A Thanksgiving Decoration - 2009
By Ruth Stahl
Click photo for larger view
While rooting around in the barn the other day, I came across an old two-wheeled cart that reminded me of the carts used in grape country to harvest grapes. It stood upright and had a large, metal shelf at the bottom and a smaller one at the top. It rolled easily but was a bit rusty. I used to see them near Dunkirk and Fredonia, used mostly to hold flowers in the summer. Today they must have mechanical means to harvest their grapes. I know that here on Grand Island we had grain fields, apple orchards and turkey farms, but I don't remember hearing anything about grapes, so how did this grape cart get into our barn? We have a few grapevines, like many Islanders, but no real vineyards.
Regardless, I thought it might have possibilities, so brought it down to the garage, wire brushed it and rubbed it with steel wool in preparation for painting. The two wheels were painted black and the rest a rich dark green. I use spray paint because I'm getting lazy. It looked pretty good. Trouble was, my sneakers turned green, as well as my eyeglasses. I had to visit Lou Macro to see if he could get them clean. "What kind of paint is this?" he asked. "Rustoleum," I replied. He worked on them awhile and finally got them clean. Next time I'll wear goggles.
Decorating is the fun part. I started with leftover pumpkins from Halloween (not the ones with faces.). Barb and Bill Wilson had taken me out near Niagara Community College to a farm that sold not only pumpkins, but delilcious cider and pies as well. The pumpkins were still good, so I loaded them on the bottom tray, along with a green squash from Tops, and a left over geranium that was still pretty perky. I wrapped grapevines around the framework, added a grapevine wreath sporting a little Pilgrim and a tin pocket that said "Welcome." In the top tray I put a couple pots of mums, unfortunately past their prime, and some Osage oranges from my own tree. It looked pretty good, and the beauty of it was that I could easily wheel it anywhere I wanted it. I wheeled to the side of the driveway near a blue spruce tree, a spot where I could admire it from my kitchen window.
The next time Bill Wilson came to visit, I pointed out my latest project. "How do you like my grape harvesting cart?" I said. "It looks great," said Bill. "But that's not what it is. It's a cart used in a repair garage where they do welding. It is meant to hold acetylene tanks and torches. The guys wheel it around to where the job is."
Why did I even ask? Oh well, to me it will always be a grape gathering cart, Grand Island style. And it improves the view from my kitchen window.
Another Cemetery - Summer 1909
By Ruth Stahl - published in the Island Dispatch April 12, 1991
It was the summer of 1909. John Van Son and his family lived on a farm at Long Road and West River, owned by an R. Hoffield of Buffalo. Could it have been the old Pierce place? We know that Ted Van Son was farming the Pierce property in the twenties. (When he died his widow sold everything except two horses and moved herself and her five children to the Kilderhouse farm on East River.)
Gravel in one section of the farm was being removed for repairing roads when the first graves were discovered. The cemetery was on a low knoll a quarter mile north of Long Road and a quarter mile east of the river. Experts decided that this was the burial grounds of a Neuter of Neutral Indian village that had been built at river's edge. It was determined to be a large cemetery and "worth excavating," according to Frederick Houghton.
Houghton did the job for the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences, and had to work fast because the gravel was being removed on a regular basis. Beginning in June, he and two others dug up 59 skeletons, finishing by July 24, 1909. Thirty-one skeletons were reburied in a pit nearby.
How did the workers proceed? They dug trenches from east to west and north to south, about a yard apart. Three apple trees which could not be removed prevented them from exploring ten-foot areas around each. When skeletons were found, they were uncovered with a whisk broom, and the location noted as well as a list of articles buried with them.
Artifacts on the site led to the conclusion that the village had been on the knoll at one time. Because charcoal and ashes were found in some graves, it was speculated that these bodies were buried under the floors of cabins or lodges, probably in winter when digging in the frozen earth was impossible.
