Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Rookers

c. 1924
Thank you to Clara and Keith McIver for donating a family photo for the family of Earl and Nettie Wilson Rooker, featured are:

Back row: Gene (Madison Eugene, 1902-1980), Charlie (Charles Oliver, 1914-1960), Earl (Earl James, 1906-1975), Nettie Jane Wilson Rooker (1884-1940), Earl Hesler Rooker (1878-1948). Front row: Fred (Frederick Ernest, 1912-1979), and Helen (Helen Frances, 1917-1992).

Earl and Nettie were blessed with another child Clinton who was not yet born when this photo was captured.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Baptist Society of Mentz Land Deed

I just found the land deed for the Baptist Church of Mentz dated Feb. 23, 1818 where Friend Barber sold land to the church, the elected members being John Jefferies, Joseph Clary, William Mead, Rupel Palmer, and Shadrack Crane as trustees.  The deed was sealed in the presence of John Wait and Christopher Jefferies.

After doing some additional checking, Friend Barber is of the Windsor, CT Barber family, my own distant relative and kin to many families who still reside at Port Byron.  Perhaps many of you are distantly related to the various names mentioned.

"New York, Land Records, 1630-1975," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1961-32985-10757-6?cc=2078654&wc=M9M4-8XN:n660094825 : accessed 24 Nov 2013), Cayuga > Deeds 1817-1819 vol T-U > image 200 of 605

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Home Defense Reserve Unit 176

Today I discovered that Port Byron has an entire new group of service men who deserve recognition.  Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, Port Byron formed their own company of the Home Defense Reserve and was designated Company No. 176 when it mustered in on July 18, 1917.

According to the 1919 annual report of the Adjutant General, the Home Defense Reserve is described as follows:


"On April 25, 1917, the Governor authorized the organization of the Home Defense Corps under section 5-a of the Military Law.  Later the designation was changed to the Home Defense Reserve of New York State. This organization was a local auxiliary police reserve under the control of the Governor as commander-in-chief and was intended solely as a local police guard. The units were not to be used outside of the county in which organized. Arms, uniforms and equipment were not issued to it by the State other than a few Ross rifles in 1918.  The units were equipped and maintained either by voluntary contributions or under chapter 235 of the Laws of 1917, which authorized a county, city, town or village to provide arms, uniforms and equipment for military organizations raised within the municipality.  Its members were enrolled for the period of the emergency and the Governor had authority to terminate the liability under the enrollment oath at any time. Soon after the armistice was signed these organizations began to be musteredout and at present very few of them are in existence.  Chapter 212 of the Laws of 1919 prescribes that all property in the possession of such organizations provided by or purchased from funds appropriated by a county, city, town or village shall be disposed of upon disbandment in a manner to be prescribed by the governing board of the municipality which provided the property or appropriated the funds from which it was purchased and further prescribes that all other property and funds in the possession of said organizations shall be disposed of upon disbandment in such manner as may be prescribed by a two-thirds vote of all of the members of the organization concerned in good standing at the time of disbandment."

In the roster, there are only two companies from Cayuga County being unit 175 of Auburn and unit 176 of Port Byron, with 40 members serving from Port Byron.  The names of those that served are not known at this time except for L. H. King who served on the county committee.  Dr. George B. Stewart of Auburn was Chairman and secured the Ross rifles for Auburn and Port Byron.

There was also a Woman's Division under the direction of Mrs. Anna M Kent of Union Springs.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Panther Update

The true origin of the "Port Byron Panther" belongs to our athletic teams!!  I had previously found evidence that the yearbook club was the first to adopt the Panther with their circus themed yearbook.  However, I just stumbled onto a newspaper article dated December 20, 1951 that tells us the yearbook club adopted the name to have the same name as the school sports teams.  So now the proper credit for our mascot can be traced to our athletic teams of years past.  Now the question remains, when did the actual panther mascot become part of our school culture?

