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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Bicentennial Snapshot No. 48: Gordon A. Howe

Today our topic is Gordon A. Howe, longtime Monroe County and Greece political leader whose career spanned 43 years.

Gordon A. Howe

When he died in 1989, Gordon A. Howe was eulogized by US Representative Frank Horton: “He was a great leader and an unusual person in that everyone respected him. He made tremendous contributions to county government and to Greece.”

Gordon Howe was born January 19, 1904, the son of Frank Howe from Hamilton County, New York, and Agnes Murray, a native of Scotland. He was one of five children. They moved to Greece in 1919, residing on Denise Road (where the Pine Grove apartments are today).

Gordon A. Howe
Charlotte High School from the Office of the Town Historian

Howe was an all-around student at Charlotte High School this was when the high school just getting ready to move across the road to its new location to house more students.

Charlotte High photo by John Cranch
Charlotte High photo by John Cranch
1922-23 City Basketball Champions from the Office of the Town Historian (Howe holding the basketball)

an outstanding athlete,

Student Council 1924 from the Witan (Charlotte High School Yearbook) from Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division (Howe center of the third row from the bottom)

member of the student council, president of his class his senior year,

Yearbook staff, 1924, from the Witan (Charlotte High School Yearbook) from Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division (Howe center row second from the right)

and on the yearbook staff.

He even drew the cover for the 1921 Witan.

Pen and ink sketch by Gordon Howe, 1921, courtesy of Marie Poinan
Senior class president 1924, from the Witan (Charlotte High School Yearbook) from Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division

He graduated in 1924 and although he wanted to go to Columbia University and major in journalism, he had to forgo college and worked several years for Rochester Gas And Electric (RG&E).

However, it didn’t take him long to find his true calling—a life dedicated to political service. He became involved with Republican politics as soon as he could vote. In 1930 at the age of 26, he was elected to the position of Justice of the Peace—he was the youngest person in the state at the time ever elected to be a JP. He was self-educated in the law.

Gordon A. Howe after his election in 1930 at the age of 26 from GHS

In 1933, due to the Depression, he lost his job as an insurance adjuster. He said: “I had to do something” so he decided to run for Greece Town Supervisor in 1934. He won at the age of 29, and continued to win, ultimately serving 13 two-year terms as Supervisor.

Greece Press, November 5, 1937
Wedding picture 1937 from GHS

In 1937 Howe married Lois Speares, a former schoolmate.

They first lived in the historic Dennis Denise home at 486 Denise Road not far from his parents.

486 Denise Road photo by Bill Sauers
Gordon with his children Gordon II, Gretchen, and David circa 1954, GHS

They had three children, Gordon II, Gretchen, and David.

In 1941, they purchased the historic Larkin-Beattie home, which was then located at 3177 Latta Road. Today it is the home of the Greece Historical Society on Long Pond Road.

Howe House in winter
Aerial view of the Howe property, 1940s, from the office of the Town Historian

The house came with 25 acres of land, perfect for hosting the annual picnic for the Greece Republican committee or the Barnard Fire Department of which Howe was a former volunteer.

Howe, along with his good friend and fellow Republican Al Skinner, who was Monroe County Sheriff from 1938 to 1973, dominated Greece politics for years.

Howe and Skinner from GHS
Kirk Road Bridge, WPA project 1937, from the Office of the Town Historian

During the Depression years, Howe secured WPA funds to improve roads, including filling in marshland to extend Edgemere Drive from Island Cottage Road to Manitou Road and Braddock Bay,

Greece Press, June 21, 1935

providing employment for 1500 Greece families on welfare. Another project was the installation of sanitary sewers in the Dewey-Stone area.

During Al Skinner and Gordon’s Political term, they also had to deal with the Second World War 1940-1945. More on World War II and its effects during Gordon’s Term.

Greece Press, March 28, 1957

While supervisor, Howe saw the town grow from a population of 12,000 to well on its way to becoming the largest Rochester suburb. The population of Greece rose 402% between 1930 and 1960.

The frist recorded population for the town of Greece was in 1825 it showed that the town had One Thousand Five Hundred Forty Seven people living in the town. In 1830 Depending on the U.S. Census or Landmarks of Monroe County Published in 1895 reports two different populations either it is 2,574 or 2,571 Depending on which data you are looking at in terms of the population.