Originally walnut trees covered this land, replaced by a peach orchard, and finally, apples trees. A man working on the Van Son farm reported, "My grandfather remembered Indians camping on the river bank near where the dry brook is today. There was enough water to let canoes come up into it. One time I found a leather quiver filled with arrows that still had the shafts attached to the points."
George Long was a farmer on the next farm, The Poplars. He had a good shell gorget (a piece of armor to protect the throat, or a decoration as such), and a very large shell pendant taken from a grave in the cemetery.
What kinds of artifacts were buried with these Indians? Houghton lists them in his report to Henry Howland, then Superintendent of the Buffalo Society of Natural Sciences. One adult, buried at full length, had a pipe at his left elbow, a shell gorget and two blue beads at the neck. Another fellow had a brass kettle, three pipes, an iron knife, two iron awls, a scraper, a flint and a comb, shell beads, beaver teeth and bear teeth, two animal skulls and an iron axe. Others were buried with nothing. Items found included a Jesuit ring, a hawk's bill, wampum, broken pottery, a bracelet, a wolf jaw, fish vertebrae and bear claws.
It's unfortunate that this burial ground had to be disturbed, but it was either that, or complete destruction by the road builders. Some of the artifacts are in the Buffalo Museum of Science, and others in the Historical Society. Dr. Marion White reported more fully on the project in her Anthropological Contributions, published in the sixties. It's available at the Buffalo Museum of Science today.
Treasures By Ruth Stahl
The Maltese Falcon - Or Was That A Cormorant? - Fall 2009
September 10, 2009 . . .This summer I've been sitting on the front porch studying the birds that frequent the dock across the street. The dock has a super-structure that is a favorite roosting place, especially for cormorants and seagulls. At the beginning of the season a lot of testing occurs, some shoving and pushing because the cormorants are trying to keep the seagulls out. By season's end there seems to be a truce and these birds squat uneasily on the same beam.
The seagulls are not very entertaining but the cormorants are fun to watch. Sometimes they land and strike a pose straight up and down, wings tight to the body, head up, tail down, still as can be. At other times, they land and stand with wings outstretched and underarms (underwings?) exposed, drying them in the breeze. I know they are not a very popular bird, especially in the St. Lawrence River where they defoliate whole islands and stink up the fresh air. And yet, I believe they are a protected species.
Which brings me to the point. While keeping an eye on the cormorants, I have also been reading that ancient 1930 classic, "The Maltese Falcon" by Dashiell Hammett. Those cormorants could have served as models for the bird in the story. If you are old enough, you will remember the 1941 movie with detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart), Peter Loree, Sydney Greenstreet and Mary Astor. It was a great movie with Bogart calling his ladies "Sweetheart," plus a lot of intrigue about the mysterious bird. There is probably more conversation than action in the story line but that's how things were back in the thirties. There were other productions but the one with Bogart is superior and the best known.
The National Endowment of the Arts touts this novel as a classic and one of the best detective stories every written. When you reach the end you have to think about it a moment, as the story has come full circle, and Sam Spade carries on. Think of those Grand Island cormorants as you read it. You can get a copy at the Grand Island Memorial Library. Give it a try.
Dial Telephone Coming To Grand Island - 1949
Story published in the Island Dispatch, Monday, August 1, 1949
Posted August 27, 2009 on Isledegrande.com by Teddy Linenfelser
There’ll be no more sleeping on a cot beside the Grand Island Telephone central office switchboard after October.
Mrs. Susie Staley and her daughter, Marion, can describe as well as anyone what changes dial telephone service will make when the new equipment goes into operation in late October 1949.
Day and night for 25 years the two of them watched over the switchboard in their front room. The one taking night trick slept on a folding cot, and awoke whenever an alarm sounded indicating a call.
“I could get up, connect the call, and go back and fall right to sleep again” Mrs. Staley said. “It was all in getting used to it.”
Her daughter said that at one time the person making a night call paid a small extra fee. “That was for us,” she explained.
