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March 26, 2020 - 2:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in covid-19, history, news, video, batavia, coronavirus.
Video Sponsor

We're talking with Genesee County Historian Michael Eula about the 1918 global flu pandemic, better known as the "Spanish Flu" and its impact on Batavia.

We had technical difficulties -- we're going to try again.

February 28, 2020 - 1:23pm
posted by Billie Owens in Erasmus, Reformation Era, history, GCC, news, History Club.

Submitted image and press release:

Genesee Community College's History Club is proud to welcome Jeffery Glodzik, Ph.D., associate professor of History at D'Youville College, on Wednesday, March 11, at 7 p.m. to present "Erasmus: The Most Important Figure in the Reformation Era?".

The famous Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam played perhaps the most important role in the intellectual world and the religious conflicts in the 16th century.

His satirical critiques of Catholicism opened the door for more pointed criticisms and the allowed for the challenges taken up by Luther. His disagreements with Luther after the onset of Reformation solidified the differences between Catholic and Protestant and ultimately made permanent the division in Western Christianity.

The show begins at 7 p.m. in room T102 of the Conable Technology Building on GCC's Batavia Campus and is free and open to the public. All are invited to attend.

February 21, 2020 - 6:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in education, st. paul lutheran school, history, hlom, news.

Fourth- and fifth-graders at St. Paul Lutheran School are proudly displaying their projects on "Early Colonial Settlements" at the Holland Land Office Museum.

They are the culmination of all they learned on the topic during the two-week lesson plan, which they began before National Lutheran Schools Week, Jan. 26-Feb. 1.

There was no America as we know it now, their teacher Jennifer Dunn explained to them.

Native Americans lived throughout the land. There were settlements by Puritans and Pilgrams from England, and by the Dutch, French and Spanish. Think Roanoke, Jamestown, Cooperstown, Plymouth.

Travel was difficult. Conditions primitive. Why did they take such risks to come here?  How did they live day to day? What did they eat, or wear? What rules governed them?

Besides history, the studies emcompassed English Language Arts, social studies and geography.

Between the drears of winter and the sheer scope of written/verbal information, it seemed to Dunn that her students were getting sort of "overwhelmed" and bogged down by it all, including niggling details: at least four of the key people of the time had the first name John.

So she decided to have students do some research on their own and put their knowlege into the tangible form of displays with essays accompanying them.

"They did their own research themselves and they are proud of it," Dunn said. "It made history come alive."

Their fact-finding also helped clarify some confusing points.

And they created labels for the models -- made of stuff like wooden sticks, twigs, tempera paint, plastic barnyard animals, craft paper, even Rice Krispies -- with references to the essays they wrote.

Each child presented their work in front of their parents and the whole school.

It was a lot for 9- and 10-year-olds to master and their mastery is on display tomorrow Feb. 22 through Thursday, March 5, when the St. Paul students will retrieve their projects after a field trip to the museum.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The location is 131 W. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

February 2, 2020 - 8:00am

On April 19, 1862 a local paper reported “Grave Robbed in Batavia -- Great Excitement.” The story begins on Feb. 20th of that year when 20-year-old Mary Buchanan was buried in the village cemetery, having died from what is believed to been consumption (tuberculosis, or "TB").

Young Mary’s mother is reported to have had dreamt on three occasions that her daughter had been exhumed from her eternal rest. To calm her anxiety, she visited her daughter's grave to discover that her dreams were true; the grave was empty.

“The body had been taken, and from the state of the clothes in the coffin it was evident that they had been torn off of the body by sacrilegious hands.”

Sheriff's deputies arrived and evidence was soon discovered pointing, as many believed, to a medical student named Forrest Page; parts of the remains of Mary Buchanan were discovered at a location where he resided.

Page was arrested by Deputy Hull and held on substantial bail.

It was in all actuality John Harding Page from the Town of Elba who was held to account.

The charge as taken from the court records of June 23, 1862 said: [paraphrased]

“John H. Page of the Town of Elba on the Twenty Fifth day of February in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty two…with force and arms did enter the public burying ground…did enter the grave there of Mary Buchanan and with force and arms unlawfully, willfully and indecently did dig, open and carry the body of Mary Buchanan from the grave for the purpose of dissection.”

He was indicted and admitted to being a medical student studying under a Dr. Root, of Batavia, and later coroner.

His trial was held in Genesee County beginning in the summer of 1862.

Page’s counsel, William Bryan, said that if his client was ever in the possession of any body unlawfully it was for aiding in his medical education.

Soon after the indictment was handed down “the Surgeon General in Washington, being in great need of medical assistances in U.S. hospitals because of the Civil War, interviewed Page for a Medical Cadet [but he was found in eligible]. He did however receive an appointment as an assistant surgeon with the U.S. Volunteers and was assigned to Ft. Scott in Kansas, Department of the Borders; this was in January of 1864.

