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21 State Street

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21 State Street
Brockport, N.Y. 

History written by Carol L. Hannan, April 2013 
Photo Credit and Produced by Pamela Ketchum
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – April 2013. All rights reserved.

George Flint and Catherine Lyell Thorpe Barnett
Owners/builders: circa 1830s/40s to 1897

George Flint Barnett, son of Samuel and Rachel Sweet Barnett, was born in Bridgewater, Oneida County, New York. His wife Catherine was the daughter of Asa and Abigail (?) Thorpe, whose family members probably moved west to new frontiers in Michigan. From the records of the 1840 village census, it appears that the Barnett family was living in their home at 3 State Street well before the publication of the 1852 map that first shows its location. This house, which George Barnett built, was the one in which he and his wife spent the remainder of their lives.

George and Catherine had five children: James Melanethon, Carrie, Martha M., Mary H. and Frances C., who was known as “Frannie.” James moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan and found success in the lumber and banking businesses. Sadly, Martha died of consumption in her late twenties. Carrie Barnett Allis and her infant daughter Carrie both died within months of her child’s birth. The young Barnett daughters and granddaughter were laid to rest in the Brockport Cemetery.

While he began his career here as an architect and builder, Barnett’s greater claim to fame and fortune was in other areas. We have a record of his business ventures from census and other information, beginning in 1850, when he was a “joiner.” By 1855, he was working as a “carpenter.” In the 1860 Federal Census, Barnett described his occupation as “foundry.” According to the History of Monroe County, he reportedly worked for several years as a superintendent for the Seymour & Morgan Company.

From 1870 to 1880 he was a “manufacturer of agricultural equipment.” With him in this business venture were others, principally George B. Whiteside, who held several patents individually and in partnership with Barnett. Whiteside’s first patent, for a cook stove, would have required a foundry for production and Barnett’s employment with Seymour & Morgan certainly gave him experience with foundry operations. Their successful partnership resulted first in the formation of Chappell, Whiteside & Barnett, then Whiteside & Barnett and finally Whiteside, Barnett & Company, which was dissolved upon the death of George Whiteside in the late 1880s. The company
manufactured a number of farm implements, such as the Empire Grain Drill and Ithaca Wheel Rake. At the Genesee Agricultural Society in 1852, it won awards and/or premiums (cash prizes) for a cast iron frame wheel cultivator, a plough, a wood frame wheel cultivator and a combined grain drill and broadcast seed sower. Aaron Miller, Josiah M. Lane, Whiteside and Barnett also shared a patent in 1860 for an improved corn planter.

This was a time in Brockport’s history when the development and manufacturing of agricultural equipment gave the village an international reputation. Brockport was in the forefront of the agricultural revolution and Whiteside & Barnett, although not the largest or most famous of our local companies, was, until the ill health of its primary partners, a successful business operation. The former manufacturing plant of Whiteside & Barnett at what is now 60 Clinton Street, along with most of its machinery, was purchased at auction in 1890 by L. T. Underhill. Josiah M. Lane, a partner of the firm and long-time Barnett household resident bought the drill patterns and a few tools. The original Medina sandstone building with its wooden addition still stands and is now on the National Register, a reminder of our early manufacturing glory days now long gone by. 

George Barnett was a founding member of the Congregational Church, which was later reorganized as the current Presbyterian Church, and along with William H. Seymour, he was one of the last two surviving members of the original congregation. Business and religious matters seem to have been the extent of Barnett’s interests later in life, but in the late 1830’s, he also served as a village trustee.

Catherine Barnett’s life is a mystery. She had live-in servants to assist her in her homemaking duties but we really know nothing of her personal interests. She died in 1883 and was buried in the Brockport Cemetery. George retired from business in the late 1880's and died at the venerable age of 93 in 1897. He was laid to rest in the family plot beside his wife.

Mary H. and Frances C. Barnett
Owners: 1897 to 1939

Mary and Frances Barnett spent their entire lives living in the State Street home built by their father and inherited from him upon his death. Neither of the sisters ever married. By 1920, the sisters had living with them Ella Robinson, a younger single woman who described her occupation as “companion” and on the 1930 census, as a “cook,” so we know they had the financial resources to employ someone to help them in their later years. From their lifestyles, we can assume that George Barnett’s estate provided for their primary financial needs for the remainder of their lives.

Early in Brockport’s history, when a school district was formed on the eastern side of the village, Mary became one of its first teachers, but for the majority of her life she was not employed outside the home. A lifetime member of the Presbyterian Church, Mary was the long-time treasurer of the Ladies Missionary Society. Although details of her membership could not be located, Mary was reportedly a member of the DAR. She was described in her obituary as keenly interested in history and intellectual pursuits. Along with her sister, Mary obtained a passport in 1898 and reportedly traveled to Europe. After a brief illness, Mary passed away at home in 1925.

Frances C. “Fannie” Barnett was the last surviving child of George and Catherine. She was a teacher of drawing who once described her occupation as “artist.” Fannie’s life, unfortunately, was not well documented. She passed away at her home in 1936. Her brief obituary mentioned surviving nieces and a nephew in Michigan. 
Members of the Barnett family buried in the Brockport Cemetery include all the daughters, their parents and George’s father and mother.

John Melvin and Mary Millican Cromwell Woodworth, Jr.
Owners: early 1940s to at least 1954

From the death of Frances Barnett in 1936 until the purchase of the home, now 19 State Street, by John and Mary Woodworth, census records show the house was rented and occupied by widow Elsie McDonald. Who owned the property? Without further, in depth research or access to the home’s abstract, we really don’t know. The next identifiable owners were the Woodworths.

John Woodworth, son of John L. and Adeline Glor Woodworth, was born in Warsaw, Wyoming County, New York. His father was an attorney. Mary M. Cromwell, the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Charles Cromwell married her husband in Warsaw, but according to the newspaper notice, her parents lived in Fairfield, Maine.

At the time of his marriage in 1937, John lived in Brockport. He had purchased a Ford dealership located at 20 King Street. The business was incorporated in 1946 as Woodworth Motors, with 500 shares of stock worth $50 each. The directors were John, his wife Mary and his mother Adeline. Woodworth continued in business until 1960, when the dealership, which had moved to South Main Street, was sold to two Rochester businessmen.

Woodworth served on the Brockport Central School Board of Education in the late 1940's and early 1950's. In 1946, Woodworth was named “Sports Czar” over all community sponsored athletics. Our semi-pro basketball club was named the “Brockport Towners.” It played against teams such as Kodak Park, the Polish Falcons and Cuba Reds with hometown talent including Tommy Burns and the Heise brothers. The “Towners” enjoyed a good deal of success, winning the league championship over Kodak Park in 1940.

The Woodworths moved from Brockport and spent their final years in California. Never having severed his emotional ties with hometown Warsaw, John was buried there after his death in 1992. Mary died after her husband and was also buried in the Warsaw Cemetery.

Epilogue 2013
This early home, built and occupied by two generations of the Barnett family for approximately 100 years, still stands. It has been covered with siding and the front lawn has been paved; turning it into a parking lot for the multiple tenants living in what is now a rental property. If memory serves correctly, there was some controversy – but not enough, obviously – to prevent the paving of the front lawn. Such has been the fate of more than one village lawn but parking arrangements aside, the home of one of Brockport’s early businessmen remains a noble and imposing structure. George Barnett was obviously a builder of quality.

© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan - April 2013. All rights reserved.