There is still standing the first brick house ever built
in the village, presently the home of the nuns of Mt. Carmel Church on Central
Avenue. Silver Creek’s first brick house is one to be noticed and appreciated,
not only for its architecture but for its historic value, and as a monument
to one of Silver Creek’s finest pioneer citizens, Major Swift.
When Oliver Lee came to Silver Creek in 1827, so certain was he of commercial
success, he had a store erected on the general site of the present “Ludeman’s”
and prevailed upon Major C.C. Swift of Batavia to go into equal partnership
Major Swift arrived in Silver Creek in 1828 and under his able management
the store became a thriving enterprise. In 1831 he married Mr. Lee’s daughter,
Eunice. In 1834 he bought out his partner and became the sole owner of the
store. For many years he was the only manufacturer of boots and shoes in the
Town of Hanover and had as many as twenty men employed in this line of work.
In 1839 Major Swift became a stockholder of the first bank, was appointed
Postmaster in 1841, and became Indian Custodian in 1846. During his boyhood
days, Major Swift had learned to speak the Indian language fluently, and for
many years he kept his store well stocked with goods for the Indian trade.
During his long association with the Indians of this section, they always
found in Major Swift a loyal friend. To him they came without hesitation when
in trouble or distress. The hospitality of the Swift Mansion was always extended
to them, and in turn, the Indians paid Major Swift the honor of serenading
him in his home when they came to the village.
Fast horses and fine stock were his first hobby. His greatest delight was
in horse racing on the ice in the winter when Lake Erie, the main thoroughfare
of that day, was frozen over. He and Mrs. Swift enjoyed their sleighing trips
to and from Dunkirk and Buffalo with their spirited team speeding over the
smooth ice, hoofs ringing, sparks flying and manes wide spread in the wind.
Major Swift’s second hobby was music. He sang well and played the flute
with skill. He was an accomplished musician and the enjoyment of this interest
greatly enriched his life.
Major Swift was a fine looking man, fastidious as to his appearance and
a gentleman of the old school in the truest sense of the word. He lived to
a great age, but his dignity and appearance were so little impaired by the
years that few realized he had reached the century mark at the time of his
death in 1896.
As he prospered, Major Swift acquired more and more real estate until he
owned a large acreage extending southward from Dunkirk Street (Central Avenue).
This is known today as the Parkway section.
In 1844 he decided to build a home on the Central Avenue site which best
commanded a view of the lake with its colorful sunsets and ever changing effects,
with nothing at that time to obstruct the view.
This Georgian type mansion, with its dignity and simplicity of lines, its
balancing twin chimneys rising above east and west walls, its high, many paned
windows, recessed front door and broad kitchen chimney rising from the center
of the rear wall, was two years in the building. Every brick was made by
hand on the premises and the walls were four bricks deep. The contractor was
Mr. Atwood; the mason was George Walker, and the carpenter was Henry Montgomery.
The lumber used was entirely from timber felled on the place. The beauty
of the interior woodwork, every detail of which was done by hand and kept
in perfect harmony with the period of the architecture, was due to the care
with which the wood was selected, as well as to the skill of the workmanship.
This was a home of beauty, shaded by hickory trees. Gardens were set out;
a lilac hedge was planted on the west line, and the first fountain in Chautauqua
County was placed on the front lawn. This was fed from Walnut Creek by a crude
gravity system, the water being piped in through hollow logs. A pagoda type
summer house at the rear completed the scene.
The house itself had the stairway on the west wall, enhanced by its solid
mahogany rail. To the east were the front and back parlors with their window
sills so deep that the white shutters could be folded back between the inside
walls. These rooms were the scenes of many elegant social occasions, for the
Major and Mrs. Swift were most hospitable. How the silver fixtures of the
rooms must have shone in the light of the open fireplaces and the many flickering
candles reflected against the white woodwork, for all the hardware of the
first floor was of silver: doorknobs, keyhole plates, keys, blind latches,
hinges and wall sconces, all were kept highly polished.
With his love of music, Major Swift revelled in the musical evenings which
they often gave. The first piano that ever came to town was bought for this
home. lt was an ornament in itself with its rosewood case and ivory keys an
octave short of the present piano keyboard.