The bail I believe was $1,000, approximately $25,000 in 2020 money. It appears, and I’ve not been able to completely prove, that he may have "jumped" bail and gone west with the Army. I found no disposition of the case.

Page -- whom some dubbed "Digging Doctor Page" aka "The Body Snatcher" -- died circa 1920.

Ones Forrest Page spent considerable time and effort during his lifetime trying to restore his notorious brother's reputation.

  • Here is a link to a letter written by then Genesee County Coroner Dr. John Root to the Batavia Times verifying that John Harding Page was a medical student of his.
  • Here is a link to a letter by Dr. John Root vouching for the abilities and qualifications of John Harding Page to serve as a surgeon.
  • Here is a link to a letter from Dr. John Root to the Surgeon General asking to appoint John Harding Page to the Medical Corps. This was at or about the time Page's trial was going on. Page was subsequently rejected.
  • Here is a link to a friendly, supportive letter to John Harding Page written Aug. 11, 1862 by Dr. John Root, explaining the situation back here in Batavia. At this point Page was, or appears to be, in Kansas.
  • Here is a link to a four-page letter written to John Harding Page from his brother, Forrest Page; it shows the brother petitioned the Lieutenant Govenor for John Harding Page to be a Medical Cadet.

(Historical photos courtesy of Rochelle Wyatt, who is married to Dr. Page's grandson​.)

January 25, 2020 - 11:44am
posted by Billie Owens in civil war, Rudely Stamp'd, GCC, history, news.

Submitted photo and press release:

From their tiny offices on the second floor of humanities suite at Genesee Community College's Batavia Campus, Associate Professor of History Derek Maxfield (top photo, left) and Professor of English Tracy Ford became colleagues, then friends, and eventually formed their own theater group, Rudely Stamp'd, where they became generals from a bygone era.

Maxfield's passion for history and Ford's obsession with the written and spoken word is no longer confined to their separate classrooms, or even GCC. The dynamic duo has begun performing their unique program around the country.

The Fairfield County Heritage Association in Lancaster, Ohio, will celebrate General William T. Sherman's 200th birthday in a grand gala on Saturday, Feb. 8, from 6 to 10 p.m. at The Mill Event Center located at 431 S. Columbus St., in Lancaster -- Sherman's hometown. The Association has invited Rudely Stamp'd, starring Maxfield, who plays the role of General Ulysses S. Grant and Ford as General William T. Sherman to be featured as part of the celebration!

Performed by Rudely Stamp'd nearly two dozen times in venues across the country, "Now We Stand by Each Other Always" features conversations between Grant and Sherman at critical times during the Civil War. Act I takes place at Vicksburg, Miss., as the men plan for the fall of the city to Union forces in July 1863. Act II portrays a meeting between the generals in Cincinnati, Ohio, as the men plan for the Atlanta and Overland campaigns in 1864.

Finally, Act III takes place at City Point, Va., as Sherman briefs his chief about his wildly successful exploits in Georgia, during the March to the Sea, and his campaign through the Carolinas. The generals also plot an end to the remaining Confederate armies. Acts II and III will be performed at Sherman's Birthday Celebration in Lancaster on Feb. 8.

The Rudely Stamp'd program illustrates the collaboration, dedication and expertise of GCC professors. Maxfield and Ford combined their talents and their craft as teaching professionals to create a program that not only benefits local communities, but often provides GCC students, specifically the History Club, with unique opportunities to appreciate the importance of history and its continued significance on contemporary times.

Many of the performances have also engaged students in event planning, sound and light technology, public speaking and understanding the value of community collaborations, which is a key value under the College's declared mission.

While many of the local performances have been free and open to the public, tickets to the Lancaster performance are $40 each. Available online at www.fairfieldheritage.com, or by calling the office at 740- 654-9923.

The ticket cost includes hors d'oeuvres, the Rudely Stamp'd performance, a General Sherman look-alike contest, Civil War costumes and trivia contests, and much more!

"This will be our third out-of-state performance, and Tracy and I continue to be impressed with how audiences engage with the characters, and are truly absorbed by their story," Maxfield said. "Being asked to perform in Sherman's hometown and on his 200th birthday is a profound honor for us."

For more information about the "Now We Stand by Each Other Always," contact Derek Mayfield at [email protected] or go to https://rudelystampd.wordpress.com/. Rudely Stamp'd is also scheduled to perform in Brunswick, N.C., on March 3.

January 17, 2020 - 11:45am
posted by Billie Owens in history, GCC Historical Horizons Lecture Series, news.

Press release:

The Genesee Community College History Club is excited to announce the Spring 2020 Historical Horizons Lecture Series lineup full of live readings and events that will transport audiences to another place and time.

