From the desk of our president, Earl Roth – Town of Elba Historian

FROM THE DESK OF
EARL ROTH

Historian –Town of Elba
Historian – Village of Elba EROTH@ROCHESTER.RR.COM
President – Historical Society of Elba
Master – Elba Grange #783 July 25, 2018 2018-7

Greetings – If anyone has a particular topic on Elba or its history that they would like additional information on, I would be happy to cooperate.

GRANGERS

On July 19th, The Elba Grange was fortunate to have as guest speakers, two young farmers from South Africa. They are currently working for Craig Yunker and CY Farms of Elba. They are participating in an international program that allows young farmers to travel to other countries and work for other farmers in order to gain experience and knowledge of different farming practices and management techniques.

Jacques Marais is from Bothaville (Free State province), South Africa, which is located near the Vaal & Vals Rivers. His family has a farm of several thousand acres that produce corn and other field crops. They employ approximately 40 individuals and furnish not only employment, but also housing and some education for those individuals and their families. Jacques is fluent in several languages including German, French, English as well as several dialects of local native languages. Gaining the respect of employees is very important and an important part of that is to learn their native language. Racially, the area is approximately 5% white and there has been instances where the locals will overrun a farm and kill the owners and steal their property.

Jacques did mention that because of the soil types that are farmed, that stones & rocks do not exist. No rock picking!!! While our local farmers complain about the number of deer that invade their fields; it pales in comparison to the local animals that Jacques’ family has to contend with, which range from elephants to bands of monkeys .

Juon DuPlessis is from Nelspruit, which is the capital of Mpumalanga province, located in the Valley of the Crocodile River and is near Kruger National Park. Because of its climate, the area is big in citrus & tropical fruits, macadamia nuts and forestry products. Juon’s family has several hundred acres of macadamia nut trees.

Differences in agricultural practices and equipment exist, but much of that relates to the fact that the US farmers are using larger equipment (12 row planters versus 24 row planters) and that US farmers are more progressive in using modern technology (GPS, drones, etc.).

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HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Our next meeting will be August 2nd at seven P.M. at our museum. All are welcome.
All, members & non-members are always welcome to join us.

OTHER

Recently, July 8th, Elba lost one of its landmarks, The Stumbling Inn (The Elba Hotel), to fire. Because of the sizable demolition and cleanup costs, the community has organized a benefit event to be held at the Elba Fire Department Recreation Hall on September 30th from noon till 7:00 P.M. Jim & Steve Goff, owners, have been active supporters of the Elba community and its activities in their thirty-nine years of ownership.

I have included below a brief history of that landmark as put together by Scott Benz (former town & village historian) in Elba’s 175th anniversary book.

Elba’s first hotel was founded in 1815 by Stephen Harmon on the same site as the Stumbling. Pine Hill was still five years away from being separated from Batavia and becoming the Town of Elba. Elba was a convenient stop for travelers going between Batavia and Albion (Erie Canal) and the lake port located at what now is known as Point Breeze.

In September 1874, the building, now owned by Wm. Moreau was destroyed by fire. A, new two story hotel was constructed and open for business on July 25, 1875. On April 23, 1878, Wm. Moreau sold the business to John and Anna Swartz of Hazelton, Pa. John Swartz was a Civil War veteran who had lost a leg in the war. John eventually died in 1887 due to war related wounds. His widow, Anna, would continue the business until her death in 1895.

With the arrival of the West Shore Railroad and its passengers, Anna expanded the building. The second floor ballroom was converted to additional rooms and a third floor was added for a new ballroom with a “spring” dance floor. A porch was extended over the sidewalk so that customers could step directly from their carriage to the cover of the veranda and not get wet. Each arrival of a train at the depot would be greeted by a team of horses from the in order to provide transportation to the Hotel

Although Anna died in 1895, the Swartz family would continue to operate the Hotel until 1932, when it was purchased by Jackson Filkins. The Hotel had a variety of owners until it was purchased in 1979 by Jim & Steve Goff.

In the 1920’s, the ballroom with its famous “spring” floor served as home for Elba’s high school basketball and volleyball players. The Hotel throughout its life was known for its food and entertainment.

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Stumblin’ Inn

A piece of Elba history is gone forever and the village landscape has been changed forever. About 9:00 am on Sunday, July 8, 2018, a fire broke out and destroyed the historic Stumblin’ Inn.

The following article is taken from the Town of Elba history book compiled by the 175th Anniversary Committee.  1995

Elba Hotel

Built in 1874 after fire destroyed the original structure. Currently the Stumblin’ Inn.

