Lock 52 Chronicle

The Newsletter of the Lock 52 Historical Society
73 Pine Street, Port Byron, NY
Issue 4 Spring 2017

We Are Not That Big Park on the Thruway
This past year saw some big and exciting changes in the historical landscape of the village with the opening of the
Old Erie Canal Heritage Park along the Thruway. As a historian, I think it is great that there is now this multi­million
dollar project in our small village telling the story about the canal in New York. But as the President of a little historical
society in the village, I can say that there has been some confusion between us and them..
Way back in 1979, the founders of the Lock 52 Historical Society never thought that the old canal lock would
become a major attraction on its own, so when they named their new Society, there was little danger of mixing up Lock
52 with the Lock 52 Historical Society. In fact, the name was used as a way of calling attention to both. But now all that
has changed as the Lock 52 Historical Society and the real Erie Canal Lock 52 both exist within a mile of each other.
And now we have people thinking that we are running the new park, or that we will be moving our operations to the new
buildings. We even have people looking behind our house for the old lock. Aside from the name, there is no connection
between the two organizations. You might say, well change your name. It isn't all that easy to do.
The Lock 52 Historical Society is a New York State chartered organization whose purpose is to collect and preserve
the history of the town and village. The Old Erie Canal Park is there to educate people about the Erie Canal and other
historic attractions around the state. Although they will have information about Port Byron, it will be mostly limited to
the village’s interaction with the canal. It is our hope at the Historical Society that the new Park will draw lots of new
visitors and after they visit the old Lock and Erie House, that they will decide to see what else is in the village. Of course,
this can only happen with people who use the Rooker Drive enterance off of Rochester Street. Maybe these folks will eat
at a restaurant, shop at a store, or take a walk along the old canal. And maybe they will check out the other historic
attractions around the village.
What "Historical Attractions?"
We all tend to forget that the village is filled with little historical attractions. These places are common place to us,
but they are new and exciting to someone who has never seen them. That American Legion building. It was one of a very
few passenger and freight depots built along the old Rochester, Syracuse and Eastern Trolley. That brick building on
Dock Street was a power house on the old RS&E. They were built every ten miles along the tracks. For a fan of railroads
and trolleys, they will seek out every existing building like this because there are no cars or tracks left from the old line.
That little house on the corner of Pine and South is where Brigham Young lived. To us it is an old run down building, but
to those of the Mormon faith, that is a big deal. The left over bits along the old canal such as the arch under the church
parking lot, or the stonework behind the old tennis courts are a big deal. Even the old downtown architecture will
attract someone who wants to see 1850’s buildings. And to those who can trace their family roots back here, this is home.
Their grandparents might be buried up there in Mt. Pleasant, and they might be here looking for long lost relatives.
So This is What We Do
That big park on the Thruway will not tell these stories. It is not their job. They will tell you all about the canal, and
where you can go in Auburn or Syracuse to see big museums that can afford to put their literature in the new Visitor’s
Center. The role of telling people about the little sites in Port Byron, or filling in the human parts of the history, or even
suggesting that people stop at The Diner or Brenda’s, or Nino’s, or where to find the pharmacy; that job belongs to us.
We set up the website, we do the Facebook, we do the reaching out to visitors to let them know what else is in the village
that they might want to see.
So each year we come to you asking you to support our mission and our operations. As you will see elsewhere, we do
a lot with what you give us.
2016 – A Review
It would be tough to top 2015 for the shear amount of discoveries we made. But 2016 was not without some nice
successes.
Each year we set out with many goals. We want to offer some nice programs, we want to continue to make some
great discoveries, and we want to work on and improve the house. So let’s see how we did.
First, we should note what we lost in 2016. Dorothy Walker and Sandy Faulkner both were dedicated members and
volunteers and both passed away last year. Sandy had not had an easy go with cancer. She had been fighting the disease
for years, going in and out of treatments, always presenting a cheerful outlook. She also took the time to offer hope to
those of us who found themselves fighting the nasty fight. Dorothy (Chick) Walker also was taken by cancer, but she
