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.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Eccentric Farmer

The Syracuse Standard, Saturday Morning June 27, 1886

In the Port Byron Column appeared:

"Howland's island is to the front again with a circus all its own.  In addition to the bucking mustangs, which give a variety entertainment every time they are hitched up, the inhabitants have lately discovered that they have an accomplished tumbler or "man serpent" in their midst.  D.B. Harrington, who works farm No. 8, the largest on the island, engaged his wife's brother, Peter Moffitt, to work for him through the summer.  Mr. H. soon noticed that in going between the house and the barn, Moffitt, instead of walking erect, as a man who had done a hard day's work or was expecting to do one is supposed to do, would turn cart wheels and somersaults, single and double, backwards and forwards, the entire distance.  He also astonished his fellow workmen, who were not used to seeing one of their number stop his plow team for a rest and go whirling around the field like a hoop-make, or to see one coolly lean over backward and scratch his ear with his heel.  The young man was in the village Saturday, and by request of a number of the boys, gave an exhibition that would have been a credit to any circus ring.  "Pete" was raised in Auburn, where his father keeps a grocery store.  Barnum never saw him, or they would surely have him."

Old Cleaning Tip

In a publication called "Moore's Rural New-Yorker" is a cleaning ad that reads:

"REMOVING IRON RUST—Somebody's wife asks how to take iron rust out, and I will give my way. I choose the warmest and sunniest day, and dip the spot in lemon juice, then dry in the sun. I have always succeeded thus without damaging the article. Some dilute oil vitriol, but as that is injurious, I have never tried it. 
MARY, Port Byron, N. Y, 1864"

Note: Oil of Vitriol is also known as sulfuric Acid.  Smart move Mary!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

A Christmas Poem

Courtesy of LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN

The embers glowed softly, and in their dim light,
I gazed round the room and I cherished the sight.
My wife was asleep, her head on my chest,
my daughter beside me, angelic in rest.
Outside the snow fell, a blanket of white,
transforming the yard to a winter delight.

The sparkling lights in the tree I believe,
completed the magic that was Christmas Eve.
My eyelids were heavy, my breathing was deep,
secure and surrounded by love, I would sleep,
in perfect contentment, or so it would seem,
so I slumbered, perhaps I started to dream.

The sound wasn't loud, and it wasn't too near,
but I opened my eyes when it tickled my ear.
Perhaps just a cough, I didn't quite know,
then the sure sound of footsteps outside in the snow.
My soul gave a tremble, I struggled to hear,
and I crept to the door just to see who was near.

Standing out in the cold and the dark of the night,
a lone figure stood, his face weary and tight.
A soldier, I puzzled, some twenty years old,
perhaps a Marine, huddled here in the cold.
Alone in the dark, he looked up and smiled,
standing watch over me, and my wife and my child.

"What are you doing?" I asked with out fear,
"Come in this moment, it's freezing out here!
Put down your pack, brush the snow from your sleeve,
you should be at home on a cold Christmas Eve!"

For barely a moment I saw his eyes shift,
away from the cold and the snow blown in drifts,
to the window that danced with a warm fire's light.
Then he sighed and he said "Its really all right,
I'm out here by choice. I'm here every night."

"It's my duty to stand at the front of the line,
that separates you from the darkest of times.
No one had to ask or beg or implore,
I'm proud to stand here like my fathers before.
My Gramps died at Pearl on a day in December."
Then he sighed, "That's a Christmas Gram always remembers."

"My dad stood his watch in the jungles of ' Nam ',
and now it is my turn and so, here I am.
I've not seen my own son in more than a while,
but my wife sends me pictures, he's sure got her smile."
Then he bent and he carefully pulled from his bag,
the red, white, and blue... an American flag.

"I can live through the cold and the being alone,
away from my family, my house and my home.
I can stand at my post through the rain and the sleet,
I can sleep in a foxhole with little to eat.
I can carry the weight of killing another,
or lay down my life for my sister or brother,
who stand at the front against any and all,
to ensure for all time that this flag will not fall."

"So go back inside," he said,
"Harbor no fright, your family is waiting and I'll be all right."
"But isn't there something I can do, at the least?
Give you money," I asked, "Or prepare you a feast?
It seems all too little for all that you've done,
for being away from your wife and your son."

Then his eye welled a tear that held no regret,
"Just tell us you love us, and never forget
to fight for our rights back at home while we're gone,
to stand your own watch, no matter how long.

For when we come home, either standing or dead,
to know you remember we fought and we bled
is payment enough, and with that we will trust,
that we mattered to you as you mattered to us."