The biggest change in population amount from 1910 to 1930 was when the city of Rochester wanted the Port of Rochester and the Lake Ave corridor this caused the town to lose population from 7,777 in 1910 and in 1920 to a population of 3,350 and a lose of 56.9% of the towns population. But in 1930 after the dust finally settled from the annexations of parts of the town of Greece it rose 261.60% to a population of 12,113, and every year after 1930 the town grew in leaps and bounds and in 2010 the town reached a population of 96,095. In 2019 the town started to see the population dip under 96,100, some of that is because of how New York State is ran, but also people move to where the work is and able to make more income and have better life for their families.

Historical population Of Greece 1825-2019(Est.)

YearPopulation
18251,547*
18302,574 or 2571*
18403,669*42.50%
18504,219*15.00%
18552,702**
18604,147*−1.7%
18614,177
18704,314*4.00%
18804,848*12.40%
18905,145*6.10%
19005,579*8.40%
19107,77739.40%
19203,350 §-56.9%
193012,113261.60%
194014,92523.20%
195025,50870.90%
196048,67090.80%
197075,13654.40%
198081,3678.30%
199090,10610.70%
200094,1414.50%
201096,0952.10&
2019(Est)95,499-0.6%
U.S. Decennial Census of Greece, New York

U.S. Census Report

* Landmarks of Monroe County – Pub 1895

** Census of New York State – Pub 1855

§ City of Rochester annexed Charlotte 1916

Hilton Record, October 21, 1965

Under Howe’s leadership, Greece set the standard for housing tracts, requiring developers to meet requirements regarding the installation of asphalt highways, concrete curbing and sidewalks, street lights, and sanitary and storm sewers.

In 1948 Howe was elected as chairman of the Monroe County Board of Supervisors a position he held until 1960 when the Board appointed him County Manager.

Gordon Howe with Glen Bedenkapp, 1949, from Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division
Civic Center proposal graphic from mcnygenealogy.com

During his twelve-year tenure, Howe was responsible for building the Civic Center Plaza,

And expanding the airport

Postcard of Rochester’s airport, from Rochester Public Library Local History and Genealogy Division
entrance to Ontario Beach Park from mcnygenealogy.com

He was a pioneer in consolidating county and city services “moving the community toward a more metropolitan government. Parks, health services, and social services were taken over by the county when he was manager.”

Others have praised him for his “far-sighted” initiative of the Pure Waters Project beginning the process of cleaning up Lake Ontario and the Genesee River by halting the discharge of sewage into them. One editorial said: “Today at a time when other metro areas face disastrous water-contamination problems, the Monroe County Pure Waters System, in the opinion of many, is the finest in the country.”

Monroe County Water Authority’s Shoremont Treatment Plant and Imperial North Apartment on Dewey Ave with Round Pond in the background from the Office of the Town Historian
Oil Painting of Gordon Howe with MCC behind him.

For Gordon Howe, personally, was proudest of establishing Monroe Community College, as seen in this oil painting it was once in the dining room at the Society but has since been transferred and put in archive storage for safekeeping and better preservation of the picture.

Portrait of Howe in County Office Building, from the Office of the Town Historian

Howe served as County Manager until 1972. Former long-time Monroe County Sherriff Andy Meloni said about Howe: “He was a quiet man…a good man…a very kind man who could settle disagreements and never provoke animosities.”

After his death in 1989, the Monroe County Office building was named for him.

And the Portrait seen on the left is located in the Gordon A Howe Monroe County office building on the first floor.

And in 1988 the House where he raised Gordon II, Gretchen, and David grew up was moved to the location it is today as it became the home to the Greece Historical Society and Museum.

Gordon A. Howe Monroe County Office Building from mcnygenealogy.com

Thank you for joining us today, next week we’ll tour the Dewey Stone neighborhood.

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Bicentennial Snapshot No. 46: Epidemics and Pandemics

Today we will talk about how past epidemics and pandemics affected the town of Greece.

COVID-19

Graphic representation of the COVID-19 virus

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.

Mitigation supplies, photo by Bill Sauers
Mask distribution at Greece Town Hall campus, photo by Bill Sauers
Door of town hall, photo by Bill Sauers

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.

Here is a link to the list of the Programs that we did using Zoom Meetings while the pandemic was going on. https://greecehistoricalsociety.org/category/program-achrives/zoom-programs/

And everyone found different ways to meet instead of face to face.

For example Town Board Meeting was Streamed live via Facebook Live
Monroe County Covid Dashboard

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.

Genesee Fever

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.”

mosquito biting on skin
Photo by Jimmy Chan on Pexels.com
Hincher's Hut
Hincher’s Hut First Settlers in Charlottesburg E. Spelman 1972
Historical Marker at King’s Landing, photo by Joe Vitello

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.

