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40 State Street

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40 State Street
Brockport, N.Y. 

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

Daniel and Eliza Ploss Pease 
Owners: early 1860's to late 1860's 

They were not the builders or first owners of what, at that time, was number 12 State Street. This very old home was standing in 1852, according to our earliest village map, and we know from census information that Daniel Pease and his family were living in Clarkson at that time. 

Daniel Pease, son of George and Betsey Greene Pease were very early settlers in western New York. Connecticut natives, they traveled here by wagon in 1806; fording the Genesee River! Perhaps, as many settlers did, they traveled in the winter, when underbrush was snow covered and streams were frozen. Sadly, for the family, George died at a young age. He and his wife are buried in the Brockport Cemetery. Eliza Ploss is believed to be the daughter of William and Sarah Ploss; Clarkson neighbors of the Pease family in 1850. William Ploss was a farmer. 

Daniel and Eliza undoubtedly had many trials in their lives; the saddest probably being the early demise of all but one of their children. There were five children in the family: Sarah E., Lorenzo, Sarah, Origin J., and Mary M. Pease. It may seem unusual to us, but in days long since past, it was not at all strange to name the next-born child of the same sex after a child who had died, which is what we see in this family. Sarah E. died before the birth of the second daughter, also named Sarah. Both girls and their brother Lorenzo died in early childhood. Origin lived in Brockport, married Adell Hovey and worked as a canal collector before passing away in his early thirties. Mary wed Dewitt C. Dixon and moved to Chicago, Illinois with her husband, who was a city comptroller. Daniel Pease was a carpenter and joiner. He used his skills to enlarge his home in 1861, but it appears that he was not known primarily as a home builder. During the late 1860's, he formed a business partnership with John L. Clark. Pease & Clark was probably dissolved, however, when Clark moved to Hamlin to become a farmer. That may have been the business that Daniel Pease continued or “bought out,” but in any case, he had a carpentry business in the village; its exact location remains unknown. 

The Non-Population Schedule of 1879-80 gives us an accurate, if limited, glimpse of Pease’s successful business. The value of his materials on-hand was $10,000 and the value of the resulting products was $12,000. There was a single boiler and engine of 20 horsepower on site, an average of 15 workers yearly and 8 “men,” 16 years of age or older worked full time, meaning 10 hours daily, six days a week. Skilled workers earned an average of $2.00 a day and unskilled workers earned $1.50 a day. There were also 4 to 5 part-time workers. Pease continued in business until shortly before his death, but he had other interests and earnings during his lifetime. 

In 1892, Daniel Pease worked as an “Enumerator” for the census in Brockport’s second district, where he lived. By that time, his wife had passed away and he had long since moved to another home further east on State Street, living there with a housekeeper. 

Pease was active in Democratic politics. He was elected a village trustee in the late 1880s. He was an Inspector of Elections for Brockport’s second district. Pease ran for Overseer of the Poor on the Democratic ticket in 1891, but lost the election by 36 votes. He was elected a village assessor in the early 1890's, and as is the tradition today, he did not run on a major party ticket. In 1890, newspapers reported that he was appointed “Excise Commissioner” in place of T. C. Berry. 

Daniel died at his second State Street home, age 80, and was laid to rest in the Brockport Cemetery, with his parents, wife and son Origin. During his long life, he literally helped to “build” Brockport, yet found time, as did so many of our early residents, to work for the betterment of the village in other ways, as well. 

The Richards family: Gurdon and Lucy Field; Maro and Mary; Frederick; Harold Allen and Lillian K. 
Owners: 1870 to 1977 

40 State Street, as a few others in Brockport, could be noted as a “century home” for the Richards family, beginning with Gurdon (sometimes spelled Guerdon) and Lucy Field Richards in 1870.

Gurdon was an interesting fellow. Born in New London, Connecticut, Gurdon, the son of Robert and Lucreita Chadwick Richards, moved to “Genesee County,” as this area was known as the time, in 1839. By 1844, Gurdon had married Lucy F. Field, a native of Bergen, in present-day Genesee County. Her parents were Harvey and Mary Parker Field. 

