Archive for the ‘Medical History’ category

Illuminating Charlotte Clapp, The First Perinton Town Historian

November 26, 2014

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.

Our third Greenvale resident highlighted is Charlotte Clapp, as portrayed by Anne Johnston.

Charlotte Clapp, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Charlotte Clapp, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Because of my dedicated service to Perinton, I became known as the “Town’s First Lady”. It is a title of which I am extremely proud. My name is Miss Charlotte Clapp. I suppose I should begin at the beginning, as they say. My father, Dr. Wesley Clapp, came to Fairport in the 1870s from Oswego County. He began to build up his medical practice and, by 1879, had met and married my mother, Roxa Jane Hodges. I was born in Fairport in 1884, the third of their five children.

Although I never married, my life was rewarding and very happy. My quest for knowledge led to many opportunities personally and professionally. In 1921, I became Perinton’s first Town Historian. Three years later, I was appointed Town Clerk for Perinton and served proudly as the first woman in that position. Thinking about it now, I seem to have led a life of firsts. Along with several others, I was a charter member of the Fairport Business and Professional Women’s Club in 1927. They even named me “Career Gal of the Month” in 1956! My passion, however, was for history. That passion was foremost in my mind when I, along with nine other women, founded the Perinton Historical Society in November, 1935. At the organizational meeting, I was named as the first Custodian of the Perinton Historical Society. My job was to record and preserve the artifacts and documents donated to the society, a position I undertook with zeal. I was also a member of the Fairport Historical Club.

Despite these professional successes, I did know my share of personal sadness. In 1911, my older brother, George, who was a coroner in Genesee County, died in a terrible automobile accident. George was on his way to the County Fair in Batavia and traveling at a great speed. Going around a curve, he lost control of his automobile and died almost instantly of multiple injuries. He was just 30 years of age. Our father was the first to hear the news. Father had traveled on the train hoping to surprise George. After stopping into a hotel he frequented with George, Father asked if George had come to dinner yet. The young fellow at the hotel was new and, not knowing to whom he was speaking, told Father, “No, and he never will. He has just been killed in an automobile accident”. That is how Father learned of George’s terrible accident. This was the first visitation of death in our family circle, and certainly not the last.

My oldest brother, Lewis, was the next to leave us, in 1914. We were so proud of our Lewis. He was a brilliant physician and a good man. Lewis died at age 33 following an operation for appendicitis, leaving a wife and two little daughters to mourn him. Father passed on in 1921, and my sister, Marion, died in 1933 at age 43. Marion loved to hike. When she didn’t return from a hiking expedition, a search was conducted. One week later, the body of my only sister was found at Hemlock Lake. The official cause of death was drowning. Those losses haunted my mother, who passed away in 1935. My youngest brother, Robert, died in 1980 at age 85. He and I were the only children in our family to live long lives.

It is rather ironic that I served the town so diligently as Town Historian, and yet my own home and its history

Clapp family home, formerly located at 15 Perrin Street in Fairport, New York.  Courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society.

Clapp family home, formerly located at 15 Perrin Street in Fairport, New York.

were taken when urban renewal reared its ugly head in 1972. Our home at 15 Perrin Street, of which my father was so proud, had been in the family for over 100 years. I have a photograph of it here.  My father started his medical practice there. I was born in the house in 1884, and my parents raised five children in the warmth of its embrace. Yet, the proud history of the Clapp family could not overcome progress. I would not have been able to bear the sight of my ancestral home being torn down to make way for a parking lot of the new Village Landing. The only saving grace was that I had passed away in 1964, just three weeks shy of my 80th birthday. Even though I am gone, the work I have done on behalf of the town and of the Perinton Historical Society remains. I am proud to have lived a life of firsts, paving the way for those women who followed in my footsteps.

Script by Vicki Masters Profitt

(c) 2014 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History


Perinton Historical Society & Fairport Museum:

Illuminating George C. Taylor and His Oil of Life

September 30, 2014

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.

