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97-99 State Street

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97-99 State Street
Brockport, N.Y. 

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

Henry P. West and family 
Owner/builder (?): 1830s 

Seldom do records or other readily available means make it possible to identify the earliest Brockport homeowners. This house is an exception. In October 1839, the Rochester Daily Record printed a long list of letters remaining in the Brockport post office. Included on that list was Henry P. West. 

We know the two next door neighbors of this home: Calvin Walker and Thomas B. Gillespie. Referring to the 1840 Federal Census, we find the names of Thomas B. Gillespie, Calvin Walker and Henry West, in that order. The family of Henry P. West was likely the first occupants of this home. 

The West family consisted of a young Henry and his wife, whose name is unknown, both between 20 and 30 years of age and a daughter under the age of five. Henry was engaged in manufacturing or trade.

Nothing else could be found to give us a better picture of this very early village family but it was exciting to find out just how far back this home actually goes in the history of Brockport. 

Isaac and Eliza A. Dean Johnson 
Owners: by 1840 to late 1880s 

Isaac Johnson, in contrast to Henry P. West, was a long-time village resident. He stated in census records that his birth place was, variously, New Jersey and New York. His parents may have moved to this area before 1800, as Isaac also claimed to have been born in Monroe County. Eliza’s widowed mother, Mary Osborne Dean, who was born in New Jersey, lived with the Johnson family. She was cared for by her granddaughter Mary Jane during her final years; lived to the venerable age of 87 and was buried in the Brockport Cemetery. 

Isaac and Eliza had six children: Joseph B., Samuel, William, Mary Jane Johnson Butler and Agnes L. Johnson Vunk, (daughters born in Albion, Orleans County) and Henry L., who was likely born in Brockport. The family resided in Albion at least from 1838 to 1840, when they moved to Brockport and first appeared on village census records in 1840. 

Isaac was a chair and cabinet maker. His son, Joseph, followed him into that trade. William became a “moulder,” a carpenter specializing in making decorative moldings. Agnes L. became a teacher who remained at home and single during her parent’s lifetimes before marrying a man named Vunk. 

By the 1860 census, Isaac described himself as a “Gentleman,” meaning that he had retired from business. He and his wife continued to live in their home with daughter Agnes and extended family members. It’s very likely that this home was used as a two family house from a very early time, as daughter Mary Jane, her husband and family also seemed to live at the same address. 

Isaac may have participated in social or other activities which are unknown. He attended church. One item of interest concerning Isaac seems to indicate he was a resourceful businessman into his later years. Appearing widely in New York State newspapers was an ad for the “Drs. Darrin, Magnetic Physicians” of New York City. Claims of various cures attributed to them included female weakness, rheumatism, neuralgia, cancer, paralysis and asthma from people all over New York State, including Isaac Johnson. His claim, in 1878, was a nine year cure of deafness and dizziness. Isaac was further quoted that he would be “available” at a State Street Store, where he would personally testify to his cure. Even during his later years, a resourceful Isaac had the financial means to travel to New York City and become a patient of the “Drs. Darrin.” 

Isaac died in 1888. Mary A. Johnson died between 1880 and 1892, likely before her husband. Their burial locations are unknown.

David Jewett and Mary Jane Johnson Butler
Owners: late 1880s to mid-1920s 

The Butler family came into ownership of this home, then identified as 93 State Street, upon the death of Isaac Johnson. Mary Jane, the daughter of Isaac and Mary Johnson, and her family, had been living in the home for some years before they took ownership of the property. 

David Jewett Butler, the son of Daniel and Elizabeth “Betsey” Comstock Butler came from early colonial roots on both sides of his family. His parents came to this area at an early date, but sadly, Daniel Butler died at a relatively young age. Both of Bulter’s parents are buried in the Brockport Cemetery. 

Butler was first found as a young husband and father, living in Ogden and working as postmaster in Adams Basin. In 1862, he enlisted as a private in Company H of the 21st NY Cavalry, the so called Griswold Light Cavalry. The company fought in the battles of Piedmont, Kernstown II, New Market and Lynchburg. Butler may have been wounded in his leg during his service. He was discharged in 1865, having served 2 years, 9 months, and 27 days, during which time he was promoted to his final rank of Quartermaster Sergeant. He and then his widow received a pension for his service. Butler’s tombstone records his Civil War service, which may have been his finest hour, for all eternity.

Mary Jane and David Butler had four children: Harry Jewett, Emma E., Dean (note the use of grandmother’s maiden name) L. and Jewett D. (David?), who was sometimes referred to as Jewett Butler, Junior. The maternal family’s great great grandmother was a Jewett by birth and this name is frequently used as a first and middle name in multiple generations of this family. It becomes especially confusing, as the father in this generation was variously referred to as David, David J., D. Jewett and Jewett Butler throughout his lifetime. He had sons and a grandson with the Jewett name, as well. For example, in 1892, “Jewett Butler” was elected “Poormaster” in Sweden. In this case, given the date, it almost had to be David Jewett Butler who held the office and not his son, who would have been a mere 21 years old at the time. 

Harry Butler worked as a tinsmith in Brockport, then moved to Ohio, where he married twice, had six children and eventually became a farmer. Emma most likely married. Jewett followed in one of his father’s many footsteps and became a postal clerk and Dean eventually became a very successful village businessman who was much involved in several service organizations. 

In addition to the elective office of Poormaster, David Butler was a railroad laborer, Postmaster in Adams Basin, New York, a flour and feed merchant in Brockport and a laborer, again, at the end of his life. He also reportedly owned a furniture store in Rochester for some fifteen years, according to son Dean’s autobiography. 

The Butler & Vunk flour and feed store was an interesting family venture. It was supposedly located in the family home and run by the Johnson sisters, Mary Jane Johnson Butler and Agnes Johnson Vunk, also David and then Dean Butler, who began work there as a clerk. On the 1902 Brockport map, the house was labeled Butler & Vunk, supposedly referring to the owners of the home, but perhaps, in this case, giving the name of the store. 

With the deaths of Agnes Vunk, David Butler and his wife Mary Jane, the two generation family ownership of this home came to an end. The Butler family, however, continued the tradition of generational ownership on State Street, as son Jewett owned a house there, where David and Mary Jane’s granddaughter, Alene, eventually lived for many years. David and Mary Jane were laid to rest in the Brockport Cemetery. Agnes Johnson Vunk’s burial location is unknown. 

Epilogue 2014 

This very old home became a family rental property after the deaths of Butler family members. From the simple, boxy configuration of the house, changes were made in it during the 1920s. The likely wooden clapboards are covered by some type of manufactured shingles. The front porches are now held up by metal posts and enclosed by replacement railings but the large barn erected at the back of the lot by Isaac Johnson still stands. Very limited landscaping adorns the front of the house along with a seemingly ever-present “for rent” sign. In recent years, the house has become a college rental.

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