When Should Greater Western New York Declare its Independence from Albany?

Bookmark and Share

DCF 1.0As many of you already know, I’ve been writing weekly and monthly columns for national publications for almost seven years now. One of the perks of serving as a countrywide reporter includes access to a coast-to-coast network of sources. I usually stick to my standard beat when sourcing questions. Every once in a while, however, I stray from that path and have a little fun.

Another thing you probably know about me is that I am a life-long booster of the Greater Western New York region. It’s one of the reasons I started a mutual fund called the “Greater Western New York Series.” It was one small way I could help promote the region. Once we started the fund I learned this: There are many more people who are Continue Reading “When Should Greater Western New York Declare its Independence from Albany?”

Western New York a State? Why Not?

Bookmark and Share

Author of 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York to speak at Arcade Free Library

Why did Vermont split from New York State following the Revolutionary War but why didn’t Western New York do the same thing? On Saturday, October 17th at 11am, Posterthe Arcade Free Library will host a talk by Christopher Carosa, author of 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York. Mr. Carosa will share the results of his research on this topic and other related fun facts and trivia concerning our wonderful region. “Western New York a State? Why Not”

Several weeks ago a group of Upstate New Yorkers met outside of Binghamton to discuss the idea of Upstate becoming its own state (they want to call it “New Amsterdam”). These New Yorkers are following in the footsteps of people in California and Colorado, who are also exploring how they could duplicate what West Virginia did and form their own state. Among the questions Mr. Carosa will answer includes:Continue Reading “Western New York a State? Why Not?”

The Heart of America Rests Peacefully Within the Heart of Greater Western New York

Bookmark and Share

(The following is an excerpt from the chapter “We’re Baaack”
in my 2012 book 50 Hidden Gems of Greater Western New York.)

The muddy road seemed to hardly merit the official route number New York State had assigned it. A “repaving” project had caused the traffic jam, and presumably most of the IMG_9916_daniel_shaysmud. The rain had stopped when we begin to climb the small slope that would lead us to Union Cemetery. Union Cemetery is closed to new burials now, but the grave I’m looking for is from 1825.

We pull into the gravel road that circles through the interior of the cemetery. I’m not sure where the grave is. My research indicates there’s a marker. I’m thinking it marks the actual grave. I see a marker by the roadside at the edge of the cemetery. Turning into the graveyard, I assume that’s where the grave is, but as I drive up the moist lane, I notice yet another sign – Continue Reading “The Heart of America Rests Peacefully Within the Heart of Greater Western New York”

Wisconsin Wins This One

Bookmark and Share

If you’re so inclined to take a stroll through Forest Lawn Cemetery in Buffalo and you happen to find yourself by Mirror Lake, look around at the tombstones. If you’re lucky (it ought to be easy to find, it’s the only one IMG_8669with the huge flagpole), you’ll find one that reads:

Sara M. Hinson
Dedicated Teacher
Who with Others
Gave Us Flag Day
1841 – 1926

On February 25, 1841, George Hinson’s wife gave birth to a baby girl. The parents named her Sara. Sara Hinson would go through the Buffalo School System before being sent to finishing school. Upon completion of her education, she began teaching at Buffalo PS 13 before being moved to School #4. In 1864, as the Civil War was ending, Hinson was 23 and she transferred to School #31, where she taught the fourth grade for thirty years before spending the next twenty as principal.

Hinson is credited with being one of the first to advocate the celebration of Flag Day. Although Continue Reading “Wisconsin Wins This One”

A Christmas Carol

Bookmark and Share

King_of_Diamonds_stock_xchng_royalty_free-1Sett’ e mezz’!” roared my grandfather as he rose from his seat. He towered over my meek ten-year old body like a grizzly bear rearing above its prey.

I saw hunger in his ferocious eyes. But I wasn’t afraid. I knew the next lesson was about to begin.

“Sam!” yelled my grandmother, instinctively and in that terse disapproving way it seemed she could summon up from nowhere. Immediately the aggressiveness vanished from my grandfather’s countenance and he obediently shrank back into his chair.

“What do you want me to do, Flo? Those are the rules,” he said, timidly trying to justify his actions. Sensing his own reticence, he tried to counter it by continuing with a voice rising in intensity and ending with a tone of self-assured purpose. “He dealt me the King of Diamonds. The rule is you have to let the dealer know as soon as you get it. You’re supposed to shout ‘Sette e la mezza,’ too. Do you expect me to treat him any different than anyone else? Sooner or later he’s gonna go out in the real world. You think they’re gonna treat him nice? No. Look at him. If he doesn’t toughen up, they’re gonna eat him alive.”

