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September 12, 2020 - 4:00pm

Genesee Community College Associate Professor of History Derek D. Maxfield (above photo) had a reception this afteroon at Roman's restaurant in Downtown Batavia and signed copies of his first book, "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY."

He became an expert on the excruciating conditions at the infamous POW camp while researching material for his book.

He will be featured on C-SPAN tonight at 6 o'clock sharing what his research uncovered about this notorious time period in Elmira's history.

It is the largest city and the county seat of Chemung County. "The Queen City" was incorporated in 1864. By the late 19th century, it was a major transportation hub, connecting commercial centers in Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York City.

Called by some the "Andersonville of the North," the prisoner of war camp in Elmira is remembered as the most notorious of all Union-run POW camps. It existed for only a year -- from the summer of 1864 to July 1865. But in that time, and for long after, it became darkly emblematic of man's inhumanity to man. Confederate prisoners called it "Hellmira."

In the end, Maxfield suggests that it is time to move on from the blame game and see prisoner of war camps -- North and South -- as a great humanitarian failure.

"HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" is available through AmazonSavas Beatie -- and was released in July as an audio book as well.

Most of the information in this post provided by GCC.

September 9, 2020 - 2:14pm
posted by Press Release in GCC, news, Derek Maxfield, civil war, Hellmira, POW camp, history, C-SPAN.

Submitted photo and press release:

Genesee Community College Associate Professor of History, Derek D. Maxfield (inset photo, left) will be on C-SPAN at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12, sharing what his research has uncovered about the excruciating conditions at a POW camp in Elmira.

Maxfield became an expert on the subject while writing his first book, "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" which explores this notorious time period in the history of Elmira.

Elmira is the largest city and the county seat of Chemung County. "The Queen City" was incorporated in 1864. By the late 19th century, it was a major transportation hub, connecting commercial centers in Rochester and Buffalo with Albany and New York City.

In "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" Maxfield contextualizes the rise of prison camps during the Civil War, explores the failed exchange of prisoners, and tells the tale of the creation and evolution of the prison camp in Elmira.

Long called by some the "Andersonville of the North," the prisoner of war camp in Elmira is remembered as the most notorious of all Union-run POW camps. It existed for only a year -- from the summer of 1864 to July 1865. But in that time, and for long after, it became darkly emblematic of man's inhumanity to man. Confederate prisoners called it "Hellmira."

In the end, Maxfield suggests that it is time to move on from the blame game and see prisoner of war camps -- North and South -- as a great humanitarian failure.

"HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp -- Elmira, NY" is available through AmazonSavas Beatie -- and was released in July as an audio book as well.

Always interested in collaboration, Maxfield partnered with GCC's Associate Professor of English Michael Gosselin who wrote an essay on Mark Twain as an appendix to the book.

The essay, called "A Foretaste of Heaven: How Elmira Gave the World Mark Twain" is about Samuel Clemen's summer home at Quarry Farm in Elmira, where he wrote many of his most famous works.

Maxfield's "Hellmira" also features a variety of photos and images contributed by GCC's Professor of English, Tracy Ford.

Since joining Genesee Community College in 2009, Maxfield has been actively involved in GCC's campus community and dedicated to providing students with an exceptional learning experience. Described by many as a gifted storyteller, Maxfield has a way of reaching students in the classroom that is memorable.

He incorporates applied learning, which gets his students beyond the classroom and experiencing the preservation of history on the ground, has created unique and engaging assignments, created new courses, and coordinates the GCC History Club's Historical Horizons Lecture Series which brings history to life for students and the College community.

Maxfield was awarded a "SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching" in 2019, holds an M.A. in History from Villanova University and a B.A. in History from SUNY Cortland.

He currently resides in Churchville.

A book publication reception is being held at Roman's restaurant in Downtown Batavia from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 12. Roman's is located at 59 Main St.

All are welcome to come and meet Maxfield, purchase a copy of "HELLMIRA: The Union's Most Infamous Civil War Prison Camp - Elmira, NY" ($14) and even have it signed! Masks are required and social distancing guidelines will be enforced.

The publication of this book marks the second time Maxfield has appeared in GCC's Recognition Matters series. Officials at GCC have embraced this series as a way to acknowledge not only the achievement, but also the high quality of the College's recognized faculty, staff and students.

August 30, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in nostalgia, history, Holland Land Office Museum, news, batavia.

I recently spent a day at the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia and enjoyed the newest exhibits. Like most museums, it has various displays that take you back to a time when the artifacts you are looking at or reading about were used.

For example, they have a room that explains the history of the Holland Land Office building. Another room is the Land Office Room where Joseph Ellicott, founder of Batavia and Buffalo, sold land to our early settlers. There is the Colonial Kitchen depicting what it was like to cook from the flames and coals of a fireplace in the 1800s.

The West Wing is called the Military Room where you can learn about the famous men and women from Genesee County who fought for our country. The East Wing houses an exhibit on local businesses.  

I think of our minds as a museum, storing memories of artifacts we have used over our lifetimes. I guess I am speaking to the baby boomers (born 1946-64) for obvious reasons (because I am one). I have been thinking about some of the artifacts that have been on display in the past.

The old black and white Sylvania television set (once made in Batavia) takes me back to watching "The Beverly Hillbillies,"* my favorite show as a child. We were only allowed one TV show a week when school was in session.

The museum has an old Victrola. Children love to hear the history of our early records or big CDs as children often call them.

Another artifact is a vintage typewriter. Now there is something the children of today have never seen. Remember the carbon paper for the typewriter and if you made a mistake you had to use a correction tape? My roommate actually had a typewriter in the early ‘70s and I had a plastic portable record player.

You can’t forget the three-pound transistor radio that could only pick up three AM radio stations.

There are so many memories and so many artifacts.

I really loved my ball bearing roller skates that clipped onto my shoes, not my sneakers. I would wear the key on a string around my neck.

Can’t forget the balloon tires for our bicycles, a 3-speed English bike, penny loafers, high-top sneakers, madras clothing, long hair for boys and girls. We played outside, used the sewer and manhole covers as bases for kickball.

We played games such a Kick the Can, Red Rover, Freeze Tag, Cops and Robbers and an old favorite, Hide and Seek. 

