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Sunday, November 12, 2017

Decades in the Life of a Village as seen through its Historical Documents: Cherry Creek NY 1893 to 2017

By Sharon Howe Sweeting


Preface and context:

The New York State government has endeavored to assist lower levels of government in reducing layers of political entities. Several villages in Western New York have voted to dissolve including the Village of Cherry Creek in view of high taxes and diminishing population. The vote occurred in February 2017 and the dissolution is to be complete by December 31, 2017. The Town Historian was asked to prepare a history of the Village as it dissolves.
___________

The Village, within the Town of Cherry Creek which dates from the early 1800s, was incorporated on May 20, 1893, held its first election on June 17, 1893 and selected C.A. Mount president; I.S. Benton, W.R. Shepardson, and H. Clinton Mount as Trustees. Other officials included G. LeRoy Martin, clerk; G.W. Brown, treasurer and H.E. Safford as collector. “For many years lumbering was the principal business until the greater part of the neighboring forest had been cut down. But there has never been a lack of useful and profitable industries. Cherry Creek has never gone to sleep, or lost the active impetus given by the first enterprising settlers.”

“Among the progressive men of Cherry Creek, there stands no more prominent figure than that of Cyrus A. Mount. He is a descendent of an eminent family who were early settlers here. He was born here April 4, 1849, and laid the foundation of his early education in his native town and later graduated from the Forestville Free Academy. In early life he developed those qualities of mind and character which have since given him success in politics, in business and in social life.” He served as Postmaster (1874-1886); Justice of the Peace from 1872 for many years; president of the Business Man’s Association; president of the Board of Education and was Deputy Sheriff for several years. From: Historical and Biographical Sketch of Cherry Creek, Chautauqua County, New York by Chas. J. Shults, 1900.

The decade of the 1900s is represented by Poll Lists, official documents identifying dates, subjects of election and enumeration of the voters and endorsement by local officials. On March 15, 1904 23 votes were cast for Charles L. Wheeler, village president; Ernst Dye and C. LeRoy Edwards as trustees; Charles L. Frost, treasurer and Lewis E. Master collector. Verification signed by: A.H. Curtiss, president; Erwin and Champlain as trustees. On March 19, 1907 20 votes were cast for President Edson Skiff and Trustee William Bartlett. Chas L. Frost was elected treasurer and Clifford T. Skiff as collector. Election endorsed by President C.A. Mount, Trustees Rood and Gillett and Clerk Holcomb. On March 17, 1908 61 votes were cast for President Hiram Haskin, Trustee Geo. O Wilcox, Treasurer C.L. Frost and Collector C.T. Skiff. All Questions were declined related to Village Hall, Fire Chem. Engine, reimbursement of Hess and pay master (no further details mentioned). On August 23, 1910 a Special election was held for the purpose of raising $5000.00 extra for completing water works system in accordance to lowest bid. Passed 41 to 32.

Jacob Griffin and the Tavern of Time

By Michael Mauro DeBonis 
11-02-17


“I sat down and drank here, two hundred years ago,
the moon was young and silver, while fallen on the snow.

Green flames full with fire,
(freed from holy hearth)
lit my blue attire,
stained red by bloody earth.

This was the chair I sat in
during war with old King George.
Cold could get this cabin,
with no beer to gulp and gorge.

But these walls were strong and sturdy,
upon our Yankee ground.
Now what’s left is dirty,
and piles itself around.

The roof has crumbled into dust
long ages and ages ago…
the sun returned and brightly burned,
and smoked away the snow.
What has made my memory bust?

Freedom and liberty I do sing,
whether winter, or light of spring.
This is the place my dreams were born,
as my soul climbed up, and was moved by morn.

Mark these ruins not a grave,
but a cradle to an immortal cause.
Is a man’s living is all he will have?
While alive, does he deserve applause?

In being in our very own bones,
we walk far from graven stones.
Yet, within these windows,
I saw my best.
And it’s here my mind
has come to rest.”




