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

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Wyoming Forts A-Fort Durkee, B-Fort Wyoming or Wilkesbarre, C-Fort Ogden, D-Kingston Village, E-Forty Fort, G-battleground, H-Fort Jenkins, I-Monocasy Island, J-Pittstown stockades, G-Queen Esther’s Rock Source: Lossing, Benson, The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, Harper & Brothers, Publishers, January 7, 1859, p. 353

In many ways, the life of Abraham Parrish wasn’t that different from any other person participating in the formative decades of the grand American Experiment.

In other ways, he lived a unique life that exposed him at an early age to the rarified frontier air that existed when Western New York emerged from its dense terra incognita forest. He witnessed firsthand nearly all the major personalities of our region and saw how they forged this thickly wooded region into an industrious civilization.

But let’s not get far ahead…

Zebulon Parish represents a typical American story. He was born on February 12, 1726 in Windham, a town in the eastern half of the Colony of Connecticut between Hartford and the Rhode Island border. He not only shares a birthday with Abraham Lincoln, he shares something else – his descendants were active in the abolition movement.

There was a very good reason Zebulon’s family joined the fight against slavery – his grandfather, John Wattles, came to America as a slave.

Our story, therefore, begins in Scotland…Continue Reading “The Story of Abraham Parrish, Mendon’s First Tavern Keeper (Part I)”

So Long, Hal. We Hardly Knew Ye…

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The signs were ominous.

As I pulled into the familiar parking spot, I couldn’t help but notice the unbroken blanket of fresh fallen snow. No one had parked here. In fact, save for a long pair of footprints making a path in the snow to the door, there was no sign of life.

I glanced up at the storefront windows to see if the lights inside were on. But the blinds shuttered the windows completely, barring any spying eyes from the outside.

On one hand, the daily hours remained posted in their usual spot. On the other hand, there was neither a “We’re Closed” sign or a “We’re Open” sign.

That was strange.

I told my father to wait in the warm car and that I’d check out the situation. I got out of Continue Reading “So Long, Hal. We Hardly Knew Ye…”

A Look Back (Part I): An Early (1841) View Of A New Village

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Here’s an annoying problem I discovered while researching for the book Hamburger Dreams: there’s a lot of people and places that come up when you search the words “hamburger” or “hamburg” that have nothing to do with the delicious sandwich that spawned a trillion-dollar industry.

This required me to be both creative and patient as I sifted through hundreds of century old newspaper articles. It eventually worked, but it took a lot of time. In the end, it proved worthy.

The same thing is happening now as I complete my research on the Masonic Temple/Wilcox Hotel/Wilcox House/Falls Hotel (yes, that one building has gone by several names during its nearly 200-year existence). It turns out Continue Reading “A Look Back (Part I): An Early (1841) View Of A New Village”

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”

The Torch Is Passed

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Like a bright beacon, Jack Leckie stood as a steady torch light, forever illuminating our lives, our community, our very essence. In his remarkably demur way, he reminded us of where we came from, why it was important to embrace that past, and how those previous travels help guide our future.

I was the new kid on the block when I first met Jack. Literally. I had just moved to Mendon (well, technically, it was a permanent return after an earlier short residence at my parents’ new home). I was also a “kid.” I was only 26 years old when I moved into my home.

You get the picture. Definitely the new kid on the block.

So you could understand why I might have been nervous when, shortly after moving in, Jack invited me to his home on Boughton Hill Road. Imagine my thoughts. There was me – a newbie – and Jack – the Town Supervisor.

I was in awe. I was unworthy. I was a mere peon of youth compared to this big man of Continue Reading “The Torch Is Passed”

Ode to Larry Pierce: Forever Among the Colonnade of Community Pillars

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They are few and far between. Any vibrant community is blessed by no more than a handful. They’re unassuming when you see them. But the moment they speak, you know them.

They are the bedrock of any sustainable community – the foundation upon which everyday folks like us can confidently build our everyday lives. They allow us to assume a comfortable regularity of our surroundings. This makes our lives more pleasant. This makes our lives easier. This, indeed, makes our lives.

Yet, they are much more. Beyond the rock of a common foundation, they represent the solid stone pillars that uplift our community. In doing so, they not only make our lives Continue Reading “Ode to Larry Pierce: Forever Among the Colonnade of Community Pillars”

Life is a (Small Town) Carnival

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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”

Size Doesn’t Matter

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It may have been my father’s greatest embarrassment, but it was my greatest loss, a loss erased only by 25 years and a chance plumbing mishap.

How my family sees my long lost 1970 trophy.

It all started on a day which lives in “famy” (as opposed to“infamy”). No, I’m not exaggerating. It really was a famous day.

On Saturday, March 7, 1970, I found myself bowling three games at Leisure Lanes in Hamburg, New York, among several dozen participants in the first Bowling Tournament my Cub Scout Pack ever had. The rest of the Northern Hemisphere spent the bulk of that sunny midday experiencing the greatest total eclipse of the sun our corner of the Earth will have until April 8, 2024. (For my own account of that day, see “Solar Eclipse, 1970 – A True Story,” Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel, August 17, 2017.)

I had won the Big Tree Cub Scout Pack 489 Bowling Tournament that day. My father, the Pack’s Cubmaster, bought a nice bowling trophy and a brass plate to etch the name of the winner. He didn’t expect his son to take the trophy home.

That’s what embarrassed him.

So struck by the genuine joy I showed in winning it, he couldn’t bear telling me of his Continue Reading “Size Doesn’t Matter”

Fill Out The Old Mendon Cobblestone Firehouse Survey!!!

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the November 22, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

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(N.B.: The author is a member of the Old Mendon Cobblestone Firehouse Community Task Force and gratefully thanks everyone in the Mendon Fire District for completing their survey.)

By now, many of the households in the Mendon Fire District should have received their Old Mendon Cobblestone Firehouse Community Opinion Survey. Being only one page in length and with return postage provided, it’s very simple to fill out. In addition, it’s very Continue Reading “Fill Out The Old Mendon Cobblestone Firehouse Survey!!!”

White Cream Donuts

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[This Commentary originally appeared in the November 8, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]

CarosaCommentaryNewLogo_259To the world: I apologize. I confess to a vice of unimaginable corruption. I am truly sorry. In my regret, I confront a life-long affliction – my passionate ardor for… white cream donuts.

It began as a child. On bright sunny Sundays, my parents would take me, my brother and my sisters to the donut shop after church. As soon as my father parked the car, we would joyfully yank open the doors and leap out into the modest bakery. Inside, our nostrils filled with the warm sweet smell of freshly made donuts. We had Continue Reading “White Cream Donuts”