"Orleans" from


Phelpstown Footprints


by Mabel E. Oaks

In early times Orleans was a prosperous, thriving community with Clifton Springs--then Brimstone Springs--left far behind it in activity. Mrs. Sidney L Wheat Sr., whose late husband was a great great grandson of the 1795 Orleans pioneer Benjamin Wheat Sr., has compiled many scrapbooks which reveal in picture and in print both the old and new Orleans (before and after the fire). Practically all the following facts on Orleans were given me by Mrs. Wheat and are printed here with her permission.

Her November 15, 1961 Geneva Times article told of the Baggerly family's 1805 arrival from Maryland. The well-to-do Baggerlys, Fergusons and Shekells all brought

slaves as did other settlers from the south. These must have been freed at least by 1826 when New York State outlawed slavery. It was Benjamin Shekell who founded Clifton Springs and built a mansion there in 1800. Conover's History says that the Shekell slaves were well provided with homes when freed--equally true of other Phelpstown slaves, we assume.

Henry Baggerly, a strong Methodist, soon had built a meeting house on the northwest corner of Case and Wheat Roads; its burying ground across the road is now hidden in a little grove of trees. The gravestones of Henry and his wife have been moved close to the road and carefully embedded in cement inside a railed enclosure. After Mr. Baggerly's death a new Methodist church was erected in the village itself about 1835. This fine large steepled building was later sold for use as a Presbyterian Church. In the 1890s services were discontinued, and the ufortunIate edifice was sold to become a fruit evaporator; it burned to the ground in 1902. The settlement's other church, the third Baptist Society of Phelpstown, was established 1819; the very next year a $2000 building arose on the site of the present church. Burned in 1845, it was rebuilt but burned again in the disastrous 1910 fire. So today's Church is the third on the same spot.

One of Mrs. Wheat's scrapbooks contains this authentic and remarkable record of Orleans public buildings and businesses in the year 1845; the list was gathered by an oldtime resident from those still older.

Two Churches--one school--five general stores, two hotels, three shoe shops, three blacksmith shops, potash factory, distillery, tin, tailor and harness shops, wood turning and boot manufactories, a tannery and slaughter house. As for mills--there were one saw and two grist mills. In addition a carding mill near the upper bridge specialized in making monk's cloth.

They say the stores did many thousands of dollars worth of business. One grist mill and the saw mill stood opposite each other on the creek banks; at its end of the dam each had a wooden flume whose deep stream raced toward a wheel. Often in springtime the dam would go out with the ice and have to be rebuilt. Flint Creek at such times never knew its own strength. Phelpstown mill owners frequently lost heavfiy in spring when trees and timbers came floating down to destroy dams and bridges. The old three-and-a-half story, frame grist mill stood until 1930 when fire destroyed it. Around 1900 the village had a wagon, sleigh and harness shop for both manufacture and repair, a corn planter factory, four evaporators and a large vineyard industry.

Orleans had for years its resident doctors--Dr. Lewis, Dr. William Turck and Dr. G. Y. Armington. Its early school had fine teachers--for instance, Richard P. Marvin who became a New York State Supreme Court Justice just as did, many years later, Chief Justice Earle S. Warner, distinguished descendant of Orleans pioneer Jesse Warner of Warner Hill. Richard Marvin, his brothers Erastus and William (afterward a Judge) taught in our town schools in the 1820s and 1830s while they studied law with Thomas Smith Esq., Phelpstown's very first attorney. Dolphin Stephenson, son of Harvey S., an 1800 Orleans settler, practiced law for years at Phelps village in the Eacker block, east corner of Main and Church Streets. Phelps has had many outstanding lawyers, and this tradition continues.

Orleans had a postoffice for 100 years, most of that time with daily mail. This closed in 1934. Its newspaper, "The Asteroid," was being printed by the Geneva Courier office in 1879. Just after the Civil War large slate quarries were opened along the Creek. Some of the slate was ground to make a plastic roofing material.

The prizewinning Orleans Cornet Band, once famous, drove to all sorts of area events as far away as Rochester and Sodus Point. The painted bandwagon smartly drawn by four horses, its uniformed occupants and their paraphernalia must have been a colorful sight. The wagon had seats on each side for about ten men (twenty in all) with room for their instruments in the middle. John Runyan, Eben Potter the whistler, the Rulisons and Blythe boys, the four Lambs (one a drum major), Sumner and Ed Ferguson. drummers, were a few of the band members, Mr. Briglin tells me. Sumner's big bass drum is now in Oaks Corners Museum, the gift of Glenn Sheldon. After the railroad went through, the station waiting room was often used by the band for practice sessions; they played home town concerts on the hotel balcony. Orleans men--musicians or not--used to pile into the big wagon to ride down to Phelps village on town meeting days.

"Henpeck," northeast of Orleans, was really School District 22, established 1829. The old brick schoolhouse stands empty where Schroo Rd joins Route 88. Folk living near the school were said to be from Henpeck. Thereby may hang a long forgotten tale of some unhappy husband. There is another version of the nickname's origin; some say one Hen (ry) Peck was trustee so long that the district took his name.

The fearful fire of April 10, 1910 was discovered by Mr. Jesse Briglin whose family were barely able to escape their house in night clothing. Twenty one buildings were destroyed, including seven homes, the Baptist Church, town hall, warehouses, barns and school. This school was a two-story brick building erected 1882; its upper floor was a hall for both school and public purposes. Joseph Blythe's coal shed with 120 tons of coal caught fire; over half the coal burned and continued burning for days. The hamlet never recovered from this blow.

One of Rev. Anson Titus' historical articles tells the origin of the community's name. First nicknamed Hardscrabble, it received its permanent title at the close of the War of 1812-15 after Gen. Andrew Jackson had won the Battle of New Orleans and so saved a large area from the British. Local admirers of the soldier hero suggested his victory be commemorated by naming their hamlet Orleans. Jackson was then the idol of a large part of the American people. In 1818 he led the Seminole War to its successful end, became Governor of Florida in 1821 and seven years later was in the White House as seventh President of the United States.

An old obituary I recently read was on the death of a daughter of Elijah Goodale and relates to Orleans. I quote: "Her father, Elijah Goodale, a Phelps pioneer, was killed Sept.21, 1816, at the setting of the sun just as he was completing the bridge across Flint Creek at Orleans." Elijah's bridge may have been the first one there. If the creek had to be forded and the steep banks climbed until 1816, little wonder the place was called "Hardscrabble." Elijah was undoubtedly of the same family as Solomon Goodale, Orleans Baptist preacher and 1796 first town clerk of Phelps. The Elijah Goodale listed in the 1867 Directory as owner of an Orleans hotel and carriage shop was probably a son.

Today Orlean's chief claim to fame is its widely known restaurant, The Town Pump, owned by John Fabrizi whose home is the old G. W. Brockway place (later Little) on Waddell Road--a dignified brick house high on its hill. The Brockways were an early Baptist family that owned large acreages on either side of the road.


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