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87 Park Avenue

87 Park Avenue

87 Park Avenue
Brockport, NY

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

Ensign and Siba Bushnell 
Owners/builders (?): circa 1855 

Ensign Bushnell and his first wife, Theodosia “Dotha” Bishop left their native New England home in the 1830’s and settled on farmland in Sweden Township, as reported on the 1840 U.S. Federal Census. He was, like so many others of his generation, a farmer by occupation who spent his early years in agriculture, and who, having acquired some measure of wealth, retired to a village home. By 1855, he and his second wife, Siba, were living in a house at 87 Park Avenue, the first recorded owners of the property and likely the builders of the home, as well. No longer a farmer, Ensign described his occupation as “gardener” in 1850 and “gentleman” in 1855. 

Farming wasn’t Ensign’s first occupation. His father, Abraham, had a carding mill at Caanan, Connecticut, and apparently taught his son Ensign that trade, for Abraham sent a younger son, Harley Nelson Bushnell, to be apprenticed to Ensign in New Preston, Connecticut. If his father’s occupation was abandoned, his mother Molly’s strict religious teachings were not, for Ensign was one of the first Elders chosen when the Brockport Congregational Church became a Presbyterian denomination in 1841. Two of Ensign’s sons became ministers; his older son, Horace, earned a degree from Yale as well as a Doctor of Divinity degree and became quite famous for his sermons and many religious books. Ensign’s brother, who lived in Holley, was also very active in the Presbyterian Church. 

The Bushnell siblings who settled in western New York were solid, hard-working and pious contributors to their communities. Ensign, who lived to be 92 years old, “Dotha”, their daughter, Cornelia and Siba, his second wife, are buried in the Brockport Cemetery. Ensign’s son was memorialized by his daughter, Dotha Bushnell Hillyer, with the construction of Horace Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford, Connecticut. His daughter, Mary, who was born in Connecticut, married Platt Belden, also a Connecticut native who later settled in Brockport. 

Hiram T. Miner 
Owner: 1865 to 1867 

Hiram T. Miner was the second owner and retired farmer to occupy this property. He and his wife, Mehitable Martin, had come to Monroe County from Grafton County, New Hampshire, in 1824, immediately following their marriage. Hiram farmed land in Sweden and later bought a farm in Clarkson. In 1870, when Hiram described himself as “retired,” he estimated the value of his real estate at $13,000 and the value of his personal property at $4,000. He had prospered since 1850, when his total worth was estimated to be $6,430. 

Hiram outlived wife Mehitable and in 1885, at the venerable age of 84, married Caroline M. Simmons. He and his family members are buried in the Brockport Cemetery. 

Daniel M. and Carrie M. Paine 
Owners: 1867 to 1871 

Daniel M. Paine was the third owner and former farmer to live in this property and like the Miners, he, his wife and only child, daughter Marian Delora, didn’t live here long. Rather than retiring from farming, Paine moved to the village and became a merchant, first as a dealer in cabinet hardware, then as a furniture dealer and undertaker. So successful a businessman was Paine that he and his family moved to a more prestigious location on State Street, where they resided for many decades. 

Orville C. and Mariette Hutson Cooley 
Owners: 1871 to 1880 

Of all the people who lived in this house, Orville Cooley, by far, made the most interesting contributions to the village. The son of area pioneer Levi Cooley, Orville was not a farmer. He was employed by the Johnston Harvester Works, an early, very successful village business; one of many manufacturing operations once located here. Cooley became a foreman of the canvas department and superintendent of pattern department. In 1873, he travelled to Paris and Vienna, where he set up the first exhibitions and demonstrations of reapers marketed in Europe. The reapers manufactured in Brockport were an international sensation and the business flourished. 

In 1870, Cooley was a “pattern maker” but by 1880, he claimed to be an “inventor.” Between 1877 and 1902, Cooley was individually granted or shared in nine patents, which were all assigned to, or owned by, the Johnston Harvester Company. The patents were for various harvester or grain binder improvements. Unfortunately for Brockport, the harvester factory burned in 1880 and the company relocated to Batavia. The Cooley family moved to Batavia, where Orville continued his work for the company. He died in 1902. 

There is more to tell about the very inventive Cooley family and all the other village residents, both men and women, who collectively held hundreds of patents granted from the mid-1800s to the first decade of the 20th century. That, as they say, however, is another story. 

Nathan and Melinda Manley Fisk 
Owner: 1880 to 1888 

While much has been written about other family members, such as Nathan’s notable siblings, Josiah and Greenleaf Fisk, little could be found to describe Nathan and his immediate family. He named his first son Nathan, which seemed to be a family tradition and his second son Greenleaf after his notable brother of the same name but Nathan, or William Nathan, which is the name inscribed on his tombstone, lived a quiet and uneventful life. 

As others before him who occupied this house, Nathan moved to the village when he retired from farming and didn’t live here very long. His widow, Melinda, survived him and was still living in the village at the time of her death, probably at the home of her son Greenleaf. The Fisk family is buried at Lakeside Cemetery. 

Horace and Maria E. Goold Belden 
Owners: 1882 to 1917 

Horace Belden had a special relationship to this home aside from the fact that this was the first family to live here for an extended period of time. His mother was Mary Bushnell, a relative of the original builders. His parents, Platt and Mary Bushnell Belden once owned a home on Park Avenue. 

Belden, while still a young man living in his parent’s home, worked as a clerk in his father’s flour and feed store. By the time he was thirty years of age, still single and living with his parents, he had become a produce dealer, the occupation he followed for the rest of his life. He was a partner in the firm of Belden & Harrison with F. F. Doty and State Senator, Henry Harrison. 

Belden was an Elder with the Brockport Presbyterian Church, a Village of Brockport Trustee and a board member of the State Normal School at the time of his death. He died in 1895 at the age of 55 and, along with his immediate family members, including his parents, is buried in the Brockport Cemetery. 

Following her husband’s death, Maria Belden ran a floral business from the home until she and her daughter, Olive, a schoolteacher, moved to Port Chester Village to live with her son, a bank clerk. Maria died in 1921. Neither of the Belden children ever married. 

Carl Nicholas and Irene Simpson Beuerlein 
Owners: 1917 to 1952 

Carl Beuerlein, son of German immigrant, Barney, and his wife, Celia Beuerlein, grew up in Mt. Morris and began his career working as a clerk in his father’s clothing store. In 1914, Carl’s family moved to Brockport and he opened a “men’s furnishings” store, Beuerlein’s Estate Clothing. A second store was eventually opened in Holley, selling clothing, dry goods and shoes. 

The Beuerleins had three children – Gordon, Helen and Donald and a successful, expanding business, but there was tragedy ahead for the family. Carl reportedly suffered a nervous breakdown and in 1930, after walking to his store, as usual, he put a shotgun to his head and committed suicide. His widow and children carried on with the family business, even after a fire damaged the Brockport store. 

Earl F. and Helen Beuerlein Magin 
Owners: 1952 to 1969 

After the death of her mother in 1952, daughter Helen Magin and her family became the second generation to grow up in the house. Their daughter, also named Helen, and her daughter live nearby and work in the village, carrying on the family tradition of being successful small business owners, which was started by Barney Beuerlein so many years ago. 

Epilogue 2012 
This house is now owned by its’ Park Avenue neighbors who operate it as a rental property. A previous owner had converted it into rental units and in the process of doing so, significantly altered the exterior of the home. Some of those changes have since been removed and the house more nearly resembles the original façade. Much of the original home’s lot was sold off many years ago and houses were constructed on those parcels – one house on Spring Street and one on Park Avenue.

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