Bicentennial Snapshot # 35: “Lafayette, We Are Here!”

Today we pay tribute to the men from Greece who died in World War I.

Every November 11, we honored our military veterans. But as many of you know, the holiday used to be called Armistice Day, marking the end of World War I at the eleventh hour, on the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. The United States’ involvement in the first world war has a connection dating back to the Revolutionary war.

Armistice Day in downtown Rochester, November 11, 1918, from the Rochester Public Library History and Genealogy Division

In her quirky history, Lafayette in the Somewhat United States, Sarah Vowell describes Lafayette’s celebratory tour of the United States in 1824-25, just before the country marked the 1826 50th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

You may recall that the Marquis de Lafayette as a nineteen-year-old fought in the American Revolutionary War. As Vowell relates stories of his appearances in various cities, she emphasizes that America would not have won the war without the help of France. Of course, the author wasn’t able to write about every place Lafayette visited. One place she left out was the Town of Greece.

Lafayette as a major general by Charles Willson Peale, circa 1799
Broadside announcing Lafayette’s visit on June 7, 1825, from GHS

Lafayette came to Rochester from Lockport on June 7, 1825, via the Erie Canal. He disembarked in Greece…

Map showing the western wide waters from the Rochester Public Library History and Genealogy Division

…at what was called the Western Wide Waters. Today it is where the parking lot for Rochester Products is. The surrounding land at the time was owned by Bradford King, the eldest son of Gideon King who was one of the founders of the first European settlement west of the Genesee at King’s Landing. We told you about King’s Landing in Snapshot No. 4, in snapshot 15 you learned about the Erie Canal, and in snapshot 19 we mention Blanche Stuart Scott who owned land next to the Western Widewaters area.

Arriving on the Seneca Chief, leading a flag-decked flotilla of twelve canal packets, Lafayette and his son, George Washington Lafayette, were greeted by booming cannon and “the ringing of every bell in the village.”

Lafayette as he appeared in 1824 painted by Ary Scheffer, now hanging in the U.S. House of Representatives
Lafayette’s tomb in Picpus Cemetery

After the Americans liberated Paris, the French celebrated July 4, 1917, with a ceremony at Lafayette’s tomb. American Colonel Charles E. Stanton began his speech by saying “Lafayette, nous voila” Lafayette, we are here, implying that the American soldiers were repaying the debt owed to France for their aid to this county during the Revolutionary war. The World War Service Record of Rochester and Monroe County lists seventeen men from the town of Greece as giving their lives in World War I. They are:

These are the men from Greece who lost their lives in World War I according to the World War Service Record of Rochester and Monroe County

James P. Armstrong

James P. Armstrong was born in Greece on March 1, 1889; he was killed in action, on August 22, 1918, while attempting to cross the Vesle River during an engagement near Reims, France.

Clarence S. Baxter

Clarence S. Baxter was born in Charlotte on October 6, 1895. He served in the Army infantry. He died of pneumonia on October 27, 1918, just days after his 23rd birthday.

William H. Brown
William H. Brown

William H. Brown was born in North Greece. He enlisted in the regular Army and served eight different enlistments. A veteran of three wars and several military expeditions, Sergeant Brown was still in service when he was taken to the Walter Reed Hospital, in Washington, D. C. He died in that hospital, on February 18, 1923, from gas burns, suffered in World War. He was buried, on February 23, 1923, in Greece with full military honors.

Wesley John Christian

Wesley John Christian was born at Barnard Crossing in 1893; in August 1917 he joined the United States Marine Corps. He died June 6, 1918, at Chateau-Thierry, from wounds received in action there. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery.

George J. Dietrich

George J. Dietrich was born November 25, 1897. He was killed on October 15, 1918, near St. Juvin, Meuse-Argonne, during the final 47-day allied offensive against the Germans from September 26, 1918, until the Armistice of November 11, 1918.

