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October 28, 2022 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in Henry Homelius, Frank Homelius, batavia, history, news.

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Henry Homelius was born in 1850 in Buffalo, New York, to an immigrant family from Germany.  His father was a carpenter and builder.  When Henry was six years old, his family moved to Batavia, an up-and-coming city with many possibilities. 

Henry attended Batavia High School, but no records show he graduated.  He may not have earned a high school diploma but what he had was a determination to succeed.  He spent his evenings studying books on drafting, architecture, and math.  During the daytime, he worked with his father and other craftsmen. 

With Henry W. Homelius's work ethic and hands-on experience, he would be remembered as one of the most talented architects of our time.

In 1874 Henry married Catherine Blenker, a beautiful statuesque daughter of a well-known tailor.  She gave birth to a son, Frank H. Homelius, in 1876.  That particular year seemed pivotal for Henry because he was commissioned to build a home on a new street in Batavia called Ellicott Avenue. 

Today that home can be seen in most of its original glory with a mansard roof tower and ocular dormer windows in the Second Empire Style.  It also features arches on the front porch and two-inch thick double-leaf entrance doors.  Henry and Ann Emmans are the proud owners of this home built by Henry H. Homelius at 32 Ellicott Avenue.

Another example of Homelius' architect is Joe Seidel's home on 30 Ellicott Avenue, next door to the Emmans' Homelius home. Both houses are very similar, just different exteriors.  Seidel's home was built in the Italianate style but had a "Victorian" Interior.  The use of old-growth chestnut, oak, and mahogany woods is prevalent throughout the home, and the original horsehair crown moldings and medallions are evident.   In addition, the floorplan layout reflects the era.

Henry's fame flourished, and he was in demand.  He built more than a dozen homes on Ellicott Avenue and Elba, Oakfield, and Corfu. Henry's homes were in a class of their own.  He created the onion-domed tower, large porches with three pillars on each porch corner.    He built palladium arches over smaller porches, bay windows, and often with pediments above the windows.  The windows in his unique homes would either be stained glass or leaded glass.  His homes often featured elaborate fireplaces and window seats.

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Henry also built commercial buildings.  Many of his buildings were on Main and Jackson Street. In 1885 Henry built a small two-room brick shelter that housed pumps that forced water from the Tonawanda Creek into the water mains.  In 1893, he was hired to design a front for the Water Works building to house a power station.  The unique towers were added in 1906.  The Water Works was renamed the Municipal Building.  Over the years, the building has been used in various ways. First, it served as a fire hall, then as a restaurant, and for a time, it was the home of the Genesee County Historian.

In the late 1800s, Henry designed most of the schools in Batavia.  They were the East, West, Pringle, Lincoln, and Washington schools.  Today Reed Eye Associates occupies the historic building on Washington Avenue.

In the '60s and '70s, a new idea was presented to the city of Batavia.  Unfortunately, its attempt to renew the city destroyed our downtown history.  The historic buildings on Main Street were erased with a wrecking ball. Many of us remember these two words with sadness and regret, "Urban Renewal."  Fortunately, some of his buildings, such as the Daily News Building and The Batavia Times Building, survived.

No one would deny that Henry was a gifted architect.   His work was impeccable.  As a businessman, he was considered arrogant and aggressive.

Henry lived most of his life at 39 and 41 Walnut Street.   In 1889, Henry's brother Frank died, and in 1899 Henry's father drowned.  Henry's family is buried in the historical Batavia Cemetery.

Henry's son Frank did not stay in Batavia but traveled the country learning about different building methods and designs.  He also did not graduate from high school.  However, in 1905 Frank returned home, and Henry W. Homelius and Son was created with headquarters in the Dellinger building on Jackson Street.

Frank was considered very good-looking and charming. He fell in love with Maud Scoville Hugaboom, a married woman with a young daughter Eleanor.  The day after her divorce was final, Frank and Maud wed.  Eleanor Homelius went on to be a respected and loved teacher. As an English teacher, she taught many generations of young people at Batavia High School, an interesting fact considering her stepfather never graduated from high school.

In November 1917, Henry W. Homelius died of cancer and was buried in the Homelius Plot in the Batavia Cemetery.

