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67 Park Avenue

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67 Park Avenue
Brockport, N.Y. 

History written by Carol L. Hannan, March 2012 
Photo Credit and Produced by Pamela Ketchum
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – March 2012. All rights reserved.

Asa and Minerva Freeman Perry 
Owner/ builders (?): unknown to early 1860s 

This home was known as 11 Mechanic Street when first owned by Asa Perry, a Massachusetts native. Asa arrived here in the 1820’s, at the very beginning of our village’s history. He owned other lots, but according to the 1861 village map, he lived here, on part of lot fifty-five. The first section of this home was standing at least by the early 1850s. By comparison to the home we see today, it was small and simple in design. 

Asa’s parentage is unknown. His wife, Minerva, was the daughter of Truman and Hannah Dow Freeman of Massachusetts. They married in New England; the notice announcing that Asa was “of Boston.” The Perry’s had a daughter, Martha, who married Enos T. Chappell and moved with him to Michigan. Early census records show the Perry’s also had an older son. Did he grow to adulthood here and leave the family home at a very early age or did he die between the census enumerations of 1820 and 1830? Early family research has its limits, especially in New York, and the answer to that question is now a mystery, as is name of the first-born son, and may never be answered unless a more fortunate researcher finds the Perry family bible. 

While a Brockport resident, Asa was a man of many and varied occupations, operating a carting business, a bathhouse, a saloon, and for an unknown amount of time, the American Hotel. The most newsworthy item involving the family was that their home was damaged by a fire of unknown severity in 1862.

Minerva Perry predeceased her husband and was buried in the Brockport Cemetery. Her monument suggests that husband Asa is buried alongside her, but having spent the final years of his life with daughter Martha and her family in Michigan, Asa, who died at the venerable age of 84, actually lies buried adjacent to his daughter’s family plot.

Jonathan Jenner Elmore 
Owner: early 1860s to 1864 

Following the departure of Asa Perry to Michigan, this property was purchased by Jonathan Jenner Elmore. Jonathan and his wife, Mabel E. Smith, were pioneers in western New York when this area was known as the “Genesee country.” Jonathan’s father was a homeopathic physician, one of the first in the nation to practice smallpox vaccination, for which he was personally trained by Dr. Edward Jenner himself. Jonathan’s middle name was a tribute to his father’s famous mentor. 

Jonathan was a successful and highly esteemed farmer and resident, first in Bergen and then in LeRoy, Genesee County, New York. Why purchase this home in Brockport? The answer lies in the home’s abstract, which notes the sale was made in consideration of $1900 and his “love and affection” for the new owner. 

Adeline L. Matoon Elmore 
Owner: 1864 to 1868 

Adeline Elmore was the daughter-in-law of Jonathan Elmore and the daughter of William and Sarah Matoon. William was a blacksmith in Bergen, Genesee County, when his daughter married Henry S. Elmore. 

The Elmore’s began married life in Bergen, where Henry established a “commission business,” according to the 1850 Federal Census. Described years later in his obituary as genial, reliable and prompt , he owned, at that time, real estate worth $3,000 and personal property worth $1,000; an impressive achievement for a man still in his twenties.

Henry and Adeline had two children; Eva and Carlos Henry Elmore. Eva married Edward Chapin and moved to Michigan. Carlos worked in partnership with his father and eventually moved to Nebraska, where he established a massive “incubator process” poultry farm. 

While in Brockport, Henry built on his business experience as a grain commission merchant with the formation of the partnership of Harrison, King & Elmore. This business occupied the stone warehouse still standing next to the Park Avenue Bridge. Produce speculation was apparently a lucrative occupation but Henry was remembered for other accomplishments, as well. Newspapers noted his large home, “top shelf” lifestyle and impressively swift horse. He was also described as a great lover of music and a fine singer in the Presbyterian Church choir. Brockport, however, was a mere stepping stone for the ambitious Mr. Elmore. He moved on to Albany and the formation of Elmore & Leonard, with a stated goal to expand the produce business to “eastern markets.” Not that long after the move to Albany, Henry and his son Carlos formed a business partnership and established residency in New York City. Henry had wealth, fame and social success --- but not Adeline. 

