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.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

John Cool Post #257

Today my family visited Fort Hill Cemetery to see the burial site of Pvt. Andrew J Bulkley. Thanks to the wonderful maps provided by the cemetery we had no difficulty in finding his burial site. However, he did not have a flag to mark his status as a veteran.

I extend a thank you to the Commander at the John Cool American Legion Post #257 of Port Byron, for donating a flag holder and flag for Pvt Bulkley's grave at Fort Hill. As a Korean War veteran, my father was proud do the honor of placing the flag on his grave. This was also the first time he had visited Fort Hill so we enjoyed a tour on our way home.

We had a pleasant visit with the folks at John Cool Post 257. They are very proud to be the sponsors of the Port Byron Marching Band. I was so pleased to learn that they are behind our Marching Panthers!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Honoring Our Soldiers

Memorial Day certainly is a day of reflection. Port Byron has always been a town to serve our country proudly, both past and present. The many freedoms we enjoy today have been protected by their effort, often at the sacrifice of their own safety.

In honor of Memorial Day, I thought I would compile some information on Port Byron's Lockwood Post Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Many of the surnames listed still remain active in our community.

The old boys in blue are but a small portion of the brave soldiers from Port Byron.

Partial member list Lockwood Post #175 G.A.R.

The last 3 surviving members of Port Byron's Lockwood Post #175 were Nathan Elliott Jr., August Sweet and Sylvester McChesney:

Read the biographies of the last 3 members

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Section 7 Canal Assignments

I thought readers may enjoy seeing more of the names of locals that were appointed by L.H. King of Port Byron for Section 7 on the Erie Canal.

Newspapers did not always separate workers by title, so did the best I could with the changing format from one year to another. Also, some newspaper dates were very difficult to read. However, it is fun to see the regulars that were appointed.

Section 7 Canal Assignments

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Erie Canal Boatmen Update!

For those that are following canal history or perhaps the history of the Traver family, I just found an interesting tidbit:

In the 1890's by the appointment of Superintendent L. H. King:

State Scow
CAPTAIN: Daniel Baldwin
TEAMSTER: James Blauvelt
LABORERS: Theo. Filkins, James Traver, Abram Coppernoll, Jas. D Dixon, John Richmond, Patrick Campbell, Edward Moll.
COOK: Mrs. James Traver

Now we know that James Traver and his wife were on the canal by appointment on a State Scow, with Captain Daniel Baldwin.

Hopefully a listing can be found from 1880 that would tell us the same for A. Eugene Wilson.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Oregon Trail Links

For readers who are interested in the materials on the Oregon Trail story, you can see a map of the ranch owners from 1864 by visiting the following book:

Massacre along the Medicine Road

You can read the actual 1865 Diary by visiting:

1865 Diary

This is solid proof that even unrelated families can help one another.

Building of a Webb

To continue the story of the Webb family who was featured in my May 10, 2009 story about the Oregon Trail, they are an old Colonial family. Zachariah Lewis Webb descends from Richard Webb who was born in England and appeared at Stamford, CT in 1651 when he purchased a house near the mill that he would later operate.

There continues to be controversy over the origins of Richard Webb of Stamford. The 1916 Genealogical Record of the Saint Nicholas Society suggests that Richard was the son of Richard Webb of Norwalk, CT, making him a possible brother of Christopher of Braintree, MA. This connection would link the Stamford Webb's to the Royal descent of Sir Henry Webb. However, George Creighton Webb was a member of this society and he listed that Richard Webb of Stamford was the son of Thomas Webb and Margaret Howard (page 58). There is currently a DNA Test group trying to prove if this connection is true or false.

The earliest land deeds in Upstate New York are found about 1799, making the Webbs early settlers of what is today known as Cayuga County, NY. They would reside in the townships of Locke and Genoa. The deeds clearly show that when Stephen Webb purchased his land here in NY, he was a resident of Stamford, CT.

Zachariah was born at Scipio, NY per census analysis as his parents are recorded at Scipio in 1800 as well as 1810. He was baptized at Genoa in 1805 at the church where his maternal grandfather, Caleb Lyon Jr., served as one of the first elders.

In the 1830’s Zachariah was for a short time an Agent at the Auburn Prison. He also had a business venture with George Curtis Williams, who married his wife’s sister. George was a son of Ezekiel Williams who was a trustee and inspector at Auburn Prison. Zachariah and George held a contract at Auburn Prison for Shoe Making, with 41 men employed. Their contract expired May 1, 1835. The same year he married Polly Hoffman, a daughter of Matthias & Eve Huffman. Matthias was likely born in the State of Pennsylvania and lived many years at Aurelius before the family settled at Auburn. The Huffman descendants would marry into Auburn’s most prominent families, such as the Nye, Stewart, Williams and Metcalf families.

The Webb’s then moved to Moravia where Zachariah was a merchant. His store Z.L. Webb & Co. was a recognized Agent for the sale of Vegetable Healing Balsam. By 1850 the family was living at Marshall, Michigan where Zachariah was elected as Grand Scribe for Michigan’s Royal Arch Masons. He was back in New York by 1854 where he was elected King of Royal Arch Masons at Addison, NY. In 1860 he was listed at Corning, NY as a Justice of the Peace. He was also a founding member of the Church of the Redeemer at Addison, NY where he was the first Junior Warden of that church.

Zachariah would father only a single son, who gave his life defending our Country. Lewis Hoffman Webb was in the Civil War, serving NY’s 3rd Light Artillery, Company Batty I. He died of yellow fever at Newburn, NC.

