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50 Park Avenue

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50 Park Avenue
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.

Phoebe Carrie Palmer 
Owner/builder (?): circa 1926/1930 to 1949 

Phoebe Carrie Palmer, or Phebe/Pheobe, as her name was variously spelled, was the daughter of Justus and Caroline S. Palmer. She was likely named for her paternal grandmother, Pheobe Barlow. Phoebe was born in Clarkson, where her father was a tanner and currier. (A currier dyed leather.) Palmer family members were early settlers in Clarkson, New York. The “Deacon” Joel Palmer house, still standing opposite the Clarkson church on Ridge Road, was near the Palmer tannery and Justus, the son of Joel, lived in a house to the east on the same side of Ridge Road. “Master tanner” Justus and his family moved to Brockport about 1870 and lived in a home on Park Avenue. The ancestry of Caroline Palmer is unknown. 

Phoebe was the youngest of three children. Her older siblings were Henry J. and Mary L. Palmer Burroughs. Henry was a clerk who spent his early worklife and later years in Brockport. Mary taught school, then held several other jobs before she married widower John Wesley Burroughs later in her life. 

Phoebe graduated from the Brockport Normal School in 1892 and taught school in West Sweden. In 1914, she boarded with the West Sweden family of Mrs. Avery Markham. During their lifetimes, Phoebe lived with her parents. After her parent’s deaths, Phoebe lived with one or both of her siblings. She never married. Her one abiding documented interest was membership in the Brockport Grange, where she held a number of elective offices and served as a delegate to regional conventions of “Grangers.” There were a few other contemporary accounts of Phoebe’s activities, such as her judging of an “oratorical contest” sponsored by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in 1911. Later in her life, Phoebe and her older sister Mary vacationed in St. Petersburg, Florida during the winter months; their travels duly documented in the “West Sweden” section of newspapers. Phoebe was considered one of that small community’s citizens long after her departure and retirement. It may be that her application, in 1900, to the Rochester City School District, for the position of supervisor of manual training, was unsuccessful. 

Through the years, Phoebe’s immediate family naturally became smaller. Her father, Justus, died suddenly and unexpectedly in 1898. Caroline Palmer, who died in 1920, transferred ownership of the family home to daughter Phoebe, who, at that time, was the only one of her children living with her mother. By 1925, Phoebe was reunited with her siblings in a rented house at 1 Spring Street. The next move for this family group was to the newly constructed home at 50 Park Avenue; one of, if not the “youngest” of Park Avenue’s many homes. By that time, sister Mary was widowed and brother Henry had retired from owning and operating a drug store in Phelps, New York. The siblings would remain reunited for the rest of their lives. 

Henry died in 1931, Mary died in 1938 and “little sister” Phoebe, who seemed to act as the defacto head of the household for the last years of her life, passed away in St. Petersburg, Florida, in 1949. The Palmer family is buried together in a family plot at Lakeview Cemetery, Sweden Township. 

Clara Maude Ellis 
Owner: 1951 to 1958 

As she left no immediate relatives to settle her estate, the will of Phoebe Palmer was settled by executrix Maude Ellis, a resident of Brockport for nearly a half century. Clara Maude Hamlin and her husband James Milton Ellis immigrated to the United States from Northumberland, Ontario, Canada. Maude arrived in 1900 and her future husband, Milton, as he was known, arrived in 1905. The couple became citizens in 1919.

Milton was a blacksmith with his own shop. It was located near his home, which backed to the canal on Erie Street. Although they had no children of their own, the Hamlins parented their nephew Milton Hamlin. It was tragic that young Milton, at the age of 12, lost his life by drowning in the canal. 

Maude was a housewife after her marriage. She cared for her elderly, widowed mother, Hester Melissa Preston Hamlin Osterhaut, who was known as Melissa. By that time, unfortunately, Maude was also a widow. Her husband, Milton, had died at the young age of 46. He was something of a local celebrity, according to an article in the Democrat & Chronicle in 1919. It seems that Milton was a talented baritone and member, at various times, of the village choir, Community Chorus and Brockport Music Club. A blacksmith still making a living at a craft rapidly becoming obsolete, Milton also installed an “electric piano,” to entertain friends who would drop by to enjoy his songs and company. The “Musical Genius” of Erie Street, continued his craft until his death. 

By the time of Phoebe Palmer’s death, her little house on Erie Street had been sold and Maude Ellis was living on Main Street. She purchased Phoebe’s home from the estate in 1951 for the sum of $4,000 and lived there until her death in 1958. A newspaper ad after Maude’s death described the private sale of her “fine antiques” and household goods. 

Epilogue 2014 

This bungalow, which was built on a lot carved from the back yard of the house at 58 State Street, became one of the last homes built on Park Avenue, yet it’s still a historic home over half a century old. Now occupied by just the third family to ever own it, the home is likely appears close to looking like it did when first constructed. The original clapboards, however, appear to have been covered. The front porch was probably enclosed after the home was built, but major exterior style alterations, as discovered on other much older village homes, haven’t obliterated this home’s bungalow style.

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