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This postcard from around 1910 is a little bit misleading. In it, Eagle Harbor appears to be a quiet, shady little hamlet. In fact, Eagle Harbor was a busy place at this point in time. This photo was probably taken from the canal bridge, and looks north on what is now called Eagle Harbor Waterport Rd. There are a number of businesses and community organizations that this postcard fails to show.

To the west, on Eagle Harbor-Knowlesville Rd., there was the post office, and general store owned by the Bennett Bros., which still stands next to the bridge right on the canal. Farther west, was the Methodist Episcopal Church. To the east, on a little lane next to the canal was a grocery run by the Walters Bros. That building was demolished in 1913 when the canal was widened. The trees shown here hide the schoolhouse on the east side of the road. South of the canal was the Wesleyan Methodist Church, which burned in 1918, and also the cooperage, which was quite a large building.

It’s easy to imagine a warm spring day there — the voices of children walking home from the school for lunch, the sounds of hammering from the cooper shop, and the rattle of horse and wagon over the bridge. In 1910, Eagle Harbor was hardly quiet.

Adrienne Kirby,

Town Historian

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A photo of Densmore’s first barn fire, around 1929.

I am grateful to the assistance of John Long in sharing

his memories of Bill Densmore and the ’44 fire.


A. Willard “Bill” Densmore (1890-1964) loved farming. Despite suffering the misfortune of two barn fires in less than twenty years, he rebuilt each time because he couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Around 1929, during his tenure as Gaines Supervisor (1924-1931), his barn on Densmore Rd. burned to the foundation. So he built a new one on the old foundation. When that barn burned on Sept. 6, 1944, Densmore was in his early 50’s. He built another barn anyway. In the end, it was a heart attack in 1959, not fire, that forced Bill Densmore to quit farming. As he watched the tools of his trade being auctioned, he remarked to a neighbor, “I never thought it would come to this.”

According to the Orleans Republican, the total loss of the 1944 fire was estimated to be about $15,000, the equivalent of $214,000 in 2019. He lost a truck and its load of peaches, which must have been particularly discouraging. It had been a bad year for peaches, and Densmore was one of the few farmers in the area who had much of a crop. The newspaper stated that he also lost “several hundred bushels of wheat, which was to be sown soon.” John Long clarifies this report, explaining that Densmore would have intended to sell most of it, keeping only a little for himself. A great deal of hay also went up in flames. Unlike the first fire, there were no animals to worry about. At this point in time, Densmore had all his livestock at another farm on Transit Road.

Rebuilding in 1944 was perhaps more challenging than before because World War II made resources scarce. Farmers in his situation couldn’t always find enough new lumber, and sometimes had to look for used beams. Having a truck was crucial, because that was how farmers got their produce to the processors, and money in their pockets. Although production of consumer vehicles had stopped because of the war, Densmore applied to the county War Rationing Board and became the owner of the newest truck around. Mr. Long remembers it as a green GMC with a black painted grill, probably made for the military.

Bill Densmore’s third barn has fared better than the previous two. It’s a handsome white building that can still be seen on the east side of the road, sitting on the same foundation as the original. It stands as a quiet testament to one man’s perseverance and love of farming.

Adrienne Kirby,

Town Historian

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This photo shows a view of Rt. 279 as seen from Ridge Road looking south. Judging from the leaves on the ground, it seems to have been taken about this time of year. The main road intersected the Ridge as it does now, but the photo shows a lesser-worn path leading east to the Ridge. The flowerbed in the resulting triangle looks as though it had experienced some colder temperatures.

The image reveals a period of transition; Gaines was not yet completely “modernized.” In order to travel directly from the hamlet of Gaines to Albion, one would have driven down a dirt road, with transmission lines from the hydroelectric plant in Waterport on the left and telephone lines on the right. Homes on this road had access to electricity in the 1890’s, long before the rest of Gaines. Ridge Road was paved with cement in the mid-1920’s, and the curb at the base of the flower bed suggests the snapshot was taken after that development.

Dean Sprague, longtime Town Clerk for Gaines, and his wife Ethel, who lived in the house on the southeast corner of the intersection, maintained the flowerbed before the State eliminated the lesser used turn-off.

Adrienne Kirby,

Town Historian
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These photographs of Teddy Roosevelt were discovered in the course of filing materials in the historian’s office at Gaines Town Hall. No information is recorded on the backs of them. Accompanying notes indicate they were donated by Dan Hatch. Although Theodore Roosevelt never spoke in our township, folks from Gaines made sure to see him speak in Albion, which he did on three separate occasions. He spoke there on Oct. 26, 1898, Oct. 31, 1900, and Nov. 1, 1910. The question is, on which occasion were these photos taken? This is where history starts to look like detective work.

These snapshots were most likely taken with a Kodak Brownie camera. The Brownie was the first mass marketed camera for the general public, and was introduced in February 1900. Therefore, these photos were not taken of Roosevelt as candidate for New York State governor in 1898. Any photographs of that speech would have been taken by a professional photographer. These photos are either of Roosevelt as governor, or as former president. The photographs produced by the first Brownie camera were about 2″x2″. In 1901, the No. 2 Brownie was released, which produced snapshots about 2″x3″. Since the above photos are elongated and not square, they were probably taken during Roosevelt’s 1910 visit.

