Adventures on Spook Hill

By Jasmine Willis

MIDDLESEX  — There is a legend of an old sacred Seneca burial ground that had been disturbed on Newell Road. It is from this legend that our story begins.

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Just two friends on a ghost adventure and personal quest for answers on Spook Hill. PHOTO BY JUDY SMITH-CRONK

 

Judy Smith-Cronk and I decided an adventure was in store for her birthday on June 21. The one place she always wanted to see since she was in her early 20s was Spook Hill. Thanks to GPS and our newfound Ghostbuster skills we were up for the challenge. The legend was that if you go to a certain spot on Spook Hill, the spirits of the burial ground will pull your vehicle in neutral up the hill. Now rather it is the spirits of angry Native Americans or a gravity shift under the pavement its certainty an intriguing sight.

 

Once we found the exact location with Spike Road on the left and a driveway on the right, we put the truck in neutral. Several times the truck was taken to the exact same spot towards a pole on the side of the hill. Judy filmed the fascinating occurrence more than once as the vehicle is pulled up the hill.

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This is the exact spot to look for in order to get the spooky reaction. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

Afterwards, we were on a personal quest for anything to do with this legend. Some towns have a legend and lore marker about anything interesting that happened.

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This is the famous hill that has been alluring ghost adventurers for decades. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

However, in the small town of Middlesex we are not so lucky. The only thing we find that suggests anything to do with the legend is a marker about the Indian Burial grounds being disturbed in 1922.

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It made me sad to read this marker and know that this happened in 1922. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

We decided to shift our adventure to an historical one instead when we came to the tiny town of Vine Valley. There are several unique things to say about this community by the lake.

The first being, Vine Valley Methodist Church built in 1891. It has a plaque on the door saying it was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994. Across the way is a Veterans Memorial that honors all the branches of military. It was a nice way to honor all those who fought and died for our freedom from all the wars.

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The Vine Valley United Methodist Church in Vine Valley was built in 1891 in Queen Anne style. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

A man told us that Vine Valley had a lot more history for us to explore with the General Store down the road and the boat launch as well. Judy and I were up for more history since it was a beautiful day for a adventure.

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The Veterans Memorial stands as a reminder of all we lost for our freedom. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

The CAROBESON General Store was built by G.W. Green in 1890. It was owned and operated by Charles A. Robeson Family from 1898 to 1984. After that the town of Middlesex owned the store. Now it is back in the hands of the family.

 

The history of the store itself is that of the Pioneer Days we have come to know and love from our history books. Robeson had the basics in his store when it opened such as lumber, tools, fruit, vegetables, coffee, milk, cheese, fishing supplies, and books.

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This charming store takes you back to the old days as soon as you walk inside. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

When the early 1900s brought the booming business of vineyards and farms were in their prime the little store brought in tons of merchandise for farmers. The boats would come on the lake to pick up 30 to 40 tons of grapes from Vine Valley to take to Canandaigua.

 

Robeson had a barter system in his store for the poor farmers; fresh eggs, milk, potatoes, and home-made butter were given in exchange for sugar, molasses, tea, and coffee.

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Never seen 1800s coolers in stores before. This was my favorite thing about the store. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

Robeson married Ellen Hixon, daughter of a Civil War Veteran Col. F.A. Hixon. Together with their family the Robeson clan made that little store by the lake thrive for 60 years. Walter and Caroline, Robeson’s children ran the store with their families after the parents couldn’t anymore.

 

The store was once used for Bible Studies, Square Dancing, Plays, Quilting Bees, and even town meetings. Town Supervisor Don Liddiard took over the store once the family could no longer keep it in 1984. This was the effort made to keep the store and public boat launch active. In 1991 Martin and Jessie Kane took over the store until 1997.

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I look at this and it reminds me of every period movie where the store owner has all sorts of goods behind a large wooden counter. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

The store was tossed from owner to owner after that; Barbara Jean and Mike Brignoli in 1997, Steve Ryan and family in 2001, and Don and Marcella Buckard art gallery and bookstore in 2006 until 2008.

 

The store was left abandoned after that until 2018 when Fred and Beth Armitage Muller came to town. This historic information was provided by Dan Robeson and Beth Muller to let people know the importance one store can be to a small town by the lake.

