Ralph Francis: Black Activist and Abolitionist

In November, 2023, Marie Poinan did a program at the Charlotte Library on the history of the Charlotte ferries and their operators. She caught my attention when she mentioned that one of the first ferry operators was Ralph Francis, a black man about whom little has been documented. I was intrigued – a person of color operating a boat at the port of Charlotte during the turbulent decade between the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and the Civil War? Could he have been involved in the Underground Railroad? Since I was preparing a program on the UGRR(Underground Railroad), I started researching Ralph Francis.

For every well-known conductor and stationmaster such as Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, there were dozens more men and women who remain unknown or about whom there is little information. Out of necessity, secrecy was the very essence of the UGRR. Those who helped enslaved people on the run faced serious consequences if they were caught; they could be fined thousands of dollars and/or imprisoned for many years. Therefore, very few kept written records or any kind of documentation, making it difficult for historians to verify with any certainty the people involved in the network.

Between 1850 and the beginning of the Civil War, almost 150 enslaved people passed through the Rochester area each year on their way to Canada. Two of the “Railroad” lines led to Greece, either at Kelsey’s Landing near the lower falls or the port at the mouth of the Genesee River in Charlotte; at that time both were located in the Town of Greece. Ralph Francis had a hotel at Kelsey’s Landing and then a tavern at Charlotte during that time. Coincidence? Perhaps. However, Francis had a history of activism.

Kelsey’s Landing historical marker in Maplewood Park
https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=58198
Reynolds Arcade in 1840

Born in New Jersey circa 1811, Francis was living in Rochester by 1840 and according to the 1850 census he lived on Greig Street (or Greig Ally) in the Third Ward, where the majority of free people of color resided. He was a barber and with Benjamin Cleggett operated Francis & Cleggett Barber Shop, one of several shops owned by abolitionists, both black and white, in the Reynolds Arcade. Frederick Douglass’ North Star office was across the street to the south and the Eagle Hotel, where people could get the stagecoach to Charlotte, across the street on the west.

In 1843 Francis helped Douglass organize a four-day conference on black suffrage in New York State and in 1846 he was a main speaker at a second conference. There were two letters to the editor published in the Daily Democrat in which he advocated for the right to vote for all black men. At that time free black men who owned $250 worth of property could vote in New York State; Ralph Francis easily qualified with holdings worth $2,000. In the early 1850s he worked to get Rochester’s city schools desegregated.

To my mind it makes sense that he was engaged in getting enslaved people to Canada. Canadian vessels had a major commercial presence at both Kelsey’s Landing and the Port of Charlotte. When his former business partner Cleggett died in 1917, his obituary in the Democrat & Chronicle stated that he was likely involved in the UGRR.

Port of Charlotte 1856
Notice in the Daily Democrat, June 14, 1854
Notice in the Daily Democrat, June 14, 1854

Francis disappeared from the Rochester landscape circa 1855. He was gone from Charlotte less than a year after opening his saloon there. Both of his parents and his nine-year-old nephew, all who resided with him, died in 1854. A bathhouse that he erected at the beach in July of 1854 was burned down by an arsonist in August. Marie Poinan used her genealogy expertise and found him living in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. Was that arson a warning? Was someone about to turn him into the authorities for violating the Fugitive Slave Act, causing him to flee to Canada? We may never know, but I’ll keep looking, hoping to find out more about him.

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A Vineyard in Greece

Most people in Greece associate the surname Fetzner with the making and repairing of means of transportation. First with a carriage and blacksmith shop and then as the “fuel” changed from hay for horse-powered carriages to gas, the family moved on to selling and/or repairing cars.

A horse drawn carriage outside a building

Drawing by William Aeberli
J.P. Fetzners’ brothers John and Frank owned and operated the J & F Fetzner Carriage Makers, Blacksmithing and Painting on Ridge Road in Greece. Frank’s blacksmith Shop was in the small building, and John’s carriage-making building was the larger.
Drawing by William Aeberli
A person with a mustache

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Joseph Peter “J.P”. Fetzner, 1901
Courtesy Lever/Henricus Family

Patriarch Frank Fetzner arrived in the United States in the mid to late 1840s from Untergrombach, Bruschal, Baden, Germany (18km or 11 miles east of the Rhine River). He married Catherine Mura, together they had eight children and resided on a farm in Greece with a blacksmith shop as one of their outbuildings. The driveway to their farm later became Fetzner Road. Sons John and Frank were the well-known carriage makers and blacksmiths whose enterprise was on the Ridge Road. Another son, Joseph Peter (1856-1909), better known in business as J.P., became a maker of wine, liquors, cider and vinegar.

Perhaps making moonshine in the still on his father’s farm, gave J.P. the idea to establish his way in the liquor business. In 1878, J.P. planted grapes for a fledgling vineyard on Long Pond Road, just north of Mill Road. He married Mary Hutte the following year. The Long Pond vineyard thrived and grew, buildings and operations expanded over time, including a storehouse, winery, mill, brandy distillery plant, and a house. There was an additional cider mill on Ridge Road. By 1881, he had founded the Rochester Liquor & Distilling Company in the city of Rochester. As growth continued, in 1899, the name changed to the Lake Ontario Wine Company and the venture went public. The company produced wine, champagne (American Eagle brand), and brandies. It was a very successful family operation with its offices and distillery then based in Rochester. The cider mill, vineyards, winery, wine cellars and woodland (to make the vineyard stakes) were in Greece.

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J.P. Fetzner Vineyard and Cider Mill location on Long Pond Road, just north of Mill Road on this (1905 Greece Map)
A couple of men in a field

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J.P. Fetzner and worker at Vineyard on Long Pond Road. History of the Brewery and Liquor Business of Rochester, N.Y., Kearse

At the business peak around the year 1900, it was very much a family affair. J.P. was president and treasurer; brother-in-law William Hutte was vice-president; brother Wendell Fetzner helped for a few years with carting; son-in-law brewer, William Kipp (married daughter Minnie), was secretary; and son Arthur Fetzner was a foreman. The company appeared to be highly successful, paying excellent dividends to their stockholders and allowing the family to live prosperously. Unfortunately, J.P. got pulmonary tuberculosis, and then died suddenly in 1909. With his passing, things quickly fell apart. J.P. had sold most of his personal land to the company as well as used personal funds to establish it. During probate, it was discovered that the stock shares were worthless. The family members involved in the business, as well as J.P.’s second wife, Josephine Neidert, and his children from both marriages, had to take other paths in life.

