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May 15, 2019 - 5:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in Joseph Ellicott, hlom, batavia, history, news.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce our newest acquisition of a land deed for the Holland Land Company dated June 30, 1813 acquired at auction at Bontrager Real Estate & Auction Service.

The deed is signed by members of the Holland Land Company and Joseph Ellicott. It represents a well-preserved example of the documentation that was created to expedite the early settlement of Western New York.

The land listed on the document is a lot within present day Newstead in Erie County. The purchaser, a John Voak, bought 120 acres of land for $359.19, an average of $2.99 per acre.

Though the land is in Erie County today, the deed lists the area to be in Niagara County, as the sale occurred before Niagara County was split in 1821.

The deed is currently on display at the museum (131 W. Main St., Batavia) in our Land Office Room exhibit, with other items connected to the Holland Land Company.

April 25, 2019 - 10:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in Boulder Park, Anne Marie Starowitz, Back in the Day, history, indian falls.

From my book "Back in the Day. Snapshots of Local History, the Way I see it."

It was a warm Sunday afternoon. My brothers and I were sitting in the backseat of our parents’ station wagon. We all were watching for the sign that said Boulder Park, Indian Falls, NY, on Route 77. We could not contain our excitement. We were clutching the coupon that said bring this coupon and 25 cents to Boulder Park and get 50 cents worth of ride tickets for children under the age of 12. All rides are a nickel.

We finally arrived at the park, and of course we could not agree on what ride to go on first. Would it be the merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, a kiddies’ automobile ride, the airplane ride, or the kiddie chair planes?

People from Genesee County and the surrounding areas shared this happy memory. If you were born in the late ‘40s into the ‘60s you probably would have memories to share. When we asked people for their memories, their responses were, “I remember going on picnics with my family. It was a big treat to go to Boulder Park”; “I remember getting sick on the Ferris wheel. It was the best time of the week because we went as a family,” and, “It was one of my happiest childhood memories. It was the only time I did not fight with my brothers, as long as I got to pick the first ride.”

The man responsible for those memories was Phil Morrot. He bought the Reynolds Farm and Feed Mill on Phelps Road. There, he and his sister Emily created Boulder Park. He selected the area because it was the heart of Indian Falls. It was located between two great hills in the narrow valley of the Tonnewanta, now called the Tonawanda Creek. It was the site where six Indian Trails met. It was sometimes described as a well-hidden fairy spot, blessed by God and nature.

The Morrots were not the first who wanted to utilize this beautiful area. In 1929, Ely S. Parker’s grandson, Arthur, a New York State archeologist, endorsed a proposal by Nathan Strauvis Jr., a member of the New York State Senate, to preserve its beauty as a state park. He was interested because at one time his famous grandfather owned the area. The owner at the time, knowing the land was in demand, raised the price to an amount the state was not able to afford. Another proposal was to tear down the mill and build steps leading to the gorge below connecting the Tonawanda Creek with Diver’s Lake. This would have made a horseshoe park. This was another failed dream.

In 1949 Morrot’s vision for Boulder Park was fulfilled. The area covered 14 acres, including Morrot’s home. Hundreds of automobiles from as far away as Buffalo, Rochester, and Olcott Beach made the pilgrimage to the Boulder Park.

The first rides to be constructed were the famous merry-go-round or as some call it, the carousel. It replaced the old apple processing building. Emily Morrot Bourgard, Phil’s sister, designed the carousel. Herschell Company built it and it was said that the carousel was the best product Herschell Company ever built.

The merry-go-round was one of a kind. It had thirty-two horses and seven unique animals that included a giraffe, an elephant, a camel, a reindeer with real horns, a lion, tiger, and a polar bear. This ride was the first in America to have both an elephant and polar bear. The horses had elongated heads, decorated with plumes and jewels. They were realistic, elaborately carved animals.

The merry-go-round’s first home was not Boulder Park. It was first delivered to Olcott Beach, NY. It was operating at Olcott Beach until 1947. That was the same year Phil Morrot began clearing the land for his Boulder Park.

Most people remember the merry go round. 1,200 electric light bulbs lighted it. The lights were reflected back from a double row of beveled mirrors, which were mounted on panels. The mirrors were alternated with original oil paintings of local landscapes. A Wurlitzer style military band organ provided the energizing music.

In 1930 Theo’s sister Emily died at the hand of the merry-go-round she designed. She stooped down to pick up a ticket and the knee of the Black Charger struck her.

The park employed at least a dozen workers. Mr. Morrot’s children also worked spinning pink cotton candy, taking tickets, serving hot dogs, and ice cream. It was truly a family owned business.

In 1960 a mile long train track was added to the park. It went through the woods on the opposite side of the creek and returned to the park.

Phil retired in 1964 and sold the park. The new owner let the park deteriorate. In 1970 Boulder Park was closed, never to reopen.

Today, the once magical Boulder Park is just a happy childhood memory to many of us. It was a time when parents could leave behind their jobs and go as a family to the wonderful world of Boulder Park to picnic and hop on any favorite ride for the cost of a nickel! Many thought of Boulder Park as our Disney World of Western New York.