It would be hard to imagine the scenes the dining room would have witnessed
with its seven doors, three of which opened into three separate pantries beside
the kitchen. The wealth of aromas and the procession of sumptious old time
dishes which would have emitted from the deep fireplace and brick oven of
that big kitchen chimney in the rear would be a challenge to any imagination
in any period. The roast suckling pigs, stuffed geese and turkeys, the sizzling
sides of pork, not to mention the baked quinces, the fruit and pound cakes,
the pumpkin, mince and tart pies: imagine them if you can!
There were eight fireplaces and twelve bedrooms. In addition there was one
unusual room -- the aviary. This was a glassed-in section with an east exposure
opening off the sitting room. Here canaries and other colorful birds of interest
were kept in their cages. With all the canaries singing, the house must have
suggested the wildwood even in the deepest winter.
One might wonder why the twelve bedrooms, but there were reasons enough.
The Swift family had six children, and in that day, all help was resident.
The unmarried men employed on the place lived in, as well as housekeepers,
companions and hired girls.
In addition, there were guests to be considered. Guest rooms were very necessary
and important, for guests often came in numbers, especially if they were relatives.
One famous overnight guest was Daniel Webster. In 1851, when returning from
the opening of the Erie Railroad, the ship carrying Webster and other notables
had to pull in at Silver Creek’s harbor due to a severe storm. Major Swift’s
mansion was the logical place for the entertainment of that distinguished
In time, the twelve bedrooms were reduced in number. In some cases partitions
were removed converting two into one larger room, while in others, new uses
were found. One bedroom, called the “parlor bedroom” became a music room housing
the piano with the Major’s flute resting on top.
The rich flower covered carpets imported from England gave warmth and cheer
and the long lace curtains of Brussels net added a measure of elegance and
formality. The huge portraits in their heavy gold frames and the oil paintings
of local scenes (the wharf, the lighthouse, the upper and lower points) made
the walls live.
In their later days they recalled that every Saturday they were obliged
to make the tallow candles for the whole week. Skating to Dunkirk and back
was a regular winter lark, and being on hand for ice horse races was the
top excitement of all.
Of the six children there were only two, Lee Swift (named for his grandfather),
and Frank (Miss Francelia Swift’s father) who lived to enjoy the conveniences
of the modern age. Lee Swift became a colonel in the Civil War and is best
remembered as an ardent G. A. R. member. His home later became known as the
Castiglia Mortuary on Central Avenue. Frank became connected with the Barge
Canal and spent much of his time each year in Lyons, New York although his
family remained in Silver Creek. His later years were spent entirely in his
However, grief and sadness shadowed this home. First, the Swift’s son, Clark,
died in childhood; later, Major Swift lost his wife and three of his remaining
children in the brief span of six years. Hattie, at nineteen, suffered a fatal
brain injury when she slipped on the steps of a church in Buffalo. Liza Anne,
the second daughter, died in child birth at the age of 23, and her infant
son was brought up by the bereft grandparents. The youngest son, James, known
as “Dandy Jim” was a great favorite among the townspeople. While attending
boarding school, he developed pneumonia and died. Without a doubt, these
tragedies shortened the life of Mrs. Swift, who passed away in her fifties.
In time, Major Swift married a Mrs. Kingsley from New England. It was after
the second Mrs. Swift’s death that the Frank Swifts and their daughter Francella
made their home with the Major. It was in this Victorian period that the black
variegated marble mantles with gold trim supplanted the original white enameled
Such was the house as Francella’s young friends knew it in the “gay nineties”
days. The Swift home became the regular meeting place for Francella’s String
Club, and music was once more an important feature in the old home. Francella’s
brown and white pony and cart were as familiar to the town as Francella herself,
with her long gorgeous auburn hair usually worn in a heavy braid hanging down
The Frank Swifts loved young people and always had an extra one or two staying
with them. The names of those who have slept there would fill a roster. As
the years passed and the upkeep of such an establishment became more burdensome,
it seemed wise to dispose of it when the opportunity arose.