A large brown jug on a wood surface

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A close up of a vase

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J.P. Fetzner wine jugs. The jugs were made by Jacob Fisher’s pottery business in Lyons, Wayne County, New York. To ensure a return for refill, vendors put their business name on the jugs.

Courtesy Bill Sauers and Jane Oakes, respectively

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This is just a portion of the Fetzner Family, you can read more about the Fetzner family in the Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece, Volume 1, by Marie Poinan and JoAnn Ward Synder.

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Judson S. Kenyon

An ashtray artifact surfaced during a recent inventory at the Greece Museum. Lee Strauss and Bill Sauers were kind enough to bring it to my attention and help research what and who it was all about.

Many years ago, every time my late mother and I would drive past a certain farmhouse on English Road, she would announce, “That’s Juddy Kenyon’s house!” Kenyon being an ancestral name, I would press her for details on the relationship, but she was uncharacteristically vague, “Some sort of cousin.” As it turns out, he was my 4th cousin 4 times removed, but prominent enough for her to have claimed him.

As it also turns out, the house to which Mom was referring all those times is a good two miles west of the Judson Kenyon farm property, but the houses are very similar in appearance and if Mom ever actually set foot in “Juddy’s,” it had probably happened 85 years before.

Judson S. Kenyon was born in 1872 in Barry County, Michigan, to William James Kenyon and Elizabeth L. Rowe of Greece. Originally from Rhode Island, William’s parents, and presumably William, farmed in Michigan, but there were extensive Kenyon family ties to Greece, New York. By 1875 William, Elizabeth, and 3-year-old Judson were living in Greece.

Judson, a graduate of Rochester Business Institute, married Mrs. Kate (Rickman) Justice in the Long Pond Road home of her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Rickman, in April of 1920 (Kate was the widow of Willard H. Justice and had two children by that marriage.) After their wedding trip out west, they lived at what is now 2428 English Road, where they farmed. Both houses still stand.

Judson S Kenyon (Ancestry)
Judson S Kenyon (Ancestry)
Judson S. Kenyon
(Greece Baptist Church)
Judson S. Kenyon (Greece Baptist Church)

During his 90-year lifespan, Judson was very active in Greece political, religious, and local government roles. At one time or another, he served as: deacon, clerk, teacher, trustee, treasurer, and historian at Greece Baptist Church; tax collector, justice of the peace, and member of the Town Board of Greece, NY; life member of Greece Grange…and a member of the Greece Republican Party for most of his life.

The base of the ashtray reads:
1948 Honoring Judson S. Kenyon
Over 50 Years a Republican
Greece Republican Organization

This ashtray was presented to Judson S Kenyon in 1948, in commemoration of his long-standing involvement in the Greece Republican Party.
This ashtray was presented to Judson S Kenyon in 1948, in commemoration of his long-standing involvement in the Greece Republican Party.

The ashtray was presented to him in 1948, in commemoration of his long-standing involvement in that organization. Way to go, Cousin Juddy!

Thanks to a 75-year-old ashtray and to my mother, whose geography may have been off, but whose
interest in family and Greece history were spot-on, I was prompted to tell the story of a prominent
Greece resident.

Judson S. Kenyon died in 1963 and is buried in Falls Cemetery, among many of his relatives.

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Longtime Agricultural Farmland Transitions

Back in early Greece history much of the farmland around Long Pond Road north of Maiden Lane was owned by the Britton Family. Opposite this land down at 1048 Long Pond Road stood a stone structure, the first location of the Greece school where the Greece Methodist Church organized in 1841, and now is around the corner at 1924 Maiden Lane. The old stone structure’s frame successor is Greece School #9 and remains today as the home of the Douglas Worboys Family.

In 1895 the Brittons sold the farm fields on the west side of Long Pond Road to John and Eva Easton. In 1901 the farm was purchased by Frank and Julia Herman, a farmer who also became a Greece Town Justice.

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In 1953 the Herman Farm, with its two gable roof barns connected by a large chicken coop, was sold by Mr. Herman’s daughter, Isabel Johnson, to Clarence and Adrienne Preston of 1036 Long Pond Road. Here fresh produce was grown and sold at the Rochester Public Market until Clarence retired in 1968. Then sons Eugene and Kenneth continued growing produce for sale at a roadside stand. Most memorable were the tall sunflowers that grew close to the road and admired every summer by motorists driving by.

Sunflowers at 1036 Long Pond Road at Sunset – (Doug Worboys)

In 1965 Rochester Telephone Company constructed a brick operations center at 1041 Long Pond Road said to be exactly in the geographical center of Greece. This land was the private dwelling of Earl and Anna Davis, a Kodak employee.

Getting up in years, I am approaching 82, the Prestons agreed to sell the couple acres of farmland remaining on the west side at 1043 and 1051 Long Pond Road to The Arc of Monroe for the purpose of building two single-family homes. Nestled to the west of the property lies Preston Circle, named after my family, when that portion of the farm was sold more than 50 years ago.

On March 31, 2023, an official Groundbreaking Ceremony was held beneath a large tent, beginning with delightful entertainment by residents of the Arc. Speakers included Arc of Monroe officials including Tracy Petrichick, President and CEO, Tracy Crosby, Executive Director, Arc of Monroe Foundation, and Town of Greece 2nd Ward Councilman, Bill Murphy. Among invited friends, neighbors, and bystanders, I deeply appreciated the opportunity to speak briefly on the family history and the bittersweet feelings of seeing the rich agricultural farmland transition into residential use.

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Remembered were tales of my family working the land and caring for the crops, going way back to a period in the late 1940s when, as youngsters, we would be treated to huge slices of cold watermelon on a hot August day by the grand old, retired gentleman, Frank Herman who still lived in the farmhouse on the property at the time. I recall that years earlier when we kids were too young to pull weeds, we’d play beneath the farm wagon with our homemade wooden tractors out of the hot summer sun.

