On this date: The debut of “Dansville Turns 200” appears in Genesee Country Express


March 19, 1992

“Dansville Turns 200” was a weekly newspaper column that ran in the Genesee Country Express from March 19, 1992 to January 28, 1996. In 201 installments, each representing one calendar year, the history of Dansville, New York was told, from its earliest white settlement to the celebration of the village bicentennial. Included in each article was a summary of the major events of the world, the nation, and the region for the year being covered, to try to give some perspective to what kind of world surrounded Dansville at the time. This project was the end result of many hundreds of hours of research, spread out over several years; and I received plenty of help. Among those to whom I owe thanks: Richard Eades, the high school teacher whose local history course set me on this path; the late historian Wilfred J. Rauber, who was of tremendous help to me during my initial researches in the mid-1980’s; Teresa Canuti and the other employees at the Dansville Public Library, for their helpfulness in my endeavors there; and for the editors of the Genesee Country Express, for allowing me access to their back issues, and, of course, for publishing my column. And many thanks to all who provided encouragement and compliments on what was, from beginning to end, a labor of love.

David Gilbert

On this date: Dansville Seminary was incorporated by the New York State Regents


On January 14, 1858, the Dansville Seminary was incorporated by the New York State Regents, under the sponsorship of the East Genesee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Classes began in September in a rented building, and later moved to the second story of the District No. 2 school building on Ossian and Spruce, while plans were made to construct a permanent edifice on the hillside. Over 200 pupils enrolled the first year; and for nearly 30 years, though troubled by periods of financial instability, the Seminary would be an important educational institution for the Dansville area.

1858 Dansville Seminary from old map

On September 24, Ex-President Millard Fillmore paid his first visit to Dansville since his 1814 apprenticeship to Benjamin Hungerford. With his old friend William Scott, he visited the site in West Sparta where he had spent those several memorable months; the old carding mill was long gone, and the spot was overgrown with bushes. He also gave a speech for the students at the Seminary. A few months previously, the village had dedicated the newly-completed, three-story brick building on East Hill, behind the street which would, for a number of years, be called Seminary Street (now Health Street; the building itself later housed the King’s Daughters Home).

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great poet and essayist, visited Dansville in January 1865, to give a speech before the Gentlemen’s Lyceum of the Dansville Seminary.

Dansville Seminary College Currency $50

Dansville, in 1877, was a village with an educational system that was showing its age. Although there were 1344 school-age children in the area, the average attendance in the town’s six school districts totaled a measly 269. Talk of unifying the districts had begun, but nothing would come of it right away. In addition, the Dansville Seminary was in a perpetual state of near financial collapse. One of the Seminary’s newest teachers, Dr. Julian B. Hubbell, had come to Dansville in 1876 to help his brother-in-law, Samuel H. Goodyear, run the Seminary. In time, his destiny would be linked with that of another village newcomer…Clara Barton.

Not quite dead in 1880, but close to it, was the Dansville Seminary. The once-distinguished school was on its last legs, owing largely to a depletion of state funds and the withdrawal of patronage by the Methodist Episcopal Conference. In April a village meeting was held to attempt to save it from financial ruin. Clara Barton was among those who spoke on behalf of the Seminary, which was spared, at least temporarily, from dissolution.

By 1883 the old Seminary was now defunct; but the Seminary building became home to the new Union Free School. Late in 1882, the two village school districts had been combined, and the old brick District No. 2 school building on Ossian and Spruce was abandoned. Plans for a brand-new school-house were being considered.

Involved with the creation of the Dansville Seminary: Clara Barton, Asa Othello Bunnell, Charles Shepard (husband of Nathanial Rochester granddaughter, Katherine Rochester Coleman),…

On this date: Prohibition repealed,…


December 5, 1933

Dansville “wet” for first time since 1917.  As defined on Wikipedia.org, Prohibition is the legal act of prohibiting the manufacture, storage, transportation and sale of alcohol including alcoholic beverages. The term can also apply to the periods in the histories of the countries during which the prohibition of alcohol was enforced.

prohibition-1925 1917 marked ultimate victory for Dansville’s temperance advocates; in March elections, the sale of alcoholic beverages in the village was banned, 667-546, effective November 1. (A similar measure was passed in South Dansville.) Church bells rang the news of the victory over Demon Rum, which spelled bad news not only for those local concerns that sold liquor, but also for the local grape-growing industry, which was doomed to extinction. For the liquor-sellers in Wayland, however, this meant a business boom…at least until nationwide Prohibition kicked into effect in 1920.

gal-prohibition17-web-jpg

As if to make up for the impending loss of beer and whiskey, brothers Steve and Chris Dromazos opened the Sugar Bowl on June 29, where ice cream sodas and milkshakes could be purchased.