In 1914 all that portion of the Swift Estate which bordered on Dunkirk Street
(Central Avenue) was sold to Buffalo parties, from whom the Catholic Society
soon after purchased it. They moved the Catholic church there from Porter
Avenue. At the beginning of the school year the Mt. Carmel Parochial School
conducted by the Franciscan Sisters was opened in the former Swift home. The
Swift House, now surrounded by Mt. Carmel Church and school attracts little,
if any attention to itself. But one could well afford to pause and study
the lines of this stately building with its sand blasted bricks still retaining
the color and texture peculiar to them.
Published November 1963
OBITUARY FOR AN OLD HOUSE
The passing of an old home which has long played its part in the life of
a community cannot occur without an element of emotion. With the demolition
of the old Methodist parsonage comes a realization of loss, a tinge of nostalgic
sadness, and a sudden sense of history. This familiar, time-scarred residence
at 36 Main Street is truly an old, old house as the timbers of the rear one-story
section bear witness. When it was built, no one can say, but it dates back
to the plank house period and is known to have been occupied in 1847.
The first Methodist Church building was erected in 1847 on the same site
as the present church, being completed and ready for dedication in 1848.
On that proud day, early church history reads, “Ed Clark, who had regularly
led the singing with his flute, this day carried over from his home next door
his melodeon upon which his ten year old daughter, Amelia, played the hymns
while he directed the singing.” How long this had been the Ed Clark home
is purely a matter of conjecture, but 1847-48 is an established, recorded
Ed Clark was an early carriage maker. His carriage shop was directly opposite,
with its high platform stoop approached at either end by several steps, upon
which by day stood a display carriage. He was well known, a great church worker,
and a dedicated Methodist. He was a real character and by his church associates
was commonly referred to as “old forty years.” Always ready to give testimony
in meeting, Mr. Clark regularly introduced the same with “Forty years in
the service of the Lord has taught me it is no vain thing to serve the Lord.”
Time rolled on but not Ed Clark. To his dying days, his preamble remained
Mrs. Clark was one of the Montgomerys and their three children, Hattie (Mrs.
Frank Tiffany of Fredonia), Amelia (Mrs. George Gaston), and Smith Clark of
Omaha, Nebraska, three talented young people active in the village life, grew
up in this home. Following the Clarks, this became the Gaston home and Amelia’s
life went on in the same setting in which she had grown up.
George Gaston was frighteningly tall and very square shouldered which made
him an awe-inspiring figure, when black-garbed and ominous, he presided over
one of his funerals or rose on the box of his horse drawn hearse. He was an
early undertaker by profession and conducted a grocery store on the side.
The latter was located on the Main Street corner next to the Presbyterian
Church overlooking the park, a location always designated as “Gaston’s Corners.”
Mrs. Gaston always played the folding organ or sang at all her husband’s
funerals. They had two children, Helen and Willie, and living in the center
of town they were both well known by all their townsmen. Helen was strikingly
tall and attractive and a talented artist. She was the first person in town
to paint china and give instruction. She was the first Silver Creek person
to attend Pratt Institute and so distinguished herself there that upon her
graduation she was offered a position at Tiffany’s in New York as a designer.
This position she held for many years even after her marriage to Silas Fish.
The Gastons really were something: prosperous, gifted and physically conspicuous.
They were a prominent family in every way and their home was as well know
as they were.
In 1902, after the Gastons had moved into the living quarters above the
store in the new “Gaston Block” erected between their little old corner store
and the Presbyterian Church, their Main Street house was purchased by the
Methodist Church for its parsonage. This seemed logical and advantageous
as the house was adjacent to the church, and thus the church property could
be consolidated. Then, too, there was the matter of sentiment. From its beginnings
the house had had its close affiliations with the church.
The first minister to occupy this parsonage with his family was the Reverend
David Taylor in 1902. The last was the Reverend Ralph Metcalf who for health
reasons resigned in the spring of 1964. In all, this parsonage has housed
eighteen ministers and their families.
For sixty-two years this parsonage received callers, entertained board members,
held socials, entertained women’s societies, youth groups, visiting ministers,
missionaries and bishops and carried on all the facets of a minister’s life.