Wonderful refreshments were provided as media personnel finished up their interviews and everyone disbursed into the light rain that was falling. So, another chapter is completed in the history book of the Preston Family Farm on Long Pond Road. Below are some additional pictures from the event taken by Doug Worboys.

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Happy Birthday Monroe County

On February 23, 2021, we celebrated the Bicentennial of the founding of Monroe County. Named for President James Monroe, the county was carved out of land taken from both Ontario and Genesee Counties; it became a new county on February 23, 1821, by decree of the New York State Legislature.

After the Revolutionary War, a treaty of 1783 established the Great Lakes as the northwestern border of the United States. This treaty was referred to as “The Thirteen Council Fires” by Native Americans who were attempting to peacefully co-exist with the new Americans. Unscrupulous speculators often attempted to swindle the natives by tricking them into surrendering their land. Meanwhile, George Washington had sent General Sullivan into western New York to forcibly remove the Seneca by burning their crops and destroying their villages.

Land speculators Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham purchased over six million acres in western NY from Massachusetts in 1788. The land extended all the way from Lake Ontario at the north to the Pennsylvania state line on the south. Phelps also negotiated a treaty with the Seneca, who had originally refused to sell any land west of the Genesee River. Phelps “convinced” the native Americas to part with an area 12 miles wide by 28 miles long for the construction of a mill on the west side of the Genesee. This area became known as the “mill seat tract” and was the site of the first mill built by Ebenezer “Indian” Allan in 1789 (the mill site was just west of today’s Court Street Bridge).

When Phelps and Gorham were unable to pay their debts, their unsold lots were sold to Robert Morris of Philadelphia in 1790. Morris was a financier who quickly turned over the sale of a million acres of Genesee land the very next year to Sir William Johnstone Pulteney. Due to a NY State law that said that a foreigner could not pass title to any New York property, Charles Williamson became Pulteney’s land agent and he held the legal title to the Genesee lands. He opened a land office in Bath, Steuben County.

The settlements on the east side of the Genesee became the Town of Northfield created in 1796. This land was originally a part of Ontario County with the county seat at Canandaigua. It later was known as “Boyle.” The towns split off from Northfield were: Penfield (1810), Perinton (1812), Pittsford and Brighton (1814), Henrietta (1818), Irondequoit (1839) and Webster (1840). Mendon was taken from Bloomfield in 1812 and Rush was taken from Avon in 1818.

March 18, 1806 record
book of Northampton
mentions money payable
to Asa and Frederick Rowe.

Settlements on the west side of the Genesee River were part of the Town of Northampton created in 1797. Originally a part of Genesee County, the county seat was at Batavia. Towns split off from Northhampton were: Parma and Riga (1808), Gates (1808*), Sweden (1813), Ogden (1817), Clarkson (1819), and Greece and Chili (1822). (The reason for the asterisk after Gates 1808 is due the fact that the petition was presented to Albany in 1808, but it took four years to pass in the legislature and an additional year to take effect!) Wheatland was originally called “Inverness” when created in 1821 and Hamlin was originally called “Union” when formed in 1852 before being renamed in 1861. The county seat of Northampton was at Batavia.

In March of 1801, Abel Rowe built a cabin in Batavia and Joseph Ellicott moved his Holland Land Company office into Rowe’s cabin. Abel Rowe soon became a pioneer settler of Gates (later the Town of Greece) and marries the daughter of William Hincher of Charlotte in 1804. Their son Asa would become the famous nurseryman of Ridge Road in Greece.

In 1805, Pulteney land agent, James Wadsworth (1768-1844), offered land for sale in a letter written at Geneseo in 1805. (see at right- New Lands for Sale)

At first, there were very few permanent settlers in our area. Pioneers included Orringh Stone, Daniel Penfield, Glover Perrin, and William Hincher who built log cabin in 1792 on the bluff where the Charlotte Genesee Lighthouse now stands. The “Genesee Fever” pretty much wiped out the settlers at King’s Landing where Gideon King and Zaddock Granger had bought 6000 acres in 1796. The earliest settlers of the Town of Greece are buried at the Hanford Landing and the Charlotte Village Cemeteries.

The 1971 Monroe County Sesquicentennial booklet, Preface to Tomorrow, referred to our area as: “a God-forsaken place, inhabited by muskrats, visited only by straggling trappers, and through which neither man nor beast could gallop without fear of starvation, or fever or ague.” Nevertheless, in 1803, Charles Carroll, William Fitzhugh, and Nathaniel Rochester contracted to buy the “Genesee Fall mill tract” property (100 acres) from Sir William Pulteney, through his attorney Robert Troup.

But it was the area’s waterways that were key to the early growth of Monroe County. The arrival of the Erie Canal was a huge boon to the local economy by providing a cheap and efficient way to get bountiful crops to market. The waterfalls of the Genesee River provided power to its flour mills, mills that shipped over 200,000 barrels of flour in 1826, the very next year after the Erie Canal opened. Schooners and steamers at the busy port at Charlotte brought in lumber from Canada and exported finished wood from its sawmills and flour from its gristmills.

Early settlers planted fruit orchards and grain fields of wheat and barley. Wheat was ground into flour and the excess was turned into whiskey. An early census of western New York noted that there were more distilleries than gristmills.

The population of Rochesterville was less than 5000 people when it became an incorporated village in 1817. That number grew to over 12,000 residents when it received its charter as a city in 1834 and annexed another 4000 acres of land obtained from the surrounding towns of Gates, Greece, Brighton, and Irondequoit.

Both Genesee and Ontario Counties fought the establishment of Monroe County and it took four more trip to Albany to persuade state legislators. But the locals grew tired to long and arduous journey to either Batavia or Canandaigua to record land transactions. Monroe County was approved by the NYS Legislature on February 23, 1821.

Today, the County of Monroe has a total of 19 towns. The current Monroe County Office Building is on the same spot that the first courthouse building of 1829 occupied. After two hundred years, most of the farmland is now gone, but Monroe County can trace its roots back to the farming pioneers who came to the area after the Revolutionary War.