Our second Greenvale resident highlighted is George C. Taylor, as portrayed by Bob Hunt.

How’s everyone feeling today? Any coughs, colds, asthma? Stomach problems, kidney problems, liver problems? Cuts, bruises, burns? Chapped hands or lips? Earache? Toothache? Rheumatism? My Taylor’s Oil of Life [hold up bottle] can be used to cure almost any ill! Inside or out, my liniment is good for what ails you…and your horses and cows, too! Good for man or beast! Good for horn distemper, galls, caked bags, cracked teats, botts, and bellyache.

My father, Alonzo Taylor, began making Dr. Taylor’s Pain-annihilating Liniment in Cato, Cayuga County in 1848, when I was a school boy. I’m his son, George C. Taylor, and I worked in the family business from its very beginning. After my schooling was over, I helped run the company, and I took it over in 1861 when my father died. I moved the Taylor Company here to Fairport in 1866. The Civil War years had taken a toll on business, but things rebounded in the late 1860s.

George C. Taylor, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society

George C. Taylor, courtesy of the Perinton Historical Society

In addition to manufacturing my father’s liniment, which I marketed under the name “Taylor’s Oil of Life,” I expanded my company’s offerings to include many fine and useful products, including flavored extracts, laudanum, perfume, blackberry cordial, cough syrup, breath sweeteners, bluing for laundry, and shaving soap. We made many other popular products over the years. My business was very successful, because I was always ahead of the trends and made quality household products people could use.

My decision to move my business to Fairport was a good one. Business became so good, in fact, that I built a new 3-story brick factory with offices on the corner of North Main Street and High Street in 1873. It was called the Taylor block for many years, and that building still stands today. The railroad had a spur that came right to my building, and I shipped my products all over the country. My wife Wealthy, my daughter Lois, and I lived upstairs. I employed many local residents in the manufacture of my wares.

In addition to my own business, my building housed several retail shops on Main Street, including a grocery store, a meat market, and a barber. I also let the Fairport Coronet Band use one of the upper rooms to practice each week. I believed in building up Fairport and helping other businesses thrive. A strong business community makes for a prosperous town, and everyone benefits from that.

I also believed that an informed community, one that is well-versed in the issues of the day, both locally and nationally, is the back-bone of a strong democracy. To that end, I founded Fairport’s first newspaper, The Fairport Herald, in 1871. Of course, the George C. Taylor Company was one of its prime advertisers. Papers need advertising to thrive, and businesses need to advertise! It was a win-win situation for Fairport and the Taylor Company. But I only operated the paper long enough to get it established, then sold it about two years later. It flourished, and the community was the better for having it. Every community should have its own paper!

During the 1870s, my ever-expanding sales strained my facility’s capacity for production, so I had to enlarge my building several times. I needed more commodious facilities to produce all the fine household products my customers had come to expect from the George C. Taylor Company. In 1887, the famous showman Buffalo Bill Cody took his Wild West Show to London for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. He sent me the following letter:

Gentlemen, for some time past I have used Taylor’s Oil of Life in our stables with marked success and during our recent ocean trip from New York City to London it was almost indispensible. Kindly forward me 18 large bottles immediately and I will remit upon receipt of invoice.
Yours truly,
W.F. Cody

It was an honor and a pleasure to aid someone so famous as Buffalo Bill. But my life was not only about my work, as rewarding as that was. My wife Wealthy and I were active in town, especially in the temperance movement. We did not drink or smoke, and believed in moderation in all things. I was universally acknowledged as a man of sterling character. Here is a portrait of me in my later years. My beautiful wife Wealthy departed this life in 1905. We had been married 40 years, and I was not used to being alone. So a few years later I remarried, to Miss Minnie Burchaskie of Fairport, in 1907.

