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Home Comfort Cottage

 
Before our town had Bed and Breakfast Inns, we had cottages where people stayed and were pampered. Here is such a place:
 
Home Comfort 700x700
 
Photo and writeup courtesy of Rosa Fox and her book Great Sodus Bay Page 73

Dolphin

 

The Dolphin – The Early Years

 

Dawn Cole remembers: My father, Kenneth Collier acquired the Joe’s Place property after the fire, totally rebuilt and opened as the Dolphin in 1949. Operated until he was killed in auto accident in Florida in Spring, 1955. My Mother sold within months. So these following pictures are post my Father’s ownership. Totally different venue and concept from early days. Opened with formal white tablecloth dining, waiters wore white shirts, black pants, music on weekends. Popular spot for family celebrations, including the wedding reception of my sister, Jeanne Collier Oakes. Yes, Pat Van Koevering, I believe your Dad was the bartender there. Many guests arrived by boat, tied up at Dolphin dock. Following its sale in 1955, the Dolphin morphed into the rock and legend it later became.

 

How did the Dolphin get its name?

 

 

K Cole remembers:  It was called the Dolphin because Kenneth was an avid fisherman and had caught one in Florida the previous winter.  He was very proud of his catch and had it mounted and hung in the bar where it remained for many years… I’m pretty sure it was still on a wall somewhere in the late 70’s.  Both the Colliers and the Coles had cottages on the loop at Sand Point.

 

Thanks to Jim and Gemma Iannone, we take you back to 1958 inside the Dolphin. Jim’s Aunt and Uncle owned Joe’s Place which after the fire would be rebuilt as The Dolphin.

 

Sheldon Furber receives a massive glass of beer inside The Dolphin in 1958.

 

Can I really drink the whole thing?

I’m gonna give it my best shot!

 

 

The Dolphin – The Later Years

 

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Henry Viniski and the Dolphin sign  Photo courtesy Mick Viniski

 

Intro by Bruce Farrington, Village Historian: For many years, the Dolphin was an icon of Sodus Point and in many ways defined our village during that era. In my discussions with long time residents it was obvious that the Dolphin was not only a very fond memory but also something that could not be described without having experienced it. This is why I was so pleased when Mick Viniski (as the former owner of the Dolphin) offered to write the story of this place that had such an effect on our village. Here is his story:

Dolphin History as remembered by Michael “Mick” Viniski

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Mick as a young man! Photo courtesy Mick Viniski

The Dolphin, Sodus Point, New York, Earth, built in the 1920’s and named Joe’s Place on Greig Street, downtown Sodus Point.

Owned by Dominic Decola and operated as a bar/dancehall in the Sixties and Seventies. Named the Dolphin and well known for having some of the best bands from the surrounding counties such as The Brass Buttons and Wilmer Alexander and the Dukes. Origin of why “The Dolphin”, and located in NY on Lake Ontario is unknown.
Purchased by Herb Crockford around 1973 who kept the name and operated in a similar fashion as before.
I bought the Dolphin in May of 1978. The first band was Eclipse and the flyer said the music starts at 9:00, 1st drink is on the house, free Hors D’oeuvres, Champagne at Midnight, Door Prizes and Surprises. I sold the Dolphin in 1983 to Laura Poyzer, an attorney from Marion and the name was changed to Captain Kelly’s. She had the place remodeled to include several rental rooms along the street front and the bar relocated to the back of the building. It became more of a bar/restaurant and ceased having the reputation of holding large crowds and great music.

After Captain Kelly’s, the building changed hands often and the name changed several times. The ones I can remember are Dolphin Out-Back, Mississippi Queen, Long Tall Cool One, Breakers and Club 37. Currently {2014) Tom Frank owns the building and attached it to Captain Jack’s next door and uses the building for additional space for his restaurant and a banquet room with the old bar in the back overlooking Sodus Bay.

When I ran the Dolphin we had two separate bars, one along the East wall about 70 ft. long and a second bar near the back North West corner about 40 ft. long. We had 60 feet of sliding glass doors across the Northside of the building opening up to a huge patio on the bay with 4 docks for boats. We held several large Rock and Roll parties with the attendance exceeding 900 people, not counting the people who sat in their boats anchored just off the back docks and listened for free. On the street side of the Dolphin we had windows that opened up to reveal a 40 ft. food counter for sidewalk food service that was busiest from midnight to three in the morning on weekends when the bands played.

Music:

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Crowd waiting outside to get in to the Joe Cocker Concert at the Dolphin  Photo courtesy Mick Viniski

Numerous local bands played over the five years we were open. A huge favorite was a band called Hot Face. Eric Will, a member of the band, even wrote a song about us, “the Dolphin Chew”. The best draw from Syracuse was the Todd Hobin Band, Rochester’s was Duke Jupiter and from Buffalo we packed them in for Cock Robin.
From 1979 thru 1982 we had several National Acts and music legends. To name a few; Foghat, Steve Marriott’s Humble Pie, Pablo Cruise, Kim Simmonds’ Savoy Brown, Mick Ronson, Meat Loaf, Eric Burdon Band (originally from Eric Burdon and the Animals), John Lee Hocker and Joe Cocker. Rick Derringer and Edger Winter played a rare performance together after their band broke up several years before.

Special Events:

In addition to weekend and holiday bands we put on numerous theme parties and events to draw people to quaint little Sodus Point.

We put on Monday Night Dinners in the summer months which attracted 80 to 120 people weekly for a dinner priced at our cost and a dozen clams for a dollar.

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Mick Viniski & Geoffrey Tierson dressed for Xmas Party

We created Christmas in July because we couldn’t draw a huge crowd in December. Advertised as Christmas 1978.5 We decorated the entire building including a Christmas Tree and Elf costumes for the employees. Santa Clause (Jim Chittenden) arrived at the dock on water skies with a huge sack of small Peppermint Schnapps bottles as gifts. The party was so successful that the following week we did New Year’s Eve 1978.5 complete with decorations, hats and noise makers and Champagne at Midnight. For Christmas 1980.5 Jim surprised everyone arriving by Kite towed behind a ski boat. We have pictures.