The area is back to its natural state, with wildflowers, and home to water snakes, raccoons, possums, skunks, and woodchucks.

The famous carousel was dismantled and in dire need of restoration. The unique animals Emily created were sold individually at different auctions. In 1989 a collector purchased the polar bear for $121,000.

Below, kids in kiddie cars.

Below, "Refreshments anyone?"

Below, this restored elephant is from the famous merry-go-round from Boulder Park.

April 25, 2019 - 7:12am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Bontrager's Auction, batavia, hlom, history, news.


A property deed from 1813 and signed by Joseph Ellicott was purchased at auction yesterday by the Holland Land Office Museum for $1,900.

The deed was acquired last year by Dale Vargason, from Wayland, who found it in a box of 18th century documents he acquired and then decided to bring it to Bontrager's Auctions.

Auctioneer Todd Jantzi started bidding off at $1,000 and when there were no initial bids, dropped it down to $800. Two people then jumped into the bidding, including Gary Harkness, representing HLOM, and the bids quickly rose to the $1,900 mark.

Previously: Rare historical document, a deed signed by Joseph Ellicott, to be featured in upcoming auction at Bontrager's



April 17, 2019 - 2:33pm
posted by Virginia Kropf in news, genesee county, history.

Above, Michael Eula, Ph.D., Genesee County historian, looks at a letter from the New York State Bar Association, inviting Genesee County to participate in the Historical Society of the New York Courts’ County Legal History Project.


Genesee County is among more than a dozen counties which have been invited by the New York State Bar Association to participate in the Historical Society of the New York Courts’ County Legal History Project.

The project entails documenting the law itself in each county and how it has changed through the years, said Genesee County Historian Michael Eula, Ph.D.

Eula received a letter April 1 from Leah Nowotarski, of Warsaw, a member of the Committee for Bar Leaders of New York State, requesting Genesee County’s participating in the history project. According to Nowotarski, a number of counties, including Clinton, Dutchess, Franklin, Rockland and Westchester, have already completed their histories, which are posted on the Historical Society of the New York Courts website.

Other counties which have also joined the project are Albany, Broome, Columbia, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Nassau, Ontario, Putnam, Queens, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady and Wyoming.

The history project is being led by Jonathan Lipmann, retired chief judge of the New York State Court of Appeals; Stephen P. Younger, past president of the New York State Bar Association; and Marilyn Marcus, executive director of the Historical Society of the New York Courts.

“This is an opportunity to showcase Genesee County’s rich and fascinating legal history, and how that legal history functions within the wider context of New York and national history,” Eula said. “Genesee County laws, and the courts that administer them, are examples of how the traditions are continuously being adjusted to the changes evident in the development of Genesee County’s history.”

Eula has chosen the title “Flexible Tradition: the History of the Courts in Genesee County, New York, 1802 to the Present” for his submission to the project.

While he has already begun research on the project, he anticipates it will take him a year to complete.

“Being county historian is not the only thing I do,” Eula said. “I am also the County Records Management Officer, so at best, I get to spend an hour and a half a day on the Legal History Project.”

Eula said he is happy Genesee County was included in the Historical Society of the New York Courts’ County Legal History Project.

“I’m going to look at courthouses we have had in Genesee County, their architecture and the famous cases which were held there,” Eula said. “I will also look at the law itself in Genesee County and how it has changed to keep up with a changing society.”

Eula said he has a whole archive of documents from the 1800s to search through. There is information on civil cases, criminal cases and much more, he said.

He will also explore how punishment has changed over time and how we define family law.

One of the most famous cases in Genesee County history is that of local businessman R. Newton Rowell, who walked into their bedroom and found his wife with her lover Johnson Lynch, the great-grandson of President John Adams. Rowell shot and killed Lynch, but the jury acquitted him.

“That is an example of how society and views have changed,” Eula said. “He probably wouldn’t have been acquitted today. I will also be looking at the law in terms of what is and isn’t acceptable behavior in Genesee County.”

Another interesting fact -- most people don’t realize we had slaves in Genesee County until New York abolished slavery in 1827.

“Even before then, as far back as 1813, slaves who were accused of a crime were given the right to a trial by jury,” Eula said.

The historian said it is interesting to note how a court itself is structured.

“You always have the judge on a platform, so we have to look up,” Eula said. “That tells us we are in a place of authority. Words used by lawyers in a courtroom, as time has gone on, have become almost like a foreign language.”

Eula will also explore how the legal world affects a typical resident of Genesee County, such as a hard-working farmer who is summoned as a juror. When he comes off the fields into a courtroom, it is a very different world from his normal one, Eula said.

Eula will also be submitting photos with his essay.

“I am very happy the Bar Association included Genesee County in its project,” Eula said.

Photo by Virginia Kropf.

