Lincoln

Near 10 years after the death of Daniel Webster, President Lincoln shared a story of Webster’s early life during a morning gathering at the White House in May of 1862.

“Did you ever hear the story of Daniel Webster and the schoolmaster?” Lincoln began.

He then shared how as a boy, Webster had been repeatedly punished by his teacher for coming to school with dirty hands. One day the teacher asked to look at them. As Daniel went forward he surreptitiously licked one palm, wiped it on his pants, then exhibited it. “Daniel,” said the teacher sternly, “if you will find another hand in this schoolroom as filthy as that, I will let you off this time.” The quick-witted Daniel promptly held out his other hand. “That will do,” sighed the teacher. “You may take your seat.”

Having concluded, Lincoln laughed as loud as any of his hearers.

From The Inner Life of Abraham Lincoln: Six Months at the White House by Francis B. Carpenter, (New York, 1867).

A little respect for the proud Irish potato

image by Missy Roenberry

In honor of the month of March, when we celebrate all things Irish, here’s an amusing – and historical – look back at a vegetable that’s central to Irish heritage: the potato.

Back in the days when Webster was more a farming community than anything else, the Webster Herald would commonly publish reports on the bounty of the year’s harvest. But the following two items, pulled from a column called “Who Can Beat This?”, published on Oct. 23, 1942 at the height of WWII, focused specifically on two very unusual potatoes. 

The author began, “We are told that food will win the war. And it will. When you get a combination of fighting Irish and Irish potatoes, you just can’t beat it. … Of course we all know that there are no fighting men like the Irish… Now about the potatoes….” 

The article continued, “In the fall of 1941, Martin Hosenfeld, who farms over on the State Road, harvested several acres of potatoes. In sorting them he came across one that weighed 3 pounds and 4 ounces, which goes to prove that you can’t beat the Irish potatoes.” 

Apparently the potato had some even more unusual qualities.

This particular potato was not going to be caught napping, so it was born with eighteen eyes. In the spring of 1942 Mr. Hosenfeld cut the potato into eighteen pieces, one eye in a piece, and planted them one in a hill. From that nineteen forty-one potato that weighed a little more than three pounds, he this year harvested twenty-three pounds of potatoes, practically all of them being of marketable size.

These reports typically also included specifics about the farmer’s methods, perhaps in case others might want to try to grow an even bigger potato. In Farmer Hosenfeld’s case, the author wrote, 

“The soil in which he planted was a heavy loam. He fertilized with twenty ton manure to the acre and half a ton of fertilizer.”

Later in the column, the author reported on yet another monstrous potato, which he theorized might actually help the war effort. 

He wrote, “Fruits and vegetables are certainly going to town this year in size. They realize we are in the war all right and they sure are producing. The latest on the list is a potato that grew in a patch on Ovid Fry’s farm on the Nine Mile Point Road. This little Irish potato weighed three pounds. Not a bad weight for a small potato.” 

“We are going to have this potato baked and while it is good and hot come in and pick it up and you will better realize what Hitler has got a hold of.” 

And in case you’re wondering, “Ovid had four and one-half acres of Katahdins and they produced three hundred bushels to the acre. The soil is a sandy loam and he used 1100 pounds of fertilizer to the acre.”

The Webster Museum has an entire exhibit highlighting Webster’s rich farming history. Stop by for a visit and learn more about, well, maybe not potatoes, but certainly all sorts of fruits and vegetables, cereal grains and more. The museum is located at 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster. It’s open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org to learn more. 

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

See my blog at: websterontheweb.com.
Check out my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

What is it?

We’re been posting images of unusual implements to our facebook page in conjunction with our current “What is it?” museum exhibit.

The Goodell Bonanza Apple Peeler Corer was created by David H. Goodell whose Goodell company produce a variety of devices to aid in the processing apples and other fruits. Goodell became the Governor of Hew Hampshire in 1889.

Nipper

Meet “Nipper,” the Webster Museum mascot

Just steps inside the front door of the Webster Museum sits one of the museum’s most faithful greeters, a life-sized white dog made from papier-mache. His head cocked slightly to one side, he seems to be patiently and carefully listening for when the front door opens and he can welcome the museum’s next visitor. 

His name is “Nipper,” and if you’re of a certain age, you’ll recognize him as the mascot of RCA Victor, one of the most famous trademarks of the 20th century. 