Frank, like his father, was a gifted builder, but Frank also completed many home and building renovations.  His first project after his father's death was the renovation of the Brisbane Mansion into Batavia's City Hall.  He also remodeled the Dipson and Atwater homes.  He added an addition to the Richmond Mansion, used as the Children's Home.  Frank also built the addition to the Richmond Memorial Library by adding a children's room on the lower level of the original building.  This is not to be confused with the newer addition in the 1970s as the current children's room.

He also designed St. Anthony's Community Center.   Frank's father had 32 Ellicott Avenue as his proudest accomplishment; Frank would have 39 Ross Street as his.  Frank built the 6,000-square-foot home for Frank Thomas of the Thomas Coal Company. In 1926, it cost $125,000 to build the beautiful Thomas home.  Frank employed 50 craftsmen from the Batavia Woodworking Company to work on the construction of the house.  The Batavia Woodworking Company consisted of skilled carpenters, bricklayers, masons, and millwrights. These were the craftsmen that Frank used for his buildings.  When looking at this beautiful home today, you will note the red tile roof.  The horizontal lines of the house suggest the Prairie Style.  Frank built many Queen Anne-style homes throughout the city. You can still admire these homes on Summit Street and Lewis Avenue.

The Batavia Woodworking Company became skilled with the designs that constitute a Frank Homelius Home.  They borrowed his techniques and built homes that were called Homelius Design Homes.  These homes can be found on Kibbe Avenue, Morton Avenue, South Jackson St., and Ellicott Street.

Frank lived in a bungalow at 35 Richmond Street.  He was known for his kindness and for being the second Democrat to serve as mayor in the history of Batavia.

The construction of MacArthur Stadium's grandstand, bleachers, and press box in 1939 is considered the final design of Frank H. Homelius.

There was one project that Frank never had the opportunity to complete.  He wanted to build an annex to the Holland Land Office Museum.  This would include a library containing works of history about Batavia and Genesee County.

Frank died on November 20, 1941, ending the remarkable era of the talented craftsmen Henry W. Homelius and Frank W. Homelius.

Photos by Howard Owens. Top photo, 30 Ellicott Ave.; middle photo, 32 Ellicott Ave.

October 24, 2022 - 11:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Genesee County fairgrounds, history, news.

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The Jurassic Wonder Tour, a display of animated dinosaur models, stopped in Batavia over the weekend, offering a self-guided car tour of the pre-historic world through Genesee County Fairgrounds.

Photos by Howard Owens.

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October 24, 2022 - 10:59pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Cemetery, batavia, news, history.

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The Batavia Cemetery Association held its annual Ghost Walk on Saturday, which is both a fundraiser and a chance to provide area residents with an entertaining history lesson about the people who shaped the development of Western New York.

Photos by Howard Owens, Top photo, Michael Gosselin as Rev. John Yates.

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Tim Buckman as Maj. Philemon Tracy.

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Patrick Weissend as Joseph Ellicott.

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Dan Snyder as Albert Brisbane.

October 12, 2022 - 1:15pm
posted by Press Release in Holland Land Office Museum, batavia, history, news.

Press release:

Join us at the Holland Land Office Museum on Wednesday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. as we welcome the next presenter in our Guest Speaker Series. Ken Slaughenhopt of the Lewiston Historical Society and a surveyor himself will be presenting on "The Holland Land Survey". He will be discussing the trials and tribulations of the surveying process that went into laying out the Holland Purchase and its 3.25 million acres, as well as its importance to Western New York even today. Admission is $5 or $3 for museum members. If you plan on attending, please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or [email protected].

The Guest Speaker Series is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and New York State Legislature and administered by Go ART!

September 23, 2022 - 4:25pm
posted by Press Release in rob thompson, news, history, books.

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Press release:

Behold, and Blush is a comprehensive telling of the 1779 Sullivan Expedition as it wound its way through western New York. We begin with the legend behind the creation of the Seneca Nation, the "Great Peacemaker," and Hiawatha, and the formation of the Haudenosaunee (League of Five Nations). Next, the book segues the French-led invasion of Seneca territory in 1687. Finally, it touches on the French and Indian War and the deeds committed by British General Jefferey Amherst, for whom Amherst New York is named. Behold and Blush reviews chronologically and introduces the readers to the campaigns of "Goose," Van Schaick, and Daniel Brodhead, culminating with Sullivan and Clinton. Thompson's research expands upon the expedition's little-known members, which significantly adds to the story of the Sullivan Expedition. The book introduces the reader to Joseph Brant, Mary Jemison, Daniel Shays, Timothy Murphy, Lt. Thomas Boyd, and Sgt. Michael Parker. The book concludes with the discussion of genocide as it may or may not relate to Sullivan's Expedition. "If a reader expects to find this book treating the men of Sullivan's Expedition as barbarians and a book where the Seneca are treated as victims, they may be disappointed in what they find.”