February 15, 2019 - 12:30pm
posted by Holland Land Office in Holland Land Office Museum, clothing, history.
Event Date and Time: 
March 12, 2019 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Gail Argetsinger, an associate professor and resident costume designer at The College at Brockport, will be speaking on what clothing might have been seen at the World's Fair in St. Louis, Mo., in 1904. "More than 19 million people flocked to the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. The attendees represented a cross section of society and occupations, and it was reflected in their dress. This presentation will focus on the apparel that would have been seen on the fairgoers, how the aesthetics of the period and fabric/ fashion technology informed those fashions."
January 24, 2019 - 11:39am
posted by Holland Land Office in Holland Land Office Museum, coffee, Donuts, history.
Event Date and Time: 
March 28, 2019 - 9:00am to 10:30am
Join us at the museum the 4th Thursday of each month, 9-10:30am for coffee, pastries and lively conversation about historical and cultural characters and events. If interested in this event, please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or email [email protected] and we will be happy to keep a chair and a warm cup of “joe” waiting for you.
January 24, 2019 - 11:27am
posted by Holland Land Office in Holland Land Office Museum, coffee, Donuts, history.
Event Date and Time: 
February 28, 2019 - 9:00am to 10:30am
Join us at the museum the 4th Thursday of each month, 9-10:30am for coffee, pastries and lively conversation about historical and cultural characters and events. If interested in this event, please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or email [email protected] and we will be happy to keep a chair and a warm cup of “joe” waiting for you.
January 2, 2019 - 1:28pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in schools, education, news, batavia, history.


       Anne Marie Starowitz

A couple of months ago a friend contacted me and asked if I would like a book from the Union School. I immediately said, “yes.” When I taught at Robert Morris School there was a painting of a very impressive red brick school called Union School. I always thought there was another school on Union Street besides Robert Morris. When I began researching schools for my book, I learned the impressive school did exist in Batavia but on Ross Street.

Here is a brief timeline of the schools in Batavia. As Western New York was settled in the 1700s, the first thing on a settler’s mind was to build a home for the family and gardens or crops to feed them, but no community was complete until a church was built and soon followed by a schoolhouse.

By 1798, there were 1,352 schools in the Holland Land Purchase (the area sold and administrated from the Holland Land Office in Batavia). Within 40 years (by 1838) that number increased almost tenfold, to 10,583. 

The first brick school was constructed in Batavia in 1811. It had the public school downstairs and a meeting place for the Masonic Lodge upstairs. In 1829, the school district was divided between west of Dingle Alley and east of Dingle Alley. That would be the intersection of East Main and Center Street.

In 1839, the districts were consolidated and Batavia’s First Free Union School District 1 was built. In 1861, District 2 was combined with District 1. As a result, overcrowding occurred and the need for a new school was inevitable. The school district purchased land on Ross Street and in 1873 the red brick high school was built. It opened in 1874.

It was demolished in 1926 and was replaced with a new high school, currently the Batavia Middle School. The book I mentioned in this article was from the first high school that had the impressive red brick façade and towers. The book is stamped Union School 1905. The title of the book is, "The History of Little Goody Two Shoes," published in 1900. The book is dedicated "To All Young Gentlemen and Ladies who are good or intend to be good."

In 1911 the district was combined with one superintendent in charge of all schools. In the City School District, there was a high school, five elementary schools, the school for the blind and one Catholic school with students to 12th grade. By 1920, 400 students attended the high school; it was overflowing.

In 1921, 30 students had to go to vacant classrooms at East school. In 1920 the high school was built. There were five elementary schools and only one had been built in the 1900s. Washington was built in 1885 and had four rooms. In 1903 H. W. Homelius built a new school that had two floors and eight classrooms. It opened in 1904. Also built at the same time was Pringle School and William Street School. Washington School was built in 1885. East School and West School were built in 1892.

 In 1925 Jackson School would be built to replace William School and Pringle School. In 1929 Brooklyn School, Robert Morris, and Jackson school opened. In 1939 Jackson School was enlarged and opened as a junior high school. By 1948 all city schools were crowded. Students were bussed to less crowded schools. Parents protested, they wanted their kids in their neighborhood schools.

Temporary schools were created at East School and Washington School. In 1950, city council offered to the City School District a site on Vine Street for a new school. Pringle school closed and was razed in 1954. Lincoln School closed in 1960. Children living south of Ellicott Street went to Jackson School, which was no longer a junior high school. A new school was to be built on Vine Street, called John Kennedy School, named after the superintendent John Kennedy who served from 1890 to 1930.

As public schools were being built, so were parochial schools. St. Joseph School opened in 1882, Sacred Heart School in 1904, St. Anthony’s School in 1930, St. Mary’s School in 1951, and Notre Dame High School opened in 1952. St. Joseph School is currently the only Catholic Elementary School in Batavia along with Notre Dame High School.

In 1961 the current Batavia High School was built on State Street. The high school on Ross Street was changed to a middle school. A new school for B.O.C.E.S. was also built on State Street and opened in 1976. In 1972 the new Genesee Community College was built.

In 2014 Robert Morris School closed. Jackson School became the district primary school and John Kennedy School became the intermediate school.

Even though the earliest history of the various schoolhouses throughout the region had similar stories with varied locations and different building designs, they all were built for the same reason -- to educate the children in what is today our city schools.

I attended East School, John Kennedy School, St. Joseph and Notre Dame High and I taught at Jackson School, Robert Morris School and John Kennedy School. I am currently on the faculty at St. Joseph School.


