What (And Why) Is Greater Western New York?

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1779 map of Sullivan Campaign 6.18.1779-9.15.1779

1779 map of Sullivan Campaign

Believe it or not, we’re fast approaching a seminal anniversary in the history of Greater Western New York. At some point in the final days of August 1779, the first scouts of the Sullivan Expedition represented the first citizens of the new nation to step foot into what would become Greater Western New York.

They weren’t the first people in Greater Western New York. They weren’t even the first of European descent to enter the region.

They were, however, the first Americans to do so. And that is why Greater Western New York is often referred to as “America’s First Frontier.”

For those who were absent from school when they taught this, the Sullivan Expedition, Continue Reading “What (And Why) Is Greater Western New York?”

The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part III)

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1838 - Rochester in 1812 (showing first 'hotel') - Sketches of Rochester

Rochester in 1812 (showing first ‘hotel’). Source: Sketches of Rochester, 1838

Abraham Parrish had front row seats to watch his older brother Jasper become a success. And what a role model Jasper was. As a boy, Jasper had been captured by Indians in the immediate aftermath of the Wyoming Massacre in 1778, sold as a slave among various tribes, beaten mercilessly, nearly killed for a guinea when the British put a bounty on Yankee scalps, until he was finally bought by a Mohawk named “Captain Hill” for $20.29

Captain Hill so admired Jasper and Jasper so admired Captain Hill, that in 1780, the Captain formally adopted Jasper in a traditional Iroquois ceremony. In turn, Jasper came to Continue Reading “The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part III)”

The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part II)

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Source: Ontario County Times, April 16, 1897

When last we left the family of Zebulon Parish, they had packed up their bags and the young’uns, including the toddler Abraham, and ventured out into the frontier wilderness of Connecticut. The family landed right smack dab in the middle of a hornet’s nest. More on that in a moment.

Abraham Parrish was born on March 30, 1772. There’s a couple of things you should know about Abraham: one which you’re already asking; and one which you probably don’t know enough to ask.

First, as you might have noticed, Abraham’s last name contains two r’s (“Parrish”) while his father (and his three oldest brothers Jacob, Nathan, and Isaac), kept the original spelling with one r (“Parish”).15 It’s not clear why.

Here’s the thing you likely don’t know: Abraham was Continue Reading “The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part II)”

Ode to a Once Mighty Oak

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And in that brief moment, its reign ended.

We don’t know how old it really was, but the centuries had exacted their toll. Despite the efforts of the valiant few, the rot that builds with age had eaten its way through the internal fabric that once supported its mighty infrastructure.

When that final gust rushed through, the great citadel had fallen. It had stood for so long that those closest to it, stunned by the fatal reality before their own eyes, could only muster an anemic disbelief.

All that incredulity could not suspend the finality that was. It was gone. Not really. But really.

*          *          *

The Seneca tribe was a fierce warrior tribe. They had to be. They guarded the “west gate” of the Iroquois Confederacy. From that position, they both protected one flank of their Continue Reading “Ode to a Once Mighty Oak”

Condemned to Repeat It: This 200+ Year Old Concept Rises Again in 2020

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“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
– George Santayana in his 1905 series, The Life of Reason: the Phases of Human Progress.

It’s not new. It’s been with us since George Washington ended his second term as President. You might have heard it ended once and for all during the nadir of the American experiment.

But it’s still here. And for all its association with evil, the worst of our proud heritage, people continue to embrace it like a badge of honor.

Yet, it began with such promise…

No one ever questioned George Washington. He’s our first and probably last Continue Reading “Condemned to Repeat It: This 200+ Year Old Concept Rises Again in 2020”

This is Why New York State Needs an Electoral College

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The war had been going on for the better part of a year when John Adams wrote, “The blessings of society depend entirely on the constitutions of government.” Shortly thereafter, on May 10, 1776, the Second Continental Congress passed a resolution recommending the thirteen colonies “adopt such Government as shall in the opinion of the Representatives of the People, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their Constituents in particular.”

