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.
Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Education. Show all posts

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

Saturday, June 22, 2013

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.

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.

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.

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!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

54th Alumni Association Reunion 1926

Here is a wonderful treat for everyone!  The Fifty-Fourth Reunion of the Alumni Association of Port Byron High School from 1926 is now available for free download.  I have seen several little brochures for commencement services but this is the first that I have ever seen specifically for a reunion of our Alumni Association. 

Click here to view and/or download the 1926 booklet

Monday, October 1, 2012

Re-Trial of Mary Todd Lincoln Insanity Case

Tonight was my first experience using Livestream.  When the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum announced the performance of Mary Todd Lincoln's retrial would be on live web cast for non-attendees, I immediately knew this was something I desired to witness.

Library of Congress Digital Collection
Much to my surprise, the issue at hand at the original court trial was not to declare if she was insane, the jury had the burden to declare if Mary Todd Lincoln should be admitted involuntarily for inpatient treatment by law.  This verdict itself would carry the status of insanity for a period of one year, even if treatment ceased prior.

Many of the testimonies brought before the court were from third parties by the public which were never verified.  In addition, many of the medical testimonies made by the physicians, were made by those that today would not be considered specialists in the mental health field.

In addition, several of the medical testimonies were made by physicians that had not even examined Mary Todd Lincoln recently before giving their expert opinions.  Some of the Doctors had not seen Mary for several years prior to filing their report.

What was most concerning was that Mary herself did not feel she suffered from any mental illness.  However, the responsibility of the jury was to make a verdict on two factors:

1. Could she care for herself and her affairs.
2.  Was she at risk to cause injury to herself or anyone else.

In the retrial held on Oct. 1, 2012 at Springfield, IL, a modern day jury declared by majority vote that Mary Todd Lincoln was not subject to mandatory involuntary treatment by law, but the vote was not unanimous.

If you have the opportunity to view this broadcast, I hope you will take the time to view this program.  It brings to light the loose drug regulations where opium based products were available over the counter.  While Mary's physicians recommended them, there was little dispensing regulations at that time.  It is unclear if any of Mary's symptoms were caused by ingestion of such drugs or if her prolonged grief was at play.

Mary reported hearing voices and having visions of her immediate family that she so tragically lost.  Such occurrences can be considered a normal part of the grieving process.

Mary did display many erratic behaviors.  She equated the act of shopping to help her feel the emotion of happiness, she constantly worried that another tragedy would take her only surviving son.  There is no doubt that her son wanted what was best for her.  Unfortunately this period offered very few options for mental health needs.

There is no doubt that Mary Todd Lincoln suffered great periods of anxiety and was known to suffer migraines after a carriage accident, but her analogy in describing that pain may have been construed abnormal, likely because she was an educated woman with great verbal vocabulary.

On all accounts, the experts felt Mary Todd Lincoln suffered a variety of mental symptoms that exhibited signs of mental illness.  However, she was convicted without proper medical examinations and the use of evidence that could not be cross examined.

My final thoughts is that observing this re-trial made me aware just how far we have come with understanding and having compassion for mental health issues in today's society.  My personal opinion was that Mary did suffer mental illness but that in itself does not equate to being insane.  She experienced psychotic episodes that today we often treat successfully on an outpatient bases.  Mental illness carried tremendous stigma in her day and one would have to question if her denial of her condition was more from the social implication than irrationality.  

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum also has plans to present similar re-trials including the case of Joseph Smith the Mormon profit, so stay tuned to their facebook page for details.

I extend my gratitude to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and Livestream for making this program available to us.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Debate Club

For anyone that has participated in the Port Byron speech and debate team, you may be interested in knowing that it dates back to 1884 per the following newspaper article:

Friday February 10, 1893

Last Wednesday evening the Students Debating Club of Port Byron gave its ninth annual banquet at the hose house parlors. Members and guests to the number of about one hundred were present. Those who took part in the program were Robert L. Smith, Leslie Tanner, E. H. Kearns, Robert Takel Jr., Clyde Mitchel, Harry S. Vaughn, Fred J. Tanner, C. W. Armstrong, P. W. Grim, Frank Seymour, William Weston, S. V. Henry and Principal W. L. Harris of the academy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

1930's School Photo

Pearl Becker of Weedsport invited me to take a digital photo of her Dad's school picture taken at the Port Byron Central School.  Do you recognize these faces?

This school was the last of three buildings to be constructed on Church Street.  Today it is the Church Street Apartments.

Click the link to learn more about the previous buildings at this site:

Port Byron Free & Academy 1859-1898

Port Byron High School 1899-1935

Thank you Pearl!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

In Memory of Anna

Mrs. Howell in 1987
The Port Byron community mourns the loss of one of our most beloved teachers, Mrs. Anna White Howell.

