Today we’ll share with you what it was like growing up on a farm on Latta Road.
The Whelehan farm at 1438 Latta Road is the last of the Irish family farms in the Paddy Hill community. In 1990, a volunteer with the Greece Historical Society interviewed Francis Howard Whelehan, who lived his entire 94 years there. He described his life growing up on the farm.
Howard’s great-grandparents, Thomas Whelehan and Mary Ryan Whelehan, came to the Town of Greece from King’s County in 1836. Mary was Squire Nicholas Read’s grandniece. They had seven children, three sons, and four daughters. One of their sons, William, inherited the Read farm.
Thomas and Mary’s son, Patrick, born in Ireland in 1832, was Howard’s grandfather and his grandmother was Margaret Goodwin, from another Greece pioneer family; she was born in 1834 to Patrick Goodwin and Rosanna Beaty. Howard’s father, born in 1877 was John Patrick Whelehan. In this photo, which hangs in the living room of the Society’s museum, Patrick is the bearded gentleman in the front row; John Patrick stands directly behind him. Margaret Goodwin Whelehan is seated second from the left.
As you can see from this map, members of the Whelehan family had farms along Latta Road and down Mount Read near Our Mother of Sorrows Church.
After Father John Patrick Quinn became pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows Church,
his sister, Matilda (Tillie) Quinn, moved to Greece, became the organist and choir director of her brother’s church, met John Patrick Whelehan who was in the choir, and married him in 1899.
They moved into the home at 1438 Latta Road which was built for the newly married couple by Patrick Whelehan. Their first child J. Donald was born in 1903 and their second son, F. Howard in 1905. The farm was large and by 1908 they were expanding the number of barns to store hay and grains,
but shockingly, John Patrick died in early 1909. Tillie, a widow at the age of 38, was left with a six- and a four-year-old. As she said when she got home from the funeral, she had two things in life, two little boys and five dollars.
After their father died, Arthur Yates from Elmtree farm…
Although Tillie grew up on a farm in Macedon, she was a school teacher before her marriage and knew little about managing a farm. In addition to the crops, the farm had chickens, pigs, horses, and cattle. Neighbors and family helped initially but she knew she’d have to get some permanent help. When she inquired around, she was told there were two or three men she might hire, but they all had “the same little trouble” Howard recounted in the interview “they liked to drink a little too much.” She did hire one of them, she needed the help.
Farming under the best of circumstances was hard. Most of Tillie’s needs could be met from the farm itself, but when she needed to buy additional goods, she didn’t have ready cash. She would gather 10 to 12 dozen eggs and take them to the grocery store in Charlotte. The grocer always took her word for how many there were. He’d tally up the amount she was due, for example, $3.25. Tillie had her list and she’d walk around picking up coffee, tea, sugar, flour, etc. When the grocer told her, Mrs. Whelehan, you’re getting close to the $3.25, that was it; she had no more money.
Tillie would keep old papers and iron bits like plow points for the rag and scrap men who would come from the city to collect them. She stored them near the chicken shed.
One time a scrap man stopped at the farm, he weighed the paper and iron she had, and paid for them. But the next day, Tillie discovered that every one of her hens was gone. Most likely the scrap man had stolen them. Tillie depended on those hens for her grocery money. Soon all her neighbors each gave her two hens, and her hen house was soon replenished.
In the early decades of Howard’s life, there was no electricity or running water in the house. The house was heated by a cook stove in the kitchen and a pot-bellied coal stove in the parlor. Taking a bath was quite an undertaking which is one reason why they didn’t have one very often. If they were going to see the doctor or the dentist or before going to church on Sunday, Howard said, “naturally we would have to take a bath.” They would pump about two pails of water to heat on the stove. That could take up to 40 minutes. Then they had to haul the heated water down to the basement where there was a tub (chamber pots and washbowls) they could bathe in. The Smithsonian has a good collection of 19th and early 20th-century Portable Bathtubs that can be viewed at https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/portable-bathtubs-tub-bathing-from-the-early-19th-and-20th-centuries.
In late summer or early fall, they would hitch a team to a box wagon and drive down to Greece Lumber on Latta Road (near the bridge over the parkway today, where the now-closed Latta Lea Golf was and a townhouse complex, built next to the parkway) which sold coal and lumber, they filled the wagon with two tons of chestnut coal. They’d store it in the cellar and use it all winter in the pot-bellied stove in the parlor.
In addition to growing potatoes, cabbages, and “every kind of berry” for themselves, Tillie also had a contract with a hotel on the Irondequoit side of the river. This was in the days before the Stutson Street Bridge. Howard and Donald would load up a wagon with potatoes and they and horse and wagon would cross the river on a flatboat called the Windsor that ran on a chain.
Howard also recalled that there were two major parties during the winter. One was always at Leo Whelehan’s home next to Our Mother of Sorrows Church.
Also, Leo Whelehan had reported some of the unusual phantom stories written in Eight Miles Along the Shore. The story of the Phantom Man was featured in our Halloween special for the Bicentennial Snapshots in snapshot 32.
The other was the Janes family home on Long Pond (which was the former Peter Larkin home). Now home to the Lang Dental Group.
