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August 11, 2022 - 12:44am
posted by Press Release in hlom, Henry Glowacki, batavia, history, news.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce its next edition of our Java with Joe E morning coffee presentation on Thursday, August 25 at 9 am. This month’s presenter is Ryan Duffy who will be presenting on Henry Glowacki. Glowacki was a Polish immigrant to Batavia in the 1830s. He became a prominent Batavia citizen and went on to become a lawyer, a clerk for the Holland Land Office, was a recruiter for the Civil War, Village Trustee, and school board member amongst many other things. The event is free to the public and coffee and donuts will be available. If you wish to attend, please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or [email protected]

August 1, 2022 - 11:39pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in History Heroes, hlom, batavia, news, history.

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For 12 years, Anne Marie Starowitiz has brought history alive for area children as coordinator for the History Heroes program at the Holland Land Office Museum.

Saturday, with the end of this summer session, was her last day in the role.

Starowitz said even though she's stepping away from the program, "I'm sure it will continue."

This summer the children learned all about living in the 50s.  

On Saturday, they delivered a program for their parents. They shared important historical dates and ended the program by singing a song from the 50s.  

During the week they created a lemonade stand and made more than $160 for the Genesee County Animal Shelter.  

Starowitz thanked Tompkins Financial, Adam Miller, WBTA, Photos by Sue Meier, Ficarella’s, T-Shirts Etc, and The Batavian for support of the program. 

Submitted photos. 

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July 30, 2022 - 6:36pm
posted by Session Placeholder in Henry Clay, civil war, batavia, history, news, notify.

 

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Story submitted by Thomas Pitcher

In early July of 1863, Henry Clay took a bayonet in the arm. 

Clay, a slave, was trying to escape the victorious Federal army at Gettysburg. His Confederate master had either been killed or also taken prisoner by the Union Army. Following the aftermath of this decisive battle, nearly 7,000 rebel prisoners were taken to Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. Less discussed is the 64 captured African American slaves, like Clay, brought into the war to cook and clean for the southern army.

Lynne Belluscio, LeRoy’s town historian, first mentioned “the other Henry Clay” in 1998 and then with a more detailed article in the LeRoy Pennysaver in 2014. Through her research, we learned that Clay was born in Washington County, Georgia in 1849.

While the information is scarce, Clay’s place in American history is nothing short of remarkable.  

Six months before the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves “within the rebellious states.”  Despite the 4 million enslaved African Americans, the order’s immediate impact was only felt by the roughly 50,000 slaves in Confederate regions occupied by the Union Army. Gettysburg’s aftermath served as an important litmus test for Lincoln’s proclamation, specifically the treatment of Confederate slaves captured in battle.  

Five weeks after Gettysburg, the commissary general of prisoners in the U.S Army, Colonel William Hoffman, declared that “captured [African Americans] are ranked as camp followers and therefore prisoners of war.”  This meant that slaves like Clay would be returned to their masters as dictated through the prisoner exchange system.  
Colonel Peter A. Porter didn’t buy it.  He believed that captured slaves “be employed in the service of the Government as paid laborers – thus rendering service to the Government and avoiding the return to slavery .” Raising the stakes, Porter suggested that the decision was beyond Hoffman’s jurisdiction and that “it be forwarded to the Secretary of War.”  

The Union Army sided with Porter. Of the 64 slaves captured at Gettysburg, half of them chose freedom and remained in the north. Sixteen joined as cooks in the regiments stationed in Baltimore.  Henry Clay, only 14 years old at the time, joined Porter’s regiment as a cook in Company I, a group of men exclusively organized in Genesee County. 

I’ve been researching the 8th N.Y.H.A for fourteen years and up until Belluscio’s discovery hadn’t come across a documented former slave within the regiment’s ranks.

From that moment onward, Clay’s life would only get more interesting. He was modest about his role in the regiment.

“It wasn’t much to be a cook in the army. I could carry water and peel potatoes and do things like that.” 

But it appears he may have done much more. While not on official muster roles, Clay was counted amongst the soldiers in several reunions held for the regiment after the war. He’s also listed as the first African American Civil War veteran in Genesee County.

By the end of 1863, Clay had already been present at several battles leading up to Gettysburg while a servant in the Confederate Army.  Colonel Porter’s regiment left Baltimore for the field that following spring. Clay would now be dressed in blue for Ulysses S. Grant’s invasion of Virginia; battles such as Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Anna, and the Siege of Petersburg.  

One battle stands out. On June 3, 1864, Porter’s regiment, along with several others, were ordered to charge confederate breastworks at Cold Harbor, Virginia. History has looked unkindly on Grant’s decision to send so many men to their death on that blistering hot Friday morning. Colonel Porter’s last words were “follow me boys” before he was riddled with bullets. The story concerning the recovery of his body by several members of the regiment, under heavy fire, was re-told countless times at every reunion.  According to different sources, there was either five or six men involved in that mission. As a result, one of them was awarded the Medal of Honor. Why the others were not held with similar praise is as large of a mystery now as it was when the medal was issued 34 years after the battle in 1898.

It’s not known if Henry Clay ever discussed what his role was at Cold Harbor while he was alive. However, one 1925 obituary needs attention.

“Mr. Clay was born a slave and was with Colonel’s Porter regiment when that gallant soldier laid down his life at Cold Harbor. He was a member of the detachment which retrieved Colonel Porter’s body.” 

There is a certain type of karma here that can’t be lost – one individual campaigns for the others' freedom while the latter, risks his life rescuing his dead body.   

After the war, Clay moved to Batavia, married and took jobs as a farmer, janitor, and bank teller. Through the individuals mentioned in his will, we learn that Henry Clay was born to Henry “Hugh” Mayweather and Caroline Williams, two slaves from Sparta, Georgia. They may have been sold to William Monroe Clay of Washington County sometime in the 1840s or 1850s.  He was a wealthy plantation owner who had three sons and a son-in-law who fought with the 49th Georgia, a confederate regiment at both Fredericksburg and Gettysburg where Clay was present.

In 1889, Clay returned to Georgia to visit family. Upon arriving there, he learned that his old slave master was dead. He didn’t provide a lot of details on the trip other than the fact that his “friends tried to persuade Henry to remain in Georgia, but his heart was in Batavia.”

July 29, 2022 - 5:28pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in History Heroes, wbta, hlom, history, news, Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle.

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The History Heroes summer program hosted by Holland Land Office Museum and led by Anne Marie Starowitz visited Adam Miller Toy & Bicycle and WBTA today, fitting into this year's theme of "History Rockin’ Around the Clock in the 1950s."

The theme gives the participating children a chance to glimpse into what it was like to live in 1950s America.

Photos by Howard Owens

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July 8, 2022 - 4:24pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in Richmond Mansion, Dean Richmond, batavia, news, history.

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It began when Dean Richmond and his wife Mary Elizabeth chose Batavia, New York, as their home in the mid-1800s. The mansion that many remember as the Richmond Mansion was not built by Dean Richmond but rather by William Davis, a land speculator in the 1830s. He made the central part of the mansion.

Over the years, the land changed hands five times before the actual estate was built. It was still in stages as it changed hands three more times before Dean and Mary Elizabeth Richmond took title to the property on April 24, 1854. The Richmonds bought the mansion for $9,000.

