Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for December, 2013|Monthly archive page

Meet the Oldest Book in the Lewiston Public Library

In Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, Old Lewiston on December 20, 2013 at 9:31 pm
Front cover, animal hide sewn together

Front cover, sewn together

The oldest book in the Lewiston Public Library is, The Young Mill-wright’s and Miller’s Guide.  Although inscriptions within the book claim that it was published in 1789, research reveals that the first edition of this work was published in 1796 in Philadelphia.  Written by Oliver Evans, the book went through many editions.  Interestingly, Evans had been granted one of the first U.S. patents and his inventions  were licensed by people such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in their business enterprises.  Throughout the book the name “Chappel” is written in various places.

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson listed as subscribers

George Washington and Thomas Jefferson listed as subscribers

In the front of the book is an inscription which reads:

Robt. Miller his book bought

in Lewistown Monday the 8 day

of February  AD 1796

Price three Dollars

Steal Not This Book for fear of

Shame, look up, behold the owner’s




As the origin of the book is unknown, we are not positive that this book was actually purchased in Lewistown, New York.  Lewiston, New York, as we know it, did not exist at the time this book was first published.  It wasn’t until 1798, when the State Surveyor, Joseph Ellicott, selected Lewiston as a village site.  There were only a few dwellers in what is now Lewiston.  Mostly Lewiston was comprised of occasional squatters, cattle drovers, people connected to the business of the portage, soldiers and Native Americans.

The back of the book reveals another interesting inscription:

“Robert Miller his book

Bought of Gen Elliott

Market in Lewistown February

the 8 AD 1796″

Back page inscription

Back page inscription

I am unsure of who “Gen Elliott” might be.  There was a Matthew Elliott who had been in the area during this time period.  He was a trader, an Indian Department official and a Loyalist militia officer who succeeded in maintaining a British influence among the Native Americans along the borders of Upper Canada.  Before 1796, much of this area (including Fort Niagara), was still held by the British.  In fact it was during August of 1796, that the British officially evacuated Fort Niagara.   Perhaps this book was a sort of “goodbye” present for Mr. Miller.

last pic of book

The story of this book will probably forever remain a mystery.   For who was Robert Miller,  Mr. Chappel, Gen. Elliott?  Over 200 years ago, a man purchased a new book about operating a mill–supposedly, right here, in Lewiston–and here it remains.

two pages book

The book cover is handstitched

The book cover is handstitched

Hearts of War; The War of 1812 at Oakwood Cemetery

In Niagara Falls, War of 1812 on December 18, 2013 at 6:02 pm

the falls

Oakwood Cemetery’s brush with the War of 1812 is manifold. First of all, located alongside the famous Portage Road, Oakwood lies on a path of historical significance. The ancient portage, a route between the lower and upper Niagara River, had first been laid out by the Native Americans as a clearing through the woods. The French found it a very convenient route to utilize for their fur trading operations. John Stedman enlarged the clearing at the upper end and made another clearing on the mainland opposite Goat Island. The English built blockade houses along the pathway and enlarged the road which allowed for their wagons to get through. Many famous men and women from our history have gone down this road. They often ended up at the Stedman house—warming their hands before the Old Stone Chimney. Soldiers came through this road quite often as it linked up Fort Niagara and Fort Schlosser—two very important sites during the War of 1812.


Sketch by Col. Peter A. Porter  of the Old Stone Chimney, one of the only structures to remain after the burning of Manchester and Schlosser


And, of course, Oakwood carries the remains of many veterans of the War of 1812, including the man who reported the actual resolutions for the declaration of war to Congress, General Peter B. Porter.    But also entombed within Oakwood’s gates are the souls of countless individuals who experienced the great suffering of this period first-hand—men and women from both sides of the conflict.  Oakwood will celebrate the lives of these men and women in a series of stories beginning this week with the commemoration of the burning of the Niagara frontier which began on December 19, 1813.  This year marks two hundred years since one of the most violent assaults upon this area was delivered.