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Jim Chittenden “Santa Claus” arriving by Kite.  Photo courtesy Mick Viniski

We had Carmen Basilio one Sunday evening to show movies of his classic title fights. One Sunday afternoon in February we had a Cabin Fever Party. I hired two strippers from the Barrel of Fun in Rochester to perform on our stage. Over 200 people showed up for the show, a sellout for the space we used as the winter room. Included in the crowd was an undercover policeman who testified in front of a Judge that they performed a sex dance. Subsequently we were all able to take two weeks off in March as the Judge had us closed down for 14 days as the penalty for the stripper performing the same show she did every week in bars in Wayne and Monroe Counties.

The biggest show we ever did was a Magic 92 radio promotion party on a Sunday afternoon in July. We had three bands, 92 cents to get in the door and half priced draft beers as long as the draft beer lasted. The door count was over 3,300 people and at any one time we could hold 1,000 people max.

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Radio station’s Magic 92 Moose arriving aboard the Dolphin boat for Magic 92 Party

 

Last Event: Thirty-year Dolphin Reunion

Billed as the 30-year Dolphin Reunion, my friend Jamie Abel, owner of Abe’s Waterfront, asked me to help him put together a fitting Dolphin Reunion party at his bar which was right up the street where the original Dolphin bar was located. On Saturday, August 1, 2009 we threw a party and over 1500 people attended the event. A tent was put up covering his parking lot that could hold 900 people. A local band started the live music at 2:00 PM and a Pig Roast and Clambake was served for lunch.
The Shameless Henry Band with my brother Thomas Henry Viniski playing guitar performed next in the tent to a packed crowd. Todd Hobin got his band back together to play for the occasion and Greg Walker, lead guitarist for Duke Jupiter made a special appearance to play for the crowd.

Thank You:

There are no words to express the gratitude and heartfelt thanks to all the people that helped make the Dolphin the bar that is was. My brother Henry and I know it took all of the Dolphin Family to create the memories we all share. A special Shout Out to Geoffrey “Ziggy” Tierson who managed to work for me the entire time we had the Dolphin. He maintains a Facebook account devoted to the Dolphin.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/418729388168087/

 

The Infamous White Powder Incident

 

Article courtesy of Art Putnam

 

Click here for a larger view (use the + and – buttons to zoom in and out):

White Powder PDF

 

Jack Steinkamp expanded on the part of the story about the 2 burned police cars:

 

I remember when the cop cars were set on fire. They were parked outside of the village clerks office which was also the police department on  Featherly Drive two doors down from my house. The police knocked on my door late that night and were holding a gas can that I left in the yard next to my lawn mower. They were mad as hell and I was able to convince them of my innocence. Turns out local Butch Dickinson took the fall for the crime. I do remember we had a LOT of police officers back then.

 

DOLPHIN CHRONOLOGY

 

05/19/78  Grand Opening Party

First band – Eclipse

06/02/78  1st appearance for Duke Jupiter

06/30/78  1st appearance for Todd Hobin

07/22/78  1st appearance for Cock Robin

 

04/09/79  Rick Derringer

08/01/79  Black Oak Arkansas

11/14/79  1st appearance of The Good Rats

12/22/79  Savoy Brown w/ Kim Simmons

??  1979   1st appearance for Dr. Dirty

 

09/20/80  Wayne County Sheriff’s Drug Raid

3 lbs. suspected Cocaine recovered

09/22/80  Sodus Point cop cars burned ?retaliation for drug raid?

Oct. 1980 Cocaine turned out to be Robin Hood Flour

 

01/27/81  Suspect sentenced for burning cop cars

04/04/81  Humble Pie w/Steve Marriott

07/07/81  Foghat

08/29/81  Pablo Cruise

09/19/81  Edger Winter w/ Rick Derringer

11/14/81  Meat Loaf w/ Davie Johnson, Elton John’s guitarist

And Ted Nealy, Jesus Christ Superstar

12/26/81  Badfinger

 

04/23/82  Tommy Tutone

05/16/82  The Eric Burdon Band

??  1982  John Lee Hooker

??  1982  Kim Simmonds

07/30/82  Joe Cocker

 

08/01/09  30 year Dolphin Reunion at Abes Waterfront

Shameless Henry Band warmed up for a reunited Todd Hobin Band

Greg Walker guitarist for Duke Jupiter made a special guest appearance

 

 

Dolphin Memorabilia:

Grand Opening Cover:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1rCXQzNSy59Cv4835TXW1pQz2AEK1RIjM/view?usp=sharing

 

Dolphin Tickets:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1DF9xp8ck-Jm6l0lcb9rRyVt4C-wibPWF/view?usp=sharing

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1JwubkN4DDe79T1EZnaCKALGzmZFaGZxY/view?usp=sharing

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1N0Yuv1N3aFudJvRcm4C15xWL6ZS_xgSn/view?usp=sharing

 

Today in Rock History article (9/19/1981 edition) about the Dolphin  

 

9-19-1981 Today in Rock history-September 19 edition: Rick Derringer opens for The Edgar Winter Group at The Dolphin, Sodus Point, NY, Earth—S. O. L. R. T. S. P.  This was the first time these two had played together in almost a decade.

Rick Derringer’s band opened the show.  It was no small feat to have two bands, on the same night, take the same stage in a club that was packed with so many bodies.  Part of the magic of The Dolphin was that the whole back wall (or front wall if you are a water dweller) was sliding glass doors which gave a forty foot exit to Sodus Bay, the docks, and boats.  While we collected admission from those docked it would be impossible to put a number on the attendance for any of the large shows as many boats moored passed the reach of docks. At any rate I believe that the attendance for the Winter/Derringer show was in the neighborhood of 1500-1600.

Rick Derringer took the stage about 10:45 and the crowd went crazy. Derringer played for one hour and four minutes. He created a high energy atmosphere with several get-you-up high tempo songs, as well as, hits and other favorites from his catalogue. A stunning six and a half minute rendition of the anthemic teen blues “Jump” set the pace for the guitar hero worshippers in the crowd with his blistering and tasteful solos.  “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” had all hopping; he brought the radio hit to a nearly ten minute, in the making, crescendo—both tunes coming from his first solo album ‘All American Boy’.