 

Middlesex Town Hall has a history room called Middlesex Heritage Group open Wednesday from 9 a.m. to noon.

 

The Vine Valley Boat Launch has some history of its own. Judy and I loved standing on the dock and taking in the beauty of the water and mountains in the distance. This was a fond memory of Judy’s childhood with her parents when they would come to the lake in the summers.

 

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The famous boat launch reminds me of my time in Cassadaga Lake. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

Vine Valley has used this boat launch since 1883 as a public beach, steamship commercial port for grape growers, and a launch point for recreational boaters. Middlesex bought the property in 2008 in a way to maintain and preserve the area. This boat launch is only one of three public lake access points on Canandaigua Lake and the only one in Yates County. It is part of the  New York State Parks, Recreation, and Historical Preservation.

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The dock is a place that offers you some insight into the lake. We could stand there all day long. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

Our final stop on the grand adventure is one that has always fascinated me. All my life I have been completely intrigued by one room school houses. Maybe since I grew up watching all the shows my mom loved; The Walton’s, Little House on the Prairie, and Anne of Green Gables. I just remember always wanting to see what it would be like to be in one of those super old buildings being taught by a sophisticated lady in pioneer clothes.

 

Much to my dismay most of these relics of the past have been burned down or turned into private homes. However, to my immense delight I happened upon one preserved in time on the hillside.

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The Overackers Corners School had its day from 1874 to 1938. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

The Overackers Corners School District No. 3 operated from 1874 to 1937 on the corner of North Vine Valley Road and State Route 364. It was built to be heated by one large stove, had no running water or electricity, and the students had to carry water up the hill from a local well. There was a large woodshed and two separate outhouses.

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Old fashioned outhouse that was used in the days before running water and plumbing. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

Once the school closed its doors for good in 1938 it was sold to Leon Button who used the historic building for grain storage. In 1984 it went to the Middlesex Heritage Group. After two years of renovations in 1998 it was turned into a historic museum. The original bell, chalkboard, desks, and other artifacts are seen today. The school has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1994.

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The sign marks the spot. The National Register of Historic Places holds the story of this school. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

Some interesting facts provided about its rich history; the land for the school came from Edward Hennessy’s property and additional land was bought from Amos Hixson, it was designed to accommodate grades first to eight grade, bricks from a blacksmith shop were crumbled and used for the foundation, bricks for the walls came from the brick factory, it was named after the Overackers Family, it was sold to Leon Button for only $128.50., A photo of the school appeared in the 1933 edition of the National Geographic on page 560, and the building is on the NYS Path Through History Tour and Seneca Heritage Days.

 

Some of the teachers who taught at this school were Lillian Boyd, Gordon Foster, Nellie Bennett, Mrs. Stanley Voorhees, Ruth Halstead, Carrie Razey, Lela Robson, Nellie Button, Bertha Noble, Alice DeWick, Patrick Sheehan, Frank Matteson, and Hazel Robeson.

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The old sign that is nailed to a post shows what this school really was too so many. A cemetery down the road must hold its secrets. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

The school is open on special occasions or by appointment only. It can be reached by calling the Middlesex Heritage Group at 585-554-6945. The next open house is Oct. 12 and 13 from noon to 4 p.m. for NY Path Through History. The Middlesex Heritage Group is located at the corner of Main and Water streets in Middlesex. The CAROBESON General Store Is located at Vine Valley Beach in Vine Valley. They are open everyday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and can be reached at 585-554-7124. The Vine Valley United Methodist Church is located at 6370 Vine Valley Road in Middlesex. They have Sunday service at 9:30 a.m. and the store is right down the road.

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This twisted old tree looks as though it could tell a story of its own by the shores of Canandaguia Lake. PHOTO BY JASMINE WILLIS

Mills Mansion honors Glory Days

By Jasmine Willis

MOUNT MORRIS — The community gathered for its annual historic festival that honors the father of the national pledge.

The Eighth Annual Glory Days was held downtown on June 8 for the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy.

Meanwhile, the Mills Mansion was honoring the founder of Mount Morris, Gen. William A. Mills with some Civil War reenactors and a new exhibit.