The entire community is invited to GCC's Batavia Campus on Wednesday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m. to hear Sharon and Don Burkel present "The Angel and the Warrior: The Story of Emily and General Upton."

The program focuses on the brief love story of Emily Norwood Martin and General Emory Upton between 1866 and 1870. General Upton, who is seen as the epitome of a military officer, will surprise the audience with his fervent devotion to a sheltered, religious young lady from Auburn.

Through the reading of their personal letters and sharing original photos, their tragic story will be told.

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

The Historical Horizons Lecture series will continue with events scheduled on the first Wednesday of each month during the Spring 2020 Semester including:

  • Wednesday, April 1 at 1 p.m.: "The Second Founding: How the Civil War and Reconstruction Remade the Constitution" presented by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Eric Foner, Ph.D., of Columbia University. This lecture will be based on the book of the same title and will occur in GCC's Stuart Steiner Theatre. 
  • Wednesday, May 6 at 7 p.m.: GCC Associate Professor of History Derek Maxfield will present on his book "Hellmira: The Union's Most Infamous POW Camp of the Civil War," which explores this notorious time period in the history of Elmira.
January 10, 2020 - 2:27pm
posted by Billie Owens in Stafford Bicentennial, news, history.

From Linda Call:

2020 is an important milestone for Stafford -- it is its Bicentennial!

 On March 24, 1820, the people of Stafford came together to incorporate their community as a town, giving the residents the ability to make decisions about what will happen in their community. The celebration of the Stafford Bicentennial will include a variety of events open to the public and are scheduled to take place throughout the year.

Settlers of European descent began to arrive in this area not long after the Revolutionary War, chopping down trees and clearing fields in land inhabited for centuries by Seneca Tribe of Native Americans. Those traveling through Genesee County used the old Indian trail that is now Route 5.

People often drive through Stafford on Route 5 without noticing the rich architectural heritage to be found here. Many of the original homesteads are still inhabited 200 years later.

Stafford, which includes land from the Holland Land Purchase, the Connecticut Purchase, and the Craigie Tract, was the hub of settlement activity in the early 1800s.   

The culture and architecture of Stafford was heavily influenced by an influx of immigrants from Devonshire, England. Residents of Devonshire were mainly employed in agriculture and relied on this knowledge of farming to build a new life in the growing settlement of Stafford. Farming is still the major business in the area.

Whether you are looking for a good game of golf at the Stafford Country Club, fishing or hiking at Godfrey’s Pond, or a chance to explore the history and architecture of the area, Stafford has something to offer everyone who visits.

November 26, 2019 - 4:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in city of batavia, hlom, history, Ruth McEvoy, news.

Submitted photo and press release:

City of Batavia Historian Larry Barnes (above, right) and Holland Land Office Museum Executive Director Ryan Duffy (pictured left) announce the publication of an amended version of the "History of the City of Batavia" written in 1993 by Ruth M. McEvoy.

The original book, published 26 years ago, has long been out of print, but continues to be in demand among local residents. Barnes and Duffy decided to address this situation by working with Michael Hodgins of Hodgins Printing Co. to scan a surviving original copy and then print another 200 books for sale to the public.

These copies are now available at the Holland Land Office Museum bookstore.

The reprinting of McEvoy’s book provided an opportunity to correct errors in the original publication. To this end, Barnes identified 50 instances where errors had crept into McEvoy’s otherwise excellent book. Three additional pages are inserted into the amended edition for the purpose of pointing out the appropriate corrections.

McEvoy was the Batavia city historian from 1971 to 1985. She was also director of the Richmond Memorial Library for eight years in addition to serving as a member of many community organizations including the Holland Purchase Historical Society. McEvoy, now deceased, was named a “Fabulous Female” by the YWCA in 2003.

Barnes views McEvoy’s book, his own "History of Batavia: 1801 to 2015" (available online through the City’s website), and his Batavia Revisited (published by Acadia Press) as the three publications which together provide the most comprehensive history of the city. According to Barnes, each in its own unique manner complements the other two books in a way that readers should find especially satisfying.

November 2, 2019 - 7:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, Holland Land Office Museum, batavia, history, video, news.
Video Sponsor

The two cannons that have sat on the front porch of the Holland Land Office Museum for more than a century have been removed and transported to Altoona, Pa., for a $20,000 period-accurate restoration.

The Museum is paying $10,000 for the restoration and is seeking public donations of $10,000 in a campaign called, "Ready, Aim, Donate."

October 25, 2019 - 1:42pm
posted by Billie Owens in hlom, cannons restoration, history, news, batavia.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce at 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 1st the official Cannon Send-Off Celebration will take place.

We are sending off our two cannons, which currently can be seen on our front porch, to be restored and preserved for generations to come.

Seed Artillery out of Altoona, Pa., will be picking up the cannons to them to their facility to begin refurbishing the cannons and they are expected to be returned in the coming spring.