Before 1920, 50% of Americans lived under Prohibition laws passed by various states; now everybody did, as the 18th Amendment went into effect the year before.

prohibition3_1024x1024

Further disillusionment came for those who had thought that Prohibition meant the end of alcoholic beverages in the U.S. If anything, alcoholism had gone up in recent years; and the rise in gangsterism, which thrived mainly on bootlegging, made the headlines with the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” between the rival gangs of “Bugs” Moran and Al Capone.

alcapone  WEAPONS-BURKE-HOUSE

In 1933, after nearly 14 (about 17 in Dansville) disillusioning years, Prohibition in the U.S. came to end.  Given how popular Prohibition was in Dansville back in 1917, the 785-326 local vote in favor of its repeal clearly showed how great the disillusionment was. New York State was, as a whole, heavily in favor of abandoning the “Great Experiment”; in some New York City area districts, the vote was unanimous. When, in December, Utah’s vote made the repeal official, Leo Curran lost no time in obtaining a license to open a liquor store on Main Street; and in Hammondsport, thousand of gallons of wine were on hand, which could now be used for something other than religious sacraments

Alchohol Prescription 1933

On this date: Hurricane Agnes hits Dansville Area


June 20, 1972

When, in June 1972, the remnants of Hurricane Agnes paid a surprise visit to Upstate New York, the results were comparable to the great flood of 1935. Although the Kanakadea Dam protected the city of Hornell, other Southern Tier cities and villages–Corning, Elmira, Wellsville, Canisteo, Alfred, Almond–were subjected to major flooding from rivers choked by the 10 inches of rain that fell in three days. At least one drowning victim was reported in Corning. One can only speculate how the absence of the 20-year-old Mt. Morris Dam would have compounded Livingston County damage. As it was, nervous Army Engineers felt compelled to release some of the pent-up waters, flooding croplands in low-lying areas.
In Dansville, the flooding of Mill Creek forced the evacuation of Quay Street and the Tracy trailer court (where three trailers were swept away). A bridge at Stone’s Falls was washed out, taking a house and trailer with it. At Comminsville the overflow of Canaseraga Creek caused $750,000 in damage at Foster Wheeler, as it ran across Route 36, sent a foot of water across the parking lots, flooded the basement, and deposited 6 inches of silt in the Tube Shop. Cleaning out the shop required the borrowing of several high- pressure hoses from the fire department, and the efforts of some 300 local volunteers. Not so easily fixed was the damage done to crops and nursery stock in the Flats area, damage estimated in the millions.

These first two paragraphs come from a newspaper column series titled ” Dansville Turns 200″ that ran from 1992 till 1996 in the Genesee Country Express by David Gilbert.  David is  the curator of the Dansville Area Historical Society museum.

header GCE June 29 1972

image 1 GCE June 29 1972

Foster Wheeler employees returned to their jobs this week.  Their tools these days are high rubber boots, shovels, brooms and mops.

The parking lot was flooded again Monday morning — with cars instead of water.

The massive job of cleaning up tons of sludge and debris is expected to continue throughout the week. Help there Saturday and Sunday was on voluntary basis by employees. Now full wages are being paid by the firm.

A. J. Timmes, local works manager, said full assessment of damage and loss cannot be made until about a couple of weeks. Investigation into extent of electrical damage was started Monday. One of the most costly projects is inspection of materials covered with mud.  “Every piece of tubing will have to be flushed and treated,” he said.

image 2 GCE June 29 1972

Timmes estimated damage at the cafeteria alone at between $50,000 and 160,000 and stated the entire area will have to be completely redone. He called last week’s flood “the worst in the history of the Dansville plant.”

 

On this date: American Legion buys old Baptist Church


April 4, 1938

AmericanLegion_logo

Daniel Goho Post 87 of the American Legion in Dansville, New York was established on June 16, 1919 during its organizational meeting.  The constitution was written and an application for a charter was signed by 39 men.  This was the first post in Livingston County, NY.  At that time they had no place to call home as meetings and other events were held in various building around the village.  Sponsored events included high school concerts, Boys State program, Scholarships, American Legion Baseball and Boy Scouts.Baptist Church 1910

In 1938 they found a home of their own when they purchased the abandoned Baptist Church at 34 Elizabeth Street for $500 owed in village taxes.  After renovations done mostly by Legionnaires the new quarters was dedicated on July 18, 1938.

