Illuminating James Hannan and Lucretia Packard Hannan

Posted October 5, 2015 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Perinton NY

Tags: , , , , ,

On June 16, 2015, Illuminated History held its fourth annual cemetery tour in which fifteen actors portrayed eternal residents of three historic Perinton, New York, burying grounds: Egypt Cemetery, Schummers Cemetery and Perinton Center Cemetery.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.

In this Illuminated History series, the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.

The next people to be highlighted from this tour are James Hannan (1784-1871) and his wife, Lucretia Packard Hannan (1789-1870) of Perinton Center Cemetery, who were portrayed by Bob and Cindy Hunt:

[LUCRETIA]: Well, you’ve already heard from my father this evening. That Cyrus Packard sure can tell a tale! He’s one character I know you’ll not forget. I’m Lucretia Packard Hannan, daughter of Cyrus. Growing up in his tavern taught me a thing or two. By an early age, I was helping him run the tavern, keeping his books and making sure everything was spelled correctly.

[JAMES]: You were the champion speller of our time, my dear! In our day, it was a common social event to have spelling bees. My beautiful bride, Lucretia, was the best of the best. It is not surprising to learn that she was also the very first schoolmistress in Perinton and taught at Center schoolhouse District #3. I’m James Hannan, by the way. Pleased to make your acquaintance.

[LUCRETIA]: James, I’ve been thinking. Our time here this evening is short, and the folks have already heard about the Packard family. Shall we share some of the Hannan history? After all, we’ve been here a very long time and much has happened in the 205 years since you first came to Perinton.

[JAMES]: That’s a mighty fine idea. I would like to tell these good people how we arrived at this destination. You see, Lovejoy Cady and I were neighbors back in Montgomery County. In fact, you’ll meet Lovejoy’s sister, Irena, later this evening. Well, Lovejoy and I came to this area about 1810. We purchased Lot #46 together. Lovejoy took the north section, and I took the south. There was a road of sorts that ran through the property so we could visit. In those days, you could go weeks without seeing another living soul, so it was nice to know someone else was around. We helped each other clear the land and build our log cabins. Our family lived in that log cabin until 1838, when we had prospered enough to build a frame house. [point to photo of house on screen]. Five generations of Hannans lived on that land in the 150 years it remained in the family. The homestead was razed in the 1970s to make way for the Perinton Square Mall. That is progress, I suppose, but it tore out a piece of my heart when I learned about it.

[LUCRETIA]: You did love that land, James. It’s not at all surprising, since so much of your sweat and toil went

Bob and Cindy Hunt as James Hannan and Lucretia Packard Hannan

Bob and Cindy Hunt as James Hannan and Lucretia Packard Hannan

into it. I was quite pleased that our corner of the world, which was originally called Antioch, later became known as Hannan’s Corners. Have you seen the blue historic marker mentioning the Hannans? It says “Hannan Homestead. Occupied since 1810 by Hannan family. James Hannan, pioneer and 1812 soldier; son and grandson Perinton Supervisors.” The marker is located on the Pittsford-Palmyra Road near the eating establishment known as Denny’s, and was erected in 1962. Oh, James, don’t forget to tell them the offices you’ve held through the years!

[JAMES]: Yes, dear. I was fortunate to hold public office from nearly the first year I arrived here. Let’s see. I was elected path master and appointed fence viewer in 1812. That was the same year I married you, Lucretia. Come to think of it, that was when the War of 1812 began. I served with the New York State Militia as a Minuteman during that time, and it was exciting to know that I was making a difference upholding the liberties of the American people. At one point I even captured 12 British!

[LUCRETIA]: James was an accomplished woodsman as well, a skill that came in handy for all the hard work that needed to be done in those early days. I am proud to say my husband was known far and wide for his work ethic and for the speed with which he could accomplish the tasks at hand. While James was busy clearing our land and making a home for us, I was caring for our youngsters. We had 10 children together, and a strong marriage. It would have been impossible to have gotten through the difficulties of those pioneer years without a reliable helpmate.