Regarding ‘All American Boy’ Cub Coda writes: “Fresh from stints in the McCoys and Johnny Winter Band, All American Boy was supposed to be Rick Derringer‘s breakthrough solo album. For years, it was argued that the frightfully touched-up cover photo of Derringer sank the album before anyone heard it. If that’s true, it’s a shame, because this is simply Rick Derringer‘s most focused and cohesive album, a marvelous blend of rockers, ballads, and atmospheric instrumentals. Joe Walsh helps out on a couple of tracks, but mostly it’s Derringer‘s show — multi-instrumental virtuosity in a number of styles. Consider this one of the great albums of the ’70s that fell between the cracks.” (Cub Coda-Brownsville Station for AllMusic.com)

It was after midnight when Derringer’s band cleared the stage. His crew started to tear down while Edgar’s started to set the stage.  Shortly before one o’clock: “Good evening everyone and welcome to The Dolphin” and The Edgar Winter Group had taken the stage. Edgar started with a devotion to his wife (also present) and a lingering series of tunes from the first side of his first album ‘Entrance’. The nearly eleven minutes of his hit “Frankenstein” (topped the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart for a week starting in May 1973, and sold over one million copies) eventually brought the set near it’s end when Edgar welcomed long-time friend and past bandmate Rick Derringer to the stage.

It is worth noting the history that these two (actually three when we include Johnny Winter) icons of 1960s and70s music share. In the mid-sixties Rick was in The McCoys and became known as their guitarists on the hit “Hang On Sloopy”.  “Derringer recorded and played with a version of Johnny Winter‘s band called “Johnny Winter And …” and both Edgar Winter‘s White Trash and The Edgar Winter Group.” (Wikipedia)  On the ‘Roadwork’ LP, by the aforementioned Edgar Winter’s White Trash’s live album, Rick was the guitarist and Johnny has a guest appearance during the song “Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo” written by Rick Derringer. On the Edgar Winter Group’s album ‘They Only Come Out At Night’, which contains the hit “Frankenstein”, Rick Derringer performed as producer, bass, guitar, pedal steel, vocals, claves. All three of these performers (Derringer, Winter, and Winter) have recorded “Still Alive And Well” also written by Rick.  There are many other ways that these three crossed paths and have since the 1960s but back to the show.

Rick, to the stage by way of invitation from Edgar, Derringer was featured for last few songs, and encore. Again, it is important to note, that this is the first time the two had played together in nearly a decade.  They performed “Free Ride” another Derringer penned song from the ‘They Only Come Out At Night’ album—Derringer produced and so on. Next was a jam of Chuck Berry’s Johnny B. Goode. which brought the hose down as the band said good night. Encore . . . encore! The band returned, with Derringer, closing with “Under Cover Man” (also writer by Derringer) a song from The Edgar Winter Group’s ‘Shock Treatment’ album.  This was another LP where Rick Derringer acted as – producer, bass, guitar, electric sitar, vocals.

By the time the Edgar and Rick had returned for the encore the bar had closed as it was past two thirty.  I believe this was the largest crowd still in the bar at that time. What a show! (1981)

 

This link is audio of Rick Derringer joining The Edgar Winter Band’s encore from this show.

https://youtu.be/c1pzRa7PrXs

Geoffrey “Ziggy” Tierson

 

 

Arundell

Of all the steamboats that came into Sodus Point at the turn of the century, the Arundell was the most popular. It even got tied into the recent trolley service. It offered to return people that had taken the trolley from Rochester to Sodus Point and then return them to Charlotte where they could get back on the trolley to return to downtown Rochester.

The following photos and flyer are courtesy of Richard Palmer.

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Arundell at Sodus Point 1907

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Arundell coming in the channel 1907

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Arundell backwater turn 1907

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Arundell departing 1906

The following four pages are from an Arundell flyer:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HyKLxHQTuTjXh5gBhxtKTgFU77INh_B9/view?usp=sharing

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cJFlD9awOQKzR8PeV7r9yBADnZ0FKaiL/view?usp=sharing

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Tc0uv4DarotAfGqGKlm5dfhUl0Q9lxek/view?usp=sharing

 

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1erl7hZRriDkbRi22j3hyFNkaHDhm2LBb/view?usp=sharing

Johnson House (Bay Street Hotel)

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Photo of Johnson House circa 1905 courtesy of John Powell from his book “Old Postcards & Photos of Sodus Point”

I would like to thank my wonderful and hard working wife (Edith Farrington) for all of her research that went into this document.

Today we think of it as the Bay Street Hotel but from the 1850s into the mid 1900s it was known as the Johnson House and it was a major hotel of Sodus Point. Over the intervening years, it has had a number of different names. It is also one of the oldest buildings in Sodus Point.

Here is a synopsis of the evolution of the hotel and restaurant:

1844… named “American Hotel” Proprietor Sylvester P. Johnson

1858 – 1901…Renamed “Johnson House” by Sylvester Johnson’s son-in-law George H. Case

1915…Recently improved its is renamed “New Johnson House”

1919…new management Mrs. H.B. Stone of Syracuse

1930…John J. Connors, proprietor

1953…Renamed Radel’s Hotel Gus and Carrie Radel, owners

1982…Renamed “Finn’s Hotel” Ray and Phyllis Finn, owners

1984-2014…Renamed “Bay Street Hotel” Doug McLeod, owner

2015…Jerry and Deannie Newby, owners

The Johnson House was named after its proprietor Sylvester P. Johnson. We know that the structure dates back to at least 1844, because of an ad that was run in 1845:

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The above advertisement was found in “The Western Argus, Lyons, New York; Wed, Oct, 29, 1845”

Sylvester P. Johnson was a savvy businessman. He knew that if he was to have a successful hotel he would first need to get customers to his hotel and then have them stay for a few days. He hit upon the way to do it as seen in this 1845 ad:
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So now thanks to Sylvester Johnston, in 1845, Sodus Point had a regularly scheduled stage coach route which connected to Geneva and also to packet boats on the Erie Canal at Lyons! From “History of Alton” prepared by Nona McDowell, we know that as early as 1839, a two horse stagecoach brought mail from Lyons to Sodus Point.

