Whitesboro Historical Museum
8 Park Ave
Whitesboro, New York 13492
Emergency Number: (315)736-1613
Hours: 5:30-7:00 PM the last Monday of Every Month or by apppointment
Contact: Dana Nimey-Olney
Responsibilities: To collect, organize and display information and material of historical significance related to the history of the Village of Whitesboro.
Description: Items of historical value displayed for educational and reference purposes.
The Historian will research and maintain displays and reference material and be available for questions and presenting educational programs when called upon to do so in schools and other organizations in the community. Programs of the Erie Canal will be available for use in the 4th grade class rooms, pictures on our Web site, for example the Canal Boat with horses towing it along the towpath, will be available to students or anyone using our Web site.
Related Programs: Open House Historical Displays
Related Departments: Library
Fire Department: The first action to provide Fire Protection for the Village of Whitesboro occurred June 1829. In order to extinguish fires it is ordained that each householder in the Village of Whitesboro shall furnish himself or herself with a substantial ladder of sufficient length to reach to their roof. In case he or she should neglect to do so he or she shall forfeit and pay the sum of $2.00. Also ordained every householder shall procure a fire bucket of good sole leather to contain 2 gallons of water hung in a convenient place to be used on the breaking out of a fire only.
In 1831 The Village purchased a fire engine and constructed two public wells for use of same.
Fire Chiefs - Dave Elmore served 30 odd years, followed by Lester Ferguson, George Bellamy, 60 odd years in various capacities, Chick Bowen, Bob Mullen, Gary LaRock, David Jacobowitz, Brian McQueen and Peter Sobel, our present Chief.
In 1969 the new Fire House on Oriskany Boulevard was built.
HUGH WHITE - FOUNDER: When Hugh White settled at White's Town in the county of Montgomery, his settlement marked the commencement of an epoch in our state history as distinct in it's relation to the past New England influence and Dutch settlement impressed upon us from the Hudson Valley. His settlement marked the beginning of a migration and memories of days of pioneering in New York State. The town was named after Hugh White of Middleton, Connecticut, who, with his five sons, on June 5, 1784 had taken possession of his interest in a patent, which he and others had purchased at public sale in the attainder for treason of Hugh Wallace. Less than two hundred white inhabitants were to be found in White's Town when it was established in 1788, and this count included traders and prospectors. In the common language of those in New England, who had children or friends who went to settle there, they had gone way up among the Indians in the White's Town country.
Of Hugh White, a man, a Christian and a citizen, no better conception can be had than the inscription on his tablet in Grand View Cemetery on the hill. "Here sleeps the mortal remains of HUGH WHITE who was born 5th February, 1733, at Middleton in Connecticut, and died April 16th, 1812." In the year 1784 he moved to Sedauquate, now Whitesborough, where he was the first white inhabitant in the State of New York, west of the German settlements on the Mohawk. He was distinguished for energy, and decision of character, and may be justly regarded as a patriarch, who led the children of New England into the wilderness. As a magistrate, a citizen, and a man, his character for truth and integrity was proverbial. This humble monument of veneration for his memory is reared and inscribed by the affectionate partner of his joys and his sorrows, May 15th, 1826. He lived among the Indians as their friend and the Village Seal depicts a friendly wrestling match that helped foster good relations between White and the Indians. In the publication of the book commemorating the Whitesboro Sesquicentennial 1813-1963, complied by the First Historical Club of Whitesboro, is the Origin of the Village Seal. At the period of the first settlement of Whitestown, the Indian title had not been extinguished to any portion of the country westward of "The line of Property....". Most of the Oneida tribe of Indians had maintained their professions of friendship for the white man in an honorable manner. Judge White, as a frontier settler along the Sauquoit Creek, was required to exercise much diplomacy in dealing with his red neighbors. He soon acquired their good will and was fortunate to inspire them with very exalted ideas of his character. An incident that occurred between an Oneida Indian and Hugh White sealed a lasting friendship and confidence. An Oneida Indian of rather athletic form was one day present at the White's house with several of his companions and at length for fun commenced wrestling. After many trials, the chief became conqueror and he came up to Hugh White and challanged him. White dared not risk being brow beaten by an Indian nor did he want to be called a coward. In early manhood, he had been a wrestler, but of late felt he was out of practice. He felt conscious of personal strength and he concluded that even should he be thrown, that would be the lesser of two evils in the eyes of the Oneida Indians than to acquire the reputation of cowardice by declining. He accepted the challenge, took hold of the Indian and by a fortunate trip, succeeded almost instantly in throwing him. As he saw him falling, in order to prevent another challenge, he fell upon the Indian for an instant and it was some moments before he could rise. When the Indian finally rose, he shrugged his shoulders and was said to have muttered "UGH", you good fellow too much". Hugh White became a hero in the eyes of the Oneida Indians. This incident made more manifest the respect of the Indian for White. In all ways, White dealt fairly with the Oneida tribe and gained their confidence, which brought about good-will.