Port Byron Chronicle and Cayuga County News
December 20,1951

Monday, September 16, 2013

Village Jail

The Auburn Citizen
January 25, 1928

Village Lockup—Port Byron
Inspected December 31, 1927
George Newkirk, mayor; T. M. Crane, village clerk. The village population is about 1,000.  This lockup is located in fire headquarters on the ground floor of the two-story Village Hall.  It consists of a two-cell latticed steel cage, each cell equipped with folding bunk, waterproof covered mattress and comfortable.

Large windows provide ample light and ventilation. Electric light and coal stove. Sanitary buckets are used as there are no sewers in the village.  General condition good.  Only one person has been detained here during year just closed.

When this lockup is occupied close and competent - supervision should be provided against the fire risk.
Respectfully submitted,

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Smith & Dixon

Auburn Daily Bulletin. February 21, 1874

A CHANGE OF BASE.—Messrs. Smith & Dixon, of Port Byron, have sold to parties in Indianapolis their interest in the manufacture of the Skilton mower and reaper knife guards. The machinery of the manufactory has been shipped for
Indianapolis, where the purchasers design the formation of a heavy joint stock company to continue the manufacture.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Port Byron Twins Win Baby Contest

Port Byron Twins Win

Agnes and Helen, twins of Mr. and Mrs. William Murray of Port Byron, were adjudged normal and perfect according to a comparison made with tables supplied by the Woman's Home Companion which was the criterion on which the judges based their awards.  Needless to say that Mrs. Murray is today the proudest mother in Port Byron.

The Auburn Citizen
August 22, 1919

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Service Flag by William Herschell

This poem was published in 1918.


William Herschell In The Indianapolis News

Dear little flag in the window there,
Hung with a tear and a woman's prayer;
Child of Old Glory, born with a star—
Oh, what a wonderful flag you are!

Blue is your star in its field of white,
Dipped in the red that was born of fight;
Born of the blood that our forebears shed
To raise your mother, The Flag, o'erhead.

And now you've come, in this frenzied day,
To speak from a window—to speak and say:
"I am the voice of a soldier-son
Gone to be gone till the victory's won.”

"I am the flag of The Service, sir;
The flag of his mother—I speak for her
Who stands by my window and waits and fears,
But hides from the others her unwept tears.”

"I am the flag of the wives who wait
For the safe return of a martial mate,
A mate gone forth where the war god thrives
To save from sacrifice other men's wives.”

"I am the flag of the sweethearts true;
The often unthought of—the sisters, too.
I am the flag of a mother's son
And won't come down till the victory's won."

Dear little flag in the window there;
Hung with a tear and a woman's prayer;
Child of Old Glory, born with a star—
Oh, what a wonderful flag you arel

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Port Byron Reds

Sports history certainly is a bit of a stretch for me but while researching our school mascot I found a couple articles about the Port Byron Reds.  This was a name unfamiliar to me:

Port Byron Chronicle 1951-1952

The team formed around 1951 and headed by Andy Sorendo.  It was considered a County team and had an impressive opening season.

Auburn Citizen 1953

School Logo

Our alums ask great questions on our alumni facebook page!  The question raised was about when the school torch logo was first introduced,  The Port Byron Library has a wonderful collection of yearbooks, while not a complete collection, one can learn a great deal by viewing them.

The Class of 1940 holds credit to being the first class to design their own custom logo for what at that time was called "The Phoenix", the annual yearbook. 

The library does not have the yearbooks for 1941 to 1943 so were not sure if this gap was due to the war or if it is just that they have not had donations for these years.

If anyone has a year book for 1941 to 1943, please check the cover and inside pages to confirm what logo was used and if the torch appears yet.  Please post your feedback to the alumni facebook page.

The torch logo does appear on the 1944 year book, now called "The Byronics".

The 1950's would bring a name change to "The Panther" but it wasn't until 1959 that the animal that would become our mascot appeared on the cover.

The yearbook staff called themselves "The Panther Club", so it would appear the school mascot's roots came from the yearbook club, who produced a circus themed yearbook in 1959, resulting in the panther appearing on the cover for the first time.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

I've Been Working On The Railroad

When they say the best gifts come in small packages, it's true!

