Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

About this blog

learn more about the history of Chemung County 

Entries in this blog


One Room Schoolhouses In Veteran

by Erin Doane 

In 1876, the Town of Veteran had a population of around 2,300 and it had 15 schools. 15!? To modern eyes, that may seem like a lot, but the majority were small, one-room schoolhouses. This was typical of most rural towns in the 19thand early 20th centuries. Nearly all of the students would have to walk to school, so the schoolhouses needed to be close to where they lived. Of the 867 school-age children who lived in Veteran in 1876, 717 were enrolled pupils. There were 12 male teachers and 21 female teachers and a library of 445 volumes shared across the schools.


The Town of Veteran Historians have a wonderful collection of photographs and materials related to these early schools. While researching the Towns and Villages of Chemung County: Veteran exhibit, which is on display here at CCHS through July 2018, I got to look through their school files. All the images in this post are from the Veteran Historians’ collection.


The first schoolhouse in the town of Veteran was built in the early 1800s just east of the village of Millport. Simeon Squires served as the first school teacher. By the middle of the century, more schoolhouses had been built in Sullivanville, Pine Valley, and more remote areas of the town.


Millport’s famous octagon school was built in 1869. The two-story building had two rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs, where students in grades 1 through 8 were taught. This was one of the only schools that had more than one teacher. In 1888, the two teachers were a husband and wife team who made a combined salary of $750 a year.


The interiors of the one-room schoolhouses were fairly similar. Typically, there were wooden student desks facing a teacher’s desk and a blackboard in the front of the room. The early schools had no electricity and water had to be brought in from either a well with a pitcher pump outside or from a neighboring home. A wood or coal stove would provide heat for the building in the winter. Since nearly every student walked to school, some were able to go home for lunch. Those who stayed would bring their own lunches or, at some schools, the teacher or parents would provide hot soup for all the students. Outhouses, one for boys and one for girls, were nearby. Some schools had a swing outside or a teeter-totter that students could enjoy at recess.


Most of the schools had students from grades 1 through 8 all in the same room. The teacher would work with one grade at a time but everyone could hear the lessons. Because of that, younger students often learned what their older counterparts were being taught. It was not unusual for students in these one-room schoolhouses to pass tests to skip into higher grades. After 8th grade, students would go to high school in Horseheads.


One of the neatest things that I found in the Historians’ files were photocopies of yearbooks from Veteran School No. 10 from 1935 and 1936. The homemade yearbooks included class photos, drawings likely made by students, and even a class will. I wonder how many schools produced their own yearbooks like that.


Veteran’s rural schools were consolidated with the Horseheads Central School District in 1950 and the days of the one-room schoolhouse came to an end. Several of the schoolhouses were torn down but may more remain as private residences. For more photos and information about Veteran schools visit http://www.townofveteranhistoricalsociety.com/id14.html. To see more photos of students and read stories from those who went to some of the one-room schoolhouses in Veteran visit http://www.townofveteranhistoricalsociety.com/id24.html



Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. This article was originally posted HERE 2/18/18


by Kelli Huggins


In the summer of 1930, a local scandal erupted when people discovered that there was a Communist summer camp for children operating in the town of Van Etten.  The fervor of the Red Scare had died down since its peak in the early 1920s, but many Americans still feared the threat of Communism. The Van Etten Workers' International Relief Camp housed 100 children ages 7-17 who hailed from New York and surrounding states. The camp was the target of local animosity from the time it opened on July 6. Leaders reported shots fired at camp from a car and the Ku Klux Klan burned a cross nearby. There were rumors that the children were neglected and that the camp used a hen house for a kitchen, but these were all untrue. However, these incidents were just a prelude for the life-threatening drama that would erupt in mid-August.

On Tuesday August 12, 1930, Mabel Husa and Ailene Holmes, the directors of the camp, were charged with desecrating the American flag. The women, both in their early 20s, were charged based on accusations by local American Legion members stemming from an incident at the camp on August 8. 