Children have been born; daughters have become brides; and sons have gone
forth to conquer the world; but, incredibly enough, no death has it known
during these years.
Reverend Norris A. White was the only bachelor; and this was, perhaps, the
liveliest period of all; for it was a social center for many of the young
people of town as well as of the church.
However, the merriest days were during the ministry of Reverend S. A. Smith,
whose six animated, popular young people, four of them of high school age,
really made life interesting for the old house. With the girls all musical,
the boys athletic, and their friends legion, the house must have been put
to it at times to maintain its equilibrium and traditional dignity.
It was after the catastrophic fire of June 1921, which took the church and
all the buildings on the opposite side of the street, that the house was restored
and remodeled. Though burned and badly charred, the damage was confined mostly
to the front section, and not too drastic changes were required in the restoration.
The interior remained unchanged except for added conveniences.
One wonders how a house of its years could have survived eighteen movings
and refurbishings. There is reason to believe it deserves and welcomes the
oblivion into which it is now passing. This has been a gallant house that
has met the years with courage and withstood the ravages of time, fire and
It has been a discreet house, never divulging the confidences it has heard
nor the confessions; never betraying the private consultations, the problems,
the heartaches laid bare. It was always a cordial house despite its outward
austerity, fulfilling its role as a parsonage unfailingly for sixty-two years.
From the oxcart days to the jet age, this house has given itself to the changing
needs of the times and the community.
Published February 1965
With Thanksgiving comes not only a renewed sense of gratefulness, but a
backward look. Many are the associations beside the primary one of religious
service and family gatherings. Many minds will go back on Thanksgiving Eve
to the Huntley Hose dances of years gone by. Many will dwell with nostalgia
on the delights of those evenings of glamor, romance and stimulating gayety.
For sixty-nine years the Huntley Hose has been building an unbroken chain
of happy memories binding the present with the past.
My own mind goes back to before the days of the dance when the Huntley Hose
Banquet was the thing, and when on Thanksgiving morning at breakfast, my father’s
boutonniere as toastmaster graced the table. The old Windsor Hotel, operated
by Howard Webster’s father, was the scene of the banquets. The men, for these
occasions wearing white ties and tails and gleaming studs, lent special emphasis
to this event. The Bank Hall, Stewart’s Hall, Citizen Club, Motor Boat Club
and the Fish and Game Club have all hosted these events, each in its own
Countless are the people who, through the years, have held clear and dear
the Thanksgiving associations with the old brick “Dunkirk Street School” (site
of the present Village Municipal Building) the scene of many a holiday “Exercise”.
In that old building, unlike the schools of today, there were no assembly
periods. When the last bell rang and Bill Gordon knotted the rope, the “Pom-Pom
Pull-away” ceased on the “Boy’s” side and “Farmer in the Dell” on the “Girls”
side. Every grade child raced up the steps on either side, threw his “things”
on a hook in the narrow hall, and snatched a drink from the waterpail with
its tin dipper if there was still time. Then he dashed through the proper
door into whichever room he might belong, “came to order” and settled down
for business, and no monkey business either, for the day’s work was on.
Meantime the high school students, who had been lolling around the wide
front steps with its deep stoop and railings, desisted their eye-rollings
and coy interchanges and betook themselves “upstairs” to the “Professor’s
Room”. What heights of learning the “Upstairs” represented to the grade child
below, what realms of sophistication as well as erudition! “Upstairs” was
a region little known and much dreamed about by the grade scholar (we were
all scholars in that day) while the “basement” had its own connotation and
was known not at all by the average, well-behaved, whispering child. Its
terrors were known only to the reckless few who brazenly defied warnings
and persisted in their mischief-making. Just what went on in the “basement”
the chastened victim seldom imparted in full, but the understanding existed
that the Professor could wield a wicked strap, (and Professor McKee really
The Professor opened his day with a chapter from the Bible or a reading
appropriate to the day but an assembly was not known until the new century.
Twice a year there came a departure from the regular routine; on Thanksgiving
Eve and Arbor Day there was no afternoon school in the full sense of the
word and “Upstairs” and “Down” joined in the “Exercises” honoring the day
and stressing its significance.
