Today we will talk about how past epidemics and pandemics affected the town of Greece.
Here’s a graphic we’ve become familiar with. Since March 2020, we have been living with the COVID-19 virus.
During the pandemic of the last three years, we have had to make numerous adjustments to mitigate the impact of this deadly virus.
Some of the same mitigation supplies and tactics were used in at least one other pandemic which was the Spanish flu in 1918. They included wearing masks, and gloves and people started washing their hands. But there was no officially created hand sanitizer designed per se but they did use 70% or higher alcohol as a cleansing agent to ensure certain tools and supplies were clean and ready to be used.
In the early days, masks became obligatory. Some people felt it was not necessary for the mask to be used but the stores that were deemed essential services because of the type of industry they were in required patrons to mask up, keep them six feet or two meters apart, constantly sanitize hands, if you touch it take it do not put it back for someone else to take, most Restaurants that allowed you to dine-in had to resort to take-out only because they could not allow anyone in the restaurant unless they worked at the restaurant. Banks were drive-thru or atm-only. Government offices, schools, and most businesses switch to remote work and or eLearning for most of 2020 and part of 2021. Some other businesses were closed altogether because of federal, state, county, or local laws that were issued to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Almost the entire country was shut down except for Flordia which did not close anything down but the companies that did operate in Flordia that had national chains took the preventive measures to close and do what was best for their customers.
Town Board Meetings were not held in person but on Facebook Live.
Even our Tuesday Programs for a bit were put together using Zoom.
And everyone found different ways to meet instead of face to face.
Tens of thousands of people were stricken with the disease; our hospitals and other medical facilities were overwhelmed. Too often family members could not be with patients. Sadly, presently more than 1700 in Monroe County have died.
Throughout its history, the people of Greece have had to endure other deadly diseases. You may recall seeing this drawing in an earlier Snapshot, but we want to again point out how swampy the shoreline of the Genesee River was, not only at the mouth of the river but along much of its length in the 9 miles upriver to Rochesterville. A perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. An octogenarian wrote in 1868.”This country was sickly, as all new lands are, particularly at the mouth of the river, where two or three sets of inhabitants died off, and indeed the whole country was infected with agues and fevers.”
It wiped out the early settlement of King’s Landing which we told you about in Snapshot 4. The early settlers called it Genesee Fever; it was a relentless cycle of fever and chills that plagued them during the warmer months—the cold and snowy months brought them some relief. People blamed it on a miasma, that is, a “noxious vapor rising from marshes or decomposing matter that infected and poisoned the air.” They did not realize that the mosquitos which thrived in the swampy waters of the river banks was the cause.
One historian says, that about twenty graves were made in 1798, at King’s Landing, for people who had succumbed to the Genesee Fever. One of them was Gideon King, founder of the settlement. After his widow died in 1830, a tombstone was erected on her husband’s grave; it was inscribed with these words: “The Genesee Fever was mortal to most heads of families in 1798, and prevented further settlements till about 1815.” It was half a century before medical professionals diagnosed Genesee Fever as malaria.
Another deadly illness ascribed to miasma was cholera. Greece settlers were affected by two epidemics, one in 1832 and one in 1852. Much like the COVID virus was introduced to this country by travelers, so too was cholera. According to “Letters on Yellow Fever, Cholera and Quarantine; Addressed to the Legislature of the State of New York: With Additions and Notes,” in 1852, cholera originated in India. In the early 1800s, it started to spread out of Asia, eventually making its way to North America in 1832. It arrived on the continent in Quebec and Montreal, brought via emigrant ships. It then made its way to New York State. Cholera officially reached Rochester on July 12, 1832.
Cholera is caused by contaminated water and food. A toxigenic bacterium infected the small intestine triggering an acute, diarrheal illness. Sanitation was extremely poor; sewer systems were non-existent and people did not connect the disease to polluted water, but to miasma.
Most of the cholera victims lived close to the Genesee River or the Erie Canal into which raw sewage was dumped. Public wells became contaminated as did private wells as they were very often located close to outdoor privies.
Cholera was also called the Blue Death; the severe dehydration caused by diarrhea turned a victim’s skin blue. “The seemingly vigorous in the morning were carried to their graves before night,” wrote Jenny Marsh Parker in 1884.