Today my nephew handed me an envelope containing something very special from my recently deceased brother Ray, known to many of us as Bub.

He once worked on the railroad, the same industry as our Grandfather Oliver B. Wilson who retired as a section foreman on the New York Central.  He lists many of the names of locals that he worked with and thought readers would enjoy a glimpse of Bub's reminiscences about these hard working days of his past.  Thank you Justin for this wonderful gift about your Dad's personal history.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Port Byron Telephone

Here's a vintage advertisement of the Port Byron Telephone Company as it appeared in the Port Byron Chronicle and Cayuga County News on Friday June 14, 1944.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reed GAR Post # 259 of Montezuma

The Reed GAR Post was likely named in honor of Pvt. Franklin Eli Reed, who died at Drewry's Bluff, VA.


The post was formed in 1882 with the first officers being installed by R.R. Stillwell of the Lockwood Post of Port Byron.  

Weekly News and Democrat May 15, 1884
Weekly News and Democrat Auburn NY May 22, 1884

Weekly News and Democrat June 4, 1885
The Town Clerk register for soldiers who served in the Civil War indicates that Franklin was the son of Dr. Griffen Reed and Susan Bentley.  It is marked that he died in battle.  His mother applied for pension, at the time of the application her name was Susan Forshee.  The file does confirm that Pvt. Franklin Reed was "killed in action on May 16, 1864".

How long this post was active is not known.  There are only a few newspaper articles that acknowledge that the post even existed.  The New York State Archives in Albany has the Charter applications for most of the Posts for our State.

I was aware of the GAR Post in Weedsport and was thrilled to re-discover this additional GAR Post in Cayuga County.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Little Woman Connection

Louisa May Alcott
Today's post is dedicated to our very own Joni Lincoln.  I never get tired of the many twists and turns from our historic past and who they connect us with.  Joni, a long time supporter of the performing arts in our community, holds a special bond with the publication of Little Woman, having directed our drama club's performances of the timeless classic.

In the Alumni directory for Bowdoin College located in the Town of Brunswick, Maine is the following entry:

ALVAN HYDE SMEDLEY, b. 6 Oct. 1835, Port Byron, NY.  Med. Sch. 1862, Physician, New York City, 1863; Boston, Mass. 1863-72, d. 10 Oct. 1872.

Dr. Smedley while practicing at Boston had a patient by the name of Amos Bronson Alcott, being none other than the father of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Woman.  In the book Little Woman Abroad: The Alcott Sisters' Letters from Europe, 1870-1871 by Louisa May Alcott, Dr. Smedley cured her father's hearing loss.

History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts Now Called the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts
page 70

Name: Alvan H. Smedley Alvan H. Smedley(1868), physician, was the proprietor of the Tremont Eye and Ear Institute, at No. 129 Tremont, corner of Winter Street. He was also the principal and consulting physician in that Institution.

He was the son of Dr. James Smedley and Lucy Bridges.  The family did not live long in New York; by 1850 they returned to Williamstown, MA where his parents are buried.

While I have always been a fan of Little Woman, I am grateful to learn we share an unexpected attachment to the Alcott family via Dr. Smedley.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lord's Prayer

Weedsport, Saturday, Dec. 20, 1879

—We learn from the Chronicle that at a gathering of several prominent business men of Port Byron, the other day the question arose as to how many could repeat the Lord's prayer, and it was agreed to try it. To their mutual astonishment all proved equal to the task. This is the most hopeful news we have had from Port Byron in a long time.

Pickle Boy

Thursday, December 18, 1879

—Some little boys were playing "hide and coop" in this village the other day, when one of them went into a shed in the rear of a grocery to hide. He saw a barrel standing on end, with one head out, and thinking that would be a fine place in which to secrete himself, ran and jumped into — a barrel full of vinegar. He didn't wait to "coop," but climbed out as quickly as he could, as sour looking a boy as ever was seen. He bore a close resemblance to a pickled lobster, and hurried home before some one should mistake him for that and treat him accordingly,—Port Byron Chronicle

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Soldiers Bond

The students at Dana L West Jr/Sr High held a wonderful tribute to fallen soldiers in December as part of the Wreaths Across America Program under the direction of Dr. Linda Townsend.

