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.
[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