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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

“Colored People to Hold Mass Meeting and Make Protest.”

by Richard White 
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved by the author.

This was the dramatic reportage in the Buffalo Courier on Thursday, June 19, 1902. What prompted this announcement was a surge of insults and attacks on blacks with impunity by “white thugs” on Michigan Street south of Broadway. The racial situation in that part of the city was tense. The newspaper suggested that “a race war is imminent…the young colored men…have already organized into several crowds for protection.” However, one victim of the most recent assault, William P. Rhodes, proposed another option—to demonstrate publically blacks’ indignation and anger against virulent prejudice, and to demand change.

Rhodes, the proprietor of the Magnolia Saloon at 55 William Street, called for the protest meeting to occur at his business on June 20. Early on Sunday morning on the 15th, he and two companions—bartender James Dorsey* and housekeeper Jessie Wright - were accosted by a crowd of white men as they returned home from the Central RR Station. According to the Buffalo Evening News on June 16, one of the white men “made some slurring remark about the woman.” Dorsey protested, and was knocked to the ground by the thugs who then pounded Rhodes so severely that he required hospital care. But there was still more to occur.

On the 16th, the Buffalo Express best summarized what happened next when a patrolman from the 3rd Precinct arrived on the scene—“none of the assailants was arrested. Patrolman Malonney… arrested Dorsey and Wright… They were fined $5 apiece [for disorderly conduct] in sunrise court yesterday by Justice Rochford.” Later, because of Rhodes’ actions including hiring an attorney one day before the rally, and threatening to file suit to recover the fines imposed on his cohorts--four of the alleged assailants were arrested, although their cases never were adjudicated.

Rhodes’ “mass meeting” drew about 25 prominent black men, according to the Courier on June 21. Some of them made speeches that “were quiet in tone, although some criticism was made of the lack of necessary police protection…. The men then formulated an approximately 350 word resolution that reviewed the hostile racial setting caused “by thugs called men who, possessing white skins, arrogate to themselves the right to molest…any person of a different race or color….

The resolution concluded with a request for “the cooperation of all good citizens, white or black, to aid us in our denouncement of this wanton tendency to the end that we may live in harmony together.” There was no word in the resolution on a need to form groups “for protection.”

The aftermath of these events was positive. The protest meeting, and its proposal for racial harmony, generated its desired goal--the local daily papers carried no new reports on race-based attacks by white thugs near Michigan Street at least for the rest of 1902. Thanks to one black man who almost overnight became an activist for justice-- a tense racial situation subsided in a northern city. Five decades before the emergence of the modern Civil Rights Movement, an African American man successfully confronted racism in his hometown of Buffalo.

*The Courier 
is the only newspaper that refers to this man as Ralph B. Dolsey.

About the author: Richard White's articles have appeared in Civil War History, The Journal of Negro History, and other publications.

Flying Tigers Memorabilia Lands at Cherry Creek Town Museum

by Sharon Howe Sweeting
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved by the author.
Two blood chits, a short snorter, and a 1943 cloth map of eastern China have landed in a small town in southwestern New York.

These artifacts and more are displayed at the Cherry Creek Town Museum. They were given by Larry Waite in memory of his father, Second Lt. Lawrence A. Waite, who served with the 14th U.S. Air Force in the China-Burma-India Theater in 1944 with the American Volunteer Group (AVG).

The AVG was better known by a nickname: the Flying Tigers.

The AVG was founded in 1940 and led by a renegade pilot named Claire Chennault whose pursuit pilot training was criticized by his superiors but later endorsed by the U.S. War Department and the president.

Capt. Chennault had been in China for a few years assisting Chiang Kai-shek’s government in training Chinese Air Force Pilots when, in 1939 he traveled to Washington with Chinese officials to request fighter planes, bombers, supplies and parts in their war against the Japanese. By the end of 1940 the U.S. government had agreed to provide 100 Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks to China after signing a currency stabilization agreement with them.

The P-40s were made available after the RAF deemed them to be obsolete. They were painted with flying tiger “nose art” shark faces. Each plane had a pilot, a co-pilot, a navigator and bombardier. Lt. Waite served as a bombardier as evident by his pocket notebook with several mathematical calculations for dropping bombs.