LCDR Jeff Giles, SC, USN
30th Naval Construction Regiment
OIC, Logistics Cell One
Al Taqqadum, Iraq

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Emergency Shower for Chappell Family

On Tuesday 12/14/2010 from 7 PM to 9 PM, the Port Byron Library will be holding an emergency shower for the Chappell family who lost their home on Thanksgiving Day.

For a list of needed items for the family, please visit the library.

An account has been established at the Port Byron Savannah Bank for those that are able to make a donation for this family in need.

Contact for Savannah Bank:

Port Byron Office

126 Main St.
PO Box 711
Port Byron, NY 13140
(315) 776-5369

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Are you making a difference?

Have you any news to share?

If you are from Port Byron, NY or are a former resident, let us know what you have been up to and we will feature the news on Port Byron Historian's facebook page.

Let us know how you are making a difference in your community.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

On the Road

Port Byron Historian comes to you tonight from Washington County, NY.  The trip has certainly illustrated what a good job our clerks do in Cayuga County.  It wasn't that long ago that the wills and surrogate records were made available for patron viewing from a desktop computer.  You no longer have to wait for a clerk to retrieve the disk of digitized images to be browsed.  They are all in one place at a terminal for easy viewing.  If a person has multiple files on record, they are all contained is a single file.  A future improvement perhaps could include an extra terminal.

Much to our surprise, Washington County only has the records on microfilm and each and every file type is considered a separate record.  If a person has a guardianship, will, probate, appointed appraiser, inventory, letter of testimony etc, each file is on a separate real, which the clerk has to retrieve and load while you stand behind him or her as you attempt to read it.  The experience has made me so much more appreciative of the efficiency we have within our own county.  In addition, different record types are held at different sections within the building complex.  This makes it very difficult to browse estate or other similar files to search for your family. 

We never leave empty handed but being unable to browse records does  limit what you can find on a short time table.  It is always nice to compare how records are handled from one county to another.  Cayuga County is a leader in setting the example for the ease of research.  Sometimes it takes a small trip to make you appreciate what is right within your own back yard. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day

Thank you to all of our soldiers, near and far that continue to keep America strong.  Many families of Port Byron have served our country and have done so for many generations.  To our service men and woman we appreciate your dedication.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Final Books of the Pearl Wilson Fund

The Port Byron Library has purchased the remaining books in honor of Pearl.  The list does include a couple books that they would have ordered as part of their regular additions.  The following large print book titles have been added:

7)   "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much" by Allison Bartlett
8)   "Bury Your Dead" by Louise Penny
9)   "Nose for Justice" by Rita Mae Brown
10) "Gingerbread Cookie Murder" by Joanne Fluke
11)  "Painted Ladies" by Robert Parker
12)  "Secret Kept" by Tatiana de Rosnay.

Pearl would have been very happy to know these books were added in her memory.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pearl Wilson Fund Update

Your generous contributions have allowed the following large print books to be purchased by the Port Byron Library:

1)  In the Company of Others by Jan Karon
2)  Chesapeake Shores Christmas by Sherryl Wisods
3)  Confession by John Grishan
4)  Indulgence in Death by J.D. Robb
5)  Thorn by Beverly Lewis
6)  1022 Evergreen Place by Debbie Macomber (Book Club)

More titles to come......

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Girl I Left Behind Me

Next summer we will be honoring Capt. John Lockwood who was one of our local civil war soldiers who died at the age of 20 as a POW.  In doing research on our soldier, I found a poem written by another soldier who enlisted at the age of 14 from Wolcott, NY.  He enlisted as a private and climbed the ranks to Full Sergeant.  His record can be found under the name of Adam Michael which reports his age at enlistment as 18.  Perhaps he said he was a bit older so that they would take him to serve, like so many other young men did at that time.

Adam Michel wrote a poem before he left home to serve in Company C of the NY 75th Infantry.  He sent the poem to his sister Katie.  He would also become a POW being sent to Libby Prison in Richmond before being transferred to Salisbury Prison in North Carolina where he died of starvation, never returning to see the girl he so candidly wrote about in his poem.  According to the 1942 Cato Citizen, his burial site is not known.  Adam Michel died in December 1864 just two months after our soldier. 

The poem sends a universal message for those that serve their Country to engage in the defense of our freedoms, yet not knowing what fate has in store for them.  All soldiers leave someone behind.

In the memory of those that have never returned, I share the words written nearly 150 years ago from such a courageous young man:
'Tis many days since I left home
    To join our glorious army,
I thought but of my Country's call
    And not of what might harm me:
I vowed to join both hearth and hand,
    Where duty called you'll find me,
I left my home and shed a tear
    For the girl I left behind me.

