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41 South Street

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41 South Street
Brockport, N.Y. 

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

John and Anna Bridget McCabe Spickerman 
Owners/builders (?): about 1855 to about 1904 

During the long ownership of this home by the family of John Spickerman, according to census documents, he had three wives: in 1860 he was married to “Bridget,” in 1870 to “Susan” and in 1880 to “Anna.” The 1870 census also stated that Spickerman was an Irish immigrant. John Spickerman, however, wasn’t born in Ireland. In fact, the Spickermans were German Palintines who arrived to the United States in the late 1700s. There is nothing else, such as marriage or burial records for more than one wife, who, in reality, was Anna Bridget McCabe. The census may be a government document, but its information is collected by people who sometimes make mistakes! 

John Spickerman was born in Hamlin, to farmers Philip and Mary McCourtie Spickerman. With no particular educational credentials, he worked at what we would consider “blue collar” jobs his entire life. He was a long-time employee with the railroad which ran through the village just a block south of his home. In the Brockport directory of 1863, Spickerman was an “overseer” and in 1885, he was a “fireman” for the railroad. Steam engines were fueled by the firemen who stoked their fires.

Anna Bridget McCabe was reportedly born in Ireland and immigrated to the United States in 1849. No information could be found to identify other McCabe family members. The great Irish famine of that time forced many natives to flee their country or face the real prospect of death. For those who were able to cross the ocean, there was at least the prospect of a better life. Anna, after her marriage, was a housewife and didn’t work outside of her home. 

The Spickermans had two daughters: Ella Maria Spickerman Farwell and Emma L. (Louise?) Spickerman Allison Chase. Both girls took advantage of educational opportunities probably not available to their parents. Ella graduated in 1875 from Brockport Normal and became one of the founders of the “Arethusa Society.” She was a teacher and “preceptress” in the Union Springs school district for nine years when she suddenly resigned her position. Ella left her job to help care for her ailing father, who had “consumption,” or tuberculosis. A scourge of the 19th century, tuberculosis, a disease so highly contagious that it would wipe out entire families, was widely understood to be a terminal condition. 

In 1886, before her father’s death, Ella was married to Horace Eldridge Farwell, described as a man of “considerable avoirdupois (weight).” He was a cattle dealer in Murray, Orleans County. Ella had returned to her birthplace only to leave it once again. She and Horace had five children. Ella died in 1929 at the residence of her daughter, Marjorie Spickerman Farwell, a teacher in East Orange, New Jersey. She is buried not with her husband but with her parents in the Brockport Cemetery. 

Emma L. Spickerman Allison Chase, an 1878 graduate of Brockport Normal, taught music before her marriage. She was a housewife for the remainder of her life. Wed twice, she remarried in her early forties. Emma had no known children, but a niece named Emma Louise Farwell was likely her namesake. After Emma’s death, her body was returned to Brockport from Malden, Massachusetts and she, too, was buried in the Spickerman plot at the Brockport Cemetery. 

Aside from a few mentions of visits with family members, little is known about the Spickerman’s interests or community activities, which is unusual. In 1898, Anna purchased additional property from Myrick Randall, who at one time owned most of the interior of the Main/Union/Park/South Street block. During their years of ownership, we can see, from looking at village maps, that the Spickermans enlarged their small home, but it was never “refashioned” into a more stately or ornate “Victorian” as happened to so many of the early homes in the village. 

Following the death of Anna Spickerman in 1904, this house remained unoccupied during the 1905 New York State Census, then became a rental for a number of years. The Edward Graves family occupied the home in 1910 and the newly wed Milo Freson, Jr. and his wife lived there in 1915.

Andrew Orlando and Gladys Florence Pratt Gordon 
Owners: by 1925 to at least 1963 

At least by 1925, this house once again became an owner-occupied home. Andrew Gordon, his wife and mother-in-law, Nettie Pratt moved in and lived here for the remainder of their lives. 

Andrew Orlando, named for his grandfather, was the only son of successful businessman and Brockport Mayor Lewis G. Gordon. With the purchase of this home, father and son almost became neighbors. Andrew’s house, purchased after a time of living in a rental on College Street, was just two doors east of his family home, where he grew up. Andrew had no use for his father’s shoe store business or for village politics. He became a “letter carrier” for the post office, and continued with that occupation for the remainder of his life. 

Gladys F. Pratt, a Byron native, became Mrs. Gordon in an Episcopal ceremony at her home in 1915. Silas Pratt gave away his daughter in front of a “bank of ferns and golden glow.” She and her husband then moved to Brockport. In 1919, Gladys and Andrew had their only child, a baby boy, Andrew O. Gordon, Jr., who tragically died when he was only six weeks old. Gladys was a housewife and didn’t work outside of her home. Andrew Gordon passed away in 1964. His widow, Gladys, lived until 1983. They were once again reunited with their infant son in the Pratt family plot at Mt. Rest Cemetery, in Bergen, Genesee County. 

Epilogue 2014 

This very old home still reminds one of the once very fashionable Greek Revival style of architecture so popular during the early days of our village. There have been additions, of course, to enlarge the small original building erected here. An open porch and bay window; the extension of the home on the expanded lot of Anna Spickerman are all changes but now old enough to be considered historical. There is a much newer garage that stands on the lot. 

Recent interior photos posted on the internet show old woodwork, an elegant open staircase to the second floor and tall built-in kitchen cabinets. There is a grace and elegance in even the most unlikely older village homes and this one is no exception. This structure, which was an early rental house, today remains a single family home.

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