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Diana Bucknam talks about the “first flashlight” soldiers used in Civil War. It was a saddle candle to help them see in the dark. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Tim and Diana Bucknam, of Perry are the founders of the Civil War Reenactment “Fire on the Genesee” that has been a huge draw for tourism in two decades.

“We have done a lot of research over the years on the Civil War. We have grown up mostly getting the Union’s perspective, but it is always good to hear both sides of the story,” Diana said. “We have done this for about 23 years now. It has taken us many years of research.”

There are many things to consider when you take on certain roles for reenactments. You need to become the part of whoever you portray. You need to understand their side of the story.

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This candle was used when the young ladies were being courted in the Civil War era. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

For this the Bucknam’s have several items on display to show the Confederate side of the war. They have children’s toys, a family Bible from 1850s, a women’s gun, a musket, a saddle candle, and much more.

“We found that by that time period they were using the bayonets more for digging trenches. It was slowly becoming obsolete for fighting,” Tim said. “At that time the boys didn’t want to get that close to the enemy.”

The Confederate Flag has been misused over time according to the Bucknam’s after an intense research.

“The flags were meant to keep the soldiers in line. The one holding the flag would be shot within five minutes, and another soldier would take his place. This was how they kept the soldiers in line,” Tim said. “It is a shame the flags are being used inappropriately now. I looked into when the flags were made, and the purpose of why they were made. They all meant something different in those days.”

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This is an 1850s family Bible that shows what the importance of the Christian Revival was in that time. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Tim portrays a Civil War Confederate Chaplain, since he is a minister in real life this appeals to him.

“The Chaplains in these units were the largest Christian revivals in the country.  They worked with the soldiers in helping to guide them. They were around death all the time,” Tim said. “Most of these kids had never been more than 50 miles from home. Now they were 500 or 600 miles from home and scared to death in battle. The Chaplain’s job was to lead the way, bring them back to the Bible, and help them understand what was going on.”

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This is a beautiful 1911 dress showing the class of the ladies in that period. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Tim added there was a huge need for Confederate reenactors when they started doing this over two decades ago, so they decided to bring awareness to that. Now there are more Confederate reenactors than there are Union ones.

“We were asked to come out for Glory Days and talk about the time Gen. Mills was here. My wife and I started this long ago to talk to people about the Civil War. We wanted to bring a better understanding to the war. We want to get them to study the history of that time period. We just want to educate people to look more into their history.”

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This is a lovely 1840s dress donated by Helen McKay Estate. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Mills Mansion Historical Society members Debbie Schmidt, Mary Lou Martello, Suzanne Dunn, and Carol Mixon worked on the new exhibit that honors period dresses from the early 1800s to the early 1900s.

“We have a wonderful collection of clothes that have been beautifully preserved in a climate control room. We were interested in having a new exhibit out for June. We want to have one on antique tools for July,” Schmidt said. “It was like putting dresses on dolls. We all had so much fun working on this exhibit. It is interesting to see how tiny their waist and feet were in those days.”

Schmidt added the interns had everything very well documented when they were researching the items, so everything was mapped out for visitors on a sheet passed out for Glory Days.  There are 12 dresses on display the month of June that haven’t been seen in about four decades.

There is a Walking Tour of Mount Morris available at the museum as well to pick up and enjoy on a nice sunny day. It has 29 stops that take you from Main Street to Grove Street.

The Mills Mansion is located at 14 Main St. It is open for tours June to November, Fridays to Sundays, from noon to 4 p.m. They can be reached at 585-658-3292.

 

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Mural enriches Glory Days

Inspirations Trail kick-off in Mount Morris with historic wall mural ceremony

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Rochester artist, Shawn Dunwoody and his little helpers, Gavin and Raylee Olsowsky. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

By Jasmine Willis

MOUNT MORRIS — A historic work of art has captured the hearts of an entire community as it encompasses the story of leadership, courage, freedom, family and hope.

The Mount Morris Wall Mural dedication ceremony took place on Glory Days, which honors the life of Francis Bellamy. Bellamy’s words became our nation’s pledge in 1892. The version we know, and honor today was revised in 1942 to include, One Nation Under God.

On June 8 Mount Morris Partners for Progress and the Village of Mount Morris teamed up to celebrate the near completion of the historic artwork.