Seed Artillery is known for its excellence in the industry of artillery restoration, which is why the company was chosen for the job.

If you can’t make it to the event but would like to help support the restoration of the cannons, we welcome you to donation to the Cannon Restoration Fund.

Stop by the museum to grab a brochure about the fund or check our website and Facebook for more details.

Refreshments and food will be provided for all in attendance to enjoy. The museum will also be open for anyone interested in experiencing all of the wonderful exhibits on display.

The mseum is located at 131 W. Main St. in the City of Batavia.

For more information please call the museum at 585-343-4727 or email at [email protected].

September 23, 2019 - 12:35pm
posted by Billie Owens in patriot trip, veterans, assemblyman steve hawley, news, history.

Submitted photos and press release:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C,I-Batavia) departed to Washington, D.C., for his 12th annual Patriot Trip last week.

Hawley, local veterans and their family members will visit a host of famous military memorials in the area of the nation's capital.

The group left from Batavia Downs at 7 a.m. last Thursday and will spend four days visiting historical sites such as Arlington National Cemetery, the Capitol rotunda and the Vietnam War Memorial to name a few.

The group made a stop in Gettysburg, Pa., to visit the Civil War battlefield, and then headed to the Air Force Memorial in Arlington County, Va.

“I’m eager to embark on this journey with some of our finest veterans,” Hawley said. “This trip is consistently one of the highlights of my year.

"I’m grateful to spend time with our heroes and visit some of the most important sites in our nation’s history.”

September 17, 2019 - 3:15pm

postofficeat100-3.jpg

The Barber Conable Post Office Building in Batavia is 100 years old.

Construction of the post office began in 1916 with a $57,993 bid awarded to contractor George F. Rossell, of Rochester, according to the City of Batavia History book by Ruth M. McEvoy.

Because of World War I, Rossell had a hard time completing the project as he was beset by higher costs and construction supervisors who kept going off to war. He gave up in October 1917, voiding the contract.

Progress continued slowly under the supervision of E.D. Gray and it was finally ready for postal employees to relocate from a rented building on Jackson Street to their new headquarters.

The post office was built based on plans by John Taylor Knox, the former architect of the U.S. Treasury. He designed dozens of federal buildings during his career, including the post office in Buffalo and Niagara Falls

The cornerstone was laid in 1916 and bears the name of William G. McAdoo, who was Secretary of the Treasury, as "supervising architect."

A few post offices in other communities share common designs with our post office, including Live Oak, Fla., Fulton, Mo., and Menomonie, Wis.

The name of the post office was changed in 2004 by an act of Congress to the Barber Conable Post Office Building. Conable is a former congressman who represented our area and later became president of the World Bank.

Ironically, perhaps, according to McEvoy's book, the Batavia Daily News reported in 1970 that the area's congressman -- who would have been Conable at the time -- had promised the community a new post office building. "In 1990," McEvoy notes, "that promise had not been fulfilled."

When the post office first opened, it had a front porch area. It was enclosed in 1961.

The postmaster in 1919 was John F. Ryan. According to McEvoy, Ryan and his brother William opened a light shop at 79 Main St., Batavia, in 1898. In 1910, they installed an electrical device that opened and closed their shop windows automatically.

His daughter was Dr. Edith F. Ryan. She intended to open a practice in Philadelphia but war disrupted her plans. She opened an office on Jackson Street and was then appointed as a medical examiner for the school district. That helped her practice grow. She retired in 1957.

Batavia's first postmaster was James Brisbane, who handled postal duties through his general store. He eventually became a wealthy man and the current police headquarters is the former Brisbane mansion. His son Albert was a social reformer and his grandson was the famous journalist of the early 20th century, Arthur Brisbane, who is buried in the Historic Batavia Cemetery. Arthur was also Nellie Bly's editor. The Brisbane Family Papers (1819-1965) are in the Special Collections Research Center at Syracuse University.

The second postmaster was Ebenezer Cary followed by Trumbull Cary. The Cary Mansion, long destroyed, is commemorated by a historic marker on East Main Street.

In 1829, Simeon Cummings became postmaster. He also owned a harness shop in Batavia.

The next postmaster was William Seaver wrote what is perhaps the first history of Batavia in 1849. Another William Seaver, perhaps his son or possibly grandson, or maybe not related at all, took two pictures of Downtown Batavia that The Batavian previously published.

Following Seaver the postmaster was Levant B. Coates, who appears to have owned a drug store that was destroyed in a fire in 1833

Then came Frederick Follett, publisher of a local newspaper, Spirit of the Times, and the author of a book on the history of the press in Western New York.

The first woman postmaster was Elizabeth R. Erbland, who served from 1994 to 1998, followed by Catherine M. Maniace.

Today (top photo), current and former local postal employees gathered on the front steps of the building for a photo.

