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November 6, 2015 - 9:23am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Thomas Rocket Car, batavia, history.


Caked in decades of dust, pockmarked with dings, dimples and rust, the Thomas "Rocket Car" was tucked snuggly into Dick McClurg's garage Thursday afternoon and Ken Witt smiled like a child who just got his first bike.

"She's finally back home," he said.

Witt, like other members of the volunteer crew who helped retrieve the car from a barn in Lockport, where it's been stored since 1977, admitted he's had a few sleepless nights in anticipation of bringing the car back to Batavia.

"That has been exciting, the last couple of days, when we were getting these guys coordinated, all of us were saying, 'It's coming home,' " Witt said. "We've all been waiting to get it here."

The Thomas "Rocket Car" was designed by former Batavia resident Charles D. Thomas. He and Norman Richardson, a talented welder and body man just out of high school, built the car in a rented garage near Main and Ellicott Avenue in 1938. The design, and several innovations in the car, such as a rearview periscope and independent suspension, were dreamed up by Thomas while working on his 1935 thesis for the General Motors Institute of Technology in Flint, Mich.

Once the car was built, Thomas tried to interest any one of the Big Three in Detroit to move the car into production. But whether the automakers felt threatened, or because of the prospect of the World War, or it would have been too expensive to retool, all three companies took a pass. One Detroit executive reportedly told Thomas that his car was 10 years ahead of its time. Thomas went onto a successful career in Buffalo with the maker of the Playboy automobile, and he apparently kept the Thomas car and drove it for some time.

When the car arrived at McClurg's, Witt took an odometer reading: 96,296.

The car was acquired by a group of local antique car buffs, including Witt and Dick Moore, from Gary Alt, of Lockport.

Alt, whose antique car collection consists of a dozen Chevys from the 1930s, found the Thomas wasting away in a field in Batavia in 1977 when he drove out here with the intention of buying a 1934 parts car. When he saw the Thomas, he had no idea what it was. He'd never seen it before or heard of it, but he knew it was unique and worth saving, so he bought it and the parts car and hauled them back to his farm property near Lockport.

The car has been stored in a barn since, and Alt sort of became the car's historian. He tracked down Charles Thomas and Norm Richardson in Buffalo and interviewed them and acquired a binder full of documentation on the car. He wrote an article about the car a few years ago for an antique auto magazine, which is how Witt and Moore became aware that the car still existed.

"It's time to go to another home and let someone else enjoy it," Alt said of his decision to finally sell it.

The local group will restore it, with McClurg heading up the task at his Old World body shop on West Main, and when the work is complete, hopefully by July, the car will be donated to the City of Batavia so it can be put on public display and hopefully become a tourist attraction.

Alt clearly relished showing off the car to the buyers when they came to pick it up Thursday. He told them all about the grill work, the engine, the solid fenders, the blue leather interior, the periscope, the original die kit and showed off the dozen or so original pictures he had obtained. He's taken loving care of it, even if he never got around to restoring it himself.

It has, however, been restored once before, probably in the 1950s, though it's unclear who might have done that work.

The current grill is not quite the original grill designed by Thomas (McClurg will restore the grill to its original design), and while it's apparent the original color of the car was maroon, it was painted red when it was restored. That red faded to pink during the years prior to 1977 that it sat outside.

Those years in a field also took its toll on the chassis. The undercarriage is nearly rusted through. The only thing holding it together is the car's solid body, though it's rusted at the edges. The frame will likely need to be refabricated, but the restoration crew has a leg up on where to turn, potentially, for the work: Graham Manufacturing.

In all the paperwork saved by Alt is a complete list by Thomas and Richardson of every piece of material that went into building the car and where it was sourced. The original frame was fabricated at Graham, as it turns out.  

McClurg, who is officially retired from the auto restoration business, is used to working on cars for which there are thousands of companies, meaning a supply of spare parts, but with the Rocket Car, there's only one. But McClurg said that won't be a problem.

"Rust doesn't care," McClurg said. "Everything is there to work with. You either have to refabricate or work with what's there. It's just got to be done. It's all labor intensive."

Once the car was out of the barn yesterday, Witt got to see the car all the way around for the first time, and he admitted to a sense of awe and wonder.