In 1846, Sylvester P. Johnson goes from businessman to local hero as recounted in “The Pioneer History of Sodus Point (page 17).

The widow of Colonel Fitzhugh, with an invalid daughter, continued to live at Sodus Point in her residence on the North side of Troup Park and Ontario Street east. The house she first occupied was on the same spot and burned to the ground in 1846. While it was burning Mr. S. P. Johnson (owner of the Johnson House) ran upstairs and grasping the two ladies, one under each arm, carried them down and out into safety.

In 1858, it is renamed “Johnson House” by Sylvester Johnson’s son-in-law George H. Case who takes over.
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Under George Case’s ownership, the Johnson House prospered and became well known throughout the area:
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In the early 1870s some additional renovations occur as reported in the Sodus Weekly Enterprise, June 21, 1873:

Sodus Point – The Johnson House is nearly completed, and when finished it will be one of the finest houses in this part of the country.

In 1884, the Johnson House is the scene of an important historic event. In that year, E.H. Harriman receives news that the Pennsylvania Railroad company would buy his small railroad (Sodus Bay and Southern) at a considerable profit for himself. This event launches his career as the preeminent Railroad Czar of the time. This scene is recorded in Arch Merrill’s book “The Ridge”, 1944.

An old time Sodus Pointer, Matthew M. Farrell, a trim, kindly, gray little man in his 80th year, remembers Harriman well. Farrell came to Sodus Point in 1880 as a telegraph operator for the Harriman railroad. Some times he took 30 or 40 telegrams a day for the brisk young railroad man. Farrell remembers one day delivering a telegram to Harriman when the budding king of rails was playing pool in the Johnson House with his lieutenant, Ed Parrott. Harriman ripped open the envelope, read the wire, then he embraced Parrott and began dancing a jig.

By the early 1900s, The Johnson House is the place to stay in Sodus Point. Many businessmen not only frequent it but also hold meetings there.
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Photo of Johnson House circa 1905 courtesy of John Powell from his book “Old Postcards & Photos of Sodus Point”

In 1915, it is renamed the New Johnson House. In 1919, it is under new management of Mrs. H.B. Stone of Syracuse
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In 1930, John J. Conners becomes the proprietor of the New Johnson House
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In 1953, the Johnson house has new owners: Gus and Carrie Radel. They will soon rename it Radel’s Hotel.
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In 1982 Ray and Phyllis Finn become the new owners and rename it “Finn’s Hotel.
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Above photo and article taken from June 24, 1982 edition of Wayne County Star

In 1984, Doug McLeod becomes the new owner and it is renamed “Bay Street Hotel”. Under Doug, What is now a restaurant gets a reputation for the finest food in the area. People as far away as Rochester routinely drive here to taste its fine cuisine and to enjoy its Martini specialties.

In 2015, Jerry and Deannie Newby become the new owners of Bay Street Hotel. Some renovations are again made but the tradition of fine food and Martini specialties continue…..

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Photo courtesy of Edith Farrington November, 2015
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The above photos taken from August 16, 2015 edition of Times of Wayne County

Area Mills

 

The local Mills were an important part of the 18th , 19th and even 20th century commerce of our surrounding area. They ground corn and wheat to make the flour that made our bread and cut the planks from trees that made our houses. These products were also an important export from Sodus Bay to Canada, Oswego and Rochester.

Information about our Mills come from the book “Great Sodus Bay History, Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Legends” by Walter Henry Green (Sodus, N.Y. 1947) pp301-310.

A gristmill was built on Second Creek for which two dates have been given: 1794 and 1805. It was built by Timothy Axtell (who fought at the Battle of Sodus Point) for Judge Nicholas. After the Shakers bought the tract of land in 1823, it became known as Shaker mill.

In 1832 there was a gristmill in Christian Holler owned and operated by Stephen Hopkins. There was also a furniture factory and a cider mill, owners unknown. Here James Sergeant and later George Sergeant, owned and operated a sawmill. (editor’s note: James Sergeant, by the way, is the religious leader who convinced a group of people that the world was coming to an end and when it didn’t “you could hear the Christians holler” thus giving that area its name to this day.

In 1812 Dr. William Nixon Lummis migrated from Philadelphia and settled in Troupville. He built the finest dwelling in all this region but it was destroyed when the British burned the village the day after the Battle of Sodus Point. In 1812 just before the beginning of the war, he moved to Salmon Creek. The historians all agree that in that year he built the gristmill that half a century later became known as Preston’s mill. True enough, it was built in 1812, but Captain John Maxwell built it and the following year sold it to his son-in-law, Dr. Lummis. The millstones were brought from France, James H. Reeves was the millright and Isaac Davidson the first miller. The night of the Battle of Sodus Point, accidentally, Davidson was locked in the mill, but he managed to break out in time to take part in the battle, which took place at midnight.

Dr. Lummis built a sawmill and a forge on the east side of the pond near the site of the Williamson mills that were destroyed in the freshet. He also erected several dwellings. To quite an extent the hamlet was populated by Negroes, some of whom, at least, were of those given their freedom by Col. Peregrine Fitzhugh. Out of respect for his father-in-law, regard for his wife, or both, Dr. Lummis named the place Maxwell.

Prestons Mill photo 600x375

Preston’s Mill was east of the creek about one hundred feet north of the Lake Road directly opposite the north end of Mill Road. This mill as before stated, was built in 1812, stood for more than one hundred years and except the last few years (1947) was in operation almost constantly. During the last years it did not utilize the water power but was run by steam. During the 1870s and early 80s George Preston was the miller. In later years Edward Beeton did the milling.

About 1910 the foundation wall at the northwest corner caved away leaving the water-wheel in full view. In 1920 the century-old mill was torn down and is now a fast fading memory. When John Preston, Sr., was managing the mill it became famous as making the best wheat flour of any mill in this region. The outlet of the creek was kept open and schooners of light draft came from Canada and sailed up the creek to the mill where they exchanged Canada wheat for Preston’s famous flour.