Continue Reading “A Christmas Carol”

Life is a (Small Town) Carnival

Bookmark and Share

Like any kid growing up in the snowbelt otherwise known as Blasdell, I looked forward to three things each summer. The beginning of summer would signal going to IMG_0016_Mendon_Carnival_Twilight_300Fantasy Island to celebrate a good report card, ride the steamboat and watch the live shootouts. The end of summer meant going to the Erie County Fair to see the vast array of other-worldly side shows on the Midway, the acrid smell of burnt oil and rubber at the demolition derby and the taste of my grandfather’s sumptuous pizza. Sandwiched in between, both chronologically and geographically was the Big Tree Fireman’s Carnival. I think it was actually called the Big Tree Firemen’s Annual Field Days. But for kids (and headline writers short on space) it was the Big Tree Carnival.

Here’s the real difference between Fantasy Island, the Erie County Fair and the Big Tree Continue Reading “Life is a (Small Town) Carnival”

A Civil War Memorial

Bookmark and Share

America’s Civil War left nearly a million casualties and a national wound that would take generations to heal. Heal it did and the process began almost immediately. IMG_8721_Memorial_Day_Museum_300While a small hamlet in Greater Western New York was busy forgetting its recent past, another of our villages became the first to keep from forgetting. If we travel east of Town Line on Route 20, we pass through the heart of our region. Just past Geneva and before we reach Seneca Falls, we come to the not-so-small Village of Waterloo in Seneca County. Waterloo’s a big village, reaching into three towns – Waterloo, Seneca and Fayette.

When the Union veterans began returning to Waterloo, a forty-five year old druggist took note. He noted how the residents greeted all those who returned with honors and celebrations. What bothered him, though, were the ones that didn’t return. Who would honor their memories? Perhaps he was compelled by his own personal experience. He Continue Reading “A Civil War Memorial”

I’ll Have One for the Road and Two for the Sea

Bookmark and Share

And let me the canakin clink, clink,
And let me the canakin clink.
A soldier’s a man;
A life’s but a span;
Why, then, let a soldier drink.
– Othello

The reason James Fenimore Cooper strode into Hustler’s Tavern has disappeared into the hazy mists of history. By 1821, his life had been less than pristine. Kicked out of
IMG_3230_violin_cocktail_300
Yale after three years as a trouble-maker (he blew up a classmate’s door), the son of a (probably embarrassed) Congressman who founded the City of Cooperstown did what any other lost teenager trying to find himself did in the early eighteenth century – he joined the Merchant Marine.1

Perhaps he remembered his earlier, albeit brief, stay in the Niagara Frontier just before the War of 1812.2 Serving mostly overseas, he saw some of his best crewmates taken from their ships and forced to serve aboard British warships against Napoleonic France. Like the rest of America, he detested Continue Reading “I’ll Have One for the Road and Two for the Sea”

A Model of Christian Spirit

Bookmark and Share

Ever since John Winthrop’s famous “city upon a hill” sermon aboard the Arbella in 1630, it’s been tough to separate religion from the spirit of America’s founding. Indeed, IMG_2733_Spiritual_Out-of_Focus_300some say the evangelical movement of the mid-eighteenth century known as The First Great Awakening played a key role in America’s strive for independence.1 And don’t think the whole “separation of Church and State” thing in the Constitution came about because the Founding Fathers felt the First Great Awakening was a tad too much. I’ll remind you the whole purpose of the First Great Awakening was to rebel against the Church of England and to recognize broader religious freedom. This is the very philosophy embodied by our constitution.

Our focus in this chapter, though, isn’t the First Great Awakening, but the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening began in 1790 and lasted for about 50 years. It featured traveling preachers leading revival camps where “hundreds and sometimes thousands of people would gather for miles around in wilderness encampment for four days to a week.”2 One such preacher was Charles Finney, who, from September 1830, through June 1831, led various revival campaigns3 in Rochester, Buffalo and “the intermediate towns between there.”4 And what facilitated this travel? Why, none other Continue Reading “A Model of Christian Spirit”

The Miracle of Limestone Hill

Bookmark and Share

To anyone born and raised in Lackawanna, the stern threat, “You better behave or I’ll send you to Father Baker’s” remains forever burned into one’s ears. It turns out, IMG_2524_OLV_Dome_300chances are that same phrase remains forever burned in the ears of a child raised by someone born in Lackawanna. Like mine.

I can definitely see my grandmother shouting this phrase at my uncles when they were kids. The effect was no doubt the same on them as it was on me when my mother tried using it. Actually, it probably wasn’t the same. By the time I was old enough to realize the truth behind “Father Baker’s,” it looked just like the school it was. The orphanage of my uncles’ youth had been torn down before I was born.

To me, though, Father Baker’s wasn’t the school, it was the church and the amazing story Continue Reading “The Miracle of Limestone Hill”