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Paddy Hill School

Every year or so, with shifts in population, there seems to be changes where our children go to school, but change has been going on since children have been attending school. One hundred years ago, most Greece children attended one-room schools in one of more than a dozen individual school districts. As times changed, new schools were built, old ones closed, and school districts merged. High school students even attended City high schools. It wasn’t until 1961 that Greece graduated its first high school class. All the while there has been one constant, a public elementary school has been at that intersection at Latta Road and Mt. Read Boulevard for 183 years.

Common School District #5
Common School District #5

In 1839 Bernard and Mary O’Neil, the owners of a large tract of land, at the Northwest corner of what would become Mt. Read Blvd. and Latta Road, sold one-eighth of an acre of their land to Common School District Number Five for $50.00.

A small school was soon built and used for nearly 90 years, until 1930 when a modern brick school building was built across the street. That brick building was demolished in 2021. It is said that the one-room school building was then moved down the road and became a private home of the first chief of police Milton Carter, but the school district remained the owner of the small one-eighth acre.

The remainder of the O’Neal property was purchased by Patrick and Margaret Rigney in 1850 and eventually owned by their only daughter Mary. In 1944 the land was transferred to the Diocese of Rochester, then to Holy Sepulchre Cemetery Corporation who had plans for a new cemetery. This action resulted in a three-year legal battle between the Town of Greece, and the Diocese. After several court battles, a final State Supreme court decision ruled in favor of the Town, leaving Holy Sepulchre no choice but to sell the land. You can read summary about the cases of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery v. Board of Appeals and Holy Sepulchre Cemetery v. Town of Greece at casetext.com

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery v. Board of Appeals, 271 App. Div. 33, 60 N.Y.S.2d 750 (N.Y. App. Div. 1946)

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery v. Town of Greece, 191 Misc. 241, 79 N.Y.S.2d 683 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1947)

Holy Sepulchre Cemetery v. Town of Greece, 273 App. Div. 942 (N.Y. App. Div. 1948)

In 1948, Harmon Poray purchased most of the O’Neal-Rigney land from Holy Sepulchre, and shortly after Joan and Robert Feeney purchased the original farmhouse. By the early 1950s, Greece was becoming the fastest-growing town in New York and the need for a new school was evident. In 1954 Poray sold a large portion of the land to the Union Free School District #5 and in 1955 sold the remainder of the land to Latta Real Estate Corp. Within two years Picturesque Drive was being laid out in what would soon be a sprawling sub-division and a new school, now called Paddy Hill School would open in Sept 1956 on the very corner that its predecessor, School #5, was built in 1836. In 1956, the Greece Central School District was organized with the merging of districts 2, 5, 15, and 17.

Over the years the present Paddy Hill School has expanded to meet the needs of a growing neighborhood. But we can safely say that Paddy Hill School is the oldest school in Greece and possibly Monroe County.

In 2014, as a gift to the school, the Greece Historical Society secured a grant from the William C. Pomeroy Foundation for a historical marker commemorating the history of the school. That marker sits on that original 1839 land purchase.

Learn more about the William C. Pomeroy Foundation does by going to https://www.wgpfoundation.org/

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A Farewell to Frear’s Garden Center

Frear's Garden Center
Frear’s Garden Center

Frear’s Garden Center

1892 to 2022

130 Years of Local Gardening Expertise

Gallery of photos at the end of the story

The Frear family has been part of the Greece landscape for 130 years, 93 of them over four generations as proprietors of one of the town’s iconic businesses. In May of this year, Warren and Lynn Frear announced that Frear’s Garden Center was closing.

Pat Worboys and I visited Frear’s on June 13 and interviewed Warren and Lynn for a future Bicentennial Snapshot. Lynn explained that a series of misfortunes led to the difficult decision. First, a windstorm on March 6 of this year seriously damaged their greenhouses; they lost over 350 panes of glass and consequently, the plants that were growing in the greenhouses, particularly all their Easter lilies, died. Parts of the roof of the garden center and shingles on the barn were torn off as well. That was followed by a customer-caused small fire that produced enough smoke that they needed to hire a cleaning service to come in and thoroughly clean everything. On top of that were the supply chain problems created by COVID-19 (their vendors were telling them Christmas merchandise wouldn’t be available until January or February!). Lynn said, “it seemed like someone was trying to tell us something.” Their last day was July 31, 2022.

Left is Kerry In the Middle is Lynn and to the Right is Warren
Left is Kerry In the Middle is Lynn and to the Right is Warren.
november 9 1861
Notice on the beam here it has the date of November 9, 1861.
Aerial view of recent image.
E. Frear & Sons. sign in the section that housed the Farmall Super A.

Warren’s grandfather, Ernst Frear, a German immigrant, purchased the property on Stone Road in 1892. He was a truck farmer initially, selling vegetables to wholesalers. In the 1920s Clarence Frear, Ernst’s son and Warren’s father expanded the business, then known as E. Frear & Sons. They acquired greenhouses “from Barnard Crossing,” Warren said, (they may have been from Vick’s nurseries) and expanded to fruit trees and flowers. After Ernst’s death in 1937, the west side of the farm was being used for Frear’s Chevrolet, started by Arthur Frear in 1931. Clarence’s east side was the farm and Frear’s Florist. Clarence’s wife, Gwendolyn, took a course in flower arranging and like other florists provided arrangements for weddings, funerals, and other occasions. The public was also invited to visit their greenhouses for a wide variety of bedding plants.

It was in this barn here that Arthur Frear started Frear’s Chevrolet in 1931.

In 1958, they announced another expansion—it became Frear’s Farm Market. In addition to the bedding plants, fruits, and vegetables, they began selling garden accessories and opened a deli.

5000 gallons of oil
This held 5000 gal of oil that heats the greenhouse compared to lots of coal.
This is where a coal conveyer belt ran before switching to oil.

An ad in the Greece Post in 1965 publicized another change, Frear’s Lawn, Garden, and Greenhouse Center. That same year, Frear’s started their Christmas Tree, Trim, and Gift Center, a modest beginning to what would evolve over the years into Christmas Fantasy Land with 6000 square feet devoted to every imaginable Christmas decoration including artificial trees, lights, and creches. Eventually, it became simply Frear’s Garden Center.

Warren and Lynn took over the business in 1976; their daughter Kerry was the fourth generation involved in the Center.