I wonder if someday a merry-go-round, teeter-totter, metal slide and monkey bars will be on display in a museum or big cardboard boxes from Max Pies  (Furniture store) that were used to slide down the grassy overpass on South Jackson Street. 

Sandlot baseball was anyplace you could find an open field. The list could go on and on. These are our artifacts!

Now the artifacts are stored in our minds in a happy place.

Photo courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

*Editor's Note: This YouTube link plays the second episode of season two of "The Beverly Hillbillies" called "Hair-raising Holiday." It's a hoot!

August 24, 2020 - 10:46pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in hlom, civil war, history, batavia, video.
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Ten months ago, the Civil War-era cannons that have sat as sentinels outside the Holland Land Office Museum since at least 1905, were sent to Altoona, Pa., for restoration by Seed Artillery and today, they returned to Batavia looking almost certainly much like they did when they were shipped to Batavia in the 1860s.

August 19, 2020 - 5:36pm

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to announce that on Monday, Aug. 24th, the official Cannon Welcoming Home Celebration will be taking place at 10 a.m.

We are welcoming our two cannons back to their familiar spot on the front porch of the museum after a long absence due to being restored. Seed Artillery out of Altoona, Pa., spent many months carefully restoring our guns to their former glory as they would have looked in the early 19th century.

The work included rebuilding of the carriage with all new metalwork and refurbishing the cannon barrels.

The cannons will be welcomed home in style with the help of a gunnery crew of the Genesee County Militia reenactor group.

We would also like to thank everyone who contributed to our Cannon Restoration Fund.

All are welcome to attend, while observing social distancing protocols and wearing facial coverings. 

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

August 13, 2020 - 9:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in anti-slavery, Le Roy, history, video, Frederick Douglass.
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Anti-slavery sentiment ran strong in Le Roy in the 1830s and 1840s, with much of the activity centered around the First Presbyterian Church, where at least five significant anti-slavery meetings were held, culminating in December 1847 with a speech by famed abolitionist and escaped slave Frederick Douglass.

Local history buffs have long believed Douglass once spoke in Le Roy, but the date was placed in 1838. That wouldn't be possible because Douglass was still a slave in Maryland in 1838. 

James Evinger, a Presbyterian minister in Rochester, noticed the discrepancy and that sparked his curiosity. He began digging. With the assistance of Lynne Belluscio, Le Roy historian, he started down a path where he uncovered secondary and primary sources for all of the notable anti-slavery activity in Le Roy, including the first important anti-slavery meeting in Le Roy in 1833 where Rev. Thomas James spoke.

James was an escaped slave and founder of the first Black church in Rochester. A few years later, while working as a pastor and abolitionist in Boston, James would find the recently escaped Douglass a capable speaker and mentor to the young man as a touring speaker in the cause of abolishing slavery.

The 1833 appearance of James also brought out the pro-slave racists who mobbed the church, throwing rocks at the windows, trying to drive James from the building. A Le Roy resident, Henry Brewster, sequestered James at his home. 

Thanks to the work of Evinger, the anti-slavery movement in Le Roy is now commemorated on a historical marker in front of the Presbyterian Church on Main Street.

You can read a complete account of Evinger's work and his findings in the latest edition of the Universalist Herald. Click here (pdf).

July 28, 2020 - 3:27pm

Photo of David Buckel from the nonprofit Lambda Legal.

David Buckel was an environmentalist. He was an LGBTQ advocate. He was an attorney. He started his life in Batavia. He ended it more than two years ago in New York City in an effort to draw attention to the plight of the Earth in a time when it seems so many people are focused on other things.

His death didn’t garner much attention locally, but we remember today him on World Nature Conservation Day.

Most Likely to Succeed

David was a Batavia kid, born here on June 13, 1957. His dad was an agricultural consultant and his mom was a florist.

Her maiden name was Stroh and her family ran a well known floral business in town. After his mother died, he changed his middle name to Stroh in her memory. He had four brothers, two of whom served in Vietnam.

He was a bright student. At Batavia High School, where he graduated from in 1975, he was a member of the National Honor Society and voted the boy Most Likely to Succeed by his classmates. He was active in sports as a member of the varsity cross-country, track, and tennis teams.

David went on to college at The University of Rochester graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1980. After graduation he began to show his compassion for others by working as an attendant caring for in-home hospice patients.

After earning a Juris Doctorate degree in 1987 from Cornell University Law School, David began his career as an attorney.

While living in Rochester David was introduced by friends to a man named Terry Kaelber. They hit it off, became a couple and moved to New York City.

As might be surmised from his earlier hospice work, David started his career at Legal Aid assisting those in need of help with the law who couldn't afford it otherwise.

In 1995 David began working for Lambda Legal, which helped LGBT (Q, for queer/questioning, was added to the initialism starting in 1996.) youth and he specifically became a director of the organization's marriage project.

Pair of Legal Victories, Pair of Weddings

During his tenure at Lambda Legal, Buckel was one of the counsel responsible for two big victories.

In 1996 a young gay man named Jamie Nabozny was awarded almost a million dollars after suing a Wisconsin school district for failure to protect him from bullying. The court ruling in Nabozny v. Podlesny also established a legal precedent to protect LGBTQ students from being bullied in all school systems.

In 2001 David was one of the attorneys for JoAnn Brandon, who won a lawsuit in Nebraska against a local sheriff for failing to protect her transgender child who was raped and murdered in 1993. JoAnn's daughter, Teena Brandon, had reversed her name to Brandon Teena while transitioning to a male gender identity. Hillary Swank won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1999 for portraying Teena Brandon, JoAnn's murdered child, in the movie “Boys Don't Cry,” based on the crime.

Four years after the landmark decision, there was a milestone in David's personal life when he married Kaelber in a double wedding ceremony in Canada. The other couple exchanging vows that day were lesbians with whom the men were raising a daughter. She's now a college student, scheduled to graduate in 2021.

Hooked on Urban Farming

In 2008, Buckel retired from Lambda Legal to devote his time and energy to helping preserve the environment. He became an expert in composting, the reuse of organic garbage. 

He spent several years interning at Red Hook's Columbia Street Farm in Brooklyn, where he learned the intricacies of composting peoples' kitchen waste into fertilizer to grow more food. Red Hook had been built on several old baseball diamonds to become the biggest urban farm in the United States.