Although I never belonged to any of the churches here in the village, I helped regularly with their various charitable causes, and helped

George C. Taylor's headstone at Greenvale Rural Cemetery, Fairport, New York

George C. Taylor’s headstone at Greenvale Rural Cemetery, Fairport, New York

promote the general welfare of the town. I used my hard-earned wealth to improve the lives of those in Fairport. In 1908, I was elected president of the village, which was both an honor and a responsibility. I wanted to make the town more conducive to business in general, and to manufacturing in particular. The role of government is to help businesses thrive, and that in turn allows a community’s residents to thrive. I was not able to implement all of my plans, though, as my term was cut short by my death in 1909.

The George C. Taylor Company continued to operate after my death, with products such as vanilla extract, aspirin, shaving cream, shampoo, facial creams, and toothpaste. By the time the company was closed in the 1950s, it had been a fixture in American households for over 100 years, and it all began with Taylor’s Oil of Life.

Script by Suzanne Lee

(c) 2014 Vicki Profitt’s Illuminated History

Mary Agnes McKenzie, Lost on the Llandovery Castle

July 6, 2012

She steamed toward England, the red crosses on her sides and above her bridge illuminating the murky waters of the Atlantic Ocean.  The Canadian Hospital Ship, Llandovery Castle, carried 258 passengers, many of whom were members of the Canadian Medical Corps, including fourteen Canadian Nursing Sisters.  The history of Canada’s Nursing Sisters began as early as 1885, when they were deployed, along with other medical personnel, to offer aid during the Saskatchewan Rebellion.  According to Veterans Affairs Canada, “The first nurses to serve in war were women who belonged to religious orders – hence, the designation of ‘Nursing Sister’ and the traditional white veil.”  Over 3,100 Canadian nurses served during World War I, and forty six died in service.

Llandovery Castle

Near the end of the Great War, on June 27, 1918, the Llandovery Castle was torpedoed without warning by a German U-86 submarine.  The hospital ship sank within ten minutes, though not before several lifeboats were launched.  The U-boat then proceeded to surface beside the lifeboats, dashing to and fro amongst the survivors before pulling away, only to shell the lifeboats.  Just twenty four survivors in one lifeboat survived.  After the war, the Captain and two lieutenants of the U-boat were brought up on charges.  Unfortunately, the Captain had disappeared and was never brought to trial.  The lieutenants were found guilty of war crimes, but escaped from custody before they could serve their time.

Mary Agnes McKenzie, courtesy Rochester Medical Museum & Archives

All fourteen Canadian Nursing Sisters aboard the Llandovery Castle lost their lives that night.  Among them was Mary Agnes McKenzie, a 1903 graduate of the Rochester City Hospital Training School for Nurses.  Mary was born in Toronto, Ontario, April 28, 1880 (1877, according to RCH records) to Thomas and Mary McKenzie.  After attending public school and the Collegiate Institute, Mary entered the three-year course at the RCH Training School on May 22, 1900.  Her school records show that Mary excelled when put in charge of the surgical pavilion, she worked with unquestioned diligence and was graced with better than average perception.  Although Mary obeyed “the letter of the law”, her lack of neatness was called into question.  Another note in the record states that she stood just 5′ 2″ tall, and was a “pretty blond – jolly – expresses herself well.”  Mary Agnes McKenzie graduated from the RCH Training School on May 23, 1903.  She was one of just ten graduates that year.

After Mary’s graduation from RCH, she practiced as a nurse in Toronto before entering the Military Hospital in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  When war broke out, she enlisted for overseas service, working at both Ontario Hospital in Orpington, England, and the War Hospital in Kent.  Ultimately, she was transferred to duty on the Llandovery Castle, which was commissioned a wartime hospital ship in 1916 to transport wounded Canadian soldiers from Europe to Nova Scotia.

Soon after the Llandovery Castle was torpedoed, the June-July 1918 issue of The Hospital Review expressed concern for Mary’s safety, as “no cable of her having been rescued has been received, her relatives have given up all hope, and now believe her to be a victim of this latest exhibition of Hun deviltry.”  On March 29, 1920, a brass tablet was unveiled, adhered to the wall of the Parliament Building in Toronto, Ontario.  Inscribed upon it were the names of the nurses of the Ontario Hospital who lost their lives during the Great War.  When the Halifax Memorial was erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in 1967, it commemorated the 3,000 service members who lost their lives between 1914-1945.  Mary Agnes McKenzie’s name is immortalized on both monuments.