"It's unimaginable to me, and I've been collecting cars since the early '60s, to think that really, a couple of guys, Richardson and Thomas, were able to do this, because many of the sheet metal things were handcrafted," Witt said. "We've even unloaded the tools used when this was crafted, when it was shipped, and to think of the engineering, it was truly 10 years ahead of its time."





Norm Richardson with the Thomas in a photo that was part of Gary Alt's collection.






Norm Wright, left, Dick McClurg, Ken Witt, Dave Salway and Gary Alt.


Back home in Batavia ... 


Ken Witt checks the odometer.

November 4, 2015 - 3:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in County History Department, history.

There are a lot of people passionate about local history, and more and more are getting clued into what the Genesee County History Department has to offer, according to Michael Eula, the county historian.

Visits and phone calls to the county's history department have increased to 1,243 so far this year, up from 1,181 a year ago. There are 1,812 volunteer and student projects connected with the department, an increase on last year's count of 1,761. There were 163 requests for genealogies and local history projects, a significant increase over last year's total of 86.

There has also been an increase in donations of artifacts to the department, Eula said. There have been 22 donations so far this year, compared to a total of 15 the year before.

Eula attributes some of the increased interest in the department to a Web site with more information about what's available, but Eula said since becoming director he's made it a point to make the department more visible. He's had booths and displays at numerous community events.

"We encountered a number of people at the Genesee County Fair, for example, who didn't know the department existed and now we're seeing them here because they became interested in coming to see the library and what we have," Eula said.

A few nights ago, Eula spoke to the WNY Geneology Association at its meeting in Buffalo and gave an overview of what Genesee County has to offer searchers and those kinds of events help generate more use of the department's collection, and for genealogy, and more fees for the department.

The artifact donations range from newspapers and family mementos to souvenir Batavia Muckdogs' programs.

"The donations give people more material to work with," Eula said. "This is a very rich county in terms of its history and the number of people who are very passionate about understanding the local history and how it connects to national, wider developments."

October 26, 2015 - 4:16pm
posted by Billie Owens in GCC, Announcements, history.

In honor of New York State History Month, which is celebrated the entire month of November, the Genesee County Federation of Historical Agencies, Western New York Association of Historic Agencies (WNYAHA) and the Genesee Community College History Club are teaming up to sponsor "History Day" at GCC on Saturday, Nov. 7, from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. in the College Forum.

The aim of the event is to promote awareness of all of the historical assets in Genesee County and is free and open to the public.

Museums and historical agencies from all over Genesee County will set up booths for visitors to explore. In addition, there will be local history books on sale, craft demonstrations, reenactors from different periods in history, firing demonstrations and much more.

The GCC History Club will also provide a photo booth where attendees can have their picture taken with impressionists of Abraham Lincoln, Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

"I am very excited about History Day!" Derek Maxfield, GCC's associate professor of History said. "We did this a few years ago and it was very well received. It is a great way for the public to learn about what our county has to offer in museums, historical societies and historical assets."

New York State History Month was created by the New York State legislature in 1997 and represents an opportunity for historians to assert the vital importance of preserving and learning about our state's history. It is also a time to engage with the public through programs and learning opportunities about the history of New York State and the ways in which we can help preserve our history.