Release date October 9:

Presentation and signing:

  • Sat. Oct. 22 – Simply Positive 23 Main St. Livonia NY 10-1 p.m., (585) 204-0441
  • Sat. Oct. 29 – Holland Land Office Museum 131 W. Main St Batavia NY, 1-3 p.m. 585-343-4727.
September 14, 2022 - 1:28pm
posted by Press Release in West Side Ghost Walk, hlom, history, news, batavia.

Press release:

Back by popular demand, please join the Holland Land Office Museum for a West Side Ghost Walk on Fridays in October.

The walks led by Connie Boyd will take place on October 7, 14, 21 and 28 at 7 pm.

We will also be adding second walks beginning at 7:30 on October 7 and 21.

Take a walk on the west side and hear tales of murders, hangings, grave robbing, ghosts and other eerie happenings from Batavia's past. Hear stories of Joseph Ellicott, E. N. Rowell and other famous and infamous Batavians.

Also, be sure to also check out the Old Batavia Cemetery's Walk on Saturday, October 22. For more information on the Cemetery Walk please contact 585-943-5662.

Admission is $15.00 or $10.00 for museum members and reservations are required with purchase. Tours are limited to 20 people each.

The tour begins and ends at the museum and is approximately 1 1/2 to two hours in length. For tickets or more information, please call (585) 343-4727, email at [email protected], or stop by at 131 W. Main St. Batavia.

September 8, 2022 - 6:30am
posted by Press Release in Ghost Walk, historic batavia cemetery, batavia, news, history.

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Press release:

The Batavia Cemetery Association is excited to announce that the annual Halloween Candlelight Ghostwalk will be held on Saturday, Oct. 22. 

Join us for some spooky fun on a ghost walk through the Historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue in Batavia to meet the famous and infamous movers and shakers who not only shaped and influenced the City of Batavia but the United States and the world.

The guided tour on candlelit paths will bring guests to meet men and women of Batavia, who, for various reasons, held great power and exerted great influence in their day, were victims of tragic events, or both. Philemon Tracy, one of the few Confederate officers buried in the north, Joseph Ellicott, a man of great power and great flaws, and William Morgan, the man who disappeared and was allegedly murdered before he could reveal the secrets of the Masons, are some of the ghosts who will tell their stories on the tour.

New visitors this year include Albert Brisbane, a utopian socialist and the chief popularizer of the theories of Charles Fourier in the United States, Mary Elizabeth Wood, the first librarian at the Richmond Memorial Library who is best known for her work in promoting Western librarianship practices and programs and founding the first library school in China, and Dr. Martha Morgan, who spent most of her professional life working at the State Lunatic Hospital in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

You will meet Civil War veteran General John H. Martindale, who was Military Governor of the District of Columbia in 1865, James Holden, a sergeant in the American Revolution and Eli Fish, maltster and brewer. Dean and Mary Richmond, who greatly influenced business and civic life in western New York in the 1800s, will greet guests in their beautiful mausoleum on the last stop of the tour. Mr. Richmond amassed a great fortune in Great Lakes shipping and was the second president of the New York Central Railroad. Mrs. Richmond vastly expanded her husband’s fortune after his death and sat on the boards of many businesses and civic organizations. 

Tours begin at 7 p.m. and run every fifteen minutes until 8:30 p.m. Admission is $10. Reservations are required. Proceeds benefit the upkeep and restoration of the cemetery. For more information, or to make reservations, contact (585) 943-5662.

Don’t forget the Holland Land Office Museum’s first West Side Ghost Stories program on Friday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. Join Connie Boyd as she shares the sinister and weird documented stories from the West Side of Batavia’s past. Tickets are $5/3$ for museum members. And back and expanded by popular demand, the HLOM will host the West Side Ghost Walk on October 7, 14, 21 and 28 at 7 p.m. Hear tales of murders, hangings, grave robbing, ghosts and other eerie happenings from Batavia’s past. Tickets at $15/$10 for members. For reservations call 343-4727.