Eventually, David applied his talent for organizing and planning to become the director of the Brooklyn operation. With the assistance of a large core of volunteers Red Hook was processing 225 tons of compost every year.

Buckel cultivated his workforce of volunteers as well as he did the organic material. He was respected, even beloved by the people he worked with. Several workers said that he changed their life. He ended each work day by thanking the volunteers for helping their Earth.

Buddhism, Trump and the Beginning of the End

As he developed his passion for tending to the environment he also pursued a corresponding interest in Buddhism. With its tenets of inner peace and caring for others it only seemed natural that David would be interested in this way of life. However, the Buddhist methods of protest probably contributed to his untimely end.

After the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016 and the subsequent rollback of Obama era environmental regulations, Buckel's family and friends described him in news accounts as becoming increasingly upset with the trajectory of government actions or inactions.

As 2018 progressed toward April, David began sending emails to his assistant at Red Hook detailing all the things which needed to be done in case of his absence. He also labeled everything at the site, equipment, tools and supplies. His assistant asked him if he was thinking of retiring but he assured him he was not.

Then, before dawn on the morning of April 14th, David Buckel left the home he shared with his family in Brooklyn. He had a shopping cart and headed to a nearby park. He had told no one that he was leaving.

He stopped at a patch of grass in the park off the walkway and apparently built a small wall of earth around himself. He sent an email to the media detailing what he was about to do, poured a flammable substance on himself, and lit it on fire. Within a minute or two David Buckel was dead.

The obvious reaction was shock and sadness. His family, friends, coworkers, former colleagues, and former classmates were bewildered.

They couldn't believe that a quiet, gentle, private man who cared so deeply for others would choose such a public way to end his life in protest. He hadn't even said goodbye to his loved ones.

His family's comment was that they intended to honor his life by carrying on his environmental goals. Coworkers at Red Hook vowed to continue his work.

Lambda Legal issued a statement when they learned of Buckel's death.

Former Batavia High classmates commented on a Class of '75 Facebook page that several had tried to get in touch with David over the years with no success.

They were mystified over his suicide, but remembered him fondly. Former law colleagues were stunned along with everyone else.

Buckel's final email stated that, “My early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

So, two plus years have now passed since David Buckel's death at age 60.

No one will ever completely understand or be able to give an absolute explanation as to why he chose to make a statement by ending his life in such a horrific way.

But, hopefully people, including Batavians from the community where he grew up, will remember him for the contributions he made to the world and as the good, kind, and helpful person he was.

Read more about David Buckel's life:

A lawyer sets himself on fire to protest climate change. Did anyone care?The Guardian, April 15, 2019

Remembering David Buckel, the pioneering lawyer who championed LGBT Rights, The New Yorker magazine, April 16, 2018

What Drove a Man to Set Himself on Fire in Brooklyn?, The New York Times, May 28, 2018

Self-immolation can be a form of protest or a cry for help. Are we listening?, The Washington Post, May 30, 2019

July 12, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by Anne Marie Starowitz in news, history, nostalgia, batavia, city Parks Program, covid-19.

It is the 1950s, the first week of summer vacation and the official opening of the City Parks Program. Children would run out the door at 8:50 a.m. to be the first one waiting to meet the new or previous year’s park supervisor.

You know that a great summer is about to begin. You will spend every day at the park from 9 to noon, and from 1 to 5 p.m.

Batavia at one time was divided into parks: Pringle, Kibbe, Lincoln, Austin, Williams, Farrall, MacArthur, and later as Batavia grew and some parks closed and new ones opened, John Kennedy and Lambert Park.

Children went to your neighborhood park and were so proud to say what park you were from. Parks competed against each other in softball and volleyball games. Every Friday night the scores and contest winners would be recorded in the newspaper.

There was a family feeling with every park. Every day there were scheduled arts and crafts projects.

When it was your park’s week for boondoggles (inset image left), the children would have the choice of three, four or eight strands to work on.

The park supervisor sometimes ended up making them for the little ones so they could wear them around their necks as lanyards or a small bracelet.

The favorite craft was the plaster molds. I can still picture the molds being lined up in the sun and the children standing behind the one they picked to make that particular day.

There were so many choices, a favorite was the mold for "The Last Supper." That was probably the largest mold and the most difficult to make.

There was a technique to make this craft. You had to carefully mix the plaster and when it was the right consistency you poured it into the mold. As it dried in the sun, you were hoping your plaster would set. After the plaster dried you would carefully pull back the rubber mold to see if your mold took the plaster.

You couldn’t forget the little tab you put in the back to hang this very heavy item proudly created for your parent’s wall. The last step was to paint your creation. You couldn’t wait to take it home to show mom and dad.

The highlight of the summer program was the park parade. Every year there was a theme and your park had to come up with a float to go along with the theme. Every day you would talk about the parade and the float and how this year your park would beat Kibbe.

The supervisor would keep samples of every craft because they would be judged at the end of the summer event.

Every park had been secretly working on their float that consisted of chicken wire and crepe paper flowers. Everyone had a job. Main Street would close down at the end of August and the street was transformed into a parade of children proudly walking with their float that was being pulled by a tractor.

The store owners would come out of their stores to watch the annual parade. The celebration after the parade was at Austin Park. After the parade, floats would all be lined up to view and every park had a booth. You would stand with your park friends to wait for the results of what park would be the winner this year.

Of course, you always thought your park deserved to be the winner.

It was now time to go back to school and the summer program was coming to an end. New friends were made, memories to last a lifetime were created. When the park kids return to Batavia as adults and drive by “their park,” those wonderful summer memories will come flooding back.

So, this is what we tell our children what it was like back in the day.

As someone who loved going to my neighborhood park as a child and growing up to be lucky enough to be a park supervisor, I commend the Batavia Parks Program for creating summer memories we will never forget.

My years as a park supervisor will always be a cherished time.

The rules for the parks program was to have fun and most of all, be safe. In this time of so much unrest due to COVID-19, thinking back to those summertimes makes you realize how lucky you were to be a Baby Boomer.

Please share your memories, I only touched a few.