Nipper has been part of the museum’s collection – and presumably welcoming museum patrons – for almost 40 years. But he had some interesting travels before then.  

When exactly Nipper came to Webster has been lost to history but it’s believed that around the late 40s and early 50s, he was a feature on East Main St. in the village, where he sat in the front window of Mayor Roy Hawley’s hardware store, watching the world go by. After many years he was removed from the shop and relegated to Mayor Hawley’s garage. 

Sometime after the death of the Mayor, his widow gave Nipper to her neighbor Dick Batzing, who at the time was a teacher at Bay Rd. Elementary School, and Town Historian. For a few years, Nipper resided in the school’s music room. When the room had to be converted to classroom use, Nipper was moved into a hallway, where he became a beloved landmark, helping students locate their rooms and receiving regular pats on the head as classes passed. 

Nipper did have a very scary experience during his school days, however. In September 1974, vandals broke into the school and chopped him to pieces. Fortunately, a generous benefactor came to his aid several weeks later. Roberta Kappel, an art teacher and mother of a former Bay Rd. student, successfully reconstructed Nipper, and he was returned to the school, to the delight of students and staff members alike.

When Bay Rd. Elementary closed in 1983, Batzing brought Nipper to the Webster Museum, where he continues to delight visitors, both young and old. 

Mayor Hawley | Dick Batzing | Roberta Kappel

Meet Nipper yourself at the Webster Museum, 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster. It’s open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org to learn more.  

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

See my blog at: websterontheweb.com.
Check out my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

Checking out the history of the Webster Public Library 

Webster Public Library: The Webster Public Library, located in Webster Plaza, as it looks today. photo: Missy Rosenberry

The Webster Public Library has long been an invaluable community asset. So it’s hard to imagine there was a time when Webster had no library at all. 

According to Webster Through the Years by Esther Dunn (1971), the first Webster library was established in 1881 by a group called the Literary Society. Mary Jane Phillips kept the books in her home on Main St. in the village, just west of what is now the Cobblestone on Main restaurant. Society members, who paid $1.20 annual dues, were the only ones who could check out books.

Between 1881 and 1889, the library moved twice, first to a storefront on West Main Street, and then to 11 South Ave., in the building now occupied by B3 Beauty. 

Soon afterwards, community support for a town library waned. In 1894, the library was disbanded, and for almost the next 30 years, Webster had no library at all

Then, in 1923, the Monroe County Traveling Library was established. It traveled to 222 stops about every six weeks. In Webster, the principal stations were at Dewitt and Bay roads, Vosburg and Lake roads, Forest Lawn, Nine Mile Point, Union Hill, Hard and Ridge roads, West Webster, and all the schools.

Finally, in 1929 the first Webster public library was officially established at the new Webster High School (now Spry Middle School). It had 657 books, 265 borrowers and a circulation of 6,246. 

The library has moved several times since those early days, first to the Reitz Building on West Main, then to Webster Town Hall, and finally to its current location in Webster Plaza. It’s also grown – a lot. Today, the Webster Public Library has more than 260,000 items in its collection, 34,000 borrowers, and circulates about 334,000 items a year. 

Spry Middle School: The first Webster public library was established in the new high school (now Spry Middle School) in 1929.  photo: Missy Rosenberry

The Webster Museum, located at 18 Lapham Park in the Village of Webster, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org for more about Webster’s history. 

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

See my blog at: websterontheweb.com.
Check out my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

WHAT’S IN THAT DRAWER?

Each drawer in the old card catalog at the Webster Museum holds a small historical surprise. (M. Rosenberry)

Do you remember library card catalogs?

Before the days of computers and electronic catalog records, these bulky wooden cabinets held individual cards for every book in the library’s collection. To find the book you wanted, you had to find the right drawer and flip through the cards. 

One of those classic card catalogs has been creatively repurposed at the Webster Museum, to the delight of visiting children and adults alike. It was donated to the museum several years ago by Spry Middle School, and has found a new life as a kind of surprise cabinet.  

Each of the cabinet’s 25 drawers now holds a different historical curiosity. They’re all very small items, of course, and run the gamut from jewelry and household objects to toys and personal grooming items. 

The cabinet has become a regular stop on school tours of the museum, and the children enjoy taking turns pulling open a drawer and examining the tiny objects inside. (Most adults are rather fascinated as well.) 