Do you know what else is 100 years old? The Upton Monument (watch the video).

postofficeat100-2.jpg

postofficeat100.jpg

September 12, 2019 - 6:19pm
posted by Billie Owens in Ghost Walk, history, batavia, hlom, news.

Press release:

Back and expanded by popular demand, please join the Holland Land Office Museum for a Westside Ghost Walk on three Fridays in October.

The walks led by Connie Boyd will take place at 7 p.m. on Oct. 11, 18, and 25.

Take a walk on the Westside 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.

Admission is $10 and reservations are required.

Tours are limited to 25 people each. The tour begins and ends at the museum and is approximately one-and-a-half 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.

(Also, be sure to check out the Old Batavia Cemetery's Guided Ghost Walk on Saturday, Oct. 26; must RSVP by calling the Batavia Cemetery Association at (585) 943-5662.)

September 12, 2019 - 6:06pm

Living history reenactors portraying Dean and Mary Richmond; taken by Howard Owens on Oct. 13, 2012.

Press release:

Join us to meet the famous and infamous movers and shakers who shaped and influenced the City of Batavia on Saturday, Oct. 26th, when the Batavia Cemetery Association will host a candlelight guided ghost walk through the Historic Batavia Cemetery on Harvester Avenue in Batavia.

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; Ruth the unknown -- victim of a horrendous murder; 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.

Also visiting will be Civil War veteran General John H. Martindale, who was Military Governor of the District of Columbia in 1865.

Dean and Mary Richmond, who greatly influenced civic life in Batavia in the 1800s, will meet with guests in their mausoleum on the last stop of the tour. Dean Richmond made a great fortune in Great Lakes shipping and was the second president of the New York Central Railroad. Mary Richmond vastly expanded her husband’s fortune after his death and sat on the boards of many businesses and civic organizations.

Come and have some spooky fun! Tours begin at 7 p.m. and run every 15 minutes until 8:30.

Admission is $10 and includes refreshments. Reservations are required. For more information, or to make reservations, contact (585) 943-5662.

Proceeds benefit the upkeep and restoration of the cemetery.

September 12, 2019 - 12:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Upton Monument, batavia, video, history.
Video Sponsor

Back in May, I decided to make a documentary about the Upton Monument to coincide with its centennial. The initial deadline for finishing it was the rededication ceremony in August. Obviously, I missed that deadline, so then I tried for the end of August. Still, wasn't done.

Finally, it's done.

Thank you to Ryan Duffy, Michael Eula, Larry Barnes, Jim Neider, and Bill Kauffman for their help and interviews, and Dan Fischer for his narration, and to Billie Owens for reading the poem by Bessie Chandler.

I imagine more than 100 hours of work went into making this. I hope you like it. I thought it important to create something documenting and celebrating the history of our community's most significant landmark.  

Chances are, everybody who watches this will learn something new about either the history of the monument, the life of Emory Upton, and the context of the times in which it was built.

September 8, 2019 - 8:00am

St. Mary's School first grade 1952. Dave Reilly was sick that day and is not included in the photo. His infamous pal Charlie is fourth from the left in Row 2.

Story by Dave Reilly.

I'm sure there has been plenty of research done about memory. Why do some people have better memories than others? How do our memories change as we age? Why do some people have vivid memories of their childhood while others' recollections are scant at best?

Of my elementary school experience at St. Mary's School in Batavia, grades 1-8 from 1952 to 1960, I only seem to recall funny or unusual happenings. What we were taught, projects we did, and most day-to-day classroom experiences elude me.

It's the silly or odd stuff that somehow has remained in my brain all these years. I guess that might be some kind of clue about my personality, but that would be for the experts to figure out.

St. Mary's was still being constructed when I started there, so for first and second grade we were housed in the lower floor of Notre Dame High School next door, which itself had just been built.

I started first grade at the age of 5 and didn't turn 6 until January. My teacher was a nun, a Sister of the Holy Cross, and that was the case seven of my eight years at St. Mary's. I do not remember her name or that of my second-, fourth- or sixth-grade teachers either.

I missed the first week of first grade due to illness. Not only did I not get to know the teacher and kids, I apparently also was left out of a group class photo taken on the steps of the school. We didn't have on uniforms, but we subsequently had to wear them.

A Howdy Doody Lunchbox and Terrifying Teens

For some reason on my first day of first grade (Maybe my mom brought me for my grand entrance later in the morning?), the nun sent me to the lunchroom all by myself.

So, there I was -- probably in a striped shirt with a clip-on bow tie and dark blue corduroy pants carrying my Howdy Doody lunchbox -- surrounded by high school kids. I do recall being intimidated by those huge, adult-like creatures and staring at them with a wide-eyed kind of terror.

I still can't believe the sister sent me alone. Knowing how shy I was I bet my mom had to work some magic to get me back there the next day.