THE PINE HILL HOTEL – #1 SOUTH MAIN ST

As every little hamlet in the country grew and expanded with the emergence of our nation, it became necessary for the foundling towns to provide lodging for the ever western bound populace.  Elba was just such a town.  As pioneers, settlers, and peddlers traveled the Old Buffalo Road taking them far from the congested areas of Albany towards the new frontier, a frequent stop was Batavia.  With Elba situated on the way through to the lakes and the Erie Canal, many passengers took advantage of our forefathers hospitality and rested from the weariness of the road at one of our taverns or hotels.

Elba’s first hotel was established in 1815, by Stephen Harmon, located at the present site of the Stumblin’ Inn on the southwest corner of Main and Mechanic Streets.  Early information on the hotel is sketchy at best.  In 1845, William Case became the landlord and he was succeeded by a man named McClane after 1850.  Silas Hawes then took over the operation, succeeded by Mr. Norton, then John King and H.D. Matson.  Later, Mr. Matson had a partner, Alexander Milliken, in 1860 and 61.  Not much is known of Mr. Matson except that in March of 1868 he slid out of Pine Hill in the dead of night leaving behind many friends and creditors to mourn his disappearance, quite a number of dollars worth.

William Moreau then acquired ownership to the building, but in September 1874, a devastating fire that raged through our business district, destroyed the hotel.  The good citizenry of Elba had managed to save some of his furniture and by October of that year had subscribed some $400-$500 to aid in the rebuilding of the hotel.  William, or “Billy” as he was known, cleared away the debris and in early spring of 1875, the new Hotel emerged as its majestic self under the skillful work of Brockway & Ritter.  By May, she was receiving her first coat of paint and in July, the last coat of plaster was set.  She reopened on July 23, 1875 with such accomodations as any traveler could hope for in those days for a first-class hotel.

In four years, Billy and his wife Parmelia, were ready to sell their new establishment when a one-legged Civil War veteran from Hazelton, PA made his way to Elba.  John Adam Swartz with his wife Anna, bought the two story structure on April 23, 1878, to be known as the Swartz Hotel.

The Swartz’s relocated in Elba to embark on their new life with their three children, Lizzie, John Adam Jr. and George W in 1878.  Elba was pleased to gain the new gentlemanly proprietor who saw to it that his hotel was not a place for roughs and rowdyism.  In June of 1879, they were again blessed with a son, Charles John.  Under the management of the Swartz’s, the hotel continually underwent changes to increase its capacity for entertaining as well as for guests.  But in June of 1886, landlord Swartz had an attack of severe hemorrhaging of the stomach and bowels, a condition that had been created by his old war wounds.  During the next year, this problem would reoccur often until it proved fatal on June 8, 1887.  With his eldest son, John Jr, barely 16, Anna had to take on the responsibilities of managing a hotel and raising her family of four.

Anna Swartz proved to be a wise and progressive businesswoman.  When the long-awaited West Shore railroad finally stretched its tracks into Elba, it brought passengers daily.  Anna realized its benefits and in 1893, she had the old second floor ballroom converted into additional rooms and added a third story, a new ballroom with the famous spring dance floor under a mansard roof.  Eighty-two couples participated in the festivities of her Grand Opening and danced to the excellent music of Barber’s Orchestra.  The newly remodeled hotel now boasted of two second floor suites with plush interior and thick cushioned red carpets where private parties were to be held.  Shrimp salad was a feature of every special occasion and to preserve the quiet serenity of the dining room, waitresses were required to don soft-soled bedroom slippers.

Anna also involved her sons in the business.  She provided a double express wagon and team and had them meet every train at the depot to chauffeur the guests back and forth.  At the time, part of the porch roof extended over the sidewalk so that guests could step directly from carriages to the cover of the veranda. Friday and Saturday evenings brought the town alive as dancers flocked into Elba when the fiddles and banjos started their toes a tapping.

Anna joined her husband in his final resting place in 1895 and with that, John Jr. took over the management and eventually purchased the interests of his sister and two brothers.  George Swartz became a traveling salesman for a bicycle company but later enlisted in the 65th Regiment and was stationed at Camp Alger, Virginia.  After his release from the Army, he operated and Inn in Batavia known as “The Kirk” at 55 Main Street.  Eventually, he moved to San Francisco, CA where he died.

John Jr. married Evelyn M. Strouts, the daughter of William and Mary (Bang) Strouts of Elba and together they continued the family business.  Under their management, the hotel enjoyed and enviable reputation.  But on March 11, 1914, John was stricken with an attack of paralysis in Cole’s store that rendered his left side useless.  He was hurriedly taken to his hotel and medical aid was summoned, but it was of no avail.  He remained conscious a little over an hour and then lapsed into a coma, from which he never rallied.  So widely known was the Swartz name throughout Western New York, that people from nearly every town in Genesee County as well as Orleans and Erie Counties were in attendance at his funeral.  The accomodations of the hotel were taxed to the utmost to care for the number in attendance and many had to stand outside during the funeral service despite the bad weather.

