FROM PAGES PAST: 1947: Young couple found dead in parked car

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 www.nyshistoricnewspapers.com. For more information about the YCHC, visit www.yatespast.org.

150 Years Ago

February 1, 1872

A Reminiscence of Slavery

It was in the year 1820 that the little village of Eddytown [north of Glenora] was thrown into a state of wild excitement by an occurrence that happened in this wise: Several men were seen on horseback passing through the place on a full gallop. The people that saw them wondered, and began to institute an inquiry as to their business. At length the astounding truth was reached. They were a couple of slaveholders from Virginia, with their aids, in pursuit of some seven runaway slaves. The men who were in company with their owners and who had escorted them to find their whereabouts, had the honor or dishonor to bear the following names: Aaron V---------r, John S---------n, Samuel H---------g, Harry C. H---------d, and Samuel L. B------w, with several others who stood ready to reinforce if necessary. It was very common for people that had little reverence for the Golden Rule in those days to think they were doing God service to restore a colored man to bondage—especially if they got well paid for it. They had been informed that three of the fugitives had been employed by Zenas P. Kelsey to work in the harvest field a short distance south of the village, and a fourth was employed up near the Red Mill; known as the Carmichael Mill. Thither they hastened.— Isaac Lanning, Patrick Quinn, and Elder Abner Chase, all strong: anti-slavery men, saw them pass and hastened to the spot, hoping to foil their attempts at seizure. But they were too late. They had them caught and handcuffed. Though the poor fellows looked with appealing eyes, they were powerless to aid. Yet if there was a loop-hole anywhere they were bound to find it.

Lanning stepped up to the Virginians and demanded in a tone of authority, what they were going to do with those colored men. “We are going to take them back where they belong, sir,” they replied, to which Lanning said, “ You won’t take them back.” These words, so defiantly spoken, put a new spirit in Mr. Kelsey, the employer of the slaves, and he pulled off his coat instantly. At this the slave holder, with sword and pistol by his side, drew his sword from the sheath as if ready for battle; but Lanning, not at all intimidated, said (with the old anti-mason fire burning that had not cooled since the Morgan affair) “You had better put up your sword, for they are not going to be taken back till you show your authority. There has been kidnapping enough in the State of New York already.” So, after talking over the matter on all sides awhile, they consented to come back to the village and spend the night, and the next morning have the matter investigated. So they dispatched two of their men to catch the one up by the mill, while the remainder with their human property returned to the hotel. Lanning, Quinn and Chase returned also. The latter knew that three were at work in Milo, at the place of Silas Spink. Their owners did not know where they were. So Lanning immediately took his horse (a mare well known as “Old Black”) noted for swiftness, and got John Royce. son of his neighbor Matthew Royce, to ride her to Milo and tell the slaves to fly for their lives. John led the horse to Dr. Wolcott’s barn, where he saddled the animal, then mounted, and (to divert suspicion) leisurely passed directly by the hotel where the slaveholders with their booty were just stopping, But no sooner was he out of sight, than he sped like the wind for Spink’s farm. He reached the spot and found the colored men mowing by the roadside. No sooner did they hear the ill-fated tidings than one of them leaped the fence at a bound.

Royce told them to fly to Penn Yan, inquire for Mr. Bradley, and he would tell them what to do. Having accomplished his errand, he returned and no one knew who had been the informant. In the meantime, the matter was noised around, and when night with its murky folds had gathered round the village, nearly two hundred people were assembled about the tavern. Many sympathized with the poor creatures, who had been captured, and would have saved them if they dared. But the fine was heavy, and the law severe. Others took part with the property owners, and said: “Good enough for the negroes. They ought to be taken back. It was the place for them. What did they know about Freedom? They could not take care of themselves,” &c.

