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37 South Street

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37 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

The Abner Ward family, pioneers of Bergen, Genesee County and sometime residents of Brockport, owned an expansive lot on South Street when the street was largely undeveloped. As strange as it might seem to us today, the Ward homes were built on the fringe of the village.

Abner Ward and his wife first wife, Huldah, had many children born either in Brockport or Bergen, where Abner owned and farmed over one hundred acres of land. His extended family was very prominent in both early Bergen and Rochester history. A more detailed description of the family is found with the house history for 33 South Street.

The houses at number four South Street were owned and perhaps built by Abner, an early village resident, who lived in Brockport on and off for decades. Only one of the houses was substantially expanded in size; most likely Abner’s, because he had so many children. Common sense tells us at least one of the houses became a rental. Either that, or in 1863, George Chadsey’s family of four, Hetty Barrett, Susan Coates, Abner and his second wife, who all lived at number four South Street, shared a very crowded home. Hetty Barrett is a mystery; an older lady, perhaps a widow renting a room. Mrs. Susan Coates is another mystery. Why wasn’t she living with her husband? The Civil War was raging in 1863 and Susan’s husband was a soldier. What we can’t say for certain is who lived or boarded in which of the two houses.

When Abner died in 1864, he was reportedly living with his son on Railroad Street, which is now the portion of Park Avenue from the railroad tracks to Main Street. Both Abner and his first wife, neither of whom lived in Brockport on a permanent basis, are buried in Stone Church Cemetery, near LeRoy, New York, where many Ward family members have been laid to rest.

Following the death of Abner, his second wife moved back to her native Byron and the family lot and homes were sold.

Myrick Ogilvie and Lucy Melvina Kingsbury Randall
Owners: by or before 1872 to at least 1902

Ownership of this home from the time of Abner Ward’s death until 1872, when the next village map identified owner Myrick Randall, is unknown. It was still part of lot number four in 1861, when that village map was published. Directories, maps and newspaper accounts, unfortunately, are either scarce or completely lacking from the early 1860s until well after the turn of the century. The next village directory to list names and addresses wasn’t published until 1918 and census documents didn’t give house numbers, making certain identification of homes and their occupants a guessing game, at best. It was clear, however, that by 1918, the Ward property had been sold and divided into two house lots. Additional homes were built on both sides of the street. Four homes would eventually be built on the original Ward lot. Three homes would be built on the Randall lot, with one of the properties facing and becoming part of Mechanic Street/Park Avenue.

Myrick Ogilvie was the son of Nathaniel Randall, Jr., a Revolutionary War veteran and New England shipwright, who moved to South Bristol, Ontario County, New York, to become a farmer. Very late in his life, however, Nathaniel suddenly decided to construct four perfect mini-replicas of the fully rigged three-masted ships so familiar to him from years long past. He attached his models to cross-poles in his yard, where they, to the delight of the entire neighborhood, turned in the wind. Vermont native Myrick and his brother, Billy Decatur, however, were apprenticed to and became silversmiths and jewelers. Myrick was a master artisan who taught his sons and nephew, Hiram Decatur Randall, his craft.

Myrick acquired a good deal of village real estate during his lifetime. His holdings included lots and houses on South Street, which were just around the corner from his long-time family home on Park Avenue. Upon his death, the properties were divided between his daughter, Lucy Bianca Randall Miller, and his widow, Susan, who became owner of part of the original house lot and built for herself the brick home at 51 South Street. Susan was Billy Decatur Randall’s widow who married her brother-in-law, Myrick, after the death of his first wife, Lucy. Those close family ties led Hiram Decatur Randall, Susan’s son and Myrick’s nephew, to live on South Street, as well.

A self-made man; successful in both business and politics, Myrick was elected to the village board but didn’t give vocal support to the Civil War effort; likely knowing that his own first-born son Rudolphus Ogilvie was serving in the Confederate army. Lucy Kingsbury Randall was also from an esteemed New England family prominent in village affairs and banking; perhaps even more socially prominent, with their connection by marriage to Ambassador and Mrs. Richard Shannon.

Young men, hopeful of learning the master’s skills, boarded with and apprenticed to Myrick. His silverwork, such as flatware, was marked “M O RANDALL,” examples of which occasionally sell on internet sites at fairly substantial prices. He owned a jewelry shop on Main Street.

The Randall family burial plot is located in the Brockport Cemetery. Myrick, Lucy, Eugene, the Randall’s first-born son, Billy Decatur and Susan are all buried there.

Ida May Hooker Gordon
Owner: by 1902 to before 1910

Ida Gordon was the next identifiable owner of this house according to the 1902 village map. She owned many properties and business endeavors both in and outside of the village. This house was never her residence. It was an investment or rental property.

The Gordons became wealthy from banking, lumber and real estate investments from New York to Michigan. Death “passed the torch” of leadership in the family businesses to succeeding generations of sons and perhaps Ida, herself, who was reportedly partnered with her husband in both business and the family before his untimely death. She remained remarkably behind the scenes, however, leaving us to guess exactly how much decision making power she actually wielded.