Just as Anna had done before her, it was now Evelyn’s turn to operate the hotel.  With the coming  of Prohibition in the 1920’s, the Elba Hotel took on a new role in the community as the ballroom floor sprang to a different beat, the bounce of basketballs.  For many years the outline of the basketball court could still be seen on the third floor where Elba High School students, with no gym of their own, played basketball and volleyball and even held their Halloween parties,  Soft drinks were the only beverage sold.

The Hotel was purchased in December of 1932 by Jackson L. Filkins and the ballroom hummed again to the tunes of Hubert and Louie Griffin and other music makers.  Nine years later, he sold to Jay and Emma Hale and moved to a farm on the Watson Road.  But after one long year of country solitude, bachelor Filkins had had enough and was grateful to repurchase the business in 1942.

It was during his tenure as proprietor that workmen, excavating to install a septic tank in the “clothes yard” directly behind the hotel, unearthed a human skeleton with a single telltale hole piercing its skull.  They dug no further, though someone suggested there might be an ancient graveyard and townspeople were left to speculate whether their eerie visitor had been a pioneer, escaped slave, or even an  Indian.  The skull glared accusingly at curious citizens for a few years and then disappeared, some say shipped to a Buffalo museum.

Charles and Frank Zambito purchased the hotel in 1949 and operated it until 1955, when Tom and Marty Greer became the owners.  Later, Pete and Nancy Markowski ran the hotel, calling it “The Other Place.”  In August of 1979, the present owners, Jim and Steve Goff acquired the property, and the name became “The Stumblin’ Inn.”

Gone now is the front porch and wide veranda, the once famous spring dance floor and the third floor with its Mansard roof, but Jim and Steve are slowly, through their hard work, trying to upgrade the old proud structure and regain its stature in the community.

An interesting note on John Swartz, the father of our Hotel keeper, is that he was a Captain of the Washington Guards and was attached to the Union Guards in the 2nd Brigade of the 8th Division.  His certificate still remains in the hands of the family and is dated May 13, 1844.

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Newsletter

Our president, Earl Roth, holds many positions in our community. He writes a monthly newsletter with interesting bits of information from Elba past and present. If you would like to receive this newsletter in an email from Earl please contact him at eroth@rochester.rr.com. He will add your email address to his mailing list.

Earl is also being inducted into the Elba Central School Alumni Hall of Fame this Saturday night at a dinner/reception at Batavia Downs. If you see Earl please congratulate him on his induction.

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` FROM THE DESK OF
EARL ROTH
Historian –Town of Elba
Historian – Village of Elba EROTH@ROCHESTER.RR.COM
President – Historical Society of Elba
Master – Elba Grange #783 January 15, 2018 2018-1

Greetings – My e-mail list continues to grow, I am eager to continue and expand my mailing list, if you know of an Elba resident or ECS graduate that might be interested, I will be happy to add their name to my list.

GRANGERS

Did you know that prior to the Firemen’s Field Day (Onion Festival), initiated in 1937, that the Elba Grange held an annual Grange Fair and supper each fall. The following is an original poem by Will Balfour, dedicated to the 1923 Elba Grange Fair.

The Grangers held their annual Fair The Ice Cream Booth was in command
In nineteen twenty-three of Bert and Mrs. Dorman
The month, it was October And the tickets for the supper
And a success it proved to be. Were sold by Harry Norman.

The people came from far and near There also was a Candy Booth,
As by magnet they were drawn Fish Pond with things galore
But all roads lead to Elba And the Ladies had a Fancy Booth
When there’s something going on. In the center of the floor
And as you looked around the hall
The Supper was a drawing card It nearly made you dizzy
The tables were well filled To see the people move about
With chicken pie and other things They were so very busy.
I’m sure they filled the bill.
So asked me what the Fair was for
The Hall was decorated They really like to learn
With Red-White- and blue Says I, – to swell the “building fund”
The Articles donated That the mortgage we might burn.
I should say were not a few.
You may think the writer crazy
The Vegetable Booth, was well supplied No doubt – his mind’s unsound.
And with “Robert for a clerk, But will give you three cheers for
He waited on the customers the Elba Grange
With the courtesy of a Turk” And a “Tiger” – for the Old Home Town.

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HISTORICAL SOCIETY

The mid-winters doldrums have hit and with the brutal weather, activity has gone into hibernation. Members will soon receive a schedule of 2018 events, as well as an invoice for dues. As always we appreciate everyone’s support and look forward to expanding our membership.