[JAMES]: While you are touting my accomplishments, dear wife, may I extol your virtues? My Lucretia was an extraordinary horsewoman, and once broke a colt that had already thrown off one of the young Ramsdell men. She was also an accomplished spinner, weaver and cook. Lucretia kept a tidy and happy house, one in which I was content to come home to each evening after a long day’s work. 203 years of marriage, and we are still as happy as when we were first wed!

[LUCRETIA]: Oh, James. You may be as much of a character as my father, Cyrus Packard! Anyway, though we did have a loving household, it was not without its share of heartache. Of our 10 children, three died in childhood and we lost four as young adults.

[JAMES]: Those were dark days, but my wife and I relied on each other and were pleased to see our surviving children become hard-working and well-respected individuals. Our son, Jesse, served two terms as Perinton Town Supervisor. His son, also Jesse, served as Supervisor years later.

[LUCRETIA]: We are so proud of our descendants, and of the fact that many of them stayed in this area, our beloved home. Look around – there may be a Hannan sitting beside you this evening!

Script by Vicki Masters Profitt

(c) 2015 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Illuminating Cyrus Packard and Oliver Loud

Posted October 5, 2015 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Perinton NY

Tags: , , , , , , ,

On June 16, 2015, Illuminated History held its fourth annual cemetery tour in which fifteen actors portrayed eternal residents of three historic Perinton, New York, burying grounds: Egypt Cemetery, Schummers Cemetery and Perinton Center Cemetery.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.

In this Illuminated History series, the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.

The next people to be highlighted from this tour are Cyrus Packard (1771-1825) and Oliver Loud (1780-1829), who were portrayed by Dave Scheirer and Wes Harris.  This is the first year we had characters interacting with each other, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Dave Scheirer as Cyrus Packard and Wes Harris as Oliver Loud

Dave Scheirer as Cyrus Packard and Wes Harris as Oliver Loud

[CYRUS]: When Perinton first became a town, in 1812, I was running a tavern in Egypt. My illustrious establishment was appointed as the location for the first town meeting, held in May 1813. At that meeting, I, Cyrus Packard, was duly elected Perinton’s first Town Supervisor, which seemed fitting to me, as I was one of the most influential and intelligent men in town.

My family has a long history of prominence in this country. I am descended from a Mayflower passenger, Hester Mahieu. My first Packard ancestors to come to America were Samuel Packard and his wife Elizabeth, who sailed on the S.S. Diligent in 1638. They settled in Hingham, Massachusetts, where they ran a tavern. I guess inn-keeping is in my blood.

I was born in Cummington, Massachusetts in 1771. My father, Barnabas, bought land in Macedon in 1791 (for eighteen and a half cents per acre), but after coming out here and viewing it, decided he was too old to clear and farm it. So instead, he sent me west with two of my brothers, Bartimeus and John, and we cleared it and settled it. We traveled by oxen for six weeks during the height of winter, when everything was frozen (and so were we!). But the forests were dense and filled with wolves, bears, and Indians, so travel in winter had several advantages: leaves were off the trees, so we could see the Indians; bears were hibernating; and we could cross the frozen Hudson River on ice. We slept under our sleigh each night for some protection from the elements, but it was a rough trip, I tell you.

I came to Perinton in 1806 to strike out on my own. I bought land on the Pittsford-Palmyra Road, near the Ramsdells, who had been neighbors of mine back in Massachusetts when I was growing up. When I first moved here, Perinton didn’t exist; this land was still part of Boyle. I served as Justice of the Peace, constable, assessor, commissioner of highways, and other important posts for Boyle. I also built a tavern along the Pittsford-Palmyra Road, providing a rest stop for the stagecoach approximately halfway through the journey from Palmyra to Rochester. Mine was the first tavern along the route.