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With Dean's money and Mary's exquisite taste in furnishings, the mansion eventually was considered one of the most imposing structures in the state. So they began their restoration by changing the Federal-style design into a much larger home with a wide front veranda supported by four stately columns two stories high. At the top of the roof, a graceful balcony extended around the house. Beautiful gardens surrounded their home with a variety of rare, often imported plants and flowers.   The interior was magnificent, with a wide hall through its center, spacious rooms on both sides, large side wings extending out from the middle of the house, and a long addition in the rear.

When supplies were needed, horse-drawn wagons drove right into the mansion's basement. It was designed to ease the unloading of coal for the three furnaces and food for the kitchen.

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A large greenhouse stood amidst the formal gardens. A lacy, wrought iron fence marked the front of the mansion grounds that also featured sunken Italian gardens. That fence today borders the parking for the Richmond Memorial Library and St. Joseph's Church.

Majestic splendor reigned throughout the mansion; one room had a one-of-a-kind crystal chandelier. Carved rosewood and highly polished mahogany were the prevailing woods. One bedroom had a toilet set bearing the Tiffany mark. The rooms were decorated with plastered moldings and ceiling center medallions from which many chandeliers were suspended. The main bedroom had an adjoining bathroom complete with solid silver fittings. 

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Mr. and Mrs. Richmond were wonderful hosts, and many brilliant galas were held at their mansion, including an annual holiday ball conducted in their drawing room and ballroom. The drawing-room contained a yellow velvet carpet flowered with roses, yellow damasked walls adorned with solid gold, framed artwork, and yellow satin damask furniture: French plate glass mirrors and one large ornate mirror between the windows reaching from floor to ceiling.

Mrs. Richmond presided over the mansion with dignity and grace and was loved by the town and visiting dignitaries. She possessed the education her husband lacked.

Mrs. Richmond was active in the community, serving as president of the Holland Purchase Historical Society; she was noted for her charity and business sense. 

Dean Richmond may not have had a formal education and might have appeared calculating and hard-hearted, yet he was admired by members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. In addition, he gave generously to the building of the School for the Blind and St. James Church.

Richmond's death came suddenly on August 27, 1866. He was in New York City at the home of Samuel Tilden after returning from the State Democratic Convention at Saratoga. The liberty pole flag was lowered to half-staff to mourn his death in Batavia. The train depot was draped in mourning, and the locomotives on the New York Central Railroad were draped in black and accompanied by the tolling of muffled bells. The locomotives drew the funeral train named Dean Richmond and George J. Whitney. Dean Richmond died at the age of 62. He was Batavia, New York's railroad magnate, director of the Utica and Buffalo Railroad Company, first vice president of the New York Central Railroad, and from 1864 to 1866, president of the New York Central.

After Dean died, Mary Richmond’s keen business sense multiplied the value of her husband’s estate.

The Richmond mansion passed from Mr. and Mrs. Richmond to their daughter Adelaide, who left it to her niece, also named Adelaide, with the provision that upon the younger Adelaide’s death, it was to go to her brother, Watts Richmond. Dean Richmond’s grandson.

Watts then sold it to strangers.

The Children’s Home occupied the mansion from 1928 to 1966, when the Batavia Board of Education purchased it for $75 000 and tore it down to build a more extensive library.

Today, the Richmond Memorial Library’s Reading Room has suspended from the ceiling the chandelier that hung in the Richmond dining room. Also, portraits of members of the Dean Richmond family can be seen on display in the library.

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File Photo: Richmond Mausoleum photo by Howard Owens.

Top four photos, courtesy the Holland Land Office Museum.

July 5, 2022 - 5:44pm
posted by Press Release in Richmond Memorial Library, batavia, news, history.

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Press release:

Mary Todd Lincoln to visit Richmond Memorial Library

Richmond Memorial Library is pleased to host librarian Laura Keyes of Historic Voices as she portrays Mary Todd Lincoln on Saturday, July 16 at 2 pm. The program will take place in the Reading Room and is free to attend. All are welcome!

Mary Todd Lincoln lived a life filled with triumphs and tragedies but few people know her story. Now, librarian Laura Keyes shares Mary’s story in an entertaining and educational program entitled “Mrs. Lincoln in Love,” which is set on January 31st 1862, when Mrs. Lincoln and her family are settled comfortably in the Executive Mansion. Visiting with ladies during Afternoon Tea, Mrs. Lincoln reflects on the Loves of her Life – her children, her husband, and her country. She even shares some of Mr. Lincoln’s love letters to her! Learn how Mary’s knowledge of both politics and social customs made it possible for a backwoods frontier attorney to achieve the highest office in the land.

Laura Keyes graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a Master’s Degree in Library Studies and is Director of the Dunlap Public Library. Laura is a lifetime member of the Association of Lincoln Presenters, and in 2017 won the Mary Todd Lincoln Oratory Contest at the Lincoln Days celebration in Hodgenville, KY.

For more about Laura Keyes, visit www.LauraFKeyes.com or visit her Facebook at facebook.com/HistoricVoices. Find more programs and events at Richmond Memorial Library at batavialibrary.org/calendar. Summer Reading programs for children, teens, and adults are now in full swing! Visit the library or the website for more information.

Photo via LauraFKeyes.com 

June 16, 2022 - 2:46pm
posted by Press Release in History Heroes, hlom, history, batavia, news.

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Press release:

The Holland Land Museum is proud to announce the return of its History Heroes Summer Program. The museum will be rocking this summer with this year's theme, History Rockin’ Around the Clock in the 1950s. The program runs five days from Tuesday, July 26th through Saturday, July 30th from 10 am-4 pm. If you have a child between the ages of 7 and 12, sign them up for rocking time living in the 50s. The cost is $25 per day per child, with discounts for siblings and museum members.

The children a glimpse into what it was like to live in the 50s and their local history through numerous artifacts from the museum, such as a Sylvania black and white TV, various early telephones, a phonograph, record albums, 45s, and a phonograph needle. Also on display will be typewriters, early cameras, movie cameras, a transistor radio, ball-bearing roller skates, and a skate key. The children will compare what we had back then to what we have today; they will check out the clothing, learn about the history of the 50s and experience an old-fashioned ice cream soda and a cherry coke. They will play many games against each other to give them a sample of what baby boomers experienced. No cell phones are allowed. Instead, we will bring out the hula hoops, chalk for hopscotch, rope for jump roping, a can for kicking, marbles, and much more.

If you are interested in signing your child up for the Holland Land Office Museum History Heroes Summer Program you can contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or [email protected]. Further information and forms can be found on the museum’s website, www.hollandlandoffice.com, or the museum’s Facebook page.

Photo: File photo from 2016 by Howard Owens

June 13, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in schools, education, news, history.

I found a copy of the 7th grade Social Studies Curriculum on Local History amidst a group of old papers and books. To a fourth-grade teacher, this would be a valuable find. Unfortunately, this curriculum is no longer taught in 7th grade and has not been for many years. A local history curriculum was added to 4th grade many years ago. Unfortunately, today with all of the state mandates, very little time can be given to local history.    

This curriculum encompassed Genesee County and Genesee Country, which included some of the outlying areas of Genesee County. 