Warren and Lynn escorted Pat and me around the property. Only Christmas items and indoor plants remained. The greenhouses were mostly empty. They showed us the barns, one still full of boxed Christmas trees. Built around 1902, these barns date back to Warren’s grandfather. On Stone Road not far from the garage where Art Frear started his auto dealership, stands the family homestead, Warren’s grandparents’ house. No Frears have lived there for some time, but no one resides there now due to a fire.

The Frear Family Home Stead.
To the Far Left was the Slaughter Room, To the left, is where all the Christmas Trees and where a fire in the 1960s or 70s was to the right is where a Farmall Super A stored and the picture above with the beam with the date of 11-9-1861.

From their many years at the Center, Warren and Lynn recall what was best about doing business in Greece: the many young employees who became knowledgeable about plants and serving customers well and those customers who were loyal to Frear’s and appreciated the individualized service and advice they could get from people who had been in the plant business for decades.

It was Frear’s for years. Thank you. You’ll be missed.

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How Did the Term HOJACK Come to Be?

Established to serve the communities along the shore of Lake Ontario, a rail line founded in 1871 was active for nearly 100 years. Over the years the line was operated by several different rail companies and was officially known as the Lake Ontario Shore Railroad, but everyone called it the “Hojack.”

With no documentation, local stories and legends emerged over the years. Like the old game “telephone,” stories changed as they passed from person to person or in this case generation to generation. Because of this, we may never know the true origin of why this rail line is called “Hojack.” For the enjoyment of our readers here are several versions of the “true story.”

Hojack originated from an engineer named Jack Welch who was also called “Big Jack.” Since Jack was a farmer and more familiar with horses than locomotives, when he stopped the train, he would say “Whoa, Jack.” This became Hojack over time.

William Aeberli sketch of the old North Greece Road Hojack station
William Aeberli sketch of the old North Greece Road Hojack station

Another story comes from the early days of the railroad when a farmer driving his buckboard pulled by a mule was caught on the crossing at train time. When the mule was halfway across the tracks, it stopped. The train was approaching, and the farmer began shouting, “Ho Jack, Ho Jack.”

Local author Arch Merrill noted the nickname stems from a similar popular mule story where a farmer’s mules. balking and bucking at the sight of a steam train, stood on the rails, causing the train to stop. The farmer called “Ho, Jack. Ho Jack,” to heel the mules and move them from the track and the name stuck.

Richard Palmer, a railroad historian, proposes that the term applies to a slow local passenger freight train.

Yet another story written on July 22, 1965, in Greece Press states, “This line [was] nicknamed “The Hojack” when it was necessary to hurriedly assemble a train crew in the wee hours of the night; the call “Ho Jack!” would boom through the rooming houses where railroad men stayed.”

Other stories state that vagrants riding the rails were classified by railroad men into three categories – the hobos, the tramps, and the hojacks, each one having a different personality.

Which of these stories do you believe or have you heard another version?

On a final note, it was reported in a 1906 Syracuse Post-Standard article that the railroad prohibited its employees from using the word “hojack.” Apparently, the railroad’s decree did no good because the old rail line will forever be called the “HOJACK.”

NOTE: More information on the Hojack Line can be found in the book The Hojack Line Remembered by Richard Chait available in our museum gift shop or through the Monroe County Public Library system.

The Hojack Line Remembered by Richard Chait
The Hojack Line Remembered by Richard Chait

Also you can look at the 2016 Hojack Trail Feasibility Study by Burton & Loguidice.

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Christmas Greetings Cards 1875-1900

Greeting cards for the Christmas season were very slow to gather popularity in the United States prior to the Civil War ( 1861-1865). The first commercial Christmas card was introduced for the season of 1843 in London, England. It wasn’t a success for several reasons. In the early 1870s, a German immigrant by the name of Louis Prang opened a color print shop in a suburb of Boston, MA. Prang could turn out prints using twenty-some varied color plates to produce a stunning product not seen before in the United States. By the mid- I 880s other print shops started using the same process and the appeal of the holiday greeting card grew each year. In the earlier years, the subjects followed the English style of subjects: flowers, elegant ladies, children, animals, and birds of every description, all posed with a bower of varied blossoms. The Christmas greeting was often in a small, simple line near the top or bottom. The fringed, embossed, and beribboned era was the fashion, with larger print styles from 1886 into the 1890s. Santa had appeared and was mentioned before the Civil War, but seldom appeared until the last years of the 19th century. The Christmas tree would also make its appearance then, but the Poinsettia was unknown until about 1901.

The cards of that early period were relatively expensive, depending on the size and extra “added fluff”. It might seem odd that most holiday cards were not mailed but hand-carried to the recipient’s door with a calling card attached. Only the out-of-town card with an added note would be mailed to Uncle Bert and Aunt Minnie who had moved to Michigan or Cousin Bertha now living in Auburn, near her daughter, Theodora. The 20th century and the coming of the colored postcard and penny postage brought the steady growth of the entire greeting card industry into al­ most the present day. Cards with envelopes again became the norm just before 1920. We now have greeting cards of all types offered online via computer. But why rely on just online Greeting card companies’ offers when you can create your own greetings and send them via the computer using a combination of email, and/or social media services like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram, YouTube, Linkedin, Pinterest, Tumblr or the next big social media service that comes along that allows you to Christmas or other types of messages that you want to share with your online “friends” around the world. From hand delivering your Christmas greeting cards to relatives, friends, and neighbors in the 19th century to electronic delivery in seconds (well, sometimes a bit longer) in the 21st…….to the “friends” you might never meet!

Here are some cool Pinterest ideas for digital Christmas cards and posts and other Holidays as well from PosterMyWall Pinterest PinBoard.

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A Tale of Two General Stores: “From Apples to Zithers”

Our History… by Alan Mueller

Small general stores (as they were often called) were in the Charlotte area from the earliest days.

In the 1850s general merchandise businesses were established along Ridge Road West. Henry C. Phelps built his store on North Greece Road in about 1870. The area was then known as Jenkins Corner at Latta Rd. By 1900 it had the name, North Greece, as it’s known today. Henry carried a varied lot of merchandise. Just about anything that would fit in the store and would sell found a place on the floor or a shelf. He catered to the farmer and his family. It helped that the local U.S. Post Office was also in the building. The opening of the Manitou (seasonal) Trolley in the 1890s expanded the number of cottages along the lake and bays.