[OLIVER]: Aye, you might have built the first tavern, Cyrus, but that doesn’t mean yours was the best! My tavern, Loud’s Tavern, was bigger and (dare I say) better’n yours! Your high-falutin’ airs don’t mean much; I, Oliver Loud, am also descended from a Mayflower passenger: William Brewster! Every one of us who moved out here walked at that time, facing dangers and hardships along the way. I myself walked to Palmyra in 1803 from Massachusetts, where I married my lovely wife, Charlotte in 1805. We had seven children together.

We moved to Egypt in 1806, the same year as you, Cyrus, so you’ve got nothing on me there! My first home was a log cabin, which I also used as a tavern. That establishment was located at the corner of Loud Road (which was named in my honor, as it ran through my farm). We had no sawmill in Egypt at that time, so I used the lumber from my wagon to make my bar. I reckon it was still a good sight better’n your bar, Cyrus!

I added a store to my tavern, to provide useful items, such as nails and groceries, to the locals, as well as those passing through on the stage. I also recognized the need for a lumber mill, and I built one in 1825, combining the water from three different creeks to power it. That enabled me to build a newer, larger tavern made of lumber. It was a beautiful, two-story place. That, too, included a store, and it also served as a postal drop for the area. My tavern also served as a polling place during elections, and as a courtroom (my father-in-law was the justice of the peace, and held court at night over his pint of ale). Your bar may have been the political center when the town first started, but mine eventually became bigger and more influential than yours.

[CYRUS]: Well, be that as it may, I was always more influential in local politics than you. One thing we had in common, though, was that, as tavern owners, we had to be well-informed about issues of the day, and we subscribed to the newspaper at a time when very few could afford to. We were also a fountain of information, which we used to settle bar bets and disagreements.

I settled in the eastern part of Perinton, because the farmland there was wonderful. In fact, that’s how Egypt got its name. There was a period of time during the early 1800s when the weather was not conducive to farming. During 1809, it rained every day in June, and corn did not grow in most parts of New York. In 1810, there was a heavy frost in July; again, the corn did not grow. And 1816 was known as “the year without a summer,” due to a volcano eruption in the South Pacific that affected weather all over the globe. We had snow in June and July (makes this past winter seem mild, doesn’t it?), and frost every month, and people were faced with famine-like conditions all over the state, but Egypt always had good harvests. Whatever the weather, our corn grew. People flocked here to buy our crops, like in Biblical times, making us prosperous. Egypt thrived; hence our ability to maintain multiple taverns (of varying degrees of comfort and style) in such a small area!

[OLIVER]: We did have some unusual weather during that time. I found it fascinating, and in fact, I became the first weather forecaster in town. I studied astronomy, learning about the tides and weather. I published a weather almanac, called The Western Almanac, throughout the 1820s, until my death in November of 1829. It contained weather forecasts and astronomical data of use to farmers. My forecasts were so accurate that they were eagerly bought by other almanac publishers, as well. The local farmers planted very successfully by my forecasts.
In addition to weather forecasts, my almanac contained information about local roads, mail service, courts, and useful recipes and tips, including a recipe for Perinton Mead, which included egg whites, water, honey, and spices, in addition to yeast. I also included a method for cleaning your casks, so your mead would taste fresh and not spoil.
[CYRUS]: While you were busy publishing mead recipes, I was providing food and lodging for travelers. The stage changed horses here, and there was a blacksmith shop nearby, as well. My first wife, Sally, and I had one child together. Our daughter Lucretia was born in 1789. Sadly, Sally died soon after Lucretia was born. We moved here, and I remarried a woman named Leah, and we had eight children together. But my daughter Lucretia was always special to me, and she began helping me run the tavern at an early age. She was a smart girl. You’ll meet her in a few minutes.

My wife Leah was a God-fearing woman, and she helped found Perinton’s First Congregational Church. After my death in 1825, Leah moved west to Michigan with some of our children, so I am buried in Center Cemetery without her. In fact, the only other family member buried with me is my beloved daughter Lucretia.

