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47 Park Avenue

47 Park Avenue
Brockport, NY 

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

Moses Aaron and Alexina Alverta Colestock Keller
Owners/Builders(?): 1879 to 1886

According to its current owners, 47 Park Avenue is a circa 1802 house. That belief coincides with the arrival in Brockport of Moses and Alexina Keller, who moved here from Ohio. Moses, a very successful inventor, sold his foundry, moved briefly to Ohio and then relocated here to work for the Johnston Harvester Company as a “machinist,” inventing agricultural equipment. After the fire that prompted the departure of his employer from Brockport, sadly, Moses and his family also relocated to Batavia, New York.

Moses Aaron Keller was born in York, Pennsylvania to Jacob and Sophia Keller; one of their sixteen children. His father was a farmer but Moses’ inventive talents used his farm experiences to gain employment and great financial success in a different way. Beginning in the 1860's, he was granted numerous patents, especially for farm
implements, such as a gleaning and grain-binding machine in 1879 and a grain-binder in 1880, both invented while his family was living in Brockport. After leaving employment with the harvester company, Moses continued perfecting a wide variety of inventions, such as bicycle brakes, for the remainder of his life. Although he described his occupation in the 1880 census as a “machinist,” Moses was truly a gifted inventor.

Moses married Alexina Colestock, the daughter of Johannes “John” and Harriet Little Colestock. The Colestock family, of German origin, had lived in Pennsylvania for generations. The older Keller children were baptized in the Littestown, Pennsylvania St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church but several of the children attended the Methodist-Episcopal Church in Batavia.

Like his parents, Moses had a large family of twelve children: Allen Percival, Miriam E., Ida Mae, Bessie Colestock, John Reynold, Amibel F., Franklin Rowland, Russell Judson, Maude Arlene and her twin Moses Arthur, Ruth A. and Earl Emerson. Franklin, Russell, Maude and Moses were born during the time period the family lived in Brockport. Allen became a taxidermist, Arthur an attorney and Earl an artist but there were no inventors in that generation.
Profoundly deaf by age 54, Moses was riding his bicycle and demonstrating its newly invented brake near Seneca Falls, when, crossing railroad tracks, he was struck and instantly killed by a train. A patent was granted for the bicycle brakes after his death. The income from that and his other inventions apparently supported Moses’ widow and her single daughters for the rest of their lives, as they never had outside employment. None of the Keller family members are buried in or near Brockport.

Francis T. and Sarah A. Hovey Sparlin
Owners: 1886 to 1918/19

Francis “Frank” Sparlin, a farmer, owned land just to the north of Beadle Road and acreage north-west of Brockport. His mother’s name was Cynthia and her maiden name was Tyler. She was widowed by age 40 and living with Timothy Tyler, one of the first Sweden Township pioneers. In the Brockport Cemetery is the gravestone of Cynthia T. Sparlin, infant daughter of Alson and Cynthia. The “T” in their firstborn child’s name likely stood for “Tyler.” Cynthia’s youngest child, Alson, was born after her husband’s death. 

Sarah Hovey was the daughter of Ebenezer and Nancy A. Treat Hovey. Her maternal grandfather, Charles Treat, served in the Revolutionary War and Anson Sparlin, likely Alson’s father, also served in the war. Both Treat and Sparlin moved to this area very early in its history. This couple had impeccable pioneer and patriotic roots.

The Sparlin's had two children. Ezra, a graduate of Brockport Normal and the University of Rochester, earned a doctorate and became a school teacher and Principal. Emma Ella Sparlin married Arthur O’Dell. Neither stayed in Brockport but Ezra began and ended his professional life in nearby Rochester.

The Sparlins lived a quiet life. Francis was elected assessor several times on the Republican ticket. His farming earned him a brief moment of fame in 1911, when newspapers throughout the state published an account of his apples, which “were baked on the tree by the intense heat” and then exhibited in a village store window. Sarah outlived her husband and spent the last several years of her life alone in their home, which was then number 14 Park Avenue. She and her husband are buried in the Brockport Cemetery.

When you next pass the large, beautiful stained glass windows at the front of the United Methodist Church at the corner of Main and Erie Streets, pause to enjoy them; then think of Francis and Sarah and know that the windows were donated by Ezra Merton Sparlin in memory of his parents. The Sparlins continue to enrich our village in a way they never imagined during their lifetimes.