The photo of Mary in her uniform from the RCH files shows a vibrant and confident young woman ready to face life’s challenges.  How sad that a life of service in the medical field was cut short so soon.  A final entry was made in the RCH Training School record of Mary Agnes McKenzie:  “1918 – Lost on hospital ship Llandovery Castle torpedoed on trip between England and Canada.”

Notes from the author:  I first became aware of Mary Agnes McKenzie when I came across her photo in “To Serve the Community:  A Celebration of Rochester General Hospital 1847-1997”, a wonderful book by Teresa K. Lehr and Philip G. Maples.  Mary’s photo called to me, and I felt a need to learn more about her.  This article was originally published in the Rochester Medical Museum & Archive’s newsletter, the “Baker-Cederberg Notebook”, Vol. 23, No. 1, Spring-Summer 2011.

To learn more about the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives, please visit their website,

Looking Back While Facing Forward

January 1, 2011

The end of the year brings reflection as we put to rest one year while looking ahead to a new beginning.  I’ll always remember 2010 as an incredible year for my Civil War soldiers project, as well as for the start of some new research projects. 

Martha Jewett & Evan Marshall visit Mary Jewett Telford's grave

In January, I met a descendant of one of my Civil War veterans.  Martha Jewett is the second great-grandniece of Civil War nurse Mary Jewett Telford.  Martha and her husband, Evan Marshall, drove to Fairport to attend my Illuminated History presentation for the Perinton Historical Society.  After Martha and Evan returned home, we spent a frantic two weeks emailing and calling each other in order to meet the deadline for Mary Jewett Telford’s nomination to the National Women’s Hall of Fame.  We will soon hear whether we were successful in our endeavor.

With February came a slight shift in my research, as I began to study the World War I soldiers of Pittsford.  February was also memorable as it was the first time I have formally interviewed a research subject.  Bill Cooper, a World War II veteran and survivor of the Battle of the Bulge, was my assignment.  Bill is a member of American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899.  The stories he shared about his military experience and life with his wife, Margaret, were 

Bill Cooper, World War II vet

 inspiring.  I also had the opportunity to meet with Philip G. Maples for the first time.  Phil is the Director Emeritus of the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives.  Since then, I have volunteered research time to the RMMA, as well as spent time with Phil, who is himself a Civil War researcher and enthusiast.  I proudly headed to school in February to hear my daughter make her first presentation by portraying Civil War nurse Mary Jewett Telford.

March rang in another opportunity to interview a Battle of the Bulge veteran.  This time it was Ed Kinnen, also a   member of Rayson-Miller.  Ed and his wife, Ellen, graciously invited me into their home so I could talk with Ed about his World War II service.  We share a common love of genealogy, and I was happy to hear them speak of their children and grandchildren and the importance of sharing the family history with them. 

Lynda Skaddan & Jane Andersen, Telford descendants

The next few months went by in a blur as I once again collaborated with Pittsford Town Historian Audrey Johnson for our annual Pittsford Cemetery tour in May.  Theo X. Rojo, who researches the men of the 13th NY Infantry and the 22nd NY Cavalry, contacted me in May and we have spent much time emailing back and forth regarding those units and others.  June was the pinnacle of excitement.  I gave a tour at Greenvale Cemetery for the Perinton Historical Society members.  I was so pleased to meet Cheri Branca, one of my online friends and fellow Find A Grave contributor, who attended the Greenvale tour with her husband, Matt.  Jane Andersen and Lynda Skaddan, descendants of Robert Telford, made a special trip to Fairport with Lynda’s husband Ray so I could meet them at Mary Jewett Telford’s grave to discuss her life.  Mary was wed to Robert’s younger brother, Jacob Telford.  In June, I also had the opportunity to meet Norman and John Henry Miller, who are the nephews of Henry L. Miller.  Henry was killed at Belleau Wood during World War I.  Norm and John are not only veterans themselves, but they come from a long line of men who served their country, beginning with their great-grandfather, Civil War veteran Henry L. Mueller.

