Archive for the ‘Fairport NY’ category

Illuminating Madalena Carlomusto

June 18, 2017

On June 13, 2017, Illuminated History held its sixth annual cemetery tour in which volunteer actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.  St. Mary’s Cemetery in the town of Perinton, New York, was the focus of the tour.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.  Madalena Carlomusto was portrayed by MaryAnn Cady.

Madalena and Antonio Carlomusto with their daughters. Photo courtesy of Krista Biancucci Jamison.

Buona sera! I am Madelena Carlomusto, and since I am from Italy, I’ll greet you in Italian. I started out this life in Ponte Corvo, a small village about halfway between Rome and Naples in western Italy. My husband Antonio was from the same area. We moved to the United States in the early 1900s, living in California for a while before setting in Fairport in 1910. We opened a shoe and leather store on the corner of North Main Street and High Street, where we remained the rest of our lives. We rented space from Mr. Ryan, and Antonio made and repaired leather harnesses and all kinds of leather goods, as well as shoes.

But in the nineteen-teens, horses were on the way out, and cars were coming in. By 1915, we decided groceries might be a more profitable business, and we opened a grocery store. Over the next few years, we sold off all our shoe and harness stock, and then expanded to add a butcher’s counter.

Business was brisk, and we expanded several times after that, adding to our offerings. Eventually we bought the building from Mr. Ryan, and it was known as the Carlomusto block for many years.

In addition to helping with the store, which was a family affair, I raised our four daughters: Anna, Lucy, Margaret, and Ida, who were all born here. We walked to church at the Assumption of Our Lady, and the girls went to school. In fact, two of them went on to college. I was active at church, helping with the guilds and other projects. Our end of town was mostly recent immigrants, and many of our neighbors were Italian like us. If you came into the store, it sounded like the old country most of the time; everyone was speaking Italian. It was comforting to hear, and much easier than conversing in English for me. We Italians stuck together.

In fact, Antonio was a founding member of the San Sebastian Society, a mutual-aid society for Italian immigrants.

North Side Market. Photo courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

The group started in 1915, and members paid in dues. We also raised money by holding dances at the Osburn Hotel (Mr. Cary’s fine establishment), as well as pig roasts and other social events. Socializing was one of the things the group did best, helping the younger ones retain some of their Italian heritage while they were growing up American. The San Sebastian Society also provided food and shelter to those in need, especially recent immigrants, and medical and dental care to members.

Antonio was a savvy businessman. In addition to our store, he had other ventures, as well. He bought some land on Elm street in 1915 and developed 11 houses there. In the 1920s, he ran the Fairport Chevrolet dealership next to our store. He was very hardworking, and quite an entrepreneur. He had a lot of …how should I put it?…my Antonio was feisty. There’s no other way to describe him. He worked hard, and he fought for everything we ever had. Nobody handed us anything. As immigrants, many people looked down on us, and we had to grasp and struggle for everything at first. But we worked hard, and it paid off. There were setbacks, for sure, but overall, we did alright.

There are a few events that stand out in my mind as tough times, though. First, in 1916, Perinton voted to become a dry town, as Mr. Cary mentioned. Antonio was arrested in 1917, supposedly for selling liquor in our store. He was eventually cleared of the charge by a jury, but not before being hauled off by the police and having to post $500 in bail. That was a wild time.

Also, over the years we experience not one, but three, fires! Fires were not uncommon, as Mr. Cary mentioned, but I don’t know that anyone else in the village was beset by flames as often as we were. Our first fire was in 1917, when Mr. Ryan owned the building and lived on the second floor. We lived on the third floor, and our store, as well as others, were on the street level. During the night, we were all awakened to flames and smoke. The cause was not definitively determined, but seemed to come from either a stovepipe or a cigar left smoldering from an election board meeting held in Mr. Ryan’s apartment earlier that evening. Luckily, no one was injured, but we lost much of our clothing and furniture, to say nothing of the stock in the store. We did have some insurance, thank God, but it was a terrible, scary time. It was also a lot of work to clean up.

In December of 1932, just before Christmas, we had another fire. By this time, we owned the building, and there were ten of us living in the floors above the store. Smoke woke up one of the grandbabies about 4 o’clock in the morning. Antonio ran to fire box in his underwear to call the fire department. There was a lot of smoke, but no flames. The firemen thought they had it out and left, only to be called back several times the next day. Smoke kept starting up again, although we couldn’t tell exactly where it was coming from, as no flames were visible.

 Finally, to be sure they had all the flames out, they had to chop holes in the roof and walls. Between that, and the smoke and water damage, our building was a mess. We had to live with family and friends while we rebuilt. We reopened the store two weeks later, in early January, only to have another fire in February, this time in the chimney. All of this were so disheartening, but not nearly so disheartening as having the Rochester newspaper accuse my husband of arson! Of all the nerve. We didn’t start those fires, and we certainly wouldn’t have risked our lives, or those of our children and grandchildren, for some insurance money. It was ridiculous. However, the Fairport paper defended us in print, which took some of the sting out of the situation; at least our own town, and our own fire department (who ought to know, since they were the ones who fought the fires!), stood by us publicly and refuted there ridiculous charges.

San Sebastian Society. Photo courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

There were plenty of good times, as well, though. We were involved in the community. In addition to our church and the San Sebastian society, Antonio, or Tony, as most people called him, was part of the Fairport Businessman’s Group. As a merchant and businessman, he wanted the town to thrive and grow, and he did his part. He also wanted to make it a great place to live. In 1922, when the new library was being built on Perrin Street (where we are gathered right now), Antonio helped canvas the town to raise money for new books, to help make our library the modern, well-furnished establishment Fairport deserved.