Several times a week Phelps would send out his horse and wagon filled with fresh vegetables, fruit, and sundries. Going door to door, the “huckster” (an old term for a peddler) would often empty his wagon by the end of his route. After Mr. Phelps retired the store contin­ued under several owners and name changes well into the 20th century. The post office moved to its own quarters and other business enterprises took over the site until we arrive in the 21st century. Except for the loss of the front porch and several horse-hitching posts, the building remains much as it was built over 145 years ago. An insurance office is now the proud caretaker.

Wagg’s Grocery and Provisions store could hardly be called a general store in the same sense as Henry Phelps busi­ness. Gilbert (Burt) J. Wagg started in business in the early 1900s with several small grocery stores in Rochester. Since he was a natural salesman and “go-getter” (a favorite saying of the day), he decided to open yet another store on the northwestern edge of the city. Streets along Lake Avenue were developed because of the expansion of the Eastman Kodak Company, Kodak Park Works. An ideal place for Burt’s new store was on the east side of Lake Avenue near Kodak. The business grew, with departments added almost yearly. A bakery, a meat department, groceries, and pro­ duce were sold there from the start. Furniture, china, yard goods, clothing, shoes, phonographs, and records all became integrated into Wagg’s, especially after the business was moved nearby to a building with ample floor space about 1912. The business eventually took a building on Lake Avenue as well as a number down Pullman Avenue.

Some of the many buildings we have lost in the Town of Greece since the year 2000 …

One photo (1920) shows the business with a bus at the corner of Lake and Pullman. Most people referred to it as Wagg’s Corner. The mini-department store then employed 28 clerks and drivers to cover the departments and five delivery wagons. Burt is at the telephone in one of the photos and his sister Grace is at the adding machine to his right. Grace was as astute about the business as her brother. Burt passed on in 1944. Grace took over and ran it until it became clear newer and more modern stores had opened on West Ridge Road. The business closed in 1964 and the building was torn down in 1988. Pullman Ave. is now re-routed and no longer exists on Lake Ave. All trace of Wagg’s Corner has vanished except for the row of shops behind where Wagg’s General store became apartments addresses of 17-29 Pullman Ave…

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Truck Farming on Stone Road – The Thomas Farm

Seventeen-year-old WIi­liam J. Thomas immi­grated to Greece from Cheddar, Somerset County, England, in 1882. The following year, he purchased 11 acres of farmland on Stone Road, not far west of the intersection of Eddy Road (now Mt. Read. Boulevard).

At that time, the average size of a Greece farm was less than 100 acres, only rarely exceeding 200 or more acres.

By the late 19th century, Greece farmers were principally raising root vegetables, such as car­rots, beets, turnips, parsnips, etc. Some farms with larger acreage had apple and peach orchards as well

The Thomas farm had a large greenhouse, kept warm by hot water piping, the heat coming from a coal-fired boiler. Here, early spring crops such as radishes were raised.

A large root cellar (an insulated building, partly underground) stored the root vegetables through the winter. Gradually, these vegetables were, taken to market all through the non-growing season.

Several times a week, the horse-drawn wagon (shown in the circa 1912 photo with William at the reins) would be loaded with produce and taken to the public market or sev­eral wholesalers in Rochester. The wagon left at 4 am for the market, and the wagon and driver often did not return until early afternoon.

By the late 1930s, tractors were replacing horses for farm work, and by the 1950s, horse-drawn equip­ment and wagons were completely gone.

Through the years, more farmland was added to Thomas’ original 11 acres, and his three sons con­tinued to operate the farm after their father’s death in 1938.

By the 1960s, however, it was apparent that a moder­ately large-sized farm could no longer be profit­able in Greece. After more than 65 years, farming finally ended on the Thomas property in 1960.

By 1963, the land had been sold to developers.

Similar to the majority of former farms in Greece, only the sturdy 2½-story farmhouse remains, shielded from the road by tall shrubs. These farm­ houses remain as ghosts of an important era in local history.

Photos of the Thomas farm from Mr. Frank Thomas, the grandson of Willam Thomas.

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“From tractors to tracts!” – From The Historian’s Desk

It is not quite a century since rural Greece slowly and sometimes not so slowly started to turn from an almost com­pletely agricultural community to street after street of home developments. After World War II the pace quickened so fast that the DPW couldn’t keep up with all the new street names. All the early settlers and farmstead names had been used; flowers, trees, clever contractions of several names, stones, rocks, etc. came into play……Lucky, we don’t have a Main St., Broadway, or 42nd St. One of the last larger plots of land on Latta Rd at Kirk Rd has just recently gone from an abandoned apple orchard to the beginning of small attached housing for the aging “baby-boomer” population. How fast the recent past is swept away for the latest assault by man However, we still do have farms in Greece, and the pictures below depict a history of some of these familiar farm names: DeConinck, Mitchell, Preston, and Yarker farms.

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Marketing to Farmers From the 1850s to the 1900s

Cover of the Genesee Farmer
Cover of the Genesee Farmer
Hiram Sibley & Co. Seed Box, Used in the C.W. Barnes Store, 1882-1888, Located in the General Store at Greenfield Village, in Dearborn, Michigan
Hiram Sibley & Co. Seed Box, Used in the C.W. Barnes Store, 1882-1888, Located in the General Store at Greenfield Village, in Dearborn, Michigan

Prior to the Civil War (1861-65) the farmers in Greece got the latest information concerning all aspects of farming from fellow farmers or a number of monthly publications such as The Genesee Farmer (founded in 1831) or Moore’s Rural New Yorker (founded about 1849). Both papers were published in Rochester and both were priced at $3.00 per year ($3.00 in 1849 would amount to $93.75 in 2015). Both were issued monthly. Advertisements were generally quite small and very often without an illustration of the product. Each issue might be carefully kept and in many cases were bound into book form. Our GHS archive has two bound volumes of Moore’s Rural New York from 125 years ago. The Greece farmer, if he had the money, could become a member of the Monroe (County) Horticultural Society, founded in 1830, or take off a day and attend the Monroe County Fair with his family to see the exhibits and mingle with local fellow farmers.