Gravestone of Gideon King photo by Dick Halsey from mynygenealogy.com

Cholera Outbreak

A segment of a map of the cholera epidemic route compiled by Ely McClellan United States Assistant Surgeon, 1875, from commons.princeton.edu

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.

Cholera handbill, 1832, New York City Board of Health
George Payne property along Canal near Elmgrove Road from GHS

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.

A cholera victim exhibiting the bluish pallor characteristic of the disease, by John William Gear, 1832
Port of the Genesee, from Henry O’Reilly, Sketches of Rochester, 1838

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.

Sam Patch’s Grave in Charlotte Cemetery, photo by Mike Parker
Charlotte Cemetery Historical Marker, photo by Mike Parker

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.

Paddy Hill looking north on Mount Read Blvd., the 1920s, from GHS
Democrat & Chronicle, August 18, 1879
Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery, photo by Joe Vitello

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.

Red Cross Nurse in a mask with tips to prevent flu, 1918, from National Library of Medicine.
Erie Canal Packet Boat, 1840 era — from: Fort Hunter – “Canal-Town, U.S.A.” / by David H. Veeder. (Fort Hunter, N.Y.: Fort Hunter Canal Society; printed by The Noteworthy Co., Amsterdam, N.Y., c1968) — p. 9
Barnard Crossing from Office of the Town Historian
white airplane flying over white clouds
Photo by Daniel Frese on Pexels.com

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.

Headline Times-Union, October 15, 1918

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.

Inspection, United States School of Aerial Photography at Kodak Park, 1918, from the Rochester Public Library History and Genealogy Division
Group portrait of officers, United States School of Aerial Photography, 1918, the Rochester Public Library History and Genealogy Division

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.

Infants Summer Hospital from the Rochester Public Library History and Genealogy Division
Times-Union October 15, 1918

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.”

Nurses, 1918. From historicbrighton.org

Thank you for joining us this week; next week we will look at those diseases that greatly impacted children.

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 41: Northgate Plaza

Today we are talking about Northgate Plaza.

Two-page ad announcing the opening of Northgate Plaza, Greece Press October 29, 1953

On October 29, 1953, “the first major suburban shopping center in Monroe County and one of the largest open-air malls in the eastern United States” opened at 3800 Dewey Avenue. On the site of the Dobson Farm.

Northgate, as the plaza was called because it was “the northern gate of the city” of Rochester, was the brainchild of developer Emil Muller. A Swiss émigré, Muller was a self-made, multi-millionaire known for his “expertise in building shopping plazas.”

Emil Muller developer of Northgate, from his obituary, Democrat & Chronicle, November 28, 1989
Dobson farm on 1902 Map

Muller built Northgate on land he purchased from the Dobson family. On this 1902 map, you can see the Dobsons farmed on both sides of Dewey Avenue. Dewey Avenue at that time was called Barnard’s Crossing and Denise Road was Clinton Avenue.

Muller chose Dewey Avenue for its demographics—it was densely populated and Greece was growing by leaps and bounds. On this Aerial view of the Northgate Plaza, you can see the following Greece Schools from closest being English Village School, then Britton Road School, and Lakeshore School, in the top left is Rochester Gas and Electric Rusell Station Power Plant, and in the top right of the aerial view is the pier and the Genesee River.

Aerial view of Northgate area to the Lake, circa 1960s, from GHS
Original L-shaped layout of Northgate, from GHS

The plaza had 24 stores grouped in an L shape. The more familiar horse-shoe layout would follow in 1956 when it expanded to 30 stores.

Another first for the plaza and Greece, when McCurdy’s opened a store here it was the first time a large downtown department store extended “on-the-spot service to a local suburban area.”

McCurdy’s at Northgate, 1957 from GHS
North end of the plaza, 1957, from GHS

Among the other original stores were Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, Fanny Farmer’s Candy, Scrantom Book & Stationary, Security Trust Bank, Woolworth’s, and not just one but two supermarkets, Star Markets, and Wegmans. To keep customers safe while walking to the stores and to protect them from inclement weather Muller erected an eight-foot-wide marquee that covered the sidewalks. Parking was free. There were 3,000 parking spaces but sometimes that wasn’t enough.

A favorite of children was Gray’s Hobbies which later became Wynken Blynken and Nod.