Second grade (inset photo, left) is also a blur except for the time I got sick. I must have had a fever and recall shaking with the chills. Nonetheless, I was too afraid to tell the sister. When it came time to go to lunch, the nun lined us up and off we went down the hall.

I must have sneaked to the end of the line and as the class went one way, I went the other. Out the door I flew and on down the street.

It was probably about a mile from the school on Union Street to our house on Thomas Avenue, but despite being ill I made it. Imagine my mom's surprise (good thing she was home) when I walked in the door. “What in the world...?”, she probably said.

It's fortunate that she wasn't prone to any profanity until her elder years. After I was put to bed she must have called the school and reported my escape. I should have saved that skill for high school when I could have used it more beneficially.

The Lifelong Influence of Miss Marguerite Horgan

For Grade 3 we got to move into our now completed school. This was my only year with a secular teacher and it was my best and favorite one. Our teacher was the kind and gentle Miss Marguerite Horgan. Every day she would read to us and I enjoyed that. I like to think that she was a big influence on my lifelong love of reading.

When I became a fifth- and sixth-grade teacher myself for 33 years I made sure that every day after lunch I would try to choose some good example of children's literature and read an excerpt to my class.

The beginning of fourth grade is kind of foggy, but I think the nun who was supposed to be our teacher became incapacitated and as a result the fourth and fifth grades had to be combined.

Anyone who attended Catholic School in the '50s and '60s remembers that we always had classes numbering more than 40 students. I wish I had a class photo from that year because we must have been bursting at the seams with two classes joined together.

At lunchtime we were allowed to go outside to get some fresh air and play.

Fighting Dirty

That year some kind of construction was still going on and there was a big hill of dirt on the Union Street side of the school. This mound turned into a battleground of “king of the hill” between the fourth- and fifth-grade boys.

After about a week of torn and dirty clothes, bruises, cuts, several fistfights and most likely a bunch of parent phone calls, the principal put us on lockdown. Eventually the dirt hill was removed and we got to see the light of day again.

First and Lasting Impression

My only real memory of fifth grade happened on the first day before class even began. As we were milling about in the hall greeting our friends and looking for our classroom we heard some kind of commotion. Voices were rising, kids were laughing, and the queue of children and parents parted like the Red Sea.

But instead of Moses and the Israelites coming through, it was our classmate named Lenny. He had a wide grin on his face and a cigarette dangling from his lips.

Lenny didn't get too far before one of the nuns swooped in like a giant hawk and grabbed the cigarette in one hand and the collar of Lenny's shirt in the other. Away he went never to smoke up the halls of St. Mary's again. It was off to public school for him.

I was a student for 17 years and a teacher for 33 and absolutely no one ever made a more memorable entrance than Lenny.

Sixth grade must have been the year of boredom. One thing we had to do was memorize the Catholic catechism. The nun put a "Jeopardy!" like spin on this activity though by giving us the answer and we had to respond with the question.

A Pencil to Pass Time

To make the long day go by faster, I came up with a game to play. Did you realize that a pencil has six sides? Well, I made mine into a rolling die (as in the plural dice).

On a piece of paper I made a horseracing track divided into lanes of equal length. I would assign a famous horse (Citation, Whirlaway, Swaps) to a numbered lane and then roll the pencil to advance one to six spaces. I don't recall getting caught, but my mother had to have me tutored in math that year, so I guess one to six was my limit mathematically.

Grade seven (inset photo, left, doing homework) went pretty well for most of the year. Sister Mary Lourdes was young and seemed to convey a more relaxed and understanding atmosphere than my previous nun teachers. I really liked her and I think I started to actually enjoy school.

But, at some time in the spring that feeling went bad in a hurry.

One day we were playing outside at lunch and my friends Anthony, John and I wanted to know how much time was left. Not having a watch, we went around on the Woodrow Road side of the school to look in the window of our classroom and see the clock.

When we got back to the room, Sister Lourdes had a very sour look on her face.

As we took our seats she explained that she was horrified someone committed a grave sin by stealing the money we had been collecting for the “Missions” (poor Catholics in Third World countries) out of the container on the shelf by the windows.

If that wasn't bad enough, she said that someone had told her that they saw Anthony, John and David out there by the windows during lunch.

“Did you take that money boys?” she queried. Of course, since we didn't, all three of us adamantly answered “NO!”

Charlie -- Esquire, and a Jury of Peers

Well, the sister must have smelled a great teaching moment in the air because she told the class that since she had evidence she was going to put us on trial and the class would be the jury.

I only remember two things about the trial.

One, my friend Charlie, the costar of several of my previous stories, finagled the job of being our defense attorney. As a precursor to his later getting a law degree from Syracuse University, Charlie won the case. I think the vote to acquit was unanimous. Two, this was mostly because sister's “evidence” was solely the testimony of the informer whom she would not identify.

