An Old Battleground
VICTOR — the very name denotes battle and triumph.
The village named Victor (after a pioneer) on the busy highway that leads from Rochester to the Finger Lake country is a peaceful one today. Long ago it was the scene of battle. The triumph won there was a hollow one.
Maybe you've noticed the historical marker on the westerly edge of the village along the old Stage Coach road. Otherwise there's nothing striking about the landscape—just a stretch of marshy wooded land.
But there's no more historic ground in all Western New York than that ancient battlefield.
Let's march backward along time's track 260 years, to the blazing hot afternoon of July 13, 1687 when a motley army of some 1,500 men pushed its way cautiously into that same Victor valley.
It is the army of Jacques Rene de Brissey, the Marquis Denonville, governor of New France. In its ranks march French regulars in smart olive green uniforms; the Canadian militia in buckskin and homespun; their Indian allies in bright war paint, and a handful of black-robed priests.
The expedition has sailed down the St. Lawrence and across Lake Ontario from Montreal to land at Irondequoit Bay and thence to follow the Indian trail to Gannagaro (Boughton Hill), an important town of the nation, called by the Jesuits, "The Babylon of the Senecas."
The marching army is a pawn in a mighty game of colonial empire. Both France and England seek control of the rich fur trade routes that lie across the Iroquois domain. Dongan, the English governor of the colony of New York, has won the favor of the Indians—with firearms and firewater.
Alarmed by this threat to French power in the New World, Denonville, after vainly urging his government to buy the Indian lands, decides on an invasion. His objective is to destroy the strongholds of the Senecas, most warlike of the Iroquois nations, and to impress them with the might of France.
So here he is in July of 1687, a most unmartial figure in the merciless heat, shorn of his armor and clad only in his underwear and jack boots, leading an army into a strange wild land against a crafty savage foe.
As his vanguard enters a ravine, the dreaded Seneca war whoop sounds from the thicket on either side and volleys of musket fire rake the French. The invaders are stunned by the suddenness of the attack. Then out from ambush leap the painted, yelling Senecas, tomahawks held aloft. Denonville's men are thrown into confusion. Some of his Indians flee but the Christian Mohawks stand their ground. For a few minutes "the Keepers of the Western Door" ride the tide of victory.
The Marquis is a seasoned cavalry veteran of the European wars. He orders the kettle drums to roll and the trumpets to blare. He rallies his army and by a flanking movement, routs the outnumbered Senecas. The Indians set fire to their hilltop village, but spare the corn storehouses. The invaders complete the work of destruction and tear down the palisades of the fort near the village. Denonville's pagan Indians scalp and butcher any stray Senecas they can catch. The reports of casualties vary. One account puts the French dead at 100 and the Seneca slain at 80.
"Babylon" has fallen. Unmolested, Denonville razes three other Seneca towns. His men burn the stores of corn and beans and cut down the standing crops with their swords. After laying waste the Seneca country, he leads his army back to Canada.
His seeming triumph is an empty one. The Senecas build new villages further inland. Their power is unbroken. The Denonville invasion, of which the Victor battle was the crisis, only intensified the Indians' hatred of the French and drove them into closer alliance with the English, an alliance that lasted through the American Revolution.
For years axes, gun barrels, medals, rosaries and other mementoes of the invasion have been found around Victor. The pioneer village blacksmith relied on relics from the battle site for the iron for his forge.
Today there are many boulders and historical markers around Victor. In the heart of the village stands a memorial to Athasata (Kryn), the Christian Mohawk chief of the Denonville expedition. It was erected by Herman G. Hetzler, a historically minded Rochesterian.
In July, 1937, the 250th anniversary of the Denonville invasion was celebrated with a sham battle on the historic Victor site. National Guardsmen, residents of the region and a few bona fide Indians donned paint and feathers, plumes and boots. Fred F. Wegner of Rochester, now a brigadier general, played the role of Denonville —but not clad only in his underwear. And a wind blew down the cardboard Indian village before it could be burned.
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Rich in Indian and pioneer history is Boughton Hill, one mile south of Victor. There stood the great Seneca town of Gannagaro. The name means "where the basswood bark lies." From that hilltop stronghold the Seneca warriors sallied forth to battle the Hurons and the Eries (The Cat People) in the long 17th Century strife than ended in the subjugation of both those rivals and made the Keepers of the Western Door a great power.
The Cross preceded the sword to Boughton Hill and as early as 1657 the Jesuit Father Chaumont was baptizing savages there. In 1673 the missionary chapel of St. Jacques, fourth in the Genesee Country, was established.
The explorer La Salle and Father Galinee visited Gannagaro in 1660 and found 150 bark-covered houses in a clearing, according to some historians. Others say the site was Rochester Junction. They partook of the first "hot dog" ever eaten by white men in these parts. It was genuine dog. The Indians cooked the meat in a kettle after singeing off the animal's hair over the coals.
Wentworth Greenhaigh, an Albany trader, visited the village in 1677 and recorded in his journal that "ye Indians made great feasts and dancing . . . and invited us when all ye maidens were together. Both wee and our Indians might choose such as lyked . . ."
No wonder it was called "The Babylon of the Senecas."
The site was deserted after its destruction in the Denonville raid until 1789. That year William Walker, agent for Phelps and Gorham, began in Canandaigua the first sales of land direct to settlers in the New World. Walker's secretary was young Enos Boughton of Stockbridge, Mass. Enos and his brother, Jared, visited the cleared site of the old Indian village and in the name of their father, Hezekial, bought a large acreage there. In a few months another brother, Hezekiah Jr., came with Jacob Lobdell, who stayed behind to care for the cattle during the long, bitter winter.
Other settlers came to Boughton Hill. A public square was laid out. It had the first school, the first cemetery, the first tavern and promised to be an important center. But soon it was overshadowed by the settlement that grew up down in the valley on the road that led from Canandaigua, the capital of the frontier, to the falls of the Genesee.
