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33 South Street

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33 South Street
Brockport, N.Y. 

History written by Carol L. Hannan, February 2014 
Photo Credit and Produced by Pamela Ketchum
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – February 2014. All rights reserved.

Abner and Huldah Sykes Ward
Owners/Builders(?): unknown to mid-1860s

Abner Ward, son of Joy and Anna White Ward, was a native of Middlesex, Connecticut, who moved to this area by at least 1818. He appears to have had a home in Brockport perhaps even earlier than before it appeared on our first map in the early 1850s, as a number of his many children were reportedly born in this village. He may well have been the builder/owner of the home. The original section of the house is reportedly supported by log beams, which indicate a pre-1850s construction date.

This Ward family arrived in America early in our colonial history. Joy Ward, whose sentiments echoed those of his ardently Federalist ancestors, served in the Revolutionary War. “Joy” was his mother’s maiden name, given to him as a first name; not an uncommon practice in those times. Joy’s son, Abner, was supposedly a soldier in the War of 1812, according to family history. Following the close of the Revolutionary War, family members began moving westward, to new territory and new lives.

Abner married Huldah Sykes, the daughter of Jacob and Michal Kent Sykes. Jacob also fought in the Revolutionary War, after which he moved from Connecticut to Vermont.

Abner and Huldah had fourteen children: Juline, Almeron Frances, twins Edward and Edwin, William Henry, Susan Minerva, Dorleski, Cordelia Theresa and Dwight James were born in Brockport. That places the family in the Brockport area by 1818. No wonder their small home on South Street was substantially increased in size during the Ward’s ownership.

Several of the children, both boys and girls, left in a covered wagon and buggy in 1837, to settle on lands in Illinois, but eldest son Henry Joy, who drove the wagon, died in California. Within two generations, this family had crossed the continent. Not all the children left, however. Second son Almeron and his children remained in Brockport.

Abner was a farmer. He didn’t participate in village affairs. The configuration of Abner’s property changed substantially over time as portions of the lot were sold. The first sections were on the east side of the property, where two houses were eventually erected. Eventually, the original lot was substantially reduced in size.

Abner’s death in 1867 was reported in the newspapers, but unfortunately, no significant details of his life were described in it. The home was apparently sold before his 1867 death, as he died at his son’s home on Mechanic Street. Abner and Huldah’s final resting places are in the Stone Church Cemetery, located just north of LeRoy, New York, where many other family members are interred.

Samuel M. and Henrietta P. Pickens Andrews
Owners: mid-1860s to late 1870s

Samuel M. Andrews, a Connecticut native, moved to Monroe County around 1841, when he and his first wife left their church in Norwich. Living with him, and recorded by name on the 1850 Federal Census, were Elisha and Esther Allyn Andrews, who were almost undoubtedly his parents. Andrews lived near Parma Center, in Greece Township. His long-time first wife, Philura, two daughters, Elisha and Esther are buried in the Atchinson Pioneer Cemetery. Many Andrews residents lived in the area and were presumably members of his extended family. Brockport, too, had Andrews pioneers from Connecticut who moved to the area at approximately the same time. They may have been related in some way.

For the majority of his life, Samuel was a farmer. According to military records, while still living in Connecticut, he served briefly in the War of 1812, for which he received “bounty land.” Perhaps his 100 acre farm in Parma was that bounty claim.

Fast-forward to the year 1859, when Philura died. Samuel remarried in 1860, in Brockport, to Henrietta Pickens. Although the couple briefly returned to Parma, where Samuel was then a “merchant,” they soon moved to Brockport, where Samuel owned two homes on South Street. It appears they occupied the house on the north side of the street and rented the home opposite theirs. Samuel, by then, was retired from business and farming.

Samuel Andrews died in Brockport in 1878. He was buried in the Brockport Cemetery. By 1880, Henrietta was living in Orange County, New York, but she still owned her Brockport properties. Perhaps the houses were rented until they were sold, because it wasn’t until 1893, that newspapers noted Henrietta had sold real estate on South Street to Frank P. Johnson, a Brockport native, for $2,500. Frank worked for Gordon and Johnson, an insurance company. He, in turn, sold $2,500 in real estate to Ida M. Gordon. The 1902 village map shows that Ida Gordon owned the house and lot previously owned by Samuel Andrews at number 34 South Street. It was shortly after the turn of the century that the house at 33 South Street also “changed hands.”