OTHER

In May of 2016, soon after I was appointed Town Historian, I received a request for information regarding a traffic light at the four corners. Long time Elba resident, Stu Hare, stated that he had recollection of a suspended signal over the corners, but did not remember any additional details. He recalled that when a vehicle would stop for the signal, that certain young lads would appear out of the bushes and lift the rear of the vehicle off the ground.
Recently, as I was reviewing minutes of the Elba Grange, I found a resolution dated December 10, 1938; asking the State Highway Dept. for a traffic light or substitute put back, owing to a fatal accident.
Armed with this information, I reviewed newspaper clippings for December 1938. A Daily News article confirmed the fact that a pedestrian was killed crossing Main Street. The article mentions that on Saturday (Dec. 3rd) a stop-and-go signal was removed by state authorities. The fatal accident occurred on Monday (Dec. 5th), two days later.
The pedestrian was Emero Merrill and the car was driven by Gordon Ransom. Mr. Merrill had just purchased a writing pad at the Earl Hundredmark general store on the west side of Main Street and was crossing Main Street to return to his vehicle.
The accident occurred at 7:30 PM and the lights from an on-coming vehicle blinded Mr. Ransom.
Mr. Merrill lived with his sister and brother-in-law, Mr. & Mrs. Howard Schuler, and was also survived by a niece (Dorothy Schuler) and a nephew (Elton Schuler).
Several years ago, this same intersection was the scene of another accident, when Ralph Gillard (our long local assessor) was killed, when turning from Chapel Street onto Main Street.

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Roast Beef Dinner Basket Raffle Thank You

Thank you to the following for their donations to our basket raffle at the Roast Beef Dinner in October.

Pat Baldwin
Mary Hale
Diane Bridge & Gina DeLelys
Lucinne Kauffman
Deb Mosier
Linda Petote
Lois Petote
JoAnn Olsen
June Rowcliffe
Carol Rowcliffe
JoAnn Soules-Robinson
Joan Shuknecht
Pauli Miano
Elba Betterment Committee
John and MaryLou Townsend
M&T Bank – Elba
Richenbergs
Torrey Farms
Torrey Farm Market – Grace Torrey
Alabama Holley Farm
Chaps Elba Diner
Nesbitt Vintage Apples
Lynn-ette Farms and Sons
Harrington’s Greenhouse
Lee Shuknecht and Sons
Earl and Ann Roth
Norma Komar

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Officers Terms

President (2 yr term)- Earl Roth – term – expires December 2018
Vice President (2 yr term)- Louie Esten – term – expires December 2018
Secretary (2 yr term)- Irene Griffith-Pierce – term – expires December 2018
Treasurer (2 yr term)- Amy Vlack – term – expires December 2018

Board of Trustees (3 yr term)
Linda Horner – term expires December 2018
Paul Geogre – term expires December 2019
Kay Scroger – term expires December 2020
Lois Petote – term expires December 2020

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Roast Beef Dinner

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Brick order form

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Order your Memorial Brick

We are putting together an order for Memorial Bricks for the brick walkway at our museum. Each brick is $50 and will contain three lines of text. If you are interested in ordering a brick in memory of a loved one, group, organization, your family, etc…please contact the Historical Society. Our email address is historicalsocietyofelba@yahoo.com.

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The next meeting will be held at the museum tonight (August 3, 2017) at 7:00 PM.  Our guest speaker will be Earl Dorman.  Mr. Dorman is a life long resident of the Five Corners/East Elba area.  Mr. Dorman will share some memories and answer questions.  The meeting is open to members & non-members.

 

Note – Our vice-president, Lewis Esten,  had a heart attack recently.  He is now home and recovering nicely.  Our best wishes to him.

 

On Sunday last, our museum received a visit from Margaret Tyrrell of Grand Island, N.Y..  Mrs. Tyrrell is a daughter of Emma Evans Hall, who was a student of Pat Burr and taught with Pat at ECS for a short period of time.  They became close friends and remained in touch.  Pat had given Mrs. Hall a 30 by 40 painting of sunflowers and Mrs. Tyrrell wished to donate that painting to our museum in her mother’s memory.

 

On Monday, Ann Gavenda & Earl Roth  visited with Mrs. Holly Dill of Florida.  Mrs. Dill is a grand-daughter of Harry Bonney.  Mr. Bonney was in partnership with Roy Porter in the produce business.  Mr. & Mrs. Bonney resided at 20 Chapel Street with their three daughters (Jane, Elizabeth & Suzanne).  Mrs. Dill was in the area attending memorial services for her aunt and wanted to know more about Elba and her family.

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