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.

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

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Capt. Joseph Harker

Another Revolutionary War Soldier Discovered at Port Byron

Capt. Joseph Harker was born 9/28/1743 in Morris County, NJ. He served in Capt. Abraham Lyon's Company, 4th NJ Regiment commanded by Col. Ephraim Martin. His wife was Mary Walling. Joseph died in September of 1815.

After the war the Harker family moved to Stillwater, NY in Saratoga County. This is the same area where Seth Higley and Philip King lived before they came to Port Byron. I was very surprised to find this soldier in the Harker-Higley genealogy as he has never appeared on our soldier list. The book describes his burial place in Port Byron as the old cemetery near the Erie canal. It also reports that a brick wall was constructed by Joseph's son James Harker before he moved to Illinois in 1829. This certainly fits the description of our Old Port Byron Cemetery, today known as King Cemetery.

The book indicates that their headstones were in poor condition, so today I walked the cemetery to see if I could find any remains of their headstones. I am sad to report that their head stones have not survived the fate of time. However, thanks to this book, I will now be able to order a military marker for him. King Cemetery is a tremendous challenge because there are no burial records or maps. The only record that exists are previous headstone inventories and the Harker name has not appeared on our lists.

Reading the history of this family was fascinating. As I mentioned, our soldier had a son named James. James was married twice. His first wife was Mary McColom. His second wife was Puella Higley, a widow of Josiah Partridge and daughter of Seth Higley. Puella was born at Half Moon in Saratoga County, NY. They moved to Peoria County, Illinois in 1829. Their settlement would be named "Harker's Corner" after their namesake.

The family genealogy is important because without it, we would have never known that Capt. Joseph Harker was buried here. You can read more about this family by visiting:

Harker-Higley Ancestry by Margaret P Brown