Boughton Hill's star faded but the Boughton family at one time owned most of the town. And the village in the valley and the township are named after one of the clan. Claudius VICTOR Boughton, who won glory as a bearer of dispatches in the War of 1812. There still are many Bouhhtons living in the Victor section.
The pioneer settlement on Boughton Hill is only a quiet cross roads now. The square is still there and the old cemetery. A marker tells of the place's consequence in Indian history. And the stately white former Wilmarth tavern, now the home of Ellsworth Green, stands at the crossroads where it rose in 1813. It was a well known stop in Stage Coach days and its old sign, bearing the Masonic emblem, is still preserved.
A half mile to the westward is Fort Hill, the site of the old Seneca fortification. It is a natural citadel of defense with its four steep sides. But in 1687 the beaten, fleeing Senecas had no chance to use it.
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A grandson of Jacob Lobdell, the man who guarded the Boughton Hill cattle that lonely winter of 1789, lives in Victor—on another hill just north of Main Street. I found the Rev. Nelson R. Lobdell rending his prolific hillside garden. He is a retired missionary who served in Japan from 1905 to 1920.
His home is a historic, as well as a picturesque spot. There was built in 1805-06 "The Proprietors' Church," to serve all denominations. The 81 subscribers owned the pews. But the noble experiment in religious unity failed when the various denominations quarreled over the time of services. The Methodists and the Congregationalists, who became the Presbyterians, pulled out and the Universalists held the fort until 1856, when they built their own edifice.
The first town meeting was held in 1813 in the Proprietors' Church and Jacob Lobdell was named the first supervisor. On its belfry steeple in 1849 was placed the town clock that today graces the graceful white spire of the 114-year old Presbyterian Church on Main Street. Right now the old timepiece is not working. In Nelson Lobdell's barn on the hill is a window that once stood behind the pulpit of the Proprietors Church.
A tribute to Victor's tolerant spirit is the fact that the first Catholic Masses were celebrated, before St. Patrick's Church was built, in the basement of the Universalist Church.
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Forty-eight years ago Carl D. Smith came to Victor to publish the Herald. Smith became a chain publisher, with weeklies in Canandaigua and Clifton Springs. Mrs. Smith ran the Victor Herald. They are retired now but in their century-old home on Main Street, Mrs. Smith still works diligently at her scrap book that is a mine of Victor lore.
For instance, there's the story of "the stave war" of 1822. Ownership of a white oak stand was claimed both by Hezekiah Boughton and by Lisa Camp. Each sold the same timber to coopers. When the purchasers came with their wagons for the wood, a pitched battle ensued.
When one survey for the Erie Canal put Victor on its route, one impetuous resident built a canal boat. Nothing daunted when the Ditch bypassed Victor, he hauled the craft over the hills 10 miles to launch it at the port of Bushnell's Basin.
On West Main Street for years stood an old blacksmith shop that was an exchange stable for stage line horses. It was there the abductors of William Morgan, the Anti-Mason, changed horses in 1826 on their way from Canandaigua to Rochester. Another landmark linked with Stage Coach days is the white former tavern, now a filling station and garage, near the forks of the hill road to Bushnell's Basin. It was built in 1816.
A cobblestone store has stood at the "Four Corners," Main and Maple Avenue, for 113 years. For 110 years it has been in the Simonds family and the sign still reads "A. Simonds and Son." Now Russell F. Simonds and his son, Lewis, fourth of his line in the business, operate the store.
Once Victor was known far and wide as the village with the bandstand and watering trough in the middle of the street. They stood smack in the center of "The Four Corners."
East Victor is only a hamlet now but long ago, as Scudderville, it was a rival of Victor. Scudderville on the Ganargua River (Mud Creek) had superior water power. The smaller stream that flows through Victor is Great Brook.
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Victor's economic story has its elements of drama. Its major industry is the Victor Insulator Company, along the tracks of the New York Central's Auburn Road. For years that plant housed the Locke Insulator Company.
Back in the 1880s when he was a telegrapher for the New York Central, Fred M. Locke noticed how electric storms caused breaks in the current and interfered with communication. An inventive genius, he began to devise a high voltage insulator. His first experiments were in the oven of the kitchen stove in the Locke home. In 1898 he began making insulators in an old sawmill with four employes. Within a few years he had built a new plant and was the largest manufacturer of insulators in the world. The Locke plant employed 600 men at its peak.
Fred Locke retired in 1904 but he kept on experimenting in the laboratory of the big white house where his widow resides today. He evolved oven glass, (pyrex) a process he sold to the Corning Glass Works.
After his death in 1930, the Locke Insulator Company was sold to Baltimore interests. The new owners closed the Victor factory around 1932 and centered production in their Baltimore plant. This came in the midst of the greatest depression in history. For three years the plant was idle and "hard times came knocking at the door" of Victor.
In 1935 Mrs. Carl D. Smith put a "box" in the Herald, advertising for an industry to locate in Victor. It caught the eye of Bentley A. Plimpton, a former purchasing agent for Locke in Victor, who had moved to Baltimore and with associates was seeking a site for a new insulator plant. Plimpton came post haste to Victor. In three days citizens pledged $31,000 of stock in the Victor Insulator Company. It began operations in the former Locke plant and was paying dividends within two years. Reopening of the plant was celebrated with a parade and the band played "Happy Days Are Here Again." It meant a lot to Victor.
The insulator plant, employing between 400 and 500 hands from all over the region, now is operated by Rochester interests.
Victor also has the widely known Wilcox-Johnson Company, which makes wooden tanks; the Victor Food Company, processors of corn, beans and other crops, the Kordite plastic goods plant in the old high school building and the Stanley Bag Company. Reminder of a former industry are the fire-swept ruins of the old Victor Flour Mills, along the Auburn Road tracks.
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Back in 1851 the minister of the Victor Universalist Church was the Rev. Charles A. Skinner. He was the father of Otis Skinner, the actor, who was born in 1858 in Cambridge, Mass.
