Sixteen inches of snow in June. Killing frosts in August. The mystifying weather, known as eighteen-hundred-and-froze-to-death, swept the Northeast in 1816. Unbeknownst to those who suffered from it, the climactic quirk was the result of a volcanic eruption in the distant Dutch East Indies a year earlier.
That summer, Joseph Smith Sr. threw in the towel. The Vermont farmer joined the exodus of his neighbors who were determined to find a life with more promise than they could scratch from the rocky New England hill country. It was rumored that land was more fertile in the western New York State. Men there were already surveying for a canal to connect that country to East Coast markets. Continue reading
Marjory Allen Perez, former Wayne County Historian, has announced the completion of her new book, Final Stop, Freedom!: The Underground Railroad Experience in Wayne County, New York (Herons Bend Productions, 2017).
The book includes biographical sketches of men and women who boarded the Underground Railroad between 1800 and 1865. Thomas and Agnes Watkins were brought as slaves from Virginia to Sodus Bay by Captain William Helm about 1800. In 1810 they fled from slavery, taking with them their infant son, Edward. Loyd and Susan Chase and their six children arrived in Macedon, New York about 1844, but within a few years felt compelled to continue their journey to freedom, moving to Canada. In 1863, William Scott, then known as William Bacome, took advantage of the disruptions of the Civil War in Tennessee to begin his odyssey to freedom, traveling first to Massachusetts and eventually to Huron, New York, where he set down deep routes and raised his family. Continue reading
The Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum, located at 7606 North Ontario Street in Sodus Point, Wayne County, New York, has opened for its 31st season.
Built in 1870, the lighthouse was used to guide ships on Lake Ontario to safe harbor in Sodus Bay. Use of the light was discontinued in 1901, having been made redundant by an outer light on the bay’s west pier. The building now houses a museum, operated by the Sodus Bay Historical Society. Exhibitions focus on local and maritime history and include displays about lighthouse keepers’ tools, railroads and trolleys, the Erie Canal, and the War of 1812. Continue reading
Aerial photos can be helpful research tools for historians. Google Earth, which provides access to a vast collection of aerial photography stretching back 20 years, is just a sampling of the many aerial photos that have been made since French balloonist Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, known as “Nadar”, took a photo over Paris, France in 1858.
Much of New York Sate was photographed with the camera pointing straight down, an oblique presentation that is less useful to some historians. An effort to capture all of New York in an orthophotographic perspective (corrected to a uniform scale) started in 1936 with a contract to C.S. Robinson of Ithaca, NY. These images are particularly valuable resources for historians of all stripes. Continue reading
The Western Erie Canal Alliance, in conjunction with the Landmark Society of Western New York, will present a conference, “Something Old… Something New”, in celebration of historic Main Streets as centerpieces of community economic success.
The conference will take place on Thursday, November 6, 2014 from 1:00 pm – 6:00 pm, at the Fairport Electric building in Fairport, NY, hosted by The Village of Fairport. Continue reading
The Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Commission has announced the recipient of the 2013 Erie Canalway Heritage Award of Excellence: Enlarged Erie Lock 60 and Gallup’s Change Bridge #39 in Macedon, Monroe County. Honorable Mentions were awarded to Bushnell’s Basin Boat Dock and Canal Amenity Center in the Town of Perinton and the Trail of Hope in Lyons.
The Heritage Award honors significant places of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor and recognizes excellence in advancing the goals of the Erie Canalway Preservation and Management Plan. A five-person independent jury selected award recipients based on a written application and site visit, which included meetings with officials at each site, as well as community leaders, municipal representatives, and other stakeholders. Continue reading
I was disappointed to hear the recent news that Schenectady County officials have chosen to cut funding for their county historian. This decision appears to have less to do with the historian than it did with the county’s fiscal problems.
Many of us are familiar with the state law that requires municipalities to appoint historians, and as Gerry Smith has pointed out, NYS County Law, section 400, also requires counties to make similar appointments. Many counties and many municipalities comply with these laws. Many don’t. But that’s not what’s at stake here. Continue reading
The New York State Canal Corporation and the Village of Lyons, Wayne County, have officially opened the Lyons waterfront improvements along the Erie Canal at North Side Canal Park. The opening event also welcomed the 2010 World Canals Conference International Flotilla which was en route to Rochester.
The project, partially funded through an Erie Canal Greenway Grant, provided new docks on both sides of the Erie Canal and additional improvements to the boating area and park.
The flotilla was bound for Rochester as part of the 2010 World Canals Conference September 20-24. Included in the flotilla were boats from the Canal Corporation’s historic and working fleet, historic tugboats, and a variety of recreational pleasure craft. From the junction of the Erie Canal and Genesee River the fleet traveled north along the Genesee River, in a grand parade to Corn Hill Landing in Rochester.
Directions to the North Side Canal Park in Lyons: Take NYS Thruway (I-90) to Interchange 42 (Geneva, Lyons, Route 14) toward Sodus Point. Turn left to Route 14 North. Turn left onto Water Street. Municipal parking is available adjacent to the Firehouse.
Cobblestone Quest – Road Tours of New York’s Historic Buildings is a great new resource of self-guided tours to visit and learn about cobblestone buildings that were built in Western New York State before the Civil War. Part of our pioneer history, cobblestone buildings are buildings built with stones that can be held in one hand (as opposed to pebbles, or boulders). According to the guide, which was written by Rich and Sue Freeman (Sue also runs one of favorite blogs – New York Outdoors), the word cobblestone comes from the Middle English cob meaning a rounded lump and ston, for small rock. Continue reading