Our guests included the Patriot Guard and their motorcycle display in the auditorium I'm sure will be remembered by the students for years to come.

I was honored to join them to share a few words about the contributions of the African American Civil War soldiers and their role in the Lockwood Post #175 GAR of Port Byron.  I closed sharing my thoughts about the bond of soldiers being mutual love of country.

Poem by Mark Schuster
(Click image to enlarge)
After the ceremony, Mark Schuster of the Patriot Guard, shared with me that he was pleased that my talk touched upon the bond of soldiers.  Mark had recently wrote a poem on the subject and he agreed to provide a copy to share with my readers.

Thank you Mark and all the members of the Patriot Guard who dedicate themselves in the remembrance of soldiers.  Port Byron was proud to have you with us in December.  I am especially grateful for the poems you left for us, our community will find great inspiration in them.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rev. David Wilson of Hebron, NY

Here's a nice bio of Rev. David Wilson who briefly resided in Mentz. Many of his family are buried at the Wilson-Dixon Cemetery. While Rev. David did have a will drawn from Cayuga County, he moved back to Hebron, Washington Co., NY just before his passing.

Source: The Congregational Quarterly, Volume 6, by Revs. Henry M Dexter, Alonzo H Quint and Isaac P Langworthy, 1864

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Courage of Myrtle Kilmer

Every now and then you find a news clip that makes you stop and realize just how important the imagery of liberty is to us.  I'd like to share a little article that appeared in the Port Byron Chronicle on Saturday January 26, 1917:


Miss Myrtle Kilmer a former resident of this village, who resides with her sister Mrs. Oliver Wilson at Syracuse, is receiving a great deal of praise as the result of an act she performed at the Emanuel Evangelical church Thursday evening while a meeting was in progress. The fire started near the chimney and the auditorium quickly filled with smoke.  The members of the audience crowded to the doors. Miss Kilmer forced her way through the crowd to the front of the auditorium where a large American flag  was hung , took down the flag and then hurried out of the building being the last to leave.  Miss Kilmer modestly denied that any special credit was due her, as it seemed to her the most natural thing to do.

Way to go Myrtle!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Masonic Temple Dedication 1952

Thank you to the Boy Scouts for the opportunity to make the 1952 dedication of the Masonic Temple available to our community as a free download.  It includes the history of our village, firsts in our history, a St. directory and many vintage ads from local merchants and neighboring communities.

Click this link to download the Masonic Temple Lodge No. 130 F. & A.M.

Here's a nice link that contains history of our temple but also has some interesting information about Finley M. King, as well as his photograph, see pages 32 to 34.

Note: 1879 History of Cayuga County credits the first village president as Walter H. Smith but includes the list of the first village board of trustees, see page 311, as well as a list of successive leaders of Port Byron.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Port Byron Nurse in the Civil War

Here's an interesting article I found today.  Katherine Adelia Baker, reported as a Port Byron native and married Pvt. John L. Crane, a soldier of the 9th Heavy Artillery who enlisted at Auburn.

The article goes on to say that she followed her husband to the battle field and served as a nurse.  Her husband was commissioned Captain of Co. H of the same regiment on September 8, 1862.  Capt. Crane was discharged on Nov. 12, 1864.

There are two head of household of the Baker surname in 1840, being G. Baker and J. Baker as well as Rachael Baker.

The Clyde Herald
Wednesday May 31, 1933


Port Byron Native, She Went To Civil War as a Nurse With Her Husband 

Death claimed Oalen's oldest resident Mrs. Kathleen Adelia Crane at her home at Caroline and Reese Streets shortly after midnight Saturday night.  She was 95 years, two months and 26 days of age.  She had been ill in recent weeks.

A native of Port Byron, March 1, 1838 Mrs. Crane as a young woman married John L. Crane, a Captain in the Civil War, and went with him to act as a nurse in that conflict.