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William D’Angelo talks about the importance of this mural to the entire community. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

William D’Angelo, Mount Morris Partners for Progress president welcomed everyone to the Eighth Annual Glory Days in honor of Francis Bellamy. D’Angelo thanked everyone who had anything to do with the project from the beginning; especially Shawn Dunwoody, the artist from Rochester who has worked on it for weeks.

“It is our ideas that are up on this wall. We never knew what it was going to be. We thought it might be patriotic. This is art. This is history. This is Mount Morris,” he said. “We can always hold our heads up high to say Mount Morris was the first to get something done in Livingston County.”

Mount Morris Mayor Frank Provo said this was a great project for the whole community to get involved in.

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When the mural is complete the entire wall will pay tribute to the men and women who led the way in Mount Morris. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

“There was a lot of public input. Shawn (Dunwoody) took those ideas and gave us something great. I like what we have. I like where it is going to go. I hope it will be a start for more art to come into the village of Mount Morris,” he said.

Mount Morris Supervisor Chuck DiPasquale has always been proud of his hometown.

“This makes me even more proud of Mount Morris. I love that people stop and ask me where to find the mural. I love that we have something like this being put up in our town,” he said.

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Gavin and Raylee Olsowsky helped paint the stars on the wall with Dunwoody. They were both proud to be part of the project. Their father is from Mount Morris. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

The Livingston County Inspirations Trail will hit all nine towns in the county, but this is the first to incorporate the concept.  The hope is that other towns take the initiative for something similar on their walls.

D’Angelo said the trail is something bigger than Mount Morris. It is something that encompasses the entire county.

“It (Inspirational Trail) is supposed to bring people from the communities and from the outside to stop and take a look at each of the villages. Livingston County is one of the most beautiful regions in all of New York State, if not all of United States. It all begins at the county level,” he said.

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Ross Barnes is a baseball legend of Mount Morris. Many are still passionate about getting him on the hall of fame. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Louise Wadsworth, Livingston County Downtown coordinator talked about the importance of the Inspirations Trail.

“I want to thank Greg O’Connell for saving this wall for us. It was about a year-and-a-half ago I had my first meeting with a group of people from around the county. I really wanted to do an Inspirational Trail, which would bring people from every community through the whole county.  Kathy Link and Linda Gray put their heads together and decided that Mount Morris was going to be the first one,” she said. “I am so proud they picked Shawn Dunwoody to be the artist for this. He is the perfect person to do the first mural. He brought the whole community together. He really put everyone’s ideas on here, and it reflects the entire community. This is the standard for the rest of our towns to come up too.”

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Mary Seymour Howell was instrumental in helping Susan B. Anthony with the Women’s Rights Movement. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Shawn Dunwoody, Rochester artist, said he has been truly honored to work on this project.

“This has been a fantastic journey. I want to say thank you to all of you. This is not about what I am painting. This is about who you are in Mount Morris. I wanted to be that tool to put your voices out here. When I heard this was going to be the first piece on the Inspirations Trail, I knew it had to be something,” he said. “I went in with the intention that this is the first of many other things that will happen throughout the county. It needs to hit hard. It needs to be strong.”

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Gen. William A. Mills founded Mount Morris. His mansion is now a museum for the historical society. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Dunwoody said there were several meetings that took place to get this going. He met at the school several times to talk with the students too.

“I got great information about the history of the town. I got great information about how it all developed into what it is today. I walked away from these meetings with so many ideas and so much spirit. I realized the strength of Mount Morris is developing new families. It has always been open about family and creating change,” he said. “I went with Francis Bellamy’s original pledge, because his vision was that he wanted any country to be able to salute and pledge their country. It is all about extending the world family, which is in the heart of Mount Morris.”

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New Family was the inspiration for the entire mural. The above photo is that of WWII Veteran Charles Peritore. He recently passed away, so this is how his family wanted to honor him. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

Dunwoody wants the community to gather once the project is complete and sign the bottom of the mural. It all belongs to them.

One thing that really made the day touching was the entire Charles Peritore Family showed for the ceremony. Charles Peritore, a WWII Veteran, passed away recently in Mount Morris. His family had him honored by placing his image on top of the mural for everyone to see.

