovered for a proper burial, as the fighting at Fort Wagner continued for another month by laying siege to take control of the rebel-held fort and battery, which was the key to entering Charleston Harbor and the Union reclaiming of Ft. Sumter, where the first shot of the War Between the States opened formal hostilities in 1861. 

Anderson learned of Litt and the cemetery where his family was buried while researching his family tree. In the process, he came across a book containing 25 of Litt's letters home. The book, which also contains the Civil War letters of Litt's childhood friend, also of Pembroke and fellow soldier, Sidney Lake, "I Take My Pen in My Hand."

"I came across these letters he wrote and I wept reading them," Anderson said. "I'm a vet myself and I would like to do him an honor, at least put a marker here for him. His body is not here, but I feel like his spirit has come home now."

The dedication ceremony comes 150 years after what some historians consider the first Memorial Day, organized in Charleston, S.C., May 1, 1865, by a group of freed slaves to honor the Union soldiers who helped secure their emancipation. The first nationally recognized Decoration Day was May 30, 1868. The date was supposedly chosen because it would be a time when flowers in all parts of the nation would be in bloom and the graves of fallen soldiers were to be decorated with flowers.

Flowers decorated Litt's marker yesterday.

For Michael Erb, who belongs to three Civil War reenactment groups, including the Weber group, and is himself a military veteran, taking part in services that honor the Civil War dead is important because the Civil War is a critical turning point in the nation's history.

"The Civil War was America's biggest war," Erb said. "It changed our country forever, you know. We were kind of a disunified country, different states going different ways, and all the sudden after the war, we were all one nation. Oliver Wendell Holmes said it was a terrible war, many people and soldiers died in that war, but look at what we got from it. We're a better country afterward. We're a unified country. Today, we're the only Superpower. It's a time in history that our whole country should remember."

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May 26, 2015 - 10:06am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield.

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Adam Bielski submitted these photos of Memorial Day events in Oakfield.

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May 25, 2015 - 10:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Oakfield.

An ATV accident is reported in the area of 7394 Hutton Road, Oakfield.  

A teenage female reportedly suffered a head injury. A person will meet a fire chief roadside and escort him to the accident location.

Mercy Flight out of Olean is on in-air standby with a 40-minute ETA, weather permitting. 

UPDATE 10:30 p.m.: Mercy Flight 5 now available, 20-minute ETA.

UPDATE 12:32 a.m.: A responder subsequently told Howard, on scene at another incident -- the explosion/fire on Read Road, Town of Pembroke, that the girl was transported primarily as a precaution and that she didn't suffer severe injuries.

 

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