The exact events of August 8 are difficult to ascertain because both sides told different stories. That day, members of the Legion and the Patriotic Order of America arrived at the camp uninvited and tried to present the camp leaders with an American flag and asked that they run it up the pole. Husa and Holmes refused the offer and told the group to leave. Undeterred, the Legion members raised the flag across the street from the camp. Then, a boy from the camp allegedly ran out with the camp flag (which was similar to the Soviet flag) and ran it up a nearby telephone pole so that it was higher than the American flag. After that, the stories diverge. According to the Legion members, Husa allegedly led the children to the flag to boo at it. Mrs. Victoria Koons said the children stuck their tongues out at the flag, expressing her disgust with the following weirdly descriptive statement: "I saw more yards of tongue than I ever saw before." The children were also said to chant anti-American and anti-flag slogans.

Holmes and Husa refuted the Legion's claims. Holmes said she respected the American flag and considered it her flag, but she did think it "represented the rule of the boss class over the workers' class." She also claimed that the children's "boos" were directed at their visitors, not the flag, and that they were chanting "Down with the American Legion" and "Down with the Ku Klux Klan." 

The situation turned dangerous a couple days later when the women's trial was delayed briefly in order for them to secure council. On Thursday, August 14, 1930, a mob of 500 men surrounded the camp with the intention to burn it to the ground. 25 of those men went into the camp to tell them to remove the children but they were told the children would stay. In less than an hour, the crowd outside had grown to 2,000 people. A local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan was meeting nearby on school grounds and headed to lend their support to the mob. Simultaneously, a meeting of Finnish immigrants and descendants was also meeting and they joined in to support the camp leaders (there was a large influx of Finnish immigrants to the region beginning in the early 20th century). Police were able to first split up the supporters and detractors, and eventually, dispersed the entire group by 1:30 am, thereby averting any violence.


The camp closed Saturday and children were sent home. When the trial resumed, 150 people packed the small Van Etten Town Hall. On August 18, the women were found guilty and sentenced to three months in the Monroe County Penitentiary in Rochester and received $50 fines.  Husa and Holmes remained defiant. Talking to reporters, Husa decried the "un-American attitude of the men who call themselves Americans and who in numbers would seek to attack three defenseless women and 70 helpless children to gratify their supposed sense of patriotism...Surely it must require great bravery for our visitors to throw stones with women as their apparent targets...The Reds, whom that crowd seems intent upon destroying, cannot do much worse by way of showing disrespect for law, liberty and the rights of human beings regardless of their religious or political beliefs." 

Public sentiment on the case was divided. Many in the press were sympathetic to the women, especially in light on the incident with the mob. One report of their arrival in Rochester is as follows: "Two pleasant young ladies, barely past the high school ages, with blonde bobbed hair and the healthy tan of a summer in the open on their cheeks, arrived in town...They didn't have any horns on their heads nor any bombs secreted on their persons..." 

An August 30 editorial in the Ogdensburg Republican-Journal was more scathing: "The whole episode savors of that superheated 'patriotism' that caused so much trouble in this country during and directly after the late war. So far as reported, the camp was being conducted peacefully until the appearance of the mob...What right had the men to interfere in the business of the camp? By what exceptional virtues were they qualified to dictate patriotism to the camp? The action of the mob was much like the Ku Klux Klan...The mob's 'patriotism' was the poorest sort. The country would be much better off without it. Assuredly no medals for bravery need be awarded for mobbing two women and a group of children.


On August 27, the women were released from the prison on $500 bonds after being granted appeal. They lost the appeal on November 19, 1930. Even though we historically associate these types of incidents with the first Red Scare of the immediate post-World War I years and the second McCarthyism Red Scare of the 1940s and 1950s, the story of the Van Etten camp in 1930 serves as a reminder that fears about the rise of Communism did not disappear in the years between.