They had their four slaves, having brought back the one from the Red Mill, locked up in a private room and guarded by those who loved money better than God or a human soul. Lawyer Taylor, then a resident of the village, was sent for. He came, and as he saw the multitude standing about, be inquired, in a loud tone, “What is this mob doing here?” Reuben Royce immediately answered in a similar tone “What is that you say, sir? Call your neighbors a mob? You will take that back or there will be trouble." Mr. Taylor saw the fever of his spirit, and succumbed, by so modifying his speech as to make it satisfactory to Mr. Royce. The people, hearing the matter was to be examined legally the next day, returned to their homes with feelings of indignation and shame that such laws had ever been enacted — laws that made it possible to buy and sell humanity — laws that were in exact contradiction to that law of God which says: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The morning came, and although it was in the busy harvest time, a large number gathered to see that no foul play was used. The matter being legally investigated, it was shown by papers in their possession that the southerners were the rightful owners of these unfortunate persons, and had a right according to law to take them back and treat them like dogs, if they wished. In the mean time they had been making diligent search and inquiry for the remaining three, that were on their way towards freedom and safety. They would guide some of them in one direction and some in another, being sure to mislead and confuse them; and two were sent to Rochester having been told they were there, but after waiting there nearly a week, and having sued Mr. Spink, laying heavy damages, they returned. But one of the masters and one of the captured slaves sickened and died in Elmira. So one slaveholder with three slaves returned to Virginia. The suit against Mr. Spink never was tried, and finally dropped. Thus ends this sickening chapter of an event out of hundreds that might be chronicled, that transpired during the terrible reign of Slavery.

100 Years Ago

Feb. 1, 1922

Seneca Lake Frozen Over -- For the first time in many years Seneca Lake is frozen over so that skaters are enjoying the winter sport. A writer from Geneva says, “There are Genevans who recall horse racing at this end of the lake. There have been periods when the lake was closed here so as to allow skating, but the times have been infrequent and generally some person lost his life by drowning. Not only does the depth of the lake and the fact that it is fed by springs prevent freezing, but it runs north and south and the south wind wrecks many ice formations.“

Included in the tales of the "good old times" of winter sport on Seneca Lake is one related by Richard Knight, who celebrated his 81st birthday last week, of an enterprising Genevan who in the winter of 1875-76, when the lake was frozen, started a saloon on the county line of Seneca, Yates, Ontario, and Schuyler counties. “The saloon was on runners, and as the officials of the four counties never acted together, a good business was done during the entire period of the ice sport and no license fee paid, as each time a raid was hinted at from the officials of one county, the ice saloon was shoved over the boundary into another county."

1922: An early aerial view of Seneca Lake. One hundred years ago, Seneca Lake froze over for the first time in many years.

As a result of the cold spell in December, 1917, Seneca Lake was frozen across up to the ‘Bluff,’ but the ice sheet did not linger long, owing to the high south wind and temperature changes. Prior to 1917 the lake was frozen across in February, 1914. The last time the lake was nearly frozen was in 1912. There are three times on record when the surface of the lake was nearly covered by a sheet of ice. These dates are 1855, 1875 and 1886.

Lakemont Woman Wins $1,000 Prize -- Mrs. Hiram Elliot, of Lakemont, received a telegram Sunday morning from the Heuber Company, of Minneapolis, Minn., stating that she had won first prize in the picture puzzle contest, giving her the choice of $1,000 in cash or a Buick automobile, The contest was for the purpose of boosting the sale of the “New Universities Dictionary,” and $2,000 was offered in 25 prizes.

75 Years Ago

February 6, 1947 

Yates County’s First Rural Mail Box Sees Duty Again -- Back in 1902 when he and the late Charles Ward had secured almost enough signatures to guarantee a rural mail delivery route through their neighborhood, Howard Fullagar decided to be forehanded. He built a wooden mailbox in the farm workshop, and put it up on a post at the end of his driveway. This was the first mailbox put up along a country road in Yates County, antedating by several weeks the first realization in Yates of rural free delivery. “I remember it was very early in the spring,” says Mr. Fullagar, “and there was a terrific snow — several feet.” He decided that he would make the box and have it ready, for he was certain, even if his friends were not — that with the coming of open roads there would be a mail carrier over them. Mr. Fullagar, who has always been active in all projects for community betterment, recalls that he walked around the entire 25 miles of the proposed rail route, getting the folks to sign up. “I remember I had trouble with some of them. Thought it was going to cost them something.” During the past 45 years, Mr. Fullagar has had several mail boxes of the metal variety. Just a few days ago the last one of this type was knocked down and run over by a truck backing from the farm driveway on the Bath road. So the old timer was resurrected and is doing duty again.

