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80 State Street

80 State Street

80 State Street
Brockport, NY

History researched and written by Carol L. Hannan
© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – May 2012 All rights reserved

Charles W. and Adeline Palmer
Owners/Builders (?): late 1850s to 1861 and late 1870s

From looking at existing village maps we can narrowly pinpoint the date of this home’s construction between 1858, before it was built, to 1861, when the family of Charles W. Palmer was living in what was then number 22 State Street. Palmer’s father, Aaron, was born in Canada but his family migrated to western New York and he eventually settled in Brockport along with his son.

At first glance, Charles seems ordinary enough, working as a produce dealer in 1862 and adding justice of the peace to his resume by 1869, but like so many other unknown past village residents, Charles and his father had a passion and talent beyond what the average merchant might possess. They were inventors. 

It was during this time period when many creative and industrious village residents were granted letters patent for a wide range of new ideas, especially farm implements. This was the hey-day of reaper development and the invention of all sorts of “mechanized” farm equipment; meaning, of course, that they were farm implements drawn by horses; a huge step forward for agricultural societies. Brockport was at the forefront of the industry as home of the Johnston Harvester factory and production of the McCormick and Morgan reapers. In 1852, Aaron Palmer entered an Agriculture Implements Trial in Geneva, New York, where he demonstrated the Palmer and Williams Self Raking Reaper. Also in the demonstration field was the “New Yorker” reaper of Morgan and Seymour. In fact, Charles and his father held three patents together for improvements in self raking reapers, a significant improvement from the more primitive models which required a farmhand to follow the reaper and rake the cuttings by hand. 

Aaron moved to Rochester and continued to patent his various inventions. Son   Charles, with his family, moved to the city, as well, but worked in various business ventures but never earned another patent.

Albert P. and Jesse Wyman Ward
Owners: late 1870s to early 1900s

Albert P. Ward bought what was now the home at 76 State Street. His father was George R. Ward of 52 State Street who built and operated Ward’s Opera House. Albert made good use of those facilities as one of the featured members of the Brockport Opera Company along with Gifford Morgan and James H. Seymour, who apparently had a fondness for opera as well as the financial means to become its benefactor. In fact, the company went “on the road” to opera houses in neighboring towns and cities with productions of Gilbert and Sullivan as well as less known but apparently equally entertaining fare. With Ward and Seymour as co-managers, an orchestra of 10, original costumes, scenery and 62 members in the company including a chorus of 40, their amateur productions must have put on quite a show. In August of 1886, Ward and Seymour even joined a Mikado troupe in Sault St. Marie for a “steamer” tour of the upper Great Lakes. Ward continued to perform with the company into the 1890s, earning favorable reviews for his singing, acting and comedic renditions.

Jesse and Albert had a growing family which was supported by his work as a baker. By 1900, census information, however, revealed a tragic incident in their lives. Jesse was the mother of four, with three living children. Their nine year old daughter Nettie and a friend had been playing in a row boat on the canal. Both girls fell into the water and drowned. Nettie’s funeral was held at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and was “largely attended.”

Albert had a successful bakery business, was an active member of the opera company and the Daniel Holmes Chapter of the Royal Arch Masons. His family had deep roots in the community, yet, shortly after the turn of the century, he sold his house, moved to California and became a farmer. Why? Perhaps the reason was that Albert and Jesse’s daughter Marie was blind and she was able to attend a specialized school in California.  In any case, his departure ended the Ward family’s contributions to the village, which was certainly Brockport’s loss.

Roy E. and Winnifred L. Goff
Owners: early 1900s to 1913

Roy and Winnifred Goff owned 76 State Street for a just a few years before moving into Rochester. They were a young family with a toddler son and Roy worked as a clerk in the railroad freight office. He continued to work for the New York Central Railroad after moving to the city.

Martin and Mary G. Lorback
Owners: 1913 to 1940s

Martin Lorback was a Clarkson farmer who relocated to Brockport with his wife and two of their five sons. Lorback became a produce buyer. Two of the boys, Joseph and William, enlisted and served in the armed services during World War I. Little else is known of the family during this time period. Martin died in 1920 and was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, where Mary was laid to rest in 1940. William, George, Frank and Joseph Lorback are buried in Mt. Olivet, as well.

Epilogue 2012
One hundred years after its construction, this house, now known as 80 State Street, was purchased by the F. Willis Knapp fa
mily. Mrs. Emily Knapp was honored for her tireless work in the establishment of the Brockport museum, which bears her name.   

The property has a modern one-car garage and new siding but retains its Greek Revival styling.   

© Copyright by Carol L. Hannan – May 2012 All rights reserved