The “Blood Chits” issued to the American Volunteer Group Flying Tigers in Chinese characters in case they were shot down read “This foreign person has come to China to help in the war effort. Soldiers and civilians, one and all, should rescue and protect him.” The collection at the Cherry Creek Museum includes one made of silk, worn inside the jacket and one made of a more durable material, worn on the outside.

A useful souvenir called a “Short Snorter” was also donated. The Department of the Air Force describes it thus: “Many Allied airmen in World War II made souvenirs of their travels by collecting currency from all the places they visited.” The collection of bills were taped together and signed by friends with whom they traveled. Waite’s includes 24 bills from the U.S., Portugal, France, Algiers, Egypt, Iran, India, East Africa and the Congo, British West Africa, British Guiana and Australia among others.

With a slice of military history presented in this small American town museum, an airman, a friend and a neighbor is remembered.


Byrd, Martha. Chennault: Giving Wings to the Tiger, 2003.

Office of Air Force History. The Flying Tigers: Chennault’s American Volunteer Group in China. 2015

About the author: Sharon Howe Sweeting is the Cherry Creek Town Historian and Museum Curator (Smithsonian Trained) and a Trustee of the Chautauqua County Historical Society.

Monday, March 21, 2016

“Hitlerism Invades America” Supporters of Hitler in New York City and the Nazi Threat in America, 1930-1934

by Dr. Robert G. Waite
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved by the author.

“Hitlerism has invaded America,” warned Samuel Duff McCoy, an investigative journalist, in his 1934 exposé of the mounting tide of support for Nazi Germany throughout the United States.[1]  Following months of work on the activities of pro-Nazi individuals and groups that had become especially active following Hitler’s takeover of power in January 1933, McCoy, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, authored a series of articles that revealed the range of activities of those involved, largely recent immigrants from Germany, and their efforts across the nation to bring Nazism to America.  “The invasion is upon a systematic and nationwide scale,” he wrote in the first of the articles.  “It has been laid out and is being carried out by men professing allegiance to the principles of the Nazi Party in Germany.  It has been the approved and, in repeated instances, the active support of official representatives of the Reich.”  McCoy described these efforts in depth and provided specific examples.  His articles included copies of documents and photographs that substantiated his findings.  There could be no doubt about the extent of the pro-Nazi infiltration of America.  McCoy named those most heavily involved with the concerted efforts to establish Nazi organizations in at least 20 cities, those eager to promote in this country the ideals of National Socialism.  In 19 communities he found that the local Nazi groups had their own storm troopers’ unit, young thugs who wore swastikas, Nazi uniforms, and drilled much like their namesake, Hitler’s SA.  Their purpose was much the same, too, to maintain “order” at meetings and to intimidate dissenters and foes.[2]   New York City was at the center of these efforts, these activities.

Though not the first to call attention to these activities--other journalists had written articles for local newspapers and The American Hebrew and Jewish Tribune ran a series in October 1933--McCoy provided the most thorough, all-encompassing and widely read coverage.  He built upon the wide-spread interest sparked across the nation by the series in The American Hebrew, a New York based weekly.  As its editor wrote in the October 20th edition, “The press of the whole country quickly responded to the startling disclosures made by The American Hebrew last week.”  For the articles revealed the existence of Nazi “cells” in many cities, the formation of “storm trooper” units, “newspapers fed with material from Berlin,” agents traveling the nation to coordinate pro-Nazi activities, paid radio announcements, and materials brought into the country through diplomatic channels, “a perfect replica of the Hitler tactics and organization imported to America.”  These “astonishing facts” generated widespread interest and sparked real concern about these foreign efforts to undermine fundamental American rights and beliefs.[3]  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

George H. Frost, 1796-1872: Cherry Creek Pioneer Resident and Underground Railroad (UGRR) Conductor

By Sharon Howe Sweeting, Innkeeper
Cherry Creek Inn

Several reliable sources describe the character and activities of George H. Frost who came to Cherry Creek in 1823 and in his log home at the corner of Southside Avenue and Union Street in the Village ran a hotel/tavern, a post office, and shoe shop. In several respected local histories, Frost is portrayed as an outstanding, upright citizen, a Baptist and Abolitionist.