A Victor native was Lafayette Seavey, called the father of modern window dressing who developed the art at the Macy store in New York. He also was a scenic artist and painted the curtain that adorned the Victor Town Hall stage until it was destroyed by fire.
One of the Empire State's most eminent scholars and historians is Robert W. Glenroie Vail, director of the New York City Historical Society. He was born in Victor and frequently visits the borne town where he is known as "Glen."
Victor is soon to. lose a lofty landmark well known to travelers. In 1927 the Stromberg Carlson Company built twin transmission towers for its radio station WHAM on a hill west of Victor. In 1937 the present 463-foot broadcasting antennae replaced theism. Under the station's present expansion plans, the tower will go down. A new one is being built near Dumpling Hill on Rochester's southern outskirts.
The village with the stirring; name is proud of its stirring history. But it is a practical village and lives not in the past. It is just as proud of its new central school on its vast hilltop campus. Its approximately 1,200 residents are about evenly divided between longtime residents, many of them scions of the pioneers, and newcomers who work in Rochester and live in the homey village that once was a battleground.
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Now our Stage Coach rumbles up the hills and clown the dales of the old High Road from Victor to the "ghost city of Valentown."
There at a crossroads stands a huge, unpainted three-story building, in startling contrast to its pastoral surroundings.
That is Valentown Hall, built in 1879 by Levi M. Valentine In the fond belief that the Shawmut Railroad, then projected from the Pennsylvania border to Rochester, would pierce that countryside. He chose the crossroads as the site of his "city." The Shawmut never got north of Wayland and Valentown, a combination of his own name and that of his mother's family, Town, never materialized.
Still the hall was a lively place, a social center, during the 1880s and 90s. The huge building housed four stores and a restaurant, a private school for young men, lodge and Grange quarters and in the third story, a high ceilinged ball room and community gathering place. There are 56 doors and 71 windows and a ton of square cut nails in the structure.
At Valentown Hall I found an old friend, J. Sheldon Fisher, after whose ancestors the nearby village of Fishers was named and who is an authority on the lore of his native heath. He has reopened the old landmark after 25 years of disuse and has filled it with antiques and relics of the past.
In his collection is an old hand bill. It announced that "Jessie Bonesteel, the child elocutionist, will give readings at Valentown Hall, Feb. 15, 1883." It added that "little Jessie is highly recommended" and the admission would be 20 cents. In later years theater-goers in big cities paid a lot more to hear and see Jessie Bonstelle, the famous actress. Her cousins lived in the Bonesteel homestead, the 115-year-old cobblestone house next door to Valentown Hall.
The steam shovels digging the giant Thruway across the hills have added to the Fisher collection a piece of the old plank road that once ran from Victor to Bushnell's Basin.
Sheldon Fisher talked about days of yore in that Picturesque rolling countryside—of how the first Fisher at Fishers, his great-great grandsire. Charles, who came in 1811, caught enough mink in a few weeks near his house to have a fine coat made for his wife . . . how he sold his forest to the Auburn Road, for fuel for the locomotives, for ties and for coaches . . . of the many mills that once lined the Irondequoit Creek . . . of the flour mills at Railroad Mills, long ago devoured by flames . . .
He told of the race staged in 1901 between an electric car of the Rochester and Eastern "Rapid Railway" and a New York Central locomotive along one mile of paralleling tracks between Fishers and Victor, with electricity victorious over steam . . . of the days before the railroad telegraph when often a train after leaving Fishers for Rochester would have to back up to the station. It had met another train near Pittsford and its engineer had lost the argument as to which was to yield . . . of the deposits of pure sand left by the ice age in the region and how before World War I, when the automobile and paved roads were making their bow, the pits were used by the company that made concrete highway guard rails, in which the Republican boss of Rochester, George W. Aldridge, was a silent partner . . . of the onetime prestige of the area in potato growing, when more "spuds" were shipped from Fishers station than from any other in the Central system and Charles Ford's seed potatoes went all over the land . . . Now it's mostly wheat, beans and dairying; that occupy the farmers of the Town of Victor.
Fisher said the cobblestone pumphouse, no longer in use, at Fishers is the New York Centrals system's oldest building. It was built 102 years ago. A decade ago, Fisher, with the aid of Edward Hungerford, the writer, dissuaded the railroad from its plan to tear the landmark down.
As he said goodbye, Sheldon Fisher pointed to the old Valentine barns opposite Allentown Hall.
"In Civil War days," he said, "they called them the Union Barns because they were painted red, white and blue."
School Days on The Hill
FOR more than a century the domed tower with the shining white columns on a commanding hilltop has been Lima's lodestar.
From afar it catches the eye of the traveler approaching the village from any direction. It is as much a landmark of the Genesee Country as is Mercury, the copper god, poised on the skyline of Rochester.
It is a symbol, not only of the distinctive duality of a historic village, but also of the spirit of the pioneers who in 1832 when this land was raw and young built the Genesee Wesleyan Seminary on that summit.
It is a landmark, wrapped in the mantle of old traditions and memories to hundreds all over the land who in bygone days climbed the hill to "Lima Seminary." Now, after five years of unwonted, ghostly quiet, the hilltop campus knows again the quick tread of young footsteps and the time-mellowed halls ring again with eager young voices.
As Genesee Junior College, the 115-year-old school that was the cradle of Syracuse University, has reopened its doors. That is a tribute to the men and women, who, in the spirit of the pioneers, have again unfurled the red and white banner. of "GWS" on the hill of happy memories.
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Long before there was a school on the hill, the site of Lima had its place in the Seneca realm as a stopping place on the Great Trail from the Hudson to the Niagara. The tides of motor traffic surging across the state today follow the old trail that pierced the Lone House of the Iroquois.
Just south of Lima's "Four Corners" stood the populous 18th Century Seneca village of Ska-hase-ga-o, which meant "it's a long creek." The name referred to the stream that flows nearby. The village on the Great Trail, between the Big Springs (Caledonia) and Kanadesaga (Geneva), housed many an Indian wayfarer in its heyday.