About the poet: Michael Mauro DeBonis is a poet and a historian from Long Island, New York.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Busting Buckles: How Captain Caleb Brewster Broke The Devil’s Belt
and Mariner By Moonlight

By Michael M. DeBonis

The greatest patriots of the Revolutionary War are innumerable and nameless. Most were soldiers and some were statesmen and diplomats. But to students of the American War for Independence, one name stands out as an undisputed paladin in the Yankee cause for liberty. His name is Caleb Brewster. Brewster was truly a jack-of-all-trades, as well as the proverbial master of many. A native Long Islander and a highly talented sailor and soldier, Caleb Brewster confronted Death countless times to bring success to the infant nation he was helping to create. Mister Brewster did such on land and sea. And more to the point, this outstanding member of Washington’s Continental Army was part of the most secret component of the American war machine against their British enemies. Caleb Brewster was a spy and he has a tale to be told.

Caleb Brewster was born in the month of September (1747) at Setauket, NY (Rose, 82). On the north shore of Long Island, and positioned on the Sound, Setauket was (and, to a large extent, still is) a small fishing and agricultural community, belonging to the Township of Brookhaven. Brewster was descended from a family who emigrated from England to the Colonies in the 1660’s (Rose, 79). The Brewster clan had been living in the village of Setauket for many generations, prior to the birth of Caleb (Rose, 79).

And it was to the sea that the young Caleb Brewster took to early in his youth (Flockerzi, 1). Dulled by farming life, Brewster enlisted as a sailor on a whaler, bound for Greenland, when he was just nineteen years of age (Rose, 82). Within a few years of becoming a whaleboatman, Caleb Brewster, already accustomed to a harsh life at sea, joined on a merchantman, which was headed for the English capitol (London). He gained further significant maritime expertise in his role aboard this vessel as mate (Rose, 82). Adding to Brewster’s nautical insights, this experience of his on the high seas would become very useful for Caleb later on. This was especially the case when Brewster was steering through the stark black evening skies and waters of the Long Island Sound to ferry (fellow Culper spy) Abraham Woodhull’s intelligence reports (intended for Benjamin Tallmadge and General George Washington) to and fro Setauket and the Connecticut coast.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The National Negro Business League in New York City, Niagara Falls, and Other Cities and Towns in New York State

by Michael Boston

In 1900 Booker T. Washington founded the National Negro Business League (NNBL), which was an organization designed to “stimulate” and “promote” business development among African Americans throughout the nation.[1] As a national leader, Washington consistently received numerous requests to speak throughout the country. En route to many of his engagements, he had the rare opportunity to observe many African Americans single-handedly engaged in business ventures. According to Washington, “the number of successful business men and women of the Negro race that I was continually coming in contact with during my travels throughout the country was a source of surprise and pleasure to me. My observations in this regard led me . . . to believe that the time had come for bringing together the leading and most successful colored men and women in the country who were engaged in business.”[2] Washington felt that if he could have these businesspersons meet and interact with one another, they would be further encouraged and inspire others in their respective communities to undertake entrepreneurial ventures. Moreover, during the winter of 1900, Washington, T. Thomas Fortune, the owner and editor of The New York Age[3], the leading African-American paper of the day, Emmett J. Scott, Washington’s official secretary, and other friends discussed strategies for bringing together African-American entrepreneurs and for promoting business development among African Americans.[4]