It seems that Henry checked into a posh Buffalo hotel with a lovely companion who was definitely not Mrs. Elmore. Adeline promptly sued for divorce. The scandal which ensued was reported in great detail statewide. Henry was publicly cast out of his New York City church as he sat in the sanctuary. Once free of the first Mrs. Elmore, however, Henry and his “lady” immediately traveled to Canada and married. Alas, the second Mrs. Elmore was soon judged insane and sent to a Massachusetts asylum. Upon her return to New York, she committed suicide by drinking poison. A third, very young Mrs. Elmore -- if she was indeed ever legally Mrs. Elmore -- was rejected by her husband and cast out onto the street without a cent. Although Henry was very wealthy, he was also a notorious tightwad. 

With his social standing in New York City likely destroyed by unrelenting public scandal, Henry and his son moved to Kansas and then Nebraska, where they invested in grain elevators and he returned to his first occupation as a grain merchant. He never forgot his Brockport connections, however, and visited his former home for the last time just two years before his death, which was extensively and sympathetically reported in local papers. 

Carlos Elmore accompanied his father’s body to Bergen, where Henry was laid to rest in the family plot. Scandal followed Henry’s remains to Bergen, however. Was his death caused by apoplexy (stroke) or was it a suicide by drug overdose? Carlos, in his grief, was left to denounce the investigation of his father’s death and vehemently deny that Henry had ever used drugs.

And what of Adeline? She lived for a time with her daughter and son-in-law in Michigan but her final resting place is unknown. In contrast to her more memorable former husband, Adeline spent the remainder of her life in quiet anonymity. 

Edgar and Mary Elizabeth Staples Benedict 
Owner: 1868 to 1885 

Members of the Benedict family moved to Brockport from Wilton, Connecticut, where they were well-known as shoemakers. Edgar was the son of Frederick Benedict. Edgar along with his uncle, Simeon, brothers William and Francis “Frank” Benedict and their families left Connecticut to settle here. While Edgar and his wife purchased this home, it was his nephew, Charles N. Benedict and his family who occupied the residence. Edgar’s long-time home was on Holley Street. 

Edgar was very active in business and community affairs. He and his brother Frank owned a successful shoe store for many decades. He was a long-time member and elder of the Presbyterian Church and a member of the Local Board of Managers of the Normal School. Edgar also served as town clerk and as a village trustee. 

By 1870, Charles N. Benedict, the youngest child of Simeon and Rhoda Franklin Benedict, became a Brockport resident. His wife, Maria Luther, was the daughter of Samuel and Lydia Farwell Luther. Both Charles and Maria, pioneer Sweden residents, had deep colonial and Revolutionary War roots. He was the grandson and great grandson of Revolutionary officers. She was the granddaughter of Hezekiah Luther, a Revolutionary War patriot buried in the East Sweden Center Cemetery. 

Charles and Maria had five children: Alfred Franklin, Frederick Jay, Ida G., Charles Edgar and Herbert Leland. Alfred died as a young adult and, sadly, Ida died even younger. They were buried in a family plot at the Brockport Cemetery, their small headstones surrounding the impressive family monument. 

Charles, like his father before him, was a farmer. By the time he moved to the village, however, he and his sons were interested in other business ventures. Frederick, Charles, Herbert and their parents moved to Osage Mission, then Chanute, Kansas and finally, Hastings, Nebraska. They formed the Chanute Grain Company, which later became Benedict Brothers. Their business, which at first expanded into the largest grain buyer in that county, eventually fell on hard times, with repeated losses from fire, weather damage and the Great Depression. 

Maria died in 1897 and her body was returned to Brockport and the family plot. Charles, too, was eventually returned to the place where so many of his dearly departed relatives had been laid to rest --- his only daughter, young first-born son, his parents and wife --- along with many Benedict relatives who would contribute to the village for generations to come. 

Louise S. Rutzell Groves
Owner(s): 1885 to 1903 

Contrary to the notation on the 1902 village map, it was Louise Groves, not Henry “Grooes” who next purchased this property. Louise Groves’ parentage is unknown. Her husband, Henry, was just a toddler when Merrick and Louisa Fletcher Groves moved to Hamlin from Brimfield, Massachusetts in 1851. 

