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

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.

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.

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.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Graduation 2009

June is such an exciting time for the many graduates from schools around the country. This year, Dana L West Sr High closed with history in the making.

William Rice had the honors to read to his fellow classmates a personal greeting from Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in honor of our historic year.

Commencement not only focused on the achievement of the students, it also showed appreciation to all the family, friends, faculty and community members that made their success possible. The heart of every community is the people.

Over 50 different scholarships were awarded, some issued to multiple students. The class was 105 students strong.

Go Panthers and best of luck to you!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Class History 1944

Here is another class history for your enjoyment. This time we highlight the Class of '44.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Port Byron Fife & Drum

In the history of Port Byron, there has only been one Fife & Drum.

The group was founded by former music director Jon Bowen. The group was not part of the school music program. As such, the members were responsible to arrange their own transportation. Thanks to the devotion of the parents, the group flourished and traveled all over Central NY as well as Canada.

The group was so small that they marched with out a parade banner. That would turn out to be the key to their success! When the school's marching band was not performing, Port Byron's Fire Department would hire the Port Byron Fife & Drum.

It wasn't long before they were also marching with Weedsport's Fire Department. They were a group of very creative kids. When push came to shove, they always found a way to get to the parade, even if it meant that the firetruck from Weedsport had to come pick them up in our school parking lot! The group tagged rides a good many times with both of the fire departments. The lack of a marching banner made them a draw to both townships.

I'll never forget the time riding with Mr & Mrs Murray. He had a scanner in his car and that made him confident that we could make up lost time, so away we went. He no more than said "if there is a smokey in the area, I'll hear it on the scanner long before he can see us". Well, here we were pulled over on the side of the road with lights a flashing when our second driver zoomed by us. Only then did the alert come over the scanner! We had a chuckle over that one. I think that may have also been the same parade when we arrived late and the parade had already started. Thankfully we were on the correct side of town as we had to run through the street with our instruments to find the PB Firemen! We made it long before the judging stand so not all was lost.

Even though we were never officially a school music group, the Board of Education extended their support by allowing us to use the school drums. We were not able to use the school uniforms, so the group adopted a uniform that was patriotic, being colors of red, white and blue. All members wore blue jeans, white shirts with a red bandanna, as seen in the above photo.

One year the school budget didn't pass and even the Marching Panthers adopted casual wear, marching in jeans and t-shirts. Once again the parents answered the call to transport the students. I send a heart felt thank you to all of our boosters and drivers that donated their time and their generosity to provide the transportation when needed. We have such a wonderful community and much to be thankful for.

The Port Byron Fife & Drum marched from 1975 until 1982. Members have included founder Jon Bowen-bass drum, Fifers included Jon's wife Kathy Bowen, Maggie Fraher, Cindy Ellinwood, Dough Smith, Theresa Burke, Dawn Roe-snare, Todd Murray-bass drum, and one member, Jim Keenly, marched with us even before he learned to play the fife. One year we only had 2 fifes and the 2 drums, so he marched in the middle and looked like he was playing enough that we continued to receive prize money from the judges. It was a fun group to travel with. Today both Jim Keenly and Maggie Fraher are music teachers.

If I've missed any of the members, please email me so I can add you to the list of the Port Byron Fife & Drum!

I'll be adding a full list of members since they have not been featured in our school yearbooks.

In the groups last couple of years, a Port Byron Sr. would assume all responsibility to direct and organize the group. They disbanded in 1982. The above photo shows the last four members with the final award received by the group at Gananoque, Canada.

Music in our schools

Mentz Historian Mike Riley has complimented the bands improvement several times. Credit must be given to the wisdom of Principal Arthur A Gates for starting the music programs at Port Byron. His strong support of the arts is not surprising, considering his wife Regina was not only a well known painter and artist, she was also an accomplished musician. She was frequently a guest performer in our concerts.

Right out of the starting gate, music at Port Byron began with great achievements under the first musical director Mr. Elvin L Freeman. Freeman's award winning secret was to play simple music extremely well.

This also would be the beginning of a long legacy of students participating in the solo festivals. Freeman would also serve as President of the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA), the agency that regulates the adjudication process and the ultimate ranking to group festival selections, such as All-County, Area All-State and All-State.

Music is graded in levels of difficulty, with 1 being the easiest and 6 being the most difficult. In Freeman's day, making the group festivals did not require a student to play at the highest level. They simply had to play well. This is always one of the biggest challenges for NYSSMA, to select the best students at various stages of proficiency and group them together to perform within a level that the entire group can sustain. That is one of the reasons that being selected for these groups is such an honor. It is an opportunity for the students to perform in a large body with other students in our region, often at a much higher level than the school where they may reside. In the Freeman years, many public school music programs in Cayuga County were in their infancy, so today students who make the select groups are generally performing grade level 4 or higher.

However, the most select group, All-State, today requires all musicians play at a grade level 6 before they can be considered. To my knowledge Port Byron has sent several vocalists to All-State but only 2 instrumentalist have ever represented our home town at this level, both being percussionists.

Music in our schools has always had peaks and valleys. It takes a combination of a dedicated music director, support from the local Board of Education and most of all participation from the student body. One teacher who always understood the importance of keeping students motivated with music was Kathy Wilt. Our music programs benefited from her long years of dedication and the stability she offered budding musicians.

Appropriation of funding is another challenge for any school board in a small community. However, don't forget that every school concert consumes electricity, staffing of teachers, custodians and then there is transportation. These are all ways in which our school board supports the music programs at Port Byron.

Even in years past, self supporting fund raising was needed and the band and band boosters filled this gap. In fact, that is how the band was able to accept the 1977 trip to march down Main Street USA in Disneyland Florida. We couldn't have done it with out the band boosters.

Who knows, if you chat with some of your teachers, you may find out that many of them were active in band when they went to school. Music develops a strong sense of self worth, a network with students around the County and also improves communication skills. Port Byron has produced several music educators over the years.

Most important, no matter what level of music you play, have fun.


Saturday, April 4, 2009

Student Humor

The Port Byron library has a wonderful Year Book collection in their history room. It is always fun to look back at our school and the many people that would walk our halls. One thing I quickly noticed was that the school colors were not always Maroon & White. In the early years they were Orange and Black. They also did not have an official mascot in the early years. They used the standard education torch as their logo.

In turning the pages, I stumbled across a class history that was so cleverly written, rather than transcribe it; I thought I would post it exactly as it appeared in the yearbook. This is simply a sign that humor has always been alive and well in our students.


(For enlarged view, click image below)