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 National History. Show all posts
Showing posts with label National History. Show all posts

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Unknown Blue and Gray

Here's another powerful poem that I would like to share. 
Date of publication not known. 

The Unknown Blue and Gray
Wilbur D. Nesbet

There are unknown graves in the valleys
        That the troops of war possessed,
Where the bugles sounded for rallies
But the bullets sang of rest;
And the mountains hold without number
                   Hidden graves from the war's mad days,
Where the unknown men have their slumber
       In their shrouds of blue and gray.

And no drums will rumble and rattle,
              And no fifes blow sharp and shrill
In the valleys that knew the battle,
   Nor atop the lone high hill;
But the silent stars know the story
   And the broad sky of the day
Bends and whispers low of their glory
To these men of blue and gray.

And no banners o'er them are waving,
 No marchers come and pause
With cheers for the land of their saving
Or tears for their lost cause,
Yet the twilight stars intermingle
        With the hues when ends the day.
And the striving flags now are single
  O'er the men of blue and gray.

There are unknown graves in the thickets,
On the hillside and the plain,
Of the missing scouts and the pickets,
Yet they did not fall in vain.
Though their names may not be engraven
And their places in the fray,
In our hearts now each finds a haven
         They who wore the blue and gray.

For the God of battles is kindly
    With none of mankind's hate
That is cherished every too blindly
            And these pawns of warfare's fate
Have their tombs of nature's splendor
    Each set forth in proud array
Through an impulse holy and tender,
               Though they wore the blue and gray. 

Where once were the guns that wrangled
                Sounds the peace song of the thrush,
And the roses and vines are tangled
   In the solemn, sacred hush;
Where the cannon one day would hurtle
Their missiles in the fray
Grows the rue and the creeping myrtle
                  O'er the graves of the blue and gray.

They are nature's hand that are strewing
     The flowers on each mound;
It is God's own beautiful doing
              That each unknown grave is found
Where the cypress leaves are a quiver,
            Where peaks lift through the day,
Where the forest sighs to the river
        Of the unknown blue and gray.

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, April 22, 2012

Ring the Bells for 1812

On June 18, 2012 at 12:00 Noon, the New York State Organization DAR is asking everyone to ring a bell in honor of the beginning of the Bicentennial of the War of 1812.

From my own research experience, there are many patriots who served in this campaign that today their service continues to be unrecognized.

Countless soldiers of the War of 1812 rest in our cemeteries where there is no distinguishable marking to reflect their service to our Country.

Please join the Owasco Chapter NSDAR and many other chapters across the Empire State in recognizing the soldiers of the War of 1812 by ringing a bell on June 18th at Noon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Former Port Byron Stage Star Is Dead

The Cayuga Chief  Weedsport, NY Friday February 14, 1941

The funeral of Mrs. Lewis Henderson, formerly of Port Byron, who died Sunday at her home in Newburgh, was held Wednesday from the home of her sister, Mrs. Mertie Brown, in Port Byron, with the Rev. ? Burial will be in Mount Pleasant cemetery, Port Byron.  Mrs. Henderson many years ago was one of the prominent actresses of the country, having her own dramatic company in a repertoire of comedies and dramas. Her performances were enjoyed in the days of the old Academy of Music in Auburn, before erection of the Burtis Opera House, and later for many years in that theater. Her name was then Kittie Rhoades.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Amos King Bible Joins Sesquicentennial Events

February 21, 2011


NEWS from Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home
P O Box 377
Manchester, Vermont 05254
The Shires of Vermont
Press Contact: Paula Maynard, 802.367.7961


On Friday, February 18, Hildene Executive Director, Seth Bongartz and Deputy Director, Laine Dunham represented the Vermont Lincoln site at the New York State Museum at the invitation of State Historian, Robert Weible. February 18, 2011 marked the 150th anniversary of the president’s stopover in Albany on his trip by rail from his Springfield home to his March 4 inauguration in Washington. As part of a national kick off for the multi-year sesquicentennial commemoration of the Civil War the National Park Service is retracing this famous journey.