To meet the foe was my desire
    Upon the field of battle,
The Union States my battle cry,
    While cannons thunders rattle.
But while I'm fighting for my flag
    And dust and smoke do blind me,
I'll not forget to give one thought
    To the girl I left behind me.

Oh, when rebellion is crushed out
    And traitors slain or taken,
The Stars and Stripes will shine more bright
    And joy each heart awaken.
The horrors of grim war will flee
    Like troubled dreams remind me.
How sweet to know I'll meet once more
    The girl I left behind me.

Surrounded now by friends and kin,
    Who smile, weep and caress me,
I watched the tears of joy that flow
    As each dear one doth bless me.
But there is one who moves my soul,
    My tears now almost blind me;
God grant I'll be obliged no more
    To leave my girl behind me.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hard at Work

Your historian has been very hard at work developing programs for the new historian exchanges.  It was a pleasure to present the life of Thomas Rooker at the Howland Stone Store Museum in September.  The first official visitor as part of the exchange will be at Port Byron this Saturday at the Port Byron Library to present a program on Willow Baskets.

Many will be surprised to learn that Port Byron was once an active grower of willow.  The plant was introduced to our area by the Italian immigrants that settled here about 1880.  Many of the early Italians worked as laborers on the railroad and erie canal.  Some also rented land and worked a farm but it took many years before they were able to purchase their own land to harvest their own crops.  Land that they occupied was often swamp land that required irrigation and drainage to become useful land for dwellings and farming, which was successful due to their hard efforts.

The Port Byron Italians did not grow the same type of crops as compared to their American neighbors.  Their crop of choice was willow and onions.  Any willow that was not used for local basket making was sold in bulk to the market at Liverpool, NY.  That is why I am so pleased to have the Liverpool Village Museum joining us Saturday.  Port Byron has a unique bond in history with Liverpool.

Tracking a product made from local willow grown from Port Byron certainly would be a tall order.  Willow sold in bulk for this time period was likely not to have been documented with lot numbers or batch numbers like we are accused to seeing today.  I look forward to learning more about the history of willow baskets and excited that our first official exchange has such an intimate connection to our own history.

Many may have been wondering why there have not been many posts over the last couple of months, so I thought I would share some of the behind the scene activities of your historian.  October 2nd we held a wonderful celebration of life ceremony at the Mentz Town Hall to honor Pearl Kilmer Wilson.  Our guests included Senator Michael Nozzolio and Principal Post from the Owasco Elementary School.  The group raised $217.00 for the Port Byron Library to be used for the purchase of large print books in Pearl's honor.  We will be adding the list of book titles at a future date so that everyone can stay connected to the project.
October also presented the opportunity to apply for two grants for historic road side markers.  The grant recipients have not been announced yet, but thanks to Cayuga County Historian Sheila Tucker who guided me thru the process as well as the fast response by the Lock 52 Historical Society, we were able to meet the deadline for submission.  I am personally anxious to see the diversity of the historic sites that are selected to receive the grants from the William Pomeroy Foundation.  Our region is so rich in history, that I am certain it will not be easy to pick the grant recipients.  Should we not make the list this year, if all goes well, we may be able to apply again in the future.

I also attended the Haiti Bridge dedication ceremony.  It was a joyous event for the residents of the island, to once again have a connection to the main highway.  We often don't think of the roads and bridges we cross every day but what happens when a critical bridge fails and there is a small body of water between you and the road that takes you everywhere else?  Thanks to the dedication of our local and State officials, a new bridge now restores services to the residents on the island.  Access is important to any community and with much of the island remaining undeveloped, who knows what events of today will make tomorrows history.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Building Blocks

Auburn Semi-Weekly Journal Tuesday November 7, 1911


Earl Rooker has completed the manufacture of 1,470 cement blocks for the Conquest Butter factory, and that institution is again doing business. 

Monday, August 2, 2010

Civil War Events a Success

Thank you to our civil war groups that came to Heritage Days 2010.  Many drove over 2 hours to bring their displays and equipment to be with us.  All that attended the events gave positive feedback and the Sons of Union Veterans and Woman Relief Corp tent had a steady stream of interested visitors all day long.  They report having had a wonderful time and were greated well by everyone.   

While it was not planned, we may have set a record at Port Byron as we had all 5 allied orders of the Grand Army of the Republic in attendance. 

Heritage Days at Port Byron, NY July 31, 2010

Representing the five allied orders of the GAR.

