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86 State Street

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86 State Street
Brockport, N.Y. 

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

Charles and Charlotte E. Hinckley Van Eps
Owners/builders(?): 1850s to early 1900s

A home was present in this location on the earliest village map of 1852. It was a smaller house, rectangular in shape. There was no carriage house on the property. It was possibly erected earlier than the 1850s, as at least one reference has noted that Charles Van Eps opened his first store here in the 1840s. In any case, we know the Van Eps family was living in the home by the time of the 1850 Federal Census.

To see the original Van Eps home, we’d have to take a short walk. Before erecting this lovely, larger home, Charles had the original house moved to the lot at the corner of Park Avenue and South Street! That’s correct. The original Van Eps house is now 54 South Street.

Charles’ exact parentage is uncertain, but as his mother eventually lived with the family in Brockport, we know her first name was Mary and her middle or maiden name began with an “H.” His obituary gave Charles’ birthplace Charlton, Saratoga County, NY, and the Mohawk/Hudson Valley area certainly had many early Dutch settlers with the surname of Van Eps (sometimes spelled Van Epps); too many, unfortunately, to find out more about the family. His obituary also stated that Charles moved to this area at the age of ten, which also can’t be confirmed.

Charlotte’s parents were Guy and Abigail Dunton Hinckley, from Naples, Ontario County, NY. Guy, a tanner, was originally from Connecticut, where his father enlisted as a drummer boy at age 16 and served until the end of the Revolutionary War. Ella M. Van Eps Graves, a daughter of Charles and Charlotte, joined the DAR based on her maternal grandfather’s service.

Charles and Charlotte had five children: Ella M. (or Mary Ella ?), Charlotte or “Lottie,” Carrie Thomas, Charles, Jr. and William Blythe. Also part of the family was Charles’ daughter, Delphine, who was born the year before her mother, Sophia T. Van Eps, died. Ella, or perhaps Mary E. as her name was given on the 1870 Federal Census, married a boy from down the block -- Edson H. Graves. They first lived in Rochester, as Edson, a railroad telegrapher, rose to a supervisory position. Moving to Milwaukee for yet another important railroad promotion, Edson died of “congestion of the brain” in 1890, after which Ella and her son returned to her parent’s home in Brockport. Lottie tragically died in her teens, following an operation for the removal of a cancerous tumor. Carrie married successful Brockport businessman William N. Winslow and had twin sons, but sadly, died in 1892. Charles, Jr. died within a year of his birth. William married Cornelia Smith and succeeded his father in the family hardware business, which was a village fixture for 42 years. By the age of 14, Delphine had moved out of the family home, until, by age 20, her whereabouts became unknown. Live-in help was employed to assist the household.

Charles was a tinsmith and hardware dealer, with a business located on Main Street. The “New Establishment” advertised in 1863 stated he was a “manufacturer and dealer in nails, tin, copper, sheet iron and roofing,” with all work “warranted.” By the time of the 1873 Rochester Directory, his business was described as a “country store.” A late 1800s newspaper advertisement for the Brockport Fair reminded visitors that Van Eps’ stove display was available at the fairgrounds and in his store. He also supplied hardware used in the building of the Normal School. It was a successful business that brought prosperity to a family which had suffered so much personal tragedy and loss.

The simple dwelling first built at 16 Mechanic Street has undergone some obvious changes through the years. An addition to the back of the original house was made first and a large carriage house was added to the lot by the turn of the century. Remodeling was apparently a forte of Charles. In the early 1890s, a newspaper notation stated that he had partly torn down the very old home constructed by Pelatiah Rogers at the corner of Park Avenue and State Street. What would have been similar in style to the simple, much smaller house on the opposite corner became an enlarged and elaborate Victorian dwelling, into which moved Van Eps’ surviving son, William.

The family likely worshiped at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Brockport. Edson H. Graves, reportedly a fine musician with masterful skills as an organist, provided music for the congregation. It was the Reverend J. S. Littell, from St. Luke’s, who officiated at Charlotte Van Eps funeral service in 1902.