Next time you’re at the museum, discover for yourself how much history has been packed into those very small drawers.

The museum, located at 18 Lapham Park, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org for more historical tidbits about our town’s schools and teachers.

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

See my blog at: websterontheweb.com.
Check out my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

The Rowdy Hallowe’en Celebration of 1939

NOW that Hallowe’en is over and the Hallowe’en celebration in Webster is in the background, one can take a retrospective view of the event and pass judgment upon it.

Several have called at the Herald office and declared that as a result of the rowdyism that took place on that evening, they would not lend further support to the Hallowe’en entertainment.

We feel that such supporters are taking a wrong view of the Hallowe’en entertainment. The entertainment was either a success or a failure regardless of what rowdyism took place. The question is whether the expense and work in connection with an entertainment which provided amusement for a large number of children as well as a good number of adults was justified. Did the fact so many did enjoy it prove it was worth while or did it prove otherwise? That is what the program must be judged by and not from any acts committed by some of Webster’s young men.

There are six churches in the Village of Webster and several in nearby sections. If the influence of these several churches was insufficiant to curb the rowdyism that our young men participated in on that night, is it not rather unreasonable to expect the evening’s entertainment to do just that. No, that aspect of the affair should not enter into the decision to commend or condemn the Hallowe’en celebration. It should be judged on merits other than that.

From page three of the November 17, 1939 edition of the Webster Herald.

WHEN IS A HOUSE JUST HALF A HOUSE?

Anyone who’s ever walked or driven down Corning Park in the Village of Webster probably hasn’t noticed anything unusual about the houses on that peaceful little street. However, two of those houses, which stand across the street from one another, do have a curious history: in the early 1900s, they used to be one house. 

Around 1859, a spacious boarding house was built at 71 Corning Park, to serve students from the adjacent Webster Academy. The Academy and boarding house were discontinued in 1876 when the Union Free School was established, and for the next 50 years, 71 Corning Park remained a two-family dwelling. In 1928 it was purchased by George Witmer and Amos Taylor, who divided it into two units. The larger portion remained at 71 Corning Park, and the smaller north wing was moved across the street to 76 Corning Park. 

Unfortunately, no photos of the original boarding house have ever been found, but the two, now separate residences, still exist on Corning Park. Additions and renovations have changed their appearance significantly from when they were one house in the early 1900s. But if you look carefully and use your imagination, maybe you can picture what they looked like together. 

Discover more interesting historical tidbits at the Webster Museum, 18 Lapham Park, open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org to learn more. 

71 Corning Park, photo by Missy Rosenberry
76 Corning Park, photo by Missy Rosenberry

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

See my blog at: websterontheweb.com.
Check out my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

RULES FOR TEACHERS

One of Webster’s earliest schools, the District No. 7 school on Schlegel Rd., circa 1846.

In honor of the first week of school and our hard-working teachers, this month’s history bit takes us back to a time when school was held for all grades in one room heated by a wood stove, writing was done on slates, and the “drinking fountain” was a metal pail and cup. 

The first school recorded within the township of Webster was a log cabin at the corner of Salt and State roads in 1813. In those days the school year was typically divided into summer and winter terms. Usually a woman would teach girls and young children in the summer, and a man would teach the older boys in the winter after they were released from farm work. 

It was a tough job with some pretty strict rules – and not just with regards to classroom management.

Consider this list of Rules for Teachers from 1872:  

  1. Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys
  2. Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session
  3. Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils. 
  4. Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly. 
  5. After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books. 
  6. Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed. 
  7. Every teacher should lay aside from his pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society. 
  8. Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
  9. The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of 25 cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves. 

See the list for yourself at the Webster Museum, where it’s posted just outside the museum’s classroom, which emulates how an actual one-room schoolhouse might have looked in the early 1900s.

The museum, located at 18 Lapham Park, is open Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 2 to 4:30 p.m. Visit the website at webstermuseum.org for more historical tidbits about our town’s schools and teachers.

Missy Rosenberry
Webster Community Blogger

See my blog at: websterontheweb.com.
Check out my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.

I Want Candy

Whilst on the subject of candy…here are a couple videos by Rescue & Restore showing the restoration (re-imagining might be a better word) of several old candy machines.

An 1871 Candy Drop Roller

A Northwestern Model 60 Vending Machine