A History of The Hamlet of Orleans,

Town of Phelps, Ontario County, New York ...continued...



by Frederick L Gliford Village Historian  Taken from “The Community Trader” of Clifton Springs


A Pioneer Family

 According to an old family record, the name Wheat is from the french work "Ble", which was used as a family name by the Normans in England. By the early 1600's the English name Wheat was widely scattered over England, in the counties of Stafford, Gloucester, Lincoln, Berks, Middlesex and Nottingham.  The earliest record of the Wheats in this country are in the area of Concord, Mass. about 1625 where a Moses Wheat was granted 16 acres of land and added to it until there were in excess of 300 acres.

The first of the Wheat family to come to the Orleans area was a Benjamin Wheat of Conway, Mass. who, in 1795/96
purhased 160 acres of land from Pheips and Gorham at $1.25 per acre. This was wilderness in those days and in 1814 Mr. Wheat built the first brick house in this section of the country with brick made on the farm. The home remained in the family for several generations and still stands proudly on the top of what was called Prospect Hill, just north of Orleans. It cornrnands a wide view of surrounding land and was farmed by tbe family for many yeavs following their first arrival. During the anti-Masonic agitation, caused by the disappearance of a man named' Mor­gan, the north room of the old
homestead was used as a secret lodge meeting place and the floor bears evidence of the painting made to resemble a temple floor. A hand made desk used to be in possession of the family that had a Masonic "square and compass" carved in it. Benjamin is supposed to have served in the Revolutionary War as it is noted in the book "Mass. Soldiers and sailors of the Revolutionary War" of his having received pay.

Benjamin married a Sarah Wright of Westford, Mass. and they had at Ieast ten children. The family continued to farm in the Orleans area and one of their sons, Benjamin Jr., was to carry on the family business. Benjamin Jr. married a Mary Sprague (who was a descendent of the Sprague who came to America in the Mayflower) and they were to have a family of 9 children. Her grandfather; Ebenezer Sprague, lived in Conn. at the time of the Revolutionary war and after having twice had his house burned over his head by the British, started west in 1780. About ,1790, he helped build a gristmill where the city of Rochester now stands, but the location was considered unhealthy at that time and in 1793 he moved to Chapinville.

We drop now through two generations, those of Sidney wheat (1809-1882) and his son, VanBuren Wheat (1834-1896), to Sidney Isaac Wheat who was born in Orleans in January of 1880. Sidney was to marry Lottie Marietta Myers in January of 1902 and I doubt if he realized at the time how much his wife would mean to the history of his native Orleans. A new farmhouse has been built on the Orleans-Clifton Springs road in 1880 and this is the place where they raised their family of six, three girls and three boys. The first daughter, Hazel Wheat, was to live only a few months, but the others grew through their school days in Orleans to adulthood. Jessie L Wheat, the second daughter, known to most of us by her middle name of "Iois", married Gordon Fox and lives with her daughter, Elizabeth Fox Schmitt, on West Main Street in the Village of Clifton Springs. Anna Gertrude, the third daughter, married a Charles Lathrop and died in 1962.

Sidney Vanburen Wheat married Amelia Hartman in 1939 and they had 5 children, Sidney Charles, Carl, Thomas, Carolyn and Mary. Thomas lived only a year but the others all married and have families. Sidney was a mechanic at Ray Ford's Garage for a time and later became head of the bus fleet at our local school. Sidney also served hi's community well as its fire chief. He is now retired and living on the Orleans-Clifton Springs road. The second son, Rollin Lawrence Wheat (known to his many friends best as Larry) was alive in custodial work in our schools and later bought the local hardware store in downtown Clifton Springs, which he and his son ran for several years. He also served as Mayor of the Village of Clifton Springs from 1956 to 1959, an active and busy time in our village 'history. Larry married Anna Elaine Coons in 1936 and they had four sons, James, Rollin Theodore, Ronald and Michael. Rollin Theodore passed away in 1966 but the other three boys are married and have families of their own. The last child of Sidney and Lottie wheat was Donald Corydon Whea t. He married Ruth Eleanor Arnold in 1947 and they had three children, Donna, Arnold and Ellen and they too are all grown and married with children of their own. Donald worked for many years for the Tennessee Gas Transmission Co. just off the Orleans-Chapin road and is now retired. His wife, Ruth, was a dedicated teacher in our school system for many years and remains active in locaI civic affairs today.

So, as you can see, the Wheat family prospered and has grown through the years since that pioneer family first came to Orleans. There is one member of the family to whom we must pay special tribute, however, and that is to Mrs. Sidney Wheat, best known through the years to so many as "Lottie". Early in her young married life, she denoted a real interest in the Village of Orleans in which she lived and raised her family. If this was her home, she wanted to, know all she could about it, and in the scrap-books she collected, you will find that history. She not only collected that material for herself, she became in 1908, the Orleans correspondent for several news­papers including the CS. Press, the Canandaigua Messenger, the Geneva Times, the Phelps Echo and the Newark Gazette. Her articles are rich in the history of the town she called home and it is because of her and the articles she wrote that we today have such a rich heritage of Orleans' local history. She has recorded for future generations much that should be in book form and from time to time I will copy some of her work so that this generation will know a little more of that small (but active) community of Orleans.

As Lottie wheat wrote in one of her last articles, "When the community was on the post road between Albany and Buffalo it saw many visitors. Then it was called, "Hardscrabble", she recalled. "We're' in a hollow. All roads lead up hill; and it used to be a hard scrabble to get out of here with a horse and wagon!" Lottie loved her plants, and her writing, and enjoyed playing the organ in the Orleans Baptist Church. Most of' all, I guess, she was proud of her family, all they had been and all they would become in the fliture. We, of today, are each richer because pioneer families like the Wheats are part of our community, its past and its future!

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