The student's objectives were listed at the beginning of the book:

The student (citizen–to–be) will know that school prepares you for social living. The church plays an integral part in your community life. (Before 1961 Separation of Church and State) Tolerance of others is fundamental to democracy. Students will be able to find facts in books, see the relationships between cause and results, and will be able to draw conclusions from the printed information. The students will appreciate the work of others, consider a point of view different from their own, and will be tolerant of people or groups whose beliefs or customs are different from their own

The students were first introduced to the Native Americans residing in the area. They were taught about Ely Parker and Red Jacket, to name a few. Everything was listed in chronological order. Listed were all the names of the Seneca chiefs and a biography on each of them. An extensive list of Seneca names and places was translated into English. Ge-nish-e–a, a clear and shining place (Genesee Country), ge-ne-un-da-sais-ka mosquito town (Batavia), and Ter-ner-sun-ta swift running water (Tonawanda Creek).

After the land purchase from the Indians was discussed, Paulo Busti, Robert Morris, and Joseph Ellicott's involvement in the purchase was explained. Later the settlement of the villages and towns of the county was described. Students would learn about the industries, manufacturing, and agriculture in every town in Genesee County. The chapter on public buildings was divided between descriptions of city, county, state, and federal buildings.

Joseph Ellicott's map, drawn in 1802, showed only five streets and two roads in Batavia.   Genesee Street was East Main Street to Jefferson. Buffalo Street is now West Main. Big Tree Street was Ellicott Street beginning at Jackson Street. Court Street was still Court Street, and Jackson Street was still Jackson Street.     

Interesting facts about the streets were South Main Street was called Tonawanda Street. Pearl Street was Buffalo Road. Oak Street was called Oak Orchard or Elba Street, Bank Street was Dingle Alley, and Tracy Avenue was named after Judge Phineas Tracy. Pringle Avenue was named after Judge Benjamin Pringle, and Evans Street was named after David Evans.

The last section in the book, called Interesting Facts from Genesee Country, was very intriguing.   

  • In 1801 the first doctor came to Batavia. He was Doctor David McCracken.           
  • The first church organized was formed by Presbyterians in 1809. 
  • A brewery on West Main was built from the stones of the old Methodist Church. 
  • Joseph Ellicott had many duties. He also served as the first county judge when the courthouse was built in 1803. 

On the veranda of the Holland Land Office stand two old cast-iron cannons that were housed in the Arsenal for years. One of them was used at the Battle of Lundy Lane in the War of 1812. Unfortunately, it had been "spiked," as was the practice with captured artillery. "Spiked" meant it was tampered with and could not be used in battle.

After the Arsenal was torn down, Dr. Charles Rand purchased the two cannons, removing them to his front yard on Liberty Street. After his death, they were bought by Baker Gun and Forging Company and placed on the factory's front lawn, now the Metal Company.           

  • President Lincoln stopped in Batavia in 1861. 
  • Lot # 25, bounded by Main, Jackson, and Center Streets, was bought from the Holland Land Company for $170.00. 
  • LeRoy was incorporated in 1834. The population of LeRoy in 1818 significantly exceeded that of Batavia. 
  • The New York Central Railroad Company paid $512.000 to lay its tracks in the Batavia area.

The first gas line through Genesee County was laid in 1870. Twenty-five miles of pipe were laid. The pipe was white pine cut into lengths from 2 to 18 feet and turned to the diameter of 12 1/2 inches. The pipes were joined with bands of shrunk iron and were tarred inside and out. Twenty acres of white pine were cut for these pipes. In 1872 the gas line was turned into the mains of the Rochester Gas Company.             

Salamanca is the only city in the United States built upon an Indian Reservation.

If you would like to take the 50-question test called the Batavia Historical Quiz, stop at the Holland Land Office Museum and be our guest. You might want to stop at The Richmond Memorial Library and the Genesee County History Department to brush up on your local history.

Here are some of the questions from the Quiz.

  1. What was Genesee County's first courthouse called in its later years?
  2. What company came here to make farm machinery and later sold it to the Massey-Harris Company?
  3. For what circumstance was Charles F. Rand mostly noted?
  4. For what circumstance was Ely Samuel Parker noted?
  5. In what year was the Land Office dedicated?
  6. In whose memory?
  7. What was present-day Batavia Street, formerly called Big Tree Street?
  8. What does the name Batavia mean?
  9. Name the U.S. General of the War of 1812 who recuperated at Joseph Ellicott's home in Batavia after being wounded by the British in Buffalo?
  10. From what language is the name Batavia derived?

Here is the word bank with possible choices.

Winfield S. Scott, the First Volunteer soldier in the Civil War, Robert Morris, Ellicott Street, Johnston Harvester Company, Seneca Indian, and in his handwriting, wrote the terms of surrender between Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee at Appomattox Court House in Virginia 1865, October 13, 1894, Better Land, Ellicott Hall, Dutch.

Click on the headline above to view the answer key.

June 3, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Brisbane Mansion, news, batavia, history, notify.
Video Sponsor

Albert and George Brisbane are not history's first feuding brothers, of course, but their divergent ways are a part of Batavia's history, as is the role their father played -- James Brisbane -- in the settlement and development of the little village by the bend in the Tonawanda. 

James Brisbane became a very wealthy man in Batavia and Albert and George were his heirs, with George and his wife Sarah settling into the mansion that James Brisbane finished building in 1855.  The family sold the mansion and property that is now Austin Park to the City of Batavia in 1917, and until 2004, the building was City Hall. Since 2004, it's been the city's police headquarters. Since that is to change within a few years, the city has acquired a $20,000 grant to study what might be best for the historic building.

To help educate the public about the importance of the building, the Landmark Society of Genesee County, with a grant acquired through GO ART!, produced a play written by local historian Derek Maxfield about the Brisbanes, or more specifically, the feuding brothers, Albert and George.

The play is set in 1878 and centers on George's resentment of Albert. George, the younger brother, stayed home and tended to the family's financial affairs while Albert traveled the world, married multiple women, sired several children, and extolled the virtues of a socialist utopia.  

The play was set, in part, in 1878 because in that year native son Gen. Emory Upton paid a visit to his hometown; so for Maxfield it was a chance to bring this important historical figure into the drama.  

Brothers at Odds: The Brisbane Story debuts tonight at the First Presbyterian Church, 300 East Main St., Batavia.  There are additional performances on June 11 and June 15. All performances begin at 7 p.m. and are free. 

The cast:

  • Daniel Snyder as Albert Brisbane
  • Derek Maxfield as George Brisbane
  • Quincy Maxfield as Sarah Brisbane
  • Jessica Maxfield as Anna the Servant
  • Michael Gosselin as Gen. Emory Upton
  • Wesley and Wyatt Fisher as the children
April 27, 2022 - 5:11pm
posted by Press Release in history, History Heroes, hlom, news, batavia.

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Press release:

The Holland Land Museum is proud to announce the return of its History Heroes Summer Program. The museum will be rocking this summer with this year's theme, History Rockin’ Around the Clock in the 1950s. The program runs five days from Tuesday, July 26th through Saturday, July 30th from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you have a child between the ages of 7 and 12, sign them up for rocking time living in the 50s. The cost is $25 per day per child, with discounts for siblings and museum members.