Standing: Jerry Orton-SUV; Dawn Roe-Port Bryon Historian and member of DUV and LGAR, Doug Duell-SUV; Althea Cratsely-PDP, ASUVCW and Lyman Baker-SUV, Dept. Patriotic Inst.
Sitting: Gloria Fisher-Dept. President, ASUV and Lorraine Orton-PDP-WRC; Photo courtesy of Jerry Orton.

Jerry also captured some photos in the cemetery for the Department Website where they feature graves of GAR Namesakes and Officers.  Visit their site at:

Gallery of Civil War Graves

We started the morning with a civil war cemetery tour at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.  The preparation for this event was overly meaningful to me.  It is events like this that also enable me to become more connected with the various families that paved the patch in Port Byron's history.

Living history performer Eileen Patch gave a captivating performance as she went back in time portraying the heartache of war as felt by a soldiers mother.  The story also mentioned the fate of some neighbor boys that also enlisted.  The story unfolded as she shared thoughts of the day on period inventions such as steam power and changes in products that improved daily life of the period.  I never knew so many things could find their way to a sewing basket!

It was unfortunate that the event brochure neglected to include where she was performing, so people had some difficulty getting to the show, but for those that came it was an event to remember.  

Eileen Patch performing Voice of the Civil War
based on her book This from George.

Soldiers developed a deep bond of brotherhood and today the allied orders keep their memories alive.  Thank you all for coming and sharing the day with our community.

The afternoon finished with a performance by the Dana L West Drama Club.

Combine all this history with live music, good food and the other activities, it was an enjoyable afternoon for everyone.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Passing of a Legend

Cayuga County lost one of its greatest historians on July 8, 2010.  Hallie Sweeting, a long time historian at Sterling, NY passed away at her home at age 81.  She often served as a mother figure for many historians in our County, with her gentle words of encouragement. 

Hallie was an avid researcher and was as much at home on her farm with her many animals as she was searching local history.  She loved a good mystery and touched the lives of so many.  With a quip sense of humor, a visit with Hallie always involved laughter. 

For those that have not met Hallie, I found a wonderful biography of her on the Morgan Horse Association.

Biography of Hallie Sweeting

Hallie was a member of many heritage groups, including the Daughters of the American Revolution as well as the Daughters of 1812, the latter being her favorite.  She enjoyed researching civil war soldiers as well as those that belonged to the Hudson Post GAR in Fair Haven, NY.  She recently contacted me when she discovered my ancestor George Kilmer was once a member at this post.  He had transferred to the Lockwood Post GAR at Port Byron. 

It was this constant exchange of history that drew people to Hallie.  I would not be a historian today if it wasn't for her.  I first met Hallie when searching for a branch of my own family that were early residents of Sterling.  That contact would lead to a 20 year friendship with a historian that loved the hunt as much as I did.

One thing I learned from her was that history of one municipality often affects the history of another with the interaction of people and their descendants. Hallie authored many books on local history.

Her legacy will include the gift of history that she left behind for all of us to enjoy.  The depth and scope of her historical work is nothing less than inspiring.  With my deepest sympathies to her family, Hallie Sweeting will be truly missed.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy 4th of July

Today as you celebrate the 4th of July, a day marking separation of our Country from England, please thank a veteran who continues to fight for the many freedoms that we enjoy.

History of the 4th of July

Friday, June 18, 2010

Port Byron Band

Thank you Charlene Wood for sharing your fathers band photo!

This photo dates 1935 to 1937 and was likely taken on one of the many band trips of the day.  It does not appear to have been taken at PB.

The Port Byron High School that burned down in December of 1935 lacked a grand staircase and the doors were a single set of double doors.  You will notice in this photo, there are multiple double doors spaced apart.

The doors at our old high school was level with the ground on the first floor:
Old Port Byron High 1899-1935

Class Photo taken at Old PB High Entrance

Names of students in photo

The corner stone to the Port Byron Central School, now Church Street Apartments, was laid on June 26, 1937.  While this school does have a small set of stairs at the front entrance, the doors are placed together and no pillars.

Therefore, this early band photo may have been taken on one of the many band trips.

If anyone can recall where this photo was taken, please contact me so I can update the location with the photo.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

GAR Display at Heritage Days July 31st

Lorraine Orton and members of the Woman's Relief Corps, the official auxiliary of the G.A.R., will be joining us on July 31st to display G.A.R. artifacts.

The Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) was an early veterans group formed by soldiers of the civil war.  The G.A.R. became a strong political force and with their endless efforts, the Grand Army Pension Bill became law in the year 1900 securing pensions for the soldiers of the civil war.