Just a few years after the close of the Civil War, especially in the northern states, manufacturers began to pro­ duce and distribute consumer goods on a national scale. The big problem was the lack of an advertising medium that was on a national scale. The few national magazines published then were comparatively expensive and not always widely distributed, except in larger urban cities. The mail order companies Montgomery Ward began as a tiny business in 1872 and Sears-Roebuck some 25 years later.

Close up of the Bill of Seeds in the Hiram Sibley & Co. Seed Box, Used in the C.W. Barnes Store, 1882-1888, Located in the General Store at Greenfield Village, in Dearborn, Michigan
Close-up of the Bill of Seeds in the Hiram Sibley & Co. Seed Box, Used in the C.W. Barnes Store, 1882-1888, Located in the General Store at Greenfield Village, in Dearborn, Michigan

A bit of a “eureka moment” occurred in the early 1870s. Colored lithography had been invented in Bavaria, Ger­many in 1835 and by 1839 it was introduced in the United States. The process involved numerous printing plates, each having a different color of ink. By careful registration, amazing full-color prints could be easily and inexpen­sively reproduced. Copies of famous works of art, religious and secular scenes were now offered for framing. The “eureka moment” occurred when someone decided to print advertising cards of modest size as Chromolitho­graphs to be inserted in package goods, mailed, and handed out…….and ….. they were FREE! A collecting craze soon started for these colorful gems, often traded and pasted in appropriate scrapbooks. Every shopkeeper had a group of handouts supplied by the wholesaler which carried a stamping of his business and address. National and international expositions, and county and state fairs, all joined in handing out trade cards by the thousands. The Greece Grange (The Patrons of Husbandry) #311 was founded in 1875 and through meetings and lectures, it brought the local farmers into a fraternal-like setting, making it an ideal place for lectures and demonstrations of the latest is farm improvements. The captive audience was perfect for the distribution of appropriate trade cards brought to the gathering by the friendly lecture salesman.

What was the attraction of the modest, Chromolithograph, trade card? The full-color image was the big draw. The ubiquitous Currier and Ives prints of the period were hand colored and often varied in the quality and variety of colors used. The mania for the vibrantly colorful giveaways lasted for almost twenty-five years and finally faded away in the early 1900s.

Shown here above is a group of typical trade cards all slanted toward the farmer. Some were clever as the fold-down of the couple showing their huge cabbages after a shot of Cracker’s Buffalo Phosphate or the moveable images of the W.H. Rowerdink Co. Several Rochester printing companies of the era produced trade cards as well as colored seed packets for the numerous seed companies in Monroe County. The two better-known local printers of that long-ago period were Mensing-Stecher Co. and the Karle Lithographic Co.

The colorful trade cards of 5 to 7 generations ago still turn up at local antique shows. Even an occasional worn scrapbook, when opened, explodes with the bright colors of the trade cards inside. Someone carefully saved and pasted the cards in an album that might have been purchased at the Phelp’s Store in N. Greece about 1885…….

The Henry Ford Museum at the Benson Ford Research Center has at least 3 catalogs of Hiram Seeds Catalogs from 1879, 1884, and 1886 as well as some of the original packages of the seed packs from the 1882-1888 time frame, and the seeds either shipped from Rochester, NY or Chicago, IL. and you can see the search on Hiram Silbey by clicking on this link here: Hiram Sibley search on Henry Ford Collections.

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Manitou Beach Hotel – “From the Historian’s Files”

By far the largest and the most elegant of all the late 19th and early 20th century hotels along Lake Ontario in Greece was the Odenbach Manitou Beach Hotel. It was located at the far western end of the Manitou Beach Trolley. Built in 1888 by the Matthew and Servis Co. of State Street in Rochester, a wholesale and retail liquor and tobacco dealer, it was named for the resort of Manitou Springs, Colorado.

By the mid-1890s it had been taken over by Frederick Odenbach, who already had a modest restaurant on State Street. The Hotel had 25 guest rooms, a well-appointed lobby, a men’s bar, and a ladies’ salon, plus a restaurant.

Frederick S. Odenbach 1853-1919, Courtesy of Marie Poinan

The building was lit by acetylene gas lamps from the gas plant on the property. The frontage on the lake was almost 800 feet with an expanse of sandy beach. The Manitou Trolley began frequent daily, seasonal service in 1891.

Along with the trolley, the steamer Rosalie (owned by the Odenbach family) ran from about 1912 through 1916. It docked at a pier that was about 800 feet in length, built of cement piers and steel decking. A round-trip ticket from Charlotte was 25 cents.

Fred Odenbach and Matthew John Fred and Charley

After Fred Odenbach’s death in 1919, the hotel passed to his four sons, Fred J., John H., Matthew P., and Charles P. Odenbach. Matthew took over running the hotel from then on, making many improvements through the years. A major renovation was the enlargement and enclosure of the front porch. The spacious room could easily seat 500 patrons and included a raised bandstand and a dance floor.

Cover of The Manitou Beach Hotel Menu
Main Dining Room at Manitou Beach Hotel

From then on, the hotel became famous for its marvelous food, wonderful dance music, and panoramic view of Lake Ontario. Nationally known orchestras of the day such as Vincent Lopez and Tommy Tucker played engagements there, as well as favorite local bands such as Sax Smith and Damon’s Orchestra.

By 1925 the trolley had bowed out to the ever-increasing automobile traffic and the improvement of Manitou Rd. to a two-lane paved road. World War Il had begun in 1939 and the United States went to war at the end of 1941. Curtailment of unnecessary travel by car and gasoline rationing brought an end to the 55-year run of the grandest hotel between Charlotte and Olcott Beach to the west.

In the Map to the left, you can see the location where Elmheart and Manitou Beach Hotels are located on this SubPlan No2. Manitou Beach from the 1932 City of Rochester Plate Map Number 41.

Matthew Odenbach

It closed in 1943, never to reopen. A headline in the Rochester Times Union on May 19, 1955 states: “Famed Lakeside Dining Spot, Hotel Manitou, Coming Down.” Matt Odenbach (manager since 1919) was quoted as saying the work had started several weeks before and would be completed by July 4.