In the late 1870’s the writer went with the farm hands with a load of grist to this old mill. It was taken in by round faced jolly George Preston. After she commenced using Preston’s flour (my) mother had no trouble with her bread. It was always white.

The building that once was Sentell’s sawmill is still there (1945) but every one of the shops and factories have vanished, leaving not a trace to show that long ago this was a busy, prosperous and promising hamlet; the industrial center of the region. In all countries and all ages it seems to become dry-runs-mills go to decay, waterwheels broken and moss-covered.

 

Sawmills

 

Photo courtesy of Dick Ransley

 

Sodus Bay had perhaps a dozen saw mills on the bay. Much of the early wooden buildings of Rochester were built from timber from these mills and transported by schooners.

 

From Great Sodus Bay by Rosa Fox: “This structure no longer standing, may be what was left of the old sawmill on Third Creek and reason for naming this cove Sawmill Cove. “

First Meeting in our Town

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Portrait of Captain Charles Williamson
First Meeting in our Town

Over the years, if you’ve gone to meetings at the Village Hall, you may have witnessed some that were tense as emotions ran high on a given topic. The recent Plan 2014 is one of the latest examples. However, they pale to being downright cordial and welcoming compared to the first meeting recorded to have occurred in our village. It was 1794…….

A more in depth account of this first meeting can be found in the book “Great Sodus Bay History, Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Legends” by Walter Henry Green (Sodus, N.Y. 1947) pp30-41.

A quick review of the history of our area in that year will provide the context for the meeting. The newly created London Association, had purchased, in 1791, the 1,264,000 acres for $270,000, almost twenty cents an acre that among other things encompassed Sodus Bay, Pultneyville and Williamson. One major problem remained: under the laws of the new New York State, aliens could not hold title to property in the new State. The London Association therefore appointed Captain Charles Williamson (a Scot who had held a commission as Captain in the 25th Regiment of Foot in the British Army) to be the land agent for surveying and developing their purchase with the understanding that he would become an American citizen first which he subsequently did.

Captain Charles Williamson took his job seriously and with a great deal of enthusiasm. He was also a man of big dreams. It was in the year 1794 that he undertook to bring to a reality his dream of a great city on the shores of Lake Ontario and Sodus Bay. This is how Troupesville in 1801 (and later Sodus Point) was founded and consisted in 1794 of a single cabin owned by a man named Joseph Colt. Joseph Colt was employed by Captain Williamson as a surveyor and tasked to survey and plot a city west of Sodus Bay and along the Lake Road to Salmon Creek; a distance of two miles from what is now Fitzhugh Street.

But there were storm clouds on the horizon for Captain Williamson in the guise of John Graves Simcoe, the Governor of Canada. Simcoe may have thought that the region south of Lake Ontario belonged to the King of England or more likely thought that he could bluff Williamson, sent a protest by messenger (this message was delivered to Williamson at Bath where he was currently staying by his friend Jeduthan Moffat) ordering him to vacate the country within the Old French Line. Simcoe had also said that if Williamson ever ventured into Canada he would put him in irons and send him to England. And so the stage was set for Williamson to meet the messenger in ten days’ time at Colt’s Cabin.

Williamson’s friends tried talk him out of going to the meeting but the tough former Scot would have none of it and instead rounded up 10 former American Revolutionary soldiers to be his bodyguards and accompany him to the meeting. He directed his bodyguards to meet the boat at the beach and not permit the twelve men who brought the messenger (Lieutenant Sheaffe) from the ship, to land but to row fifty yards out into the lake, and remain there until the conference was ended. Lieutenant Sheaffe initially refused to submit to these demands but when he was informed he would otherwise not meet with Williamson he accepted and directed his men if he did not return in an hour they were to come after him. He then was accompanied by one of Williamson’s guard to the cabin.

When Lieutenant Sheaffe arrived at the cabin he received two surprises. The first was Captain Williamson received him sitting behind a table on which lay a brace of loaded and cocked pistols within easy reach. This was a most inauspicious start for the meeting. The second surprise was considerably more pleasant as the two men realized that they had marched together through a section of England and had been on friendly terms.

Although their personal greetings were now cordial, their official conversation was anything but. Lieutenant Sheaffe presented the papers demanding Captain Williamson to vacate the land and requiring an answer. After reading the message, Captain Williamson said “I am a citizen of the United States and under their authority and protection I posess these lands. I know of no right his Britanic Majesty or Governor Simcoe has to interfere or molest me. The only allegiance I owe to any power is to the United States, and so far as being intimidated by people I have no connection with, I shall proceed with my improvements, and nothing but superior force shall make me abandon the place. “ Williamson then inquired if the protest was intended to apply to Sodus exclusively (It was not but rather to all the Indian lands purchased since the peace of 1783) and what was Governor Simcone’s intensions if the protest was disregarded (Unclear since Sheaffe was just the bearer of the message).

The conference ended in about an hour and then Sheaffe returned to his boat. This was not the end of the affair, however. Fearing for the protection of settlers in the Genesee and Sodus Bay region, he sent a post to Governor Clinton , to the Edmund Randolph who was the Secretary of State and also to General Knox, Secretary of War.
This correspondence caused such a stir that President Washington sent a letter to John Jay, the American minister at London, in which it characterized it as “the most open and daring of the British agents in America”.

You can read the letter from George Washington which was dated August 30th, 1794 by clicking the link below. (Please note you will need to parse down until you come to August 30th, 1794)

http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/washington-the-writings-of-george-washington-vol-xii-1790-1794?q=George+Washington#lf1450-12_head_002

As we now know, nothing ever came of this protest from the Governor of Canada but think of this: the next time you are at a contentious meeting in Sodus Point just be thankful that it does not involve loaded guns on the table and require the President of the United States to get involved like the first meeting in our town!