The children get a glimpse into what it was like to live in the 50s and their local history through numerous artifacts from the museum, such as a Sylvania black and white TV, various early telephones, a phonograph, record albums, 45s, and a phonograph needle. Also on display will be typewriters, early cameras, movie cameras, a transistor radio, ball-bearing roller skates, and a skate key. The children will compare what we had back then to what we have today; they will check out the clothing, learn about the history of the 50s and experience an old-fashioned ice cream soda and a cherry coke. They will play many games against each other to give them a sample of what baby boomers experienced. No cell phones are allowed. Instead, we will bring out the hula hoops, chalk for hopscotch, rope for jump roping, a can for kicking, marbles, and much more.

If you are interested in signing your child up for the Holland Land Office Museum History Heroes Summer Program you can contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or [email protected]. Further information and forms can be found on the museum’s website, www.hollandlandoffice.com, or the museum’s Facebook page.

Photo by Howard Owens. File photo of the History Heroes visit to the Historic Batavia Cemetery, including a visit to the grave site of Joseph Ellicott, in 2016.

April 18, 2022 - 11:11pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in History Heroes, history, hlom, news.

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The Holland Land Museum will be rocking this summer with this year's theme, The Fabulous Fifties. I am very excited to return as a teacher for this program. My goal is to give the children a glimpse into what it was like to live in the 50s.

We have many fun activities planned. First, we hope to display several artifacts from the museum, such as a Sylvania black and white TV, various early telephones, a phonograph, record albums, 45s, and a phonograph needle. Also on display will be typewriters, early cameras, movie cameras, a transistor radio, ball-bearing roller skates, and a skate key.   

This summer, the Holland Land Office Museum will recreate the 50s. The children will compare what we had back then to what we have today; they will check out the clothing in the attic, learn about the history of the 50s and experience an old-fashioned ice cream soda and a cherry coke.

We will have an outdoor day of play. The children will be divided into groups where they will play against each other to give them a sample of what baby boomers experienced. No cell phones are allowed. Instead, we will bring out the hula hoops, chalk for hopscotch, rope for jump roping, a can for kicking, marbles, and much more.

The children will have the Holland Land Office Museum as their home for one week. They will learn their local history by visiting the various rooms at the museum and looking at all the exhibits.

If you have a child between the ages of 7 and 12, sign them up for rocking time living in the 50s.   The program will run from July 26th to July 30th. Please contact Ryan Duffy, the Executive Director of the Holland Land Office Museum, at 343-4727.

Anne Marie Starowitz, Coordinator

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April 10, 2022 - 3:43pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in batavia, agriculture, news, history.

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Whenever the Peca kids would hear the clippity-clop of the horse’s hooves on our street, we knew our friend “Sugar” (his real name was Jimmy) was delivering milk for Branton’s Dairy. It was the year 1954, and we lived on Highland Park. The milkman would always give us time to pet the horse and give the horse a treat. That was such a great memory from our childhood. Later, when we moved to another location, we still excitedly waited in anticipation for the milkman. Gone was the exciting horse hooves sound, but it was replaced with a milk truck. There was this one Fargo Ware milkman, Mr. Barlow. All of the children loved him because he always had a smile for us. He would give you an orange drink if it was your birthday. Even though some of us had at least two birthdays a year, he never let on that he knew what we were up to.

Many changes have occurred over the years with the “milkman.”  In our early history, any farmer with a herd of cows could deliver milk. There was no fuss about sterile instruments or the butterfat content of milk. A homemaker could choose a milkman based on his route or the taste of the milk.

Many dairies delivered milk in Batavia. The three dairies that delivered the longest belonged to Augustus Branton, Warren Fargo, and Henry Ware.

fargo_trucks.jpgIn 1873, Henry B. Fargo started a milk route from his farm on Bank Street. 1907, his son Warren Fargo bought the farm and called it The Evergreen Farm Dairy. In 1907, he purchased the Coates home at 208 East Main Street. In 1912, he built a modern dairy plant behind 208 East Main Street home. This was where he installed milk pasteurizing equipment and machinery for making ice cream. For several years, his brother Robert ran the ice cream parlor and confectionery store in the old Main Street house.

In 1916, Warren Fargo sold the ice cream part of the business to Dewitt C. Hopkins and just focused on milk and cream. Cyrus and Wallace joined him in the industry, but the sons took over the company when Warren semi-retired. In 1954, the Fargo brothers built a small dairy store at 208 East Main Street in front of their dairy.  

picturefairfield.jpgWilliam H. Ware started the Fairfield Dairy in 1927 on his farm on Ellicott Street Road near Cedar Street. In 1928 John Witruk joined Henry Ware, William’s son, in building a modern mechanized plant on Cedar Street. In 1958, William Ware closed the Fairfield Dairy to join the Fargos and become Fargo-Ware, Incorporated.

In 1969, Genesee Farms Incorporated bought out Fargo-Ware, which was run under the Genesee Farms name. The owners were Richard and Robert Call. Alvin Scroger from Oakfield was the manager.

In 1889, Augustus Branton started his dairy business when the Fargos were setting up their milk route.   He bought an earlier milk route from Robert Earll and began to deliver milk to Earll’s customers. He moved from his farm on South Main Street to one on West Main Street Road two years later. Augustus’ two sons, John A. and Raymond, lived on the farm on West Main Street. John Branton delivered milk with his father and was in the milk business for more than 63 years. He married Isabell Kellogg of Stafford, NY, on October 19, 1921, and together they moved to a home at 12 River Street and built a milk processing plant behind their house. Mrs. Branton was very active in the business. During World War II, young men were off to war, so Mrs. Branton and their son and daughter delivered milk. In 1954 when her husband John died, she became the president of Branton’s and ran it with the help of their children Raymond J.  and Jean Branton and Richard and Sibyl Branton Zorn.  

Branton’s began pasteurizing milk in 1922 and in 1947 began to clarify and homogenize the milk. In 1952, Branton’s installed a new milk processing plant that weighed and clarified milk in one process. After the milk had been tested for butterfat content, it was pasteurized, cooled rapidly, bottled by automatic machinery, and stored until time for delivery. 

In 1959, Branton’s opened the dairy store on West Main Road.

brantons_dairy_store.jpgIn 1964, the last delivery horse, “Sammy,” retired as trucks delivered the milk. Branton’s was the last dairy to use horse delivery in New York State. In June 1974, Genesee Farms, Incorporated bought the dairy business, and only the dairy store on West Main Road remained from the 85-year-old Branton business. In December 1978, Genesee Farms bought the dairy store as well.

Hackett’s Milk and Cream were also in the business of delivering milk. Henry Hackett founded his dairy business in 1914, and his brother Edgar joined him in 1920. They felt the bottling of the milk needed to be conducted under the highest sanitary standards. The dairy plant was located on Oak Street.

Today we buy milk at almost any place in the area, from supermarkets, chain stores, gas stations, and our very own Northside and Southside Delicatessens.  

Photos courtesy of the Genesee County History Department

CORRECTION: "Robert and Richard Call owned Fargo-Ware Dairy. Oakfield Farms Dairy was owned by Albert Scroger who also used to deliver milk to homes. When Albert retired, his son Alvin took over the business and they merged with Fargo-Ware to become Genesee Farms Dairy, Inc. Alvin Scroger was manager of the business but he was also a 50% owner in partnership with the Call brothers."