In the Lima sector was an older village. Historians differ as to its location but the generally accepted site is about two miles north of Lima along the line of the abandoned electric railway to Honeoye Falls. This Seneca town, variously known as Gannounata and Keonthe, was the site of the Jesuit mission of St. Jean and was one of the four villages destroyed in the Denonville raid of 1687. The French marquis, who commanded the expedition, was enraged to see along the trail at the entrance to the village the coat of arms of the Duke of Fork, emblem of English sovereignty.
By the time the white men arrived, the Indian villages were no more, but for years the soil around Lima yielded beads, pottery, arrowheads and other relics of Seneca occupation.
When Sullivan's Revolutionary army was spreading desolation and ruin through the Seneca empire in 1779, in the buff and blue ranks marched a young Pennsylvanian, Paul Davison. The richness of the Genesee Country impressed him and nine years later, with his brother-in-law, Jonathan Gould, he came hack over the Sullivan trail and built a hut near the present western limits of the town of Lima.
In 1789 he went back to the Susquehanna Valley and by ox cart brought to their new frontier home his wife, mother-in-law and two children, along with their household goods. Davison slept under the cart and the family in it during the 28-day trek.
Another settler that same year was Abner Miles who bought a triangular tract. Hence the first name of the settlement was Miles Gore. When a township was formed, also in 1789, it was named Charleston. In 1808 it was rechristened Lima, not after any South American city, but after Old Lyme in Connecticut whence came many of the pioneers.
A mighty wave of migration poured over the old trail and many pioneers, noting the richness of the land and the oak and cedar forests around Lima, stopped there—to spend the rest of their days.
At the eastern edge of the village in 1793, Reuben Thayer opened the first tavern. The building of bricks made on the premises, now the Elmer Wemett place, is still standing. There the first town meeting was held. Across the way a store was opened. But soon the village center shifted to the junction of the Great Trail and the road to Rochester. In early days it was called Brick Schoolhouse Corners.
Lima became a place of consequence on the frontier. It was a stop on the Western Mail Coach route which began in 1808. The stage left Canandaigua Monday morning for Niagara via Buffalo and returned the following Sunday. The fare was 6 cents a mile.
In the Stage Coach Town of Lima were many taverns. Some of them are standing now, private residences. The solid men of Lima built stately homes, many with pillars and graceful. doorways. The old homes remain today to testify to the good taste of the builders.
During the War of 1812 the old trail echoed to the tramp of marching men and to the thunder of the huge supply wagons, hauled by six or eight horses and bound for the Niagara frontier. The Yellow Wasp Tavern, built in 1796 west of the village, became a noted social center. It was the scene of a wartime "incident." Soldiers in winter quarters at Avon clashed with civilians when the military tried to "crash" a dance in the inn. When they mounted the stairs leading to the ballroom with the famous spring floor, the civilians routed the invaders by pouring a barrel of loose beans on their heads. The Yellow Wasp lingered on the scene until 1906.
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In Western New York's boom time, that followed the digging of the Clinton Ditch, Genesee Wesleyan Seminary was born. In 1829 at a session of the newly formed Genesee Conference of the Methodist Church in Rochester, five communities offered sites for a projected Methodist seminary, backed by financial pledges. They were Lima, Brockport, Perry, Le Roy and Henrietta. Lima's high bid of $10,808 and an option on a 10-acre site won.
Slowly the three-story stone Genesee Tesleyan Seminary rose on the hill above Lima village. Into that building went the meager savings of circuit riders of the church and struggling fanners. The school opened its doors on May 1, 1832.
It offered courses in surveying, mathematics, languages, metaphysics, moral philosophy and theology, along with such ornamental branches as drawing, painting, needlework and music. It was one of the first co-educational schools in these parts. The terms ran from May to November and November to May. The vacation months were April, the planting season, and October, the time of harvest. Board was only $1.50 a week and tuition ran from $6 to $10 per term.
The school flourished. The third year saw 341 enrolled. The curriculum was enlarged. Then on a May morning in 1842 the stone building burned. There was no loss of life although the structure was crowded. It was a hard blow but within eight months the present four-story stone and brick building wih its imposing tower rose on the ashes of the old. The citizens of Lima gave $5,000 toward its construction.
An important step was taken in 1848 when Genesee College for higher education was chartered and College Hall with its Ionic columns was erected. In 1869 Genesee College was moved to Syracuse to become the nucleus Of the present great Syracuse University. The college faculty and Students departed but the seminary at Lima used the former college buildings and continued to be a center of light and learning in Western New York.
The enrollment which reached its high mark in 1854 with 1,058 dwindled with the passing years and the fortunes of GWS plummeted with the economic depression that began in 1929. In February, 1941, the plant was leased to the National Youth Admiriistration as a resident center, Some 100 boys and girls from all over the state assembled and made radio and electrical equipment there until July, 1942. After NYA departed, the old school stood idle on its hill—until September of 1947.
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Although always a church-controlled school, Genesee Wesleyan never was ultra austere or prissy. Many typical college boy pranks have been played on its campus. Once a cow was hoisted up two flights of stairs to a choir loft where its halter was tied to the bell rope. Some hay was placed enticingly near the animal so that whenever it reached for a mouthful, the pealing of the bell broke the midnight silence.
GWS fielded some excellent teams on baseball diamond and football gridiron. Some 30 years ago when East and West High School football was at its zenith, the Rochester elevens would journey to Lima to play the seminary, accompanied by a horde of loyal rooters, There was excitement aplenty, especially the time when East High followers tried to tear down the GWS colors from the top of the old watertank on the hill and substitute their own, as W. Arthur Schild of Rochester, a Lima native, recalls.
Distinguished figures through the years have climbed the seminary hill. Horace Greeley, Wendell Phillips, William Jennings Bryan and Franklin D. Roosevelt have spoken there. Frances E. Willard, the temperance crusader, was preceptress of the school in 1866-67 and there's a tablet to her memory on the walls of the chapel where once she gave religious talks to the girl students.