The choruses had to do with “thankful hearts, full corn in the ear”, and
“bounteous gifts” and were sung with a confidence born of weeks of practice;
the readings had to do with the splendors of autumn, harvesting scenes, and
always the landing of the Pilgrims.
The Mayflower and “the bleak New England Shore” came in for their share
of recognition, too. Longfellow, Whittier, Holmes were drawn upon for these
and imparted an early New England atmosphere which conditioned the enthralled
listeners for the tableaux that followed. Great dignity attended these programs
which were given in a spirit of deep respect. Perfection of performance characterized
them and clock-like precision, for the drill had gone on relentlessly for
an indefinite period under Miss Denison’s exacting supervision.
And sometimes there was a dramatization, like “The Courtship of Miles Standish”,
when the curtain went up on an early New England interior. There slight, blond
Lee Havens as shy John Alden sat, quill in hand, at a rude table and “naught”
was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the “stripling”; where stocky
Roscoe Martin as Miles Standish thundered and roared, slapped his gauntlets,
clanked his armor, and swashbuckled around in a fine show of bravery; when
Alice Montgomery, as Priscilla, sitting at her spinning wheel demurely lifted
doe like eyes and uttered those fateful words, “Why don’t you speak for yourself,
John?” The costumes were simple, the properties few, but it was all authentic
and made a lasting impression as it was designed to do.
Pantomines like “Hiawatha” were also very effectively presented. Hiawatha
played by Bert Starring with Belle Sahm as Nakomis and Josephine Dawley as
Minnehaha were acted before a wigwam in the forest for which real evergreens
and saplings had been uprooted. With what discrimination were these players
selected, and how convincing were their portrayals of the characters! As the
voice of the narrator, Anne Thomas came from the wings, the words of the
well-loved poem took on new beauty with the rhythm of their carefully practiced
cadences. Perfection was the only standard recognized, and it was well nigh
realized on these unforgettable occasions.
The American classics came to life there in that old Academy Hall to linger
long in the memories of many a little third and fourth grader to whom they
represented the first intimations of the world of drama. Little did they realize
then in their new hair-ribbons or starched collars, their shining patent
leather-tipped high buttoned shoes and long black, ribbed stockings itching
under the knees that the memories would still be green and tender a life-time
That old Academy Hall presented two long aisles and improvised rows of seats
(chairs screwed to a long board); tall steep-silled windows on the long side-walls;
a kerosene lamp with its mercury reflector on each wall space between windows;
the high stage at the front with its dazzling row of kerosene foot-lights
and its bracket lamp high on either side, each with its door leading to the
unimagined mysteries of the back-stage world -- the doors through which
the nervous prompter peered from time to time and through which the “actors”
could be glimpsed at high moments. Inevitably the music teacher emerged just
at the breath-taking moment before the curtain went up.
That curtain was a veritable treat in itself, crude but pleasingly colorful
and inspiring with its steamboat, a side-wheeler, disappearing into worlds
unknown in the background; on the riverbank in the foreground a wonderful
spreading tree with a seat encircling its trunk, while a wondrous child, a
boy in striped socks, sailor collar and brimmed hat dominated the scene.
Said curtain, alas, lacked the perfection and precision of performance which
characterized the programs; it went up with uneven jerks as the ropes were
pulled by some nervous, favored, upper classman allowed backstage for that
purpose. It took real manipulation to keep the rope side of the curtain from
shooting up while the other sagged miserably down. But the feat was always
accomplished eventually. The music teacher, Laura Fairchild, draped gracefully
at the old square piano at the foot of the stage rippled off tentatively and
then, with resounding spirit, broken chords interspersed with arpeggios, she
played with abandon, and the student body made its entrance.
How limited it all was, but how magnificent it seemed! How hazardous with
no safety laws then (fire escapes came later), but how little we suspected
the danger of mere wood and plaster and kerosene!
That old school “Union Academy 1879”, as read the stone inscription above
the twin front doors, has long been gone, but its long line of distinguished
sons and daughters still live, in many cases to bear witness to richness of
its inspiration as well as its superior training.