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The entire Charles Peritore Family came to honor him at the wall mural ceremony. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

“I get goosebumps every time I look at it,” Charles Peritore Jr. said. “I love coming over to see it, so I can look at him. We found a color photo of dad to give to him, so he could copy the image for the mural. We are very proud of dad, and he was a very humble man. He was very well known in Mount Morris. We brought everyone down to the ceremony to see the mural. We are all very honored to have dad up on the wall.”

The mural should be done within a couple weeks. Future plans include more historic figures, Letchworth falls, Mount Morris Dam, and more. Dunwoody is able to focus on the project by staying in an apartment provided by Greg O’Connell as he works on his masterpiece. The legends that have made their home on the wall include; Gen. William A. Mills, John Wesley Powell, Ross Barnes, Mary Seymour Howell, Mary Jemison, and Francis Bellamy.

 

Honoring Don Sylor

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Sue Sylor infront of one of her favorite works of art. The framed photos are not for sale. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

By Jasmine Willis

DANSVILLE — It was a bittersweet tribute as the community gathered to honor the work of a former photographer and friend.

Don Sylor was a professional photographer who passed away on May 29, 2013. He spent over four decades doing what he loved most. In 1972, Sylor opened his own photography studio on Main Street. It was in the only vacant storefront at the time (now Dogwood Floral Company). It was there his vision came to life as he matted his own photos, and a few years later did custom framework.

Sue Sylor, Don’s wife approached Dansville ArtWorks about donating some of her late husband’s work to the art center.  It was decided that the work could go in the newly opened solo exhibit. Don Sylor Retrospective: Images of the Coast is a deep look into his work in Cape Cod. The solo exhibit runs from June 7 until Aug. 31. All matted, limited signed prints are $99 and all prints, limited edition are $60. All of the proceeds go to benefit Dansville ArtWorks.

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There was a great turnout for the grand opening of the Don Sylor Retrospective on June 7. PHOTOS BY JASMINE WILLIS

“I really appreciate doing this exhibit here,” Sue Sylor said. “He would love having his art in the Dansville ArtWorks. He grew up here, went to school here, and we raised both our kids here.”

Sylor said he did a lot of portraits, weddings, senior photos, passports, Foster Wheeler images, Instructor Publication, Retsof Salt Mines images,, and much more.

“I am glad to have his work be seen again,” she said. “The photos needed a better home than being stored in a box. I am glad they are in the gallery.”

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Another favorite is the blue canoe that caught Don’s eye as they walked on the shore. PHOTOS BY DON SYLOR

John Adamski has been a professional wildlife photographer for over four decades as well. He had a chance to know Sylor for a short amount of time.

“I had a chance to meet Don when I went to get some custom framing done. Don shared some of his work with me before and showed me a lot of it in the back room,” he said. “Whenever I needed some large prints matted or custom frames done, I would go to Don. He had a great style.”

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There are many photos of boats, lighthouses, oceans, beaches, and landscapes available for purchase at the gallery. PHOTO BY DON SYLOR

Nicole Alioto, Dansville ArtWorks board president said it is fantastic to have Don Sylor’s work on display at the art center.

“It is fantastic to be able to have the fresh new space, and an honor to have Don Sylor’s work on display this summer. We are able to have the solo exhibits where we had our first gallery when we started,” she said. “Bernard Dick is our next solo artist that we will have in that space from September to November. We have a Holiday Craft Bazaar in November. It will become Santa Claus’ workshop for Winter in the Village.”

Sue Sylor mentioned how Cape Cod was a bit of a sanctuary for them. It had been their honeymoon, and a place they returned to several times throughout their lives. Don Sylor would be published in the Cape Cod Life Magazine many times. All of the work he did there was Freelance Photography. Most of the time it was whatever caught his eye. Don had a gift and he used it to enhance the way people saw the world around them. Several of his lighthouse photos were sold at galleries in Cape Cod.

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A beautiful photo of a silent boat alone in the ocean. PHOTO BY DON SYLOR

The Sylor Family went back to the shores of Cape Cod in 2014, 2015, and 2016 to take in the memories of a life well lived. They plan to go back again in the near future.

For more information on upcoming events at Dansville ArtWorks visit http://www.dansvilleartworks.comFor more information on Bernard Dick visit https://www.bernarddick.com/blog/post/index?Post_page=3