[OLIVER]: I outlived you, my friend, and am sad to report you narrowly missed some of the biggest political excitement of our time: the William Morgan anti-Mason incident in 1826. He was from Batavia, and had threatened to publish an exposé of the Masons, and he subsequently disappeared. I am sure those secretive, irreligious Masons were up to no good and murdered him, although it was never proven. But I missed having the chance to discuss those events with you. I am sure we would have had many a heated exchange about it, but we would have come down on the same side in the end. I died four years after you, in 1829, and am buried in Egypt Cemetery.

My second tavern, which was located near where the Town Centre Plaza is today, remained there until the mid-1980s, at which time it was moved to Bushnell’s Basin to escape the developer’s axe. It continued as a bed and breakfast near Richardson’s Canal House for a while, but is now a private residence. If you want to see a glimpse of a tavern from the early 1800s, go to Bushnell’s Basin. But if you want to raise a glass to the memory of me and my friend (and rival) Cyrus Packard, well…make sure you do so in a reputable establishment!

Script by Suzanne Lee

(c) 2015 Suzanne Lee Personal Histories


Illuminating Lucy Lapham Bortle

Posted August 21, 2015 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Perinton NY

Tags: , , , , , ,

On June 16, 2015, Illuminated History held its fourth annual cemetery tour in which fifteen actors portrayed eternal residents of three historic Perinton, New York, burying grounds: Egypt Cemetery, Schummers Cemetery and Perinton Center Cemetery.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.

In this Illuminated History series, the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.

The second person to be highlighted from this tour is Lucy Lapham Bortle (1827-1905) of Egypt Cemetery, who was portrayed by Lucy McCormick:

Death took my mother when I was just three months old and I have no personal recollections of her, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard Lucy Ramsdell Lapham was to be here this evening. You see, I am her daughter, Lucy Lapham Bortle.

I was the youngest of Fayette and Lucy Lapham’s four children, and the only girl. I was a spoiled little motherless child with three older brothers to protect me. Oh, Father married again – three more times, to be exact, but my stepmothers were busy with their own children. So when our neighbor, Spencer Bortle, asked to marry me, I said yes. We were wed on June 13, 1844, three days after my 17th birthday. As you’ll soon see, what had seemed to be an impetuous decision turned out just fine in the end.

Spencer’s family, the Bortles, had a good reputation around town. His father, Philip, was a shoemaker from Montgomery County. He and his wife, Salome Scudder, came to this area in its early days. Philip and William Scudder, kin of Salome, operated a shoe store in Bushnell’s Basin for a time. Then, Philip got it into his head that he wanted to be a farmer, so he bought Lot 26 in town. That land had, at one time, belonged to Mr. Cyrus Packard, whose story was told this evening. Philip ran a successful farm, which was passed down through more than six generations of the Bortle family. After Philip, it went to my husband, Spencer, then to our son, Thurlow, and to Thurlow’s son. I’ve lost track of how many Bortles have walked the land of that farm.

Spencer and I had seven children – six daughters and one son. We were staunch republicans, so we named our son Thurlow Weed, after the famous politician and newspaper publisher. I loved to read, especially classic literature, so four of our daughters were given the unusual names of Luranda, Georgiana, Capitola and Ludora based on book characters of which I had read. And then there were Mary and Martha, the only two girls in our family with common given names.

Though our eldest two children, Mary and Thurlow, were born in New York, Spencer had decided we should move west and the five other children were born in Indiana. In fact, the youngest, Ludora, was born in a covered wagon as we traveled! We stayed in Indiana for 14 years. It was difficult. Our neighbors were few and far between, we missed our family and the Civil War was wreaking havoc on the country. We returned home to Egypt by 1863. Spencer had broken a leg in his younger years that never healed properly. When the draft registration came around, he was passed over. It was a great relief to me. We had lost Spencer’s younger brother, Belden, at Antietam in 1862. We were so proud when the Soldiers’ Monument at Mount Pleasant Cemetery was unveiled in 1866 and it included Belden’s name. It’s too bad the monument is misspelled as “Bortles”. People always wanted to call us Bortles for some reason or other. At least they got his first name correct. Everyone usually called him Belding Bortles, and it just infuriated him!