Afterward the nun tried to apologize and say that she really believed we were innocent, but she wanted to teach the class a lesson. Maybe, but I wasn't having it.

For the rest of the term I was disillusioned and never trusted her again.

Eighth grade was not an enjoyable year for me, or probably my classmates either. Our teacher in retrospect was not well suited or happy in her job and took it out on us on a daily basis. In my stories I try to find humor in my nostalgic remembrances and there wasn't much of that in our final year at St. Mary's.

Inventive, Perhaps, Amusing, No

I do recall one instance when I tried to be funny, but classmate Susan, who sat in front of me, was not amused.

The sister was teaching a history lesson and asked, “Does anyone know who invented the steamboat?” I whispered to the girl, “Stanley Steamer.” Immediately she raised her hand and called it out.

Now, I will give Susan credit, because when the nun reprimanded her for such a ridiculous answer she didn't rat me out. Maybe Susan had mercy on me because I was seemingly already the teacher's whipping boy. I hope I apologized to my classmate for embarrassing her, and if I didn't, I should have.

In June 1960 my elementary school career came to a close and it was on to Notre Dame.

My poor recall of any significant learning in those eight years at St. Mary's is a mystery to me. My hope is that over my three-plus decades of teaching, I provided my students with more substantial memories that they can look back on with fondness.

(Photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.)

September 5, 2019 - 11:39am
posted by Billie Owens in history, education, Abraham Lincoln, GCC, news.

From Genesee Community College:

On Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 12:30 p.m. all are invited to the William W. Stuart Forum on Genesee Community College's Batavia Campus to hear Associate Professor of History Derek Maxfield present "Lincoln: Constitutional Pragmatist."

This event is in honor of national Constitution Day. It celebrates the ratification of the U.S. Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787 when the supreme law of the land was signed by 39 men.

Maxfield will explore America's relationship with Abraham Lincoln and his association with its Constitution.

A deeper understanding of Lincoln may surprise some people, and even tarnish his popular image for others.

To some extent this is because Americans tend to think of Lincoln more as a statesman and hero, rather than a politician. The truth, however, is that Lincoln was a very talented politician and could be just as smooth, yet slippery, as the best and most manipulative of civic leaders.

Lincoln's relationship with the Constitution was shaped by both Lincoln -- the statesman, and Lincoln -- the politician, depending upon circumstances.

This event is FREE and open to the public.

September 3, 2019 - 12:31pm
posted by Billie Owens in history, GCC, batavia, news, History Club, fall lecture series.

From Genesee Community College:

The History Club at Genesee Community College has released an exciting lineup for the Fall 2019 Historical Horizons Lecture Series. This series is designed to educate, entertain and help stimulate the sharing of knowledge, discussion and learning all centered around the importance of history.

All Wednesday lectures in this series begin at 7 p.m. in room T102 of the Conable Technology Building, Batavia. All events in the Historical Horizons Series are free and open to the public.

The season kicks off on Sept. 4 as Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., professor of Journalism and Communications at St. Bonaventure University, discusses his book, “Grant’s Last Battle: The Story Behind the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.”

Facing financial ruin and struggling against terminal throat cancer, Ulysses S. Grant fought his last battle to preserve the meaning of the American Civil War. His war of words, “The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant” would cement his place as not only one of America’s greatest heroes, but also as one of its most sublime literary voices.

Did you get to see "Hamilton The Musical"? Then you won’t want to miss this event - Oct. 2. Danny Hamner, adjunct instructor of history at GCC, presents “A Historian Reflects on Hamilton The Musical.”

In this talk, Hamner explores what "Hamilton The Musical" gets right and wrong about love, marriage, power and ambition in the early American republic, and what theater can express that traditional historical narratives struggle to capture.

Then on Nov. 6 Terrianne Schulte, Ph.D., of D’Youville College will present “We Have to Create a National Debate, Community by Community…” which celebrates women trailblazers in environmental reform.

Throughout the 20th century, women have played important leadership roles in environmental preservation and restoration, often by educating the public regarding complex environmental issues to encourage grassroots activism. These unsung heroes deserve our attention and respect.

Closing the Fall 2019 season, the History club is proud to present its own adjunct instructor of history, Melinda Grube, Ph.D., on Dec. 4 who will portray Abigail Adams – LIVE! One of the Founding Mothers of America, Abigail Adams is one of the most remarkable people of the founding generation.

Left to care for her children, the farm and the family business interests when her husband, John Adams, was off chasing political fame, Abigail carried on to the best of her ability. She accepted the long absences from her husband as a necessary sacrifice for the good of the country. Come hear her story live, as presented in period costume and tone by Grube.

