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.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Italian Artifacts of Port Byron

Seeking artifacts from Port Byron Italian farmers for display at the New York State Museum

The New York State Museum with the assistance of the Association of Public Historian's of New York State (APHNYS) would like to know if anyone from the Port Byron Italian families have any artifacts that could be loaned to the State Museum for their exhibit on New York's ethnic and cultural history.

Anyone that has old photos of your Italian ancestors, old farm tools, household items or anything that you are able to share, please contact me. Many may have purchased property once owned by these immigrants, so any artifacts you have that can be loaned would be appreciated.

It would be wonderful to see Port Byron in this wonderful exhibit.

I forwarded the publication about the Port Byron immigration study to our State Historian Mr. Robert Weible, and there is much interest to have our community featured in the exhibit.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Italian Bees

Here is a comment by Harvey Ware, where he describes in detail having an Italian Drone of bees:

Gleamings in Bee Culture 1882 page 459

Gleamings in Bee Culture 1882 page 554

The Old Italian Neighborhood

Recently I had an inquiry regarding the old Italian neighborhood of Port Byron.

I found this interesting book about the contributions of the Port Byron Italians to the local muck lands. Eight Italian farms were selected for a study and the data is an interesting read and an interesting glimpse into the past.

I was surprised to read that all willow grown on the Italian farms were sold at Liverpool, NY.

Reports of the Immigration Commission Vol. 21

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Port Byron - A Name of Inspiration

Did you know that Port Byron, NY is credited for inspiring the name of Byron, Minnesota?

In searching the web, I found Byron, Minnesota's name was suggested by George W. Van Dusen after his home town of Port Byron, NY.

Pocket Guide of Minnesota Names published 2002

A Guide to the greatest bike rides in Minnesota

The same information was in the book Exploring America's Highways: Minnesota Trip Trivia by Michael Heim, published in 2004 on page 300.

G.W. Van Dusen was a millionaire who earned his fortunes by developing grain elevators for distribution of grain. His 12,000 sq ft mansion is on the list of landmarks:

Van Dusen Mansion

History of the Van Dusen Mansion

With Port Byron transporting the principal grain market for New York State during the canal period, the occupation of G.W. Van Dusen is fascinating.

I would be interested in finding Mr. Van Dusen in a Federal or State census at Port Byron. This surname in the Ancestry.com indexes has many spelling variations. I have contacted the Van Dusen Center for more information so that we may confirm this historic link. Hopefully he lived here long enough to be recorded in our census, otherwise it may require a look at tax assessment records or land deeds.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hayden Bros Woolen Mills

Readers may be interested in seeing an advertisement for Hayden Bros. They also had a store in Syracuse.

Hayden Bros. Woolen Mills Advertisement

(For those that may need assistance, to find the exact section, once loaded, select from your browser the edit tab and then select "find on this page" and type Hayden in the search box)

It is reported that Horace Greeley's white coat was stolen.

Location of Hayden Bros by Richard T King

The mill was located on the Port Byron-Auburn Road. The woolen mill moved into the building previously used to manufacture wooden pails, where a young Brigham Young was once employed.

1853 Map of Mentz

See Military Lot # 84, to the left is wool fact and across the street shows the office Wm Hayden, heading toward but before the township of Throop, NY, being Lot #84 in Mentz.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Can you believe Ralph Waldo Emerson was invited to speak at Port Byron in 1858?

It's true!

A published book of Emerson's pocket diary shows that Horace V Howland and Finlay M King attempted to bring Emerson to Port Byron. The biographer suggests that Port Byron was unable to pay Emerson's fee, so the engagement never took place.

The Letters of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson

Horace Greeley's White coat manufactured by Hayden's

I continue to be amazed at all the wonderful connections that the Port Byron area has. I was not aware that the cloth used for Horace Greeley's famous white coat was made at Hayden's factory in the Town of Mentz, just outside the village of Port Byron!

.Cloth for Horace Greeley's White Coat crafted in the Town of Mentz

Horace Greeley was the famous founder of the New York Tribune. The Foreman of the Tribune composition room was Thomas N Rooker, who is related to all of the Port Byron Rooker families.

Horace Greeley

Greeley was famous for his quote "Go West Young Man", was a founder of the Liberal Republican Party and ran for President with an unsuccessful run against Ulysses S Grant.

Other newspaper articles indicate that the Hayden Brothers presented the coat to Greeley.

Dr. James Jenkins and the William Kemmler Execution

Google Books provides a more detailed list of those that were present when William Kemmler, the first legalized electrocution case was performed at Auburn Prison at Auburn, NY.

Witness List

Dr. J. M. Jenkins of Auburn was in deed present.

Dr. James Morris Jenkins and his wife Dr. Nettie Jenkins were early physicians at Port Byron. They may be the earliest husband and wife team to provide medical services to our community. They only practiced at Port Byron for about 3 years. Thanks to Kim Nolan for sharing that some of their descendants continued to live at Port Byron, where Nettie may also be our first woman doctor.

Dr. James Jenkins was also a permanent member of the State Board of Examiners:

Jenkins elected to State Board of Examiners

I also found a wonderful family history on Dr. Jenkins:

Dr Jenkins, a descendant of John Boution, a native of France

Readers are welcome to start discussions regarding Port Byron history by visiting my Facebook Page called Port Byron History.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Dr.'s James and Nettie Jenkins

Thank you Kim Nolan for sharing your comment on Dr's James and Nettie Jenkins.

(See Pioneer Physicians Posted 4/2/2009)

It is always nice to learn that part of this family remained in our community. Your question about the Jenkins being involved in the first electric chair execution in America at the Auburn Prison is very interesting.

Newspaper accounts indicate that a Dr. William Jenkins of New York was one of the physicians who performed the autopsy on William Kemmler, the inmate that was executed:

Autopsy of William Kemmler

History of the electric chair

It is difficult to determine the exact role of your Dr. James Morris Jenkins from newspaper accounts. It does appear that he was a witness:

Dr. James Jenkins listed as a witness

There is another article that mentions a Dr. Morris M Jenkins which may be James Morris Jenkins:

Dr. Morris M Jenkins interview

Friday, October 16, 2009

Municipal Historians of New York State

For readers that are from other areas of the Country, New York State is blessed with incorporating local historians into the laws of New York State. Historians are governed by Section 57.13 of the Arts and Cultural Affairs Law. You can read more about the history of New York's Historian Law by visiting the following website:

Historian's Law of New York State

This site also contains a searchable list of all historians for the entire State of New York.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Annual of Scientific Discoveries

Did you know that Port Byron appeared in the 1850 Annual of Scientific Discovery for analysis of our wheat flour?

Chemical analysis of our flour was listed as:

13.60% Water
12.00% Gluten
67.60% Starch
06.80% Glucose, dextrine