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, August 3, 2009

The Famous Cherry Tree

Hoffman Vs. Armstrong

Who would think that a cherry pie made at Port Byron, NY during the Civil War would result in a landmark lawsuit for New York State?

It’s true; the lawsuit was even mentioned in the American Forests Magazine. To recap the report, one summer day in 1864 Sarah Hoffman of Port Byron decided to bake a cherry pie. Times being what they were, she did not go to a store for the pie filling. Instead, she simply went to the yard where her brother Dr. William Hoffman had a glorious cherry tree. According to the report, the neighbors house occupied the site where Warren's Coal office once stood. Dr. Hoffman's home was next door and the tree was located between both properties.

The tree had already had a good picking leaving little fruit available from Dr. Hoffman’s favorite tree, so she decided to pick the cherries from the branches that had sprawled and were overhanging their neighbor Abner Armstrong’s property. Sarah used the division fence as a ladder to reach the fruit when the neighbor appeared insisting that she stop what she was doing. Abner felt that any fruit that happened to hang over the fence on his side was rightfully his.

Sarah refused and kept on picking when Abner took matters into his own hands. He began to violently shake the fence causing Sarah to fall. She sustained cuts and sprains. Of course her brother the Doctor filed the lawsuit for restitution for his sister’s pain and suffering. Abner felt he was simply removing a trespasser so he refused to pay a dime.

The case went from the Cayuga County Court System all the way to the Court of Appeals at Albany. New York State had no prior case in which to decide who was the legal owner of the branches that grew over the division fence, so cases from England as well as CT were reviewed. It was decided that the CT law made good sense for the Empire State and was applied to the case. This was the first case of its kind in New York State.

It was decided that the title to the fruit of the tree runs with the title of its trunk, no matter how far the roots and limbs spread. Therefore, Dr. Huffman was determined to be the rightful owner of the fruit on all branches of that tree.

I have no doubt that it was also the most expensive pie ever made in the history of New York State. Many sitcoms and movies have portrayed a similar scene so the lesson learned is to always keep your branches trimmed to avoid them infringing on the property of your neighbor.

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 .