April 6, 2022 - 2:10pm
posted by Press Release in hlom, news, history, Alexander.

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Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the next edition of its Java with Joe E. morning presentation group on Thursday, April 28 at 9 am. This month our Director Ryan Duffy will share the local connection of Joseph Burke and "The Swedish Nightingale," Jenny Lind. Burke was a backup musician for Lind when she traveled around the world with P.T. Barnum. Burke had a summer home in Alexander, NY where Lind visited several times. Come and enjoy free coffee and donuts and learn about this interesting piece of local history. The event is free to the public. If you would like to attend, please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or [email protected].

February 25, 2022 - 1:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, Michael Eula, history, slavery, news, video.
Video Sponsor

Most history books neglect to mention the marginalized poor of the 19th Century and, perhaps, none were more marginalized than slave women and poor white women.

Genesee County in its early history was little different than the rest of the country in this respect.

"Until well into the 1950s, a typical historical treatment of our country usually excluded about half of the population, which is, of course, female," Eula said during a talk on Thursday morning at the Holland Land Office Museum. "The is an invisibility of women in many historical works."

Eula is uncovering some of that history in a book he's writing, The National is Local: Genesee County, New York, 1802 to Present.

"One example of this effort is the portrayal of the most invisible of women, at least for me, and that would include African-American slave women and poor white women," Eula said. "Both share common traits -- they have little power politically, economically. They lacked basic economic resources in both cases."

At the start of his talk, Eula noted that people often forget the history of slavery in New York prior to the Civil War.

"Contrary to popular belief, the dichotomy between a free North and a slave South is one that is not as pronounced as is usually depicted in a standard history textbook," Eula said. "The end of slavery in the northern states is far more complex than is typically assumed."

The emancipation of slaves in New York began early in the 19th Century but would take decades to complete.  There were slaves still in New York until shortly before the start of the Civil War.

In his talk, Eula shares what census records tell us about who owned slaves in Genesee County into the 1850s.

He also covers the plight of poor white women, who were often forced into the county's poor house/asylum. 

February 24, 2022 - 6:19pm

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Article by Sharon Burkel
Batavia Cemetery Association

Many famous and influential citizens are buried in the Historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue, and their stories are familiar to many. The founding families of Batavia: the Ellicotts, the Richmonds, the Brisbanes, and the Carys; the Confederate soldier Philemon Tracy and his uncle, Judge Phineas Tracy, who brought Philemon’s body back over enemy lines for burial; and the infamous William Morgan, the man who threatened to reveal Masonic secrets, was kidnapped and disappeared. But every stone in a cemetery represents the story of a person who played a part not only in the lives of their friends and family but also in building the fabric of the community. Sometimes their stories get lost in time, especially when there is no gravestone.

Such is the case of Watson Bullock, a Black entrepreneur, businessman, and activist who lived in LeRoy and Batavia in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Russell Nephew, a Batavia resident who collects Batavia artifacts, contacted the Batavia Cemetery Association after he received a request from Glenn Hinson, Associate Professor of Folklore and Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Professor Hinson is doing research on the Bullock family and inquired if Watson is buried in the Historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue.  The cemetery’s old records show that Watson, his wife Martha, and four of his children rest in the northeast corner of the cemetery. Mr. Nephew and this writer walked the cemetery to find their graves, and discovered they are all unmarked.

Ruth McAvoy writes in her book The History of Batavia, “One family that contributed to the local area was that of the Watson Bullocks who for many years lived at 113 Liberty Street. The Bullocks moved to Batavia from LeRoy about 1880. For years, the Bullocks ran a drycleaning establishment and manufactured and sold bluing (which adds a trace amount of blue dye to white fabric during laundering to improve its appearance) in bottles that still turn up in local dumps. A manuscript history of the Free Methodist Church identifies Watson Bullock as the man who preserved the $50 from the sale by the church of the Holland Land Office and made sure that the money would be available when the Methodist Society was ready to purchase a new place of worship. He was also one of the founders of the Emancipation Celebration Society.”

Mr. Bullock was born in North Carolina sometime in 1844 and moved to LeRoy after the Civil War with his family, who were reported to be ex-slaves.  In 1871, a newspaper ad in The LeRoy Gazette shows he was cleaning and repairing clothes in LeRoy, which continued until he married the widow, Martha Butler, on May 6, 1878. She was a hairdresser in LeRoy. Business ads in The Daily Morning News indicate that in October 1878, they moved to Batavia to establish a dyeing and cleaning business at 104 Main Street; that in April 1880 they moved their home and business to the southwest corner of East Main and Cemetery Streets (now Harvester Avenue), and again in June 1880 to 6 State Street. The Batavia Daily News ads show they moved in July 1881 to 25 Jackson Street, in 1889 to 30 Liberty Street, in 1891 to 9 South Liberty Street, and in 1902 to 113 South Liberty Street, where they remained until Watson’s death on March 21, 1918. During these years the Watsons manufactured and sold liquid bluing, five different colors of ink for dyeing, created the “London Carpet Renovator” to clean carpets in place, repaired and cleaned clothes, and sold second-hand household items and clothes, books, notions, and patent medicines.

The Bullocks’ life was not easy. Professor Hinson relates that they lost seven of their eight children by 1890 and wrote, “That’s a long hard list…and with none living more than ten years.” Three of the children buried in the Batavia Cemetery died within four months in 1890 of consumption (pulmonary tuberculosis): Hattie, on July 19th, aged 1 year, 3 months; Edmund, on September 2nd, aged 6 years; and Watson, on November 15th, aged 1 year, 7 months. The fourth child, Eva Estelle, died on August 4, 1871, aged 9 years.

An article by Alice Zillman Chapin in The Batavia Daily News dated Saturday, April 8, 1961, entitled “There is Civil War Issue Behind Church’s Centennial,” tells that a “mystery book,” which had been discovered in the attic of the Cattaraugus Free Methodist parsonage in 1959, revealed that the Batavia Free Methodist congregation in Batavia had been founded in April of 1861, not 1878 as they had previously thought. The Free Methodists were staunch abolitionists and had broken with the Methodist Episcopal Church throughout the United States.

Chapin writes, “It was an ex-slave from North Carolina, Watson Bullock, who was responsible for keeping the newborn Batavia Free Methodist Church on its feet. Under his leadership, meetings were held in two rooms of the house at the west corner of East Main and Harvester Avenue. Strangely enough, by 1880, the Holland Land Office entered the picture. The building was purchased by the Free Methodists from Ruth Bryan whose mother had conducted the Bryan Young Ladies’ Seminary there. Church meetings were held on one side of the building, which was, according to records, divided by a long hall. Apartments made up the other side.”

Chapin continues, “With finances somewhat shaky, the little band of Free Methodist pioneers sold their historical Land Office church to Kate and Edna Clapsaddle Lawrence…. With much foresight, the ex-slave, Watson Bullock, held the money from the Land Office sale in trust, feeling certain that somehow, someway, the Batavia group would be able once again to purchase their own church building. Church records show, interestingly enough, that there was some dispute as to how the funds should be spent, but Mr. Bullock staunchly guarded the money for four years. By 1893, with funds from the Bullock account, the half-completed property at Ellicott St. and Linwood Avenue was purchased. The Batavia Methodist Episcopal Church had abandoned plans for the building and put the unfinished structure up for sale. Originally the Free Methodists planned it as a mission to the foreign-born of the city but it later became their church home.”