American Legion Elizabeth Street 1

On this date: Dansaire Corp. builds first (and last) airplane


Jan. 26, 1947

Dansaire Corporation, which had settled in Dansville, hoped to make Dansville the home of the first real “family-type” plane.  It was called the Dansaire Coupe.

Assembly of the airplane was completed Jan. 10, and on that day the engine was run for the first time. Since that time numerous taxi runs and several minor adjustments and alterations have been made.

Dansaire Coupe at Airport 1947

Dansaire Corporation believed their new plane—the Dansaire Coupe—had corrected many of the things inherently wrong with the small personal plane.  The loudest objections to small planes have been the cramped, small cabins and the difficulty getting in and tout of these cabins. This difficulty is experienced mostly by women and admitted by some men.  Most small personal planes preclude a man from taking his wife and child on trips because of lack of seating space. And tiny baggage compartments limit the amount of luggage permissible for week-end trips.

Dansaire Corporation was to put on the market a personal plane which had corrected all these inconveniences and therefore must appeal to the whole family.  It would offer (1) a large roomy seat up-front, wide enough for three grown people; (2) a door, larger than most car doors (45 Inches high and 50 inches wide), to permit getting into and out of the cabin with ease, and (3) a baggage compartment large enough to meet the needs of a family or the needs of a golfing threesome, golfbags and all!

As reported in the Dansville Breeze on Jan 23, 1947 Mr. White, president said plans are being made at the present time to exhibit the Dansaire Coupe at the New York Aviation Show to be held in New York City the first week in February.  Publicity released in connection with this show will spread the name of Dansaire and Dansville from coast to coast, Mr White added.

Dansaire NY Aviation Show 2-47

Following CAA licensing of the plane for experimental flights, the red and creme plane made several trial flights.  A Bell Aircraft Corporation test pilot was at the controls.  The plane was disassembled  and shipped to the National Air Show in New York City and was then trucked to New York City by W. B. Griswold.

George White, also announced that the public was being invited to a showing and demonstration of the new Dansaire Coupe, at Dansville Municipal Airport Sunday, March 23, 1947.

On this date: Tractor trailer crashes into Maxwell House Coffee Shop


January 18, 1961

Genesee County Express
January 19, 1961

Signs at the top of Wayland Hill warning truck drivers to shift to lower” gear before descending apparently are not the solution to the run-away truck problem.

For the second time in less than six months death and destruction rode a truck down Wayland Hill into Dansville shortly before noon.  Whereas fate had stayed death’s hand on the previous trip, this time it was allowed at least one victim. Killed in the spectacular crash which demolished two Main St buildings was Kenneth R. Sutphin, 23, of Rising Sun, Md. driver of the tractor trailer carrying a 20-ton load of galvanized steel sheets.

Maxwell House Coffee Shop Jan 18 1961

Eye Witness Accounts of Crash

BY LEE SCHUSTER (Clement Leo Schuster)

“I was only a few inches from that truck. Thank the Lord I’m still here. I had my hand on the front door of the restaurant and was starting out when I saw the truck coming.

I guess I must have jumped back into that little coat room by the door as the truck came smashing through.  “I don’t remember anything else until it was all over. The cab and trailer shot right by me—only inches away—taking the doorway with it. Flying glass, I guess, gave me this small cut on the cheek and my glasses have a small chip. It was miraculous that it missed me. How do you explain a thing like this “First thing I thought of was Doris Conway who had gone out just ahead of me. I understand she saw the truck coming, grabbed her children and ran toward the bank I guess she is pretty upset—so am I, it came so close.”

BY VERNON LENT

“I was having coffee in the restaurant and all of a sudden there was an explosion — at least it sounded like one. I thought an airplane had crashed into the building. I didn’t see the cab at all, when I looked up, just the trailer. “I looked down and Irving Anderson of Swains was on the floor. I picked him up and then went over to see if anyone was under the trailer. Gas was running out but there was no one there. I later learned Anderson had a broken ankle. He said it probably was broken when the explosion—that’s the only way to describe it—knocked him off his stool.

“There was complete confusion in the restaurant. I heard Doris Conway screaming in the back of the building. She had gone out the front door with her children only moments before the crash and must have walked around back. I called her husband, Bob, and he came right down. She was really shook up — that truck must have just missed her and the kids. Everything was confusion. It was terrible.”