In 1832, the cholera epidemic broke out in Rochester and the surrounding towns. In just six short weeks, the epidemic took almost 2,500 lives, or 1% of the population of the area. During the months of July and August business and travel were almost entirely suspended. Giles Holden, head of the Board of Health centered in Charlotte, closed the port and posted guards on Ridge Road to keep infected parties out of Greece.
One reference said that the people who succumbed to cholera in the 1832 epidemic were buried in unmarked graves in the northwest corner of the Charlotte cemetery, in the area surrounding Sam Patch’s grave.
There were a series of deadly outbreaks of cholera in the mid-1850s. 1852, 1854, and 1856. In 1854, one of the victims was Belinda Holden Marshall, married to ship’s captain Steven Marshall and sister of Giles Holden. In September of 1856, twelve immigrants, sick with cholera, were left at Charlotte. Henry Spencer, the poor master, had them taken in a wagon to a building near the pier so they would be isolated from the villagers. Some of them were children who were so delighted with the ride to the lake that they shouted and waved their hands. They all died the next day. They too are buried in the Charlotte Cemetery also in unmarked graves.
But the hardest hit area was Paddy Hill.
A newspaper article in 1879, said about the 1852-54 epidemic: “The writer of this can go back in memory to the great cholera plague of over a quarter of a century ago which rendered this city desolate and populated its graveyards. The surrounding towns were free from the visitation of this destroyer except for the town of Greece immediately about Mount Reed, predominantly south of Our Mother of Sorrows church. Cholera held fatal revel for many days and swept away to eternity members of the best families in the locality. There was terror everywhere around and the little graveyard that caps the hill witnessed more corpses at a time to the burial than there were mourners able to be present.” In the ensuing years, the residents of Paddy Hill predominantly south of Our Mother of Sorrows church were particularly susceptible to dysentery as well as cholera and had a high rate of fatalities as the headline states.
Medical professionals concluded that well water was being contaminated from run-off from the cemetery.
There are many parallels between the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, measures to prevent the spread of the flu were the same later recommended for covid.
Where ships and boats were agents spreading the cholera contagion in the 19th century, trains were the agent in the 20th and would give way to airplanes in the 21st century.
Most of the documentation for the Spanish flu in Monroe County is about the city of Rochester, but one can still get a sense of its impact on Greece. There were three deadly waves of the flu between the spring of 1918 and the spring of 1919. Rochester was most seriously affected by the fall of the 1918 wave. In the two months between the middle of September and the middle of November, more than 10,000 people caught the flu, and 1,000 of them died. But health authorities acted quickly to contain the spread; two weeks after the first cases occurred, they closed schools, theatres, churches, sports venues, hotel bars, and other places where people gathered.
Troop transports facilitated the spread and infections at military posts were high. That was the case in Greece. At the time of the Spanish flu, Kodak Park was still a part of the town of Greece. There was an aerial photography school posted there.
Fifty-seven men from the school came down with the flu.
So, the old Infant Summer Hospital on Beach Avenue was reopened to care for them.
The towns around Rochester fared much better than the city; the number of infections was manageable.
Nevertheless, school nurses from the city visited homes in Greece. One nurse, Rose Weber, visited a family of eight in Greece, and every single member of the family was infected; the youngest child was little more than an infant. “No one was dying but every person was in need of care. Miss Weber saw that the family was made as comfortable as possible. A doctor interested himself and toward midnight went to the home with a woman who had consented to care for the family.”
Thank you for joining us this week; next week we will look at those diseases that greatly impacted children.
Our Snapshot this week is based on an exhibit researched and written by the late Gloria LaTragna and edited and designed by Gina DiBella in 2001 and updated for showing at the Greece Historical Society in 2018. This photo exhibit, Rediscovering Greece’s Historic Schoolhouses, is currently on display in the new Greece Office of Student Transportation Services at 1790 Latta Road. We greatly appreciate Gina sharing it with us for this Snapshot. Some corrections and updated information were provided by Pat Worboys who was doing research at about the same time and found things that were not included in the exhibit Restore, Renew, Rediscover Your Neighborhood Schools. My research started because my mom’s grandfather Harold Tebo, purchased not only Common School District Number 9, he also purchased the larger 2-room school on the northwest corner of Elmgrove Road and Elmore Drive the Greece Ogden School Number 12 which you will see in Part 2 of Rediscovering Greece’s Historic Schoolhouses that I became interested in researching the school houses of Town of Greece and with my dad Doug Worboys, we started doing more digging in on the research which took us to the Landmark Society of Western New York and there we found some information that I had Maureen correct before we recorded Rediscovering Greece’s Historic Schoolhouses of 1872 Parts 1 and 2. One of the most unique things that happened in the summer of 2003 was when Gene Preston came over and got both me and my dad to come over to the stand, and said he has an elderly lady who had either taught at school # 9 or was a student once we got to the stand we started talking with her by the way we never got her name before she left the stand. She told us about some of the interesting things about Common School District Number 9, how the teachers would enter the school from the rear and the students entered from the front. I will fill in more of this in part 2 of Rediscovering Greece’s Historic Schoolhouses of 1872.