Anne Marie Starowitz was a proud supervisor for Farrall Park for three years in the '70s (inset photo right).

Photos and images courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

July 10, 2020 - 2:12pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Shawn Heubusch, news, crime, batavia, history.

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While doing renovation work in his home, Batavia PD Chief Shawn Heubusch found under his old flooring layers old newspapers, all from 1927. 

The headlines help tell a story of at least one case that should be of interest to a lawman: The escape, escapades, and eventual capture of Floyd Wilcox.

Wilcox, of Oakfield, escaped from Genesee County Jail, presumably to avoid a possible sentence of life in prison after his fourth felony arrest, this time for grand larceny, under the recently enacted Baumes Law.

According to the articles, Wilcox (aka Floyd Gill), and an associate convinced a farmer to give them gas with a promise to pay once they were fueled up. When the duo drove back by the farm and didn't stop to pay, the farmer pulled out his pistol and started firing at the fleeing vehicle. The farmer jumped in his own truck and gave chase. A short time later, he found the abandoned vehicle with a flat tire from a bullet and spotted the two men running over a hill.

Later, Wilcox was a suspect in a safe-crack job in Hornell and a stealing a vehicle in Rochester. He was eventually apprehended by a Batavia PD officer on a street in the city. A subhead in the Batavia Daily News reads, "Did Not Try Very Hard to Keep Out of Reach of the Authorities."

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Chief Heubusch isn't the only person finding old newspapers in old homes these days. The 1942 edition of the Batavia Daily News was found by our contractor in a wall of our house, which is undergoing renovations following our fire in April.

One of the stories is about an Army officer accused of sedition for distributing "America First" literature. It turns out, the publication of this story by Associated Press was controversial because the Army released the information to a reporter on a stipulation that no newspapers in the nation run it with only a one-column headline. Many editors found this AP requirement an unethical bargain giving the government power to dictate the nature of coverage. You can read about it in this book on Google Books.

June 28, 2020 - 8:00am
posted by David Reilly in batavia, nostalgia, news, history.

"Hot town, summer in the city, back of my neck gettin' dirty and gritty" -- The Lovin' Spoonful, #1 on Billboard Hot 100, August, 1966

For every teen there are two coming-of-age situations (well really three, but I can't write about one of them here). The first is learning to drive and getting a driver's license. Over the years safety concerns have changed that one somewhat, but it's still a big deal for most.

The second one involves finding and working at a summer job.

You can ask almost any older person and their summer jobs during high school and college are rife with memories -- good, bad, funny, and often becoming more nostalgic as the years pass by. Drug store, hot dog stand, lifeguard, or mowing lawns -- we all had to start somewhere.

Those jobs were our first foray into the working world, a chance to be independent and have some money of our own. But due to our being so young and inexperienced, they also resulted in some hilarious screw-ups and lessons learned the hard way.

E. coli Anyone?

I got my first job at 16 the way a lot of kids do because my dad knew someone. Dad was a paper goods salesman and one of his best customers was John Castronova who owned The Red Top restaurant.

It was a hot dog and hamburger stand on West Main Street across from Batavia Downs where Sport Of Kings is now. My duties were to wash dishes, clean up, stock coolers, and eventually I got to wait on customers.

One memorable order that sticks out in my mind is when two guys, who obviously had just come from spending quite a while at a bar, ordered “Cannibal Sandwiches.”I had never heard of this but the grill man had.

They wanted hamburgers put on the grill for about 30 seconds and then put on a roll with onions. So, they were essentially eating raw beef. It was as gross as you would imagine and I don't think the FDA would approve.

I only worked about 16 hours a week, but eight of those were on Saturday night from 6 p.m. until 2 o'clock Sunday morning.

I lived at the other end of town so when we got out one of the older guys would give me a ride to East Main and I would walk the rest of the way to our house on North Spruce. I would then spend about 30 minutes in the hot shower at 3 a.m. to get the grease off myself.

I was all too happy to be done with that job at the end of the summer and return to Notre Dame for my senior year of high school.

Factory Foul-ups

Between my senior year and freshman year of college I had a tough time finding a job. I had a couple friends who worked at the Melton Shirt Factory on Liberty Street and they were able to get me some hours filling in when extra help was needed.

What I remember the most about that place was that it was like the fires of Hades in there. The poor women at the sewing machines would look like rag dolls by the end of the day from the heat.

The owner/manager's name was Abe and he had a thick New York City accent. He was not exactly a patient guy and he would yell at the top of his lungs, “Dave, where's the shoits (shirts)?”

At the end of a day in that blast furnace I would, unlike the previous summer at the hot dog stand, stand for 30 minutes in a cool shower.

Apparently I didn't learn my lesson about factories though.

The following summer between freshman and sophomore year my friend Jim and I got a job at a company in the Industrial Center on Harvester Avenue. It was called Ritz-Craft and they built mobile homes.

The very first day Jim and I were assigned the task of unloading an entire railroad boxcar full of lumber -- by hand. Once again our bathtub came in handy as by the time I got home all I could do was fill it with hot water and sit in it for a long time.

That should have been an omen for me as I only lasted a few weeks as a “carpenter.” I wasn't what you'd call a skilled craftsman and constantly made mistakes until finally the foreman had to let me go. Being “all thumbs” was a mild way to describe me.

But, out of the frying pan into the fire I went next. I still needed money so I moved down the way a little into another company that made equipment for pool tables. It was in the former Massey-Harris plant, which once made tractors and other farm equipment.

My job was to run a machine which ground up miscast billiard balls and other table parts so the plastic could be reused. This machine sounded like if a Boeing 747 jet was taking off and someone was throwing rocks into the engines.

I recall that we would start at 8 a.m. and we would get a 15-minute break at 10. I would start and think to myself, “It's got to be almost break time.” I'd look at my watch and it would be 8:15. Those were very long days and a kid was never happier to get back to school like I was that year.

Fortunately, that experience was the last of my factory follies.

Things Go Better With Coke

The summer between my sophomore and junior years, Jim and I were able to get hired by the Coca-Cola Company on East Main Street in Batavia. Even though the first year didn't go so well for me, I was able to come back for three more summers after that.

I had some opportunities to be out in the community rather than being cooped up inside four walls all day.

