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learn more about the history of Chemung County 

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CCHS

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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

 

CCHS

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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

CCHS

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.

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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.

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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. 

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

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