FROM PAGES PAST 1871: Local editors do battle in print over elections

Yates County History Center

The Yates County History Center’s volunteers have gleaned these entries for your enjoyment from their digitized newspapers. You can access them at the free site For more information about the YCHC, visit

150 Years Ago

From the years just before and immediately after the Civil War, these two papers competed for local readers, strongly advocated for opposing political parties, and their editors (Stafford Cleveland and George Bridgman) strongly disliked each other.

November 2, 1871

Election Day — With Election Day rapidly approaching, the staunchly Republican Yates County Chronicle campaigned to associate all Democrats with the blatant corruption of Tammany Hall in New York City which was run by Boss William M. Tweed (also known as the Tweed Ring.) Editor Stafford Cleveland, a Republican candidate for the state Senate, also seized the opportunity to discredit his competition in Yates County, Editor George Bridgman of the Penn Yan Express. Bridgman had been using his paper to discredit Stafford Cleveland and support his opponent. “Boss Tweed, the great political shyster and Bully Thief of the Nineteenth Century, was arrested the other day, on the charge of swindling the city of New York out of $6,000,000, that part of his stealings which have been traced home to him as a false and perjured auditor of the city accounts. Tweed jointly gave bail in the sum of $2,000,000, and went on flaunting his flag as a candidate for the State Senate. Tweed's corrupt old Lobbyist, a pretended Republican of Yates County (Editor Bridgman of the Penn Yan Express), is making desperate exertions to elect a Tammany Senator in this district. His candidate has long been an intimate associate and friend of the Tammany Ring, deny it as he may.” NOTE: Cleveland’s opponent was Colonel William Johnson from Seneca Falls, who organized and commanded the 148th NY Infantry regiment early in the Civil War.

COL. JOHNSON’S GUNS — As we have noticed in another article, Col. Johnson, “the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot,” who wants to be elected Senator, went into the gun contracting business after resigning his position as Colonel. Well, he had some guns that he wished to palm off on the State. They were so far defective that Gen. J. T. Miller, of Seneca Falls, a member of Gov. Seymour’s staff, rejected them as unfit for service. This is a family matter, and must be settled by the Democrats to suit themselves. It may be said that the rejected guns were as valuable as Johnson’s services as Colonel. Col. Johnson, we understand, denies that he is a Tammany Democrat. That denial is very convenient just now, but chimes very awkwardly with the fact that Col. Johnson has recently enjoyed some very profitable contracts in New York by the favor of Tammany Hall. He has been for years deep in the confidence of the Tammany leaders, their trusted friend, and if he has not been enriched by their favors, he is unlike most of their hangers-on.

Patent Car Coupling — Our townsman, Mr. Seabright D. Pratt, has secured a patent for an improved car-coupling of his invention. It is both an ingenious and humane device, by means of which the danger of coupling cars is entirely obviated, and in cases of collision, leaping the track, or overturning, the cars will uncouple themselves. The invention should be adopted by every railway company in the country.

100 Years Ago

November 2, 1921

Visits of the Rusty Blackbird — Verdi Burtch, of Branchport, tells of the visits of this familiar species of the Blackbird: Some thirty odd years ago, one day in early April, five glossy blackbirds with striking straw colored eyes lit in a small willow on the bank of the creek at Branchport. The morning sun shining on their plumage gave to it a greenish, metallic irridescence, and the straw colored eyes told me at once that I had found a bird new to me. There was not a particle of rusty about their plumage, but my bird book said that they were Rusty Blackbirds in their spring plumage. Since that day so many years ago, every spring and fall I see the Rusty Blackbirds as they pass in their migration to and from their summer homes.

Halloween Pranks — Many were the Halloween stunts pulled off Monday night. The old Charles Hazard bus decorated the Liberty Street School grounds Tuesday morning. It looks ancient, but did good service in its day. That was an innocent prank, but when it comes to destroying property, as some boys did, they should be reminded that there is still some form of law in the land. The boys who willfully broke off young shade trees on Stark Avenue should be vigorously punished. If they have not ordinary brains, a sound thrashing might arouse some idea of common decency.

Grape Shipments — The Farm Bureau News, in commenting on the work of the Keuka Lake Grape Growers’ Co-operative Association this season said: Grapes of the association were loaded at Penn Yan, Middlesex, Branchport, Bluff Point and Himrod. The distribution of these shipments has been good. Here is an idea of where the grapes went: New York City, Philadelphia. Baltimore, Scraton, Pittsburg, Washington DC, Dayton, Youngstown, Jersey City, Cincinnati, Greensboro, New Britain, Louisville, Allentown, Cleveland. This is a very good showing of different markets for the first year of Prohibition. The number of cars shipped was big considering the small size of the crop and what was taken away by truckmen. Fifty-one cars were shipped from Penn Yan (this includes Himrod, Branchport, and Bluff Point,) and thirteen cars from Middlesex.