THE SEAL: In researching the Seal, another earlier drawing was found in an article in the Saturday Globe 1922. Whitesboro's Insignia, "The Parent Seal of all Western New York", was borne aloft on the aeroplane of Liet. Edgar Graves White, fifth in descent of the pioneer settler of the vast territory, over the battlefields of Europe. He was chosen one of 100 out of a waiting list of 4,500 to be trained by the Royal English Flying Corps. Since he was supplying his own flying machine, he was permitted to place his own insignia upon it and was granted permission by the Liberty Loan Committee of Whitesboro. He flew in the One Hundred and Eighty-second Aerial Squadron over the battlefields of France.
In 1923-25, the Treasurer's Report for the Village of Whitesboro displayed this same seal, and the old stamping hand press model is also of this seal. These items are on display at the Historical Society, 10 Moseley Street, Whitesboro, New York. In 1963, the Seal was re-designed by local artist, Gerald E. Pugh, to commemorate the Village's Sesquicentennial. In an article of the Observer Dispatch, written by Joe Kelly in 1977, a notice of claim was filed with the Village Board saying the seal depicts a "white man choking an Indian" and said the seal demeans, disgraces and creates prejudice and distrust of Indian people. He asked the Village to stop displaying the seal. As a result of this, the seal was re-designed with Hugh White's hands being placed on the Indian's shoulders and not so close to his neck. The wrestling match was an important event in the history of the settling of the Village of Whitesboro and helped foster good relations between White and the Indians. The new version is displayed on Village trucks, highway equipment, letterheads and documents.
THE ERIE CANAL
From the shores of Lake Erie along the Mohawk Trail to the Hudson River, Governor DeWitt Clinton had a dream that most people thought amazing but impossible. A waterway that would make trade easier and travel as well. It had to be cheaper and faster than wagons on rough trails, and canoes that had to be carried across rough frontier terrain. In 1817, in Rome, New York, the level center of the land, the digging was begun. Ground was broken at dawn on the Fourth of July, 1817, was completed in 1825 and going through the Village of Whitesboro in the spot that is now Oriskany Blvd. It became a great source of revenue for the Village. The Canal cost $7,143,789.00 to build. By 1883, it would earn seventeen times that amount, $121,461,871.00 total revenues.(Taken from "The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal" by Cheryl Harness). When you think of the engineering skills back in the 1800's, to accomplish what they did, was truly amazing. It was 363 miles long, 28 feet wide at the bottom, 40 feet wide at the top and 4 feet deep in the middle. In the city of Lockport, you were floated sixty-three feet down in five double-stair step locks. The locks were built into a massive ridge of limestone, the toughest obstacle in the path of the canal. Next stones in wet walls with gates that opened and closed, allowed water to flow to the next lock, lowering boats one by one, level by level. Canvass White, grandson of Hugh White, was a civil engineer that invented an hydraulic cement that hardens under water in the early 1820's for builders of the Erie Canal. He also was the canal's chief lock designer. Along the canal, Whitesboro had a Canning Factory on the corner of Watkins Street and the boys of the Village picked the beans and other vegetables that were taken to the factory. Other young people worked the many shifts on the canning process. The Quigley Furniture Co. was on Foster Street and the Knitting Mills that manufactured knit underwear. B.T. Babbit Iron Works, now the site of Utica Casket Co., manufactured fire engines, brush