December 19, 2018 - 1:22pm
posted by Genesee Chamber... in history, museums, tourism, news.

The snowy season is the perfect time to explore a museum (or two, or three). And Genesee County is the perfect place to find interesting information and interactive fun just waiting to be discovered. From surprising local history to immersive experiences to a whole gallery dedicated to the dessert that changed the world, we’ve rounded up a few great museums to set your sights on.

Get ready to warm up while you brush up on your local historical knowledge. The hardest part is deciding where to start!

Holland Land Office Museum

What better place to begin your journey than in Batavia, NY – called “the birthplace of Western New York?” Step into the Holland Land Office Museum, an 1810 stone building bursting with artifacts and information that tell the story of the area and those notable people who impacted it in a major way. See the Medal of Honor earned by Charles F. Rand, a Batavian who was to first soldier in the nation to volunteer for the Civil War. View an original gibbet used in hangings up until 1881. Combine your visit with a stop at the Batavia Peace Garden, located right next door.

In the spirit of the holidays, the museum currently has a tree wonderland exhibit where visitors can explore nearly 50 well-decorated trees, pictures and festive displays. The 2018 theme is “Favorite Holiday Movie,” so get ready for a trip down memory lane! The museum also hosts monthly trivia nights on the second Thursday of the month.

JELL-O Gallery Museum

Did you know JELL-O was invented right here in Genesee County in 1897? Follow the JELL-O brick road and see where it all began! Explore the history of “America’s Most Famous Dessert” while you enjoy old TV commercials and ads, famous JELL-O works of art, and lots of wiggly, jiggly fun facts. A stop at the museum isn’t complete until you browse the gift store and take home a souvenir in every color.

Rolling Hills Asylum

No plated glass, no guard rails, no barriers. Just pure unfiltered history at Rolling Hills Asylum. Once housing the Genesee County Poor Farm, the addition of the infirmary in 1938 sealed the fate of poor unfortunate souls who were sent there. This unusual museum provides a more hands-on experience for guests, allowing them to get up close and personal with its past. Take a history tour, a flashlight tour, join a guided ghost hunt, or spend several hours exploring during an overnight lock-in. Special events like painting parties, movie showings, and dinners are also offered year-round.

Genesee Country Village & Museum

Centuries of American history come to life (literally) in this living history complex of more than 600 acress in Wheatland (Monroe County). Sixty-eight authentic, historic buildings dot the charming Genesee Country Village, with thousands of artifacts housed throughout. Find yourself immersed in 18th and 19th century life, as you browse homes from early settlers in the 1800s up to affluent members of society in the 1900s. Visit with farm animals, interact with costumed interpreters, attend a special event -- and don’t forget to swing by the on-site brewery for a swig.

Harford House Barn & Livery

The Harford House Barn & Livery museum resides in the former 1880 Harford Hotels Livery Stables in Downtown Bergen. Inside the barn, guests can browse interesting, life-size tableaux depicting a blacksmith shop, a general store, school classroom and more. Presentations are also available by village Historian Raymond MacConnell for those curious to learn more.

Historic Le Roy House

More than 100 years of unique history can be found in this mansion-turned-museum! Built in 1822, the home was once owned by the Chancellor of Ingham University -- the first female university in the United States to grant a four-year degree. As you tour three floors of period-designed rooms, learn about local abolitionists, see a real open-hearth kitchen, and enjoy hands-on activities for the kids. The building itself is a sight to behold – listed on the National Register of Historical Places!

Medina Railroad Museum

The Medina Railroad Museum (in Orleans County) is the largest freight depot in the country, with the largest collection of train artifacts and memorabilia housed under one roof. Browse the exhibits before hopping on a scenic train ride or themed seasonal excursion. Throughout the year you’ll find rides that travel along the Erie Canal, zip past fall foliage, take you to the North Pole to meet Santa and his reindeer – or allow you to hop aboard an Easter Express and meet the big bunny himself.

Tonawanda Indian Reservation Historical Society

Immerse yourself in the lives of local Native Americans. The history of the Tonawanda Band of Seneca Indians is celebrated throughout the hallways of the Tonawanda Indian Community House. Wander the halls as you explore large-scale photographs and illustrations that display the history and heritage of the Reservation. Learn about the tribe and the history of the Seven Nations, and don’t forget to see the chief’s headdress on the second floor.

Le Roy Barn Quilt Trail

Who says a museum has to be enclosed? Barn Quilts of Le Roy began as a bicentennial project for the town and has grown to feature more than 100 handmade quilts on display on barns throughout the area. Step-on bus tours are offered by appointment or you can hop in a car with some friends or your family and take the driving tour yourself! The quilts represent the pride of Le Roy, a town rich with heritage.

Alabama Museum

Local history can hold some surprising secrets…did you know that the town of Alabama, NY used to have three-gun manufacturers in town? The Alabama Museum resides in an old schoolhouse and features everything from a hammered dulcimer to an old doctor’s buggy. Browse the artifacts and get an understanding of a little local history, dating back to the mid-1800s. You can also grab a copy of the Alabama Cookbook for your home or as a gift. The 70-page cookbook includes cooking tips, favorite recipes from the locals, and some recipes from the 1895 Alabama Cookbook.