Although they suffered unimaginable grief in the loss of their children, Watson and Martha were always concerned about their community and fellow man and faithful to their church. Articles in The Daily News reported they collected clothing for the “…suffering colored refugees of Southern Kansas…” after a nine-month drought in 1880-81, allowed their business at 9 South Liberty Street to be used as a District 6 polling place in 1891, and held Free Methodist prayer and home missionary society meetings at their different homes. In 1900, Watson was sworn in as an officer (Orderly) of the Salvation Army. He had a float in the 4th of July parade in 1907 and was elected as an alternate delegate for District No. 5 to the Prohibition County Convention in 1910. He donated 10% of his sales in December 1914 to the Belgian Relief Fund as the German-occupied country was suffering great food shortages in World War I. In 1917, Watson was elected chairman of the new Emancipation Celebration Society.

The Daily News reported Watson’s death on March 21, 1918:

Well-Known Resident Died Following Stroke of Apoplexy

“Watson Bullock died about 6 o’clock this morning at his home, Number 113 South Liberty Street. He had been confined to his bed about ten days and it was believed that he suffered a stroke of apoplexy (cerebral hemorrhage).

Mr. Bullock was 73 years old and had resided in Batavia about 50 years, being well-known and respected. He was a trustee of the Free Methodist Church of Ellicott Street and was an active supporter of the Salvation Army. For several years he manufactured and sold blueing in wholesale and retail quantities and in recent years he had conducted a secondhand store. Besides his wife he is survived by son, John Bullock, a daughter, Miss Adeline Bullock, both of whom reside at home, and a stepson, George Butler of Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Bullock came north with his parents from North Carolina, where the family was in slavery before the Civil War. The family lived in Leroy for a short time, before coming to Batavia.”

Alice Chapin also wrote about Bullock’s passing, “Watson Bullock was widely loved and respected by townspeople of all faiths in Batavia. Readings in the ‘mystery’ record book tell that in 1918, when he died, the Free Methodist Church that he so dearly loved, was crowded with prominent people who came to honor him for his faithfulness to his God, his church and his community.”

On April 6, 1918, The Daily News reported the value of Watson’s estate as “…$4,650, of which $450 is in personal property.” ($85,650 today!) It was left to Martha as executrix and would go to the children at her death. Sadly, Martha Bullock died May 2, 1936, at the age of 89 at the Genesee County Poor Farm in Bethany.

The Free Methodists sold their building on Ellicott Street to Mt. Zion Baptist Church and built a new church on Bank Street in 1968, which is now Arbor House, part of Northgate Free Methodist Church. When the new church was dedicated, Dorothy Parker wrote in The Daily News on April 27, 1968, that according to a history written by longtime parishioner Mrs. Erwin Worthington, “Watson Bullock, an ex-slave who had operated a large dry cleaning business in Le Roy and Thomas Hill, body servant to a Confederate officer, were members of this early church.”  She also recounts that the Holland Land Office building was sold for $500, not $50 as McEvoy said and that the money was ‘…banked by Watson Bullock, rather than returned to the church conference as was customary. Mr. Bullock was determined to re-activate the church in Batavia.’”

For many years, it was thought that the only person of color buried in the Historic Batavia Cemetery was a woman named Addy. The inscription on her stone reads, “For 46 years the faithful colored servant of the Reverend Lucius Smith and family. Died January 28, 1857, aged 50 years.”

The Association thanks Professor Hinson and Russell Nephew for bringing to light the story of the Bullock family and their contributions to the Batavia community. Every soul in a cemetery has a story, and they all deserve to be remembered.

Previously: In 1921, Matthew Bullock fled to Batavia on his way to Canada to escape lynching

January 18, 2022 - 11:55am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in batavia, history, news.

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In 1834, an early jeweler, Jerome A. Clark, owned a jewelry store at 90 Main Street, Batavia, NY.  George Austin worked at Clark's jewelry store after school.  A few years later, Charles Prescott came to work as a clerk for Mr. Clark, and a friendship was formed between the two younger men. In 1885, the young men purchased the Clark estate business, which became Austin and Prescott. Mr. Austin died in 1914, and as part of his estate, $30,000 went to the village to develop a public park. Now you know how Austin Park got its name.  He left his interest in the business to William Hopp, who took over the company and moved to the Masonic Temple. Louis Weiner became the next owner, and in 1957 he moved across the street to the C.L. Carr Store where Robert Carr gave him a tiny corner next to the elevator for a workshop.  

Between 1887 and 1928, on the corner of Main and Jackson Street, C.C. Bradley opened a jewelry store. In 1909, Bradley bought the entire corner lot and built the three-story Curtis Building.  His modern jewelry store was located on the first floor.

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Mr. E. R. Muller had been a watchmaker for Bradley and continued his association with Mr. Bradley until 1898 when he went into business for himself. Muller's first store was at 2 Jackson Street "called "The Little Shop Around the Corner."  In 1905, he moved to 57 Main St. Mr. Muller went to school in Germany and learned watch-making and repair there.  He was the father of Miss Zita and Hildred Muller.  (Zita Muller was the principal at John Kennedy School for many years in the early 1950s.) In 1917, Mr. Bradley sold the Curtis Building to the F.W. Woolworth Company and moved his jewelry store across Main Street to 96 Main.  \Two years later, in 1929, he sold the jewelry store to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Mead, as well as, Mrs. Mead's sister, Miss Ann Francis. 

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In 1925, Mr. Sam Blumberg bought Muller's business and ran it under Blumberg's or as the Gift Center on 57 Main St. until 1949, when it moved next door to 55 Main Street and leased 57 Main Street's Thing's Shoe Store.  Theodore Freeman later managed the Gift Center for the Blumbergs.  The Urban Renewal Agency razed 55 and 57 Main St. in 1966.

Looking at Batavia Directories from 1900 to 2015, I noted many interesting facts about our early jewelry stores.

In 1900, there were three jewelry stores in Batavia. In 1919, two more jewelry stores were added to the list.  The street number of 90 Main St., was home to many jewelry stores. Urban renewal took the entire north side of Main Street. Francis and Mead at 96 Main St., Ingraham Jewelers at 2 Main St., and Herb Brenner at 124 Main St. ("It's ok to owe Herb Brenner") were the few jewelry stores that stayed in the exact location.  Other jewelers from the area were William Hopp, J.W. Dabney, Warren Cole, Josiah Dabney, Samuel Blumberg, Gordon Way, Morways and Hall Jewelers, to name a few. Krtanik Jewelers was another long-lasting jewelry store in the area. 

Today, there are two jewelry stores in Batavia. Valle Jewelers, a family-owned business since 1951, located on 21 Jackson St., and Lambert's Design Jewelers operated by family members at 375 West Main St.  