In a letter to his brother John Augustine Washington dated Philadelphia, May 31, 1776 George Washington issued this prophetic warning: “To form a new government requires Continue Reading “This is Why New York State Needs an Electoral College”

Sorry, Mr. President, It’s Not “Flee” New York, It’s “Free” Western New York

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If you’re from Greater Western New York, you love it. That makes you part of a long tradition. American patriots felt the same way during the Revolutionary War. In 1779, George Washington dispatched General Sullivan to thwart the British and their Iroquois allies based in Western New York from continuing their lethal terror attacks on the small towns and settlements along the edge of the then New York frontier. When Sullivan’s troops first laid eyes on the beautiful landscape, they immediately knew where they wanted to spend the rest of their lives: Western New York.

Why would you be any different? And yet, living in Western New York too often becomes a burden. Although not as bad as it was decades ago, outsiders continue to disrespect our region. We’ve been the butt of late-night TV jokes. Organizations routinely bypass our bounty, lured by promised riches from others. Even our own state leaders forsake us. We’ve seen this as recently as when the New York-Albany axis decided to use our Continue Reading “Sorry, Mr. President, It’s Not “Flee” New York, It’s “Free” Western New York”

Declaration of (Italian) American Independence

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“They all laughed at Christopher Columbus/When he said the world was round…” So begins the lyrics of Ira Gershwin for brother George’s 1937 composition “They All Laughed.” The Gershwins wrote the song for the movie Shall We Dance, starring Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. Frank Sinatra famously included the tune in his masterpiece Trilogy album, where he sings the closing lyrics “Who’s got the last laugh now?” with a knowing wink.

From Christopher Columbus to Frank Sinatra, it’s clear that Italians and Italian-Americans have had a tremendous impact on America. Over the next three weeks, we’ll focus on those names history books seem to have neglected.

Did you know Italian-Americans played a prominent role in the founding of America? For example, three of the first five American warships were named after Italians. These were Continue Reading “Declaration of (Italian) American Independence”

The Joys of Celebrating Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day (Traditional)

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Those of you old enough to remember, remember this: Columbus Day is celebrated every year on October 12th. It’s not the second Monday of October, but a specific date. We’re not the only country to celebrate Columbus Day, although the exact date of celebration may be different. The specific date varies for the same reason the specific date of George Washington’s birthday varies. Based on the Julian Calendar, widely in use in 1492, Columbus and his crew finally sighted the sandy shores of San Salvador on the morning of October 12th, five days after they observed flocks of birds, indicating they were near land.

A century after Columbus discovered America, Pope Gregory XIII decided he had had Continue Reading “The Joys of Celebrating Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day (Traditional)”

Leadership Lessons of George Washington

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What can one say about George Washington that hasn’t already been said? Sometimes people think we paint the Father of Our Country in larger than life colors. In fact, George Washington was larger than life, and that’s a truth that needs to be continually emphasized. Not only was he tall in stature and well-built compared to his peers, but his stoic disposition commanded respect. It is that disposition, and the wisdom of his character, that makes our first president such a model citizen – one that we should neither be afraid to pattern ourselves after nor be afraid to expect our fellow citizens to pattern themselves after. If this expectation sounds a bit “larger than life,” then you understand the true impact of George Washington upon our nation. [Editor’s Note: Some of the quotes contained herein feature misspellings, improper grammar, and usage conventions different from what we experience today. We present them in their original form to lend flavor to their authenticity.]

George Washington was born February 22, 1732 on his parents Pope’s Creek Estate (near what is today Colonial Beach, Virginia). Well, I cannot tell a lie. He was actually born on February 11, 1731. At the time England was using the Julian calendar and Annuciation (a.k.a. “Lady Day”) Style where the new year began on March 25th. England finally joined the rest of Christendom in 1752 and began using the Gregorian calendar (with January 1st now designated as the start of the new year). Thus, the old “February 11, 1731” now becomes “February 22, 1732” and that’s the day we once designated as a holiday to celebrate George Washington’s birthday.

“Washington’s Birthday” became a national holiday in 1879 through an Act of Congress. In 1971, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted it to the third Monday of February, meaning Continue Reading “Leadership Lessons of George Washington”