The family homestead, known as “Bortle Hill”, was a wonderful place to raise a family. As the years went on, our children had children and everyone always came back to Bortle Hill. In 1894, Spencer and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with our family. Beginning with that event, it became a tradition to hold Bortle family reunions on the Hill.

Spencer and Lucy Lapham Bortle on their 60th wedding anniversary, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society..

Spencer and Lucy Lapham Bortle on their 60th wedding anniversary, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Ten years later, we celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary. There’s a lovely photograph of us on that occasion. [point to photo on screen]. The Monroe County Mail ran a wonderful article about our celebration that day. You see, our children had arranged for the Egypt band to play after the guests arrived. The band played several of the popular airs of the time very beautifully. We had an anniversary cake in the form of a pyramid, with sixty burning candles, that occupied the middle of the table. The dates of 1844 and 1904 were carefully made of pine twigs and fastened upon the wall near one of the tables. Then, my granddaughter, Alberta Arnold, married Mr. Walter Smith to the strains of the wedding march. It was a wonderful day for all, and Spencer and I were so thankful to have shared our wedding anniversary with our granddaughter in such a special way.

I passed on in 1905 at age 78, and Spencer followed two years behind me. I was so happy to see him. It felt like I was a 17-year-old bride all over again!

Script by Vicki Masters Profitt

(c) 2015 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Illuminating Deva Ellsworth

Posted June 22, 2015 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Perinton NY, World War I

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On June 16, 2015, Illuminated History held its fourth annual cemetery tour in which fifteen actors portrayed eternal residents of three historic Perinton, New York, burying grounds: Egypt Cemetery, Schummers Cemetery and Perinton Center Cemetery.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.

In this Illuminated History series, the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.

The first person to be highlighted from this tour is Deva Ellsworth (1894-1925) of the Perinton Center Cemetery, who was portrayed by Denise McLaughlin:

Who here likes music? Any fans of jazz here? Well, I am Deva Ellsworth, and I was a professional musician during the heyday of jazz. Let me tell you my story.

I was born in May of 1894 on a farm on Ayrault Road. Our house was across from Center Cemetery. There is a school there now, which would have been convenient when I was growing up. Instead, my three siblings and I had to walk all the way down to the end of Ayrault, where it connects to the Palmyra Road, to District School #6. It was a long walk in winter, although we enjoyed it the rest of the year. After finishing eighth grade in the District School, I went to high school in East Rochester. I graduated in 1916, during World War I.

Deva Ellsworth, courtesy of the Perinton Town Historian

Deva Ellsworth, courtesy of the Perinton Town Historian

I was a talented musician, and rather unconventional for my day (thank you, Great-grandma Irena, for my independent spirit!). Instead of staying on the farm and finding a husband, I joined the Madame Meyers Ladies’ Band as the coronet soloist. (I played several brass instruments.) Now John Phillip Sousa was the most famous band-leader of that time, and concert bands were a popular form of entertainment all over the country, but neither Sousa’s band, nor any other professional band, would hire women, unless they were either a vocalist or a harp player! Consequently, women formed their own bands. We were well-received and never lacked for playing engagements, I assure you.

Madam Meyers’ band worked in Atlantic City the summer after I graduated. I found that I enjoyed performing and seeing life outside of Fairport. Subsequently, I toured New England and also out west with several bands. Soon after I graduated, however, the United States joined World War I. My brother Elmwood enlisted right away. My sister Ruby and I, not to be outdone in service to our country, both joined the America Ladies’ Military Band, which was led by the famous Helen May Butler, America’s “female Sousa.” There were about fifty women from all over the country in our band, and all of us had brothers in the service. We toured military training camps all over the U.S. to entertain our troops.