So what was the connection I mentioned in the first sentence of this article? In 1969, a young gas station attendant pumped gas at Moretto's Service Station, an elderly gentleman approached him and said he needed some money.  He asked if he could get $10 for either a wristwatch or a pocket watch. $10 was a full day's pay.  The attendant chose the pocket watch. The gentleman gave up the watch with sadness and asked the young man if he could take care of the watch by keeping it clean and wound.  He also asked if he returned with the $10 could he get his pocket watch back.  The attendant said yes!  That was 52 years ago. This young man always wondered where the watch came from and felt terrible that the gentleman never came back for the watch. An engraving on the watch said the watch was made especially for J. A. Clark, Batavia, NY, by Paul Breton Geneva, Switzerland. In looking at an 1876 atlas was a picture of J. A. Clark's Jewelry Store. In addition, there was a map of early Batavia.  J.  A Clark's home was built at the foot of Jackson Street. Rumor has it that he could step out on the balcony of his third floor home and, with the help of binoculars, could check on the women working in his store.  

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So where is the watch now? It is encased in a glass-domed pocket watch holder, sitting on an oak sideboard. You see, J. A. Clark's home was built at 1 Chestnut St.; that just happens to be the home of the unique pocket watch with the amazing story of coming home! The gas station attendant just happens to be my husband, Richard. We are thrilled to be the owners of this special pocket watch.

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January 1, 2022 - 3:04pm

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Growing up in Batavia, I remember walking down Ellicott Street and passing an impressive building covered with ivy. It seemed to be part of Batavia’s scenery. The building had belonged to Edwin Newton Rowell. 

Mr. Rowell came to Batavia from Utica, NY, in 1888 with W.T. Palmer, a business partner. Together they started a small box factory business on the third floor at 66 Main St. called the Palmer and Rowell Company. Mr. Rowell suspected his wife was unfaithful to him with a gentleman named Johnston L. Lynch. He dissolved the partnership with Palmer and took a job as a salesman to keep an eye on his wife. Edwin seemed correct with this suspicion because he went home early and found Mr. Lynch with his wife one day. In a passionate frenzy, he shot Mr. Lynch three times. The shooting was considered a crime of passion and made headlines in The Daily News. Not serving any jail time, he divorced his wife and went back to being the head of his own company at 66 Main Street under the name of The E.N. Rowell Company. 

His company made medicine boxes exclusively for several years and later added cosmetic boxes.

Rowell bought a brick factory building in 1896 on Ellicott Street at the junction of West Main Street. It formerly housed the D. Armstrong Shoe Company. In 1912 Rowell had a fourth-floor building on the Ellicott Street site. In 1919 he bought buildings on Jefferson Ave. from K.B. Mathes to start making a line of cosmetic boxes. This building was referred to as Factory Number 2. He purchased land south of the main factory and built a separate power plant on the creek bank. Later he bought the former St. James Rectory from the Elks for a print shop and storage area. Rowell’s boxes were sold around the world.

E. N. Rowell died in 1929.   May Emke Rowell, his second wife, and former secretary became president of the firm. She was a great businesswoman and was in control of the business until she died in 1971. In 1980 the Rowell factory building was for sale, and the factory closed permanently in 1981.

The Kastenbaum’s are the current owners of E.N. Rowell’s former beautiful home. E.N. Rowell’s unique monument at Grand View Cemetery has the same brickwork as his home. 

Visit the Holland Land Office Museum to see samples of his boxes.

Photos are courtesy of the Holland Land Office except where noted.

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Photo by Howard Owens from 2012

 

December 1, 2021 - 8:49am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in Edna Gruber, batavia, news, history.

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In 1926 a young woman purchased Batavia's Central Hotel.  She renamed it the Palace Hotel.  The red brick structure was located just south of the New York Central Railroad tracks.  The hotel consisted of three floors.  The main living space for the family was five rooms on the first floor, with nine bedrooms on the second floor and six unused bedrooms on the third floor.  The stately hotel would soon be known as Edna's or the 'house of ill repute.' No one knows how Edna got into prostitution, but there is mention that she was raped at a young age.  She was determined never to allow another woman to go through that violent, humiliating experience.

Edna Geyer was born on July 28, 1882, into a poor family in Buffalo, NY. By the age of 13, she began working in a barroom scrubbing floors. At the age of 15, Edna married Joseph Gruber and had a daughter, Florence in 1901.

In 1935 Edna's daughter Florence died in an accidental fire in Sandusky, Ohio. The death of her daughter was traumatic for Edna. Florence had two children, William and Edna, ages five and three. They moved into the Palace Hotel to live with their grandma, the infamous Edna, upon their mother's death. 

It was difficult for young Edna to lose her mother, move to Batavia and live with her grandmother.  When young Edna's father Charles returned to Batavia to find his wife and children, Grandma Edna took him to the cemetery and pointed to her daughter Florence's headstone.  When Charles wanted to take his children back with him, Edna had him beaten and implied that if he didn't leave town now, then he never would. 

Edna was a powerful woman.  She had connections and was not afraid to use them. As a result, Charles seldom saw his children, except when Edna went to prison for a year for "operating a disorderly house." At that time, Edna asked Charles to come to Batavia and run the Palace Hotel until she returned.

Edna, as the grandmother, was obsessively clean and neat.  She maintained an immaculate house, scrubbing the kitchen floor and bleaching the sidewalk every single day.  She was not your stereotypical madam or your demonstrative loving grandma.  She was an alcoholic and would be drunk for days on end.  As a petite woman of 5 feet stature, she raised her grandchildren with very high morals.  Her grandchildren were completely separate from Edna's prostitution business. Her grandchildren said, "She tried very hard to save us from hurt. She didn't care if people respected her, but they had to respect her grandchildren." The children were never told what went on at the Palace Hotel.

It was challenging to grow up in the Palace Hotel.  Other children ostracized young Edna. If Edna thought her granddaughter was being shunned by her classmates, she had no trouble calling the family and asking the parents if their child had a problem walking to school with her granddaughter.  Just hearing the threat in her voice was enough to instill fear in her granddaughter's classmates.  Ultimately, Edna wanted to save young Edna and Bill from hurt.

Edna was a shrewd businesswoman.  When the earnings from the Palace were divided, she took fifty percent of the profits for herself, and 50 percent went to the girls to be shared with their pimps.

Young Edna and her brother, Bill's lives, were a contradiction.  On the one hand, Grandma Edna was very generous with gifts, but on the other hand, she had young Edna work on the muck to earn money for school clothes.

The Edna the public knew was different from the madam. Edna's generosity to children in the area was legendary.   In the 20s, Edna noticed three young girls living near the New York Central railroad in squalor.  She took the girls home, cleaned them up, fed them, found homes for the older children, and adopted the youngest.

Rather than Edna the madam from Jackson Street, you heard stories about Edna taking care of the less fortunate.  At Christmastime, she would spend hundreds of dollars on toys for children at the Children's Home, the local orphanage in Batavia.  She was known for purchasing communion dresses and suits for needy children of the neighborhood. She told sales clerks at Thomas and Dwyer to be on the lookout for children walking to school barefoot.  She would ask that they be fitted for shoes, and then she would pay the bill.  Edna would send men into McAlpine and Barton in need of a warm suit, and again, the clerks would fit that person and send the invoice to Edna.  She also bought uniforms for the police and fire departments.