History buffs need not stop there! See all of the local museums within Genesee County and find more fascinating facts here.

November 24, 2018 - 8:00am
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, batavia water tower, history.

By Dave Reilly

Teenagers have most likely been doing risky adventures since ancient times. It's their way of rebelling and trying new things.

Prehistoric teens might having taken dad's newly invented wheel for a joyride down the highest sand dune. Or they could have covered some cave paintings with graffiti.

In the '50s and '60s in Batavia, drag racing on the Creek Road or jumping off the Walnut Street Bridge into Tonawanda Creek were things kids would do that parents certainly wouldn't have been happy about if they had known.

One of the rites of passage into daring teenhood that my friends and I did was climb the Batavia Water Tower on Ellicott Street.

If you lived or worked in Batavia between 1939 and 2003 you would have seen the Water Tower jutting above the city skyline. Located on Ellicott Street behind the E. N. Rowell Box Factory and Engine House #1 of the City Fire Department, it was on the bank of Tonawanda Creek and very near to downtown.

Built in 1938-39 as a project for W. P. A. (the Works Progress Administration was renamed the Work Projects Administration) at a cost of $175,000 ($3 million in today's money) the tower was short-term insurance in the event of a break in the city's water supply.

Just shy of 200 feet high (17 stories) it was believed at the time of its construction to be the tallest water tower in the United States. The blinking red lights on top were to alert low-flying aircraft. It held 1.5 million gallons, or 13 million pounds, of water.

In 1983 it was repainted at a cost of $89,000. In 2003, the 65-year-old rusting structure was no longer needed and was disassembled and taken down at a cost of $114,000.

From the day it was finished, the Batavia Water Tower must have been a challenge to the teenage ego, or maybe even to younger youths; in 1952 four boys between the ages of 10 and 14 were discovered up there by police in broad daylight. They told police they wanted to see Lake Erie, but were disappointed that they couldn't even see Lake Ontario.

For my friends and me it was akin to Flick in “A Christmas Story” accepting the “double dog dare” and sticking his tongue on a frozen flagpole. None of us really wanted to go up the tower. But, in the code of teens, none of us could get out of climbing it if someone else did without severe repercussions to our reputation. In other words, we'd rather be scared than called chicken.

I don't know about the others, but I had to block out my fear of heights, which I still have to this day. Not exactly as bad as Indiana Jones and snakes, but worse than flying on a commercial airline.

At least we weren't brazen enough to climb in the daytime. That would have resulted in a ride in a patrol car immediately. Plus, half the fun was getting away with it and not telling your parents until you were 40.

So, we would sneak back there in the dead of night. The darker the better. First, there was a fence to climb over. “Danger” and “Warning” signs were posted on the fence, but that just made it more inviting. Then, you had to hoist yourself up to a spiral staircase, which wound around the core of the tower. That part was actually not bad as it had solid steps and handrails, so if you didn't look down it was bearable.

At the top of the spiral stairs was a circular walkway which went all the way around. This part also had a railing and I could handle it if I kept my back against the wall and didn't look over the side. Those who have a fear of heights will identify with the weak feeling I would get in my legs just watching one of my braver buddies look down over the railing.

I imagine there was a fine view of the surrounding area from there in the daytime, but all we could see were the lights of downtown and surrounding buildings like the Doehler-Jarvis plant, a tool-and-die company, just to the south. (It employed 1,500 people in its heyday and closed in 1981. The buildings were later razed to make way for parking around the ice-skating rink.)

The biggest challenge though was negotiating an arced ladder that had no handrail and which curved over the top and took you up to the lights on the apex of the structure.

With trembling hands, up we would go. Once we grabbed onto the lights flashing in our face like a drowning person to a piece of driftwood, we could relax for a few minutes and enjoy our conquest. We would light up a cigarette (another thing our parents would frown on even though most of them smoked, too) and gloat in our accomplishment.

One time, we had to snuff our smokes quickly and remain very silent as we observed a policeman on foot checking on the cars in Mancuso's used car lot just below the tower. We had to stay up there longer than usual while he completed his rounds and finally left. We undoubtedly breathed a sigh of relief and tried to enjoy the moment without thinking about the trip back down.

Going back down that curved ladder was absolutely the hardest part for me. You could not negotiate the ladder going over the edge without looking down at least briefly. If that cop had still been there he could have probably heard my heart pounding.

Once back on the walkway, you could begin your descent of the spiral staircase. Holding tightly onto the railings, I would try to look straight out and not down.

As I got to the bottom of the stairway I would almost be running and then as I hopped onto the ground a huge feeling of relief would wash over me -- “I made it, I'm still alive!”

As I walked home, I would tell myself, “OK. That's it. I don't care what the guys say or how much grief they give me, I am never going up there again.” Of course, I did care, and the next time I'd go again. Except for the force of nature, I'm not sure there is anything more powerful than peer pressure.