In summer they looked forward to going to the Farmer’s picnic every year at Manitou Beach.
Another of his relatives, State Senator Frederick Slater, organized it every year. In this picture, Senator Slater is on the far right. On the way home he’d start making plans for the next year’s picnic, because said Howard “none of us had any pleasure between them.”
Howard also talked about the Big Freeze of 1934. They raised apples on their farm, some to be sold to Duffy-Mott. He recalled lying awake at night hearing the apple trees breaking; he said it sounded like a man was out there with a big board hitting the barn as hard as he could. The next morning when they went out, they could put an arm through any tree, because they had all split open. More on this in snapshot 33 extreme Weather Part 1.
Matilda never remarried. Even so, she successfully ran that farm for years and was able to send her oldest son, Donald, to the University of Rochester and Harvard Law School. Howard took over the farm.
The transcript of the interview with Howard Whelehan is attached below for anyone interested in finding out more about growing up on Latta Road.
Thank you for joining us today; next week we go shopping at Northgate Plaza.
In 1878 Dr. Samuel Beach Bradley wrote in his journal “A miniature Ireland grew up here, free from the annoyances and the oppression of the Old Country. Industry secured prosperity. It has been a saying that if there is a good farm for sale, there is an Irishman with the money to pay for it.” The miniature Ireland he was referring to, of course, is what is still called today, Paddy Hill.
Between 1805 and 1830 the first stream of Irish immigrants came to Greece, some by way of Canada. They came from places such as County Fermanagh, King’s County, County Wicklow, and County Wexford. These immigrants were a relatively prosperous group of families who “left Ireland decades before the potato famines of the 1840s forced millions of Irish from their impoverished homeland.” Many of the men were skilled tradesmen such as stone masons, mechanics, and coopers.
What they sought was land, something they were prohibited from owning in their native country. Unlike later generations of immigrants, these Irish farmers were able to purchase tracts of fertile acreage and establish themselves quickly as prosperous landowners.
By the second quarter of the century, orchards and grain crops crowned Paddy Hill and the farms prospered. Like The Rigney and the Whelehan Farm in the Picture to the right.
We will learn more about what Francis Howard Whelehan remembers about his family farm in next week’s snapshot.
One of the first Irishman to settle in the area was Felix McGuire. Born in County Fermanagh (Fer-man-a) circa 1770, he arrived in Greece between 1805 and 1807. He was a leading Catholic layman in his day in Monroe County and a “substantial figure in the history of the Town of Greece.” By 1810 he was elected as a path master for the town of Northampton. The Catholic tradition in Rochester and in Greece is that Felix was the man who brought the first priest to the Rochester district to celebrate Mass in 1818. He also was a founder of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Rochester in 1823.
Nicholas Read was a contemporary of Felix McGuire. A prosperous, well-educated Irish immigrant, he took up residence in Greece circa 1823. “Already a man of substance, he purchased a considerable amount of acreage on the crest and slopes of the highest point in the town of Greece between Ridge Road and the Lake, now called after him, Mount Read.” Maps labeled the intersection with Latta Road “Read’s Corners” before it was ever called Paddy Hill. A civic and religious leader, Read “served as justice of the peace for over twenty years, and for three years was one of the associate judges of the county. Many called him “Judge” Read because of his judicial positions. He was more widely known as “Squire” Read.”
The heart of the Irish community at Read’s Corner was their church and Felix McGuire and Nicholas Read were instrumental in its founding. Nicholas Read donated the land for the church and cemetery. Principally through their efforts, a frame building was begun in 1829. It was named St. Ambrose Church but was more commonly called “The Church in the Woods,” a name given to it by the local Native Americans. That was what the church was called before receiving the name Our Mother of Sorrows, It was the first Catholic church built in any rural area in New York State.
Diocesan historian Robert McNamara wrote: “The Irish were so numerous in the north part of Greece that for many years a long stretch of Latta Road on either side of Mount Read was flanked by an unbroken line of Irish Catholic farms. It is no surprise that the Mount came to be called “Paddy Hill.” But the Grecian Irish deeply resented this nickname, for “Paddy” was an ethnic slur.” But it is the name that lingers to this day. Judge Read was particularly active in fighting anti-Irish/anti-Catholicism sentiments.
The image on the right is a pen and ink original art by noted cartoonist Frederick Opper (1857-1937), noted for comic strips “Happy Hooligan, Alphonse And Gaston, Her Name Was Maud” and others. Opper also drew political cartoons for William Randolph Hearst’s “New York Journal.” This single-panel cartoon dates to c. 1885, during the height of anti-Irish immigrant sentiment in America, and features a man with a bucket and paintbrush standing outside of a wooden shack decorated with shamrocks and Irish harp, with freshly painted “Down Wid Toyrunts! No More Irish Paupers Wanted In The U.S.” text. Irish woman looks out of the window as goat w/painted shamrock look on. Nightshirt w/harp image hangs off the post over the door like a flag. Opper has signed at the lower right. The lower left corner has a .5×1″ corner tip-off (not affecting art) w/2″ corner crease. Artboard has evenly aged some corner foxing and scattered dust soiling.