The furnishings had been sold and the lumber recycled. The property was still owned by Matt and his three brothers. The land was split into building lots shortly after. Nothing remains as a reminder of the wonderful times that untold thousands of people enjoyed there…..only the expansive view of the lake remains and a faint musical refrain from long ago, whispered by a few remaining poplar trees along Manitou Road.

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Post Mark North Greece, N.Y. – From The Historians Desk

After turning the corner at Latta Road to go south on North Greece Road, one might quickly pass a plain red brick building at the rear of a small parking lot. Across the right front of the building are the letters, United States Post Office. If you aren’t from the area you might not know you are in the hamlet of North Greece. This area was one of the earlier settlements in Greece. It has had a Post Office since 1850 (from the government records, a few say earlier).

Over the last 163-year period the mail operation has occupied at least six known locations, never more than a block away from each other. The first location was a small space in the store of Alfred Phelps at the Southwest corner of Latta and North Greece Roads.

Phelps general store latta and north Greece roads sketch William Aeberli 1970
Phelps general store latta and north Greece roads sketch William Aeberli 1970

For a short period of time in the early 1870s the location moved across North Greece Road to a store operated by William T. Filer. By 1880 it was back again, operating out of the Phelps store by Alfred’s son Henry. For the next sixty-five years, it was to share space with the ever-expanding general merchandise. Changing times in the early 1900s saw the gradual demise of the pickle and cracker barrels. Molasses was no longer dispensed into a jug. Kerosene found fewer uses as Greece gradually saw the extension of electrical service to North Greece and beyond.

Nineteen forty-five saw the end of World War II and the Post Office found it necessary to relocate again as building material were in short supply then. A small building was found on a nearby farm and moved on a flatbed truck to the rear of the original North Greece Fire Station on the Northeast corner of Latta Road at North Greece Road. Remember by older local residents was Mrs. Melinda Germeroth (Right), the postmistress from the opening of the small office in August 1945 to her retirement in December 1967.

A major remodel and addition to the fire station made room for the post office to lease a much larger space from the fire department in 1964.

As a second-class contract post office, it could offer all the amenities of a first-class post office. Mail delivery was not offered in this post office, except to the rented post office boxes on the premises. It also was not necessary for the U.S. Post Office Service to own the building.

Another twelve years and the fire station was bursting at the seams. However, no remodeling was done this time. The entire old building was demolished and a new fire station was erected. There was no small, used building for the post office this time. It was decided to move the post office into a temporary, cramped 12′ By 50′ trailer until a new permanent building was built. The trailer was put on rented property down North Greece Road, barely a block south of the fire station. The postal service put out a call for bids on a building that would have 1,056 sq. ft. of space. George and Florence Ger­meroth Jr. were the successful bidders and the Post Office would lease the building from the Ger­meroths. Florence had taken the place of her mother-in-law (Melinda) on her retirement in 1967.

The present facility is a one-person operation, except during busy seasonal and special times. Numerous postal clerks served there and at the other earlier locations. A more recent clerk with many years of service was Doris Cutter, who is fondly remembered. Doris retired in early 2004 with many years of faithful service. Another is Ann Piazza who worked with Mrs. Cutter for many years.

Though only a mile and a half west of the main Greece Post Office, it is a much slower-paced opera tion. It closes for an hour at lunchtime; the outer lobby has a bank of private mailboxes with a special Zip Code of 14515 for those only.

If you are still writing by “snail-mail” or sending cards, a North Greece cancellation mark is available by dropping your correspondence in a special slot. North Greece is the only location that has a Greece cancellation. A visit there recently found I was in a friendly, unrushed flow of patrons in what seemed to be a flashback to another time. With the postal service running up red ink more every year, will North

Greece eventually cease to have its own post office…?

Photos, data supplied by Alan Mueller, Greece Historian’s Office. If you have any information on our photos, call Alan at 663-1706.

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Ice Harvesting in the Long Ago – From the Historian’s Desk

When some local farmers saw the thermometer dipping colder and colder below freezing for a few days they knew that it would be time to get the ice harvesting equipment ready for use on the ponds and a few temporarily dammed creeks in Greece. Long Pond and Cranberry Pond were ideal places for such a labor-intensive operation. When the ice was four inches thick it would support a horse. Five inches or more would be safe for a team of horses with a two-ton loaded sleigh.

Ice cutting might start at the end of December and continue until late February. If it was a very cold winter two harvests might be possible. Rain would shut down any further harvesting as it became too slushy for man or beast. In some years there was no harvesting as the ice never became thick enough.

The general weight of each cake might be 300 to 400 pounds. The cakes were stored in insulated frame storage buildings, close to a body of water. They could be as small as today’s garden shed or as big as a horse barn. Most in our area were of a fairly modest dimension. During the warmer months lo­cal folk usually visited the large ice houses where they could purchase ice cut in 25, 50, and 100-pound blocks. These were the convenient sizes to put in their own ice boxes. The many summer hotels along the lake frequently obtained ice locally or they might have their own ice house.

A copy of an ice harvesting guide

Artificial ice-making machines began to appear in the late 19th century, but at first, this industry was main­ly supplied by railroad refrigerator cars. By about 1910 the first electric home refrigeration machines came on the market. They were expensive, plus the cooling machinery was large and often relegated to the basement. The cost and size of the refrigerator dropped by the mid-1920s with the introduction of the G-E monitor top model, available in several sizes and prices. This spelled the quick demise of ice har­ vesting in Greece and elsewhere. The electrification of Greece was completed by the late 1930s and time payment plans were available to purchase a new “electric ice box”, as they were often called.

Visit our museum and see additional information on ice harvesting and view two walls of Walt Gould­ing’s paintings of ice harvesting in the early days. Also on display are several ice harvesting saws and ice pole hooks, part of our collection from the Skinner family of Manitou Road. There is a golden oak ice box and in our 1930s exhibit, explore the “Mrs. Happy Housewife’s” G-E monitor top ELECTRIC Refrigerator.

Below is Kathie Firkins our Education Coordinator explains what winters on Long Pond are like from the early 1800s till at least 1910 when refrigeration started to appear in homes.

Goulding painting of Ice Harvesting
Goulding painting of Ice Harvesting

Photos, data supplied by Alan Mueller, Greece Historian’s Office.

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