Throughout the rest of 2010, I gave a presentation for the American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899 and discussed the 

John and Norm Miller at the grave of their uncle, Henry L. Miller

early history of the post and its members.  Audrey Johnson and I hosted another tour of the Pioneer Burying Ground in October, and I started a Facebook page for Illuminated History.  However, I think the biggest thrill has been meeting the veterans’ descendants and other researchers, both in person, by phone and online.  I spoke by phone with John R. Bacon, grandson of WWI & WWII Lieutenant Colonel Howard Bacon and great-grandson of Civil War vet John Buckley Bacon, after emailing back and forth for several years.  I spoke with veteran David Retchless about his military service, as well as those of his brother, father and uncle.  Tyler Emery, the current owner of the Retchless military memorabilia, and I have corresponded via email and he has graciously shared photos of the contents of the trunk he owns.  At the Pioneer Burying Ground tour, I met Gail and Marilyn, the daughters of World War I vet Raymond L. Hulbert.  I’ve also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Lloyd F. Allen’s daughters, Betty Anne and Katie, as well as his granddaughter, Elizabeth.  Dr. Allen, like his friend and neighbor Howard Bacon, had also served in both World Wars.

2010 was an extraordinary year.  Thank you for your interest in my project, and your appreciation for these veterans.  With your support, Illuminated History will continue to shine the light on these heroes for many years to come.

The Gray Ghost Meets His Match

September 22, 2010

James Simpson was an unlikely hero.  The fresh-faced native of Lexington, Michigan, looked much younger than his 24 years.  That’s why it was such a surprise when James not only escaped capture, but made off with a prized horse belonging to John Singleton Mosby, a rebel partisan leader known as the Gray Ghost.

 James had enlisted in the 21st New York Cavalry on September 12, 1863.  By this time, the War Between the States had been raging for over two years.   Several of James’ brothers had also enlisted in the Union forces, leaving their mother, Elizabeth, to worry about the welfare of her sons.  As it turned out, Elizabeth Simpson Burke was right to be concerned.

 The beginning weeks of James’ service with the 21st New York would include training, riding instruction and saber drill.  The routine included rising early every morning to feed and groom his horse, followed by breakfast and more drilling.  James seems to have been a quick learner, for these were the skills he would use to outsmart the Gray Ghost himself at their meeting in 1864. 

The Gray Ghost - John Singleton Mosby. Courtesy Wikipedia.

 The day of March 25th dawned cold and gloomy, with snow and heavy rain pervading the area of Berryville, Virginia.  Corporal James Simpson was one of a hundred twenty five men assigned to scout the areas of Winchester and Berryville, Virginia.  As evening approached, the scouts made camp for the night.  James and three of his fellow soldiers decided to strike out into the countryside in search of a home-cooked meal from one of the many Union sympathizers who lived in the Millwood area.

 The troopers of the 21st found such a home, and sat down to eat. But before they could lift forks to their mouths, they were startled by the clicks of several revolvers as three men entered the room.  James immediately recognized Colonel John S. Mosby, leader of the 43rd Battalion, 1st Virginia Cavalry.  The Gray Ghost ordered his prisoners to retreat to the barn and saddle up.  They were going for a ride.  On the way to the barn, one of the New York troopers managed to escape into the darkness.  Mosby departed with the remaining three troopers in tow and headed toward his headquarters in Paris, Virginia.