didn’t know she had it until it was too late. I had great admiration for Chick, as she stood by her Mom’s side for years,
as they both dealt with Betty’s illness. Chick was a past President of Lock 52, and a very hard working and dedicated
volunteer. She spent hours going through the digital newspapers looking for names of people and businesses. She
created the Veteran’s Room in the house, and sought out anyone who had information about those who had served. Both
will be missed.
Perhaps the most difficult tasks is finding a new crop of speakers each year, and the Program Committee did
another great job. In May we heard about Growing Up in the Middle East; in June we heard from John and Abigail
Adams; in July Jack Miller took a look back at his family in Port Byron; in August we held the Annual Tea. In
September, Craig Williams spoke about Early Port Byron, and in October Bruce Brittian showed us how to Research
Deeds. We started posting some of these programs to our YouTube channel so you can look back, or just look in, in case
you missed it.
In the collections department, we started the year by looking back to the 1940’s by way of Bruce Carter’s home
movies. These movies were discovered in the old Masonic Hall and given to the Society. We had them transferred to
DVD and then we uploaded them to our YouTube channel. The movies feature a scattering of views from around the
village and other places and were taken in the 1940’s and 50’s. Featured in the movies was Clark’s Garage, and this led
us to Donna Gable. Donna was Fred Clark’s daughter and she was very kind to share with us many family photographs.
Later in the year, we unearthed a home movie taken by Rudy Schasel which showed school busing in the 1940’s and
50’s. Our new village neighbors, the Canal Society of New York State, shared with us images of the village taken in the
1950’s, and construction of the Barge Canal which showed us the changes brought forth by the moving of the Erie
Canal to the Seneca River in the 1912. Earl Axton kindly lent us a fantastic collection of images saved by his mother
Bernice, and Dave Thomas somehow manages to keep finding new photographs to share with everyone. Our “biggest”
(largest, heaviest) save was the return of the Wilt’s Mill turbine. We heard that this bit of machinery was going to be
scrapped by the Ag museum, and we asked to have it returned. With the help of the Cayuga County Highway
Department, the turbine was returned to Port Byron and placed in the front yard.
That brings us to the third and final item, which is improving the house. In last year’s newsletter, I wrote that 2016
was the year of the basement. It was and still is our goal to create a safe place to store our collection of local artifacts.
We were able to secure a grant from the Emerson Foundation to help us defray some of the costs of moving the boiler
and re­plumbing the hot water runs between the registers. Then with the aid of the Cayuga County Sheriffs Community
Services, we dug out over ten tons of old stone and rock, replacing it with over seven tons of clean stone. And that was
done all by hand. Although our goal was to finish, we got about half done. It is our goal for this year to get the basement
floor poured.
There was other non­Society related happenings. We were asked to host Art Cohn of the Champlain Lake Maritime
Museum. He was boating across the State handing out copies of Erie Canal images he found from 1825. The local one
for us was of the Erie Canal crossing of the Seneca River at Montezuma. With the help of Cheryl Longyear and the
Montezuma Historical Society, we gave Art and his companions a tour of old canal sites between Montezuma and
Camillus. And we saw the Dollar General come to the village and start rebuilding the old Emerson Foodland. When the
laundry was taken down, the old facade of the Foodland was again revealed. And lastly, we saw the opening of the new
Old Erie Canal Heritage Park on the Thruway. Not a bad year at all.
How Port Byron Got Its Name How to Find Us
One of the really nice discoveries we made in 2016 The photo of Ware's Store (below) came from a
was finding more information and evidence about the collection that Earl Axton allowed us to copy. If you are
naming of Port Byron. First, some background. The old not aware, we do have hundreds of images up on our social
name of Bucksville was chosen after the Buck family, media accounts. We also post news items about local
who were very early settlers and promoters of the people, places, and events. So if you want to stay in touch,
developing village. The adoption of the name began in here are the best places to find us;
1819, which is interesting as the construction of the Facebook­ the most active of all our platforms. It's up
canal had begun in 1817 and was almost complete to you if you want to have all the friends and sharing stuff,
between Utica and Montezuma by the fall of 1819. So but you can just like us.
the name may have been in consideration that this new Blog­ lock52hs.blogspot.com­ If we have something
canal was being built and the collection of homes and that needs a little more explaination, we will post to the
businesses needed a name. Then things changed with blog.