But is some of this just local lore, I have wondered, or can it be documented? My partner-in-research, Joanne Mansfield, and I set out to prove such claims by these various authors using official records such as census reports, contemporary church proceedings and military files. In the process we discovered several conundrums.

George H. Frost was born in 1796 in Dartmouth, Bristol County, Mass., on the Rhode Island border. According to Charles Shults in Historical and Biographical Sketch of Cherry Creek, Chautauqua County, New York (1900), George H. Frost learned about the Revolutionary War struggles for the equal rights of all men from his parents. He personally knew many veterans of the War.

“Into the very fiber of his existence was born and bred an intense love of justice and of country,” according to Shults. However, we were unable to locate official documentation regarding his parents.

He next appears in 1814 at 17 or 18 years of age as a private in Capt. Joseph Lord’s Company NY Militia, from Nassau, Rensselaer County, as a substitute for Theron Webster. On March 22, 1820, he married Zerviah Sherman in Nassau. (War of 1812 Pension Application Files) However, Shults reported that the marriage took place in Bennington in Genesee County. Both Andrew Young in A History of Chautauqua County, New York (1875) and Shults find them in the spring of 1823 in the log home in Cherry Creek which served as their residence, hotel/tavern, shoe shop and post office. In 1830 the first Town meeting was held at the G.H. Frost hotel; he also served as a town supervisor and Justice of the Peace. (Shults)

Local Baptist Church records confirm that he served as a deacon of the church whose early congregation figured prominently in the underground railroad. This connection might have been influenced by Fredonia Baptist Deacon Eber M. Pettit (1802-1885) who authored “Sketches in the History of the Underground Railroad” (1879) although Cherry Creek was not specifically mentioned as were the nearby towns of Leon and Ellington.

Frost was outspoken in his opposition to slavery, denouncing the Atherton (US Senator D-NH) Gag proposing to ban “Congress from discussing petitions which mentioned bringing slavery to an end” (Wikipedia). He also opposed the Lecompton Usurpation which protected the rights of slave holders and especially the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law passed by Congress to provide for the return of escaped slaves. (Shults)

In 1838 or 1839 we find the family removed to a farm 6 miles NW of the village in what is now Farrington Hollow, formerly Vermont Hollow. The home appears on the 1854 Map of Chautauqua County and on the 1867 and 1881 Atlases of Chautauqua County. Away from the prying eyes in the Village perhaps might make it easier to hide slaves.

Obed Edson in History of Chautauqua County (1894) wrote that “After 1845, George H. Frost of Dartmouth, in Bristol County Massachusetts and his wife Zerviah Sherman Frost, turned their home in Cherry Creek, Chautauqua County NY into an Underground Railroad waystation. The Frosts pioneered the Cherry Creek Settlement in 1823 and opened a tavern and inn. In addition to farming, storekeeping and operating the Post office, they supported local efforts to rescue slaves and earned respect for greatheartedness.” Shults described it thus: “and for a long time [he] was actively engaged in the services of the ‘Underground Railroad’, so called, and many a fugitive slave was assisted by him on his secret journey in his effort to escape bondage to Canada. In his house he sheltered and fed alike the traveler and the fugitive slave.”

Another conundrum: Fugitive slaves were usually hidden in out buildings and barns. Were Frost’s invited into the house? According to a family who lived in the house at 7165 Route 85 in the 1980s, the signs of hidden passages and hiding places still remained. Also, for an illegal, secret organization such as the U.G.R.R., why were G.H. Frost’s activities described in such detail?

Whatever the truth is, we do know his devotion to his moral principles and belief of equality for all men lasted a lifetime. He remained a Lincoln Republican to the end and retired back to the village around 1867 where he lived in a house across the street from his original log home. He died there in 1872. The 1881 Atlas of Chautauqua County lists the property as belonging to Mrs. Frost. He rests from his labors in cemetery plot 113 up the hill behind his house. Also in cemetery plot 113 lies a Ruth Harris who died on Feb. 5,1865. His mother perhaps?