To read more about the G.A.R. and Port Byron's Lockwood Post #175 G.A.R., read my article:

Lockwood Post #175

To learn more about the Woman's Relief Corps:


The Center of Action

When people think of Port Byron, NY, they easily find reference to our Erie Canal History.  What most people are not aware of is that Port Byron was also the meeting place for many political conventions.

On October 15, 1856 at 2 PM the 25th Congressional District Convention was held here for the purpose of nominating a candidate for representation in Congress.

The committee consisted of:

N. Drake
C. D. Lawton
Wm Bell Jr
C.H. Richmond
Wm Fosgate

Early Preachers

In Port Byron's early history, it seems many lifestyles were ahead of the times.  I recently found an article from the 1850's, where one of our woman had completed clergy training.  When you look at the role of woman for this time period, most were not employed especially outside their own households or the business of their husbands.  It is always a pleasure to be reminded that things were just a bit different here:

"Mrs. Linda Jenkins of Port Byron, N.Y. has commenced preaching, after a regular course of study, and is now fully entitled to the appellation of "Reverend." 

Herkimer Co. Journal, Little Falls, NY August 13, 1857

A Look Back At Wages

In a hustle bustle world, it is easy to feel undervalued.  Bringing home the bacon continues to be a challenge and when you look back at labor rates from yesteryear, it is easy to see how much has changed.  Here is an ad that appeared in The Daily Courier on Friday October 1, 1875 from Syracuse, NY:

"Fifty laborers wanted to work in the village of Port Byron, NY.  Wages one dollar and fifty cents per day.  Apply at No. 5 Pike Building or on the work.  H. Candee & Co."

This would have the same purchase power as $30.20 per day as of 2009.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Class of 1917

Class of 1917                                                                  

Marion Ruth Jones                      Robert J Dixon                                
Norma Faye Hadden                  Marie Catherine Ryan
Adah May Hadden                     Russell E. Corey     
Dorothy E. Wilt                          John Byron Hearn
Regina Moroney                         Frederick W. Kearnan
Marion Luella Weston                 Marguerite L. Fraher
Edgar H Wood                           Ruth Fannie Curren
                       Robert V. Beach

Board of Education for 1917:
John A. Topliffe                           Thomas W. Howell
Frank Jones                                 Arthur E. Blauvelt
G. Ernest Wethey                         Hull F. Tanner
Thomas M. Crane                        Charles D. Loomis
                         T. Fayette Dixon

Memorial Day Tribute

Local artist Herb Roesch completes another shed mural.  This time, the subject matter could not be more meaningful.  The mural is dedicated to the memory of Robert W Emms of the United States Navy.  If you look closely, you can see the outline of a Navy ship floating on the blue horizon with our National Flag as a backdrop.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Oldest Civil War Soldier to Enlist from Mentz

With reflections of Memorial Day, I thought I would share some information about the oldest civil war soldier to enlist from the Town of Mentz (based on Ancestry.com records).  Our oldest soldier would be Levi DeGroff.

Levi Degroff served in Company L, 16th NY Heavy Artillery.  He reported his age as 45 at the time he enlisted.  His headstone at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery says he was born in 1809 making him closer to age 54 when he enlisted on Dec 23, 1863.

Less than 17% of the men to enlist here were of age 40 and over.  Less than 2% reported they were age 45.  Of these men, all were older but reported their age as 45, so not to be excluded from service.  Out of the 38 men age 40 and over, 4 would not survive, Patrick Cossin of 16th HART would die of disease at Williamsburg, VA, William Hatfield of 111th Infantry would die of wounds, Abel Mott of the 105th Inf would die of disease at Catlett's Station in Virginia and William Dibehart (Dineheart) also of the 111th would die of disease as a POW at Andersonville, GA. We owe a great debt of gratitude to our soldiers.

The oldest soldiers to enlist from Port Byron and Mentz includes:

Levi Degroff
Aaron Wilson
Henry Dinehart
David Upham

All of the oldest soldiers served in Company L, 16th NY Heavy Artillery.  Aaron Wilson served the last part of his service as the company cook.  David Upham may have been from Butler, Wayne County but enlisted here.

Levi Degroff married Susan A Moon and together they had three children.  They once owned a home on the corner of River and Green Streets.  His daughter Minnie DeGroff married Charles Delanson Quimby.  He also had a daughter named Mary and a son Levi Jr. 

He was a farmer by occupation and received a pension for his service during the war.  Levi DeGroff's obituary indicates he died at Victory, NY in 1890 while visiting on a trip there.  He is buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Port Byron.