Long before the establishment of the centralized Greece School District, students in the Town of Greece were educated in schoolhouses scattered throughout the town. Students in the area previously known as the town of Northampton have had the opportunity for a formal education since 1798 when the first school commissioner was elected. In 1823, one year after the Town of Greece was established, it was divided into Common School Districts. By the end of the 19th century, Greece had 17 common districts and two Joint districts that sat on the Parma Greece border just north of the North Greece Common School District # 6 area and west of the Frisbee Common School District # 7. There were some Districts that ended up being renumbered and restructured when the number of students kept increasing which occurred around 1919 and included the annexation of some of the districts into the City of Rochester School District as well.
Common School District #1
Common School District No. 1 school was located on the west side of present-day Lake Avenue, just north of Little Ridge Road [now West Ridge Road]. This one-room schoolhouse served the students in Hanford Landing. Today Kodak Park occupies the site of the schoolhouse and surrounding farmlands.
After moving from this location the school was located in an old frame building on Dewey Avenue north of Lewiston Avenue (Ridge Rd). The school housed 50 students. Mrs. O. H. Gordon was the principal until 1912. In the spring of 1912, the new present Kodak school 41 was completed. The school was admitted to the University of the State of New York. The name of the school switched to Kodak Union (Kodak No. 41) school in 1916. George H. William was the principal. At about that time a high school department was added with about 18 pupils. In 1917 an addition was added due to tremendous growth. In 1919 the school came into the city system. The student population at that time was 350 students in grammar and 45 students in high school. The high school became known as Kodak High School. Districts # 1, 4, and 10 were consolidated in 1916 when they were annexed by the city. Later high school students would attend John Marshall or Charlotte High School.
Common School District # 2
Common School District #2 Big Ridge School was located on the north side of Big Ridge Road [now Ridgeway Avenue] between Long Pond Road and Latona Road. A 1902 map, however, no longer shows a schoolhouse located on this site. There is no picture of this school located on Ridgeway Ave based on overlaying the 1872 map over a current map that puts the structure between Wehner Mower and Ventdi Septic Services on Ridgeway Ave today. The only thing we have from a Common School District No. 2 town of Greece of County of Monroe for the school year ending July 31, 1919, to Fred W. Hill who was District Superintendent at the time and you can see that Trustees Report here
Common School District # 3
Common School District #3 – Walker School was located on the west side of Mitchell Road near the site of the former Mitchell Road branch of the Greece Public Library. This school sat right on the Walker Property and the house still stands today. In 1912 – 1913 Elizabeth J Crawford was the teacher at Common School District #3 and Fred Hill district Supt.
Common School District #4
Perhaps in existence back in 1817. The first known teacher was a member of a pioneer family, Miss Adeline Holden. The school was located at Latta (Broadway) and Stutson (Holden) streets. In 1837 George Latta donated a site at the North side of Stutson St. A new one-room brick building replaced the old one. In 1837 bricks used for the building were made on-site. In the 1860s the school was overcrowded with 1 teacher handling 80 students. In 1868 a new school was built at the corner of Latta Rd and River Streets serving students grades 1 thru 8. In 1893 a two-story addition was completed at a cost of $ 6,200. In 1907 a second school was constructed on site which was Charlotte High school’s first building, and finished in 1908, sat on the site of the present Rochester Fire Department’s Engine 19 / Marine 1 / Gator 2 / Brush 1 at the Y where Lake Avenue and River Street meet right next to the Charlotte Cemetery. In 1911, the district employed 13 teachers. Both school buildings were demolished in 1937.
After annexation, Rochester built school # 38 on Latta Rd in 1928 and put on an addition in 1953. School # 38 Latter closed and is now home to Lake Breeze Condominiums. And Charlotte High School moved across and down the road no more heat 30 feet to the north where it used to sit. Students in this area ended up going to District #10 Greece or what is now called the City of Rochester, District # 42 – Abelard Reynolds School more on this School in Part 2 of Common School Districts of 1872.
