Issue 3-16-14 Website - page 13

I Never Knew That
by Lynne Belluscio
Our education committee met
a few days ago, and one of the
topics of discussion was what are
the things that kids should know
about their community’s history.
For that matter, what should
anyone know about LeRoy’s
history. Of course from my
point of view, there are a lot of
things that people should know.
And I’m always surprised when
someone who grew up in LeRoy
and whose ancestors arrived in
LeRoy by ox cart will say - -“I
never knew that!” The committee
wanted to narrow the list down
to “just the facts.” So here’s the
first draft. I’m sure there a lot of
things that aren’t on this list, but
it’s a start.
LeRoy is the name of the Town
AND the Village. The Town is
governed by a TownBoard, which
is led by the Town Supervisor.
The Village is governed by a
Village Board, which is led by
the Mayor. LeRoy is in Genesee
County and the County “seat” (or
government) is in Batavia.
The proper pronunciation of
LeRoy – based on the family who
the town is named for - is “luh
roy” not “lee roy.” (I know there
are those of you who say LeeRoy,
but don’t say that in front of the
family. I don’t think they like to
hear their name mispronounced!)
Some people spell LeRoy with
a space between the e and the R
and some people don’t. I really
don’t know what the official
spelling is – with a space or not,
but as I tell people, the tombstone
in the cemetery in NewYork City
doesn’t have a space, so as far
as I’m concerned, it’s written in
stone. However, LeRoy is always
spelled with a capital L and a
capital R.
LeRoy is named for Herman
LeRoy, a very rich man who
lived in New York City. Herman
LeRoy never lived in LeRoy, but
his son, Jacob lived in LeRoy
House, which is now a museum.
A historic marker is in front
of LeRoy House. (Not all the
information on the historic
marker is true.) Herman LeRoy
owned a large tract of land known
as the Triangle Tract. It contained
over 86,000 acres of land, and
extended all the way north to
Lake Ontario. The point of the
triangle is marked with a plaque
on a large boulder on South
Main Street in LeRoy was an
Indian trail. Two hundred years
ago Main Street was part of the
road that connected Buffalo and
Albany and was known as the
State Road. It is now New York
State Route 5.
LeRoy was settled over 200
years ago, after the American
Revolution. A historic marker
near the golf course on East
Main Street, commemorates the
first settlers. Another marker on
East Main Road commemorates
the first school. The Town of
LeRoy is older than the Village of
LeRoy. The townwas established
in 1812. A historic marker on
Trigon Park commemorates
the Bicentennial of the Town
of LeRoy in 2012. The Village
was officially formed in 1834. A
marker on the front of the Eagle
Hotel commemorates the 150th
Anniversary of the Village of
LeRoy in 1984.
The Oatka Creek was very
important to the early settlers. It
provided water power for the first
flour and saw mills. A historic
marker is located near the Post
Office which explains the history
of the LeRoy mill. Oatka is an
Indian word for “coming from
the highlands.” A very large
waterfall, known as Buttermilk
Falls, is located north of town.
Farming is very important
in LeRoy and is the largest
economic factor in the town.
Limestone mining is one of
the oldest industries in LeRoy.
Many buildings in LeRoy are
constructed of local limestone.
Limestone from the quarries in
LeRoy is crushed for gravel to
build roads. It was used to build
the NewYork State Thruway and
the Mt. Morris dam. (A historic
marker will be placed near the
Marion steam shovel on Gulf
Road to commemorate this early
Jell-O was invented in LeRoy
in 1897 by PearleWait. A historic
marker on Lake Street marks Mr.
Wait’s factory. He sold Jell-O to
Orator Woodward for $450 in
1899. The Woodward family
became millionaires. The factory
was on North Street. A historic
marker is in front of the factory.
The Jell-O Factory closed in
1964 and moved to Dover,
Delaware. Today, the history of
Jell-O can be seen at the Jell-O
Ingham University was the
first women’s university in
the United States to give four-
year degrees. It was located on
the corner of Main Street and
Wolcott Street and was founded
by Emily and Marietta Ingham.
The school closed in 1892. The
Woodward Library is built of
stone from the University Art
College. There are three historic
markers. One inside the entrance
to the Superintendent’s office;
another on the corner of Wolcott
Street; and another in front of the
Woodward Library.
The Underground Railroad
passed through LeRoy for a
few years. The “conductor” in
LeRoy was Daniel MacDonald.
(Soon the historic marker, which
is not in the correct place, will be
moved to the corner of Keeney
Road and Route 5.) Slaves came
through LeRoy on their way to
freedom in Canada.
Some other LeRoy facts that
might be a little more obscure
include (in no particular order):
Calvin Keeney was pioneer in
plant breeding and developed
many “stringless” bean varieties.
John Lapp founded the Lapp
Insulator Company in 1916
which produced porcelain high-
tension electrical insulators.
The company introduced many
innovative designs, including
equipment used on theManhattan
project during World War II.
North of the Village of LeRoy
is an outcropping of fossilized
coral reefs that are included in
a National Survey. At one time,
LeRoy had the largest malt
processing plant, and the largest
stone crusher. Amelia Earhart
visited LeRoy in January 1929 to
visit her airplane the Friendship,
in which she became the first
woman to fly across the Atlantic
Ocean. The plane was located at
one of the best private airports
in the United States and it was
owned by Donald Woodward,
youngest son of the Jell-O
millionaire, Orator Woodward.
LeRoy was first named for
the goddess of war, Bellona.
LeRoy was the home of many
patent medicine companies;
Rough on Rats poison; LeRoy
Salt Company; LeRoy Canning
Company; LeRoy Cotton Mills;
the Upham Carriage Company
which manufactured railroad
cars; LeRoy Plow Company;
the LeRoy Paper Mill; and the
Bacon Foundry which made cast
iron stoves.
At one time LeRoy had a
r a d i o s t a t i o n . S u s a n B .
Anthony, Frederick Douglass,
Daniel Webster, and Eleanor
Roosevelt visited LeRoy. The
LeRoy Municipal Building was
designed by noted architect,
Claude Bragdon. LeRoy has New
York State’s largest barn quilt
trail. Henry Ford was arrested for
speeding in LeRoy.
So study hard. There will be a
quiz next week.
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