Gaunt, steep, hideous American-Gothic, it had its dignity and that dignity
it imparted to the town. And grandeur it had of a certain type with its brick
walls, high windows, pointed slate roof and ornate belfry, commanding full
view of both sides of the high board fence at the rear, each with its “absolutely
necessary” in the back boundaries of the lot broadsides to the street.
It was revered as the seat of learning and the seat of learning it was;
nothing else entered in; extra-curricular activities were for another age.
The Academy was for learning and learn we did. Academy Hall was for culture
and culture was assimilated. How grim it all sounds, but what warmth its
memory now generates, and what pranks were played despite all the grimness!
With what emotions do these memories come crowding into our hearts and thoughts
as we look back to the time of the well-loved Thanksgiving “Exercises”.
Published November 1955
THE FOX HOUSE
Probably no other one home has served its community in more capacities than
has the Fox House. This house is not particularly significant because of its
age or early architectural features; its interest lies in the part it has
played in the life of the town. So simple in its lines and unobtrusive in
its general appearance, this low lying house at 2 Burgess Street would not
be suspected of having a varied past.
The “Fox House” as it is still called, though now the home of the Penix
family, was not always a house. It had more modest beginnings as Mr. Kelloway’s
Mr. Kelloway, the proprietor of the jewelry store overlooking the park (now
Elliott’s Jewelry) lived in the double house at the corner of Main and Burgess
Street. The building of the barn was a logical step as Mr. Kelloway had acquired
Affluent as the Kelloways may have been, they did not keep a horse and barn
merely for the purpose of status. Mr. Kelloway also owned a small vineyard
outside of the village. The horse was a necessity for carrying pickers back
and forth and for hauling the crates of grapes during harvest season. The
barn was used as a packing house. The horse passed out of the picture at some
unremembered date leaving the barn to its future varied destiny.
In 1896 the village recognized the problem of crowded classrooms in the
Dunkirk Street School (site of the present Municipal Building). Since there
were no facilities for expansion, a second building for grade school children
was proposed. In the interim, the Kelloway barn was chosen as a temporary
Little in the way of structural changes was needed to convert the barn into
a school. The double doors were done away with, an appropriate entrance was
made, and windows were installed in the side walls. With the addition of desks,
hooks for the coats, and a shelf for the water pail, it was an adequate schoolroom.
There are people in town today who can recall sitting in those seats and
drinking from that tin dipper; but not many! In the fall of 1898 the Babcock
Street School opened (on the site of the present Main Street School parking
lot), and there was no further need for this Burgess Street improvised school
At the time there were not the many churches that characterize the village
now. There was no Baptist Church although there were many Baptists in town.
These Baptists met from time to time for their own services in a private home
although they regularly attended one of the other churches on Sunday.
As the weeks passed, the sight of the barn-school building standing unoccupied
began to fire the imagination of this group. There it was, needing no structural
changes, with its one large rectangular room, windows on either side, and
improved vestibuled entrance. The idea caught like wildfire and in no time
arrangements were made with Mr. Kelloway. The one time barn and erstwhile
school was now a church -- a church with dignity, respect, and reverence.
Services were conducted on Sunday afternoons by Baptist ministers from neighboring
towns. Weekday prayer and other devotional services were held regularly and
church life was as vigorous as it could be without a resident minister and
leader. For the first winter and summer enthusiasm ran high, but by the end
of the second winter the fact was reluctantly accepted that the group was
too small to support a resident minister. The church was languishing. There
was no alternative but to give it up.
Once more the building was vacant. Mr. Kelloway converted it into a most
acceptable house with a hall, parlor, sitting room, dining room, pantry, and
kitchen on the first floor and with five bedrooms on the second floor. This
was the beginning of a new era for this building.
Among the first occupants of the house were Dr. and Mrs. Herron. He was
Silver Creek’s first veterinarian, and he used one section of the house as
an office and treatment room for his animal patients.
After the Herrons left town, Mrs. Christina Fox, a widow, and her two sons,
Montford and Eugene, bought the house. Mrs. Fox rented the unused bedrooms
to teachers from the nearby Babcock Street School and provided them with meals.