October 15, 2015 - 1:04pm
posted by Holland Land Office in history, Fall Festival, food, drinks, live music, reenactors, kids games.
Event Date and Time: 
October 25, 2015 -
1:00pm to 5:00pm
Sunday, October 25th from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm, the Holland Land Office Museum will be at the Willow Bend Inn at 3489 West Main Street Road to celebrate our annual Fall Festival! Live music provided by Red Creek. Delicious food and drink specials all afternoon. Costumed re-enactors will be firing off rifles and sharing local history. Activities and games for children, and a basket raffle of local produce and more for adults. $5.00 cover at the door, FREE for kids.
October 6, 2015 - 12:48pm
posted by Jamie Lindsley in history, Oakfield, psychic.
Event Date and Time: 
October 29, 2015 - 7:00pm
The Oakfield Historical Society is proud to present our fall fundraising event: Group reading by Frank R. Lord, New York State's youngest and most accurate registered psychic, clairvoyant, medium, and spiritual advisor.  $20 per person.  Tickets available at Warner's Flower Shop or by calling Dar at 585-948-5500 or Laurie at 585-259-4145.  Location is in the new community at Oakfield Town Hall - 3219 Drake Street (route 262). Frank offers spiritual guidance with emphasis mainly on what the past, present, and future hold for the individual who seeks the answers they need.
October 6, 2015 - 12:35pm
posted by Jamie Lindsley in Native Americans, arts and crafts, history.
Event Date and Time: 
October 6, 2015 - 7:00pm
The Oakfield Historical Society will host a presentation by longtime community resident Bill Chase on Native American crafts at the Village of Oakfield office.  All are welcome.
October 2, 2015 - 1:14pm
posted by Holland Land Office in history, travel, family, driving, Museum.
Event Date and Time: 
October 3, 2015 - 10:00am to October 4, 2015 - 5:00pm
Spend Saturday and/or Sunday visiting these local museums. Get your passport stamped at each museum you visit and win a discount at a local restaurant or other merchant. Fun, educational, and just plain interesting!  Participating Museums include:
  • Medina Historical Society
  • Medina Railroad Museum
  • Oakfield Historical Society
  • Alabama Historical Society
  • Attica Historical Society
  • Alexander Historical Society
  • Holland Land Office Museum
  • Stafford Museum of History
  • Bergen House: Barn & Livery
September 29, 2015 - 9:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Thomas Rocket Car, batavia, history.


davehowe_sept282015.jpg Backup cameras on cars, they're practically standard features on new cars and soon they'll be required. You might say, they were invented right here in Batavia, but long before cars even had air bags.

Oh, those were first dreamed up, in a fashion, by a Batavia inventor, too.

Charles D. Thomas, born in Batavia in 1910, grew up to be a car designer and his dream car was Thomas Rocket Car. Designed to be sleek and powerful, Thomas also dreamed of a car that was affordable and safe at a time when safety wasn't a high priority in Detroit. 

So he invented the "Ventriscope": a periscope-type of device that gave drivers of the world to their rear. He also came up with the idea of extra padding in the passenger compartment to protect occupants in a crash. Your car has four-wheel independent suspension. That didn't exist in 1938 when Thomas built his Rocket Car, which did have four-wheel independent suspension. 

When Thomas showed off his car in Detroit, experts agreed it was at least a decade ahead of its time.

You might say Charles Thomas was the Preston Tucker of Batavia, but it was also Tucker's failure to bring his own car to market as a mass-produced automobile that also doomed the Rocket Car. When Tucker failed, investors were scared off of such a unique and inventive conception of motoring. 

There was only one Thomas Rocket Car ever made. It was built in an auto shop about where Dunn Tire is now. A group of antique car buffs think it's time for this unique piece of Batavia history be returned to its rightful home, but it will take the cooperation of the City Council to make it happen.

Local businessman Dave Howe, owner of Charles Men's Shop and the Masonic Temple building, and an antique car collector, represented the group of would-be Rocket car restorers at Monday's council meeting and said the group has a simple request: That the city agree to accept the car, once it's fully restored, as a gift and agree to keep it and display it for the public.

Howe said he and the group believe the car will be a tourist attraction since its well known to auto history enthusiasts and car collectors and will give Batavia a unique perspective on the city's history.

The council will consider the request at its next business meeting.

Accepting the car as a gift will cost the city nothing, Howe said, and outside of keeping it clean and acquiring antique car insurance, which Howe described as inexpensive, the ongoing expense for the city will be minimal.

The group interested in restoring the car is really only interested in purchasing it (the car and all its parts have been located, but not yet acquired) if the city is willing to accept the gift.

September 26, 2015 - 1:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, history, batavia.


Assemblyman Steve Hawley presents a proclamation today to Jeff Donahue, director of the Holland Land Office Museum, during a rededication ceremony on the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Holland Land Office. 

Dr. Roger Triftshauser, a retired Navy rear admiral and former chairman of the County Legislature, gave the keynote address.



August 26, 2015 - 11:23am

Press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) today announced that applications are now available for municipalities and not-for-profits seeking grant money for historical and art preservation projects through the Technical Assistance Grant Program.

Grants will not exceed $3,000 per project and are only available for short-term, stand-alone ventures that seek to preserve cultural and historical heritage.

“I am excited to announce that applications have been released for this grant program,” Hawley said. “New York is one of the most historically rich states in the nation with structures and stories dating back to our existence as one of the original thirteen colonies.