There are famous names on the roster of GWS graduates, among them Belva A. Lockwood, equal rights leader and pioneer woman attorney, the first of her sex to run for the presidency of the United States; Henry J. Raymond, a Lima native who became publisher of the New York Times and one of the founders of the Republican Party; Jessie Belle Rittenhouse, the poetess; William Seaver Woods, onetime editor of the Literary Digest, and such eminent Rocliesterians as the late Judges John D. and William F. Lynn and Judge Arthur E. Sutherland Sr.
Generations of the same family have attended the old school. For example, Kenneth B. Keating, a Lima boy who is the present Congressman from the 40th (Rochester) district, attended GWS as did his grandmother, Mrs. Martha Hollister Barnard, and his mother, Mrs. Louise Keating.
The seminary has drawn its students from many lands and many races. The names of Negroes, Chinese, South Americans, Filipinos have been on its rolls. Democracy is not the least of the traditions of this friendly old school.
And now Genesee Junior College has reopened the doors of the school that once was Genesee College. The hill throbs with life again and boys in slacks and girls with kerchiefs on their heads walk the old paths past "the kissing elm" where once strolled boys in swallowtail coats and girls in trailing gowns who carried parasols.
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Little grime from industry has sullied the neat homes of Lima. It lacked the necessary water power in the pioneer time to be a mill town.
But east of Lima, Factory Hollow, now extinct, was in early days the site of distilleries and an important clay and pottery industry.
Lima was a trading center and there were the inns on the broad highroad to cater to the tourist trade and the college on the hill to give a cultural touch.
Today this Livingston County village of some 950 souls has one sizeable industry, the Porcelain Insulator Corporation, east of town. The first Lima insulator plant was established by the late Victor inventor, Fred Locke. Two plants on the site have been swept by fire. Another Lima industry is the Mignon transformer plant.
An historical marker stands before a frame house that was once a tavern on the main road west of the village. It was built in 1810 by Ashabel Warner, a pioneer and one of a numerous tribe. Lima's first Masonic lodge was formed there and during, the Anti-Masonic turmoil that followed the disappearance of William Morgan, it met there secretly. There's a tradition, according to the town historian, Mrs. C. A. Burton, that Morgan was kept overnight in the attic of that house while on his way from Batavia to Canandaigua where he was arrested, jailed and abducted.
Oldtimers remember the four-mile steam railroad that ran between Lima and Honeove Falls and the engine they called "Old Jake." And many GWS grads will remember the electric line that succeeded it, gone more than 40 years from the scene. The rolling stock was a little four wheeler for passengers and a motor freight car. The students would ride the Lehigh to Honeoye Falls, then board the interurban, disembarking at the lane that ran from the tracks to the seminary hill.
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Now we roll eastward over the busy road they call Route 5 and 20 today, that once was the Great Indian Trail and later a stage coach highway; through the pleasant rolling form country, past the dignified old homes and one-time taverns. To the south the tips of the Bristols, "The Little Alps," blue and undulating, are etched against the horizon.
We cross a county line and re-enter Ontario, the mother county. The slender Congregational Church spire on a hill stands against the sky and we are in West Bloomfield, the Ga-neen-da-oh, "village of the hilltop" of the Senecas.
It was in this sector that one of the first natural gas wells in Western New York was drilled in 1872. The gas was piped to Rochester but the experiment failed for lack of pressure.
Five miles to the eastward is another village. But the traveler on the main road catches only a fleeting glimpse of East Bloomfield, to me one of the most interesting places in all Upstate.
It is as if a curtain has been drawn against the years and a bit of the long ago has been preserved in this village "under the hill,"
As I crossed a shady litle park, a sweet-voiced bell pealed out from the square belfry of the 112-year old white Congregational church with the tall steps and the cobblestone basement. Across the square, with the Civil War monument in its center, stands another white New Englandish church, 115 years old, also with a square tower, the edifice of the Methodists. Shadows were falling across the square and the notes of the church bell were like an Angelus ringing out peace and rest at the close of day. The roar of the motors on the highroad was forgotten.
Every nook of East Bloomfield whispers of the long ago. There is the three-story brick former Academy that was built in 1838 and was famous in its day. Nov it is the Grange Hall, It was a boarding and day school for young ladies and young gentlemen. A catalogue of 1847 states that students must pledge themselves to "abstain from ardent spirits and tobacco in any form" in a school whose "authority is based on reason, affection and the Bible." Stephen Watkins Clark, the father of Ernest R. Clark, long-time English teacher at Rochester's East High School, once headed the East Bloomfield Academy and a sister of Grover Cleveland taught there.
On the village Main Street farmers' automobiles are parked where once horses were hitched to the racks. There's a sign "The Trading Post" on a brick store. It was built in 1808 and is undoubtedly the oldest general store extant in Western New York. In all its 139 years, operating under only six ownerships, it has never closed on a business day, except for two days when the nation was celebrating Union victory in the Civil War.
"The Trading Post" began as a community co-operative enterprise. Settlers laid its bricks, hewed with adzes its sturdy timbers that were fastened with dowel pins. For 55 years genial William Adams has kept store at "The Trading Post." In 1945 a newspaper syndicate, seeking a typical country store for a feature story to run in Sunday supplements, "discovered" the "Trading Post." So pictures of Will Adams, his store and some of his customers appeared in papers all over the country. East Bloomfield boys in service across the oceans saw the familiar faces. Later on, a national advertising concern used as a promotional poster to illustrate "satisfied customers" a picture of Adams weighing out candy for some small patrons.
Adams has seen many changes in his countryside, many changes in merchandising. Once he sold almost everything in bulk. Then the era of packaging came in. But he still sells spices in bulk and the air of a genuine old fashioned general store pervades "The Trading Post."