September 1, 2022 - 4:32pm
posted by Press Release in hlom, batavia, news, history.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the return of its West Side Batavia Ghost Stories on Friday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. Connie Boyd will be sharing the spooky, sinister, and weird documented stories from the West Side of Batavia's past. Come and listen to tales of murder, ghosts, body snatching hangings, and abandoned cemeteries. This presentation is the same as our Ghost Walk, perfect for those who don't want or aren't able to go on our guided Ghost Walks. Tickets are $5/$3 for museum members. If you would like to attend please contact the museum at (585) 343-4727.

August 29, 2022 - 11:32pm
posted by Press Release in Holland Land Office Museum, batavia, news, history.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce its next Trivia Night at the museum on Thursday, September 8th at 7 pm. This month we will be meeting at the GO ART! building located at 201 E. Main St. in Batavia. This month's topic is Elizabeth I in honor of the queen's birthday. Admission is $3 per person or $2 for museum members. Come and join us at GO ART!, where you can also enjoy beverages served by Tavern 2.0 while testing your Elizabethan knowledge. Please contact the museum if you would like to attend at 585-343-4727 or [email protected].

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce its next presenter in our Guest Speaker Series on Wednesday, September 14th at 7 pm. Deanne Quinn Miller will be presenting on her recently published book, "A Prison Guard's Daughter: My Journey Through the Ashes of Attica." The book is her mission to find answers to the death of her father, a corrections officer, during the Attica Prison riot on September 13, 1971. Copies of the book will also be available in the museum gift shop. Admission is $5 or $3 for museum members. If you would like to attend please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or [email protected].

The Guest Speaker Series is made possible with funds from the Statewide Community Regrant Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and New York State Legislature and administered by Go ART!

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce its next Java with Joe E. morning presentation series on Thursday, September 22nd at 9 am. This month's presenter is Greg Van Dussen. Mr. Van Dussen is a local author and former Methodist pastor. He has also taught at the Northeastern Seminary at Roberts Wesleyan College. His topic will be the Methodist Circuit Riders of North America, focusing primarily in areas of the Northeast and Midwest. The presentation is free to attend and coffee and donuts will be provided. If you would like to attend please contact the museum at 585-343-4727 or [email protected].

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce the return of its West Side Batavia Ghost Stories. Connie Boyd will be sharing the spooky, sinister, and weird documented stories from the West Side of Batavia's past. Come and listen to tales of murder, ghosts, body-snatching hangings, and abandoned cemeteries. This presentation is the same as our Ghost Walk, perfect for those who don't want or aren't able to go on our guided Ghost Walks. Tickets are $5/$3 for museum members. If you would like to attend please contact the museum at 585-343-4727.

 

August 14, 2022 - 6:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in First Presbyterian Church of Elba, elba, news, history, religion.

img_2396elbapres.jpgThe last time the First Presbyterian Church of Elba had its property lines surveyed, Ulysses S. Grant was president.

That's just one measure of how much history has passed since the church's founding 200 years ago.

"Two hundred years is a long time for a small church in a rural community to be able to hang in here," said the current pastor, Rev. Barbara Tipton (inset photo). "They have seen the Civil War and the Depression and World War I, World War II, all that history they have gone through and watched the history of this country and the development of this country."

That long history shows the spirit of the people of Elba, Tipton said during a bicentennial celebration picnic in the Elba Village Park on Saturday. The picnic included live music, food served by Elba's Boy Scouts, a petting zoo, a balloon artist, and a bounce house.

"They've been through several fires and rebuilds and they still hang in there," Tipton said. "They're tenacious. They need to be in a community like this that has seen all kinds of changes. They're salt of the earth. They have the muck in their blood. The nature of farming makes you strong."

The church is healthy, Tipton said, with about 100 members and strong regular attendance from much of the congregation. Tipton has led the flock for 15 years, making her the third-longest tenured pastor in the church's history.

"We're fortunate that we have a choir director and an organist," Tipton said. "Many churches our size don't have that, and our members contribute to their community through food pantries and special offerings. They are generous people when it comes to answering a need, and expressed needs when people have them, within their limitations. They do the best that they can out of generosity of spirit. You have to admire that."

Photos by Howard Owens

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Michele Keberle makes friends with a calf born earlier Saturday morning.

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August 11, 2022 - 12:44am

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, Holland Land Office Museum, 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

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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

hlomhistoryheros2016-3.jpg

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

hlomhistoryheros2016-7.jpg

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.

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