We played concerts at camps in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri, to name just a few locations. However, 1918 brought unbelievable devastation: the Spanish Flu, which killed more U.S. serviceman than the fighting in Europe did. Our band often visited camps that were quarantined, and frequently we were playing only a few feet away from the bed of someone who was dying of the flu. One soldier’s last words were, “Please play that last selection again.” Not surprisingly, both Ruby and I caught the flu; her case was more severe than mine. We both survived, thank God. We had both hoped to go to Europe to entertain troops over there, but the war ended before we had the chance.

After the war, Ruby returned to Fairport and settled down. I, however, continued my life as a professional musician. I was in several exclusive women’s groups, including the Ladies’ Eleven Piece Jazz Orchestra. I traveled throughout New England, performing at famous, upscale resorts. I remained a performer all of my short life, working throughout the early 1920s, during the advent of Jazz and the start of Prohibition. It was an exciting time in history, especially for women.

Although I had survived the Spanish flu in 1918, I was never quite as healthy again. I became ill in late 1924, and,

Headstone of Deva Ellsworth, Perinton Center Cemetery

Headstone of Deva Ellsworth, Perinton Center Cemetery

after a lingering illness, died in April of 1925, just 8 days shy of my 30th birthday. I am buried in the family plot in Center Cemetery, across the road from where I grew up. In addition to looking eternally over the beautiful land that was our farm, I can often hear the strains of the Martha Brown band students as they rehearse; I just shake my head when they play Sousa! I am so proud that I got to spend my life working at something I loved, and I got to bring joy to so many people with my music. Who could ask for anything more out of life, however short that life might be?

Script by Suzanne Lee

(c) 2015 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Illuminated History Tour of Three Historic Perinton Cemeteries on June 16, 2015

Posted May 31, 2015 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Civil War Soldiers, Fairport NY, Monroe County NY, Museum, Perinton NY

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Three historic Perinton Cemeteries will be the focus of this year’s Illuminated History cemetery tour, which will take place on Tuesday, June 16 at 7:00 p.m. at the Fairport Historical Museum.

Hear the stories of some of Fairport’s most respected pioneers, business owners and Civil War soldiers as told by the actors portraying them. Throughout the evening, you’ll meet tavern owners Cyrus Packard and Oliver Loud, of Egypt Cemetery, as they debate the merits of their businesses. Civil War mother Delia Northrop Treadwell, an eternal resident of Schummers Cemetery, will remember her four sons who served in the Union Army. Early settlers James and Lucretia Packard Hannan, of Perinton Center Cemetery, will also illuminate their lives for attendees. These stories and more will be shared on this special tour sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society.

This program, which is free and open to the public, will take place at the Fairport Historical Museum, 18 Perrin Street.

Merritt Wells: He Died Among Strangers

Posted February 19, 2015 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Monroe County NY, Pittsford Cemetery, Pittsford NY

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The Land of the Forgotten haunts my dreams.  As an historian, it is my job to uncover the past and preserve it for the future.  My passion for delving into newspaper archives and burial records has allowed me to get a bird’s eye glimpse into past lives by researching births, marriages and deaths.  A sense of satisfaction comes when I am able to pull together a picture of a full life which was well-lived.  However, it is the stories of heartbreak that stay with me and for which I have an overwhelming desire to share; stories that preserve the histories of those long dead whose potential went unfulfilled and who lie unremembered under the cold earth.

Merritt Wells has one of those unforgettable stories, and so I will share it with you and illuminate the difficult life of a young man who died, much too soon, among strangers.

My introduction to Merritt Wells was accidental.  During my research into Pittsford resident George Lash, I came across a brief paragraph in a 1902 newspaper which mentioned the funeral of young Merritt Wells, who had recently died “at the home of George Lash, among perfect strangers”.  An aunt of Merritt’s had come to Pittsford from Gloversville, New York, and was the only relative present at the funeral.  As she was unable to take the body to his home, Merritt was buried at Pittsford Cemetery.

My heart broke for Merritt, and I had to learn more about him.  Fortunately, I found several additional newspaper articles in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Fairport’s Monroe County Mail and in the Gloversville Daily Leader which gave me some insight into Merritt’s untimely demise.