Henry took up farming with his father, then retired from that occupation to become a “dealer in machines” while residing in Brockport. While here, Henry became a charter member of the Brockport Free & Accepted Masons. He was an election inspector in 1892 and ran for assessor in 1896. The Groves had one son, Herbert Merrick, who became a pharmacist. 

It was noted in contemporary newspaper accounts that this home suffered a second fire during the time the Groves lived here. It can be seen from village maps that the home was enlarged and substantially reconfigured from the addition added during the Benedict ownership. It was around this time, too, that two interconnected barns were erected on the property.

James and Abbie M. Northrup Brodie
Owners: 1903 to 1909 

James Brodie, a young Scotsman, arrived in the United States in 1873. Family tradition says he was walking down the road in Hamlin when he asked widow, Almyra Northrup for a job. He got the job and married the widow’s daughter, just as he predicted. On the neighboring farm worked one Charles S. Brodie, also an immigrant Scotsman and likely James’ brother. 

James moved to Brockport and purchased a coal and feed store. At one time, both his brother, Thomas, and father, James, lived with the family according to census data. Father James Brodie also lived with a son in Albion and in Mt. Albion Cemetery, where he is buried, is the final resting place of siblings John and Jennie Brodie as well as “Marjorie Kennedy, wife of James.” 

Abbie Brodie was the daughter of Harry Northrup, a Hamlin farmer. Harry and Almyra had Abbie late in their lives. She was their sole surviving child and unfortunately, Harry, who was significantly older than his wife, did not live to see his daughter grow to adulthood. 

James and Abbie had four children: Maurice N., who was known as Morris, and later, as “Steve”, Luella L., Ethel E. and Marjorie Luella, who was named for the older sister who passed away before she was born. Ethel became a book keeper and Marjorie, who graduated from Brockport Normal, became a teacher. Both daughters remained in Brockport after their marriages. “Steve” left the area, moved to Illinois, then California and finally Arizona, where he is buried. 

James Brodie’s business was located on Park Avenue, north of the railroad tracks. State records tell us he sometimes furnished large quantities of coal to the Normal School. Brodie also took advantage of the barns which had been raised on the family lot, to board not only his own horses, but horses which pulled the canal packets, as well. 

Aside from his business interests, the only contemporary newspaper account of James was the unfortunate illness of the family dog. The dog, which customarily slept at the feet of his master during working hours, became infected with rabies from another village dog, and bit two village residents, who were fortunately sent to the Pasteur Institute for treatment.

Abbie M. Northrup Brodie 
Owner: 1909 to 1925 

The marriage of James and Abbie lasted for decades but not forever, which is why, in 1909; the title of the family home was transferred to Abbie. She spent the remainder of her life there after James moved first to Rochester and then to Detroit, Michigan, with his second wife, Amelie. Abbie rented rooms to boarders, including college students. She lived in her home until her death. 

Abbie was laid to rest in Lake View Cemetery in the Town of Sweden, where, years earlier, daughter Luella was buried. The final resting place of James Brodie is unknown.

G. Roy and Margery Luella Brodie Nellis 
Owners: 1925 to 1950s 

The Brodie family home remained in possession of Abbie and her daughters, and was eventually purchased by Margery Brodie Nellis and her husband, Roy. 

Epilogue 2013 

Multiple fires may have changed much, if not most of the small, simple house first built on this lot, but then, it would by no means be the first village home that’s been substantially reconstructed over so many years. Just know that this house, with its multiple porches and additions, started as did many of our older village homes, which were small and simple in design. Today this house is neither small nor simple in its design, which is just as well, because it “fits” perfectly on one of Brockport’s most elegant residential streets. The lot, like so many others, was originally divided from the property to the south, which was once owned, coincidentally, by Frank Benedict, the brother of Edgar Benedict, a former owner of this house. 

Today, 67 Park Avenue is owned by descendants of James and Abbie Brodie, whose family have continuously occupied the property for 113 years. There are other village properties which have remained family homes long enough to become “century homes,” and this house is one of those fortunate few.

© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan - March 2012. All rights reserved.