the opening of the canal in 1820, and especially by 1823 Website­ www.portbyronhistorical.org­ This platform
as the canal was connected to the Hudson River at is updated less often and mostly serves as a way for people
Albany. Now the people of Bucksville found themselves to find us. There are links to the Facebook and blog and
in contact and carrying out trade with the entire world. other nearby places. There are images and suggested
You could hop on a boat and within three days find places to see.
yourself in Albany, and in another day be in New York If you have something you wish to share or donate,
City. These were life changing times, and maybe the please contact us. And if you like what we do, please
name Bucksville all of a sudden seemed too small. support us.
However, all the written history of Port Byron
states that the adoption of the name "Port Byron"
occurred somewhere around 1830 and has something to
do with John Beach, an Auburn businessman who built
a large grist mill on the bank of the canal.
What we discovered this year is that the name
change actually took place six years prior to John
Beach's mill. We first got a hint of this in
September,when we hosted noted researcher Mr. Craig
Williams. He found information that suggested that
Roderick Matson, a canal superintendent and the local
post master, may have named his post office “Port
Byron”. The name of the post office did not need to be
the same as the settlement. (Remember that Bucksville
was not a village, but a settlement in the town of Mentz.
The village was not legally formed until 1833.) After
Mr. William's program, additional research revealed
that the residents of Bucksville held a meeting in the fall
of 1824 and voted to change the name of the settlement
to Port Byron.
It is likely that for many who wrote the histories of
the village meshed all these events together as they were
all happening about the same time. It is only with the
aid of digital newspapers and computer searches that
we can start to pull some of these events apart.
It is also clear that the Buck family seems to have
pushed back against this name change. They continued
to use the name Bucksville for many years after all the
others began using Port Byron. But they eventually
gave up and moved west in 1831.
Other Society News and Notes
There will not be a spring spaghetti dinner this
year. Instead, we will be hosting Doug's Fish Fry on
July 17th. We have been trying to get back on the
summer schedule so we can sit outside and host the
wagon in a proper manner, interact with you and sell
some baked goods. There should be a fall dinner.
Our monthly programs will begin in May, and we
are thinking about holding a series of chats. There is a
lot of personal history that is lost with each passing
generation and it is time to capture some living history
on video. So we will be hosting you and asking you to
share with us and everyone, your recollections about
the topic of the month. As an example, we have seen a
passing of the Italian farming community and their
truck farms, but there are many who recall what it was
like to live in Port Byron and Mentz when this was a booming business. Or what was it like when Port Byron had an
active downtown shopping district? Or what was it like to go to school in the old building? We think this will be good
fun and very informative. We do realize that one of the limitations to you attending programs is the lack of parking.
And we have heard that some will not or cannot attend a program because of the street parking issue. So this year we
will be making use of other venues, likely the Mentz Senior Center next to the Town Offices. In this way, the parking is
abundant, safe, and we can fit more people into the room. So when you hear about a program, make sure you note
where it is being held.
This is a big year as it starts the Bi­centennial of the building and opening of the Erie Canal. The World Canal
Conference is coming to Syracuse and there will be tours to Port Byron and Montezuma.
Lastly, we need you. If you are interested in helping to save our history, give us a call or stop in. Take a look at
what we are trying to do by breaking out of the old way of doing things, and think about how you can help. And if you
really enjoy the old way of doing things, we can use you too. If you enjoy doing research on the computer, help us
answer questions. If you know of a school age person needing to do a project, let them know about us. If you have an
artifact or photo, consider donating it to us.

Membership Form
Please return this to Mark Emerson, 94 Halsey Rd, Port Byron, NY 13140

Name______________________________________________________________________

Address____________________________________________________________________

City, State, Zip______________________________________________________________

Membership is $10 a year for single, $15 for family

Membership Amount______________ Additional Donation______________

Lock 52 Historical Society is a 501c3 tax exempt organization. Donations that exceed the value of the
membership may be tax deductable.

Paypal is available through our website at www.portbyronhistorical.org