Charles A. Emerich

Charles A. Emerich first enlisted in the New York State National Guard in 1917. He was sent overseas with the Army in May 1918. He was killed in action, on September 29, 1918, during the battle of St. Quentin.

Romolo Epicoco

Romolo Epicoco was born in Italy. He died of pneumonia on October 17, 1918. He is buried in the Charlotte Cemetery.

Carl A. Glanzel

Carl A. Glanzel, who lived on Stone Road near Barnard Crossing, was born in Germany circa 1896. He joined the Army in November 1917 and was killed in action in France, on August 19, 1918.

Frank Leo Guillod

Frank Leo Guillod was born in Buffalo, on May 24, 1897. Before he joined the Marines, he was an outstanding athlete, particularly with the Kodak Park basketball team. Sergeant Guillod died June 11, 1918, at Belleau Wood from wounds received in action that same day.

Thomas Herbert Imeson

Thomas Herbert Imeson lived at Barnard Crossing. His Regiment was part of the famous Fourth American Brigade; he went missing in action at Soissons, France, and was not reported after that time. A certificate of presumptive death was issued by the United States Marine Corps. Their official report said: “Died of wounds received in action, July 19, 1918.”

Ira James Jacobsen

Ira James Jacobsen was born in Charlotte on January 25, 1897. Before his enlistment Corporal Jacobsen was captain of the Charlotte Fire Department. He was killed in action, on October 18, 1918, at LaSelle River, France.

Pierre Cornelius Meisch

Pierre Cornelius Meisch was born in Charlotte on October 15, 1892, Like his grandfather and father before him, he was Superintendent of Holy Sepulchre Cemetery. He was the Company Sniper positioned in front-line trenches for 120 days. He died of pneumonia, on October 13, 1918; Private Meisch was a member of Whittlesey’s “Lost Battalion,” and the direct cause of his death was due to exposure and experiences with this Battalion.

Raymond J. Quinlan

Raymond J. Quinlan was born August 12, 1889. He died of pneumonia, on February 6, 1919, shortly before his unit sailed for home.

George W. Quinn

George W. Quinn was born September 3, 1889, and lived in Charlotte. He also was a member of the Lost Brigade. He died September 29, 1918, while trying to deliver a message to Whittlesey. Nothing was learned of Quinn’s fate until four months after the Armistice. “After lying out in the depths of the Argonne all winter, almost buried by vines and underbrush, his body was accidentally found by an American burial squad.” His mother found out about the circumstances of her son’s death when a poem about him was published in the Saturday Evening Post.

James H. Scorse

James H. Scorse was born August 4, 1894, and lived at Barnard Crossing. He was twice wounded in action at Soissons, in August 1918, and again in September. After he recovered, he returned to the battlefront. Corporal Scorse was cited for bravery and was the recipient of a medal of honor from the French Government. He was killed by a shell fragment on October 4, 1918.

William E. Sundt

William E. Sundt was born in Charlotte on May 31, 1893. He died on November 30, 1918, another casualty of pneumonia.

Sam Taccone

Sam Taccone was born in Italy and came to America at the age of 17. He lived on Fleming Street in Charlotte before the war. His service continued after the Armistice, but he died of pneumonia, on February 11, 1919.

Arthur J. Tallinger

Arthur J. Tallinger, born circa 1889, was another soldier who died of pneumonia. His death occurred on February 8, 1919. He is buried in the Falls Cemetery.

The Invention of Penicillin

World War II poster for the Invention of Penicillin located in the National World War II Museum

A staggering number of soldiers died during the first world war of non-combat illnesses; bacterial pneumonia was one of the chief causes of death. Penicillin which could have saved these soldiers’ lives was discovered in 1928. It was administered to soldiers in World War II, before being widely used by the general public beginning in 1948.

Thank you for joining us today. Next week we will talk about two Greece Fire Departments.


Greece Link to the National Football League

As we celebrate Super Bowl LIV and the NFL’s 100th season, we might want to consider the very “focal” Greece’s con­nection to the game.