They lived in a camp on the Potomac with Mr. and Mrs. Lape and Delia Lape and Mr. and Mrs. Wadley and James Wadley, all of whom have died. Tunis Conklin,

a nephew of the late Hiram Burton, did errands for them in Washington. Soldiers came to the camp to receive supplies from Captain Crane. A baby girl was born at
the camp to a wife of a general and she is believed to be residing in Auburn now.

For many years after the war Mr. and Mrs. Crane resided in Clyde. Mr. Crane practicing law in partnership with the late Charles T. Saxton, New York State's lieutenant-governor, 1904-1906.

Mr. Crane died in the west many years ago. An only daughter, Nellie, an accomplished musician, died at the age of eighteen. She would have been over 60 now.  Mrs. Crane maintained the homestead until her death, Mrs. H. B. Exner caring for her in recent years.

Mrs. Crane is survived by one sister Mrs. Lura O'Neil and one brother, Home Baker, both living here and both more than 80 years of age.  Several nieces and nephews survive her.

Funeral services were conducted at 2 O'clock Wednesday afternoon at the Gelder and Lacey home by the Rev. R.F. Smithson.  Burial was in Maple Grove Cemetery.


Maple Grove Cemetery at Galen, Wayne County, NY records the following burials:
Crane, Adelia C. wife Capt. John L. 1838-1933
Crane, Nellie dau John L. & Adelia C. 1867-1887

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Future Nurses Club

I continue to be amazed at the wonderful things waiting to be found in Port Byron's history.  Here's an article that says Port Byron established the first Future Nurses Club in Cayuga County.

Click the link above to read the 1958 article.

We owe a great debt of gratitude to fultonhistory.com for providing digital newspapers of the past that fills in so many details about our region.

Congrats to Port Byron School for making such an unusual record in Cayuga County!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Doctor Cayuga

Courtesy of Fold3.com
Today's post is dedicated to Kevin Faatz who attended one of my classes and expressed interest in Indian soldiers.  It is a topic that I have not collected data on to date, so I know Kevin will read this post with interest.

I'd like to share a little information on an Indian by the name of Doctor Cayuga of the Cayuga Tribe of the Six Nations.  Dr. Cayuga reported that he was 14 years old when he was living at the Indian reservation at Buffalo and placed into Capt. Littlebeard's Company of New York Militia.  His application for pension benefits in  1871 indicates he was born about 1791, so his exact age is not known.

He saw service at Black Rock and present when Buffalo was burned.  His unit crossed over Niagara River to the Canadian side opposite Black Rock where he did picket patrol and skirmishes.  He was in the battles of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane.  He served with Chief Black Squirrel who was of the Seneca Tribe and reported to be loyal to the American cause.  Some pages of the pension application suggest he saw service under Capt. Pollard.

While he was awarded 160 acres of bounty land (112,273) under the Act of 1855 for his service, he was denied a pension because he was not a Citizen of the United States and as such would not be able to "pledge an Oath of Allegiance" as required in the Pension Act.

His residence in 1871 was listed as Alabama, Genesee County, NY and had since moved to the Seneca Tribe, so perhaps he was living at the Tonawanda Creek Reservation located in that township as he is reported as living with the Senecas.

There is also an equipment claim for him:
No.: 10,087
NAME OF WARRIOR.: Doctor Cayuga,

CLAIMANT.: George Skye, Administrator

Here is some additional resources from the American State Papers about the Northwestern Indian Tribes which mentions Chief Littlebeard.

Another resource for those interested in learning more about the Indian land struggles resulting from the 1812 War.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Port Byron War of 1812 Soldiers

Finding soldiers who have served in the War of 1812 can be difficult.  Often their service was of short duration and few have any marking at their grave to tell visitors of their service.

I am pleased to share my latest research project to document our soldiers.  Many on this list may have been overlooked for public recognition as the majority of these men do not appear on any official list for soldiers from Port Byron and Mentz.

The list contains surnames that are still here today, while other soldiers moved elsewhere and their burial locations are not known.  The 1812 Equipment Claim offers a window for the names of our men who served between 1812-1815.