Additional source: Phelan, Helene C. And Why Not Everyman? An account of Slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the Road to Freedom in New York’s Southern Tier. 1987

About the author: Sharon Howe Sweeting is a CCHS trustee and owner of the George N. Frost House, which is now known as the Cherry Creek Inn.

Famed Walker Passed Through Cuba, NY in 1909

By Dave Crowley
Cuba Town and Village Historian
Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved by the author.

There was a time in the Victorian era when “long distance” athletes were attracting the attention of thousands of people across the country. That was when “professional pedestrianism” was in its heyday. And the greatest walker of that era was Edward Payson Weston who passed through Cuba, NY at least once. This is evidenced in the photo above. My grandfather, Fordyce F. Hammond,(#1 in the photo at far left) was among those who witnessed his trek through Cuba where he posed for a picture at the Erie Railroad Depot. Others identified in the photo with Mr. Weston (#9) are #5, Mr. Ringrose and #11 Art Bernard.

It was the election Abraham Lincoln that unknowingly put Weston on the road to fame. Weston lost a bet with a friend on the outcome of the 1860 US Presidential election, which Lincoln won. As the loser of the bet Weston was to walk 478 miles from Boston to Washington to attend Lincoln’s inauguration on March 4, 1861.

He began his payoff walk at Boston’s State House at one o’clock, February 22nd, which gave him 10 days to hike the 478 miles to the Capitol. He was then 22 years old, weighed 130 lbs., and was 5’7” tall. He pegged off the first five miles in just 47 minutes before settling into a steady 3.25 miles per hour pace. At every town throngs waited for him and cheered him on. A serious delay took place outside of Leicester, Mass., where he encountered foot-deep snows and fell down several times. He kept plodding on arriving in New York the morning of February 27.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

"On the merry-go-round of life at last I've grabbed the brass ring."
Walter Broe’s Improbable Journey from Bowery Bum to Darling of New York’s Art World

©Copyright 2015. All rights reserved by the author.

It would be difficult to imagine a less likely candidate to become darling of New York’s art world than Walter Broe. He was the only child of poor Irish immigrants. His relationship with his father was “not sweet and light” and after his father abandoned the family, his mother disappeared as well. They placed Walter in a Catholic orphanage and he tormented the nuns so much that when his father returned to claim the boy, the sisters were glad to oblige. Upon reaching adulthood, Walter Broe started a prolonged, winding, and ultimately unsuccessful, search for his long-lost mother, crisscrossing the country jumping freight train boxcars and sleeping in hobo jungles.[1] When the Great Depression arrived, Broe settled in among the nameless hordes of destitute and disposed men in Lower Manhattan’s Bowery district skid row.

During the cold winter of 1933 the Bronx-raised social realist artist Raphael Soyer and his friend Katherine Schmidt were walking near the Whitney Museum of American Art, when it was still on New York City’s Eighth Avenue, the ‘Main Street of Greenwich Village.’ They stumbled upon a poor elderly fellow using sticky chewing gum attached to a twig to fish for coins that had fallen through a subway grating. Conscious of the couple scrutinizing him, the old man (Broe) explained, “many’s the pennies and nickels one finds down there.”[2] Interrupting the commendably industrious man’s toil, the artists engaged him in conversation, learning about his nomadic adventures in search of his mother and that he was now homeless and flat broke.[3] Broe’s rough existence gave him a gaunt, worn-down appearance. Hardship seemed woven into the lines of his wrinkled, bony face; he was the very embodiment of Depression-era suffering. Raphael Soyer asked Broe to come to his studio the next day for a painting session, in exchange for small remuneration, some hot food and a bed for the night, an offer Broe quickly accepted.