"As a supporter of history and arts in our schools, I am proud to promote this endeavor and thank the New York State Council on the Arts and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor for their support. I encourage local historical groups and municipalities to take advantage of this opportunity and continue their tradition of preserving New York’s amazing history.”

The deadline for fall 2015 grant applications is Sept. 8th and interested applicants are required to call the Preservation League of New York State at 518-462-5658, ext. 10, to discuss potential projects. More information on the grant application process can be found at

August 4, 2015 - 1:28pm
posted by Billie Owens in GCC, civil war, history.

Press release:

GCC has founded a new history club, which is proudly sponsoring a new lecture series called Historical Horizons. Starting this September, and continuing on each first Wednesday of the month, a different dynamic speaker will be offering new topics about historical events, people, places and topics that continue to impact the world today. 

The club is a follow up to the college's successful Civil War Initiative, established in 2011, which has included numerous lectures, encampments, parades, Victorian balls and the Heritage Heroes recognition ceremony in Orleans County.

"The success of the Civil War Initiative continues with the GCC's new History Club and our Historical Horizons Lecture series," said Derek Maxfield, GCC's associate professor of History. "As the end of the Civil War Initiative approached, many people asked me, 'So what's next? Does that mean no more lectures? No more living history events?' Thankfully with the support of our new History Club, we can continue the lecture series, and open it up to any historical topic. It is my hope that we can build on that in the future and support living history events and heritage festivals."

The Fall 2015 semester lineup for the Historical Horizons speakers includes:

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 2 / Batavia Campus / T102

Tom Schobert, president of Buffalo Civil War Roundtable and Robert E. Lee impressionist, will kick off the series with "The Alamo – The Myth, the Reality...and John Wayne!" Like other high-profile events in American history, the story of the Alamo is shrouded in legends and myths. This lecture will cover the known facts as well as the legends and lore, and also how John Wayne got involved.

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7 / Batavia Campus / T102

Kristopher D. White will present, "Hell's Half-Acre: The Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania." White, co-author of "A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House," is an adjunct professor of History at Allegany Community College, and also co-founder of Emerging Civil War online journal. He will explore the reasons for this bloody battle, the innovative tactics used to break the Confederate lines, and tell the horrific tales from the men who were trapped in a no-man's-land between two armies.

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 4 / Batavia Campus / T102

Jim Simon, GCC associate dean of Orleans County Campus Centers, will explore how the philosophy of history impacts politics and culture in a talk entitled, "The Philosophy of History: What does it Matter?" From the recent Supreme Court case legalizing gay marriage to the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina state capitol, Simon will discuss how history informs students, teachers, citizens and policy makers in the 21st Century.

  • 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 2 / Batavia Campus / T102

In "Recalling Reconstruction: The Ugly Story of a Splendid Failure," Derek Maxfield, GCC associate professor of History, will discuss the end of the Civil War and how President Lincoln counseled his generals not to gloat in victory and to avoid bitterness and animosity. "Let 'em up easy," he said. Lincoln did not live to oversee the Reconstruction, which wound up taking a dark turn.

All lectures are free and open to the public. Maxfield also encourages attendees to stay tuned for other dates at Genesee Community College campus centers.

July 24, 2015 - 1:01pm
posted by Jamie Lindsley in history, genesee county history, Oakfield, family, Museum.
Event Date and Time: 
July 26, 2015 -
1:00pm to 3:00pm
Each Sunday from 1-3 pm the public is welcome to tour our facility and learn about this year's featured displays. 7 Maple Avenue, Oakfield.
July 7, 2015 - 1:10pm
posted by Holland Land Office in history, Holland Land Office Museum, free.
Event Date and Time: 
July 7, 2015 -
6:30pm to 8:00pm
TONIGHT at the Holland Land Office Museum, former Museum Director Patrick Weissend will be speaking on the Life and Times of Joseph Ellicott. This even is FREE to the public, as are all lectures presented by the Holland Land Office Museum.  Light coffee and refreshments will be available. 
June 17, 2015 - 2:37pm
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, history, Landmark Society of Genesee County.

The Landmark Society of Genesee County showed a second screening last night of its documentary on Federal-style Architecture to highlight the importance of the historical style.