The Richards reportedly had four children: Clinton, Maro Allen, Mary A. and Helen Lucy. Mary A. died in 1875 and was buried in Mt. Rest Cemetery, Bergen, N. Y., the location of her maternal grandparent’s family plot. Maro and Helen lived with their parents in Brockport. Helen married Postmaster Henry Clay Hammond. Son Clinton, however, is a complete mystery and likely died at a very early age. 

According to recorded histories, to which he may or may not have personally contributed, Gurdon and his family moved to Brockport in 1860. The federal census, however, has no such record of the family living in the village at that time. Lucy and her children were “found” living with a brother in Bergen. Where was Gurdon? Family lore, repeated in on-line genealogies, states that Gurdon left the area to seek his fortune in the Pennsylvania oil fields. Whether his oil exploration hopes and dreams did not live up to reality or he made enough money to pursue his goal of becoming a merchant we’ll never know, but Gurdon returned to Brockport and what was then number two State Street, where the family literally spent the remainder of their lives. 

Richards opened a flour and feed store. In 1868, son Maro joined him in the business, “G. Richards & Son,” which was relocated to the “Richards Block” building on Market Street, built after a fire in 1877 destroyed their original store. Richards & Son was eventually became known as “M. A. Richards,” owned and managed by son Maro, who reportedly, at one time, lived over the business. 

The home which carpenter Daniel Pease enlarged was further expanded by the Richards family. A large barn was also built behind the house. Perhaps a newspaper report explains why, as Maro was seen driving a “smart black pony” about the village. By the turn of the century, Gurdon had passed away, Maro, his wife Mary Electa Baldwin, their sons Fred Baldwin, Harold Allen and his mother Lucy were living in the State Street home with a live-in servant. Maro ran the family business and Fred was a “shoe inspector,” almost certainly at Moore-Shafer Shoe Company, one of the major village industries at that time. Harold, ten years younger than his brother, was still in school. The census of 1900 also revealed that of Lucy’s four children, Maro was by then the sole survivor. 

Mary Electa was the daughter of Loren and Christiana Baldwin. She grew up in Riga but eventually spent most of her life in Brockport. She was a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Mary Jane Holmes Chapter Order of the Eastern Star. Fred Baldwin Richards never married. He lived with his brother’s family on State Street. By the Draft Registration of 1918, he reported that he was employed at Richards Boot Shop. He described himself as having a medium build and height, grey eyes and brown hair. We know, from census records, that he graduated from high school. Fred also served as Sweden Town Clerk in the 1940's. His infrequent mention in contemporary newspapers generally reported his attendance at family gatherings. 

By age 26, Harold Allen Richards had married Lillian Knapp and had three children, a son and two daughters. Leaving school after the 8th grade, he first worked as a clerk in a shoe store, which he eventually owned. Richards Boot Shop was a village institution for many years, the second successful business of the Richards’ family members. On his Draft Registration form, he described himself as having medium height and build with grey eyes and brown hair – just like his older brother. Neither brother was called by the draft to serve, but the Richards’ only son, Loren, was an army veteran of WWII. 

In addition to the “Richards Block,” which still stands on Market Street and their former home on State Street, the Richards family has an additional enduring village legacy – the naming of Harvester Park, along the fabled Erie Canal. Harold Richards won the contest held to name the park, for which he received $25 and a place in village history. Gurdon, Lucy and Mary A. Richards are buried in Mt. Rest Cemetery, Bergen New York, where Lucy Fields’ family plot is located. Maro and his family members are buried in Lake View Cemetery, Sweden Township.

Epilogue 2013

The modest looking house with the impressive family history still stands on State Street. The barn constructed by the Richards’ family is long gone, however. Replacement siding most likely hides wooden clapboards but the front door certainly appears vintage, if not original. The house has been repurposed as a college rental.

Richard's Family Tree:
  • Gurdon married to Lucy Field Richards, had 4 children, only 1 son survived: Maro 
    • Maro married to Mary Electra Baldwin Richards, had 2 sons: Fred & Harold
      • Fred (not Frederick) never married
      • Harold married to Lillian Knapp Richards, had 1 son & 2 daughters: Loren, Sylvia, & Mary Janet 
Special Note: Lillian’s brother was Willis Knapp married to Emily Knapp of the Emily L. Knapp Museum. 

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