On particularly cold nights, Broe used panhandled or ‘fished’ coins to pay for a bed in a Bowery flophouse, where a friend named Whitey also bedded down. The night he met Soyer and Schmidt, Broe had a noticeable case of the jitters, and Whitey asked him what was wrong. Broe replied somewhat sadly that he had been offered a steady job; Whitey seemed horrified at the prospect. You see Broe had misunderstood Soyer’s offer, thinking Raphael wanted him to come and actually paint the interior of his studio, not to serve as a model. It was going to be grueling work. “Okay Walter,” Whitey decided, “go to sleep and in the morning go over and try it out, it sounds safe enough.” The next day, Broe arrived at Soyer’s Fourteenth Street studio and proclaimed, “I’m here, gimme the brush, but I’m warning you, it’s a long time since I’ve had one of them in me hand.” Soyer, whom Broe described as “a small man, serious in mien and sensitive,” calmly explained all Broe needed to do to earn twenty-five cents per hour was sit as steadily as possible, and do nothing. This was a job he could handle. Broe proved so reliable and adept at idly sitting still, Soyer contacted several artist colleagues to recommend his new model, and eventually Broe commanded fifty-cents per hour. He was on his way to becoming a prominent member of New York City’s liberated bohemian realm.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Ebenezer “Indian” Allan: An 18th Century Walter Mitty

By Michael Keene
Copyright © 2015 by the author. All rights reserved.

from his upcoming book The Psychic Highway-The Untold Story of How the Erie Canal Changed America

Ebenezer “Indian” Allan was --- for lack of a better and/or polite word --- a character!  In familiar terms, we could call him a scam artist; an imposter; a charlatan or a very good actor. The bottom line, however, was that Indian Allan’s heart and sliding allegiances were always justified --- by him.  And, like the charming Walter Mitty character, he was convincing in his efforts and self-assigned roles.
If Indian Allan were here today, he’d surely want to tell his story, himself. What might he say, in a fictionalized version?~
“I was born on the 17th day of September in 1752 in Morris Township, New Jersey, and I died on the 13th day of April in 1813 in a place called Delaware Township, way up in Canada.”
I’ve lived most of my life in the wild, but I’ve always been for the underdog. I consider myself a friend of the Seneca Indians and the Iroquois people. I guess we trusted each other.” 
“I was down there in Pennsylvania around 1777 when something called to me to join the Loyalist unit of the war regiment under Major John Butler. You remember him! They called his rogue brigade Butler’s Rangers. Because of my good relationship with the Indians, I was sent to the Indian Department in 1781 and the following year . . . (now, make sure no one else is listening). . . I became a Loyalist spy (can you imagine that?) assigned to the Genesee River area in western New York.”
“That was a hard job, but sweet Mary Jemison made my stay easier. They called her the “White Woman of the Genesee”; the Indians adopted her when she was a little girl.   I lived with her, there, through my days of ‘espionage’.”
“Between 1782 and 1783 I moved to what would be called Mount Morris, after that rich American man with money for the war, Robert Morris.  It was winter and it was cold! I needed to provide for myself, so I started farming and trading my goods.  I was a Lieutenant with the Indian Department by then . . . but the war was coming to an end and they started letting men go. I was one of them. That’s what I got for siding with the British against these new Americans.”
“I was really laid low by this. I asked myself, ‘What can yak’ do, Indian, to help the American cause, this time?  And, my Iroquois friends?’ I decided to show ‘em something they could see with their own eyes, to let them know that I could bring about a sincere peace. “
“I knew I was taking a big chance, but I snuck into a big Indian village and into the chief’s longhouse!  I looked around for something important to signify ‘peace’.  Ah! There it was! A beauty of a wampum belt!  When the American Indian Commissioner sees this, he’ll believe it means the Iroquois want to live peacefully among the Americans and my Indian “brothers” will honor the gesture! I felt that if I could live for another few hundred years, I may even have a shot at the Nobel Peace Prize!

Ebenezer’s Plight

“Well, I spoke too soon. The British were still very mad at me and sent out a party of soldiers to hunt me down! They found me alright and threw me in prison! Since the end of the war, I was treated cruelly and inhumanly! There I was, robbed, stripped, plundered and imprisoned like some common criminal! And, for what? I was doing the right thing!  For 10 months I was shifted from prison to prison; from Fort Niagara in New York, then up to Montreal in Canada and to Cataraqui, in Ontario.”