Levi reminds us that freedom is never free, it comes at the price of many soldier's lives, those who make this sacrifice to serve, protect and preserve the freedoms and liberties that we all enjoy must be commended.  The long tradition of proud military service continues.  This memorial day, I express my appreciation to the many service men and woman who are serving to keep America strong.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Historian Exchange Program

I am pleased to announce that I have started a new "historian exchange" program.  Often public historians answer inquiries and research topics for newspaper articles, all while remaining in complete isolation.  The idea, inspired by my fond memories of the school band exchanges, will build camaraderie, bring renewed interest in our local history and allow historians an opportunity the work together. 

Several times a year I plan to offer a program to a neighboring township and in exchange, that township would then be hosted at Port Byron.  The idea has been well received by historians from Liverpool, Owasco, Montezuma, Scipio and Victory.

Event programming remains a challenge for most rural libraries and historical societies.  This will provide a wonderful opportunity where new educational and history presentations can come to each township with no cost to the host for the speaker.  In this process, we will learn a little more about the history of our neighbors as well as many other topics.

Historians who are interested in participating should contact me so that we can schedule you.  I look forward to visiting the many towns in our area and working with the various historians who keep history alive.

Plans for the program are in process.

Monday, April 12, 2010

New York's Coat of Arms

Next week my article about the New York Coat of Arms will be published in the Auburn Citizen. The laws and regulations behind our State Arms and Seal could not be covered in full due to space restrictions, so I thought readers may enjoy some of the resource links about the Arms that is used in our State flag.

I was inspired to write the article after finding reference that the Coat of Arms was used in Gansevoort's 3rd NY regimental flag that was carried at Yorktown during the revolutionary war.

The beauty of our flag has always interested me, but my knowledge of its history was limited. There are many claims of the flag that belonged to Col. Peter Gansevoort’s 3rd New York Regiment. Some site that it was the inspiration of our State Coat of Arms.
Photo from Albany-A Cradle of America.by Francis P. Kimball, Printed by the Argus Company 1936.

It has also been claimed that this flag was in the collection at the Albany Institute of History and Art.  After contacting them, they granted use of a photo of their flag for my Citizen article and it has slight variations of the flag pictured above, indicating there was a flag previous to their flag which dates between 1790-1797.

Due to limited article size, I was unable to include the flags from the civil war that also used variations of the State Coat of Arms:

4th NY Heavy Artillery

3rd NY Provisional Cavalry

15th NY National Guard

The correct arms of the state of New York, as established by Law since March 16, 1778 by Henry Augustus Homes, See Page 22, where it is recorded that Col. Peter Gansevoort issued a proclamation in 1864 that the 3rd NY was flown at Yorktown.  Gansevoort himself was not there due to consolidation of regiments, he was returned to command the Albany Militia as a Brigadier General.

The 3rd NY was best known for its defense at Fort Stanwix.  Soldier Ashbel Treat who was pensioned from Mentz and buried at Pine Hill in Throop testified he marched to Fort Stanwix but the dates on his muster cards indicate he arrived after the famous battle. 

The Revolutionary War flag did not "create" the Arms, it simply used a variation.  The fact that it was used on the regiment flag of the 3rd NY does provide me with a greater appreciation of what our State flag stands for.  Our current State flag is inspired by this historical flag of the American Revolution, from the Arms that were adopted in 1778.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Great Comet of 1680

In reading some of our colonial history of New York State, I found that in the year 1680 there was a comet sighted at Albany, NY.

On January 1, 1680 the Commissionaires of Albany wrote a letter to Captain Brockholes about the sightings of "ye dreadfull commett starr". This is what was written regarding this unusual event:

"undoubtedly God Threatens us wh Dreadfull Punishments, if wee doe not Repent, wee would have caused ye Domine Proclaim a Day of fasting and humiliation tomorrow to be kept on Weddensday ye 12 Jan in ye Town of Albany & Dependencies if wee thought our Power & autority did extend so farr, and would have been well Resented by Yourself, for all persons ought to humble Themselves in such a Time, and Pray to God to Withdraw his Righteous Jugements from us, as he did to Nineve Therefore if you would be pleased to graunt your approbation wee would willingly cause a day of fasting & humiliation to be kept, if it were monthly; whose answer wee shall Expect with ye Bearer."