Common School District #5 – Paddy Hill
District No. 5’s frame structure originally stood on the same parcel of land that Paddy Hill Elementary School occupies today. On the southwest corner of Latta Road at Mt Read Blvd, Mother of Sorrows Church and Cemetery were and still are located across the road. This district was in existence seven years after the Town of Greece was formed. The first school was located on a 60 x 60 lot on the southwest corner of Latta Rd. It was created by early settlers. The land was donated by Judge or Squire Nicholas Read. In the middle of the room was a three-legged pot belly stove that heated the room during the winter. Double benches could seat a total of three students. were the fixtures. In 1887 the student numbered 83. By 1894 the number had grown to 92. Miss Kate McShea and Miss Mary Burns were two of the earliest teachers. The salary in those days was $395.00.
The schoolhouse was closed in 1929 due to a fire that damaged parts of the school it would cost 5,000 to repair the building instead of it getting torn down the structure was salvaged and purchased by Milton Carter who moved it down the hill on Latta Rd so he could use it for his residence. The old school serves as a home presently.
Students attended Barnard School from 1929 until 1931 when a new brick school was opened across from the old frame building at 1790 Latta Road in 1932. A much-mentioned feature of this new school was the indoor lavatories. This one had 4 classrooms, a gymnasium, an assembly hall combination, a teachers’ room, a store room, and inside lavatories all on a nine-acre plot. Only one classroom was used for many years. The school grew to 11 teachers. When this closed in at the end of the 1954-55 School year the students then went back to the southwest corner of Latta Rd and Mt. Read Blvd when Paddy Hill Elementary school opened.
In 1955, Paddy Hill Elementary School was built and students moved across the road once again.
There has been a public elementary school at this intersection since 1839, either here or across the street making it the second oldest continuous location in the county. The Greece Historical Society received a grant from the William C. Pomeroy Foundation to install this historical marker.
The large brick school building No. 5 was converted to administrative offices for the Greece Central School District. It was torn down in 2021…
to make way for the GreeceOffice of Student Transportation and Student Services Facility. This is where you vote for the school budget each year and it also holds the District Board Meetings instead of at Greece Odyssey Academy. In the back of this complex is a sea of buses that brings the students to and from school each day and behind that is Arcadia Middle and High School
Several artifacts from the building were saved including this sculpture of the Torch of Knowledge which is now mounted in the backyard of the Greece Historical Society and Museum. Gina DiBella, on behalf of the Society, is preparing a report documenting the history of the building for the New York State Historic Preservation Office.
The name plaque above the entrance door was also preserved. According to sources both within the School District, the Town of Greece, and Members of the Historical Society, said there are plans to mount this 10-foot by four-foot slab near the flagpole of the new building with a time capsule buried with the students from Paddy Hill school participating. But as of this post that has not occurred yet when it does happen it will be added to this post and in a story as well in the January Newsletter will be a story on Paddy Hill School written by Bill Sauers, and when the museum reopens in March we will Feature this school as the featured exhibit of the year for 2023.
Common School District #6 – The Gooseneck School
The irregular direction of College Avenue as it winds from North Greece Road to Latta Road forms what appears to look like a gooseneck. Although this road does appear on the closeup map of the North Greece area in the 1872 Monroe County Plat Map by Beers, F. W. (Frederick W.). Atlas of Monroe Co., New York: From Actual Surveys by and Under the Direction of F. W. Beers. New York: F. W. Beers & Co. which you can see on the Monroe County Public Library http://photo.libraryweb.org/rochimag/mcm/mcm00/mcm00009.jpg
The name of the street is said that the name of the road came about due to the school. The first school on this site was a brick structure.
In 1927 the school had swings, slides, and teeters (teeter-totters or seesaws) outside. The pupils in the upper grades played baseball in the back of the school on the baseball field. The school had two rooms, with four grades in each room. The school was heated with a coal furnace. They had a bathroom for boys and girls. that same year they had regular electric lights.
The children of the small hamlet of North Greece attended this school until 1949 when Common School District No. 6 joined the Hilton School District.
After the school closed, the school bell was relocated to the top of the chimney of the former Hotel DeMay.
The school building still stands today as a private residence.
Thank you for joining us today. Next week we continue our tour of the old Common School District with Districts 7-17 and Joint Districts 13 and 14.