Peter Larkin was born circa 1809 in Ireland and emigrated to this country around the age of 30. He, along with his good friend Joseph Fleming, succeeded Felix McGuire and Squire Read as leaders of the Irish Community of Read’s Corners. Before coming to Greece, both men worked on a number of canal projects around New York State and in Canada. In addition to his farm, Peter was a prosperous property owner around what was known as Greece Center—the Latta/ Long Pond intersection and where the Greece Town Hall campus is today. Peter was elected supervisor of the town three times: 1861–1862, 1872, and 1876.
Peter Larkin Home on Long Pond, is now home to Lang Dental Group.
Our Mother of Sorrows and Father Jean Louis Maurice
Larkin and Fleming recommended that a French priest, Father Jean Louis Maurice, or Father John Maurice as he anglicized his name, be made pastor of St. Ambrose and he was appointed in 1856. When it came time to construct a new church to replace the 30-year-old wooden frame church in 1859, Peter Larkin and Joseph Fleming were the general contractors and Peter personally built the lentils and windows of the church. They donated their labor. Father Maurice was the pastor for 39 years until his death on Christmas Day, 1895 at the age of 83.
This church continued to be at the heart of the Irish community.
A highlight in the history of this community and its church was the centennial celebration in June 1930. Five thousand parishioners and former parishioners attended the ceremony. Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife Eleanor were among the dignitaries helping to mark the anniversary.
In 1968 it was replaced by a new church just south of the cemetery. The congregation outgrew the little church at the corner of the Latta and Mount Read Blvd building a new church could give them more room for more members to attend services and around 1950 they added a Private Catholic school on the grounds years later to help with the number of congregational members growing because the town’s population was booming. But in the 2000s Mother of Sorrows school started to see a decline in admissions of students to the school which forced the church to sell the school building and in 2017 Rochester Academy Charter School bought the building and serves as their high school.
Paddy Hill Library/Rochester Academy Charter School
The old church was leased to the town of Greece for the Paddy Hill Branch Library, “with the understanding that any inside adjustments necessary could be made, but that the old red-brick Romanesque exterior would remain the same.” The library closed circa 1999 with the opening of the new library on the Town Hall campus in 2000. There is a second library branch that opened up in the Dewey-Stone area but since COVID it has not reopened the small storefront location.
Between 2000 and 2017 it was used by the Greece Central School District as well for a short period for certain programs and offices due to building constraints of the district at the time. Today the building is owned by the Rochester Academy Charter School.
Look at this 1902 map and you can see that Read’s Corners is still surrounded by Irish family farms.
Today, the Whelehan’s Allyndaire Farm is the last of them on Latta Road. More about them in our next Snapshot.
Paddy Hill School / Common School District # 5
Equally important to the community was its school, which was and is located across the street from Our Mother of Sorrows Church. The year after the Town of Greece was established in 1822, a new local public school, Common School District No. 5 Town of Greece was set up on the west side of the half-intersection of Latta Road and the present Mount Read Blvd. There has been a public elementary school at this intersection since 1839, either here or kitty-corner from the church, 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.
With the school and their church established in 1829, the community “began to envision that intersection as the nucleus of a future village.” But the commercial hubs developed in Charlotte, and around the Dewey/Latta, and the Latta/Long Pond intersections. Even today the surrounding environs are predominately residential.
Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery
Very few of the early settlers around Paddy Hill chose to leave for other places; there were many marriages among the tightly-knit families. One only has to walk the quiet paths of Our Mother of Sorrows Cemetery and read the names on the grave markers: McGuire, Read, Larkin, Fleming, Rigney, Bemish, Burns, Whelehan, McShea, Slater, Goodwin, Gallery, and Hogan. A who’s who of the early pioneers of the town. Many of the descendants of these families still reside in Greece.
Thank you for joining us today, next week our Snapshot is about growing up on Paddy Hill.
Our new season of Second Tuesday of the Month programs begins on September 13, 2022, at 7 pm, in the Welsh Room at the Greece Public Library, with “Set in Stone: The History of Cobblestone Masonry”, by Douglas Farley.
Mr. Farley looks at the geological and social factors that created the perfect storm for a truly unique, regional architectural phenomenon that lasted from roughly 1820 to the end of the Civil War. Also covered is the creation of the Cobblestone Society & Museum and its growth to include its award-winning National Historic Landmark campus.
Douglas Farley is the current director of The Cobblestone Society located in Albion (Orleans County) NY, a position he has held since 2017. The Cobblestone Society interprets three National Historic Landmark cobblestone buildings and several other historic structures on their large campus. You can learn more about the Cobblestone Museum at https://www.cobblestonemuseum.org/
REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED for this program. Please click the link below to register or you can call the Greece Public Library by phone
A recording of this presentation will be available at a later date for reference only.
A brief note: In the town of Greece, there is an example of cobblestone architecture at 978 North Greece Road just south of Mill Road. You can learn more about this building by clicking the link below. Also – look for more information about the role of cobblestones in Greece in our upcoming Bicentennial Snapshots 28 and 29.