Charles was active in village life and served several terms as a trustee. He may have also have been an assessor. By 1889, he had retired from the hardware store. Charlotte passed away in their home at what was then 105 Park Avenue. She was laid to rest in the family plot at the Brockport Cemetery. Charles lived until age 84, when, in 1906, he too passed away at his long-time Park Avenue residence. William and his wife were eventually buried at the Brockport Cemetery. Daughter Carrie is buried with her husband’s family at Lakeview Cemetery, where the distinctive Winslow monument is a noted cemetery feature.

Willis Curtis and Mary E. Williams Cook
Owners: 1906 to 1915

Willis and Mary Cook moved to Brockport in 1887, first living on King Street, and then moving to the corner of Park Avenue and State Street before purchasing this home further south on Park Avenue. This was the final village location from which Dr. Cook continued his practice.

Born in Bergen, Genesee County, Willis Cook enlisted in the Civil War as a member of Company K, 13th Michigan Volunteers in 1861. Discharged because of disability a year later, Sergeant Cook re-enlisted in the military as a veterinary surgeon in the 9th Michigan Cavalry and served in that unit until the end of the war. It was after the war that he returned to New York with his second wife, Mary E. Williams.

Spending the remainder of his life farming with his father was not to be Cook’s destiny. In 1883, he entered Niagara University in Buffalo. Continuing his education at Northwestern University in Ohio, Cook entered Toledo Medical College, where he finished his medical education. It was in Brockport that Cook began his medical career. He served as the village health officer for ten years and as Brockport’s coroner, as well.

In addition to his medical service to the community, Cook belonged to the local Masonic Lodge and supported the Republican Party. With his children grown and living in different locations as far away as Mexico, Cook continued his practice here until he sold this home and retired, but he continued to live in Brockport for the rest of his life. His second wife had predeceased him when Dr. Cook passed away in 1920.

Additional information about the Cook family can be found in the house history for 41 Park Avenue.

Martin Roselle and Edith Juliette Cobb Waterman
Owners: 1916 to circa 1930

Martin R. Waterman, son of Asa L. and Elizabeth Ann Cobb Waterman, was born and raised in Chautauqua County, New York. Edith Cobb, daughter of George Freedom Cobb and Florence Evangeline Hatch, was his first cousin. Martin and Edith had one daughter, Dorothy Edith, whom they adopted.

Martin attended the Normal School at Fredonia and first became a school teacher and principal in central New York. Just as his predecessor Dr. Cook had entered medical school somewhat later in life. Martin gave up education and entered Syracuse University to study medicine. He earned his M.D. degree ten years after completing his undergraduate education.

The Waterman’s adopted daughter, Dorothy Edith, studied at the Genesee Weslyan Seminary in Lima, New York. She graduated from the Brockport Normal School, as well. The last information available had her working in Rochester as a book keeper.

Life for the Waterman family seemed ideal until 1926, when a brief newspaper account reported that the doctor had been arraigned on a charge of performing “illegal operations.” It was left to the reader to conclude exactly what kind of illegal operations were supposedly being performed. The case was sent to a Grand Jury, which apparently did not believe the charges, as nothing more could be found about a trial and/or verdict. After his arrest, the doctor posted bail and immediately regained his freedom from jail, but his problems multiplied when Edith Waterman immediately filed for divorce. Following the divorce, Martin Waterman gave up his practice in Brockport, moved to Rochester, remarried and continued to practice medicine until his death. Edith, who at one time listed her occupation as “chiropractor” on a census form, received alimony, which she fought for in repeated court battles, claiming issues of non-payment, financial hardship and her own ill health. She retained ownership of the Park Avenue home, however, which by that time had been converted into a two family house. Edith died in 1936 and ironically, given the divorce and legal wrangling with her former husband, was buried in the same Chautauqua cemetery as Martin and his second wife.

Epilogue 2013

The large house and barn remain standing today. No longer a “double,” the home has been further divided into multiple rental units. Although now clad in siding covering the clapboards, the configuration of the home remains as shown on the 1924 village map.

Images of the Van Eps family were provided by their family historian, who generously shared copies of the photos to include in this history.

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