In 1914 Mrs. Fox moved to the Dr. Burgess home on Main Street, and her son,
Gene, kept the home for himself and his family. Gene and his wife, Edith Ellicott,
had three daughters, Evelyn, Jean, and Elizabeth. The “Fox House” became
a popular dropping in place for Edith’s old school crowd -- Helen Morse across
the street, Julie Martin (Howson), Helen Quale, and Alice Montgomery, all
from Main Street. With Sadie Chapman Gleeten, this group made up the “Stitchery”,
an afternoon sewing club, which gaily rocked on verandas, with work bags
and embroidery hoops in the foreground.
The gayety of the house was overcome with sadness, however, when it was
discovered that Edith was the victim of a then incurable disease, diabetes.
Her death occurred in 1918 four years after coming to the house.
In 1922 Gene married Mrs. Elizabeth Martin Ehmke. The girls grew up, completed
their educations and left for their own homes.
Over the years the house was building up traditions of various kinds. One
was Gene’s game dinners. For over twenty years Gene entertained twenty-eight
men at a game dinner every fall. Another tradition was the buckwheat pancake
breakfasts which pepped up the winter life. Elizabeth had a reputation for
her buckwheat cakes. Given a crock and a bit of yeast, what Elizabeth could
produce! It was a lost winter for Gene’s friends when the buckwheat pancake
breakfasts had to end.
Elizabeth Ehmke Fox seemed to be possessed of more than usual vitality,
but she was stricken by Parkinson’s disease. Nine years later she died and
was buried from the house.
Evelyn Fox O’Connell, now a widow and teacher, stayed with her father until
his death. The house was growing old and settled although it had undergone
improvements from time to time. A bay window in the livingroom and an enclosed
porch at the rear of the house had been added. This house which had evolved
through many different stages had made a comfortable, cheery home for its
It was anything but a sedate home even with its sober intervals. Gene Fox
was a born comedian, and there was bound to be a certain amount of hilarity
in his wake. Costuming was his mania. Every holiday, any occasion the least
bit out of the ordinary, called for a costume and a character role to be enacted.
He and Lee Dickinson could make a carnival out of what would otherwise be
a very commonplace occasion. Centennial week, June 1948, saw Gene on duty
as Chief of Police in as many guises as there were days, but always on duty.
His caricatures of the country policeman were superb.
Another of Gene’s interests was dog raising. He was most successful in this
and raised prize Boston terriers that sold for as high as five hundred dollars.
He exhibited at Kennel Club dog shows and took prizes in Madison Square Garden,
Cleveland, Rochester, and Buffalo. One of his terriers was shipped to a Hollywood
Probably there was never a man better known in the town than Gene Fox. He
was a deputy sheriff for forty years. In 1927, during the mayorship of Lee
Dickinson, he was appointed Chief of Police, an office he held until his death
in 1955. His twenty-eight year term of office was the longest held in the
state at that time.
Although the last twenty-eight years were the most dramatic of his life,
it was of the earlier years when he owned a dray service that he most enjoyed
talking. He liked to tell how his dray moved all the furniture from the H.
J. Montgomery Upholstering Factory to the New York Central and Pennsylvania
Railroad Station. He also carried all the Dubell Grape Juice from the Dubell
Plant to the station. After the coming of the trolley in 1908, he met the
trolley freight car at the Main Street Station and drayed all the meat to
Millitello’s and other markets. He often recounted how he delivered in three
loads the first pre-fabricated house that came to town. He loved animals and
took great pride in his dray horses. These he risked his life to rescue, along
with “Trudge”, the children’s pony, from the burning stables behind the Ebling
Hotel, during the fire that took the Methodist Church in June 1921.
The house remained the “Fox House” after Gene’s death. Evelyn, her second
husband, Almon Ludeman, and her Boston Bull terrier, “Bonnie Blue” continued
to live there a number of years. When the Ludemans moved to Florida the house
was sold. The “Fox House” remains a private residence today -- a role it has
adapted itself to quite successfully.
Published November 1966