The event at GO ART! featured the live action documentary and insights from guest speaker Bernard Schmieder, producer of the film and past president of the Landmark Society.

The film takes you back to the early 1800s when the Federal Style was the most popular home design for family farmers and artisans settling in Batavia. The style differed from Colonial-style homes in many ways. Federal homes were typically rectangular structures with symmetrical elements. The style was mainly composed of simple designs and furnishings. Many of the design elements included circles, semi-circles and ellipses. 

Most of the materials used to build the homes could be found on the land. All the wood needed to build the framework was cut down from nearby forests. Locally water powered sawmills made construction easy. Brick was also a common material used in building the structure. The bricks were made from locally dug clay and fired at brick yards.

Windows and doors were all made on sight as well. The large windows were divided into several panes with simple molding. The doors were flat paneled with latches. The main door was usually in the center of the house and the most decorative element of the exterior. The flooring was primarily made out of chestnut wood because it was easy to hand plane. 

The distinguishing interior characteristic of a Federal-style home was the fireplace. There were no iron stoves so homeowners used brick fireplaces as their main source of heat. The largest fireplace was located in the center of the house and had a cooking hearth. Typically next to the cooking hearth was a beehive oven for baking bread. Smaller fireplaces were built in the bedrooms.

Following the screening, Schmieder held a discussion about making the movie and the restoration of the 1815 Federal-style home he and his wife, Jane, own in Bethany.

Schmieder restored the home room by room using the sawmill and blacksmith shop on the property. 

"I enjoy woodworking so I was interested in restoring the home and using all the old hand tools," Schmieder said. 

Although the home is not symmetrical it still has many Federal-style features including six fireplaces, a beehive oven, large windows, flat-paneled doors and chestnut board floors. Schmieder also made furniture by hand to match the Federal Style.

There are only a small amount of these Federal-style homes remaining in Genesee County. The Landmark Society hoped the screening revived the community's interest in historical architecture and the importance of preserving the Federal-style homes that remain.

In November, the Landmark Society will hold another screening for the second part of the architectural series which explores the Greek Revival Style. DVD copies of the series are also for sale.

June 17, 2015 - 12:38pm
posted by Billie Owens in Stafford, history, Announcements.

The June meeting of the Stafford Historical Society will be a road trip. On Wednesday, June 24th, we will be boarding a bus at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Hall, located at the corner of Route 237 and Route 5.

The intention of the Society has been to repair the headstones and to tidy-up the town's abandoned pioneer cemeteries for our Town's 200th birthday. Our road trip will be for members and guests to view their condition.

We have room for 30 to 35 people. Please call 344-7070 or 343-1928 to reserve a space.

June 13, 2015 - 9:55am
Event Date and Time: 
June 19, 2015 -
7:00pm to 9:00pm
Friday, June 19th, 7:00 pm - $5.00 donation CLASSIC COUNTRY NIGHT: The music of Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, & Johnny Cash
June 12, 2015 - 2:56pm
posted by Traci Turner in batavia, history, Landmark Society of Genesee County.

The Landmark Society of Genesee County will present a live action documentary on the Federal and Adams styles of architecture for a second screening. 

The screening will be held at 7 p.m. June 16 at GO ART! The event is free and open to the public.

Lucine Kauffman, president of the Landmark Society, is showing the film for a second time because the last screening was 15 years ago when Bernard Schmieder, past landmark society president, finished filming the two-part architectural series.

"When we did the premiere screening, people had VHS players and we sold VHS tapes of the documentary," Kauffman said. "Now technology is DVDs, so we are bringing the documentary back to reach a new audience and give people the chance to purchase a DVD copy."

Kauffman hopes the community comes out for the screening because it's a great education tool for students or anyone who is interested in learning about Genesee County's architectural history.

During the early 1800s, the Federal and Adams style of architecture was popular in Genesee County. The architecture was the first formal residential style in the county. As a result of newly published design books, homeowners could choose from various home style designs for architectural elements like windows and doors.

After the screening, Schmieder will give a talk about producing the film and restoring his 1815 Federal Style home in Bethany. He will provide details about how he refinished his house using hand tools from the 1800s and milling his own lumber. 

In October, LSGC will be showing the second film in the series about Greek Revival architecture in Genesee County.

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


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."









May 22, 2015 - 5:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in world war i, war, history.