Kelli Huggins is the Education Coordinator at the Chemung County Historical Society. To see this and more of their blog, click HERE  


by Erin Doane

For more than 110 years, Knapp School of Music has operated on College Avenue in Elmira. In all that time, the business has only had five different owners: Frederick H. Knapp and his wife Anna, Harl J. Robacher, Donald Hartman, and Robert Melnyk.



Frederick H. Knapp


Frederick Knapp came to Elmira as a young man and began offering music lessons first at a studio on West Second Street near School #2 and then at a studio on North Main Street. The first instrument he had learned was the banjo, but he played and taught all types of stringed instruments – violin, mandolin, cello, and guitar. Various sources claim that Knapp founded his music school in 1901 but the earliest listing I found in the city directories for Knapp is as a musician in 1902. In the 1903 directory, he is listed as a music teacher at 117 Main Street. In 1905, he is listed as teaching at 110 College Ave. The earliest newspaper advertisements for Knapp School of Music appear in the Elmira Star-Gazette in 1911. By that time, the school had an established orchestra which all students could join in addition to taking individual lessons.


In 1915, the school moved to 112 College Avenue and was touted as a new type of music school set up for the benefit of those who could not normally afford music lessons. If boys or girls were interested in music instruction, showed talent, and it was shown that they could not afford the price of regular teachers, Knapp would enroll them in his school. He asked for just enough tuition to cover the expenses of keeping the doors of the school open. By September, there were 20 pupils enrolled.  Knapp taught violin, mandolin, guitar, and banjo. Two more instructors, Edward Unwin and Blanche Crandall, also taught violin and Florence Shaw taught piano.

On May 20, 1919, Knapp hosted A.A. Farland, the world’s greatest banjoist. Farland played a recital at the Park Church with Knapp’s 35-member mandolin orchestra serving as an opening act.  In the 1920s and the early 1930s, Knapp and students of the school played at events throughout the region. The school’s full orchestra played at the Knights of Columbus ball in 1920, its banjo sextet played at the Sons of Italy in 1927, and its 12-piece banjo band played an evening concerts at En-Joie Health Park in Endicott in 1930. At the park concert, the musicians dressed in Hawaiian costumes and were joined by ten tap dancers. There were also annual recitals by the students at the Hedding Church Annex.

At 10:30am on December 20, 1934, Frederick Knapp died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack at his home at 104 College Avenue. He was 56 years old. He had spent 35 years teaching music and was noted as one of the first local musicians to realize that “jazz” would become widely popular.


Anna A. Knapp



Just months before Frederick Knapp died, he had moved his studio from its longtime location at 112 College Avenue to 104 College Avenue where he had remodeled a house and equipped it with a series of modern studios. His wife, Anna, continued to run the school at that location. The annual recitals also continued with nearly 500 people attending the performance in 1935. In 1938, local newspapers started running advertisements for instruments for sale at the school. By 1943, Knapp’s was selling radios and phonographs as well as banjos, violins, saxophones, xylophones, and accordions.

Harl J. Robacher 


Harl Robacher became proprietor and director of Knapp School of Music in 1944. He also operated the American Musical Institute in Syracuse and worked as a basketball promoter. He is credited as playing a key role in bringing professional basketball back to Elmira in 1946. He created the Knapp School of Music basketball team, made up of established sports stars, as a member of the semi-pro Pioneer League. During his time as director of the music school, students continued playing at banquets, balls, and recitals. Robacher ran the school until June 21, 1953 when, at 12:25pm, he died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack at his home at 104 College Avenue. He was 50 years old.

Donald Hartman 


Don Hartman remembered his father driving him to Knapp’s for banjo lessons when he was a child. When Frederick Knapp died in 1934, Hartman was hired as an instructor at the school. Eighteen years later he became manager and after Robacher’s passing, became owner of Knapp School of Music. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the school expanded with as many as 40 affiliated studios within a 75-mile radius of Elmira including in Owego, Corning, Ithaca, Bath, Canandaigua, and Hornell, as well as, Tunkhannock, Montrose, Williamsport, and Dushore, Pennsylvania. The school also had a weekly radio program on Saturdays on WENY. 