On February 5, 1902, one day after Merritt’s death, the Gloversville Daily Leader reported that Police Chief Sperber had received a dispatch from Pittsford with the brief message, “Merritt Wells dead here.  Relatives in Gloversville.  Notify and Answer”.  The following day, the Daily Leader announced that an aunt, Mrs. William Herring, and an uncle, H. A. Satterlee, both of Gloversville, had been found.  A grandmother was also located living in Kingston, New York, and it was learned that the family had roots in Ulster County, New York.

Subsequent newspaper articles told Merritt’s story in bits and pieces.  He was an orphan who had lived with his grandmother until she became unable to care for him.  Merritt had then gone to Buffalo with a friend and worked on a lake steamer, from which he was able to save $125 of his earnings.  The “friend” stole his money, and Merritt decided he had to return home to Gloversville.  He spent some time at the rescue mission in Rochester before arriving at George Lash’s home in Pittsford, where he asked for shelter.  During the week that Merritt stayed with the Lash family, George found him to be a respectable young man whose speech and manner indicated he was a man of intelligence and good breeding.  Merritt was grateful to have a place to live, and willingly helped with the farm work.

By the evening of Tuesday, February 4, 1902, it became clear that Merritt was quite unwell.  George proposed a visit to the hospital in Rochester for the following day, and Merritt agreed to go.  That evening, Merritt was so weak he asked George to carry the lamp to his room so he could retire for the evening.  After returning downstairs, George heard a loud crash and rushed to Merritt’s room to find him lying, dying, on the floor.  Merritt’s struggle for life ended just moments later.  Seventeen-year old Merritt Wells was buried at Pittsford Cemetery on February 9, 1902.  Monroe County Coroner Killip granted a certificate of death for acute consumption.

After locating census records, I learned that Merritt had been born in June, 1884.  The 1900 federal census of Shandaken, in Ulster County, New York, shows fifteen-year old Merritt working as a farm laborer for Charles Lamson.  Merritt’s aunt Elmina Satterlee Herring, who had attended his funeral in Pittsford, was a daughter of William Satterlee and his wife, Anna Maria Myers Satterlee.  It’s logical to assume that Merritt’s mother was another daughter of William and Anna Maria’s.  A quick check of the records shows they had two other daughters who are unaccounted for – Charlotte, born c 1849 and Ina, born c 1865.  I could find no record of Merritt’s father.

On December 28, 1901, Merritt was picked up by the police in Monroe County, New York, and charged with being a tramp.  He was sentenced to 30 days in the Monroe County Penitentiary.  It would have been soon after he was released that Merritt found his way to George Lash’s farm in Pittsford.

So many questions about Merritt remain unanswered.  Who were his parents?  Did he have siblings?  Why didn’t one of his aunts or uncles take him in after the death of his parents?  How long was he on his own?  Is he still buried at Pittsford Cemetery?  He is not listed in the cemetery burial records.  Did a family member bring him home?  Was he loved?

I haven’t been able to answer these questions, but maybe you can help.  If you have any information about Merritt Wells, please contact me.  I’d love to learn more about this poor boy who died among strangers.


Illuminating Frank Bown

Posted December 20, 2014 by Vicki Masters Profitt
Categories: Architecture, Fairport NY, Monroe County NY

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On June 17, 2014, Illuminated History held its third annual cemetery tour in which twelve actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum due to inclement weather.  Greenvale Rural Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts of Greenvale’s featured eternal residents will be posted until all twelve have been illuminated.  Although the scripts are based on in depth historical research, some creative license may have been taken.

The fourth Greenvale resident to be featured is Frank Bown.

If any of you lived in Fairport before 1970, you might remember the Bown block, a three-story brick building where the library and Village Landing are now. I’m Frank Bown, and that building was built by my father, George. He ran a carriage factory and blacksmith shop there for many years, and later we sold bicycles and automobiles there. But that was many years ago.