William C. and Molly McClaskey
Owners: 1918/19 to about 1926

After the death of Sarah Sparlin, this house was sold to William C. McClaskey and his wife Molly. He was born in California; she in Pennsylvania, where the first four of their children were also born. Their parentage in unknown.

Newspaper accounts mention that the McClaskeys lived in Medina, New York, for a time before moving to Brockport but no record of them there could be found. McClaskey was the eastern regional sales manager for Reeves Manufacturing Company of Dover, Ohio. The company produced irons and other kitchen products that were sold worldwide. He was a successful businessman who employed a live-in servant at his village home.

In 1926, McClaskey partnered with Fred Hawes to purchase the Burhans and Black commercial/retail hardware store located in Syracuse. This was no small transaction, as it involved a million dollars in assets. The McClaskeys soon moved to Syracuse, where William became treasurer and later president of the company. At a better time in the nation’s history, the company may have flourished, but as with many others, the Great Depression was its doom.

Maxwell R. (Rudolph?) and Anna May Jerige Karge
Owners: about 1926 to mid-1940s

Maxwell Karge was the son of Rudolph Maximillian and Ludwika (Louisa) Karge, Austrian natives who came to the United States in 1905. Maxwell would have been about 17 years old when he arrived in New York City. Like his father, Maxwell was a “machinist.” He lived near Oswego and then Syracuse before moving to this area. Anna May’s parentage is unknown.

As with so many of Brockport’s residents, Maxwell was a prolific inventor who was granted numerous patents during his lifetime, beginning in the 1920s and for many successive decades after that. He owned, individually or with sons Maxwell, Jr. and/or Gustave, several businesses, including Monroe Refrigeration Engineering Co., first located on South avenue, as well as Karge & Son(s), a machine company. Their first company produced ice cream making equipment, refrigerators and electric milk coolers which were marketed directly to farmers, restaurants and the general public. The Karge companies variously produced not only refrigeration equipment, but made-to-order metal products and gifts, the patented Karge fishing rod and reel, general machine shop products, and the patented linear bearing of their Turnomat Company. The Karge machine shop was at 80 Clinton Street and the building still bears the name Karge on the door.

According to the 1940s census, Maxwell Karge had moved to Seneca Parkway in Rochester. He returned to Brockport by 1944, but not to 47 Park Avenue. Karge’s Turnomat Company, located at the Clinton Street machine shop produced his linear bearing, but due to its tremendous success and an overwhelming demand, which his company could not meet, Maxwell sold the company and the patent.

Maxwell and his wife are buried in the family plot at Lakeview Cemetery, Sweden Township, along with his parents, brother Walter J. and daughter Anna Mae. His family still has a presence in Brockport. The Turnomat Company produces fixed and linear motion bearings and slides in Wakarusa, Indiana.

George Herbert and Lillian May Mastian Lester
Owners: mid-1940s to unknown

George Herbert Lester, son of village residents Julian and Emma Lester, was born in Brockport and grew up at 85 State Street, just around the corner from what is now number 47 Park Avenue. He was better known as Herbert G. Lester throughout his lifetime. Lester graduated in 1916 from the parochial school of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Brockport. He and Lillian May Bastian, daughter of Wilhelm “William” and Augusta Epke Bastian, German natives, were married in 1936.

For those familiar with notable Brockport families, the name Lester will be well known. After graduating from law school in Buffalo, “Herbert G.” joined the family law firm of Lester & Lester and spent his entire career as a practicing local attorney. In 1931, he was selected by the New York Attorney General to be the special prosecuting attorney in charge of agricultural and market violations. His brother, “Nat O.” had also held a special prosecuting attorney appointment in state government.

The Lester family lived in this home until it was sold to the present owners in May of 1999. Herbert died in 1986 and Lillian died in 1991. They are buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Brockport with their daughter Nancy Jean, who, unfortunately, died as a young child.

Epilogue 2013
This home sits on property that once belonged to the original lot of the house next door at 41 Park Avenue. Although very old, it is actually one of the newer houses on the street.

A large, impressive house, it has been extensively renovated by the current owners, who most recently constructed a porch across the front of the home. Interestingly, the new porch replaces one of similar design but smaller size that originally graced the front of the home. We know this because the original porch can be glimpsed in a historic photograph of Park Avenue. Also new to the property is a picket fence that surrounds the front yard. As it has been in the past, it remains a single family home today, adding to the ambiance created by other, nearby homes which have also been lovingly maintained on one of our more prestigious village streets.

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