It was more than 50 years ago, and I don't remember how many times I climbed the water tower. Certainly five or less. But, considering my fear of heights it's still a perverse badge of honor of my teen years.

When the Batavia Water Tower was being taken down in 2003, my dad was a resident of the New York State Veterans Home and I would go to Batavia twice a week to visit him. When the last of the tower was lying on the ground waiting to be taken away to scrapyards, I stopped by there and got as close as I could.

"Hah! You're not so high and mighty now are you?” I laughed.

But still every time I go out on a bridge or the balcony of a high story hotel room, I know that tower is laughing back at me.

Photos of the Batavia Water Tower courtesy of Judy Stiles at the Genesee County History Department.

Dave Reilly last wrote for The Batavian about a red football helmet he treasured as a boy growing up in Batavia.

November 21, 2018 - 5:37pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in history, Le Roy, news, batavia.


Photos and article submitted by Anne Marie Starowitz.

I have been in a classroom since 1955. As a kindergarten student at the East School on Main Street in Batavia, I was evaluated by a checklist of questions: Could I tie my shoes, skip, and did I play well with others? We all know that has changed over the years.

My next memories were at St. Joseph’s Elementary School, where I learned Gregorian chant and how to diagram sentences. We didn’t have a gymnasium so recess was definitely my favorite subject because it was outside. We covered our books with brown grocery paper bags and the girls wore navy blue uniforms. In high school again, we wore blue uniforms.

Traditional teaching was the norm, a teacher at the front of the room lecturing and students taking notes. D’Youville College was different in the late ‘60s. First of all, very few students owned a typewriter; our papers were handwritten or if you were lucky your roommate had a typewriter.

You lined up in long lines to try to get the required courses for your major. It took weeks to get your grades in the mail. When I graduated the job, market was flooded; I was one of thousands who wanted to be teachers. The Vietnam War influenced many students to stay in college. 

I was so lucky to land my first job at the Wolcott Street School in Le Roy.  I finally had my own classroom. I was not the student anymore; I was the teacher. I had my stack of ditto masters and I was ready to create my worksheets. How lucky to have the hand-operated Ditto machine available to make my copies. As the children would say those dittoes smelled so good. 

I wanted to be a hands-on teacher. My first year in third grade the Social Studies curriculum was learning about the regions of the world. The first area I had to teach was the deserts of the world. So, I brought in sand, bought every possible cactus plant I could find and prepared a display on a long table. We did a mural with a map to go behind the table. The children created a papier-mâché camel. They were so engaged.

I wanted the children to feel what it was like to live in a desert. I turned the thermostat in the classroom to about 85 degrees. I did not know my thermostat controlled the 12 classrooms on my floor. I bet those kids (and the other teachers) never forgot the lesson on deserts! I was lucky that I was given the opportunity to try new things. I always believed if you were excited to be a teacher, your students would be excited to learn.


When I taught in Batavia I again worked with a wonderful principal, Andy Steck. He supported my teaching style. He accompanied my class to New York City and always supported my trips to Albany. I retired in 2007 and for the next 11 years I continued to teach. I borrowed teachers’ classrooms who were ill or at a meeting. In 2017, I changed from a substitute teacher back to a classroom teacher.   This time I am very happy to be on the faculty of St. Joseph School as their second-grade teacher.

My life has come full circle.

Times have changed and with the passing years many programs have come and gone. Technology has impacted the way we teach and how the children learn. Nevertheless, the teachers are the same as they were back in my day, 46 years ago when I was a first-year teacher: Teachers are in the classrooms for one reason, the children!

Ann Marie Starowitz is author "Back in the Day: Snapshots of Local History,The Way I see It!." The book is in its final printing and is available at 20-percent off the original price at the Holland Land Office Museum bookstore.


November 19, 2018 - 1:53pm

OAKFIELD -- Those with a curiosity about Oakfield’s past won’t want to miss the latest book published by the Oakfield Historical Society.

"The Stories Behind the Businesses (The Way We Were)" chronicles what writer Darlene Warner calls Oakfield’s “carefree years,” and tells the stories behind the businesses which put Oakfield on the map.

“I am totally enthused about this book,” Warner said. “Wherever possible, I asked family members to write their own family stories, and this resulted in fantastic histories about the businesses in Oakfield in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s that only they could tell.”

Warner has covered earlier years in previous books she has written, she said. 

"The Stories Behind the Businesses" contains 65 stories, including hardware stores, grocery and dry goods stores, gas stations, car dealerships, dairies, a pharmacy, furniture stores, a flower shop, plumbers, laundromats and pizzerias.

“You name it, we had it here,” Warner said. “The stories are wonderful.”

Readers will discover how Al Hilchey got the hardware store; what it was like living at the Arnold House; that the bowling alley once had bleachers; why Cuzzy’s was called the “Eland Dairy Bar”; who had the first self-made car wash; and the interesting ways some business owners were paid.

The book also discloses when the shoemaker’s shop was demolished and what happened to the cobblestone; which grocer taught a young boy about food and self respect; and who was a former cowboy and could do some soft shoe.

