FROM PAGES PAST: 1947: James Cole brings baby elephants from Ceylon to Penn Yan

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

March 21, 1872

Disturbances In Seneca Lake - Editor: — Dear sir, I noticed in an Eastern paper a little article (from the Geneva Gazette,) “Seneca Lake in Commotion." You say that Capt. Dey’s long experience in the navigation of the lake furnishes no precedent of a like character. I spent the early part of my life about the Seneca Lake. Though over twenty years have passed since I found an abiding place on this side of the continent, still my recollections about the Seneca Lake furnish me with precedents of a like character in great abundance. I have known the waters of the Seneca Lake rise and fall one foot within thirty minutes, and nothing is more common than to witness a rapid current around the points in every part of the lake. I have frequently known the current to run from 2 to 4 knots an hour. Such has been the case ever since my remembrance, and I am now over sixty years of age. Such currents, and rising and falling, I call precedents. Last summer, for the first time in many years, I traveled down the Seneca Lake, at which time my mind reverted back, and almost everything that transpired in the early part of my life came up before me while I contemplated that beautiful sheet of water and its surroundings. Though I love this beautiful country (California,) the Seneca Lake, with its surroundings, still has charms. Seeing that I have written quite a letter, only because my eye caught a name that brought me back to early life, I will venture a little more scribbling, though it may spoil what has been said. There is a theory, though not wholly my own, still I have given it some thought. It is believed by some that the bottom of Seneca lake is composed in part of mica which forms a stratum of some 40 yards in thickness, and that under that stratum is heated lava, and at certain times a large amount of gas is generated which produces an undulated or wave-like motion, and that is the immediate cause of the singular phenomenon. I trust that whoever feel any particular interest in this matter, will make it a study.  Very respectfully yours, Dr. F. Goodwin.

Corning & Sodus Bay Railroad - The Directors of the Corning and Sodus Bay Railroad Corporation met at Corning on Saturday to hear arguments in relation to a proposed change of route from Bradford Hollow to Penn Yan. The road is located from Bradford to Wayne Hotel and from thence to Penn Yan by a route gradually descending the easterly bank of Crooked Lake. The change proposed involved one of two routes, both leading we believe to Crystal Springs, from whence one runs to Penn Yan via Chubb Hollow, and the other diverges eastward to Dundee, and thence by a somewhat circuitous course to Penn Yan. At this meeting these respective routes were advocated by gentlemen familiar with the localities, and the friends of the route already located also gave their views of the superior advantages thereof. It was forcibly argued that a road reaching the flourishing village of Dundee would secure much business therefrom, as well as be of material service to the citizens, but the fact could not be denied that the distance would be thus increased several miles. The middle route was open to the same objection in a less degree. After a patient hearing of all that was offered in favor of a charge, the Directors unanimously decided to adhere to the present location by way of Wayne Hotel. The Directors feel very friendly to those representing the other routes, but in view of the fact that the road is already under contract, by way of Wayne, that the iron has been purchased, and that the distance is less, and for the sake of hastening forward the work, and also, as we understand, meeting the expectations of those large coal operators whose shipments of coal will form the principal freighting business of the projected railroad, the directors were satisfied that it was not advisable to undertake at this late day to change the location of the route from Bradford Hollow to Penn Yan. This route runs on the north side of Mud Lake and crosses at the head to the east side of Little Lake, passing within a short distance of the village of Weston, and being within a mile or so of the village of Tyrone. The road follows Little Lake to its head, on which is situated the village of Wayne Hotel as it is called. We believe it is a dozen miles from Bradford to Wayne and the summit at the latter place is only sixteen feet above the level of Mud Lake near Bradford. From the summit the grade can be made as gradual as possible, having fourteen miles distance to Penn Yan and the sloping bank of the Lake on which to descend easily. There are some ravines, but none but what can be readily bridged.