trimming machines, railroad car ventilators and many other mechanical devices. B.T. Babbit made his fortune with Babbo soap. The canal was a great way of getting our product out to all parts of the United States and also brought business to the stores along the canal. The stores at that time, were operated by Henry and Emma Stephenson (now Fovel's Barber Shop). The store operated by Jim Symonds and later Hank Ecuyer, on the corner of Westmoreland and Foster Streets had dock loading for canal boats and an entrance on Foster Street for Village trade. The sweet water from the springs on Foster Street, ice cream and other dairy products made the trip easier. On the corner of Brainard Street and the canal was a Way Station where packet boats got fresh teams of horses to pull them along the towpath. Sometimes the boats would tie up for the night at the Center Hotel. That was on the corner of Main Street and Linwood Place (now a pizza parlor) and the top floor was dormitory style pallets with mattresses which were a greater comfort than the fold down, hard board sleeping arrangements on the canal boats.
On the north bank of the Erie Canal there was an Ice House located just west of the present Flagg Street Playground, where ice was stored. This ice was cut on the canal during the winter and for a period of time while the ice harvest was prgressing, it was a scene of great activity. Several men could be seen cutting the ice into large blocks with ice-saws similar to cross-cut saws. Teams of horses towed the ice to the front of the ice house, where it was steered onto a chute where a rope was hooked on. Another team of horses, with the aid of a pulley arrangement, pulled the ice up the chute and into the ice house where other men arranged it in layers between sawdust to keep the blocks from freezing together. The sawdust was from the Quigley Furniture Company.
The canal was used for recreation, as well as for business. In the summer it was the swimming hole and to some it was the place where they learned to swim the hard way, at the end of a clothesline. When the Erie Canal froze over, the more courageous souls would skate to Rome and return by the way of the Rome Trolley.
In 1831, a steam locomotive began running on a railroad between Albany and Schnectady. People wanted to go faster, so they bought railroad tickets leaving the canal to log rafts, freight boats and barges. By 1918, the Erie Canal had become part of the huge New York State Barge Canal System. It, along with U.S. Interstate 90, follows the ancient Mohawk Trail. DeWitt Clinton's once impossible ditch was bypassed and paved over, which is now our Oriskany Blvd.
For further historical information such as "The Quigley Furniture Company" and so much more, please contact Judy Mallozzi, Village Historian.
QUIGLEY FURNITURE COMPANY: After receiving an inquiry from a Matthew Isaac of MN regarding his "Quigley" bedroom set, the Historical Society has made another attempt to find out all they could about our infamous furniture manufacturer. What we knew was very little and now with some serious sleuthing using articles in old newspapers, print advertisings as well as city directories and noted historical writings of our village, along with what residents remember, we have put this together.
From Historical Reminiscences of the Village of Whitesboro NY 1922, William G. Stone, Historian. He writes, "In 1874 W.B. Quigley, Judge Sutton of Rome, Jay C. Smith of New York and others, established what is now known (1922) as Quigley Furniture Co. This, then and now stood on the southerly bank of the Erie Canal, a few rods easterly of Watkins Street. It originally made a full line of household furniture. The business has passed through many vicissitudes and is now principally engaged in the manufacturer of desks, phonograph cases and cabinets."
