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15 Park Avenue

15 Park Avenue

15 Park Avenue
Brockport, NY 

History researched and written by Carol L. Hannan
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – January 2013 All rights reserved

Resolved and Nancy Moffet Wright Read/Reed
Owners/builders (?): 1840s or earlier to 1860s

By 1852, when the earliest village map was made, this house had already been built along the block of what was then Mechanic Street, nearest to the Erie Canal. The first known owner of record was Resolved Read (or Reed) and his family. He was a carpenter from Lebanon, Massachusetts who moved here by 1825, according to an account provided by his son, John J. Reed. It is possible that the original house was built by him, although that is speculation based on his known occupation and early arrival in the village. Because of the canal, Brockport was a thriving and growing village; certainly one in need of carpenters.

Read’s family history is unknown, although census information states that both his parents were born in Massachusetts. We know that he and his wife married and had a child, Sophia J., who died as an infant in Cheshire, Massachusetts in 1829, according to Garland Cemetery tombstone records. That date conflicts somewhat with the son’s account of his parent’s arrival in this area, but the family did settle here early in Brockport’s history. Nancy Wright’s parentage is also an unknown.

In addition to his carpentry skills, Resolved Read had another talent which was not at all unusual to village residents. He was an inventor who was granted a patent in 1862* for an improved machine to clean and sort dried beans. His patent application was witnessed by neighbor Josiah Harrison and grandson, Morton A. Reed, the only Brockport native to be awarded the Medal of Honor for his service in the Civil War. In the Federal Census records of 1860, Morton and his family were living with Resolved and his wife at 3 Mechanic Street. Aside from the patent application, there is no written record of Resolved and Nancy Read in contemporary newspaper accounts, nor could any obituaries be found to give us a better understanding of their lives as village residents. They and two or perhaps three of their children are buried in the Garland Cemetery.
(* See photos of US Patent in the slideshow above.)

Abner K. and Mary Jane Read/Reed Franklin
Owners: early 1870s to early 1900s

Abner was the son of Reuben and Betsey Franklin, New England natives who farmed land in Sweden Township as early as 1850. Was Mary Jane Read/Reed one of the unknown daughters of Resolved and Nancy, the first known owners of this property? Her marriage to Abner was published in the newspaper but her parents were not named. It is interesting to note that her marriage and burial records spell her last name differently, just as with Resolved and Nancy.

Census records show that before moving to Mechanic Street, Abner was a farmer in Sweden Township. After moving to Brockport, Abner’s occupation was variously listed as “teamster” or “truck man” for the remainder of his life. This is the sum of our knowledge about Abner. Wife Nancy, from 1880 to 1892, was described in census records as a “dressmaker.”

The Franklins had six children: Leonard D., Lenora, Helen L., Delos A., Carrie E. and Frank. Leonard was a machinist and Carrie was a dressmaker like her mother. They lived in the family home as late as 1892. Delos died before his 14th birthday. The fates of Lenora and Frank are unknown. Leonard was mentioned once in period newspaper accounts as giving a toast entitled “The Uplift of the Brass Drum” during a reunion of the Brockport Cadet Band in 1909. No published obituaries could be found to shed more light on the lives of this working class family aside from Carrie’s, which did little but provide her burial location – Garland Cemetery in Clarkson. Here, too, are the graves of family members Abner, Mary Jane, Helen and Delos. Leonard, his wife and son are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Sweden Township.
(* See photos of Brockport Cadet Band April 30, 1899 in the slideshow above. Note: these photos are of the program that fell from the ceiling of 65 Fayette Street during Revitalizing Brockport renovations in 2012.)

So, was Mary Jane Read the daughter of Resolved and Nancy Reed? She and her husband bought and lived in the Read family home. Her name was spelled with the same variation as that of Resolved and Nancy. The family burial plot, in Garland, where Abner and Mary Jane never lived is very close to the family plot of Resolved and Nancy. Mary Jane named her first daughter Lenora, essentially the same name as a daughter of Resolved and Nancy Read. Could it be that Mary Jane named her daughter after the sister she lost? You be the judge.

Ernest C. and Ora Mae Brewster Caswell
Owners: about 1918 to 1928

Ernest “Erna” Caswell and his wife, Ora, were the next documented owners of what was, by then, 15 Park Avenue. They moved into the house between 1915 and 1918. Erna was the son of Charles E. Caswell. Ora Mae was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Brewster of Clyde, N.Y., where in 1904 she married Erna, while wearing a “suit of blue Venetian cloth, trimmed in velvet.”

Erna and Ora had one daughter, Edytha. Like his father, Erna worked first as a carpenter before becoming a laster in a shoe factory, most likely at Moore-Shafer Shoe Company on Park Avenue. We know that in 1894, he won second place in a five mile bicycle race held in the village. He belonged to the local Odd Fellows Lodge and was appointed “Drill Master” in 1918. Unfortunately, as his father before him, Erna Caswell lived a relatively brief life dying at age 54 in 1928. Ora and Edytha lived on in the family home, even after Edytha married Harold Dean. Fourteen years after the death of Erna Caswell, Ora married for a second time to Fred Rice of Palmyra. She is buried, however, beside first love, Erna, in Lakeview Cemetery, Sweden Township.

Epilogue 2013
The house at 15 Park Avenue still stands. As there are no known early pictures of the home, it’s difficult to tell what changes the many years have brought to this very old structure. A front porch seems to have been enclosed, the siding appears not to be original clapboard but replacement shingles and a modern picture window is certainly a new addition to the structure. Various village maps show that at one time up to three out buildings stood on the property. Today there are none. It remains a single family home.

© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan - January 2013. All rights reserved.