My father George was born in Canada, and came to Penfield when he was twenty-five to learn blacksmithing from his uncle. He moved to Walworth and ran a blacksmith shop there, and met my mother, Mary Jane Foreman. They had nine children, including me. I was the oldest, born in 1857. When I was 4, we moved to Fairport, into a house on South Main Street near the four corners. My father opened his carriage factory, and at first he worked alone. But as it grew, he built several outbuildings, including areas for construction, painting, a sales room, and an office, and eventually employed 14 people, including wood workers, iron workers, and painters. His carriages were known for their strength, durability, and elegance of finish. His carriages were shipped to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and other states for both personal and business use. He built lumber wagons, delivery wagons, 3-spring wagons, and both top- and open buggies. His carriages won top prizes at fairs and competitions.

Frank Bown, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Frank Bown, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

In December of 1887, George faced his most serious setback. Most of his enterprise, including our home, was destroyed in a fire. The newly-formed Deland Hose Company was able to save several small portions of the property, but we were devastated to see all those years of work laying a pile of ashes. In 1888, my father bought land closer to the canal from C.J. DeLand, and built the building that would bear his name: the Bown block. He rebuilt his home on the original site, but moved the carriage factory to the new location right by the canal. We had a blacksmith shop, where I worked, a sales room for bicycles, and a carriage shop for carriages and wagons.

The new building housed many other businesses and shops in addition to our own, including a drug store and the library. The Post Office was relocated into the building from West Avenue, and my father served as Postmaster for several years. My father served the village in other ways, as well, including as village trustee, overseer of poor, and school board member. He and my mother were very active in the Raymond Baptist Church. He died in 1904, and my mother followed a few years later.

When my father arrived in Perinton in 1862, my wife Ella Ellsworth’s family had already been here for almost 30 years. Her grandparents, William Ellsworth and Irena Cady, were from two of Perinton’s earliest pioneer families. William and Irena bought a farm on the corner of Turk Hill and Ayrault, where they were very successful farmers. In fact, it is a sheep farm today and is still in the Ellsworth family. Ella’s grandfather ran one of Perinton’s first banks, loaning money to his neighbors at reasonable rates, and keeping people’s important documents, like deeds, in a safe at his house. Her grandmother, Irena, ran a school across from their house, and she was a skilled draftsman, renowned for drawing up plans for mills. She was also a land surveyor, and was a fine shot with a cross-bow, to boot!

Ella and I were married on New Year’s Day in 1880 when I was 22. Ella was very active in our church, the the Raymond Baptist church, and chaired the fund-raising committee for many years. We loved to entertain, and she hosted many special events in our home for our friends and for the church. She also helped me recover from emergency surgery in 1915 when I had appendicitis.

Bown Block in Fairport, New York.  Courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Bown Block in Fairport, New York. Courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

After my father’s death, my brothers and I continued the carriage and bicycle business, but in the nineteen-teens, we also began to sell automobiles. We sold Maxwells, Chalmers, Chryslers, and Chevrolets to the likes of Levi Deland, Martha Brown, and Will O. Greene, the newspaper man, and also provided a fully-equipped garage for servicing of vehicles. Cars needed more attention than wagons or horses, that is for sure! Business was booming in the 1920s. But we had two more fires, in 1920 and again in 1925. Having a blacksmith shop and garage was a recipe for danger, and in the second fire, our entire structure was destroyed, along with several cars that were on the property awaiting repairs. Luckily for us, this time around we had insurance to help rebuild, unlike my poor father. And when we rebuilt in 1926, we said goodbye to the blacksmith shop for good. There had been a smithy on site for almost 60 years, but with the advent of the automobile, there was so little need of it that we decided to forgo that part of the business.

In 1936, Ella and I celebrated 56 years of marriage! It was a special occasion, with our friends joining in to wish us well. In the fall of that year, I passed on at age 78. Ella died 3 years later. We loved our town, and served it well over the years, both the Ellsworths and the Bowns. The next time you drive by Village Landing, think of my father George and me, working over the anvil and producing the finest carriages and wagons available to keep Fairport moving in style.

Script by Suzanne Lee

(c) 2014 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History


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