Central to the celebration was an address delivered by Fritz Klein, widely considered to be the foremost Lincoln re-enactor in the country. Klein has been portraying the 16th president for more than three decades. At the request of Weible, Bongartz and Dunham brought the Amos King bible from the Hildene exhibit to be displayed at the event. The book was gifted to Lincoln by Amos King, a Port Byron, New York, boatman. King had been inspired to purchase the bible, which was bound with high quality leather and printed by Cambridge University Press in England, when he read the President’s farewell address at the train station in Springfield at the start of the inaugural trip. The inscription is dated March 4, 1861, the day of the inauguration. Bongartz commented, “What makes the bible so remarkable is that it still exists … by that I mean it was clearly important to Lincoln and then to his descendants. It was in the family’s home when we took over at Hildene. It may well have been important to them because it was given by a comparatively humble person. That says a lot about Lincoln.” Bongartz also referenced the work of a diligent and committed Port Byron town historian, Dawn Roe. It was Roe’s relentless research that uncovered the thank you note from President Lincoln’s Secretary, John Nicolay, proof positive that the bible did indeed reach the President’s hands. She even offered several scenarios for how this may have happened logistically. In short, this important artifact is connected to the inaugural journey that was being celebrated in Albany and Hildene was honored to be a part of the event.

On Friday, March 4, the bible will again travel, this time to Burlington, Vermont, for a Civil War Sesquicentennial event sponsored by the 18th Vermont Regiment Civil War Living History Organization. The event which focuses on relevant Civil War history surrounding this particular date begins at 2:00 pm at the Fletcher Free Library. It will include a presentation by Lincoln re-enactor, Bob Bushnell, a question and answer period, remarks from Seth Bongartz, executive director of Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home and by Bill McKone, the president of the 18th Vermont Regiment and the event’s organizer. Activities will then move to City Hall for re-enactments of Abraham Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address and of the President’s swearing in. March 4, 2011 marks the 150th anniversary of this momentous occasion. To learn more about this event, contact Bill McKone at 802.644.2433.

The bible that Amos King gave to President Lincoln is on permanent display at Hildene and is currently a part of the exhibit: The American Ideal: Abraham Lincoln and the Second Inaugural. Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home is open daily from 9:30 to 4:30.

To learn more about Hildene, go to http://www.hildene.org/ or visit Hildene on Facebook.

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, 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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

American Baritone Richard Bonelli

The legendary baritone opera star Richard Bonelli was born George Richard Bunn at Port Byron, NY on Feb. 2, 1889, son of Martin & Ida Bunn. The family would later move to Syracuse, NY where George would soon prefer to be called Richard. The following biography mentions the late Penny Helzer, my predecessor as historian for the village of Port Byron. Here is a wonderful biography of Richard:

Biography of Richard Bonelli by Charles A Hooey

Prior to entering into a singing career, Bonelli was a close friend of David Abbot Jenkins, the father of salt racing:

David Abbot Jenkin & Bonelli

Richard Bonelli received an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Music from Syracuse University in 1937. In 1965 he received the American Guild of Musical Artists Merit Award(AGMA).

He also was a movie actor, having a supporting role in the 1935 film "Enter Madame" staring Elissa Landi and Cary Grant:

Enter Madame 1935

He appeared as himself in the 1941 film "There's Magic in Music" staring Allan Jones and Margaret Lindsay:

There's Magic in Music 1941

Richard was twice married, 1st to Pauline Cornelys and 2nd to Mona Chapman Wood. Through the union with his second wife, Richard was the Uncle of actor Robert Stack, star of the television series "The Untouchables" and Host of "Unsolved Mysteries":

Robert Stack Biography

Obituary of Mona Chapman Wood Bonelli

Guide to the Richard Bonelli Collection

Richard Bonelli debuted in Italy as Riccardo Bonelli, making him an international star. He holds two other significant records, being amoung the performances on the day that Opera was first broadcasted by radio on January 13, 1910 and performed on the first TV broadcast of Opera on 3/10/1940:

Radio Broadcast History-1910

First TV Opera Performance 1940

Richard Bonelli died at Los Angeles, California on June 7, 1980. His cremated remains were placed in Niche 32072, Columbarium of Victory, Freedom Mausoleum, in Forest Lawn Glendale, in Los Angeles County, his wife's cremated remains were placed on March 20, 1998.