The new dial equipment will make no difference between night and day calls, George Marechek, manager for New York Telephone Company pointed out. “It will always be on duty ready in an instant to connect the customer to any other local telephone – and, in fact, to any Buffalo telephone, too, without toll charge.” The manager pointed out that the new equipment will have a greater capacity than the present switchboard, so that those waiting for telephones will receive service when dial goes into operation.
Grand Island originally was served by the Grand Island Telephone Company and the Inland Telephone Company, the latter having most of the rural lines on the Island. The New York Telephone Company took over the Grand Island company in 1930, with Inland still operating as a service line company with switching furnished by the New York Telephone Company until July 1941, when it became part of the latter organization.
Miss Marion Staley said the Grand Island company switchboard was in the home of Frank Fox before April 1, 1923. Then it moved to her home and she began operating it. Eight months later she interested her mother in sharing the operation.
“Before Mr. Fox had the central office, it was at the Capt. Richard Pettit place. At that time there was one line to Buffalo. Each night at 9 the line to Buffalo closed,” she added.
It wasn’t until four years ago that the switchboard had to be expanded to two-operator size. In 1945 there were only 300 telephones. Now there are about 625. Mr. Marechek said that the development of Grand Island since the war has filled the telephone system to capacity.
“The new dial system, however, will be able to care for the considerable growth which Grand Island seems destined to experience in the next year or so,” he added.
Present Chief Operator (1949) is Mrs. Henrietta Kaiser.
Editor's Note: Miss Phyllis Wilson and Mrs. Marion Ekiss also operated the GI telephone switchboard in Susie Staley's front room at that time.
Beaver Island State Park Beach, Casino Opened in July 1939
25,000 throng State Park on Grand Island
Five thousand bathers enjoy beach; crowd jams grounds and pavilion
Story published in a Buffalo Newspaper, Monday, July 3, 1939
Posted June 25, 2009 on Isledegrande.com by Teddy Linenfelser
1940s photo of a view of the back of the Beaver Island Casino, opened for the first time in July 1939. Click photo for larger view
Beaver Island State Park at the southwestern end of Grand Island yesterday attracted 25,000 persons who came to bathe in the sun and swim in water off the beautiful beach. The park was opened officially on Saturday, but the weather was bad and only a few braved the cold and high winds.
Yesterday was different. Graced by a hot sun, the attractive beach was swarmed by people who came from near and far. The traffic was so heavy that at times it took nearly an hour to reach the park from the Grand Island Bridge.
The beach itself was crowded with bathers - it was estimated there were at least 5,000 who went into the water - Children who built sand houses and adults who just went onto the sand for a sun bath. In the adjoining groves, family picnic parties were staged.
Restaurant Is Thronged
The restaurant which sells sandwiches and beverages did a land office business keeping six waiters on a constant jump and two cashiers equally busy changing money for the ticket turned over to the waiters.
The number of motor vehicles bearing licenses from NY and other states as well as Canada was so great that the parking lots were overtaxed. Some parked as far as a quarter of a mile away.
Maj. Albert B. Cole, secretary of the Niagara Frontier Parks Commission under whose direction the park, concededly one of the finest in the state, was constructed, was elated at the large turnout.
"It appears," he said, "that the beach has made a great hit with the thousands who came here today. Their number exceeded our greatest expectations. They found a park that Buffalo has needed and wanted for years. The park has everything to offer in the way of wholesome recreation and a beach second to none.
Melvin Meteer, who is manager of the beach facilities, also was surprised by the great opening day turnout, and predicted that the beach will be a mecca for those seeking recreation this summer.
Bathers who went out more than 300 feet bore witness to his statement that the beach is safe for even the smallest of children. Many of the children waded out yesterday for a considerable distance and three lifeguards were on duty at all times.
By filling in the beach front with 10,000 tons of sand, the beach has been formed into a gradual slope. It slopes one foot in every 65 and reaches a depth of only four feet at 150 feet from the shore line.
Those in charge say there is no danger of sand shifting because there are no swift currents. The bathing area is roped in and protected by buoys. And if a bather should collapse, there is a beach hospital where he can be resuscitated with the most modern equipment.
