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58 Park Avenue

58 Park Avenue

58 Park Avenue
Brockport, NY 

History researched and written by Carol L. Hannan
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – July 2012 All rights reserved

John W. and Sophronia Raleigh 
Owners/builders(?): circa 1860 to early 1870s

The Brockport map of 1858 shows no existing building on the lot which we know today as 58 Park Avenue. However, by 1861 a house does appear on a map, so we can confidently pin-point the building of this home within a four year time frame. The address at that time was number 8 Mechanic Street and the lot was substantially larger than the existing lot today.

John W. (for Wood?) Raleigh was the son of very early village residents Edmund Howell and Polly Wood Raleigh, Connecticut natives. According to a past village historian, the Raleighs were hatters who lived in the village, but census records indicate otherwise. In 1850, Edmund was a farmer but by 1880, his occupation was listed as “Gentleman.” The couple had seven children, the oldest son being our subject. Sophronia’s family history has proven to be elusive.

It appears likely that John and Sophronia were the first owners and probable builders of this home, although without original records to examine this is not absolutely certain. What we know is that John listed his occupation in the 1860 Federal Census as a “painter” and in 1880 as a “carpenter and joiner.”

The Raleighs had two daughters and a son. Daughter Mary A. never married but remained in Brockport for the rest of her life. She listed her occupation in 1860 as “milliner.” Son James K. worked for the railroads, married and had children, but according to a newspaper account, had a recurring “affliction” of extreme excitement and energy alternating with despondency and drinking. He committed suicide. His obituary stated that he left a mother and two sisters living in “Brockton, New York.” John, Sophronia and Mary A. are buried in the Brockport Cemetery.

J. Spears
Owner: early 1870s 

An 1871 village map clearly identifies a J. Spears living in this home. Not seeing a “Miss” or “Mrs.” prefix generally meant the owner/occupant was a man, but beyond that, the probable Mr. Spears remains a mystery. There was John Spears, a farmer, living on the Town of Sweden in 1870. The 1872 village map showed a new owner for the home. Who was J.Spears? Without additional documentation, there is no way to answer that question. 

Almon (Almond), Elenor M. Dauchy and family
Owners: early 1870s to late 1890s 

Relatively soon in the history of this house, ownership was assumed by Almon Dauchy. The Dauchys, according to historians, were French Huguenots who fled their homeland and settled in Connecticut. Ridgefield records detail the purchase made by Vivus Dauchy, the 18th century immigrant and namesake of many generations, from fellow resident David Scott, of slaves “Dinah” and “Peter” for two hundred pounds. A later generation of Dauchys would fight in the Civil War to abolish slavery.

Our subject, Almon or Almond, was the son of a later Vivus Dauchy and his wife Betsey, farmers who settled in Hilton. Almon was a farmer like his father but when he moved to Brockport he worked as a “grain buyer.” Earlier records show he and his sons were “produce brokers.” As farmers they must have been successful, as they increased their Hilton, Clarkson and Sweden land holdings and employed servants. The greatest contemporary notice of Almon, however, occurred after his death. Sons Vivus and Oscar fought a heated court battle with their niece and nephew over his estate, which was reportedly worth $10,000. Vivus and Oscar lost their legal battle and had to give up one third of their inheritance but each had property given by their father to them in his lifetime.

It was during Almon Dauchy’s ownership that the original village lot was divided and a second house was built just north of Almon’s home. In time, Oscar would own both houses but residing in the village didn’t change his occupation, as Oscar was a farmer his entire life. The single piece of information about Oscar from contemporary accounts was his attendance at a huge Republican rally held in 1892. He and his wife Adelaide lived in several locations in the village and surrounding area, spending their last days with daughter Helen Shumway and her family on Erie Street. The Dauchy family burial plot is located in Blossom Cemetery, Hilton, New York.

John R. and Mary Josephine Prentiss Davis
Owners: early 1900s to 1916 

John R. Davis and his wife Mary moved to what was then 16 Park Avenue from their residence on Main Street by 1902. His parents, Edward and Philinda Townsend Davis were New York State natives who settled in Ogden, where they are buried. John was a village grocer who began his store here, according to obituary, in 1871. The business was carried on by his son until at least 1940, making it a Brockport institution for approximately seventy or more years.

John Davis married Mary Prentiss, whose early colonial family roots are detailed in genealogical records and books. Her parents were John Adams and Thankful Hotchkin Prentiss. John and Mary had three children, Nellie Bacon, who married Spencerport native William Milliner, and twins May Prentiss, who married Frank Capen Shafer of Brockport and Ray Prentiss Davis.

Unlike previous owners, John R. Davis was very active in village affairs. He was repeatedly elected Brockport’s treasurer. When financial “shortages” were found at the Brockport Post Office in 1893, it was Davis who was placed in charge of the office. In 1894, he was nominated by a Republican caucus to be inspector of elections. Davis was also a member and elected trustee of the First Congregational Church of Brockport and a member of the Protective Company No. 1 of the Brockport Fire Department, where he was elected “messenger” in 1893.

John died of heart disease in 1911 and Mary, who continued living in the family home, passed away about five years later. John and Mary are buried in the Brockport Cemetery.

Frank Capen and Mary Prentiss Davis Shafer
Owners: 1916 to 1930s

Frank Capen Shafer was the first-born son of Manley A. and Emma Capen Shafer. The Shafer name is familiar to many village residents who have heard of the Moore-Shafer Shoe Company, a village business once known world-wide. His Capen grandfather was also a very successful businessman. Frank and his wife resided at 16 Park Avenue with his mother-in-law, Mary, and continued to live at this home after her death. They had no children.

Frank Shafer was a “traveling man,” that is, he was a shoe salesman for his father’s company until the 1920s, when the economic times and change of leadership in the company led to its demise. He became a bond salesman, but that occupation was somewhat short-lived. By the 1940 Federal Census, Frank gave his occupation as “farm hand.” We know from his World War I Draft Registration that he was of medium height with blue eyes and light hair. Although other family members were social and civic leaders, Frank apparently was neither as he and his wife are not mentioned in contemporary newspaper accounts, with the exception of a reference to May’s sister being cared for and passing away in their home. Although the son of a wealthy businessman, an heir of his Capen grandparents and the owner of the Davis family home, by the 1940s, Frank’s financial circumstances seemed reduced, for reasons which we will never know and about which we can only speculate.

It may be that the Shafers didn’t own 58 Park Avenue until their deaths. The 1940 Federal Census gave their house number as 54 Park Avenue. That could have been an error, which is possible, but we do know that they lived in a house on Park Avenue in the mid-1950s.

Frank and May died within a month of each other in 1966 and were buried at Lakeside Cemetery with his parents and other family members.

Epilogue 2012
The house at 58 Park Avenue is now a multiple unit rental property. Purists probably cringe at the modern picture window, asbestos siding and faux stone of today’s facade, but as with many village properties, “updating” changed not only the interiors but the exteriors, as well, and at one time these alterations were considered to be fashionable improvements. The original carriage house remains standing at the rear of the property.

© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – July 2012 All rights reserved