His parents are buried at Port Byron, NY.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Titanic Artifact Exhibit at Rochester

Titanic-The Artifact Exhibit will be at the Rochester Museum and Science Center (RMSC) until January 18, 2010.

The RMS Titanic was not only a luxury liner for the wealthy, it also served as a "Royal Mail Service" vessel, indicated by its name RMS Titanic.

Many passengers on board had connections to Upstate, NY. Rev. Sidney Clarence Stewart Collett was in route to Port Byron to visit his father Rev. Mawbey Collett of the Port Byron Baptist Church. He was one of the lucky survivors, crediting his fate to two female passengers in his care. When the life boats boarded his companions, he was instructed to leave with them to ensure their safety.

PUT ON THE KETTLE; Rescued Minister Sends Word to Port Byron

The museum is located at 657 East Avenue, at the corner of Goodman Street in Rochester.

Exhibit Hours:

The RMSC will be open from 9am to 9pm Wednesdays and Thursdays while Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition is on exhibit, except on some holidays as listed below.

Columbus Day: Monday, October 12 9am–5pm
Veterans Day: Wednesday, November 11 9am–9pm
Thanksgiving: Thursday, November 26 CLOSED
Day after Thanksgiving: Friday, November 27 9am–5pm
Christmas Eve: Thursday, December 24 9am–3pm
Christmas Day: Friday, December 25 CLOSED
New Year's Eve: Thursday, December 31 9am–5pm
New Year's Day: Friday, January 1, 2010 11am–5pm
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Monday, January 18, 2010 9am–5pm

Ticket Prices and Additional Information

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.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

American Sculptor Byron M Pickett

Newspaper articles reflect that sculptor Byron M Pickett was born at Port Byron, NY the son of John Welcher and Lucy Pickett. Other articles suggest he was a native of Jordan. We can confirm that the Pickett family did live at Port Byron as early as 1840 per the Federal census.

John served as Mentz Town Clerk and is buried with his son David Pickett at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Port Byron.

Byron M Pickett completed several important sculptures:

"Patriotism" located at the Old Dutch Church in Kingston, NY. According to their website, they are the 6th oldest Reformed Church in America. This sculpture is also known as the "Daughter of the 120th Regiment".

History of the Old Dutch Church at Kingston

"Samuel Finley Breese Morse" at Central Park.
Morse Statue at Central Park

"62nd NY Infantry" Gettysburg. This regiment was also known as Anderson's Zouaves.

Photo of 62nd NY Inf Statue

"Anderson Zouaves" - Living History & Research Group

1879 Bio of Byron M Pickett

If anyone knows of the burial location for Byron M Pickett, please contact me. He has relatives trying to find his grave, somewhere in the Manhatten area.

Lincoln's Inaugural Bible vs Amos King Bible

Most people when they hear the phrase "Lincoln Bible" they think of the inaugural bible. The President had several bibles. To my knowledge, there was his family bible, the inaugural bible and also the bible gifted by Amos S King from Port Byron, NY. The King Bible is not the same bible as the inaugural bible. While they do share some similarities, you may enjoy knowing more about each bible:

The Lincoln Inaugural Bible

President Lincoln took his oath as President on an Oxford Bible. Lincoln intended to use his family bible but it was not delivered in time for the ceremony. The clerk of the Supreme Court, William Thomas Carroll, provided the bible since the family bible was delayed. This was an 1853 Oxford Bible with velvet covering. The bible remained in the Lincoln family but was later donated to the Library of Congress after the death of Robert Todd Lincoln by his widow.

Photos of the 1861 Lincoln Inaugural Bible

USA Today report on Obama's use of Lincoln's Inaugural Bible

The Amos S King Bible

After reading the Farewell Address that President Elect Abraham Lincoln gave at Springfield, IL, Amos King of Port Byron was so moved that he sent the President a bible as a gift.

