Local Matters

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William Morgan

August 16, 2019 - 2:01pm
posted by Billie Owens in Stafford, batavia, hlom, fundraiser, William Morgan.

Press release:

The Holland Land Office Museum is proud to present its first Murder Mystery Dinner Theater fundraiser on Saturday, Sept. 28. An original mystery written for HLOM, it is based on the 19th century local crime of the century, the disappearance of William Morgan.

Will you outsmart the suspects and determine what happened to him and "who dun it"?

The mystery is a live performance at Red Osier Landmark Restaurant in Stafford, with considerable interaction between the suspects and the audience with an extensive comedic touch put on by WNY Improv Inc.

WNY Improv Inc. is a group of eclectic and talented performers from throughout Western New York with extensive experience in acting and improvisation. WNY Improv has performed on stage, in films, on cruise ships, at festivals and many other venues in New York, the City of Toronto in Ontario Province, Canada, and Pennsylvania.

Doors opening at 5:30 p.m., performance beginning at 6, and dinner served by 6:30.

Each ticket will get you a choice of four different entrees for your meal: prime rib, chicken French, blackened salmon, or veggie lasagna, all include sides, salad, and dessert. Cash bar will also be available.

Tickets are $50 per person. They can be purchased by contacting the museum at 585-343-4727, [email protected], or stopping by 131 W. Main St. Batavia. Please have entree choice ready when buying tickets.

January 22, 2011 - 2:26pm

thecraft_thomas_talbot01.jpg

Local author Thomas Talbot, whose new novel "The Craft" is based on the disappearance of William Morgan, was at Present Tense today signing copies of his book.

October 31, 2010 - 2:06pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in books, William Morgan, local history.

Tom Talbot loves local history.

And he loves to write.

And he loves fiction.

Over a 30-year period, he worked hard to bring these interests together in a project that would ultimately become the historical fiction novel, "The Craft: Freemasons, Secret Agents, and William Morgan."

Originally from Elba, Talbot has lived in Batavia for more than 40 years. While some people may say that Batavia is a boring place to live, he has always been fascinated by the stories it has to tell.

"We live in an area with a rich history," he said.

His book, which was published in August, is set in 1826 and follows two government agents who are assigned by President John Quincy Adams to investigate the disappearance of William Morgan.

Morgan, as area history buffs know, was a Batavia resident famous for having mysteriously vanished after threatening to write a book exposing the secrets of Freemasonry.

"[The Morgan incident] put Batavia on the map for a while," Talbot said. "In a bad way, but still..."

The book's plot goes beyond William Morgan, placing his disappearance in the context of a larger web of intrigue that involves "rogue British Masons" (as the back cover synopsis puts it) and a presidential assassination plot.

"I didn't want the book to be just about Morgan himself," Talbot said. "That's been done by a lot of people. I wanted to include him, but also have a broader scope."

Agents Matthew Prescott and Zeb Cardwell are the story's protagonists. In Talbot's fast-paced thriller, they travel all over the Eastern Seaboard searching for the truth behind Morgan's disappearance, going from Washington, D.C., to New York City, Albany, Canada, Rochester and, you guessed it, Batavia.

Locals may recognize certain locations mentioned in the Batavia segment, including the Holland Land Office Museum, the Eagle Tavern, and the Mix Mansion (which is over on Mix Place).

Research into what life was like in 18th Century New York State -- including the difficulties of travelling in the pre-railroad days, bedbug infestations at inns, and the dangerous malfunctions of primitive steamboats -- helped Talbot craft some very interesting dramatic situations for his characters.

"A lot of it you have to imagine (as an author), but you do need some basis (in period details)."

"The Craft" is Talbot's first novel and second book. His first book, "Illustrated Black History," was a curriculum guide for social studies teachers (he himself taught history at Batavia Middle School for three years). It is available as a reference text in the Richmond Memorial Library's local history section.

He started working on "The Craft" while attending graduate school at SUNY Brockport and raising a family in Batavia. The busyness of his life required him to set the book aside for long periods of time; but over the years, his wife, Vicki, kept pestering him to finish it.

He credits the completion and publication of the novel to her persistence.

Looking back on this 30-year endeavor, Talbot likes to joke about how he started writing the book on yellow legal pads before graduating to the use of a typewriter, then transferring it onto his Apple computer, eventually putting it on his IBM computer, and, finally, finishing it on his laptop.

Writing is something in which he "dabbled" quite a bit before starting on "The Craft."

"Writing was always one of my major interests," he said. "I played around with poetry and short stories in college. I also did curricular writing for the Batavia City School District and for the Buffalo schools."

Since retiring from his position as an administrator at GCC in 2000, he has worked part-time as a grant writer and data evaluator for the Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse (GCASA).

"I like to kid people by saying that I've written a lot of grants, but that's not all I do -- I've also written a book."

His jobs in the Buffalo schools, GCC and GCASA have involved extensive research and data evaluation as well as writing. Between this and a history degree from Georgetown University, his credentials for a research-intensive project like "The Craft" aren't too shabby.

As for whether other Tom Talbot novels are on the horizon, he definitely hopes that "The Craft" is "not a one-shot deal."

"I have some ideas for other books, including a sequel to 'The Craft.' Possibly something in a different genre, too."

