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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