January 19, 2009

This writer is a frequent shopper on “ebay”, particularly for items of historical interest. Recently while perusing the local items I came across a set of four nice card-style photos from the 1890s. I put in a small bid and was rewarded with a win and the photos within a fortnight.

Two of the photos were labeled, and interested me as I knew they hailed from Orwell– Edith Waggoner and May Crocker. All four photos were taken by Heusted studios in Sandy Creek and seemed about the same era.
Curiosity got the better of me one night and I decided to figure out who these ladies were using internet resources.

May Ethel Crocker was born in Orwell in October 1874. She was the daughter of Gilbert Sidney and Aurelia (Stowell) Crocker. She married Duane S. Loucks of Lorraine on October 12, 1892 and they alter settled in Mannsville, NY where they raised three sons; Glen, Leon and Gerald. From Fulton history.com I found a handful of articles that mentioned May. Her father’s obituary lists Mae’s siblings and the record of Gilbert Crocker’s Civil War service. A death date for May hasn’t been found, but she is last found in the 1930 census. Her husband died in 1957. Through the newspaper databases of Fulton History.com as well as the Northern New York library Network it is possible to read about their socializing, church meetings and even new car purchases.

Our search for information on Edith H. Waggoner found that she was born on September 4, 1872 the daughter of George Henry and Jane (Duncan) Waggoner. Edith was the second wife of Fred Rowe from Boylston, marrying in 1900 according to records found on ancestry.com, submitted by one of our members Brenda Tanner. Through Fulton History.com we found an indexed scrapbook that had a detailed obituary of Fred Rowe, and explained that his first wife died in 1898 and that Fred and Edith were married October 24, 1900. Fred’s son J. Hunt Rowe was a well-known figure in our region, and helped with programs at Half-Shire in the mid 1970. Many of this family live in the region and are active in our communities.

This simple exercise in research showed the value of the internet in tracking down information on people from the past, as well as the present. The internet is not however, the “end all” and researchers should still look further into the files at the local libraries and historical societies. For more information on the Crocker, Stowell, Waggoner and Rowe families we know that there are extensive files at the Sandy Creek Historian’s office, Sandy Creek Library, Orwell Historians office as well as Half-Shire. A short perusal of the files at Half-Shire brought May Crocker Loucks’ family back two hundred years to the Revolutionary War and into New England. Similarly, the family of Edith Waggoner and her husband Fred Rowe are well documented at the same places.

If someone were to inquire about either of these women from our past, local historians such as myself, (Richland historian) Celestine Garvin (Orwell) and Charlene Cole (Sandy Creek) would have the local knowledge to direct a researcher to other members of the community who have additional information or even a family relationship. The Half-Shire and Orwell collections have photos of keystone bridges built by George Waggoner in Orwell. For Charlene, information requested on Edith Waggoner Rowe would be likely directed to her able assistant Phyllis Rowe LeBeau, who has done an admirable job at researching her own family.

The moral of this column is to both laud the internet for its terrific assistance, and to caution about its shortcomings. While so much is online and available there will likely never be any substitute for the local knowledge and resources town historians, historical societies and libraries.

Half-Shire can be reached at P.O. 73, Richland, NY 13144 or on the web at www.halfshire.com

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January 9, 2009

The Richland hamlet community was terribly shaken by the devastating house fire on January 4, killing eight members of the same family. In the days following the fire some discussion of that structures history has occurred.

According to George Widrig, the structure was once the east wing of Henry Hezekiah Mellen’s Trout Brook House, which once sat on the current site of the old video store. Mellon was the grandson of Revolutionary War veteran Nathan Mellon, and was himself an early land developer in that section of the town. The Trout Brook House was built about 1853 as the railroad was being built through the town.

Following Mellon’s death the structure later fell to William Streeter who in 1924 split the building in half and moved the main section across the street to the site of the former Averill Hotel. This section was transformed into a duplex and stood until 1996 when it was demolished as part of the Richland Junction convenience store project. Also in 1924, the east portion of the old hotel was moved up the road and was later converted into a one family home that was long known as “the Granger place”. It was this portion of Mellon’s old hotel that was destroyed by fire on Sunday night, taking with it eight members of the community. The officers of Half-Shire extend our most sincere condolences to the surviving members of the families affected.

On January 5, Pulaski attorney Walter Smith stopped by the historian’s office to discuss the mysterious portrait of a Judge in the main courtroom of the courthouse. Several weeks ago we had identified the portrait as that of Judge Irving Hubbs. After his examination, Smith decisively told me that we are mistaken, that the portrait is of Judge Clayton Miller. We then examined the newspaper article and photo from which we took our earlier guess, and both decided that the caption beneath the two men’s 1940 joint photo was ambiguous. Smith described Miller as he remembered him, and told of how his parents were social friends and bridge partners with the Millers.

Judge Clayton I. Miller was born in 1869 the son of William, and Lydia (Howard) Miller of Mexico. He married the former Alice Bard of Mexico in 1900. Miller rose through the ranks of attorneys and later Judges in Oswego County, moving from the Surrogates Judge position to State Supreme Court in the 1920s. Mrs. & Mrs. Miller built unique arts and crafts style home on upper Park Street in Pulaski that is the current home of R. Bramley Palm and his family.

We are further confirm that Judge Miller is the man in the painting, and will report back at a later date our findings.

Half-Shire can be contacted at P.O. 73, Richland NY 13144 or on the web at www.halfshire.com

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