Migrant Workers

 
Migrant worker
 
Migrant workers have been an important part of our area’s agricultural heritage for the last century. Often overlooked and under-appreciated their story is seldom told. The success of many of our local farms would not have been possible without them and that is even more so today then in the past. Bob Pearson grew up in Sodus and captured working and playing with migrant workers in his book Stinky’s Tales Growing Up in a Small Village in the 1940s and 1950s (2004). You will note two difference between the migrant workers of the mid 20th century and today. Seventy years ago, the migrant workers were mostly black and from the south while today the migrants are mostly Mexican. Another difference is in those days, young people from our area worked beside the migrant workers something that is almost unheard of today. Here is Bob Pearson’s story:
 
Migrant workers
 
Sodus, New York was the temporary address during the summer months for many Black Americans referred to as migrant workers. They picked the many fruit crops in our county, starting with sweet cherries in June and concluding with apples in October, prior to their return south to pick citrus fruit in Florida during the winter. On occasion some of the migrant workers set up residence in the community and took permanent jobs. When this happened the children were in the school systems. Our schools were integrated thusly.
During summer months, migrant workers would occasionally play baseball on a rare day off against one another or against other migrant teams in the area when these games occurred they were witnessed by many fans in the area. The talent of some of the fruit pickers was exceptional. These games took place against the backdrop of the post-Jackie Robinson era nationally, and during the Luke Easter era regionally. I can remember only one occasion when the white kids from the local teams played against the teams of young migrant workers. As I remember the game it went about four innings and the score was not very good for the white kids! White boys should have played against those guys more often. Actually they should have played with them more often ! Such were the times in the mid-century.
Easter hit plenty of home runs for Cleveland and twice attained the one hundred RBI mark in the American League. He finally had trouble solving the intricacies of the curve ball. While in the International League with Rochester and Buffalo, he continued his home run feats. Fans loved his presence.
Working in the orchards with the migrants was a job many of us did to make summer earnings. The workers loved Easter and men like him for their abilities. White young men would work in the orchards for the growers they knew and keep punch cards for tallying amounts of cherries that were picked by the migrants. No one I knew could pick cherries like the migrant pickers. This skill was their existence. Whenever my buddies or I went picking anything, we did not make very much based upon pound picked. In and around the business of cherries were many discussions of baseball abilities. There were very few Black baseball pitchers during the ear. There were many hitters like Easter that captured the imaginations of the fans. Baseball was a common language in the orchards.
The Easter followers were black and white. Talent was appreciated during the middle of the twentieth century despite skin color. One of the best discussions involved hypothetical match-ups of someone like Easter or Robinson against pitchers like the Yankee’s Eddie Lopat or Allie Reynolds. When the Dodgers and Yankees played one of their many TV World Series games, people of any color could make their evaluations. Sport became the best road to integration.
There were times during harvest seasons when young boys in the county (including Sodus boys) would load up a car with vegetables and/or fruit depending upon the season, and ride around throwing these products at many targets. This was good for throwing skill development, but not a positive for community relations. Sometimes the targets were mailboxes. Sometimes the targets were signs. Sometimes the targets were barns. Sometimes the targets were rooftops and sides of houses, trailers and temporary residences set up for migrants. Despite the spirit of Luke Easter and Jackie Robinson and despite the presence of Black students in our schools, we strayed over the good sense line at times.
On one occasion, one of the riders in one of the cars on such a mission of mischief was a local Black who was a resident year around in the village. It seemed an irony that we were throwing at the migrant homes on the throwing rides. He pointed out that we also were throwing at white occupied targets. We were an integrated group of hooligans.
The rides diminished almost overnight when a car came back with shotgun pellet holes in the trunk area of the automobile. These were said to have come from a fruit farmer who did not enjoy having fruit thrown at his property. He grew the apples but he sure as hell was not going to hear apples fall on his roof or hit his property. Suddenly new forms of teen-age fun developed. In a review of behavior, this form of juvenile behavior was pretty stupid. Fortunately the activity passed when we discover dating, weekend sports and other acceptable activities.

Tobagganing

 
If you grew up in Sodus Point in the 1940s and 50s, when the winter came it meant getting the toboggan out of storage. That also meant going up to the hill overlooking the first fairway on the golf course for that first death defying ride as told by Bob Pearson in his book Stinky’s Tales Growing Up in a Small Village in the 1940s and 1950s (2004).
 