Yes, Edna had politicians in her back pocket and probably was connected to the Mafia. She knew how to outsmart the local police and could be very strict and often cold. However, most stories about her described her generosity. She believed that you did not hurt someone who was already down but rather should help them. 

Edna died in 1953. Her granddaughter, young Edna, found her in their living room slumped over a chair.  The Palace Hotel was left to Edna and her brother Bill.  Today the building has been sided and made into apartments.  If only the walls could talk!

Photographs are courtesy of Edna's Gruber's Family and the Holland Land Office Museum.

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September 15, 2021 - 1:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in history.
Event Date and Time: 
September 15, 2021 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

7 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, located at 11115 W. Park Street in Pavilion. The presentation is entitled “Is it Dangerous to Believe Anything We Want to Believe in? The Plot to Kill President Lincoln and the Place of Conspiracies in Genesee County – and American – History.” 

August 27, 2021 - 11:25am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, batavia, news, bakeries.

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Over the years bakeries found homes on the corners of many Batavia streets, especially Ellicott Street.  There was nothing like the aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through the store.  It was a smell of comfort.

One of the earliest bakers was Louis Uebele, who came from Germany and settled in Batavia in 1900.  He was responsible for baking all of the bread that was served at the newly built New York State School for the Blind.  His building was on the corner of Main and Center Street.  That location had several owners over the years and was known at various times as Henning’s, Williams’ Bakery, and Andrews’ Bakery.  There were other bakers who baked out of their homes for their neighbors.

In 1905 the Hiscutt Brothers, Arthur and Robert, started a small business at 240 Ellicott St.  The business expanded and the brothers bought a lot on Center Street south of the Masonic Temple.  In 1921 the Hiscutts bought the lot next door to be used as a garage and shipping room.  They delivered baked goods via horse and wagon even though automobiles were a new commodity.  The Hiscutt Brothers ran a very successful business for more than 25 years.  By 1932 the completion of chain store bakeries was cutting into their profits.  In 1937 the Genesee Trust Company took ownership of the business.  It was then sold to R. Walter Riehlman of Tully, NY.  He changed the name to The Table Top Bakery. 

Table Top Bakery renovated the former Hiscutts’ building.  Two delivery routes were established and the cream and orange International trucks could be seen on the roads.  Eventually, Table Top Bakery was servicing nearly all of Genesee County.  Two 300-loaf ovens were in use 24 hours a day supplying bread and other products to meet the needs of their customers.  A retail shop was maintained at the plant for the convenience of local shoppers who opted out of the delivery service.

Quintalino and Lucia (Zinni) Prospero had a bakery on Ellicott Street.   Mr. Prospero was a skilled baker who emigrated from Abruzzo, Italy, and ran the Prospero Bakery at 421 Ellicott Street in the early 20th century.  Mr. Prospero trained Mr. Colangelo who later opened a bakery on Ellicott and Mr. Saracini who opened a bakery on Liberty.  Unfortunately, there was a fire at Prospero's bakery in the mid-1930s that resulted in the closing of the bakery.  Prospero's Bakery was the original Italian bakery in Batavia. It was remembered as the bakery that sold day-old bread for one cent to the poorer families.  

Colangelo’s Bakery was located on Ellicott Street and was commonly known as the Ellicott Bakery.  It was originally called Alexander Colangelo’s Bakery.  In the ‘30s there was a second Colangelo’s run by Nicholas Colangelo on 119 Liberty Street.  Nicholas Colangelo’s bakery closed in 1937 and Alexander Colangelo’s bakery was open until 1973.

Casmir Stomper came to Batavia from Poland in 1925.  He became familiar with the locals when, with a basket of bread over his arm, he went door to door making deliveries in the neighborhood. In 1930 he opened a Polish bakery at 208 Swan Street.  He later moved his bakery to 400 Ellicott. The bakery had a deep stone oven; an oil burner heated the bricks.  This way of baking was considered outdated and so were the wooden boxes that were used for the rye bread to rise.   Stomper’s customers did not notice the outdated equipment; they just wanted their famous rye bread. His son Jack ran a bakery on Oak Street. After his father died he moved to the Ellicott Street Bakery and continued the tradition of baking rye bread using the old family recipe. Stomper’s was known for the hearth-baked bread and many Polish delicacies such asrugalske, plechunki, placki, bobka, and piatzek.  All of his goods were made from scratch.  He learned his baking skills from an Army baking school during WWI and he also attended a national baking school in Chicago. Jack’s wife Veronica died in 1986.  He lost interest in the bakery and his customers were left without their famous rye bread and cakes.

Grundler’s bakery was a popular bakery run by Louis Grundler and later his two sons, Louis and Harold.  The shop opened in 1934 but Louis Grundler had been selling baked goods in Batavia long before that.  He came to Batavia from Bavaria when he was about 16 years old to work at Schwab’s Bakery in Rochester.  In the late ‘20s, he ran a bakery on Jefferson Avenue in Batavia called Scott’s.  He was looking for a business to buy and eventually found one in Oakfield.  About 1933 Mr. Grundler came back to Batavia and sold baked goods from a shop at 12 Main Street.  He continued to bake in Oakfield and brought his baked goods to Batavia by trucks.  A year later he leased 52 Main Street and moved his business and all of his equipment to Batavia, the mixing and kneading machine, bread slicer, the bake ovens, and the rest is history.  While on shopping trips to Batavia, many county residents would stop at the bakery to pick up a loaf of salt-rising bread, its buttery dinner rolls, or one of its specialty pastries.  Grundler’s Bakery served Batavia for more than 30 years.

Saraceni bakery was located on 245 Liberty Street and was built by Arthur Saraceni. Mr. Saraceni baked in his home at 119 Liberty Street from the early ‘30s.  The new shop was a little cement block building, which he called The Bake Shop.  He sold bread and buns until 1956 when he sold out to Frank Pellegrino.

Francesco Pellegrino, who was the patriarch of the Pellegrino Family, bought Pellegrino Bakery located on 245 Liberty Street from Arthur Saraceni in 1955.  Graziano Pellegrino had a bakery business in Reggio Calabria, Italy.  In 1955 he came to America.  His father Francesco put him in the bakery business with his brothers Rocco, Frank, Joseph, and Carmen.  They ran the bakery until 1974 when Graziano suddenly passed on. Graziano’s sons Frank, Rocco, and Vincent, along with Mama Angelina, took over the business and ran it in the proud Pellegrino tradition. Eventually, by 1980 Frank was left to run the business.  He moved the business to Center Street then in 1986 to Liberty Street across from the Pok- A- Dot.  He built a beautiful new building and the business tripled.  In 1991 Pellegrino Bakery closed.  In 1999 Pellegrino brothers Frank and Vincent were back with a new building, baking their famous Italian bread, rolls, doughnuts, pizza, pastries, and cookies.  In 2001 the business closed.   The building and property were sold and the building became the home of Ficcarella Pizza.

Once again a delicious part of our history is gone, but what is left are the scrumptious memories of warm bread, rolls, doughnuts, pastries, and many other delicacies that are perhaps not good for a person to consume in large quantities!  Long-time Batavia residents can almost close their eyes and still remember the aromas as you opened the door into these treasures of Batavia’s past.

Author's Note: Not all bakeries are listed in this article but would love to hear from those that were missed.

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