Lincoln's Farewell Address

Image of the Farewell Address

The Amos King bible is a Cambridge bible and has a genuine leather cover. The bible would also pass to Robert Todd Lincoln, son of the President, where it was placed in the library at his summer home called Hildene, located at Manchester, VT.

Amos sent the bible at or near inauguration day, as his letter that accompanied the bible was dated on inauguration day.

The King bible does show evidence of wear, an indication that the bible was enjoyed as a personal bible, having been used by the Lincoln family on a private basis.

What is similar about these two bibles?

1) Both bibles were printed in England.

2) Both bibles are associated with Lincoln's inauguration of 1861.

3) Both bibles were passed down to the family of Robert Todd Lincoln.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


The Amos S King Bible from Port Byron, NY is now a featured item in a new Lincoln Exhibit.

Paula Maynard Press Release:
"Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home announces the opening of its new Abraham Lincoln exhibit, “The American Ideal: Abraham Lincoln and the Second Inaugural” on Saturday, September 5.

Set within the context of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, which harkens back to the then radical beliefs first enunciated in the Declaration of Independence, visitors will learn how the Civil War and President Lincoln helped bring life and meaning to the promise of the American Ideal of equality, justice and opportunity for all.

The exhibit thoughtfully uses text from the speech, considered to be the president’s greatest, and artifacts from the collections of Hildene and Brown University’s John Hay Library, one of the five great Lincoln collections. The two institutions recently formalized their partnership with a Memorandum of Understanding and the formation of the Hildene-Brown Collaborative.

Among the artifacts included in the exhibit are; one of only three of Lincoln’s iconic stovepipe hats in existence, one of his bibles, a cast of the president’s hands, a life mask and a scrapbook that belonged to a supporting actress who appeared in the production of “Our American Cousin,” the play the President was watching on the evening of the assassination. The scrapbook contains a swatch of wallpaper from his Fords Theater box. Also in the exhibit is a playbill from this final performance. A bust of Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, is on loan from the Jefferson Legacy Foundation.

The Lincoln Family Home at Hildene is open daily from 9:30 to 4:30. Admission, which includes the exhibit, is $12.50 for adults, $5 for youth 6-14, children under 6, Hildene members and volunteers are free. For more information on Hildene, visit www.hildene.org, call 802.362.1788 or email info@hildene.org."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Henry Hudson 400th Anniversary

Henry Hudson was the first European to explore what is today known as the Hudson River. He liked to call it "The River of Mountains".

Sailing for the Dutch East India Co. on the ship "Half Moon" he and his crew left Amsterdam in 1609. The Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) along with many historical societies and schools are paying tribute to the achievements of Henry Hudson.

APHNYS Tribute to Henry Hudson

See a replica of the ship Half Moon

The Hudson River played a major role in navigation of future residents of Port Byron for those that were part of the Palatine Migration of 1709/1710. The Hudson divided East Camp and West Camp, which served as their first place of residence in America. In later years, descendants of these Palatines would make their way to Port Byron, Weedsport and other places in Upstate, NY.

100th Anniversary of the Lincoln Penny

2009 Marks the 100th anniversary of the minting of the American penny that proudly displays Abraham Lincoln.

Did you know that the Lincoln penny is more than just currency?

It has taken on another unusual purpose. It can often be found on top of a fallen civil war soldier's headstone.

Why do people place a penny on a soldier’s monument?

The purpose is symbolic. The first Lincoln penny was issued in 1909. Union soldiers and their families started placing them on headstones to honor their connection to Abraham Lincoln.

You may even find a penny on monuments of others that provided support to the war effort such as war nurses. Even Harriet Tubman's stone has been known to accumulate them.

This month’s issue of the Bugle Call, the official newsletter of the Grand Army of the Republic, offers a wonderful explanation on the significance of this ritual.

It is believed that the penny brings peace to the soldier as he serves under Lincoln in death as he did in life. In turn, Lincoln would be looking up at the stars as his spirit continues to serve a country that he lived and died for.

Next time you pass a monument with a penny placed on top it, may you be reminded of the person’s sacrifice. May it also bring awareness to all of the progress that we have made as a unified country .