 
Snow and Golf – A ride to remember for Charley Moss
 
The toboggan is a marvelous piece of winter apparatus. The six or eight foot long, two foot wide piece of highly varnished, thin maple wood could take several people down a snow-covered hill in a hurry. It had no runners and the board was curved up at the front to facilitate a plowing effect through deeper snow. Unlike a sled or skis, the toboggan can not be aimed very accurately. By coordinating the leans of the many passengers behind the driver, slight course adjustments could be made. The emphasis should be on the word slight.
In Sodus winter lore, there were numerous stories about wild rides on the wooden devices. One of the classic stories still retold at reunions recounts the episode of a lad who flew down a steep hill in the new snow and went through a barbed wire fence unseen in the blowing snow. He was really never the same due to psychological stress. The poor plastic surgery back in the late forties in the previous century also made the memories linger.
A toboggan rides nicely on top of most snows since it has so many square feet of bottom surface. It seems that the flying saucers that came later in my life were single seat, round toboggans. They, too, were rather reckless in nature since they could not be driven accurately. All this discussion about lack of steering ability becomes crucial to a mid-winter ride many in our group of friends will always remember.
One of the best places to ride down hill in winter was at the local golf course located high on successive hills above beautiful Sodus Bay. The golf course was usually unused for the months on November through March by the local golfers. This fact of life for area golfers made the course great for the toboggans of the area. Sleds would not work on the golf course since the snow needs to be plowed or packed for a sled. Skiers did not frequent the golf course since there was a rope tow for skiers a few miles away on the biggest hill in the county.
So there we were one night, with two toboggans and twenty young people. The fresh snow was deep and the clear wintry night was highlighted by stars. Twinkling lights of far off year-round cottages and shacks of ice fishermen out on the bay added to the aura of the crisp, clear night.
Democracy ruled on the hill as all in attendance at the toboggan party got their chance to “drive” the devices. This was a tradition and part of the tradition was a test of the driver’s courage since being up front was a more hazardous. Riding was fun, but seated up front was twice the thrill since you got the snowy blast in the face. You also got any trees, bushes, and random things like fences.
The driver usually could finish the ride even as others flew off on the way down. The reason anyone flew off was that there was not much to hang onto, and if you were grabbing the person in front of you this could cause a convulsion of drop-offs on the way down. The only thing available to grasp was a rope down each side of the toboggan if you chose that grip. The guy or gal up front had the rope handles to grasp so they were the most stable even in their danger spot.
Our buddy Charley’s turn to drive came up, and he was primed for the long ride down through the small trees on the hilly course. We had been there for nearly two hours and everyone was getting to the “hot chocolate” point for the evening. That was when everyone headed inside to warm up and debrief the various rides. Charley Moss (Mossgraber) was our tallest class member and was one of our unique friends. He loved basketball, and could shoot the lights out when his confidence overcame the pressure placed upon him by a sometimes overbearing father. Charley’s father was not there this night to dissuade his offspring, and our basketball star’s turn to drive was to be the event of the evening. His basketball prowess would not be of any assistance at the juncture!
The larger of the two toboggans was loaded up, and a push by others not doing the run got the last ride of the night underway. As a note of interest coming from years of snowy experiences, most accidents seem to occur on the “last ride” down or the “last ski run down.” This ride was to prove the point. Charley was not a verbal person and , in fact, he stuttered some. On this run down, his lack of quick and accurate verbal cues about leaning, coupled with the normally poor steering, made for a hellacious ride.
I was about four people back from Charley near the end of the toboggan, so I saw little
Of our fateful course. Due to blowing snow stirred up by the toboggan and because of the people in front of me, only the rush of the speed on the snow and the wind were evident. Charley must have seen the trees coming up on the section of the course but due to the speed of the run and the occasional slowness of his speech pattern, we connected with one of the young trees poking up through the snowy surface.
Nothing stops seven people on a toboggan faster than an immovable object. If the tree were a couple of years younger perhaps we could have run it over. However this particular tree had made it through to its stout, young life and was not going to give in to a bunch of Sodus kids on a toboggan.
Charley Moss took the initial shot right where his legs were spread at the front of the toboggan as the toboggan split apart on the tree. He hit the tree and then all the riders piled on top of him in rapid succession. He, like all of us, was heavily covered with a parka and ski cap so damage was minimal. The rest of us were banged up here or there, but the hot chocolate and a couple of days rest took care of the damage.
We sat in the snow laughing with Charley after the collision, despite his temporary agony. No matter what happens in any sporting venue, the humors of seeing a performer get his in the groin with a ball, another person or, in this case, a tree seems to bring on the laughter. The girls who were present did not quite understand the humor at Charley’s expense. Guys seem to understand the humor evoked at the expense of some male’s groin injury. Charley understood.
Life seems to be filled with memories of simple and sometimes painful situations. Long after the pain subsides the laughter can continue. A few years before Charley passed away, several of us laughed about “the” toboggan ride. He reaffirmed that he truly understood our laughter that night. God bless you, Charley Moss !

Swimming the Channel

 
During the 1940s and 1950s (and even into the 1980s) there was a “rite of passage” that held sway over the teens (especially boys!) of Sodus Point and the surrounding area. This was swimming the channel between the two piers jutting out of Sodus Bay. It was dangerous, foolhardy and reckless and several people over the years died doing it. But this was the 1940s and 50s and much to our parents chagrin, we did things like that in those days.
 
Bob Pearson grew up in Sodus and captured this beautifully in his book Stinky’s Tales Growing Up in a Small Village in the 1940s and 1950s (2004):
 
Swimming the Channel —– Guts city
“Rite of Passage.” That is the phrase used to describe an activity used to define courage or maturity during one’s youth. Ultimately one of the litmus tests for us waited at Sodus Point each and every summer of our lives. The channel demarcations were the two concrete piers extended out into the lake from Sodus Bay. On one was the lighthouse and on the other were seagulls and graffiti from various visitors to the far side over the years. There was nothing at all outstanding about a gray pier bathed in seagull crap and names from another era. The only purposes it served were to keep the channel from filling up with sand and control wave action in the narrow body of water.
There was one other draw for the body of water. Although it served as a passageway for boats it also served as a metaphorical passage into adulthood for those willing to risk the swim. Many were able to swim the width of the waters and back against the wishes of the Coast Guard and against better judgment. For me the body of water was an enigma. I had witnessed a young man dive in and die there. I knew it was illegal to swim there. There were serious currents running through the passage due to the numerous big boats plying the waters in the era. The waves of Lake Ontario carried down the length of the channel on certain days when the winds were right smack out of the north. It was a stupid thing to try to do , and the benefits were very limited. Who gave a crap if you swam the channel?
That is precisely why a teenager would try to do it.
When I made the decision to try my hand at the challenge, my planning included a row boat, my brother to row and a calm day. There was nothing glamorous about my effort. Dick and I rowed out away from the near side of the channel after rowing up the bay from the dock. I slipped quietly over the side and merely swam next to the rowboat to the other side. I climbed up on the breakwater, took notice of all the seagull crap and the graffiti, and clambered back into the rowboat more mentally exhausted than physically spent. We took the boat back to the rental dock near the ball diamond and went back to Sodus. Dick wasn’t interested in swimming that day. It probably came from the realization that I may not have been much help should he run into difficulty.
Unlike the efforts like those turned in by lifeguards who could swim over and back rather quickly I went slowly and methodically. I also did not “need” to swim back. One width was plenty for me, thank you! Certain lifeguards performed their feat under the collective gaze of large audiences of young ladies and other “beachlings”. I wanted to try it in the presence of a rowboat operator in the event something went awry. Even then I possessed some degree of common sense.
One lifeguard called “Gorilla”, with good reason, could swim over and back doing the butterfly stroke. This was the most exceptional swimming feat I have ever seen in my life. The stroke is very difficult and is limited to fifty or one hundred meters in pools. The lifeguard named John could do endless pull-ups on the beach while on duty. This entertained the young ladies and developed his upper body in an outstanding fashion. It also provided him with the upper body needed to perform the butterfly. The channel swim was his trademark, and the butterfly was his stroke of choice.
Even the Coast Guard guys once saw him and did not interfere with his remarkable passage over and back. They knew they were witnessing an unusual swimming effort. My timid, one-way trip next to a rowboat paled by comparison. I thought about my own mortality as I did my swim; “Gorilla” probably thought about all the nubile young ladies witnessing him.
This was summer life, full of choices, along the channel at Sodus Point.