Wynken Blynken and Nod, 1960, photo by Tom DiBello
Publicity still for Cisco Kid (Duncan Renaldo)
Cisco Kid Ad
Cisco Kid Ad

The three-day grand opening event featured appearances by currently popular tv characters the Cisco Kid and Poncho.

The Cisco Kid is a 1950–1956 half-hour American Western television series starring Duncan Renaldo in the title role, the Cisco Kid, and Leo Carrillo as the jovial sidekick, Pancho. The series was syndicated to individual stations and was popular with children.[1] Cisco and Pancho were technically desperados wanted for unspecified crimes,[2] but were viewed by the poor as Robin Hood figures who assisted the downtrodden when law enforcement officers proved corrupt or unwilling to help.[3] It was also the first television series to be filmed in color,[4] although few viewers saw it in color until the 1960s. The show would run for 6 seasons with 26 episodes per season for a total of 156 episodes you can find episodes of The Cisco Kid on a variety of streaming services. Here is a link to a Google Search that will let you find and watch whichever episode you would like to watch https://g.co/kgs/RQEhd1. In Rochester, Cisco Kid aired on WHEC-TV/WVET-TV channel 10 at 6:30 PM.

Fun Fact Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo did do most not all of the horse riding themselves they were very talented horse riders.

One of the streaming services you can watch the Cisco Kid is Freevee on Amazon Prime

The Cisco Kid. (2022, December 7). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cisco_Kid_(TV_series)

Publicity still for Poncho (Leo Carrillo)
Ad for Miles Shoe Store, Greece Press, October 29, 1953

There were added incentives to draw customers, such as a free handbag from Miles Shoes, but they probably weren’t necessary. 60 to 70 thousand people attended over the three days.

Needless to say, Christmas brought scores of people out to shop in Northgate Plaza.

Northgate Christmas ad Greece Press, December 8, 1955.
Nearly full parking lot at Christmas, 1957

By 1957, there were 30 stores in the plaza including J. C. Penney’s which opened in 1954, and W. T. Grants in 1956. The parking lot was nearly full during the Christmas season. It was quite a distance to walk to your car from McCurdy’s to the front entrance.

W. T. Grants Logo c. 1951-1965
J.C. Penney’s logo 1951–1962
Northgate sign, 1960
Greece woman drives home in wrong car, Times-Union, May 3, 1958

Finding one’s car could be problematic. Such was the case for the mother of our Society’s President, Bill Sauers. And it wasn’t even Christmas.

On May 2, 1958, Mrs. William Sauers drove to Northgate Plaza in the new Chevy Impala that they had owned for only a few days. After finishing her shopping, she returned to her car but had trouble getting the key into the ignition. She complained to her husband that she shouldn’t have had that much trouble with a brand-new car. Well, the police showed up at her house at 11 pm to tell her that she had driven away in someone else’s car, a Chevy Bel Air. The police who had been called by the owner of the Bel Air were able to determine who had taken her car when the only car left in the Northgate parking lot had tags registered to the Sauers and they righted the unintentional car switch.

’58 Bel Air
’58 Impala
Northgate sign 1980s from the Office of the Town Historian

Northgate had a difficult time competing with the new indoor malls that were constructed, particularly Greece Towne Mall and Longridge Mall in the 1970s—and by the time the two malls were combined in 1997 Northgate was in terrible shape. We discuss the Mall at Greece Ridge in BICENTENNIAL SNAPSHOT # 12 – THE RIDGE PART 2

The south end of Northgate Plaza, June 2010
North end of Northgate Plaza, June 2010

There were still businesses on the south and the north ends of the plaza.

Middle of Northgate plaza, June 2010, photo by Travis Beaver

But the middle section that once housed McCurdy’s was crumbling and had to be cordoned off.

Panoramic view of Northgate, 2009, photo by Bill Sauers

Now there were more seagulls in the parking lot than cars.

Tearing down where Big Lots was in Northgate Plaza

Walmart purchased the plaza property in 2007 and after several years of legal wrangling, got the go-ahead to build a Walmart Supercenter and reconstruct the plaza. Some of the issues for the area where the amount of shoplifting that occurred at Wal-Marts, traffic issues that could cause backup on Dewey Ave, English Road, and Denise road, and no Auto Center at this Wal-Mart Location.

The new Northgate sign, 2017, from the Office of the Town Historian

The new Northgate opened on August 12, 2012. and just to the left about no more than 15 feet, you will come across this Historical Marker that was unveiled at the ceremony marking the grand opening a historical marker was erected acknowledging the Haudenosaunee who used to camp on the site, the pioneer Dobson family, and the “first major suburban plaza in Monroe County.”