As a young married woman, Ida frequently hosted gala balls with music provided by orchestras, elaborate decorations and catered foods, with arrangements made by herself and groups of her friends. Those events stopped with the death of George Gordon in 1898. Very few public activities replaced her social events.

Ida was one of the first two women to become members of the Normal School Board of Trustees, by invitation and no doubt because of the Gordon family’s part in saving the Brockport Normal School. She was a member of the local DAR chapter. There were interests she had in Rochester; more conventional for woman and centered on charitable “good works,” such as her involvement with the Child Welfare Board. Brockport has a lasting family legacy in the fabulous Tiffany stained glass windows given to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, where Ida worshiped.

Unlike many Gordon men and her mother-in-law before her, Ida lived a very long life in the family residence at the corner of Main and South Street, where she kept a minimal household staff of a cook and a personal chauffeur. Ida died of cancer in 1946 and was buried in the shadow of the magnificent Gordon family monument in Rochester’s Mt. Hope Cemetery. 

William Eugene B., Clara Miller and son Eugene Miller Stull
Owners: about 1910 to 1940s

If the house currently standing at 37 South Street is, even in part, a remodeling of the original home located on this lot, the remodeling was extensive, to say the least. Did the original home, already standing in 1852, burn, as did so many other early structures? Was it torn down and replaced by another home? All that can be said is that the house now standing on the property doesn’t appear old enough to be the original home.

Johann Adam Stoll arrived in the “colonies” from Germany in the first half of the 1700s. Grandson Jacob Stull and his family came here from Frederick, Maryland, just after the turn of the 19th century, as part of a group of settlers enticed to make the northward journey by Nathaniel Rochester, himself. Colonial Rochester, unfortunately, neglected to accurately describe the marshy, rattlesnake infested character of his settlement on the banks of the Genesee River. Upon seeing those inhospitable conditions for himself, Jacob immediately decided to purchase land in Rush Township, where he became a farmer. His grandson, Gustavus James Stull first married Helen Eliza Davis. “Willie” Stull was born to them in 1872. William remained at home with his mother after Gustavus left New York for Detroit, Michigan, where he lived with his second wife and children.

By the 1900 Federal Census, W E B Stull had been married for eight years to Jennie Hyde, who sadly died very suddenly of Bright’s disease in 1901. After Jennie’s death, Stull remarried and moved to Brockport, where he became the manager of Gordon’s lumber yard. It was located between State Street and the banks of the canal, where first the canal and then railroad cars delivered and removed lumber from the Gordon’s various timber stands in New York and Michigan. Steam powered equipment cut and prepared lumber for sale, and at one time manufactured doors, blinds and sashes.

After the death of George C. Gordon, the family lumber investments of mills, yards and timber stands were gradually sold. The Brockport lumber yard stayed in the Gordon family until 1927 and in 1933, W E B Stull purchased and incorporated the businesses in Brockport and Holley with his son, Eugene, and neighbor, Robert Winne. Eighty years later, it’s still a family operation and village business.

W E B Stull, the Brockport patriarch, spent the remainder of his life in the village. He was a member of fraternal and service organizations, such as the International Order of Odd Fellows, the Royal Arch Masons and the Kiwanis Club, where he became president. Stull was a long-time superintendent of the Methodist Episcopal Church Sunday school. He was also a member of the Price – Stull – Martin – Sherman Family Association.

Clara A. Miller Stull was the daughter of Edgar Lewis and Elizabeth Caroline Metcalf Miller. Clara, the eldest daughter, was born in Bergen, where Edgar was a farmer. Family history was important to Clara, just as it was to her husband. She was an active member of the Brockport Chapter of the DAR, in which she held several offices. Also a member of the Mary Jane Holmes chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, she held various offices, such as color bearer, in 1921.

W E B and Clara had one son, Eugene Miller, who continued living in the family home until the 1940s. He was a graduate of the University of Rochester, where his senior yearbook described him as the “Adonis from Brockport.” Stull became a teacher and eventually vice principal of Brockport High School. Before his very early death at age 42, he was also elected to the Brockport Central School Board of Education, was a member and elected president of the Kiwanis Club, and deputy master of the Masonic Lodge. The family business was continued by him, and later his widow, Betty Wilkie Stull Streets. In 1947, Stull was elected Mayor of Brockport, an office which would also be held by his son, James, making the Stulls the second father/son mayors of the village. By the end of Eugene’s life, the Stulls had moved from this house on South Street to a Kenyon Street home.

Epilogue 2014

The ever changing property lines and newly created home lots have become a thing of the past on South Street, which is now, after all these years, located in the heart of Brockport. Whatever its age, this home is a beautiful and well-kept property. Two village mayors, owners of an iconic, third generation Brockport business once lived here. The history of Brockport’s houses is, after all, about the people who lived in them, and who, by their efforts, contributed something lasting and positive for us to remember.

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