I'm not sure why I got hired the first summer because a major part of the job was driving and I didn't have a license. The bosses would get really annoyed when they'd ask me to go make a delivery and I couldn't. Plus, all the vehicles were standard shift.

One time a boss asked me to move a truck away from a doorway and, rather than tell him one more time that I couldn't, I decided to try. As you could imagine that didn't go well.

After coming close to ramming two other trucks and the side of the building I was banished to stacking crates. I have no idea why they kept me on. My charming personality perhaps?

To make matters worse, I had a health problem that summer requiring a week's stay in St. Jerome's Hospital. (That's a whole other story -- one night I was served fruit for dinner and one of the nurses was so old that I wanted to get out of bed to help her help me).

Subsequently, I had to withdraw from my fall semester at St. John Fisher College and have surgery at Strong Memorial in Rochester.

So, the next year I made up my mind that I had to get my driver's license and learn to drive a stick shift, so I had at least a prayer of a chance to be rehired at Coke. Which I did, but the driving a standard shift part turned out humorously.

I learned from my almost 70-year-old gramma in her little Plymouth Valiant at the Batavia Downs parking lot. Hey, whatever it takes...

It took some slick persuading and a nervous demonstration that I could drive a stick, but I got my job back and I rode that horse (trucks actually) for the next three summers until I got a teaching job.

Working summers at Coca-Cola could be long hours and I think I originally we were paid $1.25 per hour, but it certainly topped factory work.

The hardest part was loading the heavy glass bottle cases of soda (or pop as it was called in Batavia) onto the delivery trucks at the end of the day.

But, during the day, we might be called upon to drive to Le Roy or Medina or Warsaw to deliver or pick something up, which meant a nice easy ride out in the country.

Crazy Carnivals

Another part of the job might be working a Friday or Saturday night at one of the many volunteer firemen's carnivals in the area. This would entail setting up the Coca-Cola equipment and then mostly just sitting around and taking it down at the end of the night.

A side bonus of entertainment at these carnivals was watching the antics that sometimes occurred at or near the beer tents. We could look on with amusement safely from a distance as security or sheriff's deputies tried to contain some of the overexuberant locals who had overextended their quota of Jenny Cream Ales.

There were some characters at that job, too.

The assistant manager was nicknamed “Clipboard.” He was a stickler for scheduling and neatness. When he would get in a bad mood he would spend the whole day rearranging the entire warehouse with the forklift (we called it a towmotor). The foreman was an ex-military man we called “Sarge.” You've seen movies where the drill sergeant could blister the paint on the wall with his cursing? That was him.

He told us that if he ever saw us drinking Pepsi or buying it in the store we 'd have to answer to him. So, we loved our Coke -- in front of him at least.

Actually, we had a Coke machine in the warehouse that would vend a 6-ounce bottle for 5 cents. And it was hot in there, so for a nickel at a time you could quench your thirst with an ice-cold Coke, right?

Well, you've probably heard the old wives' tale that Coke could take rust off a car bumper. Probably not, but if you drink about 10 of those a day for a while you might be more inclined to believe it.

Eventually, it got to the point where even looking at a bottle of Coke would make me nauseous. Thankfully, we also sold ginger ale and that was a lot easier on the stomach.

Over the course of four summers a lot of things happened while working for Coca-Cola that could be stories on their own. But, probably the craziest incident took place in 1969 about a month before I finished my tenure there.

Bee Unprepared

It was a Saturday morning and I had been assigned to take a truckload of tanks of Coke and dispensing equipment to a company picnic at Hamlin Beach State Park. I was to set everything up and then stay there for the day and then bring it back to Batavia afterward.

I had just passed through the Village of Brockport headed north on Route 19 when I saw a yellowish-brown “cloud” that seemed to be floating over the road.

“What is that?” I thought, “a bunch of falling leaves?” Well, there was no avoiding whatever it was and almost instantly I drove into it.

To my immediate shock I realized that I had driven smack into a swarm of bees! As the blues lyric goes, “If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all,” and the truck and I had showed up at exactly the wrong time.

Hundreds of bees were suddenly covering the windshield and, since the windows were open, in the cab flying around my head. I wasn't afraid of bees but this was unbelievable.

The next thing I knew I was heading straight for a utility pole. There was no way to swerve at that point, so the best I could do was to hit the brakes and hold on. As the truck slammed into the pole I saw an electric transformer flying over the top and I knew this was no little fender bender.

As soon as the truck stopped completely, bees were buzzing all around me and I jumped out the door and ran across the road as fast as I could. In retrospect it was good that power lines hadn't fallen on the truck because that never crossed my mind.

I noticed that other cars had stopped and people were getting out and tentatively advancing toward me, probably worried about live wires that I hadn't considered.

I took stock of myself and was pretty sure I wasn't injured, but I never noticed until later that I hadn't been stung even once! I guess I did have a little luck after all.

As they say, all hell broke loose then. Sirens, sheriffs, state troopers, fire trucks, an ambulance, and eventually utility trucks, responded. The trooper asked me what happened. Why did I lose control? Had I been drinking? Drugs?

So, in response I took him over to the truck. All over the hood, on the windshield, and in the cab were dead bees. Where did the swarm go though? The queen must have moved on and the others followed her I guess.

Then came the part where I had to go into the truck and call in on the radio (after the utility workers determined it was safe of course) and tell what had happened. You can imagine how that conversation went. “YOU WHAT!!?”

After a while the manager came with a different truck and a couple guys who were not having an easy time keeping from laughing. We transferred all the stuff (which had not been damaged) to the other truck and I continued on my way to Hamlin Beach with the guys' voices ringing in my ears, “Watch out for bees, Dave.”

The damaged truck was towed away and I got a respite (except for explaining to the customers why I was late) until Monday morning.

It was a good thing I only had a few weeks left to work because I was chided and teased about my bee encounter every single day until I left. “Hey Dave. Don't you need some calamine lotion? I think you have hives.” And so on. All day. Every day.

Rent-A-Cop Caper

One last job to mention was a part-time one during my senior year at St. John Fisher.

I was living with a roommate in an apartment in the City of Rochester and needed to keep up with my share of the rent. So, I took a job as a Pinkerton Security guard at Rochester Institute of Technology in Henrietta.