“We had restaurants and hotels and so much more,” Warner said. “Plus, it was our ‘carefree years,’ where children could play outside until dark with never so much as a worry for their parents. Many people have commented to me that this was great fun for them, reminiscing over old memories. Thus, this has been a fun book to work on all the way around.”

The book, which sells for $20, is the latest in a series of books about Oakfield, all of which are on sale at the Historical Society’s Research Center, 7 Maple Ave. Or this newest book will be shipped for $6.70 more.

The book is also available at the Haxton Memorial Library, and after Dec. 3 at the Oakfield Family Pharmacy.

The Historical Society is open from 1 to 3 p.m. Sundays.

On Dec. 1, the Historical Society will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. during Christmas in the Village. During that time they will also host the Oakfield-Alabama Central School Art Show. Residents are urged to come in and vote for their favorite artist.

The Historical Society will also be an ornament stop for the Oakfield Betterment Committee.

October 21, 2018 - 11:30pm


Tracy Ford reprised his role as the Rev. John Henry Yates during the Batavia Cemetary Association's annual Ghost Walk, which gives guests an opportunity to be treated to a lively lesson on Batavia's history.

This year's addition included Gregory Hallock, director of GO ART!, as Eli Fish, the former local brewer who has come to life again, so to speak, in the brewery and restaurant now occupying the former Newberry's building downtown.

Diana Buckman, also pictured below, played Nannie Hunt, whose sons Thomas and Joseph served in the Civil War, with Joseph dying in battle in 1862. She read a letter from Hunt's daughter Martha about Joseph's death.

Once again, the event was a sellout.




October 20, 2018 - 11:15am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Le Roy, le roy pd, news, history.


Louis Buono, left, owner of the McDonald's franchise in Le Roy, is remodeling his store and in the new design there won't be room for the historical photographs he had on display before.

Most of the photos are going to the Le Roy Historial Society, but one, of Le Roy police officers with a patrol car and motorcycles, has been donated to Le Roy PD for display inside the station in the Village Hall. Accepting the donation is Officer Greg Kellogg.

October 19, 2018 - 10:45am
posted by Holland Land Office in Trivia, Holland Land Office Museum, history.
Event Date and Time: 
November 8, 2018 - 7:00pm to 9:00pm
Every second Thursday of each month, put your knowledge of seemingly trivial facts to the test & learn some new ones with our  History Trivia Family & Team Challenge!! $3 per person/ $2 for museum members call for team pricing Keep an eye on our twitter and website page for more details and make sure to share with your friends!
October 3, 2018 - 3:15pm
posted by Billie Owens in BCSD Foundation, van detta stadium, batavia, history, sports.

Press release:

Capture a piece of the historical Daniel A. Van Detta Stadium at Woodward Field while supporting the Batavia City School District Foundation Inc. on Oct. 13.

From 9 a.m. to noon that Saturday, the Batavia community is invited to own a piece of the historic ground of Daniel A. Van Detta Stadium at Woodward Field by making a monetary donation to the Batavia City School District Foundation Inc. Any monetary donation to the foundation will be accepted.

All present and former staff, students, athletes, spectators, and members of the Batavia community (including Notre Dame alumni), are encouraged to participate in this event!

It will take place just prior to the groundbreaking for renovations included in the Batavia City School District’s 2020 Vision Capital Improvement Project (https://www.bataviacsd.org/Domain/437).

Members of the BCSD Foundation Inc. will be on hand at the Union Street entrance to collect donations from those entering the stadium, located at 120 Richmond Ave. This event gives people the opportunity to not only support the foundation, but to have a part of the City of Batavia’s athletic history.

We encourage your participation and look forward to you stopping by the Daniel A. Van Detta Stadium at Woodward Field on Saturday, Oct. 13. Shovels will be available for your use.

For more information about the event, please contact Julia Rogers at [email protected]. For further information on the BCSD Foundation Inc. please check out www.bataviacsd.org/Page/7364.

October 1, 2018 - 2:29pm
posted by Billie Owens in history, GCC, Steven Hahn, pulitzer prize, news.

On Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. Pulitzer Prize winning professor of History from New York University Steven Hahn will discuss his latest book "A Nation Without Borders" at Genesee Community College.

This is an important reinterpretation of 19th century America — a kind of coming-of-age story especially significant for its contribution to the scholarship on the Civil War period.

“A massive and masterly account of America’s political and economic transformation between 1830 and 1910 . . . Hahn describes his book as telling ‘a familiar story in an unfamiliar way.’ It is much more than that. Attempting a synthesis of a century’s worth of American history is a daunting task. Writing one as provocative and learned . . . as this one is a triumph, nothing less.” – David Oshinsky, The Washington Post

The lecture will be in room T102 of the Conable Technology Building; it is free and open to the public.

The Yale-educated Hahn had none other than Southern historian and scholar C. Vann  Woodward (Nov. 13, 1908 -- Dec. 17, 1999) as his academic advisor. Hahn is also a recipient of the prestigious Bancroft Prize, which is awarded each year by the trustees of Columbia University for books about diplomacy or the history of the Americas. It was established in 1948 by a bequest from Frederic Bancroft.