By 1963, the “Eight Week Trail Plan” had been established at the school. The plan harkened back to Frederick Knapp’s early idea of giving all students a chance to learn music without having to make a large financial investment to start. Students paid for eight weeks of lessons and were given an instrument to use for free as a way to determine if they were really interested in serious instruction. After the trial period, they could purchase the instrument and continue with lessons.

Robert Melnyk


Bob Melnyk, a student and instructor at the Knapp School since 1955, took over the business from Don Hartman in 1965 and still runs it today.


Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. To see more of their blog, including the newest post, take a look HERE


The Spanish Flu

by Rachel Dworkin

Apparently, this year’s strain of flu is spreading faster than usual. Luckily for me, I’ve always made a point of getting a vaccine since I found out my maternal grandfather’s parents died of Spanish Flu in 1918. They were in good company. Nationwide, over a quarter of the population was infected while approximately 600,000 died. For comparison, the yearly average is somewhere around 20,000. There are no definite numbers due to poor recordkeeping, but somewhere between 20 and 100 million people died of Spanish Flu worldwide making it the second deadliest epidemic after the Black Death.

The Spanish Flu hit Chemung County in October of 1918 and it hit hard.  It started small, oddly enough, with an outbreak of what the City Health Department insisted was polio, despite the fact it didn’t fit the contingent model for the disease. By the start of October, Spanish Flu was killing 200 people a day in Boston, and Elmira officials were desperate to avoid a panic. On October 5th, the paper reported that ten Elmira College students were under quarantine for the flu, but City Health Officer, Dr. Dr. Reeve Howland, continued to insist there was no epidemic in the city. Five days later, there were over 100 people sick with the flu in Horseheads and the town had decided to shut down schools and churches in an ultimately fruitless attempt to contain the spread. The City of Elmira finally conceded to reality and followed suit on October 15th, shutting down schools, churches, theaters, and all public gatherings. 


It was too little, too late. Between the start of October 1918 and the new year, there were 3,549 reported cases of the flu in Elmira. That is to say that somewhere between 10 and 15 percent of the city caught it. Approximately 150 Elmirans died of Spanish flu during the 1918-19 flu season. Over 100 of them died in October alone. The Elmira Herald reported that there were between six and ten deaths per day at the height of the epidemic. 

The city struggled to cope with the sheer number of sick people. Arnot-Ogden and St. Joseph’s both ran out of beds and the Elmira Board of Health created a make-shift overflow hospital at the Hotel Gotham on State Street. Families struggled to survive as parents fell sick. The entire Wilcox family of Pearl Place was stricken except for the eight-year-old daughter who eventually had to call the police to help take her parents to the hospital. The Red Cross established a kitchen at the Federation Building to feed children whose parents were too ill to cook. At the height of the epidemic, they feeding some thirty families. 


By the time the war ended on November 11, 1918, the worst of the epidemic was over. Schools, churches, and theaters were re-opened on November 3rd. People were still falling ill (there were 12 new cases on November 12th) but that was way down from 60 new cases a day in October. The emergency hospital at Gotham Hotel was closed on November 15th and, just like that, the city was back to normal. Except, of course, for all the dead people.


Rachel Dworkin is the archivist at the Chemung County Historical Society. This originally appeared HERE in January 


by Erin Doane 

In May 1943, Edwin Morris gave the welcome address at the annual Memorial Sunday service of Baldwin Post 6 G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) at the Centenary Methodist Church in Elmira. His wife Jane urged him to stay home instead of participating in the event. The 96-year-old Morris has suffered a heart attack a year earlier and had never fully recovered. In response to her concern he said, “It’s my duty to my dead comrades to take part in the service. If it causes my death, I will die in the line of duty.” Edwin Morris passed away less than 36 hours later on May 24, 1943 at his home at 356 Walnut Street in Elmira.