GI's New Beach Catches Popular Fancy
Story published in the Buffalo Courier Express Monday, July 3, 1939
Posted June 25, 2009 on Isledegrande.com by Teddy Linenfelser
The New York State recreation facility opened for the first time on Saturday, July 1, 1939 with cold weather and high winds. The crowd of 25,000 people entered the park the following day to enjoy the sun and water where 10,000 tons of sand was trucked and smoothed into a beautiful beach with a gradual slope of one foot in every 65 reaching a depth of only four feet at 150 feet from the shoreline.
The red brick pavilion with its white porch jutting from the building's axis was said to be modern in style, topped with a delicate tower, a "structure that spreads gracefully in long wings which reach out in one-storied arms." Its basement is capable of providing dressing facilities for 4,500 bathers.
The news story also reported the possibility of the state adding a swimming pool on the back of the building. The structure that included a restaurant, a large dance floor and a lounge, was built at a cost of $225,000 in state funds and another $175,000 for the boardwalk, the beach, a pumping station and outlying rest rooms. Beaver Island State Park first opened in 1935 with few facilities. It was once a privately owned amusement park known as Elmwood Beach.
Sunken Boats, Relics of the French and Indian War, Lie at the Bottom of Burntship Creek
Story published in the Buffalo Courier, October 29, 1900 (the date 1755 was published in the article)
Posted February 19, 2009 on Isledegrande.com by Teddy Linenfelser
An important discovery of war relics has been made on Grand Island which may added to the local historical exhibit as well as to the number of articles of that character at the Pan-American Exposition next year.
The Rev. Robert Bussey, while swimming in Burntship Creek on Grand Island, recently accidentally came upon old boats at the bottom of the channel, which upon investigation show every indication of having been used in the French and Indian War. If this is true they have lain there since 1755, or for 145 years.
Dr. A. L. Benedict will examine the boats for the Pan-American Exposition Company to determine whether they are of the period of 1812 or 1755.
The French and Indian War was of two years' duration and preceded the one declared by Great Britain against France. George Washington, as a young officer of the colonial troops, fought for Great Britain in the war with France.
When the French Forces scuttled their war boats on the Niagara in 1759, to keep the English from getting them, they gave 'Burnt Ship Bay' its name
Story published in the Buffalo Courier-Express, Sunday, June 22, 1941
Posted February 19, 2009 on Isledegrande.com by Teddy Linenfelser
Burnt Ship Bay on Grand Island is a little publicized but historically important site in Western New York. It was there that French soldiers burned their boats to keep the English from getting them -- nearly 200 years before modern Frenchmen are confronted with the same problem.
During the French and Indian War, when England and France fought to the finish for dominance on the North American Continent, Fort Niagara was besieged by the English. One of the largest relief expeditions ever to come into the Niagara country was organized by the French at Presque Isle (now Erie), and under command of D'Aubrey and De Lignery, they arrived in the Niagara River on July 30, 1759. More than 50 bateaux carried 1,000 French soldiers, many of them veterans who had helped slaughter Braddock's English army two years before. With them were more than 400 Ottawa and Huron Indians eager for English scalps.
They landed at Navy Island and held a council of war before crossing onto the American side (contrary to instructions sent them from the Fort), proceeding down the portage to relieve Fort Niagara. The English laid a trap for them near what is now Youngstown, and in the battle known as La Belle Famille, they disastrously defeated the Frenchmen. They fled back up the portage and made a second stand in the smaller fort which guarded the upper end of the portage (Fort du Portage). Fort Niagara surrendered to Sir William Johnson soon after, and although the French beat off an attack on Fort du Portage, they realized that their position was hopeless.
They abandoned the fort and took two large armed war boats laden with surplus stores and munitions into an arm of the river which separates Buckhorn Island from Grand Island proper. There they burned the vessels to the water's edge and sank the hulls.
Up until recent times the hulls of the two war boats could be seen in the shallow water of Burnt Ship Bay, as the little inlet has become known to historians of the Frontier.
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