Across the way is the brick inn that was started in 1812 and was not completed until three years later, because the workmen went away to the war. A yellow frame building on a Main Street corner was a thermometer factory 120 years ago. East Bloomfield once was quite an industrial center. Along Mud Creek (known also as the Ganargua River) were wagon and ox-cart factories, brickyards, a wool carding shop, three clock factories and a foundry that cast bells. But that was long, long ago. Now, East Bloomfield, with a population of about 400, is a quiet place—except on Saturday nights when the farriers come in to trade. It is as restful and refreshing in this uneasy time as a verdant oasis in the blazing desert.
Its Main Street at its eastern end runs right into the newer village of Holcomb, the present terminus of the New York Central's "Peanut Line" that once ran from Canandaigua to Batavia. Only the shell remains of "The Peanut."
In the farm home of his grandfather, John Fitz Morris, two miles east of Holcomb on the North Road, the first baby wails of Clem McCarthy, "The Voice of the Race Tracks," were heard. Although Clem was born there, his real home was Detroit where his parents lived. The famous broadcaster of national racing events spent many a boyhood vacation on his grandfather's farm.
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Long before the white men came, East Bloomfield had its place in the wampum records of the Iroquois. In the town, probably along Mud Creek, was the Seneca town of Gannogarie and the Jesuit mission of St. Michel. It was the "concentration camp" of the Senecas where they brought their captives, taught them the Seneca ways and tortured the recalcitrant.
South of the site of the Indian village, Deacon John Adams of Massachusetts built in 1789 a log cabin that was the first white man's habitation west of Canandaigua. His family was so numerous that they had to sleep in tiered Pullman-like berths. Deacon Adams was the great-great-grandfather of Will Adams, who runs "The Trading Post."
On the road to Allen's Hill that branches off Route 5 and 20, still stands the frame farmhouse where Nathanial Rochester lived from 1815, when he left Dansville, until 1818, when he moved to the mill town beside the Falls of the Genesee that bears his name.
And to cap East Bloomfield's distinguished history, it was the birthplace of the Northern Spy apple, The first seed was planted in 1800 by Herman Chapin. The brand was considered an interloper on the market, hence the name, given in Abolitionist days.
By the Old Mill Stream
FAR above the village street stands the jaunty helmeted figure with the speaking trumpet, eternally fighting a mythical fire.
The brisk winds of autumn silver the willows that line the winding creek below. They whip the waters that splash over the fall by the massive old stone mill.
But they ruffle not a hair of the Iron Man's head. He has stood guard over Honeoye Falls these 56 years. In turn the village has guarded him well. The iron figure is a prize in a long "warfare" among volunteer fire departments of the countryside and many a time invaders have tried in vain to haul him down from his proud perch. He has become part of the folklore of our Genesee Country.
The Iron Man is more than a landmark. I think he is a symbol of the spirit of Honeoye Falls," the let's all pull together," "never say quits" spirit of this fine old village on the banks of the Honeoye.
In the shadow of a big city (Rochester is only 16 miles away), this is no satellite suburb, "The Falls" has preserved its own vigorous individuality. There is no pretense or ostentation about Honeoye Falls. It is content to be itself, a pleasant neighborly village of some 1,400 souls, where the farmers flock in to trade and to hear the band play on Saturday nights, just as their grandsires did in Civil War days.
It will battle just as staunchly for civic progress as it will rally to defend its Iron Man or root for its "Husky Farmers," the nickname its baseball warriors have borne for 51 years.
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Honeoye Falls is in the town of Mendon which was named for an older town in Massachusetts. Most of the early settlers were New Englanders and the village has a sort of "Down by the Old Mill Stream" New Englaandish cast, although it is typically Western New York.
The first permanent settler, Zebulon Norton, was a Vermonter. In 1790 he bought 1,800 acres along Honeoye Creek and built a log cabin and a block house, which for a time served as a church and school. He erected saw and grist mills and the settlement that sprang up around them became known as Norton's Mills. Then it was West Mendon before the village of Honeoye Falls was incorporated in 1838.
Long before the white pioneers came, there was another village in the present town of Mendon. At the bend of the Honeoye near Rochester Junction where today the roar of the Lehigh Valley trains shatters the pastoral silence, stood the important Seneca town of Totiakton. Some 100 log houses were Clustered around the mission chapel of La Conception, the first Christian house of worship west of Cayuga Lake. Denonville's French raiders in 1687 found the village deserted and destroyed it.
Later, probably about 1688, the Senecas established a new village near the present Dann's Corners. At that busy crossroads the Order of the Alhambra has erected a marker in honor of the missionaries who first raised the Cross in the wilderness.
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In Honeoye Falls' Ontario Street near the bridge is an old, weather-beaten building bearing the sign, "Blacksmith and Gunsmith." The proprietor, Harry Schoff, also is one of the region's foremost collectors of Indian relics and lore. In the past 20 years he has dug into 2,000 burial pits and old Indian sites.
In 1946 when Paramount began "shooting" the historical film, "Unconquered," in Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania, Schoff, because of his knowledge of Indian ways, was picked to shepherd six Senecas from the Tonawanda Reservation who had parts in the film. So he took his braves to "the lot" and helped with the Indian scenes. When he saw that the wrong type of tomahawk was being used, he bluntly told Cecil B. De Mille so and the fabulous director got some authentic ones.
In October, 1947, "Unconquered," which stars Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard, had its world premier in Pittsburgh and the blacksmith of Honeoye Falls was there with 25 Tonawanda Reservation Senecas to provide color for the promotional buildup.
Schoff's shop is a sort of museum. He has all kinds of Indian relics, including a scalp, probably that of a white woman, with brown hair, which was found near Dann's Corners. The same site yielded the remnants of a 17th Century trade blanket, well preserved because it was found beneath a copper kettle. Schoff's prize find is a highly decorated, wooden Peruvian drinking vase. He believes it originated in the ancient Inca empire and was once owned by a Franciscan friar. But how it got into a field near Holcomb is a mystery.