Historical Marker at Northgate, 2012, photo by Bill Sauers
Northgate Plaza Shopping Center By Marie V Poinan

If you would like to read more about the history behind Northgate Plaza, the Society’s publication, Northgate Plaza Shopping Center, compiled by Marie Poinan, is available in the Museum’s gift shop.

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 29 – Cobblestone Houses Part 1

This week and next we explore some of the cobblestones houses in the town of Greece. Did you know that when the mile-thick glaciers of the Ice Age melted and receded north thousands of years ago, they left unique marks on the terrain and interesting mountains, lakes, rivers, streams, valleys, and some rich and fertile land for growing crops, as well as boulders, cobbles, pebbles, field stones, gravel and sand deposits in different areas that make up different regions in the world? The glaciers left 5 big freshwater lakes behind, how many of the big lakes can you name?

Satellite image of Lake Ontario -November 2009 NASA Earth Observatory
Satellite image of Lake Ontario -November 2009 NASA Earth Observatory

We will go from the west to east starting with Lake Superior, and Lake Michigan, flowing into Lake Huron with Georgian Bay, a small lake between Huron and Eire called Lake St. Clair, then Lake Erie, at the Buffalo end of Lake Erie is the Niagara River which brings the water over the falls at Niagara Falls and in then into Lake Ontario after the water travels out to the Atlantic Ocean via the St. Lawrence River. But for this snapshot, we will be focusing on New York State. In New York State and more especially within minutes you could be at Lake Ontario from anywhere in the town or a 40-to-50-minute drive from Greece you could be in the finger lakes looking at the beauty that the glaciers left on this region. Remember when we explained in snapshot 11 The Ridge Part 1 about Lake Iroquois? Those who may not remember earth science class or other science classes and parts of some history classes when they talked about the Ice Age and how most of the region was covered in ice and glacial valley, also called glacial trough as seen in this map. Almost 13,000 years ago a large glacial lake, Lake Iroquois, as it is called by geologists, lapped the far eastern portion of what became the Niagara escarpment. When the waters of Lake Iroquois receded, it left a ridge of land 400 feet above sea level. You can see on this map, the dimensions of the prehistoric lake in relation to Lake Ontario today.

Lake Iroquois
Lake Iroquois

Notice the red line that is the Ridge Road portion from the Genesee River to Lewiston., the /// lines going from lower left to upper right that is the outline of Lake Iroquois, the cross lines ### in the pen are the ice sheet as the ice continued to recede north as the time when on from the ice age.

And in Bicentennial Snapshot # 19 – Henpeck, Hoosick, and Hojack, what’s in a name, part 2 we looked at some of the elevations in the town from its highest point to the lowest point the town and how the town has two natural ridges.

But that wasn’t all; hundreds of thousands of cobblestones, fieldstones, and gravel pits were deposited in the glaciers’ melting wake. Cobblestones have a round shape. Over the years water made boulders become cobbles, cobbles become pebbles, and pebbles become sand. According to the Cobblestone Museum, “Geologists classify cobblestones as being 2.5 inches to 10.1 inches in size. In lay terms, cobblestone is a stone that can be held in one hand.” This differentiates them from fieldstones, which were also used to construct houses.

During the Program “Set In Stone”: The History Of Cobblestone Masonry, on September 13, 2022, Douglas Farley mentioned that there was a least one cobblestone structure as far away as Colorado. This is mentioned at 12 minutes and 21seconds in the video. https://youtu.be/eJAgwjKHCcw?t=1286

closeup of cobblestone house photo Bill Sauers
closeup of cobblestone house photo Bill Sauers

Some of these cobblestones, fieldstones and gravel pits were found while excavating for the Erie Canal, some were found while farmers were prepping the fields to grow crops. The town has a few remaining cobblestone structures left. There are a couple of fieldstones and one other stone-style house in the town. One of the fieldstone houses in the town is on the grounds of Unity Hospital at 1563 Long Pond Road. Some of the cobblestone houses may have had the back walls built with fieldstones because beauty in the front and the so ugly back fieldstone was not seen from the front. Why wasn’t brick used for these buildings? Well, one writer said “In the early days of the western New York frontier, bricks were costly to transport. To make them locally was also costly since clay had to be procured and molded, kilns had to be built, etc.” The farmers and masons used the material they had readily available and that “material did not require painting or maintenance; and most important, was fireproof and weatherproof.”