The Murder of Jim Hall

 
In the 1870s and 1880s it sometimes seemed like our village was something out of the wild, wild west.
 
From History, Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Legends by Walter Henry Green 1947
 
From earliest days, Sodus Point had an appeal for people who enjoy a walk on the wild side. Many early arrivals included renegades, smugglers, gamblers, card sharks, whiskey dealers, trap robbers and a few “all-around criminals.” There was no shortage of colorful characters.
 
In the 1870s’s and early 80’s there was at Sodus Point a colored gentleman named James Hall. Jim was the proprietor of a saloon on a flatboat which was anchored against the shore of Sand Point (editor’s note: the area we think of as downtown nowadays). Being on the water he thought that his saloon was not under the jurisdiction of the United States, so he thought that he should not, and he would not take out a license to sell intoxicants. Occasionally he would be hauled into court and fined two or three hundred dollars, then he would come to court with a market basket on his arm which was half full of greenbacks all in fat rolls with a rubber band around each roll. From one of the fat rolls he would peel off the amount, pay his fine, return to his shack and continue to sell liquid refreshments without a license. Thus he contributed much more to the United States treasury than he would have if he had done business in the regular way.
 
In the village there was a large family of colored folks, descendants of one of Peregrine Fitzhugh’s slaves whom he released and to whom he gave a parcel of land. In this family were several grown-up sons. On days when there were crowds enjoying themselves at Sodus Bay, business was so good at Jim’s shanty that one man could not hand out the goods fast enough for the thirsty crowd, so he employed one of the grown-up sons of that family to assist him at the bar and, Alas! he had perfect confidence in him.
 
This assistant owned an ex-racing horse whose purse-winning days were over, and she was known as Old Flora, but she was still a tough and speedy mare.
 
Early one Monday evening about November 1, 1884, several black boys, members of aforesaid colored family, were in the village of Sodus, going from barroom to barroom from saloon to saloon and to any other place where they would be permitted to perform and playing lively tunes on a banjo and mouth-organ, and a slim wiry Negro from Syracuse was doing some pretty good buck and wing dancing. Between eight and nine o’clock, several people who had heard that they were in the village and putting on a pretty good show, went the rounds of all the business places in the business district looking for them and they could not be found. Later it was proven that for awhile between eight and nine o’clock they were not there.
 
The following evening they were playing in Sodus again and this time they were there during the entire evening.
About 8:30 o’clock Monday evening there was a fire at Sodus Point. It was Jim’s saloon. Being only a shanty there was no excitement until the next morning, then people began to inquire: Where’s Jim? Has anyone seen Jim? When it was found that he had not been seen since the fire, the ashes of the shanty were raked over and they came upon a grisly thing. It was the torso of Jim, the head, legs and arms had burned off. There was no suspicion of murder, or robbery. It was supposed that he had been overcome by heat and smoke.
 
A few days later one of the brothers of the assistant bartender, while talking about the fire, gave such a vivid and realistic account of a killing that it aroused the suspicion that there had been a robbery and murder and that he had been present or else some one who was there had described it to him. An investigation was started and in a few days several Negroes were arrested. There was a trial in which the testimony was confusion worse confounded. It was eventually proven that the Negro minstrels who had been performing in Sodus on Monday and Tuesday evenings were concerned in the murder but there were so many who testified that they had seen them Monday evening between eight and nine o’clock that it was difficult to prove that any of them had been gone long enough to go to Sodus Point and back.
 
In the midst of the trial Raconteur (story telling) migrated to the far west, and at that time the following account of it, seemed to have been firmly established. In fact it was not materially changed during the trial. When at eight o’clock Monday evening the minstrels disappeared it was because all but one of them went to the house of a Negro on Rotterdam Road, north of the railroad and near the woods. The slim wiry Negro from Syracuse was a very fast runner and instead of going with the others, he ran down Maple Avenue at racing speed as far as the Granger schoolhouse. There the assistant bartender was waiting for him with Old Flora hitched to a buggy and they ran the old racehorse all the way to Sodus Point.
 
Luck was with them, for when they entered the shack Jim was alone and with his back toward the door he was bending over a bench washing his hands. When they came in he turned to see who it was, and seeing his assistant went on washing his hands. The wiry Negro had a pitchfork handle under his overcoat and stepping behind Jim he struck him a terrific blow on the back of the head. He dropped to the floor, quivered violently for a moment, and was still. The assistant knew precisely where the basket of bills was kept, so there was not an instant’s delay. As they were about to leave, the Syracuse Negro said: “Why here we don’t want to leave this lamp burning”, and with the fork handle he knocked it off the bar. That was what started the fire. In a very few minutes after they entered the shack, tough Old Flora was racing back to the schoolhouse.
 
Straining every nerve for speed the wiry Negro ran up the road to the village. The others were waiting for him at the corner of Maple Avenue and Smith Street and at nine o’clock they were again playing and dancing in the saloons and barrooms. Tuesday evening the same Negroes were playing and dancing again in Sodus. This time they did not disappear and they were very, very conspicuous during the entire evening, particularly between eight and nine o’clock. That was what caused the confusion in the testimony.
 
Some witnesses swore positively that they had seen them Monday evening between eight and nine o’clock. Others swore just as positively that they had looked for them in every business place in Sodus at that time, and could not find them. The family of the assistant bartender all had good reputations; there was not a bad one among them. It is more than likely that the Syracuse Negro influenced them to go into it. It undoubtedly was he that did the planning and it was shrewdly conceived. the alibi was an excellent one. Had not the brother of the assistant bartender described the killing so realistically, it might never have been suspected but that Jim had been overcome by the heat and smoke in an accidental fire. However, the reckless manner in which members of the family displayed huge rolls of bills, eventually might have betrayed them. Raconteur then was employed in a Sodus drug store and a day or two after the fire, one of the family came in and bought some fiddle strings. When he paid for them he pulled a wad of bills out of his pocket that made the clerk’s eyes stick out. That was before there was any suspicion that there had been a robbery and murder.