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A Honeoye Falls native, Irvin; J. Shuart of Rochester, whose grandfather, Johannis Shuart, came to Shuart's Corners in a covered wagon in 1808, loaned me a manuscript he had painstakingly compiled, outlining the history of the township and village.
It was interesting to note that the massive, four-and-one-half-story flour mill of William Hamilton & Son, was built in 1836. It has been grinding away these 111 years. From that mill once a sack of its finest flour was sent to Queen Victoria.
Now the throb of the Diesel has replaced the old water wheel and the plant is mechanized throughout, but the ancient wheel is still in the basement and when the rushing waters tumble high over the 21-foot falls in the rear of the mill, it is brought into use. This structure is called the Upper Mill. A similar huge building, down the street, a year younger and now used only for storage, is the Lower Mill.
Because of its water power. Honeoye Falls from the start was an industrial town. Its present list of industries is a diversiiied one, including the Ritenhouse plant, which makes door chimes and other electrical articles; Stever and Locke, also in the electrical specialty field; the Duban Shade Company, canvas awnings; the Honeoye Falls Cream Products; Cochrane Bly, electric saws; the Lion Fastener Company and the Dibble and Livermore seed houses.
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Relic of the days when the stage coaches ran from Honeoye Falls via Rush to the Clinton House in Rochester's Exchange Street, is the former Wilcox Inn, now the Masonic Temple, an imposing three-story building with porches and pillars, painted a rich yellow and right in the heart of town. It is 120 years old.
The town offices are in that building; and Town Clerk William J. Fairbairn showed me the journal containing the minutes of the first town meeting, in April, 1813. It convened in the house of Quaker Thomas Ewers and for reasons not stated, "adjourned to the barn."
It was in the town offices that I met Charles R. Pierce. He is town welfare officer and a captain and one of the few living charter members of the fire department that was organized in 1888. The day I visited him, he had gone out at 3 a. m. to help battle a barn blaze in Lima. Pierce is one of three survivors of the Avon raid of 1891 that brought the Iron Man to Honeoye Falls. The others are Wiliam Desmond of the village and Harry Pillsbury of Rochester.
The Iron Man is a native of St. Catharines, Ont. Visiting Canadian firemen brought him to a convention in Rochester and for some reason left him there. He became such a bone of contention between two companies in the city that he was presented to the Avon department which proudly mounted him on its firehouse.
Honeoye Falls resolved to capture the Iron Man and on the night of Oct. 27, 1891, made its first foray. It was an ignominous failure and ended with four of the invaders stranded on the roof of the Avon firehouse. Avon celebrated its victory not wisely, but too well. Knowing that, Honeoye Falls made a surprise visit the very next night. Ten men came in two horse-drawn carriages. They brought along hack saws, greased to soften the rasping noise.
They stole into the sleeping village after midnight, raised a ladder and put their men on the roof of the firehouse, each with a cord attached to his wrist, to be pulled by a sentry in case of discovery. But Avon slept on in the moonlight and finally the bars were severed and the Iron Man came down. He was tossed into one of the carriages and the horses galloped off toward Honeoye Falls with the prize, just as dawn was breaking.
The Iron Man was put in the safe of the village bank and thereafter was guarded every minute while he was being reinforced with iron sides. Rival villages swore he never would be raised to the firehouse tower, but he was—and placed there firmly. Two years ago Honeoye Falls built a new firehouse but left the Iron Man on his roost on the old building that now houses village offices.
In the last 56 years the villagers often have fought off invaders. In September, 1930, three truck loads of Avon men came, bent on recapturing their lost treasure. The barking of a dog spread the alarm and they left empty handed. Rush has made several visits. In 1938 the Rush raiders tried to pull the Iron Man down by hitching a rope around him but they were intercepted and their ladder sent clattering down into the rocky creek bed. Lima, Geneseo and other communities have tried during the years to take the Iron Man. He's still there, on the skyline, trumpet in hand, and wearing a fresh coat of paint.
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Many are the landmarks of this old Monroe County town . . . the white Presbyterian Church with its mighty pillars (part of the edifice was built in 1831 and the rest 10 years later) . . . the 106-year-old St. John's Episcopal Church, of field stone with its square tower almost hidden among the trees . . . the picturesque mill dam by the tall stone mill . . . the Pride hardware store 119 years in the same family and on the same site.
Many are the memories . . . of the old race track and fair grounds out Ontario Street . . . of the now vanished "Peanut" railroad line . . . of the hop fields out South Church Street and their garrulous owner, the late Ben Peer, the little man with the ruddy face and white mustache, who staged dances that he always called "hops" and other affairs for community causes and who haunted newspaper offices, bearing flowers and vegetables from his garden and tales of having sent a mess of fresh peas to the White House or a super squash to some celebrity.
The files of the Honeove Falls Times where the owners, the three O'Brien brothers, Mac Kendree, Harry and William, and Editor Dave Maloney hold forth, tell of the prowess of the "Husky Farmers" through 51 years. This baseball team which is the village's pride got its name when it was playing in Rochester. Some wit, noting the "H. F." on the uniforms and the size of the players, coined the name "Husky Farmers."
The team finished the 1947 season in third place in the Rochester District Semi-Pro League and the manager, Angelo (Pooch) Pelino, the market man, is a local hero. The former major leaguer, Ken O'Dea, Lima native, was behind the plate. A famous battery of other years was the father and son combination of Al Mattern, onetime Boston hurler, and his son, Emmett.
Around 1929 when Honeoye Falls banned Sunday baseball, the home diamond of "The Husky Farmers" was in North Bloomfield where the three counties of Monroe, Ontario and Livingston join. The diamond was in Livingston but a long hit to right field would land in Ontario County, so sometimes a ball was "hit right out of the county." The Monroe County line was about an eighth of a mile to the north of home plate but nobody ever fouled one that far.
The village has a rousing civic spirit. For instance when the need of street cleaning equipment arose, without waiting for the wheels of government to turn, the Rotary Club and the merchants went ahead and got the equipment.