1563 Long Pond Rd

School District # 9

  • School district 9 school also Greece Methodist Church mid1800s GHS
  • District School 9 Facing Southeast

One out of the 17 district schools and the 2 joint districts in the 1800s were built using cobblestone the rest of the school districts were built with wood. The cobblestone school was in school district 9 on the 1872 map of the town of Greece and it was located at 980 Long Pond Rd. In 1917 it was replaced by a two-room schoolhouse. The cobblestone school was sold for $ 5.00. Arthur Koerner and Willis construction firm were awarded the contract to build the new two-room wooden school at 1048 Long Pond Road. Also, The Greece United Methodist Church formed inside School Number 9 on July 25, 1841, when Reverend William Williams met with a group of people to start the church, and then another group meeting at the Greece Center schoolhouse at district school number 17 on Latta Road and the church grew to 21 members. The current two-room schoolhouse was later sold at a district auction in August of 1949 and was purchased by Harold Tebo. Harold then hired Arthur Koerner to draw up plans to convert the schoolhouse into a private home and one of the features of the old school hidden above the now lowered ceiling is a tin ceiling that was used to reflect the heat and keep it in the building.

First Christian Church

The First Christian Church was a church that was built out of cobblestone, and it was located at 3194 Latta Road, it was close to the Larkin-Beatie-Howe House where that house used to sit where Wegman’s now sits. The Frist Christian Church used the church until 1866, then Greece Methodist Church used it from 1867 to 1874. Then Greece United Methodist Church built a new church with brick on Maiden Lane and has been there ever since. The former church at 3194 Latta Road was torn down around the 1950s.

First Christian Church then Greece Methodist Church Latta Road GHS
First Christian Church then Greece Methodist Church Latta Road GHS

Davis-Bagley-Hazen House

The first cobblestone house we will look at will be the Davis-Bagley-Hazen House at 149 North Greece Road it was built in 1845 in the Frisbee Hill area, and it was built by Edwin Davis. Lucius Bagley purchased the home from Edwin Davis in 1856 and the 100 acres surrounding the house. The house is a 3 Bedroom, 2 Bathrooms and 1 Half Bath the house has one fireplace. The property now sits on 2.61 acres out of the 100 acres that used to be farmland owned by Lucius Bagley, and the house’s living space is 3,376 square feet. It also has a cobblestone-built smokehouse in the rear of the house.

Davis-Bagley-Hazen home from Town Historian
Davis-Bagley-Hazen home from Town Historian

One of Lucius’ children, Henry Joel, inherited the house and farm; he lived there all his life until he died in 1942, at the age of 90. A Bagley cousin remembered that “it was a standing tradition among the Bagley descendants to celebrate Christmas Day with grandfather Henry Joel at the old cobblestone farmhouse.” Bagley descendants also remembered watching their “grandfather salting and preparing bacon and hams to hang in the cobblestone smokehouse that remains by the driveway today.”

Henry Joel Bagley
Henry Joel Bagley
149 North Greece Road smokehouse
149 North Greece Road smokehouse

The next longstanding owners of the house were Stanley and Mary Hazen. After purchasing the home in 1958, the Hazens made substantial upgrades and improvements to the old cobblestone farmhouse; nevertheless it “retains its rural, exterior dress, yet tasteful planning has transformed the dwelling into a modern up-to-date home. There is a definite feeling of preservation from within with no sacrificing the conveniences of utility, interior decorations, and livability….” In 1989, the Finegans became owners of this historic house.

The Landmark Society considers this house “architecturally significant,” not only as “an outstanding intact example of cobblestone construction in New York State,” but also as a significant “example of mid-nineteenth century Greek Revival, rural domestic architecture in the Town of Greece.”

District School # 7

District School 7 Map
District School 7 Map
District School at 150 Frisbee Hill Road
District School at 150 Frisbee Hill Road
150 Frisbee Hill Road Today
150 Frisbee Hill Road Today

Children attending District School #7 on located at 168 Frisbee Hill would come down the hill with pails to fetch drinking water from the pump by the front porch of the Bagley house. Their teachers were often boarded there during the school season. The schoolhouse was built for $700 on a quarter-acre plot of land leased by Edward Frisbee, a North Greece pioneer, in September 1833, and stipulated that the land was to be used for school. Mrs. Cancella was a teacher at the one-room schoolhouse. Lou Frisbee was the bus driver. The school had about 15 students and went from K – 10 or 11 grade. In 1899 the original schoolhouse on Frisbee Hill just past North Greece was torn down. District 7 lost its old school by Court rule. Florence Haskins at 150 Frisbee Hill Rd. sued Myron B. Kelly, serving as a trustee of the school district for possession of the schoolhouse and the quarter-acre of land her great-grandfather had turned over for school purposes. Dorothy Frisbee used to serve soup, sandwiches, and cookies to the kids if they didn’t bring any lunch says Ruth a former student. The most difficult time was in the winter on the bus because she said the winters were tough and it was difficult for the bus to get through the snow. The roads weren’t plowed like today and the drifts were quite high. She didn’t remember how they heated the school, but she said it got quite cold inside on occasions in the winter.