Today the weather man announces this occurrence on our evening news, promoting all to watch.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

1812 Equipment Claims

The following soldiers requested reimbursement for supplies for their service during the War of 1812. They reported their residence as Mentz and Port Byron at the time of their claim:

William Allen
Charles Clapp
John De Groff by Administrator
Marvel Eldridge
William Forshee
Jacob Guilfers
Joel Halsted
Martin Harker by widow
Silas Hopping
Thomas Kerns
Daniel K King
Richard King
Meigs Kirtland
Job May
Simeon Mott
Philip A Munroe
Aaron Murphy by Administrator
Thomas Rems
John W Sawyer
Samuel Seaman
Jacob Stahlnecker
Richard Sutton
John A Taylor
Casper D Tryon
Elias Wethy
Robert Whaling
William S Willis
Tilly Gilbert

Port Byron:
John Hughson
Horace Perkins
Joseph Shotwell
Isaac Snow by Administrator
Nathan Upham

Source: Ancestry.com

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Family History Seminar April 24th

Military Records: Unlocking Your Family History

Port Byron and Mentz Historian Dawn Roe will be hosting a training seminar at the Port Byron Library on Saturday April 24th at 11:00 AM. The class will highlight how to obtain the various records from the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and the Civil War. Emphasis will be placed on the importance of pension applications, equipment claims and land bounty applications. These files often contain hidden clues to help you unlock mysteries in your family lineage. Examples of prior mysteries that were solved with the use of military records will be presented.

Computers are available after the class. Library card is required. Don’t have one? Fill out a free application.

Date: April 24, 2010
Time: 11:00 AM
Class Length: 1 Hour (approx)
Location: Port Byron Library
Address: 12 Mentz Drive, Port Byron, NY 13140
Contact: Dawn Roe
Email: beatatune@tds.net

Cost: FREE

Friday, February 12, 2010

Heritage Days 2010

The 2010 Heritage Days Festival events to be held on Saturday July 31st are well underway. Living history performer Eileen Mae Knapp Patch will be portraying her Great Grandmother in 1880's dress, as she reads letters received from a civil war soldier in her family. While the soldier is not from Port Byron, he faced many of the same hardships and struggles in common with our residents that served in the war. It is a rare look into the civil war from the soldiers viewpoint. Admission will be $1 which will be given to our performer to offset her expenses, since she is driving from Endwell, NY to be a part of the this years civil war theme at Port Byron.

We will also be having a military encampment by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War. They will be in period uniforms and bringing much of the equipment that our soldiers would have used during the war such as cooking equipment, rifles and even a canon!

Yours truly will be hosting a cemetery tour, visiting some of our soldiers at rest. Histories of the soldiers and/or regimental histories will be shared. It is encouraged that attendees bring binoculars for a special surprise during the tour. I will be bringing mine to share for those that may not own their own.

These are all new events taking place at this years Heritage Days. A full calender of events for Friday 7/30 and Saturday 7/31 will be available on the Town of Mentz Website in the near future.

Time for all events will be announced at a later date.

Monday, February 8, 2010

State Quilt

The Public Historians of NYS are submitting a State Quilt to the New York State Museum in Albany and it will include a block for every town and village across our State as submitted by each local historian.

Made by Clara Rooker McIver and her daughter Anne.

I would like to thank both of them for taking the time to create and donate the block so that our community can be represented in the New York State Quilt that will display in Albany when completed.

Our quilt block is an image of what we know today as the Port Byron Hotel. This structure is listed as one of the sites in the National Underground Railroad Network To Freedom Program. See Page 255 from the attached link:

Port Byron Hotel's role in the Antislavery Movement

This is a brick structure and was built by Samuel Lytle in 1835. Many of you may have had a chance to see the brick core during the recent renovations to the building this past summer.

The hotel would undergo a series of name changes. By 1844 Steward Kendrick called it the National Hotel. As of the 1884 Sanford map it was listed as the Palace Hotel but the name was not to last. The hotel would resume its name as the National Hotel by 1890. Another name change would occur by 1900 when it would be known as Hotel Carey. Then around 1908/1910 it became the Park Hotel which lasted until 1933 when it would be renamed Hotel Port Byron with a final change to Port Byron Hotel.