100 Years Ago

March 22, 1922

Lincoln Ave. Addition - One of the finest sections in Penn Yan to own a home. Just a step off East Main, a beautiful paved street. Only a few moments walk from the business section and railroad stations. There will be a limited number of choice lots for sale at a very low figure. Will start at once the erection of twenty new homes, all of modern type. These houses will be sold at a price that is within reach of the laboring class of people. Why pay rent when you can own a home yourself? Come and look over these lots and convince yourself that they are the most beautiful building lots in Penn Yan. W.A. Randall, Owner and Builder

American Legion Auxiliary - A Women’s Auxiliary to the Penn Yan post of the American Legion may be organized if sufficient interest in this movement is manifested by those eligible. Membership will be limited to mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of members of the Legion and also to mothers, wives, daughters and sisters of men who were in the military or naval service of the United States between April 6th, 1917, and Nov. 11, 1918, and died in line of duty or after honorable discharge and prior to Nov. 11 1920. This would allow many women of Yates County to join the new organization. Only ten are necessary to file application papers. Membership dues are fixed at a minimum of $2 a year per member. Quite a number of Auxiliary organizations have been formed throughout the country. All women who are eligible to become members of an auxiliary are invited to communicate with Mrs. R.C. Hatch, 133 Elm St., Penn Yan, by mail or phone.

Old Fire Engine - Penn Yan’s old fire engine has just been thoroughly over-hauled by John Carpenter. This engine was brought here in 1874. Up to a few years ago it was always kept ready for an emergency. Mr. Carpenter says he can throw two streams on top of the Benham House now with the steamer. He will also bet his red flannel shirt that with 1 1/4 inch hose and the right kind of a nozzle, the engine will throw a stream farther than the water works will. The reason for fixing up the engine now is because the water mains are getting old. He says the pipeline from the village to the reservoir was put in twenty-eight years ago. According to the law of averages, something might happen to it anytime. If it should come when there was a fire, the old engine would be a mighty handy piece of furniture. Some day Penn Yan will have to put in another line. When the time comes, automatic machinery can be installed at the pumping station which would not require much attention.

Dundee Business Block For $100 - If the proposition is put to vote and carried which is now being circulated through Dundee, any party interested in putting up a business block on the vacant lot on the corner of Main and Union streets across from the Harpending House will find this a chance to buy a lot for such a purpose at the unheard of sum of $100. The petition asks the Trustees to put up before the voters of the village at the coming election the proposition to offer for sale this lot for the sum of $100 providing that the purchaser will erect a business block here within two years' time and at a cost not to be less than $25,000. The lot was bought after an election at which the taxpayers voted to purchase this site by the village for a park. Nothing has been done to make this into a park and now many are of the opinion that what the village needs is to have a block built in place of the park.

T.O. Hamlin and  “Hearts Content,”  his cottage on Keuka Lake as it appears today.

For Sale — Lake Keuka Cottage - “Hearts Content” cottage furnished on west shore of Bluff Point, Lake Keuka, comprising eight acres, all woodland, first class boat house for motorboat, two good row boats and furniture, fine beach with long shoreline, fishing and bathing. Cottage contains seven bed rooms, sitting room, kitchen, large piazza and wood house. With or without Fay & Bowen motor boat and boat house at Penn Yan, in good condition. There are two outbuildings, enclosed wood shed, and woods will furnish fuel for all time. Two months supply cut and under cover. Daily mail and telephone service. Further particulars as desired. T. 0. Hamlin

NOTE: Heart’s Content was the cottage of Theodore Hamlin, a very successful Penn Yan businessman. He ran a department store on Main Street started by his father called The Metropolitan. If you look high on the building where the Village Drug Store is located today on Main Street, Penn Yan., you will see carved in stone it still says “T.O. Hamlin.” T.O. also held controlling interest in The Crooked Lake Navigation Company, one of the steamboat lines, and served as its Treasurer and later President. He was one of a group of Penn Yan businessmen who took members of the Baptist Convention out on Keuka Lake for a steamboat ride and convinced them that they should locate what eventually became known as Keuka College on Ketcham’s Point on the shores of the lake.