Roosevelt spoke from a platform constructed in front of the County Clerk’s Office. The top photo shows more of this building than the others. It also clearly shows the gable of what is now the Presbyterian church’s dining room in the background. All of the photos show people gathered on the northern steps of the Clerk’s Office.

Since the bottom third of these images show a sea of hats, it seems the photographer must have held his camera over his head to take pictures, hoping he would get some good shots. It also appears he jockeyed himself among the crowd in order to get closer, as can be gaged by the proximity to the platform and changing position of the hats in the foreground. It is also interesting to note the presence of feathered hats — even though women could not vote, they were there as well.

Subscribers to the Orleans American learned of Roosevelt’s visit the week before with the following front page ad.

Roosevelt was campaigning for the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Henry Stimson. The Orleans American clearly supported the Republican cause. In the Nov. 3, 1910 edition, the headline reported that Col. Roosevelt was “Enthusiastically Received By the Thousands — Splendid and Telling Speeches.” Two lengthy articles described his visit and work for the Republican party in New York. Counter-intuitively, the Orleans Republican rejoiced over the Democrat victory of John Dix as governor. In the Nov. 2, 1910 edition, buried in the middle of the paper, they described Roosevelt’s visit in three sentences, concluding with, “Col. Roosevelt gave one of his characteristic talks.”

Adrienne Kirby,

Town Historian
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A quote taken from The Home Bureau Creed, by Ruby Green Smith


One of the first items I came across in the historian’s office was a delightful scrapbook titled, “History of Eagle Harbor Home Bureau, 1953.” Home Bureau was an organization for homemakers to learn skills that would improve their homes, and ultimately their communities. The scrapbook documents meetings held from the fall of 1952 to the spring of 1954. There are Cornell Extension Bulletins, sample projects, newspaper clippings, newsletters, and programs from various events. According to a newspaper clipping inside, each Home Bureau unit was encouraged to produce a “Historical Record Book” of their activities each year. Eagle Harbor was awarded third place for their record book. The two winning units’ books were sent to the District meeting of the Federation of Home Bureaus at Hornell. A historical book was produced for all of Orleans County, which according to the article was “so complete and perfect that it received special mention from the judges.”

While the Home Bureau Federation still exists in New York State, it had experienced a significant decline in Orleans County by the 1970’s. Home Bureau was closely tied to Cornell Extension. Until the mid-1950’s, a portion of the annual dues collected from each unit was sent to Cornell Extension. Individuals in a Home Bureau unit would learn a particular skill from a Home Demonstration Agent from Cornell, and then in turn would present that information at meetings that were held twice a month. Presentations generally focused on homemaking, but parenting and citizenship were addressed as well. Topics in 1953 included “Food for the Family Menu,” “Advanced Decorative Stitchery,” “Cupboard Arrangement,” “Cooperation in the Family,” and “Trends in Federal Government.”

Gaines had six Home Bureau units in 1953: West Gaines, Gaines, Childs, East Gaines, Eagle Harbor and Gaines Basin. The Eagle Harbor unit had eighteen members. Meetings and activities took place either at members’ homes, or at the Methodist church by the canal. Below is a photo of a Home Bureau hobby show held March 25, 1954 in the Methodist church dining room. It was noted that all families participated.

Back row from L to R: Mary Hults, May Brooks, Mildred Buck, Hilda Fancher, Barbara Eddy (baby), Jean Sullivan. Front row L to R: Dorothy Hults, Duane Hults.

Because apple season will soon be here, and an article about Home Bureau would be more complete with a recipe, here is a dessert from a menu in the scrapbook for “Three Generations at One Table.”

Apple Pudding – 6 Servings

  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 cups diced apples
  • 1/2 cup pecans, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Beat together the eggs and sugar; add the flour, salt and baking powder.
  2. Stir in the apples, pecans and vanilla.
  3. Pour into a buttered baking dish or into 6 custard cups and bake at 350°F about 30 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Adrienne Kirby,

Town Historian
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Photo taken ca. 1919

The above photograph of an unidentified boy, most likely taken in Gaines, comes from a small photo album that belonged to Virginia Lattin Morrison. Below is a photo of Virginia found in that same album. She was a longtime resident of Gaines. Coincidentally, today was Virginia’s birthday. She was born July 4, 1906.

Photo taken ca. 1919

In 1919, she turned 13. To celebrate her birthday that year, Virginia could have gone to the recently opened ice cream parlor above Mr. Spaulding’s grocery in the rebuilt White’s Hall. White’s Hall, located on the southwest corner of 104 and 279, was a social hub. Prior to a devastating fire in 1910, it housed a grocery store, post office, grange hall and was Town Meeting headquarters, among other social activities. She would have been too young to attend the box party that evening with the Swarts Orchestra at the Grange Hall, which had moved across the street to what used to be Thurber’s Hotel in 1915. Admission was $1.00, plus 10 cents war tax. A box party was essentially a dating game. Women would make a meal for two and put it in a cardboard box they had decorated. Then men would bid on boxes, not knowing what was inside or who the creator was with whom they would share the meal. Dances and social events like this were common fund raisers for the Grange.

Adrienne Kirby,

Town Historian
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.