Next week

Next Tuesday will look at a few other cobblestone houses but for one it was not able to be saved and that is a tale for next week. Bicentennial Snapshot # 30 – Cobblestone Houses Part 2

For More on Cobblestones buildings from this Snapshot

The Cobblestone Church at the Cobblestone Museum in Albion, NY
The Cobblestone Church at the Cobblestone Museum in Albion, NY

Some of the information for this week and next week’s snapshot comes to us from the Douglas Farley and the Cobblestone Museum in Albion, New York you can check out their museum at https:/www.cobblestonemuseum.org/ as well as the program he did at our Tuesday program called “Set In Stone”: The History Of Cobblestone Masonry

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 10 – Samuel and Lydia and George and Frances Latta

This week we introduce you to Samuel and Lydia and George and Frances Latta, one of the preeminent families of the Town of Greece. They were members of the Valliant 33 group that fought to defend Charlotte and the port from the British in the war of 1812 Part 3 snapshot.

Samuel Latta Bio

George C Latta Bio

Samuel Latta

Samuel Latta

He was born 14 Apr 1776, in Walkill, Ulster co., New York to James and Sarah Jackson Latta. Some of his many accomplishments as a pioneer family of the town of Northhampton which covers both Towns of Gates and Greece until 1812 when the town was renamed, Gates then in 1822 the two towns split into Gates and Greece. Samuel Latta served as Town Supervisor in 1810 as seen in this map here. He was the first to build a warehouse at the port of Charlotte and was the first Collector of the port which was described in the snapshot Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse. He surveyed and laid out a road from the river to Parma, today’s Latta Road.

Among Samuel’s accomplishments: he built the first warehouse at the mouth of the Genesee River, the first in all of this part of the country; he was the first collector of the Port of Charlotte; he surveyed and laid out a road from the river to Parma, today’s Latta Road.


George C. Latta

George C. Latta was born in 1795 in Walkill, Walkill, Ulster co., New York to James and Sarah Jackson Latta and brother to Samuel. George has some of the same talents as his brother did but he was an entrepreneurial powerhouse. He was the quintessential “self-made man.” The broad range of his investments and businesses included mercantile, forwarding, manufacturing, farming, and nursery operations.

One of the mercantile companies was for a clerk in the Frederick Bushnell and James K. Guernsey mercantile business in Charlotte.

After working in the mercantile business he went on to be the town supervisor from 1845 to 1849, a trustee of his church the Lake United Methodist Church, and he donated the land for the Charlotte Cemetery which is located at 20 River St in Charlotte is right across from where District 4 school was located and now is the site of Rochester Engine 19 Station.

W. M. Britton and Edward Frisbee were not the only town supervisors and or families that help with education and land to be used for a school, 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. In 1893 a two-story addition was completed at a cost of $ 6,200. In 1907 a second school was constructed on-site. After annexation, Rochester built school # 38 on Latta Rd in 1928 and put on an addition in 1953. The evolution of education in the town may be another snapshot altogether as some other things that George C Latta did as supervisor of the town of Greece can be viewed on the digital kiosk at the museum in the section labeled supervisors of Greece.

Grave stone of George C Latta
District 4 on the land that George C Latta donated for the construction of this school

An Article was written by Joan Sullivan about George C Latta a Pioneer, Merchant, and Entrepreneur those who would like to read that article can it be read here

For more about these two pioneer families check out our pioneer families displays in the dining room at the museum Sundays from 1:30 pm to 4 pm. If you are into reading you might want to pick up a copy of Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece: Volume 1 now available in our gift shop or on amazon. Also, some of this information is in Eight Miles Along the Shore as well which is another great book about the town’s history.

All video and post-production are done by Pat Worboys and Narration and script are by Maureen Whalen. Most of the photos in the clip are from the Greece Historical Society’s archives, Greece Town Historian’s Office, and the Greece Post, the rest are creative commons licenses which are provided in the video.