In addition to curriculum, Anna taught life lessons, the virtue of kindness, self-respect, and the basics of good character in order to prepare pupils for the challenges of the future.

We extend our deepest condolences to her family and friends.

NSDAR Literacy Promotion Contest

I am deeply honored to share that the program organized in November 2010 to honor the late Pearl Kilmer Wilson's contributions to the "Mail-It" program, has received national recognition by the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution in their literacy promotion contest.

When the contest was announced we didn't know if the program we held, which focused on the elderly and visually impaired, how it would stack up as compared to other more traditional programs centered on reading involving the youth.  Our program seemed to fit the contest guidelines like a glove, so we decided to give it a try.  I am pleased to report that the program placed as follows:

Contest Results
1st Place  - New York State
1st Place  - North East Division, which includes the States of NY, VT, NH, ME, MA, CT, and RI
2nd Place - National

To fully understand why reading became so important  (page 2) to Pearl, I'd like to share her story:

Pearl as a youngster worked for her family as a mule driver on the Erie Canal.  This was a task traditionally performed by young boys for hire but she always stayed with her family.

She traveled the canal from Rochester to Syracuse and from Syracuse to Albany, following the Hudson river to New York City with her father William. She had a life long fascination over shoes and her days on the canal is likely the reason.  Shoes wore out frequently due to the many miles traveled.  

           c. 1903
Pearl with her sisters
Myrtle, Pearl (center), Georgiana

While it was hard work, Pearl found the traveling to be very exciting.  One of her adventures included a boat accident.  Upon arriving at a lock, they found the lock tender was on a lunch break. A gentleman nearby assured her father he could operate the lock to get them on their way without delay. Unfortunately, things didn't go as planned and the boat made contact with the chamber wall.
Pearl laughed, saying she was so scared by the water rushing into the boat, that she jumped onto a small table that was nearby.  She added that by the time her father reached her, the table was floating in the water!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Port Byron High School 1899-1935

The Port Byron High School was dedicated on Tuesday, January 16, 1900.  It replaced the Port Byron Free Academy that was lost to fire in November 1898 at this same location.  The architect was C. E. Crandall of Rochester, NY.  The building was heated and ventilated with a Smeed-Norcot heating system and had running water on both floors.  The Smeed Heating System was widely used in schools and other public buildings, its furnace generated heat by heating air.  The building cost "nearly $16,500.00" (equivalent to "nearly" $440,000.00 based on 2009 CPI).  The structure was described as housing 450 pupils, consisting of two floors with basement, six large study rooms, a laboratory, library and multiple recitation rooms. 

Many will be surprised to learn that some pupils from Brutus attended our school here.  In our early history, we were a progressive place.  Woman started to serve on our Board of Education in the year 1890, before woman even had the right to vote.  Helen Hadger Root was a teacher and among the first woman to serve on the school board.  Her husband William H. Root a past Board of Education Member was present when both the Free Academy as well as the High School was dedicated.  

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Port Byron Free Academy 1859-1898

Early primary or grammar education consisted of a series of one room school houses, dating back to the year 1800.  They were the standard for children to learn the needed skills to ensure their success to adulthood.  The first teaching certificate issued at Port Byron was issued to Celestia King in 1854, a granddaughter of Philip King.  She boarded at various homes to teach for $1.50 a week. 

An article by Richard T King in 1952 indicates that within the village, there were two separate school districts, one located at the corner of Rochester and King Streets, and the second at Pine Street.  His article indicates the Port Byron Free and Academy opened in 1852, with Ceylon Otis as its first Principal and academic departments under the management of T. K. Fuller.   The first Board of Education included Dr. James D. Button-President, William A. Halsey- Secretary, Alfred Mead, George Randall, A.K. King, William D. Osborn, Finlay M. King, George Hayden, and John C. Foster.

The district was chartered on April 7, 1857 and would be called the The Port Byron Free School District.  The following year, a lot was purchased on Church Street.  The cost of the lot and building amounted to $10,850.00, which has the purchase power of about $292,000.00 today (based on 2009 Consumer Price Index).  The building would be called the Port Byron Free & Academy.  They were established with the State Board of Regents under Chapter 298, Laws of 1859.

The building was three stories, and measured sixty feet long and fifty feet wide to accommodate 400 students.  The building was heated by coal stoves.

There were two entrances, one for boys and the other to be used by the girls with genders separated inside the class room.

The first floor held classes for grades 1-4; the second floor was used for grades 5-8 and the high school occupied the third floor.  The faculty consisted of six teachers.

Despite the name Free in the school district name, enrollment was not free for all students.  Pupils outside the village had to pay tuition of $4.00 per term (would be about $108.00 today) with extra fees for classes in Latin, Greek, German, French and Bookkeeping.  Tuition increased to $5.00 per term by the 1890's. 

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......

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.

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

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.

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