Sampson Theater — Among this week’s features: “HERBERT’S COLORED MINSTRELS” A troupe of genuine colored comedians, every one an artist. For a bully good minstrel, with something doing every minute, you can’t beat “Herbert’s.” An attraction we recommend. “THE BROADWAY BUCKAROO” A picture with one thrill following the other until you will feel like getting up in your seat and yelling. If you haven’t seen Bill Fairbanks in action, you have missed something. For a genuine dare-devil, care-free, “Son of the West” and performer of impossible stunts, Bill has it on them all.

75 Years Ago

October 31, 1946

Shows Rotarians Film Captured From Axis — “We are about 20 years behind Germany in the design of engines,” Malcolm Campbell, Canandaigua jeweler, told Penn Yan Rotarians at their weekly luncheon meeting as he showed them a movie of the firing of the German V-2 rockets which worked such havoc in England when over 8,000 showered down upon that country in a three-month period. Mr. Campbell was introduced by his father-in-law, Mayor Roy E. Wheeler. Major Campbell served for three years in the photo intelligence service, being assigned in January of 1943 to the British division where he helped ascertain the effectiveness of the 8th Air Force and RAF bombing missions over Europe. With characteristic cunning, rockets were fired at London from the Peace Gardens at the Hague, where Allies could not bomb. Some 10,000 rockets were captured at the end of the war and about 100 of them brought to this country for study. Local technicians were unable to fire them, however, and had to bring trained crews from Germany to show them how.

England Phones Dresden Woman on Birthday — “Nothing could have made me happier on my 43rd birthday!” says Mrs. John Clayton of Dresden, describing the thrill of talking with her brother, George Knapton of Norwich, England, and her sister, May Knapton, who lives at Bath, England. “Telephone employees had been working hard Monday on a local cable, knowing that the call was to come through,” she explained, “and they did a good job, for I could hear both of them perfectly.” Mrs. Clayton came to this country in 1923 and had been back home but once in 1927, so the trans-Atlantic phone call was the nearest thing to a reunion in nearly 20 years. Her husband arid daughter, Jane, also had a chance to converse with England during the brief three minutes.

50 Years Ago

November 4, 1971

The Matchmaker — The Penn Yan Academy Senior Class will present the Thornton Wilder farce-comedy The Matchmaker in the PYA auditorium on Nov. 12 and 13. The leads are played by William Yontz and Lois VanKeuren with supporting roles by Debbie Harris and Harry Baxter. The Director is Mrs. Charles Kramer.

Jesus Christ Superstar — Musical patrons will have the opportunity to hear excerpts from the famous rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar”, on Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. at the Penn Yan Academy. It will be performed by a group from Buffalo calling themselves “The Upper Room”. This musical group was induced to come to Penn Yan to render their version of the famous rock opera by John Bloomquist, son of Mr. & Mrs. Earl Bloomquist of Keuka Park. He had heard them while in Buffalo. This event is being sponsored by the Penn Yan Area Council of Churches Basketball League to help defray costs for the coming basketball season. The Basketball League is run by the Youth Council which is a part of the Council of Churches.

PYA Scares Geneva Before Losing 20-15 — With 6 minutes left in the third period, the Mustangs of PYA were on the threshold of the upset of the year as they led the Geneva Panthers 15-14 in a game thrill packed with excitement. On fourth down from the midfield stripe Jack Nielsen got off a booming kick that seemed headed into the “Coffin Corner.” Less than 10 seconds later the Orange and Blue victory bubble had burst as Panther Halfback Charlie Pinkard gathered in the pigskin on the G9 and made like twinkletoes on a 91 yard scoring jaunt straight down the sideline. The PAT for 2 points failed but the 20- 15 lead held up for the rest of the game and focused all eyes on the upcoming game of the year this Saturday evening when the undefeated Clyde Golden Eagles will take on the unblemished Big Red of Geneva.

From the Editor’s Desk of Don Good — Our hats off to the young people of the community who kept their Halloween tomfoolery to a minimum! This is a real good sign! The local police and their helpers (CD police) reported very little trouble over the weekend.

Although we weren’t in town for most of the weekend, we are told the Freshman Class at PYA had a fine float and deserved the prize at Homecoming. We didn’t see any of the floats, but once again all high school classes apparently went all-out to present something for those who judged to really struggle over.

What do you think of this weather? An example of this miracle is the photo on Pg 1 which shows forsythia in bloom! Cheer up... snow isn’t too far away! Now we have gone and done it, huh?