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 07: Town of Greece War of 1812 Part 3

This week we conclude our three-part presentation on the attacks along the Greece shores of Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. Today we look at the battle fought on May 15, 1814. What occurred then never made it into any national history books, but is legendary in local history. Initially, 33 men from the volunteer militia responded to the sighting of the British fleet at the mouth of the Genesee River and fooled Commodore Sir James Yeo into thinking that they were “a substantial force” until more regiments could join them to turn away the enemy.

The Valiant 33

We know 17 these names of and members of the Valiant 33:

Isaac Stone, Francis Brown, Elisha Ely, Abelard Reynolds, Hamlet Scranton, Jehiel Barnard, Hervey Ely, Jesse Hawley, Silas O. Smith, Oliver Colby, Sam Latta‡§, George Latta  Thomas King, Bradford King, Zaccheus Colby, Eastman Colby, Frederick Rowe

Note the symbols next to some of the names

  • *- Greece Town Supervisor
  • † – They are the Sons of Giddon King more on King’s Landing is in King’s Landing
  • ‡ – They are Town of Northhampton Supervisors, not Gates or Greece – The town of Gates was formed in 1813 when the town changed its name to Gates, and for more information on the forming of the town of Greece check out the first snapshot of How Greece was formed
  • §- The Latta Family, Sam and George are brothers, born in Walkill, Ulster co., New York. More on the Latta Family in Snapshot #10 and in the publications Eight Miles Along the Shore and the latest book Pioneer Families of Greece Volume 1.
Samuel Latta's War of 1812 Card
Samuel Latta’s War of 1812 Card
Sketch of what appears to be the Frederick Bushnell and James K. Guernsey mercantile business at the mouth of the Genesee River or the

One of the Wearhouse that was hit was near Frederick Bushnell’s and James K. Guernsey’s mercantile business located in the Port.

The war of 1812 did last till February 18th, 1815 but there were so many small battles and wars in this battle, was the British attempting to retake the colony back and make America regret its choice to become its own country on July 4th, 1776.

General Peter Porter arrived that afternoon in time to receive a second flag. The British demanded that they surrender the provisions or they would land an army and 400 Indians. There were now 600 to 800 men on the east and west sides of the river ready to fight. Not knowing how many men were defending Charlotte, Yeo sailed away from the mouth of the Genesee on the morning of May 16, 1814.

General Peter Porter sent a message back to the Governor of New York that day stating:

“We saved the town and our credit by fairly outbullying John Bull.”

General Peter Porter
General Peter Porter
General Peter Porter
Years of service 1812–1815
Rank: Major General
Sir Commodore James Lucas Yeo

“At the Genesee, the enemy had a substantial force.”

Sir James Yeo wrote in his report to his superior officers:

More on the war of 1812 is in the book we published Eight Miles Along the Shore.

Learn more about the Latta Families Samuel Latta and George Latta in Pioneer Families of the Town of Greece Volume 1

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Bicentennial Snapshot # 06: War of 1812 Part 2

American fleet caught up with the becalmed British fleet at Braddock Bay
American fleet caught up with the becalmed British fleet at Braddock Bay

This week we continue with part two of three presentations on the attacks along the Greece shores of Lake Ontario during the War of 1812. Today we look at the battle fought on September 11, 1813. For two years American Commodore Isaac Chauncey and British Commodore Sir James Yeo maneuvered for control of Lake Ontario. When they met at the mouth of the Genesee River on September 11, 1813, it was only their second direct engagement with each other. That morning the American fleet caught up with the becalmed British fleet at Braddock Bay. At 2:30 p.m., just offshore of Charlotte, Chauncey, and his fleet had closed to within ¾ of a mile of Yeo, putting him in long-gun range. The flagship, Pike, and the Sylph began to fire their cannons at the British fleet; the bombardment lasted for 90 minutes.

For more on the War of 1812 and its connection with Greece, New York check out: Eight Miles Along The Shore by Virginia Tomkiewicz and Shirley Cox Husted is the first book you should pick up.

The Greece Historical Society presents these weekly Bicentennial Snapshots to mark the 200th Anniversary of the founding of the Town of Greece. Each week we feature a particular aspect of Greece, New York history. Each Bicentennial story will be unique in nature and over the course of the 52 episodes, you will learn about the people and events that comprise the vibrant history of Greece from its earliest days to the present.

Eight Miles Along the Shore
Eight Miles Along the Shore By Virginia Tomkiewicz and Shirley Cox Husted
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