Hahn was awarded the Pulitizer Prize for History for his 2004 book "A Nation Under Our Feet."

"This is big news for GCC," said GCC Associate Professor of History Derek D. Maxfield in an email. "He is our third Pulitzer Prize winner in three years. Copies of his book will be available for sale (and signing)."

September 28, 2018 - 1:12pm
posted by Billie Owens in Stafford, Announcements, history.
The Stafford Historical Society will present a matinee program with Cynthia Howk, architectural research coordinator for Landmark Society of Western New York at its next meeting on Sunday, Oct. 14.
It begins at 2 p.m. in the Stafford Town Hall, 8903 Route 237, Stafford.
Howk's program will be "Discover Stafford -- 200 Years of Historic Architecture." The presentation will include slides of houses, barns, well-houses, smokehouses, carriage steps, hitching posts and other historic resources found in Stafford.
The public is invited -- bring family members and friends.
September 12, 2018 - 12:56pm
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in history, news, batavia.


I have been writing articles for more than 10 years. I have written about our early history, businesses, people, schools, transportation to name only a few topics. There is so much history surrounding us.

You can go to the Holland Land Office Museum, our county museum or visit the Batavia Historical Cemetery on Harvester, go to our Richmond Memorial Library, or visit our county Historian, Michael Eula, at the Genesee County History Department.

Deciding to clean out our attic, I discovered another place surrounded by history. As I entered our crowded, dusty attic on that first day, I was immediately taken back to an earlier time. I found, in the back of the attic, our daughters’ cribs and their toys. Opening bins of their toys reminded me of their faces on Christmas morning. Where did the time go?  

I felt I was in a time capsule and was landing at different decades. The cribs were taken to the dumpster but the memories stayed. I landed next to bins that said, “Jenn sort,” and “Jes sort.” I opened the bins and smiled at what they have saved and wondered why I was still storing them.  

There were bins filled with photographs, not organized, just sitting haphazardly in a bin. Every picture took you to that time and in my mind, I relived the memories. One particular album caught my eye. It was filled with just 8-by-10 pictures. In the '70s you could have your child’s picture taken for $.99 for an 8-by-10 picture at J.J. Newberry’s or W.T. Grant Co. department stores. I found our daughters dancing recital costumes and soccer jerseys.

My next landing was very bittersweet. A bin of memories my mom had given me many years ago that I don’t remember ever seeing. How did she do it with six children and found the time to save articles about us growing up. There were programs that I had been in along with many pictures. There was even my medical history with shots and my allergy testing. So that brought me back to living on Highland Park and then Evergreen Drive. 

I found my wedding gown and wedding pictures. I loved my simple gown and the cherished memories of that day. I laughed when I saw one picture of my brothers’, one in a plaid jacket and the other in plaid pants. That landing was such a sweet memory, especially the picture of me dancing with my Dad surrounded by family and friends. So many pictures of him and me on important events in my life, my Communion, my Confirmation, my wedding, my retirement, and our daughters' baptisms. Did he know how much those pictures meant to me, did I ever tell him? 

My next landing were the pictures of my students and the cards and letters they sent me. I would always have them write their name and date on any gifts they gave me. I had a file on every class. In the early years, they were remembered on slides and in the later years in a PowerPoint (presentation). I hope they all knew what they meant to me. So many children, so many years, so many memories! 

Now our children are married and we are blessed with grandchildren. There are no words to describe what those children mean to us. They also had fun in the attic last year when they played with their mother’s toys and wore the old-fashioned hats. 

My last landing was also my most recent memories. The pictures were from our parents' memorial services with CDs that chronologically displayed their lives through pictures. Losing our parents filled me with a mixture of sadness and so much happiness. We were loved, just like we love our children and how they love their children. It is a cycle that will always continue.

I’m done for now in the attic. It was quite a ride. I realized that everything I saved was a part of my history.

I know you all have someplace similar to an attic that holds your memories. My memories have reentered my heart in a different way, an older way.  Now when I look at old pictures I remember the history. I am glad I took a memory tour in our attic. It just made me realize how lucky I am to hold these cherished memories. When there are days that don’t seem to go the way I hoped, maybe I should revisit our attic.



August 25, 2018 - 12:50pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, batavia, Announcements, civil war, Antietam, history, GCC.

Genesee Community College's History Club will begin its fall lecture series on Wednesday, Sept. 5, when Kevin R. Pawlak speaks on "The Jewels of War: Robert E. Lee, George B. McClellan and the Battle of Antietam."

The free lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in Room T102 in the Conable Technology Building at GCC's Batavia Campus, located at One College Road. All are invited.

The History Club will host a lecture on the first Wednesday evening of every month this fall as part of its Historical Horizons Lecture Series. 

Pawlak is the author of "Shepardstown in the Civil War."

The Battle of Antietam is America's bloodiest single day. In totality, 12 hours of fighting on Sept. 17, 1862 left approximately 23,000 casualties. During this lecture, Pawlak will assess the dramatic events of the Civil War battle from the unique perspective of the commanders on the field.

(Photo of author Kevin R. Pawlak, courtesy of GCC.)

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