BY TED SMITH

“That’s the third one I’ve witnessed and I don’t want to see any more. Another 15 seconds and I’d have been clobbered myself. I had just delivered the mail in the Grant store and was on my way to the Dansville Auto Parts store when I saw this truck come shooting down the street dragging this car (Reilly’s) right alongside it. It just seemed that the car was dragging it toward the curb. There was an awful explosion as it struck the coffee shop. I didn’t think that poor driver could ever get out of that alive. It was awful. Why doesn’t the state do something?”

BY GEORGE KARNS

“I was lucky. My car was parked just a couple doors down the street from the restaurant and I had just pulled away from the parking meter when people started running up Main St. I heard a crash, I ran back and the truck had smashed through the two stores. I got out just in time.”

Hospital Lists Richard Reilly As ‘Critical’

Reilly trapped in car at Maxwell House Coffee Shop Jan 18 1961Most seriously injured of the four living victims is Richard Reilly, 46, of 8 Hessier Ct. whose condition is listed as “critical” by Dansville Memorial Hospital authorities. Reilly was driver of one of the four vehicles smashed in the crash. Reilly’s injuries are listed as fractured ribs and collarbone and a possible punctured lung. His car was demolished. Witnesses said the truck apparently out of control, sped into the village with horn  blaring, passing the Main and Clara Barton Sts. intersection without mishap.

Before reaching the Ossian St. intersection, however, the tractor trailer clipped a truck driven by Anthony Marks of McCurdy Rd. The driver then swerved left in attempt to avoid the Reilly car, which was making a left turn into Ossian St. After that collision the truck smashed into a parked car owned by Dr. Angelo M. Carlucci of Sonyea.

The truck, dragging the Reilly vehicle along with it, careened about 300 feet down Main, jumped the curb, plowed into the front of the Maxwell House Coffee Shop and through a wall into the Dansville Auto Parts store where a heavy upright beam halted its structive progress.

Before jumping the curb near the restaurant, the truck rammed and demolished another parked car owned by Walter Sorg of 7 Clay St. Reilly’s vehicle caught on the corner of the restaurant as the truck crashed into the Maxwell House Coffee Shop followed by the Dansville Auto Parts.

 Dansville Breeze
Jan. 24, 1961

We Need Action It is high time the collective voice of a frightened and terrorized Dansville be heard in Albany or in some city where lies the responsibility for eliminating the curse of runaway trucks on Wayland Hill. The death toll from runaway trucks now stands at five. Why the number is not 55 only God knows.

On this date: United Methodist Church dedicated


November 8, 1877

The dedication ceremony presided by Bishop Jessie T. Peck for the United Methodist Church on Chesnut Street was held on Nov. 8, 1877.  The cornerstone was laid on Aug. 29, 1876, and after a year and a half, it was completed at a cost of $18,000.  The first public worship service was held ealier that yean on September 13.

Circa 1910

On Nov, 3, 2012 Dansville United Methodist Church celebrated its 200th anniversary with a special service Saturday evening as about 100 people, including participants, joined together to commemorate the church’s milestone.

Members of the Methodist faith first settled in Dansville in 1812. The first preaching minister was Robert Parker, who moved to Sparta in 1805. Parker recognized the need to build a church building and began to raise the necessary funds.  Less than $1,000 was secured and the church was commenced. The church was erected on the public square, a short distance south of the present location of Dansville Presbyterian Church. The church’s congregation continued to grow and remained there for nearly 50 years.  In the year 1876, the old church became too small and dilapidated, and so it was decided to build a new brick church on Chestnut Avenue.

On this date: Our Home on the Hillside opens


October 1, 1858

James Caleb Jackson along with his staff open a new water cure in Dansville , NY on east hill over looking the village.   Even though previous owners never had much success in this unfinished three story facility, Jackson’s was hopefull that this would change.  Jackson had great results elsewhere to build upon prior to opening Our Home on the Hillside.  And those great results would continue on with new patients that came from hundreds of mile away to be treated here.

On this date: Genesee Valley Canal closes


September, 30 1878

The Genesee Valley Canal opened in 1840 and was officially closed on September 30, 1878

Starting in Rochester, NY, the Genesee Valley Canal extended along the valley of the Genesee from the N. bounds of Livingston Co. to Mt.Morris; thence it turns S.E. to Coshaqua Creek and up the valley of that stream of Nunda, and thence S.W. to the Genesee at Portage, where it cross the river upon a wood aqueduct supported by stone piers. The Dansville Branch Canal extends from Mt.Morris S.E. to Dansville, NY.