By the 1950s, we were growing weary of the long hours the store required. Our daughter Anna and her husband, Thomas Biancucci, had been helping us run the store for many years, and we decided to turn it over to them completely. We lived out our golden years enjoying our family and this wonderful village. Antonio died in 1969, and I followed in 1973. We were buried in St. Mary’s, from our beloved Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, our parish for over 60 years.

Anna and Thomas ran the store well into the 1970s, until the big-chain grocery stores like Tops came in, making it hard for the Mom & Pop stores to survive. At one time, we had a dozen little markets in the village, like Messerino’s, Prinzivalli’s, and ours, and we were all making a living selling groceries, meat, and produce. But later, people preferred the bigger shops. I have fond memories of the store, though. I raised my daughters there, and Anna raised her four children there, taking care of them in the room behind the delicatessen counter, just as I did. Families lived, worked, and worshipped together when I was alive. We knew all of our customers by name. We also knew their preferences (and their business!). It’s a bygone era, to be sure.

Script by Suzanne Lee

(c) 2017 Suzanne Lee Personal Histories

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Illuminating Carl W. Peters

August 31, 2016
Carl W. Peters mural, "Fairport", on display at the Fairport Historical Museum.  Photo courtesy of Keith Boas.

Carl W. Peters mural, “Fairport”, on display at the Fairport Historical Museum. Photo courtesy of Keith Boas.

On June 21, 2016, Illuminated History held its fifth annual cemetery tour in which actors portrayed residents of the burying ground.  The tour, which was sponsored by the Perinton Historical Society, took place at the Fairport Historical Museum.  Mount Pleasant Cemetery in the village of Fairport, New York, was the focus of the tour.

Carl W. Peters was a renowned artist.  Born in Rochester, New York, he moved to Fairport as a child.  Carl’s love of art was apparent at an early age, and it was a passion that would last his entire life.  His “Fairport” scene, on permanent exhibit at the Fairport Historical Museum, is just one of many murals that were commissioned to him around the city of Rochester.

In this Illuminated History series, each of the scripts are based on in depth historical research, although some creative license may have been taken.  Carl W. Peters was portrayed by Craig Caplan.

Evening, folks.  I’m not quite sure why I’m here this evening.  My family wasn’t influential like the DeLands or industrious like Mr. Parce.  You see, I’m just an artist.  My name is Carl Peters.

Since I’ve been invited to tell my story, I suppose I should get to it.  I was born in Rochester November 14, 1897, the eldest child of Frederick and Louise Meyers Peters.  We moved to Fairport when I was 11 and bought a place on Jefferson Avenue, at the corner of Sandy Hill. 

After we moved here, my passion for painting went into overdrive as people started to take notice of my work.  I designed some post cards for the Stecher [pronounced STEK’-er] Lithographic Company and also some covers for McClure’s and other magazines.  In 1917, the Fairport Herald printed a story about me winning the best poster contest to advertise the pure food show to be held in Convention Hall, Rochester. 

Carl W. Peters, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Carl W. Peters, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

That was nice and all, but I didn’t paint for the awards.  I painted because I had a love for it.  Best thing in the world to make a living at a job you love.

The Great War came along just as my career was heating up.  I joined up with the 15th Cavalry and spent a year overseas.  I was fortunate to be assigned to the Camouflage Corps as a designer.  I’d like to think I saved a few lives with my camouflage painting, despite the fact that I wasn’t on the front lines.  It’s pretty ironic, though.  I had always wanted to paint in France.  It just never occurred to me that I would be painting camouflage on military equipment!  By the way, I did get furlough in the fall of 1918 and managed to get some nice sketches done while in Paris.

After the war, I settled in New York City for awhile, and then moved on to Massachusetts in 1925.  Winters were spent painting in the Rochester area, and summers in Massachusetts.  I’d built a new studio at my place in Fairport, and it was exhilarating to be out in the snow looking for bursts of color in an otherwise white landscape.  Most of my paintings have a pop of red in them somewhere.  It just helps bring the paintings to life.

My first marriage didn’t work out, but it gave me two beautiful daughters.  My second marriage, to Blanche Peaslee, lasted over thirty years.  You see, Blanche was also an artist and she understood my need to paint.

Since I’ve been old enough to hold a brush, I’ve painted every day.  I’d still paint if I could hold a paintbrush.  This

Carl W. Peters self-portrait.  On loan to the Fairport Historical Museum by a private collector.

Carl W. Peters self-portrait. On loan to the Fairport Historical Museum by a private collector.

otherworldly stuff just isn’t conducive to that.  I’m most known for my landscapes, though I’ve been known to paint a portrait or two.  Your museum actually has a self-portrait that is on loan from a local art collector.  I feel it’s an accurate representation of my face. 

Speaking of my face, there’s a legend that I painted myself into one of the people in the mural upstairs.  In fact, there’s another legend that I painted my face into each of the people in the mural, even the women!  I’ll let you be the judge of that.  I’m just the artist.

Since we’re in this museum building that used to be the library, let’s talk about that mural upstairs.  It’s something I’m very proud of, the fact that I was chosen to paint that mural through the Works Progress Administration, also known as the WPA.  I wanted it to reflect the history of our community, the farmers and the laborers and everyone who worked hard to make Perinton what it is today.  Throughout the city, more of my murals still exist, though the Fairport mural is close to my heart since it represents my hometown.

I died July 7, 1980 at age 82.  I’ve got a nice spot at Mount Pleasant under a large tree.  Hmm…this would be an interesting landscape to paint.  If only I could hold a paintbrush again!

Script by Vicki Masters Profitt

(c) 2016 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Illuminating James Hannan and Lucretia Packard Hannan

October 5, 2015

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

October 5, 2015

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

August 21, 2015

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

June 22, 2015

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

May 31, 2015

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.


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