Joseph McShea was a talented athlete who grew up on his family’s farm on Dewey Avenue, just north of Latta Road. His great-grandparents emigrated to the town shortly after the potato famine of the 1840s and by the 1880s, the family had accumulated over 180 acres of land. Part of their family farm became the site of the Odenbach Shipbuilding Corporation.

Joe attended Holy Cross School in Charlotte (Greece had no Catholic school at the time) and graduated from the first Charlotte High (at the triangle) in 1919. He played a number of sports and also boxed under the name of “Irish Joe” McShea. After returning home from the University of Rochester to help on the family farm, Joe signed a contract to play football for Leo Lyons and the Rochester Jeffersons. His contract was signed by his aunt, Miss Marguerite McShea, a beloved teacher at Holy Cross and later Our Mother of Sorrows grammar school. Joe was paid $25 per game!

Leo V. Lyons was born in 1892 and started playing football for the “Jeffersons” in 1908 at the age of 16. He later became their coach, manager, and owner. In 1919, the Jeffersons won the city’s semi-pro championship. Leo was one of the pioneer founders of the National Football League. On September 17, 1920, he represented Rochester at a meeting of the nation’s pro team managers held in Canton, where they created the American Professional Football Association. The league became the “National Football League” in 1922 and the Rochester was one of its 14 original teams.

Lyons lost his NFL franchise in 1928 but never lost his love of the game, serving as “Honorary Historian” of the NFL from 1965 until his death in 1976 at the age of 84. Lyons was present at the opening of the Hall of Fame in 1963. Although nominated several times, he was never inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Lyons moved to 604 Beach Avenue in 1938. His contributions to football are numerous, not to mention that he collected all types of memorabilia on the game. Joe McShea lived in the area at 305 Beach Avenue.

Greece Link to the National Football League
Greece Link to the National Football League

My thanks to Tom McShea, who provided the info on his grandfather Joe is a featured athlete in our local sports exhibit chaired by the Late Tom Sawnor. A book on our local sports figures is sold in our gift shop.

For more on Lyons and the Rochester Jeffersons, see and


“Apples, Pine Trees and Boxing Gloves!”

We’ve explained apples and pine trees…… What about boxing gloves…?

Mr. Edward Sturm had once been in the furniture business on Joseph Ave. and knew well how to greet custom­ ers and run a successful retail venture. The tavern business was a bit different, but Edward slowly built the Pine Tree Inn into a profitable enterprise. Ridge Road West would become completely paved (two lanes) from Lake Ave. to Man­itou Road, the town of Greece line, and beyond. Yet, with all its popularity, Sturm decided to put the Inn up for sale in the fall of 1928.

A strapping, young, and gregarious fellow by the name of Clement Versluy, who had immigrated here with his family to the United States in 1914, bought the Pine Tree Inn in December of 1928. Despite the depression of the 1930s and prohibition until 1933 (he was cited and fined several times for having illegal spirits on site), the Inn soon became one of the most popular eateries along the greatly improved West Ridge Rd.

Clement Versluy, having dropped his Belgian name, was now calling himself, MIKE CONROY – “the boxer! Mike’s professional boxing career had its start in the spring of 1920 with his first fight in Rochester. Boxing was second to baseball in popularity during the 1920s-1950s. He was named one of the heavyweight contenders of Western New York in the early ’20s.

With Mike and his wife Alice as congenial hosts, “Mikes Pine Tree Inn” became one of the most favored spots on the west side of Monroe County. The walls of the barroom were covered with framed, autographed boxing greats and other local and national luminaries Mike had befriended. The Inn was enlarged and updated in 1948 and now had a capacity to serve 300 people in the dining room and 100 more in the “tap room”! There was also space for a band­ stand and a dance floor. Boxing legends from around the country often held gatherings at Mike’s place.

The Democrat and Chronicle on Nov. 11, 1953 headline on the sports page read: “Mike Conroy to Quit Business, To See Sights with Alice”. Their plan was to lease the business for a period of ten years so he and his wife, Alice, could travel.