These men agreed that a meeting should be held in Boston, Massachusetts on Thursday and Friday, August 23 and 24. They viewed these dates as a good time for a meeting because they were considered slack periods for businesspersons, as well as for Washington, who had a demanding executive role at Tuskegee Institute. Moreover, during the summer of 1900, steamship lines and railroads had reduced rates to Boston.[5] To bring the meeting to fruition and promote business development, a list of business persons that resided throughout the country was compiled, and a circular was generated, inviting them to come to Boston for the first meeting. The requirement for actively participating was that an individual “be engaged in business.” Washington’s goal for the first meeting (and all ensuing ones) was to allow businesspersons to gain knowledge and encouragement from one another and motivate the delegates to establish local business leagues among African Americans in their respective communities.[6] Being a practical man, Washington would take pride in this because he felt that African Americans actually engaged in business ventures and expressing their “ups and downs” was more helpful than theoretical advice. Expressing himself further concerning the intent of the first meeting, Washington wrote:

It is very important that every line of business that any Negro man or woman is engaged in be represented. This meeting will present a great opportunity for us to show the world what progress we have made in business lines since our freedom. This organization is not in opposition to any other now in existence but is expected to do a distinct work that no other organization, now in existence, can do as well.[7]

Friday, September 22, 2017

Prisoners of State

by Lawrence S. Freund



Twelve miles separated the men gathered in a Manhattan meeting room 150 years ago from the fortress where some of them had been held prisoner during the Civil War. Their gathering, a bitter protest against their wartime incarceration, received scant attention at the time although it would create a legacy that continues to reflect the nation’s conflicted attitude toward the competing demands of liberty and security.

While war raged on the battlefields of the Civil War, the Lincoln Administration maintained a quieter yet persistent and muscular campaign against perceived subversives active on Northern territory. The process was exemplified on Wednesday, April 27, 1864, when a Union Army officer arrived at the Rathbun House, a four-story hotel on Monroe Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The captain bore a slip of paper ordering him to “arrest P.C. Wright, formerly a New Orleans lawyer, whose plantation and slaves now confiscated.” The officer knocked firmly on a hotel room door, demanding entry. It would be the end of freedom for Phineas C. Wright for the next 15 months.

Wright, born in Rome, New York, had moved south with his wife and stepson in the 1850s, establishing a somewhat successful legal and public service career in New Orleans before moving to St. Louis in the months immediately before the outbreak of the Civil War. Wright’s sentiments were clearly with the South as he roamed the Midwest to recruit civilians for an organization he founded and named the Order of American Knights. In 1863, he published a florid oration on behalf of his order, with the nom de plume of “P. Caius Urbanus.” “There exists to-day,” he proclaimed, “a power which calls itself, in the unparalleled arrogance which distinguishes it, ‘the Government,' which has invaded the sacred and hitherto respected sovereignty of your several States, has disregarded the constitutions, laws, and ordinances of those States, which the people thereof have ordained and accepted … has invaded the sacred precincts of your peaceful homes …” As “Supreme Commander” of the order, Wright declared to his “Brothers”: “We will with our swords, if need be, sweep away these clouds…” The Lincoln administration was aware of Wright’s plans and declarations. In March 1864, he arranged to meet his wife in Detroit, intending to travel with her to his new base New York City with stops along the way to deliver speeches. His arrest in Grand Rapids interrupted those plans.

Alice C. Hayes: A Niagara Falls, New York ‘Talented Tenth Practitioner’ with Executive Abilities Who Built Bridges and Got Things Done


By Michael Boston

In analyzing Alice C. Hayes’s leadership, we can define it as a top-down or leader-centered style of leadership.[1] Leadership operates like a corporation, with a hierarchical structure and a clear chain of command. At the top is the corporate president, who is influenced by many factors, such as stockholders. Decisions are shaped by internal corporate factors in conjunction with external issues, and usually flow from the top down. Once decisions are made, whether subordinates influenced them or not, they are expected to be adhered to. Ella Baker, a highly experienced community leader and former executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, characterized Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s impactful leadership as leader-centered.[2] Moreover, African-American history is replete with leaders following this model (e.g., Denmark Vesey, Nat Turner, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, Mary Church Terrell, Whitney Young, Huey P. Newton, etc.). Therefore, “leader-centered leadership” here is not a critique of leadership but simply a term to describe an approach to accomplishing goals.