Two nights a week from 4 to midnight, clad in my uniform complete with police-style hat (left photo, with toy guns), I would ”guard” a parking lot, the student union or a science building.

One night I was on duty checking parking in a lot by the student dormitories.

Suddenly my car was surrounded by about 20 guys. They informed me that as part of a fraternity initiation they were going to “kidnap” me, tie me up, and leave me in a dorm basement. They stated that after a few hours they would call someone to come set me free.

Some quick thinking was obviously called for by me. I said something like, “Guys, no please. I'm a college student just like you at Fisher. I still have a paper to write after I get off work at midnight" (probably not true). My brain was racing. I needed to get out of this.

But how? Of course the same way you get out of a lot of things -- throw someone else under the proverbial bus.

“Hey guys,”I said, “if you go to the Pinkerton office around the corner, my boss is in there alone. He's always on my case and he's the one who put in all the horrible parking rules that you hate (doubtful). It would be so much funnier if you did this to a boss, especially that guy."

“Yeah!” one of them agreed. “We know the guy you mean. We can't stand him! Right guys? Oh, this will be sweet. C'mon, let's go get him!"

And off they went hooting and hollering.

As soon as they were out of sight, I wasn't taking any chances. I sped out of there to a desolate lot on the far side of the campus and stayed there until quitting time and then went home.

I never did find out if the frat guys carried out their plan because what was I gonna do? Ask the boss the next time I came to work? I had escaped and that was really all that mattered.

So, over the years I had a variety of summer jobs which resulted in some experiences that stick in my mind to this day.

Then, I went on to a long elementary school teaching career, which afforded me July and August off. And guess what? Yup. More summer jobs.

Like a lot of teachers, I painted houses in the summer. No more factory jobs. But, I did encounter my share of bees.

Images and photos courtesy of Dave Reilly.

June 26, 2020 - 2:04pm
posted by Billie Owens in hlom, news, batavia, history, Holland Land Office Museum.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum reopens to the public today, June 26, at its normal business hours. The museum will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The museum will be reopening with some noticeable changes.

Firstly, the museum is implementing its Safety Plan, which requires all visitors to the museum to wear masks and admission will be limited to 10 at a time. Also, visitors are asked to refrain from touching any of the artifacts and cases, and to follow our “one way” floor plan. Visitors are also asked to maintain the 6 foot social distancing protocol and to use the hand sanitizer and washing stations around the museum.

Secondly, the museum is reopening under a new admission policy. Visitors to the museum will now have to pay an admission fee. The ranges include: Free for Museum Members, $1 for Children, $3 for Students/Veterans/Seniors, $5 for Adults, and $10 for a Family of four.

The HLOM is instituting a strict cleaning procedure to ensure the safety of our staff, volunteers, and visitors, but wishes everyone to come by and visit us and see all our treasures of the history of Genesee County.

Thank you to all who have supported us in the past, through this difficult time, and continue to into the future. 

If you have any questions please contact the museum by phone at (585) 343-4727 or email at [email protected]. Information can also be found on our website, hollandlandoffice.com, or our Facebook page.

June 17, 2020 - 4:08pm
posted by Billie Owens in hlom, visitor admission policy, news, batavia, history.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum will be administering a change in its admission policy for visitors to the museum upon its opening in the coming weeks.

The museum’s new admission policy will be as follows:

  • Free for Members;
  • $1 for Children;
  • $3 for Students, Veterans, and Seniors;
  • $5 for Adults;
  • $10 for Family of two adults and two children.

​This policy is a change from previously when admission was based on a suggested donation.

The Board and the Executive Director did not take this decision lightly, but it was deemed as a necessity for the museum to continue serving the people of Genesee County and Western New York.

The museum will remain committed to carrying out its mission of preserving the living history of Genesee County for the future, in an educational, entertaining, and inclusive way.

Everyone at the museum would like to thank those who have supported us in the past, through this difficult time, and into the future. We look forward to seeing both old and new faces walking through the door again very soon.

If you have any questions, please contact Director Ryan Duffy at (585) 343-4727 or email: [email protected]

Information can also be found at the museum’s website.

June 14, 2020 - 4:32pm

Diana Diplarakou Dipson, is seated in forefront, left, with violin. Photo courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz.

Rose Caccamise will truly be missed by everyone who had the pleasure of knowing her. About 10 years ago Rose contacted me and asked if I would do an article on Diana Dipson. We met a few times and she explained that this famous lady deserved to be remembered. That was so Rose, always thinking of someone else. So, in memory of that beautiful, talented, athletic woman, this is for you, Rose.

            -- Anne Marie Starowitz

In 1929 a young girl, who liked her name to be pronounced "Dee-AN’-na," graduated with honors from Batavia High School. She was a member of the National Honor Society, was awarded the Glenn S. Loomis Award for History, and was a member of orchestra and chorus. Her ambition was to be a concert violinist.

Diana Diplarakou Dipson was born in New York City but moved to Batavia as a child. When she was 5 years old she began studying violin in Batavia with August Fricker. She began giving recitals at the age of 11. Many of her recitals were at the State School for the Blind.

She later won a scholarship to the Curtiss Institute of Music in Philadelphia. She received degrees with high honors from Oberlin Conservatory and the Julliard Graduate School of Music. Her music career spanned many decades. She studied in Europe under the direction of George Enesco.

Music reviews of her undeniable talent began in Batavia and followed her career all over the country.

“Diana Dipson is a brilliant artist, possessing an amazing technique. It can be predicted without fear that Miss Dipson will become one of the country’s most accomplished violinists.” Daily News of Batavia, NY, May 16, 1928

Diana’s music career began when she accompanied silent movies at the New Family Theater on Jackson Street. Her father Nikitas D. Dipson operated the theater. As Diana’s career soared so did her father’s in the theater business. Nikitas’ name became synonymous with both movie theaters and drive-in-movie theaters.

Diana performed on radio in Buffalo and Cleveland and before World War II she played in public appearances in Greece.

She later joined the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra in West Virginia, where she was a featured soloist.

In 1939, Diana married George Papulias in New York City at a private ceremony officiated by the Eastern Orthodox Bishop of New York City. The groom was an attorney from Steubenville, Ohio, an amateur violinist, and the son of Greek immigrants who, like the Dipsons, were in the theater business.