Mike Conroy formerly known as (Clement Versluy)

The business was leased to Shale (Sol) Gans. Shale had been in the restaurant business on Brown St. for many years. Mike and Alice traveled to Europe, Cuba, and Mexico. Within a few years, the lease led to a sale to Gans. Shale took lit­tle time in a complete redecoration of the venerable Inn with new drapes, wallpaper & carpet, soft lighting, and over­ head stars above the dance floor. Gone were Conroy’s photo collection of boxers and notable personages. Shales was a bowling fan, sponsoring several leagues. The name was now SHALE’S and in small print for a while, “Formerly Mike Conroy’s’.

Mike and Alice enjoyed their retirement years, still traveling and visiting old friends until Mike’s health declined. Mike was “on the ropes and would soon be counted out” as longtime friend and columnist Henry Clune said in his col­umn. When Mike Conroy (nee Clement Versluy) passed in July 1964, Clune said about his friend: “a big, blustering, immensely good-natured man, who loved life and the hard sport of professional boxing” “Mike died the other day, and another colorful character departed the Rochester scene.”

As a post-script to this tale, Mike was lucky he never saw the final chapter to his once beloved Pine Tree Inn.

Shale Gans filed bankruptcy in 1964 and The County of Monroe seized the property at 1225 Ridge Rd. for back taxes. That is the end of “Apples, Pine Trees & Boxing Gloves” plus a few nicked bowling pins!

You can see Mike Conroy’s overall Boxing Stats on the Bicentennial Snapshot episode # 45 Speakeasies and on that page, it has links to and link to his most common opponent the “Battling Jack Dempsey” (Henry Peaks).


“The Main Street of Greece” – From The Historian’s Desk

Ridge Road in photos: 1909 -1960

Every few years, if not sooner, a news article about the Ridge being expanded or improved pops up in news­ print or other media. From what was once the eastern edge at Lake Avenue to the western edge of Greece at Manitou Road, Ridge Road has always been in a state of fluctuation.

The early 1800s saw what had been a narrow Native American trail turns into a muddy dirt or occasional wood plank stretch of road by the mid-1860s. The fifty-year span from the early 1900s saw the fastest transfor­mation of the Ridge in the 20th century.

Eastman Kodak, introducing folding and box cameras near the turn of the century, made outdoor photography simpler and cheaper to take satisfactory photos. Hence, we began to have photos similar to the circa 1909 view of Richard and Katherine Emrich standing in muddy Ridge Road (east of Dewey Ave.) with their home be­ hind them. The other photos from the early 20th century speak for themselves. How many of the shops and stores do you recall? If you are younger than a certain age…..all would be foreign to your eyes…

Ridge Rd, Emrich Kids 1909, one of the earliest photos of Ridge Rd, W of Kodak Pk.
Cube-block installation Ridge Rd. 1909
New Grader for Greece 1928

Alteration, transition, variety, and diversity would apply to “The Lewiston Road”, one of several variations given to Ridge Road as it traversed our town. For further information and history about the Ridge, check out our ever-popular publication, Eight Miles Along the Shore, available in several formats at our museum shop.

“Things changed, people changed, and the world went rolling along right outside our windows.”

– Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle
Ridge at Dewey 1940
Naum Bros. Ridge Rd. 1955
N.W. Corner Ridge Rd. at Stone Rd. 1956
Ridge Rd looking west at Pepperidge Dr 1956
Long Pond at Ridge Rd. Greece Baptist Church in the background while Greece DPW and Monroe County Water Authority upgrade the sewer lines in 1961

More of this can be seen in the Bicentennial Snapshots episodes 11 and 12

Bicentennial Snapshot # 11 – The Ridge Part 1 This covers the beginnings of the Ridge till the early 1900s.

Bicentennial Snapshot # 12 – The Ridge Part 2 covers the 1900s till the early 2000s and some parts of the current times of the ridge.

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