50 Years Ago

March 20, 1947

James "Jimmy" Cole wit three of his celebrated elephants, Elizabeth, Freida, and Dorothy, who was named after Cole's wife when she arrived here from Ceylon in 1947.

Babies Complete 42-Day Non-Stop Trip from Ceylon to Penn Yan - “No visitors please,” begs James Cole, owner of the James Cole circus, who arrived in Penn Yan Tuesday with four baby elephants. The youngest of these, Dorothy, named after Mr. Cole’s wife, is only nine months old and stands only 27 inches high. She is as playful and friendly as a puppy — with feelings as easily hurt. The other three range from two to three years and while larger than the baby, are still pretty small elephants. Knowing that friends will be eager to see the baby, the youngest and smallest elephant ever brought to the United States, Mr. Cole begs a little leeway. The animals must get used to the cold climate, many degrees different from muggy, tropical India, a different diet, strangers, and a strange home. They need time to adjust without the upsetting presence of even more strangers. Later, all the visitors who want to come will be welcome. So far they are doing all right. The grade A timothy and clover hay from Yates seems to be just about the best stuff they ever tasted and they made friends readily when the big truck stopped in Penn Yan for a few minutes Tuesday on the way home.

After beginning in 1938 with indoor shows, by the mid-1940s, the James M. Cole Big Circus had expanded to a canvas show under tents.

New VFW Headquarters - Yates County post, No. 745, Veterans of Foreign Wars, has purchased for $8,000 the Post place, corner of Benham and East Elm streets, for use as post headquarters. When the transaction is completed next month, the two families now occupying the big residence will vacate. Some remodeling and the addition of a large annex for dances and meetings is planned. 35 years ago, the dwelling was used by the Wilson Undertaking parlors. The VFW is sponsoring a bazaar in the new Herman Smith garage on Lake Street this week to raise funds for this project.

25 Years Ago

March 23, 1972

Air Force Band and the Singing Sergeants Coming to PYA - A woman directing the United States Air Force Band? And long before the Women’s Lib Movement was born. But, back in 1966, Nora Arquit, music director at Penn Yan Academy, was guest conductor of the great and most popular military band, when it performed in Albany. And now the Academy’s band director adds another laurel to her many previous ones: in cooperation with the Academy Band, she has enticed the Air Force band and its Singing Sergeants to present a concert April 29 in the Academy’s auditorium. This will be the group’s only appearance in New York State this year. The U.S. Air Force Band is one of the most traveled musical organizations in the world. The band and the Singing Sergeants have earned the title of "America's International Musical Ambassadors." Tickets are free. Make your plans to be there for this concert. A selection of 50 paintings from the Air Force Collection will be exhibited in the lobby of the Penn Yan Academy Auditorium on the evening of the concert.

Keuka Lake Trout Growing In Size - The local Yates County sportsmen with the aid of Environmental Conservation Department, through the use of a fishing diary, have found a definite positive trend in the average length and weight of lake trout in Keuka Lake. Over a four-year' period diaries have shown notable increase in the quality of the lake trout, according to Bruce Penrod, publicity chairman, Yates County Federation of Conservation Clubs. Historically, Keuka Lake has provided good lake trout fishing due to a combination of factors. The lake’s physical characteristics such as a large amount of water from 50 to 175 feet in depth and numerous potential spawning sites are part of the reason for the good fishing. The water quality, clean and suitably oxygenated for trout play a major role. The absence of the parasitic lamprey eel, and a state stocking program have added to Keuka’s lake trout fishery. The late 60s found the lake trout decreasing in size, while the rate of catch was about two times as good as other Finger Lakes. The state’s fishery biologist attributed the decrease in size to a decline in the population of forage species, mainly the sawbelly or alewife, and an overabundance of lake trout, possibly caused by overstocking.