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6 High Street

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6 High Street
Brockport, N.Y. 

History written by Carol L. Hannan, May 2014 
Photo Credit and Produced by Pamela Ketchum
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – May 2014. All rights reserved.

Emily P. Cooley Preston
Owner/builder: late 1800s to about 1910

Emily P. Cooley, daughter of Levi and Clarinda Cutter Cooley was a Brockport native born into a village family of note. Her father established a successful blind and sash manufacturing business which eventually included a partnership with his son and namesake, Levi Jr., the architect of the original Brockport Normal building. Brother Orville, an employee of the Johnston Harvester Company, travelled the world to demonstrate and sell the company’s wares. Her eventual High Street neighbor and uncle, William H. Cooley, was a prolific inventor and patent attorney. 

Emily married Sweden Township farmer George Preston. His parentage is unknown, but in the 1870 Federal Census, he was living on a farm with Josephine, Emily, Sabra and Catherine Preston; all presumably his unmarried sisters. Sadly, George died in 1864, at age 39. He and Emily had no children. Alone, Emily ran her 50 acre farm with hired help; raising mainly cash crops of corn, wheat and oats. She never remarried, nor did she return to her father’s house, where life with his second wife was widely known to be turbulent.

At or shortly before the turn of the century, when in her early 70s, Emily likely built this house, now known as 2 High Street, and “retired” to the village. A tragic accident involving her father preceded this move. In 1880, an elderly Levi Cooley, Sr. was “marketing” and transporting supplies to his daughter’s farm, when his horse was frightened. The lumber wagon which Levi was driving ran up an embankment when his horse became frightened; toppling the wagon and its contents upon the old gentleman. One or more wooden barrels full of apples fell directly upon him. Although outwardly unscathed, her father sustained internal injuries and died the next day. 

Emily left her farm, built this house and spent the remainder of her long life here, overlooking Park Avenue and next to the home of her nephews, William and Frank. The Cooley family had long had a presence in the Park / High Street area, but that time was slowly coming to an end. At the age of 85, Emily, a widow for nearly half a century, passed away and was buried in the Brockport Cemetery. She faced the majority of her life alone, running a farm and living as she chose in a time when that was unusual; displaying, in her own way, the same kind of drive, independence and resourcefulness shown by her male relatives of many generations. In the end, however, she shares a small plot of land, claimed forevermore by her parents, herself and her husband, George, not far from her final home. 

John J. and Henrietta “Etta” L. Herman Carney 
Owners: about 1912 to after 1953 

John Carney, whose parentage is uncertain and “Etta” Carney, daughter of John Herman, purchased this house after the death of Emily Cooley and remained its owners for the rest of their lives. This was a working class family. John, who had an 8th grade education, was a laborer who, in time, became a foreman in a produce warehouse and later in life, a personal chauffeur for a coal dealer. Etta Carney was a housewife. 

The Carney’s had two daughters: Doris Marguerite Carney Smith and Hilda Marie Carney Corbett. Both girls attended and graduated from the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary School and Brockport Normal. Hilda received a Palmer certificate, a gold medal for Christian Doctrine and a gold medal from the Knights of Columbus upon her 8th grade graduation. Her Brockport Normal teaching degree was for intermediate grades and she was active in a number of on-campus organizations. Her older sister, Doris, had specialized in primary grade teaching. 

In contrast to the Cooley family, the Carney’s had no known family members of historical note or wealth, but both of their children graduated from college and prepared for a life of greater promise and achievement; the classic “American Dream.” The Carney family home became the first home of Walter and Doris Carney Smith, just as it had once been home to niece Barbara Lovell and the final home of the elderly widower, John Herman. John and Etta remained there after both daughters married.

John Carney died in the 1940s. His widow continued to live in the family home at least until 1953. The Carneys are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Brockport. 

Epilogue: 2014 

The Preston/Carney home, after a couple of changes, is now number six High Street. The outline of the house, as shown on existing village maps reveals no major alterations/expansions, save for the exterior stairway to a second floor apartment. The house is now clad in what appears to be aluminum siding. No longer a single family home, this house is now a rental with two apartments.

© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan - May 2014. All rights reserved.