 During their ride in the night, Mosby taunted the men of the 21st New York.  “Were you with Colonel Cole when I thrashed him at Upperville?” “What do you think of my gray nag – I took him from a Yankee Lieutenant.”  “How do you like my style of fighting?”  Along the way, Mosby stopped at various farmhouses to pick up his men.  It was evident to James Simpson that the Gray Ghost intended to attack the remaining scouts of the 21st New York who were camped for the night back near Millwood.  Finally, after enduring hours of Mosby’s taunts, the men arrived in Paris, Virginia.

As Mosby rode up to the house he called his headquarters, he dismounted leaving his pistols in their saddle holsters.  James Simpson saw his chance.  As he leaned over and pretended to tie up his horse, James actually untied Mosby’s horse, all within the not-so-watchful gaze of the lieutenant who had been left in charge.  Quickly placing his foot into the stirrup of Mosby’s saddle, James pulled himself onto the gray horse and grabbed the revolver in one swift movement.  The lieutenant fired at Simpson, but missed.  In the melee, Mosby himself came out to see what the commotion was all about.  He was just in time to hear James Simpson’s parting words.  “How do you like our style of fighting, Colonel Mosby?  Come and see us, boys.  We’re of the New York Twenty-first.”

 James Simpson and one of his comrades rode back to camp to inform Captain Eugene Gere of all that had occurred.  Besides Mosby’s gray horse and pistols, James came away with a saddlebag containing documents important to the war effort, as well as Mosby’s captain’s commission.  The story also made its way to Harper’s Weekly and to the New York Daily Tribune.  James Simpson had his fifteen minutes of fame, and all because he was looking for a warm dinner on a cold night. 

 Sadly, the story of James Simpson ended just seven months after his grand escape from the Gray Ghost.  On October 14, 1864, James Simpson died at the Rochester City Hospital of consumption.  His body was placed in the vault at Mount Hope Cemetery and, presumably, returned to Michigan for burial.  In a letter dated October 20, 1864, and printed in the Hospital Review his mother, Elizabeth Simpson Burke, mentioned that she had now lost three of her sons “to this cruel war”. 

 After the end of the Civil War, John Singleton Mosby became a lawyer.  He even supported his former enemy, General Ulysses S. Grant, in the presidential elections of 1868 and 1872.  Mosby made an indelible impression on Virginia for U.S. Route 50, which runs through Paris, Virginia, is now called John S. Mosby Highway.  The Gray Ghost died in 1916 at age 82.  Without a doubt, John S. Mosby never forgot the plucky young corporal who stole his horse and a little bit of his dignity.

In the Works

June 23, 2010

E.J. Tyler Post 288 banner, Pittsford, New York

Now that my Pittsford and Greenvale Cemetery tours are over, I’m working on some exciting projects for the summer and fall. 

First is the booklet I’m writing about the charter members of American Legion Rayson-Miller Post 899.  The Post was organized in 1920, taking over where G.A.R. – E. J. Tyler Post 288 left off.  One of the charter members, Howard R. Bacon, was a son of Civil War soldier John Buckley Bacon.  The booklet will also commemorate the two men after whom the Post was named – Homer Rayson and Henry L. Miller.  In conjunction with the booklet is my October 30th presentation for the Rayson-Miller Post, which is open to the public.

In October, I will once again pair with Pittsford Town Historian Audrey Johnson to give a tour of Pioneer Burying Ground.  Despite the inevitable rain, discussing the pioneers of the town is always interesting.  Soldiers of nearly every conflict from the Revolutionary War through World War II are interred at the Pioneer Burying Ground.

Also in the works is a research project for the Rochester Medical Museum & Archives.  I am in the process of culling the Rochester City Directories and census records in order to produce a comprehensive list of nurses in the Rochester, New York area from the Civil War through World War II.  Using newspaper reports and genealogical sources, an article I’m writing will feature the love story between a Civil War doctor and a nurse.  A second article is about a Rochester nurse who was accused of insanity…all because she chose to give away her personal belongings to friends instead of the family members she despised.

There are plans for the continued illumination of Civil War nurse Mary Jewett Telford.  She was an amazing woman with an incredible story to tell. 

It  looks as if it will be a busy summer.  Just the way I like it!

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