Alice C. Hayes’s leadership also fits W. E. B. Du Bois’s concept of “The Talented Tenth.” Du Bois conceptualized this idea in the early 1900s, as a young scholar in search of an uplift strategy for African Americans.[3] He posited that the African-American community should identify its brightest and best, a top ten percent, and support their intellectual development with college and university training. In turn, these trained individuals had a duty to return to the African-American community and help uplift others. Du Bois required and expected this. These selected individuals, upon being educated, were expected to not only be intellectually formidable but also morally sound, exemplifying high character worthy of emulation. “The Talented Tenth of the Negro race,” Du Bois noted, “must be made leaders of thought and missionaries of culture among their people.”[4] Alice Hayes, described as “an elegant lady,”[5] demonstrated this decree for almost fifty years within the City of Niagara Falls in not only helping to improve the status of Black Niagarans but Niagarans in general, bridging gaps between communities and hoping also that individuals would not only improve their status but reach back and help others.[6]

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Schenectady’s Jewish Immigrants: Acculturation and Preserving History

By Dr. Harvey Strum of The Sage Colleges


Jews comprised one of the largest immigrant groups to arrive in the United States from 1870-1924 until Congress closed the doors to large scale immigration for forty years with the passage of the National Origins Act. Congress wanted to limit Jews, Italians, Poles, and other immigrants from eastern and southern Europe considered racially inferior and unfit to become real Americans. Driven out of the Russian Empire by the pogroms of 1869, pogroms of 1888-82, May Laws of 1882, the expulsions of 1891, and the pogroms of 1903-1905, one third of the six million Jews in the Russian Empire left for America in search of religious tolerance, economic opportunity, political freedom, and to escape Russian captivity. Pogroms in Jassy, Romania in 1899 and fifty Moldavian towns in 1907 encouraged 150,000 Romanian Jews to leave. Draconian laws on Jewish economic activities dating from the 1880s further spurred their departure. Because of overpopulation, starvation, and limited economic opportunities, 500,00 Jews---about one quarter of the Jewish population of the Austro-Hungarian Empire left for the United States. A smaller movement of Jews from Russia, Romania, and Austria-Hungary fled eastward to Palestine, starting the Zionist movement. However, the clear majority of Jews from Eastern Europe preferred the promised land of New York City, Philadelphia, or Schenectady.

Schenectady in the 19th century and early 20th century attracted Irish, German, Jewish, Italian, Polish, Greek, Armenian, Ukrainian, and Lithuanian immigrants. Studying how Jewish immigrants adapted to Schenectady and the United States provides us with insights into the immigrant experience in upstate New York. Historians of the Jewish experience have tended to focus on New York City and paid less attention to the settlement of Jews in the smaller American cities. Jewish communities developed the Capital District of New York in Albany, Schenectady, Troy, Saratoga, Cohoes, Amsterdam, Gloversville, Nassau, and Hoosick Falls.

Looking at the institutions and organizations created by Jewish immigrants to Schenectady allows us to understand how immigrants developed strategies to adapt to their new homeland while seeking to maintain their identity, culture, and values brought from Europe. To what degree did the children and grandchildren of immigrants abandon what the immigrant generation valued in the process of becoming Americans? To what degree did Jews seek to maintain the religious identity and cultural norms of their ancestors? Jewish immigrants constantly renegotiated how they defined Judaism and Jewish identity in America. Ever since the first Jews arrived in New Amsterdam in 1654 Jews have grappled with the same questions---how to maintain a Jewish identity, whether to cling to separate religious, ethnic, and social values, and how to navigate between their Jewish identity and Americanization. For Jews living in New York City or Schenectady, they faced a constant ongoing renegotiation of identity. As a tiny minority that makes us about two percent of the American population how did Jews avoid total assimilation into American society? The organizations created by Jewish immigrants and their descendants suggest how Jews in Schenectady answered this question.