Here is a list of some of the prior owners of the hotel:
Phebe Lamkin, widow of Harry Lamkin
1855 Richard Dyer
1863/64 Levi Stevens
1868 Elijah B. Buck
1873 D.E. McBurney
1874 Jeremiah H. Krom
1875 William G. Gallt (Galt)
1889 Edwin T. Parmalee
1900 D. Carey & Son
1908/1910 E.R. Parker
Charles and Grace Higgens
1914 Bell J Scott
1916 Orlando Family
1933 Fred Hartwell
1936/45 Arnold Corwell
Laneharts, Harry Rayburn
1947 Anna and Wallace Strohm
1952/84 Walter Piotrowski
Carole N. Blauvelt Bajanen and her husband Maynard
1995 Robert F. Holbrook, Jr.
2004 Gary Cole
2009 Glenn S. Martin

Sources: Hotels of Port Byron by Penny Helzer 2005 and Uncovering the Freedom Trail in Auburn and Cayuga County, New York sponsored by City of Auburn Historic Resources Review Board and the Cayuga County Historian's Office.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Buckle Patent

The town of Mentz is not traditionally known for having patents issued to inventors, that is until I found Isaac B. VerPlank, who invented a new design of buckle and had it patented in 1844:

Patent # 3,471 dated March 9, 1844

Drawing of Buckle Patent # 3,471

New York City Shirt Company founded at Port Byron

In 1881 a company called The Goodstock Manufacturing Company was established at Port Byron, NY. The original founders were J.H. Snow and Walter A. Parce of Fairport, NY and William T Gallt of Port Byron, NY. William T Gallt held one patent under the Goodstock Company.

C.A. Peters would purchase the company and relocate it to Syracuse, NY in 1887. They operated in the Hotel Burns Block on West Fayette Street until 1889, when a new structure was built. They would move once again to Noxon Street where a 40 x 80, 4 story brick building would become their new home. This was at 106-110 Noxon Street where they produced flannel and negligee shirts.

They would later open an additional branch at 744 Broadway in New York City where they would become known for their extra long high grade flannel and silk shirts that were 36 inches long, as compared to their competitors 31 to 33 inches.

Henry C. Peters would eventually take over the business. He would also become President of the Marcellus Paper Company.

Obituary of Henry C. Peters

Memorial history of Syracuse, N.Y. : from its settlement to the present time
Syracuse: H.P. Smith & Co., 1891, 912 pgs.

William T. Gallt would continue with shirt making at Port Byron under the firm name of Galt & Branch Shirt Manufacturers. He would hold two additional patents:

Shirt Lace Patent 1885

Rake Patent 1893

There was also an Auburn, NY branch called Gallt Dress Novelty Company, which was located at 148 Genesee Street and also at 218 Metcalf Building.

William T Gallt married Ina Hadden, died in 1923 and is buried at Pine Hill Cemetery in Throop, NY.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 Blogger Contest

Last year we entered the Blogger's Choice Awards late in the season. While we did not receive the most votes, I was amazed at the many countries that visited my website due to the contest. Last year Port Byron's Historian Corner was viewed from Bulgaria, Canada, China, Greece, Pakistan, Portugal, and South Africa. There were also votes from Mississippi, Montezuma, North Carolina, Port Byron, NY, Rochester, NY, Syracuse, Texas and Virginia.

Lets see where the 2010 contest takes us!
Cast your votes at:

Blog Award for Best Writing

Blog Award for Best Design

Be sure to cast your vote for both categories.

We have become "The small village that has been viewed from around the world"

Friday, January 8, 2010

Lincoln's Amos S King Bible Comes Home After 149 Years

Port Byron, New York
Friday January 8, 2010

The Office of the Historian announces that a bible donated by Port Byron farmer Amos Scott King to President Abraham Lincoln will be coming back home after 149 years. The gift was inspired when Amos King read the then President Elect’s Farewell Address made at Springfield, IL on Feb. 11, 1861 as he bid farewell to his family and friends prior to boarding the inaugural train.

The bible reached Washington at or near inauguration, as King’s letter was dated March 4, 1861, the same day that Lincoln took his Oath of Office. This is not the same bible used for Lincoln’s swearing in ceremony. This is a separate bible that remained in the Lincoln family for three generations becoming a treasured heirloom. The bible is currently part of the collection at Hildene-The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, VT, which was built as the summer home of Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the President. The Hildene estate was registered on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977. Today it is a thriving museum whose mission is to promote and preserve the legacy of our Nation’s 16th President.

Hildene-The Lincoln Family Home, Manchester, VT will be bringing the bible to Port Byron on Thursday February 4th, 2010 for an afternoon of celebrations. Following events with the student body, The Dana L West Jr./Sr. High School will be hosting a public ceremony. Hildene’s Executive Director Seth Bongartz will be presenting the history of Hildene followed by a slideshow presentation of the King Bible by historian Dawn Roe. The Port Byron Alumni Association will be serving refreshments. Please join us as we celebrate our unique connection to President Abraham Lincoln at the Dana L West Jr./Sr. High School, 30 Maple Ave. on Feb 4th. General reception starts at 4 PM with a formal program at 4:30 PM.
Dawn L Roe
Port Byron and Mentz Historian