All of these local names, Dewey Sackett, Charles Votrie, James Hannah, Lee Kingdon, Willis Peck, Glenn Loomis, Florence Carney, John Arneth and many more. All young lives cut short in the War to End All Wars.

That was nearly 100 years ago. We may see their names on gravestones, or memorial markers or on honor rolls, but we know only the names. We don't know where they lived, where they worked, who they loved, what they dreamed or how they died.

They're war dead. That's what we know. So we honor them.

Former Le Roy resident Terry Krautwurst thought we should know more. We may read the names, but we shouldn't forget the people, so he has given us, residents of Genesee County, a gift -- a gift of remembrance.

For the past six years, Krautwurst has researched the war dead of Genesee County from World War I. He combed through newspaper articles and federal archives in St. Louis and Kansas City, Mo., in an attempt to identify all of the World War I men and women from Genesee County who died while serving their country.

He's compiled biographies, complete with military service records, detailing those lives, lifted from newspapers and death records, concerning 78 people who died during the war while in uniform.

That's a longer honor roll than probably anybody ever really knew about.

It was discrepancies in honor rolls that prompted Kautwurst's research in the first place.

"In 2009, while researching the World War I career of my grandfather, Stanley Crocker, of Le Roy, I noticed that the number of names on honor roll lists of Genesee County war dead that had been published in area newspapers varied," Krautwurst said. "They varied not just in number, from 52 to 61, but also the names themselves varied."

Untangling the mystery of the lists became a passion for Krautwurst.

"It seemed only right and proper to set the record straight," Krautwurst said. "I decided to research and resolve the discrepancies and produce an updated and maybe more accurate list. I figured it would take me a few weeks."

Krauthwurst donated the research of his six-year-long research project to the Genesee County History Department last week.

"Terry has performed an invaluable service to the county," said Michael Eula, director of the history department. "This is a tremendous resource and I doubt it's going to be seen in many other counties around the country regarding the first World War."

The deeper Krautwurst dug, the more discrepancies he found, including misspelled names, incorrect dates, hometowns and military assignments.

He kept detailed files on each of the war dead and his records, and the stories he tells of each person, fills eight volumes that will be available to the public at the history department in County Building #2.

"This provides a wealth of primary source information to first and foremost family members who still may be still wondering what happened generations ago and researchers looking at the local impact of the first World War, so this is an incredibly rich and valuable addition to the county archives," Eula said.

Krautwurst photocopied more than 1,200 military documents, which in some cases, include eyewitness accounts of a soldier's death and letters from a fallen soldier's parents.

"Sometimes, when I opened a soldier's file, I found his dog tags, which I photographed," Krauthwurst said.

Flipping through the pages and reading Krautwurst's articles, you learn family histories, the schools that soldiers attended, where they worked before getting drafted or enlisting, what they did in their spare time and, importantly, how and where they died.

Some died in the fields of France or the hills of Italy. Some died in combat, others hours and days later after their mangled bodies were borne on a stretcher to some field hospital. Some died from disease and some died in accidents.

"What has caught my eye is the playing out locally of what historians have talked about for a long time regarding the first World War," Eula said. "For example, a number of deaths were not the result in combat. Somebody gets killed in an auto accident when they're training someplace in the country. It shows the complexity of the moment."

The archive, Krautwurst hopes, will help us know better the people behind the names who sacrificed everything in a war often remembered for its brutality and how it reshaped society.

"These people who gave so much were right on the edge of forgotten," Krautwurst said. "I just didn't want that to happen."


County Historian Michael Eula with the eight volume of World War I war dead compiled by Terry Krautwurst.




May 20, 2015 - 3:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, history, batavia.


The Holland Land Office Museum has replaced its decade-old banner with two new posters featuring Joseph Ellicott and Gen. Emory Upton.

The posters were created by Vinyl Sticks and sponsored by Ken Barrett Chevrolet and Cadillac.

Speaking of HLOM, June speakers:

Tuesday June 9th, 6 to 8 p.m., Genesee County Historian Michael Eula; Topic: Why do wars happen? Genesee County and the problems of human conflict 1775 – present

Friday June 12th, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Erica Wanecski; Topic: Health Resorts in the 19th Century

For more information call the Holland Land Office Museum, (585) 343-4727​ 




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