Henrietta Andrews, not surprisingly, outlived her husband by many decades. She died at Washington Heights, New York in 1907, but her remains were interred in the family plot at the Brockport Cemetery.

Lewis G. and Nellie M. Burch Gordon
Owners: early 1900s to 1940s

Lewis G. Gordon was the son of Andrew O. and Marian A. Gordon. Andrew was a “saloon keeper” and liquor dealer in Rochester. Nellie Burch grew up in Brockport. Her parents were Philemon P. and Mary Bennett Burch. Philemon owned a livery stable located on the corner of Main and Clark Streets and his house was located on the opposite side of Clark Street. Although Lewis and Nellie didn’t begin their married lives in her hometown, there came a time in their lives when they had to decide the best place for their children to grow up. Brockport is where they then settled and remained for the rest of their lives.

Lewis and Nellie had two children: Andrew L. and Bertha Nellie Gordon. As a married man, Andrew lived just down the street from his parents. He was a long-time employee of the Brockport post office. Bertha never married. She, too, lived in Brockport her entire life and apparently was never employed outside the home.

In contrast to the previous owners of this home, Andrew, in his lifetime, was active in village affairs. He was a merchant, the owner/operator of a number of shoe stores in western New York, including Rochester, Brockport, Niagara Falls, Buffalo, Holley, Perry and Batavia. His first store in Brockport was Gordon and Ryan, which began as a partnership. The business that evolved under Gordon’s management was known as The Consolidated Shoe Sales Company and later, as The L. G. Gordon Under Price Shoe Store. As many village residents before him, Andrew Gordon, the businessman, was innovative and industrious. His shoe stores sold merchandise obtained at closeouts and bankruptcy proceedings, which he then sold at discounted prices. So successful was Lewis, that later in life, Andrew O. Gordon worked for his son.

Successful in business, Gordon was equally formidable in the public arena. He was chair of the committee which organized our first “Old Home Week.” This community event was held to show former residents the strides made by their hometown. Politics then beckoned for Gordon, as he was elected village President (Mayor) for two successive terms; running unopposed for one of them on the “People’s” ticket.

During President Gordon’s leadership, the village addressed the critical issue of its public water supply. The original source of village water was handled by the Brockport Holley Water Company. Wells were adequate for early village water needs, but by the time Gordon became Village Board President, the situation had become dire. Wells could not supply a sufficient quantity of water and the attempt to bring water from creeks and springs had proven to be a disaster. Water contaminated by nearby grazing cattle caused outbreaks of disease.

Brockport needed a better water supply for household uses, industries, fire protection and the “sprinkling” of unpaved village streets, which tamped down dust clouds. A “water committee” was formed and under Gordon’s leadership, Brockport contracted with a Buffalo firm to drill test wells and locate an adequate water supply. By 1913, the debate had been decided. Wells would be insufficient for current and future needs. A proposal by the Brockport-Holley Water Company to provide “filtered” canal water had met with the immediate, mass indignation of village residents. Brockport contracted with Witmer and Brown of Buffalo to construct a waterworks plant on Lake Ontario, at an estimated cost of $250,000 and pump water 14 miles to the village. This was thedefining achievement of Gordon’s political career, which resolved Brockport’s water supply and associated public health issues for many years.

Lewis Gordon returned to private life. As his son didn’t follow him into business, he gradually sold or closed all of his stores. When Gordon died in 1940, his modest obituary didn’t even mention his business or political achievements.

Nellie died four years later and the family home was sold. Bertha moved to Monroe Avenue. Her quiet passing was noted briefly before she, too, was laid to rest in the family plot at Lake View Cemetery in the Town of Sweden.

Epilogue 2013

The empty street on which Abner Ward built his home has been lined with houses for many decades, and several of those homes were eventually built on his original home lot. In an ironic twist of fate, one of those neighboring homes was owned by the Stull family, and two additional Brockport mayors, a father and son.

The name Gordon brings to mind the family of lumber merchants and bankers who lived on the corner of Main and South Street. Luther and Lewis Gordon, however, were not related but simply shared a last name and Scottish heritage. Each, in his own way, however, made Brockport a healthier, wealthier place to live.

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