Talbot himself is an avid reader and enjoys authors as diverse as John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Daniel Silva, J.R.R. Tolkien and Alexander Solzhenitsyn. He has a blog, Tom's Book Pages, where he writes book reviews.

As for "The Craft," you can purchase it locally at Present Tense or at the Holland Land Office Museum; you can also order it online.

For more information or to order a copy, visit www.thecraftthebook.com. Talbot says he encourages people to comment on the book on the site as well.

"I would appreciate any feedback," he said.

Photo courtesy of Jen Zambito

October 6, 2010 - 4:27pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia Cemetery, photos, William Morgan.

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This afternoon I had the pleasure of touring one of the businesses in the Harvester Center and when I found myself on an upper floor on the south end of the building, I was able to get a picture of William Morgan's statue at an angle we don't usually see.

June 4, 2010 - 12:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Cemetery, photos, William Morgan.

williammorgan_sun.jpg

As long as I was at the Batavia Cemetery, I played around with taking a picture of the William Morgan monument.

February 24, 2009 - 10:58am
posted by Philip Anselmo in history, Holland Land Office Museum, William Morgan.

We're nearing the end of the countdown, folks. Only two left to tick off on the list of the Holland Land Office Museum's 25 Things That Made Genesee County Famous. Taking the No. 3 spot was the disappearance of William Morgan, which remains a mystery to this day.

From Pat Weissend, museum director:

Before there was OJ, before the Lindburgh Baby Kidnapping, before Lizzie Borden there was William Morgan. William Morgan was a Batavian who was allegedly kidnapped and murdered by Free Masons in September 1826.

Morgan was a bricklayer who wanted to become a member of the Masonic Fraternity. When a Masonic lodge opened in Batavia, Morgan applied for membership, saying he was a member in the LeRoy lodge. It was discovered that Morgan lied about his membership and his application was denied.

In order to get revenge for his denial, Morgan began to write a book disclosing the secrets of the society. Members of the fraternity threatened Morgan and even set fire to David Miller’s print shop where the book was being published.

You will have to visit the museum's Web site to get the rest of the story—if you haven't already heard it. Weissend also posted the three-part video series that The Batavian put together last month on the disappearance of Morgan.

January 16, 2009 - 4:38pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in history, video, Holland Land Office Museum, Masons, William Morgan.

Here it is: the final installment in our three-part video series on William Morgan. Please be sure to check out part one and part two, both posted earlier today.

For more information on the story of William Morgan, visit the Holland Land Office Museum Web site, where you can find an enhanced podcast on the topic. You can also head down to the museum at 131 W. Main St. to check out the Morgan exhibit and to pick up a copy of Morgan's book, Secrets of the Masons Revealed.

January 16, 2009 - 1:19pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in history, video, Holland Land Office Museum, William Morgan.

This is the second video in our three-part series on William Morgan. Please, check out part one, The Vanishing of William Morgan, if you have not already done so. Part three should be on its way soon.

For more information on the story of William Morgan, visit the Holland Land Office Museum Web site, where you can find an enhanced podcast on the topic. You can also head down to the museum at 131 W. Main St. to check out the Morgan exhibit and to pick up a copy of Morgan's book, Secrets of the Masons Revealed.

January 16, 2009 - 12:15pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in history, video, Holland Land Office Museum, William Morgan.

It has been a while since we've been down at the Holland Land Office Museum to take a look at the artifacts and get a lesson from everybody's favorite local historian, Pat Weissend, the museum's director. Well, to make up for that, we've put together a three part video series on "probably the most important story in the whole Genesee country"...

William Morgan.

Weissend had a lot to say on the subject. Nearly ten minutes worth of a lot to say, in fact. But since it's all so darned interesting, and we just couldn't bring ourselves to edit any of it out, we've instead divided up his tale into three separate videos: The Vanishing of William Morgan, Theories: Masons vs. Anti-Masons, and Origins of the Republican Party. We'll get up part one now and then post the other two later this afternoon. Be sure to watch for them. Enjoy!

For more information on the story of William Morgan, visit the Holland Land Office Museum Web site, where you can find an enhanced podcast on the topic. You can also head down to the museum at 131 W. Main St. to check out the Morgan exhibit and to pick up a copy of Morgan's book, Secrets of the Masons Revealed.

November 10, 2008 - 5:55pm
posted by Philip Anselmo in history, books, Masons, William Morgan.

A new electronic book on everybody's favorite Freemason, William Morgan, was recently published by Booklocker.com. The Bright Mason: An American Mystery is by Robert Berry, a freelance journalist.

I'm going to go ahead and assume that most folks know the story of William Morgan and not reiterate that here or quote from the book's site, which gives a teaser-length history of the man and the mystery. Instead, here are the first few lines from the book itself:

William Morgan had a habit of covering his baldhead by pulling hair over from the side with his fingers, especially when he was excited about something. About 5’6”, in his mid-40s, and muscular, Morgan had a barrel chest thickly matted with hair and tuffs of curly gray hair sprouting from his ears. Tattoos on his arms led some to believe he had traveled with pirates in the Caribbean. Much of the time his eyes were swollen; a condition for which he often received treatment while living in Rochester.

You can check out more sample chapters on the book's site if you're interested. As I haven't read any of this book—aside from these few lines here—I won't make any recommendations or condemnations. I'll leave it to you to judge.

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