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In Mendon Town, a land of rolling hills where summer homes of city folk and gentleman farmers are intermingled with the farm houses of the scions of pioneers are many quaint place names. There are Stoney Lonesome Road, Cheese Factory Road and Black and White Corners, so called because a man named White lived on one corner and a Negro named Varnum on the opposite one.
And off the road to Mendon Center is Quaker Meeting House Road. The meeting house that the Friends built in 1829 is gone but the little old burying ground remains, with its small, plain headstones, all about the same size and in orderly rows, to tell of the Quaker colony that once flourished in the neighborhood.
In a hollow beside the willow-bordered Irondequoit Creek and on the main line of the Lehigh Valley Railroad nestles Mendon Village. The cobblestone former academy that was built more than a century ago still serves as a district school.
That countryside will always be linked with the great leader of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young. He was only 28 when in 1829 he came to live in Mendon with his young wife, Mariam Works, whom he had married in Aurelius five years before. Young, a native of Vermont, was a skilled glazier and carpenter by trade.
According to tradition, he lived in the house now occupied by the Robert Hutchinson family at the corner of the Mendon-Ionia and the Cheese Factory Roads. It is certain he built the rear wing. The front portion was added later. On the Hutchinson farm along a spring-fed trout brook he had his shop where he made chairs and baskets. Young conveyed the water of the brook through a duct of hollow logs to an overshot wheel of his own manufacture. Rotted remains of the logs are still there and Mrs. Hutchinson has a brick, inscribed with a letter "B" which is believed to have been a cornerstone of the old shop.
The man who was to become a great administrator and leader hitched one end of a cross cut saw to his water wheel and seated on a stump, he held the other end and watched the water cut up the lumber for his shop. Mendonites regarded that as the height of laziness.
Young, originally a Methodist, in 1830 first read Joseph Smith's Book of Morman, published in Palmyra. In 1832 he became an elder of the church before his clothes had dried from his immersion in the creek that ran his home-made wheel.
That same year he and a Mendon potter, Heber C. Kimball, joined the Mormon colony in Kirtland, Ohio. A few months later he hastened back to Mendon where his wife was desperately ill with tuberculosis. Mariam died on Sept. 8, 1832, in the Mormon faith. In the little hillside cemetery along the Boughton Hill Road and just off the Mendon-Ionia highway, the Mormons have recently placed a white board and the tall brown grass to mark the last resting place of the first of the Brigham Young's 27 wives.
After her death, Young and his two youthful daughters resided for a time at the Kimball home. Then they all went west to the Ohio colony, The rest of the story is history—how after the assassination of Joseph Smith in Illinois, Brigham Young, like Moses of old, led his persecuted people across the prairies and the Rocky Mountains to the promised land beside the Great Salt Lake where he founded a veritable empire. And in all his days of power, his right hand man was Heber Kimball, his old neighbor on the Mendon-Ionia Road.
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In the town of Mendon also is Sibleyville, now only a handful of buildings but once an industrial community. It was there that Hiram Sibley, who became the Rochester Western Union magnate, started his first business enterprise. He had come, a venturesome lad of 16, into the Genesee Country from Massachusetts to work in the flour mills around Lima and Honeoye Falls. Around 1828, he, with his brother, Samuel, and Don Alonzo Watson, was operating carding, grist and saw mills, employing 80 hands, at Sibleyville. Much of the site of that onetime factory town is still in the hands of Hiram Sibley's descendants.
The Mendon terrain is geologically distinctive. Around Honeoye Falls are the knobby hillocks known as drumlins. Around Rochester Junction are the gravel ridges known as eskers. In the Mendon Ponds area are the higher gravel knolls known as kames. All are remnants of the glacial age.
The 1,500-acre Mendon Ponds Park, largest of the county system, is a favorite picnic ground. More than 250 years ago some of the first white men ever to march through this region, found it a haven.
De Baugy, writing of the Denonville Expedition of 1687 in his journal, told how the French army, returning to its base at Irondequoit Bay after laying waste the Seneca towns, "came upon three pretty little lakes where they bivouacked for the night,"
George B. Selden, writing in a Rochester Historical Society publication, tells the story more graphically: "On June 23, 1687 the great army of the Marquis Denonville, homeward bound, dirty and in rags, after having slept in their clothes and been drenched by rain for six weeks, burned by the fierce sun, stung by insects and weakened by dysentary, slowly carrying the sick and wounded, crept into the woodland haven."
They marched away in the cool of the morning, refreshed.
In a corner of the park, along Wilmarth Road, is the marble headstone of Joshua Lillie, who cleared the land. Tradition says that Lillie left directions that an apple tree be planted on each corner of his burial place that "nature should continue to shower above him the fruit that had given him so much joy in life." Only one of the four apple trees is standing.
Our Stage Coach rolls down the "home stretch," along the East Henrietta Road, through the old town of Rush, first settled in 1788, and so named because of the great patches of rushes on which the cattle fed in the frontier time.
At Henrietta boys and girls still troop to the three-story brick high school that began life in 1826 as the Monroe Academy and was a noted pillar of learning before Rochester had a high school. A Henrietta girl among the early graduates was Antoinette Brown Blackwell, a leader in the suffrage movement and one of the first woman preachers ordained in America.
On the other old Stage Coach road, that leads from East Avon to the falls of the Genesee, is the sister village of West Henrietta. The Henriettas, named after Henrietta, Countess of Bath, keep their serene ways despite their proximity to the city.
Now our four horses quicken their pace. They sense that the long trip is nearly done; that rest and oats await them in the tavern barn, in the old mill town beside the thundering falls, in Rochester, where our Stage Coach tour began.
We boarded our coach in the fresh, green springtime. We leave it now in the red-gold magic of the fall. We have traveled many a mile down historic trails; through many an old town where the blatant honk of the motor bus has supplanted the silvery music of the coach horn.
In this many-sided, friendly countryside we found more than history and lore. We found a way of life that warms the heart.
We found also still flaming brightly the spirit of the pioneers who built the Stage Coach Towns.
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