Two Found Dead in Car on Barrington Highway -- Two young people of this vicinity were found dead in a car on Barrington hill Wednesday morning after one of the coldest nights of the winter. Thelma Knapp, 21, of Barrington and Kenneth Smith, operator of a garage at Keuka, son of E. Fred Smith of Wayne, were found in Smith’s light coupe at about 8:30 a.m., shortly after the school bus had passed the parked car. The car was on the road near the woods a short distance north of the home of Frank Coons, where Miss Knapp resided with her mother. Mr. Coons saw the car with the lights still on and went to investigate and discovered the tragedy. The switch was still on in the car, which was only slightly out of the beaten path of the road, and apparently the motor had continued to operate until the gasoline tank ran dry. The young couple had been dead for several hours in the subzero weather when they were found. Coroner’s physician, Dr. J. P. MacDowell, issued a certificate of accidental death due to carbon monoxide poisoning.  The accident occurred only a quarter of a mile north of the girl’s home.

50 Years Ago

February 3, 1972

Jimmie Cole with three of his circus elephants. In 1972, Cole's All-Star TV Circus performed at the Penn Yan Junior High School Auditorium.

Cole Circus Here Feb. 21 -- Cole’s All-Star TV Circus will play at the Penn Yan Junior High School Auditorium on Monday, February 21, with performances at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Performances in Penn Yan will be sponsored, for the second consecutive year, by the Penn Yan Academy Varitones, with proceeds going to their tour fund. The Cole Bros. Circus is under the ownership and direction of veteran showman James Cole, a native of Penn Yan. The circus is the oldest traveling indoor circus in the country. Featured acts include: Danny Carry, 16-year-old hand-balancing artist; Peter and Petrova, daring aerialists; Mike Martin and Co. daring illusionist; The Luvases, high perch pole artists; Famous Kettles, a clown; Heidi from Denmark, aerial ladder artist; Mr. Bill Kay; Miss Trudy and her Poodle Revue.

Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital in the Red -- The Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital operated at a deficit in 1971, and it is anticipated that it will operate at a deficit in the coming year. This information was presented as a part of the annual meeting of the hospital board held last week. Board President Daniel Clements said “People are increasingly conscious about their health, but we wish they would become more and more conscious about paying for their health.” Clements, in reporting that the hospital’s 1971 deficit was nearly $70,000, said “We are in the red and it hurts.” He stated that new mandates coming along all the time make tremendous hardships for the hospital. The proposed budget for 1972 sees a potential loss of nearly $63,000.

In her annual report, Miss Janette House, hospital administrator, noted that there were 250 staff members at the hospital in 1971, with a payroll of $1,266,000. Utilizing community services and patronizing local suppliers resulted in an additional $142,000 being channeled into the local economy. The annual report also noted that the hospital has set up and in operation the following key units: four-bed intensive care unit, 58 acute care beds, seven obstetrical beds, 10 bassinets, an operating suite including two major and one minor operating room, recovery room, emergency suite, X-ray department, clinical laboratory, physical therapy department, speech therapy, social service, patient activity, chaplaincy program, volunteer program, in-service education, employee health program, dietary department, cafeteria, snack bar and gift shop.

Mr. Clements was reelected for a three-year term on the board along with Mrs. Albert Rubin, Mrs. Robert Shay, Mrs. Richard Eisenhart, Robert LeGault, John Keihle, and Robert Allison. Mrs. Welles Griffith, and Chester Fullager were elected directors emeritus. Clements was reelected hospital president, with Lynn Carpenter and Bryce Barden as vice- presidents. John W. Bailey and Gerald Henderson were reelected Secretary and Treasurer respectively.