From History of Oneida County 1896, S.W. Durant writes: "Whitesboro contained, in January 1878, two hotels, a wagon shop, four blacksmith shops, a harness shop, seven stores, a frame district school, four churches and more than six manufacturers. Messrs. Sutton and Quigley established the business within a recent period. The present form is W.B. Quigley and Company. Ash and black walnut are principally used. Twenty to twenty-five men are employed and the shop has a capacity for manufacturing from $30,000 to $40,000 worth of furniture annually."
From Wagner's, History of Oneida County, 1896 it is written; "Sutton and Quigley began the manufacture of furniture about 1876; the firm soon became W.B. Quigley & Co., and was continued on a large scale until about 1892, when the concern went into the hands of a receiver. Business is now conducted under the name of Quigley Furniture Company."
From Rome Citizen-November, 1895 newspaper "The incorporation of Quigley Furniture Company started with a capital investment of $20,000 to manufacture furnniture and cabinet work in Whitesboro. The "plant" was purchased at that time at auction with a Mr. Chas. Foster holding 100 shares, Edwin Warner 49, and Geo. H. Warner one. These men are the baord of directors of the newly formed company."
From the directories of Whitesboro, we can follow the years of the company and its principle directors. In another newspaper article, we found the death notice of W.B. Quigley in September of 1890, which may explain the business being in receivership in 1892 and subsequently reborn as another company.
An investor, William E. Lewis, who is a prominent businessman that invests in manufacturing at that time, becomes the company President in the early years thru the mid 19-teens. "Office furniture, high grade desks and typewriter cabinets are their offerings by print sales catalog." It is reported in newspaper articles Utica Tribune, 1905 that the "Quigley Furniture Co. has good capital stock, from $30,000 to $40,000, with vast tracts of timber land in Virginia for the goods turned out at the local factory besides a large amount which is marketed." In an April, 1918 Utica Tribune multi-page lay-out with headlines that read: "The Quigley Furniture Company Manufacures Office Furniture of Every Description, Office Desks of Real Quality." Mention made of the first class stenographers desks, roll top desks and desks for special use, produced from all kinds of woods and made with great care." Noting too that prior to the war, this firm shipped many desks to Europe but at present they are shipping to South America ports.
"The company has a fine club house for the use of its employees in that building are bowling alleys, a reading room, dining rooms, etc., and here the employees hold entertainment and banquets."
"The company is an institution for which both Utica and Whitesboro may feel justly proud, both for the quality of goods manufactured and the advanced position taken in regard to employees."
From city directories and print material in local newspaper archives, Quigley in 1950 was an exhibitor among a large business demonstration where the Quigley Furniture Company participated by displaying "custom made furniture to fit any occasion" and as late as 1954 we find newspaper advertising offering "made to order hardwood kitchen cabinets". From Utica City Directory listings Quigley continues in business through 1959, however there is no definitive mention after that date, either in the directory or in the local newspapers. As of this writing, we have no date of the end of the business.
Anyone reading this, who may have a "Quigley" piece, count yourself extremely fortunate. We believe it must be spectacular, please share your photos or written descriptions.
In the years that I have been the Historian for the Village of Whitesboro, many inquiries come in about the Quigley furniture. If you "Google" Quigley, our Village Web sight comes up with the brief History and gives hope for more to connect a piece of furniture that has been purchased at an Estate Sale or Antique Store or from an Antique Dealer on eBay. It is important to date the piece to establish provenance. My standard reply for these inquiries is - "In D. Gordon Rohman's book "here's WHITESBORO An Informal History," 1949, The Quigley Furniture Company was established in 1874. Judge Sutton and J.C. Smith with W.B. Quigley started the "Sutton and Quigley Co." It was started in the old Whitesboro Steam Works, and the name soon became the "Quigley Furniture Company". As far as we can determine, they only made office furniture and the Quigley massive roll-top desk was a signature item. In 1949 when the book was written, the company bought its material ready-cut and assembled only at the plant with a small work force. In the early 1950's they sold out to the Discount Furniture Co.