August 27, 2019 - 12:54pm

Submitted photos and press release:

Over the this coming Labor Day weekend, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2, Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford will offer its neighbors a sweet deal: free admission for residents of Le Roy and Batavia (as well as Caledonia, Mumford, Scottsville and Avon).

Residents of those communities need only show proof of residency (i.e. ZIP Code) to get in for free, including on Labor Day when the Museum celebrates its Hop Harvest Festival.

In addition, a shuttle bus will run from Buffalo and Batavia to the Museum and back on Monday, offering a safe and convenient way for people to enjoy the day.

The bus will stop at the Williamsville AAA office and Batavia Downs Gaming & Hotel before heading to GCV&M in the morning, then return on the same route for afternoon drop-offs.

Bus reservations are required and there is a $10 fee for bus tickets, allowing visitors to relax and enjoy Hop Harvest and all the tastings on offer. Details can be found on the Museum’s website, gcv.org.

As one of New York State’s original cash crops, hops are enjoying a revival with the burgeoning craft beer industry that’s been thriving locally. During the Hop Harvest Festival on Labor Day, the Museum will take visitors on a tour of hop history, and provide a taste of the present day with their own signature craft brews, created from historical recipes and brewed locally by CB Craft Brewers.

Visitors to the Museum can tour the only working 19th-century brewery in the United States and see the hops being harvested on site. In addition to the signature Fat Ox and Intrepid Ales on tap, there will be beer-inspired food tastings on hand throughout the village, as well as demonstrations and crafts all related to the theme of hops and history.

For families, games and sack races make for a fun day for all ages, plus a walk down to visit the farm animals is always a popular option. In the John L. Wehle Gallery, two exhibits are currently running, the popular "Victoria’s Closet" and the engaging "Working Like a Dog."

Genesee Country Village & Museum is open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, plus Labor Day.

Presale tickets for Hop Harvest are discounted $2 each when purchased through the Museum website for a reduced cost of $20 adults/$17 seniors/$17 college students/$12 youth/free for children 3 and under. GCV&M members receive free admission.

Support for the Hop Harvest Festival provided by Market NY through I LOVE NY/New York State’s Division of Tourism as a part of the Regional Economic Development Council awards. This event is also generously sponsored by Tomkins Bank of Castile.

About GCV&M

It is the largest living history museum in New York State with the largest collection of historic buildings in the Northeast. The Museum, with its John L. Wehle Gallery, working brewery, vintage baseball park, and Nature Center, is located in Mumford, 20 miles southwest of Rochester and 45 miles east of Buffalo. Visit www.gcv.org for more information.

Top photo: Grieves Brewery at work, courtesy of Loyd Heath.

Bottom photo: Visitors at the farm, courtesy of Ruby Foote.

August 26, 2019 - 6:20pm

A letter in Friday's mail at the Genesee County Sheriff's Office took the term "snail mail" to a whole nother level -- the batch contained an envelope postmarked 12 p.m. Aug. 30, 1929 from Youngstown, Ohio to a man living at 14 Main St., the address of the local jail.

That's exactly one week shy of 90 years: Aug. 30, 1929 to Aug. 23, 2019.

"We thought it was pretty interesting," said Sheriff William Sheron this afternoon.

Even more notable is the black stamp on the left side of the "via air mail" envelope, distinctly bordered in red, white and blue, declaring it was being delivered by the "first official airmail pick-up in the United States."

Like the sender, the courier was also out of Youngstown, Ohio, a newfangled service named "Adams Non-Stop Method."

But the missive for Carl L. Wenzel was obviously dead in its tracks someplace.

The back of the envelope shows a stamp indicating it arrived promptly in Batavia, NY, at 9 a.m. on Aug. 31, 1929.

So Adams Non-Stop Method was fast; its claim valid. Trusty pilot Harry Seivers did his job.

The Batavia Postmaster at the time was Henry R. Ware (tenure 1927 to 1933). To think that this piece of mail has been next door to the jail at the Post Office on Main Street perhaps all this time...

But the U.S. Postal Service is dedicated and, by God, if a piece of mail turns up, they'll get it you regardless. Remember their motto: "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."

The passage of time is irrelevant, even though the intended recipient is long dead. It's the principle that counts.

The envelope intended for Wenzel only contained seven small blank rectangles of paper, sent to him by someone apparently wanting to correspond or at least supply him with the means to correspond with somebody.

The sender in 1929 paid for two five-cent stamps with bespectacled Teddy Roosevelt on them -- a value of $1.50 in today's dollars. That's when gas was a quarter a gallon and a pound of steak cost 52 cents -- before the stock market crashed two months later and changed everyone's math for the worse for a long time.

(Here's a link where ephemera buffs can bid on similar pieces of mail.)

Below, the seven blank pages of writing paper that were inside the envelope.

Bottom, the back of the envelope, showing it was received in Batavia, NY, at 9 a.m. Aug. 31, 1929.

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