Edwin Morris was born on January 2, 1847 in Athens Township, Pennsylvania. In November 1863, he enlisted in the Union Army. He was 16 years old at the time and signed up despite his father’s objects. He joined Co. D of the 179thNew York Volunteer Infantry. He fought at Petersburg and in all the Army of the Potomac engagements including the Wilderness Campaign, Fredericksburg, Cold Harbor, and Richmond. He was at Appomattox Courthouse when General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant. He was reportedly just 20 feet away from the pair when Lee passed his saber to Grant.

After the war, Morris returned to Athens where he worked on his father’s farm for 20 years. He worked in the lumber business in Pine Creek, Pennsylvania for many years after that. In 1902, at the age of 55, he married Jane Currier of Waverly, New York. The two had met in 1901 at a G.A.R. encampment in East Towanda, Pennsylvania where she was caring for wounded soldiers. They moved to Elmira sometime in the early 1900s. Morris was one of the founding members of the Chemung County Historical Society in 1923.


Morris was an active member of the G.A.R. There were several G.A.R. posts in the county including Baldwin Post 6 which was organized on June 11, 1868 and named after local Civil War veteran Col. Lathrop Baldwin. Other posts were named after L. Edgar Fitch, Col. H.C. Hoffman, and Gen. A.S. Diven. Around the turn of the century, the Baldwin post had about 200 members. Morris served as commander of A.S. Diven Post 623 in the late 1920s. That post, as well as the others in the county dissolved after a time until Baldwin was the only one remaining. Morris became commander of the Baldwin Post in 1938. Upon his death in 1943, the post dissolved. Its charter and other materials from the organization are now in CCHS’s collection.


Morris was not only involved with the G.A.R. locally. He also held statewide offices in the organization. In 1938 and 1939 he served as Junior Vice Department Commander of the New York State Department G.A.R. and in 1940 he was elected Senior Vice Department Commander. Finally, in June 1941, he was elected Commander at the annual encampment at Lake Placid. He had been asked for several years to be the commander of the state organization but had always declined because he wanted others older than he to have the honor of the position before they passed away. He was 94 when he accepted. At the next year’s encampment in Utica, he was one of the first of nearly 1,000 guests to arrive, despite having suffered a heart attack just two months early on Appomattox Day. At that encampment, he was appointed Department Patriotic Instructor.

Morris also participated in Elmira’s annual Memorial Day commemorations as early as the 1920s. He and the other few remaining Civil War veterans were honored during the events throughout the 1930s.  In 1938, he served as honorary marshal of the parade. At that time, only four veterans remained: Morris, Bowman Jack, Edgar Houghton, and Thomas A. Dawes. When Jack passed away in 1940, Morris was left as the last surviving veteran of the Civil War in Chemung County.


The last time Morris participated in Memorial Day activities was in 1942. His health was failing but organizers wanted to include him in the commemorations. Col. James Riffe, a World War I veteran, suggested that the parade route be changed that year so it would pass Morris’s Walnut Street residence. While the Chemung County Veterans’ Council agreed to the reroute, plans were abandoned when Morris’s health improved enough for him to ride in the parade.


On June 17, 1943, an article reporting the passing of Edwin Morris appeared in the National Tribune: Washington, D.C.The final paragraph of the article illustrated Morris’s devotion to his country and fellow soldiers:

In December, 1941, when volunteers were being registered [for service in World War II], a card bearing his name was found among a stack of enrollments; it said, “Will gladly cooperate in advisory capacity or shoulder a gun if necessary.”

Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. This blog originally appeared HERE


by Erin Doane 

Many who grew up in this area remember Fawn sodas. Fawn Beverages operated as a company in Elmira Heights for forty years, producing a wide variety of fizzy soft drinks in bottles with the distinctive little deer on the front.