The newlyweds sailed the same day on the Italian liner Conte de Savoia for a three-month Mediterranean honeymoon. In June 1940 their son Michael was born. When Michael was 2 years old his parents divorced. He was not raised by either of his parents but was raised by a family in Wellsville.

Diana went to New York City to pursue her musical career in the early '40s. Michael would come to Batavia for Christmas or Easter and stayed at his grandfather’s home on 431 E. Main St.

Diana was disappointed that Michael never learned to play an instrument or read music. According to her, he had perfect pitch. The one thing Michael did have in common with his mother was she had very sensitive ears and could not tolerate hearing instruments played out of tune. To this day her son has the same complaint.

When Michael was in grade school his mother would make arrangements to visit his school in Wellsville and play the violin for his class. She played tunes that appealed to the students and then added some classical medleys. The teachers appreciated her visits and to this day his classmates still reminisce about it.

Diana did fulfill her dream. The headlines in The Daily News March 1, 1944 read “Batavian Chosen First Violinist in a New York City Symphony.” After very competitive auditions, Diana was chosen first violinist and would be a member of the New York City Symphony under Leopold Stokowski, conductor.

Interestingly Mischa Mischakoff, concertmaster of the New York City Symphony, was a soloist in Batavia Civic Orchestra’s second season and perhaps was a colleague of Diana.

During and after World War II she toured military hospitals with the Hospital Music Guild, entertaining wounded servicemen. She had great sympathy for the many servicemen who had been wounded in the war. She found playing her violin for the soldiers gave her great satisfaction.

Michael also shared that his mom was a born mimic and could flawlessly lapse into a variety of dialects. She spoke Greek fluently and could also speak French from her time in Paris. By the time she was 30 she had traveled all over Europe, and had a very cosmopolitan view of customs, culture and cuisine.

While Diana was performing in New York City something musically wonderful was happening at home. Four musicians in the 1940s, John and Helen Grapka, Norman Hall and Muriel Mooney formed a quartet and along with many talented musicians in the area, helped form the Batavia Civic Orchestra later known as the Genesee Symphony Orchestra.

Ironically, their first concert was held at the Dipson Theatre* on Nov. 6, 1947 to a sold-out audience.

In 1955 Diana returned to Batavia and became a member of the Genesee Symphony for six years. She served as a board member for five years. She was first stand with concertmaster John Bobka. She also played in concerts presented by the Fine Arts Division of Geneseo State College and frequently gave offertory performances for local churches.

Diana continued to teach violin to young people and in 1964 served as the concertmistress with the Perry Pops Orchestra. She was later employed in the offices of Dipson Theatres, which still owned or leased about 10 theaters operated by her brother, William Dipson.

In the '70s the community leaders in Batavia, particularly William Dipson, decided to give Main Street a cultural boost. They organized a live performance of an opera, with costumes, scenery, and full orchestra to perform on stage at the Dipson Theatre.

Everybody attended in formal finery as though it were a Hollywood premiere. Michael came to Batavia to escort his mother.

By all accounts, it was a beautiful performance, an afternoon to remember. It was not too long after the gala that the Dipson theatre like many other beautiful buildings became the next target of urban renewal.

Diana continued to live in Batavia in the Dipson home on East Main Street. She had a fear of locking herself out of her apartment so she never locked her door. One day when she came home she found that her violin was stolen; she never played the violin again.

Rose Caccamise from Roxy’s Music store has very fond memories of Diana. She describes Diana as artistic, musical, humble, intelligent, gracious, and a lover of animals, especially her dog Augie. In Rose’s words, “it was a privilege to have known her.”

Diana also taught students to play the violin at Roxy’s Music Store.

Diana Diplarakou Dipson died at St. Luke’s Manor in Batavia in 1997 at the age of 86. Her son is an attorney in Madison County, Virginia, where her ashes are buried.

*Editor's Note: The Dipson Theatre in Batavia was located at 38 Main St. Ground breaking for the movie house was in 1946 and when it opened it had seating for 1,325 people, according to a website called Cinema Treasures.

June 14, 2020 - 2:05pm
posted by Billie Owens in history, mary powell, Le Roy, news, A. K. Drury Studio.

Mary Powell, circa 1870s, taken at A.K. Drury Studio, Le Roy, NY.

Reader Shelley Cardiel contacted us this afternoon and sent along this photo, saying:

"I’ve 'rescued' an old photograph of Mary POWELL, which was taken at the A. K. Drury Studio in LeRoy, NY.  The photograph appears to have been taken in the 1870’s with Mary appearing to be in her teens at the time it was taken.

"I’m hoping to locate someone from Mary’s family so that this photograph can be returned to the care of family. If you are a member of this family, or you know someone who might be, please contact me."

Email:   [email protected]

April 2, 2020 - 3:13pm

A Batavia author has penned a paean to The Stumblin' Inn in Elba, the storied landmark that burned down two years ago this summer.

Daniel J. Crofts was to speak at the Holland Land Office Museum April 23 about his fictional short story "Ignis Invictus,* a Eulogy for the Stumblin' Inn" as participants noshed pastries and sipped hot coffee during the kaffeeklatsch known as Java with Joe E., cancelled because of coronavirus, naturally.

"I worked in Elba for a little over five years, and had passed by the Inn every day," Crofts said in a recent email. "But it wasn't until reading The Batavian's coverage following the July 2018 fire that I learned just how important it had been to the Elba community.

"I have always been interested in storytelling, and felt that a short story that would function as a sort of memorial for the Stumblin' Inn would be appropriate and, perhaps, welcomed."

Crofts said his tale is about a man from out of the area who drives into Elba, sees the wreck of the Stumblin' Inn (after the fire had occurred but before the debris was cleared), and treats it disrespectfully.

Then he meets a mysterious, supernatural guide (like the ghosts of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," or Virgil from Dante's "The Divine Comedy") who takes him on a journey through the history of the Stumblin' Inn, its predecessors, and Elba in general (insofar as it is relevant to the Inn).

Of course, Crofts' book ($10.50) is stocked at the Holland Land Office Museum, which is temporarily closed because of the pandemic.