I’m a Lover When I’m Not a Fighter

“Polygamy reduced to a fine art with a successful audacity that might excite the admiration of a Mormon elder." 3

“I made my way back to the Genesee country I knew and loved . . . and to the women I knew and loved.  I took Sally as my Indian wife by blessing of my Indian brothers. She gave me two daughters, Chloe and Mary. Around 1789 we canoed down river to a 474-acre farmstead in what would become Scottsville. Some will say the Seneca gave this land to me; others say --- because there is a deed to prove it --- that I bought it for 200 pounds in Massachusetts money from a man named Israel Chapin.”
“A Mr. Chapman came our way on his way to Niagara. His daughter, Lucy, accompanied him. He seemed to like me . . .  and so did Lucy. I wasn’t intending for it to happen, but Mr. Chapman gave me her hand in marriage. Lucy stayed and her father went west --- alone.”
“Someone would write that I ‘combined the lasciviousness of a Turk with the bloodthirstiness of a savage’ in my life with Lucy and Sally and my children . . . and others.  Social conventions meant nothing to me.  Yes, during my years in Delaware Township I was surrounded by many “wives” and more children.”
“I was living happily and was not aware of the big meeting (the Buffalo Creek Indian Council of 1787 or Treaty of Big Tree) with Mr. Oliver Phelps and Mr. Nathaniel Gorham and the Iroquois chiefs. The white men wanted a large portion of land west of the Genesee. My brothers insisted that their “Great Spirit” wanted no white men west of the great river.  Mr. Phelps said the Seneca needed a grist mill to grind maize just as white settlers needed one to ground wheat. A mill would ease women’s work.”
“Mr. Phelps said he needed --- and got --- 288-square miles west of the Genesee approximately 12 miles wide, and stretching 24-miles from Avon to Lake Ontario. He became owner of the largest mill lot in the world.”
“The grist mill needed an operator and I was the person for the job! I was given the 100-acre site with the understanding that I would build and run the mill. A small, natural island in the river helped channel water to the mill and some 3 and 4-foot waterfalls  gave enough drop in water level to turn the water wheels to fuel a sawmill and a grist mill.”
“I brought in a saw blade and managed to connect it to a makeshift water wheel to saw timber and lumber. I had help from the crew of a schooner docked nearby and from Seneca helpers. History will tell you that almost single-handedly, I cleared the land, cut and hauled logs, balanced two 150-pound millstones from Massachusetts, installed mill irons and constructed 2 water wheels.  We didn’t have fancy tools like you have today!  We used native skill, our muscles and a lot of determination. History will also tell you that we celebrated for 2 days. Yes, we did, with ‘firewater’ and much rum.”

The 100-Acre Tract That Could
Before Phelps and Gorham defaulted on their purchase agreement in 1790 and before the unsold portions of the purchase reverted back to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, they gave the 100-acre land tract, known as The Mill Yard Tract, to Ebenezer “Indian” Allen, who did successfully build a grist mill and a sawmill there. Allan built his sawmill first in the summer of 1789, then sawed timber to build his gristmill. The frame was erected in November of the same year.  There, on the Upper Falls of what would become the prosperous city of Rochester, were the beginnings of a thriving mill economy.
The location of this 100-acre tract for its first mills, however, was deeply located in the dense wilderness. While construction continued, the area was infested with snakes and mosquitoes which spread “Swamp Fever” or what is commonly known as malaria.
In March of 1792, with no settlers or land speculators interested in the surrounding land, Indian Allen sold the 100-acre tract to Benjamin Barton, Sr. of New Jersey for $1,250. Barton quickly resold the property to Samuel Ogden, an agent for Robert Morris. Ogden, in turn, sold the property in 1794 to Charles Williamson, agent for a small group of British investors called the Pulteney Association.  In 1803 the Association sold the 100-acre tract for $1,750 with a five-year land contract, to Col. Nathaniel Rochester and 2 lesser partners, Maj. Charles Carroll and Col. William Fitzhugh, all of Hagerstown, Maryland.
Nathaniel Rochester (et al) had just purchased the 100-acre tract that would become the city of Rochester, New York.