In 1934, John Woyak filed a business certificate to operate Fawn Beverages at 184 Sheridan Avenue in Elmira Heights. He was just 30 years old at the time but he already had experience running a bottling works. He had been working as proprietor of the Orange Crush Bottling Works on 11th Street since 1929. Woyak ran Fawn Beverages for forty years. In 1947, he expanded the plant on Sheridan Avenue and in the late 1950s, his son Donald came on as a partner in the enterprise. The last listing for the company in the city directories appeared in the 1973-74 edition. Woyak moved to Florida in 1981 and lived out the rest of his years there.


While running his beverage company, Woyak was also an active member of the community. He was a member of the Elmira Heights Rotary Club and served for several years on the soft drinks committee for the club’s annual children’s Halloween party. In 1944, when El-Hi-Inn, a new organization for young people ages 13-19 in the Heights, was throwing a party, he donated a beverage cooler and 20 cases of soda for the event. He was also a generous supporter of the Chemung County Community Chest and in 1943, he served on the Elmira Heights village board. 



Fawn produced a wide selection of sodas. In the late 1930s, eight flavors were available – ginger ale, lime and lithia, club soda, birch beer, root beer, strawberry, cherry, and orange. By the 1950s, Fawn was available in 12 different flavors. Orange was particularly popular and was advertised as a “special flavor thrill.” It was made from real California oranges and oil imported from Messina in sunny Italy. All the varieties were made in Elmira’s largest bottling plant with scientifically treated and purified water that brought out the delicious fruit flavors, locked in carbonation, and added zest to the beverages, according to ad copy from the 1950s.


In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Fawn Beverages seems to have made a major newspaper adverting push. Half a dozen new print advertisements appeared in 1949 alone. The carry home carton that held six 12-ounce bottles was a major selling point. Fawn advertised on the radio as well. In 1950, the company sponsored the radio show Boston Blackie starring Richard Kollmar on WENY. The radio series, produced between 1945 and 1950, followed the adventures of Boston Blackie, a jewel thief and safecracker turned detective. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the company also sponsored a bowling team.


Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. This was originally published HERE Sept. 11, 2017


The Anchorage

by Rachel Dworkin

On May 4, 1890, Lillian became the first ward of the Anchorage. At age 18, she had been arrested for licentious behavior and spent a little under a year confined there. Between its opening in 1890 and its closure in 1920, the Anchorage, also known as the Helen L. Bullock Industrial Training School for Girls, housed hundreds of girls and young women in need of help.


The Anchorage grew out of the work of Elmira Police Matron Esther Wilkins who argued for the need for a place to house the unfortunate young women who often wound up in her custody after being arrested for drunkenness, prostitution, petty theft, or other crimes. In 1888, a group of church women formed the Women’s Council for the Uplifting of Women to raise funds for the establishing of a reform school for troubled women and girls. Their vision was realized in the Anchorage, which was opened in the spring of 1890 with Mrs. Helen L. Bullock as director. Bullock was a temperance reformer and the founder of the local branch of the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement. She had a reputation for leadership and unimpeachable moral character which would make her an example to the girls in her care.


Girls between the ages of 11 and 25 were brought from over the Twin Tiers. Some of their stories are downright tragic. Many came from broken homes where parents were dead, drunken, or abusive. Over 20 of them had been raped, 10 by family members. Often times the resulting children were adopted or sent to the Southern Tier Orphan’s Home while the mothers moved on with their lives.