HLOM Offers Online Book Sales

It is among a number of intriguing titles in the HLOM bookstore inventory, which are available for purchase online.

Also on the list: "The Story of the Muck as Told By Those Who Worked There," ($12) written by the late William F. Brown Jr., and researched by Anne Marie Starowitz; and "Up South -- Folk Stories Whispered on the Summer Wind and Seen Through the Green Leaves" ($24.99), by Lynda Breckenridge Gaetano; and "Transfiguration and Hope -- A Conversation About Time and Hope" ($21.99) by D. Gregory Van Dussen, about spiritual journeys infinite and eternal, and the power of grace.

There are battlefield maps for purchase and titles about wars and veterans, baseball, the Erie Canal, Buffalo gangsters, Native Americans and pioneers, railroads, Genesee County architecture, haunted places, leading citizens, lore, and WNY amusement park rides.

A tiny brass cannon collectible can be had 10 bucks. It spurs remembrance of the actual cannons that stood outside the museum for more than a century. Last November, those were carefully dismantled and sent to Altoona, Pa., for a $20,000 period-accurate restoration, half paid by the museum and half through funds from an ongoing fundraising campaign called "Ready. Aim. Donate."

And if you need some soap to wash your hands good and clean of COVID-19, the bookstore's online inventory also lists prettily wrapped, handmade goat's milk soap, three cakes for $12, with fragrances such as green tea, rose hip, and lavender mint.

Meanwhile, HLOM is using this time of closure to take stock of its operation and programs and is asking people to complete a survey to help them better serve the community.

(Ignis Invictus is Latin for: Fire or Passion + Invincible or Undefeated, etc.)

Editor's Note: Below is a YouTube video of the Stumblin' Inn fire July 8, 2018, by Elba resident Lucine Kauffman, along with our news partner WBTA:

Also, video of the cannons being loaded for their restoration trip.

Video Sponsor
March 29, 2020 - 12:47pm
posted by Billie Owens in Greta Patterson Hansen, batavia, history, news, New Pool, Swimarama.

This article is from the book "Back in the Day, Snapshots of Local History, The Way I See It," by Anne Marie Starowitz, 2017. Reprinted with permission from the author. 

Growing up in the ‘60s in Batavia would be considered very uneventful to today’s young people. The parks program was very popular and the highlight was the parks parade. Main Street was closed down for an afternoon to let all of the different parks parade their floats down Main Street. Young people played outside, made up their own games, and walked or rode their bikes.

In the winter the tennis courts were converted to an ice rink. In the summer the tennis courts would be used for evening dances. There was nothing like dancing under the stars on the tarmac of a tennis count.

The highlight of the summer of 1962 was the opening of the “New Pool.” How the pool became a reality was not important to the young people of Batavia. All they knew was the new pool meant happy days ahead. Young people would wait anxiously in line for the doors to open holding onto their 25 cents and waiting to get a key for a locker. No one ever noticed a plaque on the wall with the name Greta Patterson.

Greta Patterson was the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Guy Patterson of 41 Ellicott Ave. When Greta was two years old she began learning to swim. She loved to swim and did not have a fear of water. Some of her first lessons were in Branton’s pool on River Street. Mrs. Branton and her daughter Sibyl were her first swimming teachers. She also swam at the indoor pool of the New York State for the Blind School, YMCA, and Conesus Lake. She continued to swim during all of her school years.

Greta graduated in June 1955 from Batavia High School. Five days after her graduation she made swimming history. She swam fifteen miles from Angola, NY, to Crystal Beach, Ontario, in thirteen hours. As she exited the cold water of Lake Erie she was treated as a heroine. The day after her historical swim she was welcomed on the steps of Batavia City Hall by Mayor Herman Gabriel and was serenaded by St. Joseph’s Drum Corps. The radio station WBTA broadcast the event. In the same year her picture was in the November issue of Seventeen Magazine.

Her swimming achievement inspired the building of a city pool that would be completed seven years later. Members of the Kiwanis Club decided to launch a fund to build a swimming pool somewhere in the city. Several local social clubs joined the effort under the chairmanship of Robert DeLong. He was to head a fund-raising committee.

The first event was a public entertainment program that would be called a Swimarama. The event took place at the Batavia Downs and a Buffalo talent scout provided an all-star cast of entertainers. On August 8, 1955, 9,000 people sat in the stands at the Downs to watch the opening ceremonies. Leading the parade around the track was Greta Petterson riding in a sulky drawn by a racehorse. The entertainers followed in convertibles. The music of St. Joseph’s Drum Corps and the Brockport-Batavia Cavalier Drum Corps filled the air. There were singers, dancers, and impersonators. The event raised $6,000 for the new pool fund. The contributions were slowly coming in. In 1958 William Henry became the new chairman of the pool committee and he established a door-to-door drive hoping that every family would donate one dollar to the new pool fund. Finally, they were very close to their goal of $80,000.

In 1959 the building contract was awarded to Ed Leising to excavate a choice piece of land in MacArthur Park. The pool would measure 60 feet by 100 ft. and would accommodate 100 swimmers.

The pool opened July 9, 1962. People from the summer recreation program were trained to be lifeguards. The pool was never given an official name but the Kiwanis Club did place a plaque on the wall at the main entrance acknowledging Greta Patterson’s part in the creation of the pool. The pool will be forever called the “New Pool” for those young people that made the pool the highlight of that summer and many summers to come.

In 1991 the pool needed major repairs. Due to the high cost for repairs, the pool was closed and was filled with dirt and made into basketball courts. In 1997 the bathhouse was remodeled and made into the Batavia Youth Center. It was decided to ask Greta if she would accept the honor of having the new Youth Bureau dedicated to her. Greta Patterson Hansen was honored.

Greta’s history has come full circle from being Batavia’s famous swimmer, inspiring the community to create a community pool, to coming home and having the Batavia Youth Center dedicated in her name. Today the Batavia Youth Bureau is housed at 114 Liberty Street in St. Anthony’s former school.

Picture below and at top courtesy of Anne Marie Starowitz. Photo of the painting of Greta Patterson as a little girl, courtesy of the Holland Land Office Museum. The book "Back in the Day, Snapshots of Local History, The Way I See It," is available at the museum.

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​.)

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