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19th Century Post-Mortem Photographs Included in Recent Donation to Department of History

Vol. 6, No. 5 

Popular during the Victorian era, post-mortem photographs provided family members with an opportunity to capture a lasting likeness of their deceased loved ones. In this particular case, a young child passed before his parents could arrange a formal studio portrait. The boy is peacefully posed on a fur blanket on the front porch of the family’s home in Yuba City, California, holding a rose in his left hand with another laid beside him. 

The appearance of the child may seem peculiar given his clothing and hairstyle. Breeching remained a common practice through the late 19th century. As infants, boys often wore dresses that covered their legs down to their feet which made ambling difficult. Once they began walking, these knee-length dresses allowed the child to walk while facilitating easy toilet training. … Continue reading19th Century Post-Mortem Photographs Included in Recent Donation to Department of History

Sandstone Monument Marks Burial Site of Five English Quarrymen

Vol. 6, No. 4 

The use of Medina sandstone to craft headstones was rather limited in the nineteenth century. County Historian C. W. Lattin has speculated that the common use of the stone for curbing and paving blocks made the durable material undesirable for such a noble purpose. In Orleans County, sandstone within cemeteries is often observed in hitching posts, carriage steps, and monument foundations. However, the presence of sandstone monuments became common among immigrant quarry laborers. The stone represented the livelihood of the deceased individual. It was readily accessible, often affordable, and on other occasions, a quarry owner might gift a slab of stone for use in the case of an untimely death. This particular monument at Mt. Albion Cemetery represents a rather unusual occurrence. Five English quarrymen are buried on this lot with this large, beautiful sandstone monument erected to their memory by friends and fellow quarry laborers.  … Continue readingSandstone Monument Marks Burial Site of Five English Quarrymen

Architecture Destroyed: Stoddard-Downs House

Vol. 6, No. 3 

In November of 1984, County Historian and Cobblestone Museum Director C. W. Lattin published a book entitled Architecture Destroyed in Orleans County, New York. The focus of this work was to call attention to the numerous homes, civic buildings, and houses of worship lost to “progress” throughout the history of our county. Over the thirty-five years since that book was published, our community has lost countless other structures due to accidents, neglect, or other reasons beyond our control. After the recent unfortunate loss of a beautiful Italianate house on South Main Street in Holley, I thought it would be fitting to highlight the history of past owners of the home while calling attention to a very important role of local historians; the role of documenting current events. 

The origins of the home date back to Moses N. Stoddard, whose personal biographical information is drawn from his obituary appearing in the Holley Standard on June 3, 1886. Born in Connecticut, Stoddard worked in a woolen mill as a young man ultimately earning the position of superintendent of the mill. … Continue readingArchitecture Destroyed: Stoddard-Downs House

Early Newspapers Directly Served Political Interests

Vol. 6, No. 2 

Although society laments the apparent death of objective journalism, bias in the media is far from a new phenomenon. In fact, the concept of nonpartisan news is just over a century old as journalism developed as a profession at the turn of the 20th century. Newspapers of the early 19th century provided political parties with official “organs” that disseminated platform-based editorials and spewed vitriol about rival candidates. 

The history of newspapers in Orleans County is a lengthy one, but a story that originates in the early 1820s. Attributed as the first published newspaper in Orleans County, Batavia-native Seymour Tracy produced the short-lived Gazette in Gaines. Tracy, known locally as “One-Legged Tracy,” was recognized throughout Batavia for his intemperate habits leading fellow printers to attribute that behavior to the sudden failure of his paper. John Fisk, who worked with Tracy, picked up the loose ends and continued the newspaper as the Orleans Whig in 1827.  … Continue readingEarly Newspapers Directly Served Political Interests

Local Mills Proved Essential for Growth of Communities

Vol. 5, No. 48

This image, taken in the early 1920s, shows the Woods & Sprague Mill located on East State Street in Albion. The mill relied largely on water from the West Branch of Sandy Creek, which passes under the Erie Canal at this location. Looking east, the Brown Street Canal Bridge is visible in the distance and the image is part of a series that shows leakage from the Canal into the foundation of the mill.

The history of this mill dates back 1819 when William Bradner purchased 266.5 acres of land from the Holland Land Company for the sum of $1,159.00. According to Arad Thomas, Bradner relocated from Palmyra and purchased several lots of land including Lot 35 from William McAllister. Aside from the construction of an early sawmill, Bradner’s grist mill included mill stones which he personally cut by hand in Palmyra. … Continue readingLocal Mills Proved Essential for Growth of Communities