According to a 1900 fundraising brochure, the Anchorage had a 90% success rate when it came to rehabilitating these troubled girls. They offered the stable home which many of the girls had been denied, including positive female role models, private bedrooms, and three square meals a day. Girls were instructed in English, botany, music, French, Latin, gardening, and a variety of housework including, cooking, cleaning, laundry, and poultry raising. Most former inmates went on to marry or work as domestic servants, but not everyone was happy to be there. Over a dozen girls ran away, sometimes rather dramatically. In 1907, Agnes jumped out of an upper floor window and broke her leg trying to escape. That same year, Grace more sensibly made a rope out of her bed linens to climb her way to freedom. 



Rachel Dworkin in the archivist at the Chemung County Historical Society. This was originally published here in November 2017.


by Erin Doane

For over two hundred years, the clock that now lives on the first floor of the museum near the admissions desk has ticked away the seconds of history. George Lauman acquired the clock sometime in the late 1700s and it was passed through five generations of the family before finally ending up in the museum in 2016.



The clock’s dial is marked Osborne, Birmingham. The English foundry firm made dials from 1772 through 1813. At that time, it was common for dials and clockworks made in England to be shipped to the United States. While Osborne made the dial, the company did not make the wooden case. It was impractical and expensive to ship full clocks overseas so American cabinetmakers would construct the clock cases around the imported works. 

The clock’s first owners, George and Esther Maria Lauman, lived in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Both had German ancestry and were members of the Lutheran Church. George served in the Revolutionary War and then made his living as a stone mason. He died at the age of 65 in 1809 when a horse kicked him in the stomach. Esther lived until 1831. Upon her death, the family clock was passed down to Jacob, the oldest of their nine children.


Headstones of George and Ester Lauman in the Middletown, Pennsylvania. (from The Lowmans in Chemung County, 1938)

In 1788, at the age of 19, Jacob started a business transporting goods on the Susquehanna River to Tioga Point, Pennsylvania. He loaded a boat with 20 tons of goods including tobacco, liquor, dry goods, clothes, guns, ammunition, and tools and traded those goods for grain, flax, hemp, and animal pelts. The enterprise was very successful and he expanded it to the Chemung River. In 1792, he purchased land in Chemung, New York and started a lumber business. At that time, Jacob changed the spelling of his last name to Lowman. Over time, he acquired hundreds of acres of land, including a parcel at the mouth of Baldwin Creek near where the hamlet of Lowman is now located. The hamlet is named after Jacob Lowman. 


Home of Jacob Lowman, Sr. built in 1819 (from The Lowmans in Chemung County, 1938)

Upon Jacob’s death in 1840, the clock passed into the possession of his youngest child, Jacob, Jr. His son also inherited the family homestead and other property. Eventually, Jacob, Jr. became the largest land owner in Chemung County with more than four thousand acres of productive farmland. He was involved in the tobacco industry and established the first tobacco warehouse in Elmira in partnership with John Brand. He also operated a distillery in Lowman with his cousin George S. Lowman which produced Old Lowman Rye Whiskey.

Jacob, Jr. never married or had children so when he died in 1891, the family clock went to George S., his cousin and business partner. George S. and Jacob, Jr. operated their distillery in Lowman until high taxes during the Civil War forced them to close. In 1872, George S. purchased a homestead in Wellsburg and built a block of stores downtown. A large hall above the stores was known as “Lowman’s Hall.”

Benedictus Ellwyn, grandson of George S., became the next owner of the Loman clock. B. Ellwyn was born in the family home in Wellsburg and attended Wellsburg Union and High Schools as well as Elmira Academy and the University of Pennsylvania. He was involved with the Thatcher Manufacturing Company in Elmira.

B. Ellwyn had one daughter but when he died the clock went to his sister Georgia’s family. Georgia was married to Chester E. Howell, Jr. The last owner of the family clock was their son George Lowman Howell. George Howell was well-known in Elmira and the wider community as a businessman and philanthropist. He was devoted to community service and the preservation of history. Before he passed away on November 22, 2015, he arranged to have the Lowman Family clock donated to the Chemung County Historical Society.


Lowman clock on display at museum


Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. This article was originally published here July 2017


Sign in to follow this