His remaining children would be girls and following them was a journey. To my knowledge, his daughter Catherine, who is my ancestor, is the only one of his children buried at Port Byron. Catherine married John Dunham who served the 3rd Reg. Co. H, NY Cavalry and shot while on picket duty at Newburn, NC. He survived a horrendous surgery to remove the conical ball, resulting in his left arm being shortened by 3 inches. Another daughter Ellen married Dr. Frederick Nash Dick, a Confederate Officer with North Carolina’s 44th Infantry, Co. G. I often thought how awkward it would have been if the families ever came back to visit Auburn, with having son in-laws one defending the Union and another defending the Confederacy.

Another daughter married William Star Pensiton as mentioned in the Citizen article. Both Anna and Ellen would make their way to North Platte, NE. Dr. Dick was North Platte’s first Doctor. He was appointed surgeon for the Union Pacific Railway in 1870, for the division from North Platte to Ogden, Utah, and east to Omaha. He was also a County Physician and Coroner and owned the Drugstore F. N. Dick Company.
Mr. Peniston was appointed United States Commissioner and afterwards was a representative in the territorial legislature of Nebraska. He also served as County Judge, County Treasurer, and Justice of the Peace. His ranch along the Oregon Trail was part of the Pony Express Service for that territory. Both families are among the notables buried at North Platte City Cemetery. An interesting tidbit involves the cemetery association, where they purchased land from Mrs. William F. Cody, wife of Wild Buffalo Bill.

Zachariah’s wife Polly died in 1865 and is buried at Soule Cemetery. He later married Mrs. Caroline, widow of Stephen Snook. They would have two more daughters named Nettie and Mattie Webb. Their last known residence was Troy, NY, so if there are any descendants of Nettie & Mattie out there, I would love to hear from you.

Zachariah died in 1878 at Auburn. He must have been prominent enough in the City of Auburn as the Historical Society announced his passing at their annual meeting. Zachariah was buried at North Street Cemetery with Masonic Honors, being one of the oldest Knights Templar connected with Salem Town Commandery. To date, I have been unable to confirm his exact burial location from the caretakers of North Street Cemetery. It appears he now rests in an unmarked grave.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Alexander Millener Myths

To continue the April 2009 story of Alexander Millener, in searching his history I ran into some possible myths. Many have reported that Alexander Millener was the inspiration behind the old man featured in the famous painting "Spirit of 76".

The history of this famous painting is on file with the library of Congress. The artist was Archibald Willard, who first called the painting "Yankee Doodle", having featured his creation at the first Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia. The painting would later be renamed Spirit of '76, being an 8 x 10 mural.

According to the Library of Congress, Willard's mural began in the upstairs bedroom of his home in 1875, which is 10 years after Alexander Millener's death. The file reports that the studio was moved and after relocating to Cleveland, Ohio, inspired by his father's death, Willard used his father Samuel as the model for the old drummer.
Click here to see the Library of Congress information on the Spirit of '76

Archibald Willard would go on to do several different versions of the Spirit of '76 in much larger sizes. According to the Herrick Library, the fifer was based on Hugh Moser, and the young drummer boy was Harry Deveraux.

Click here to see the Herrick Library detail on the Spirit of '76. Be sure to click on the upper right hand corner, to see all 3 images full size, it is a good example of the several variations made on the original mural.

If anyone has any information on the painting that is supposed to be based on Alexander Millener, please contact me.

However, not all is lost. American Folk Painter Sheldon Peck did in fact do a painting of Alexander's daughter in-law Fannie Root Millener, wife of his son George W Millener of Port Byron. She was painted with her young daughter Francis Millener, who would as an adult be the wife of Gamaliel Thomas. Sheldon Peck once lived at Jordan, NY and must have struck a friendship with the Port Byron Millener family.

This painting had survived in the family of Nellie King Waterman and donated to the Cayuga Museum in Auburn, NY. The painting was later sold at Auction in 2003.

The location of the Fannie Root Millener painting with her child Francis is not known. It is not know if the painting is housed in another museum collection or if it is in the hands of a private collector. Lets hope the painting has found a wider audience and continues to be well cared for.

It is wonderful that some of the artifacts of such a prominent family can be found, such as Alexander Millener's Drumstick that is part of the collections at the Rochester Museum & Science Center:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

1918 Influenza Epidemic

In response to the anonymous posting to Calling 967 :

Statistics for infectious diseases are maintained by the Department of Health. However, local newspapers often can provide traces of when such epidemics are prevalent in our region. You can often find notices in the social columns that announce entire families having been ill with Typhoid and other infectious diseases like Influenza.

I was able to find an article in 1937, when New York State’s population dropped by 1200 people due to high outbreaks of influenza, combined with low birth rates for the same period. At that time, the report indicated that prior to 1937 there were only 4 other times in New York’s history when the population had similar drops. The report indicates that this happened in October 1918, November 1918, February 1920 and January 1928.

In particular to our readers question, 1918 was a wide spread epidemic that impacted all communities in our region. Spanish Influenza was a big concern at this time. Many towns canceled public events in attempts to slow down the spreading. Even the church in Emerson canceled church services due to influenza.

Among the hardest hit with the 1918 epidemic was the City of Auburn. Many of the nurses at the hospital contracted the influenza while caring for their patients. The outbreak was so severe, if the cause of death was from influenza, public burials were forbidden.

Here is a good article about the 1918 influenza outbreak that provides some insight.

Thank you for your question.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Calling 967

Remember the plastic telephone covers?

This one dates back to 1964 when Port Byron's phone numbers started with 967. This was before the days of cable television. We have missed these companies from years past, such as Blake's Pharmacy, Port Byron Lumber, and especially our local trained electronic technician John B Carpenter.