The present city of Niagara Falls was along the path of destruction—which passed right before what is now Oakwood Cemetery.  It is unknown if there was any sort of structure during this time on the cemetery grounds—however it is undeniable that the road outside the gates was much travelled upon during the war.   Most of the area from the top of the mountain (which is now the borderlands of Niagara Falls and Lewiston) from the area known as Manchester to the upper landing at Fort Schlosser was devastated.  Dozens of buildings were razed and men, women and children left to flee the fires and the violence in the bitter winter elements.  The following list contains “the sufferers” or those who lost property or family members on the Niagara Frontier during the War and filed claims with the government.  Many fled to Genesee County or other areas close-by. Some returned around 1816 to rebuild.  This list provides names of individuals and families as well as a description of dwellings that had been standing prior to the burning.  These are the losses experienced in the present city of Niagara Falls—when all of the world seemed to be on fire.  Many of these individuals are buried in Oakwood Cemetery.


From New York Heritage Digital Collections

From the top of the mountain to Manchester

Abiather Buck—Himself a prisoner; wife and child on the road for Ontario; no property; they are objects of prudent charity

Joseph Hewitt—House and barn burnt, not in want

Mrs. March– Hired house burnt; husband killed; herself and family on the way to Ontario; poor; objects of prudent charity

Isaac Colt—Innkeeper; house, shed and barn burnt; not in want

Henry Brother—Himself absent; family in Ontario and in want

Benjamin Hopkins—Hired house burnt and with it his whole property destroyed; himself and wife in a sad state of health; two small children; in Seneca County, in urgent want

Silas Hopkins—House and barn burnt; not in want

Ephraim Hopkins—Hired house burnt; supposed to have lost nothing; not in want

Dr. Park—Elderly infirm man; large family; house and barn burnt; himself and family now in Newtown; supposed to be in urgent want

James Murray—Hired house burnt; wife and small family in Utica, himself in Niagara County; supposed to be in want

Jacob Hovey—Small family; house, etc. burnt; carpenter

Ebenezer Hovey—House etc. burnt; also carpenter; both with their families supposed to be in Canandaigua; present circumstances not actually known; worthy men

Gad Pierce—House etc. burnt; large family in Genesee County; not in want


Mrs. Armington—House burnt; husband died about a year since; in Ontario presumed to be in want

–Raymond—Blacksmith; lived in part of a hired house; had been there but a short time, could not have lost much; present circumstances and residence unknown; family himself and wife

John Davids—Wheelwright; hired house etc. burnt; circumstances as to residence etc. much the same as Raymond’s

Ralph Coffin—Lost everything or nearly so; respectable family, five children; moved two or three times in consequence of the war; now near Batavia; people that have seen better times; presumed to be in urgent want (a bookkeeper for Judge Porter)

Joshua Fairchild—Innkeeper; house etc. burnt; residence unknown; an object of prudent charity

Oliver Udall—Hired house burnt; saved all his property—so much so as to be supposed not to have lost a dollar’s worth; in Ontario County

Parkhurst Whitney—Hired house burnt; small family presumed to be in want; residence Cayuga or Seneca County

John W. Stoughton—House, tailor’s-shop, fulling-mill and carding machine burnt; lost his all; a worthy man, presumed to be in want; residence Batavia

John Sims—Hired house burnt; poor and presumed to be in want; residence in Genesee county

Augustus Porter—A great sufferer

William Chapman—Rope maker; house burnt, lost his all; worthy man, formerly of New York; present residence of himself and family unknown


Asa Fuller—Innkeeper; hired house etc., burnt; small family; presumed not to be in want

Warren Sadler—Loss unknown; presumed not to be in want


From Schlosser to Tonewanta

Mrs. Evingham—Lost her husband about a year since; house and barn burnt; three children; presumed to be in want

James Field—Innkeeper; house and barn burnt; a large family; presumed to be in want; residence Genesee County

Jacob Gilbert—House etc. burnt; not in want

–Hayford, –Rogers—Loss unknown, wants and residence unknown; had lately come from Canada

George Burgar—House etc. burnt; presumed to be in want

–Vanslyck—At Tonewanta Bridge; log house, etc. destroyed

Some War of 1812 Artifacts at the Lewiston Public Library

In Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, Old Lewiston, War of 1812 on December 17, 2013 at 9:13 pm

War of 1812 artifacts

As the anniversary of the burning of the Niagara Frontier approaches, you may like to view some artifacts from that period in the Lewiston Public Library. These items from the War of 1812 period were donated by Jack Dryja.

The following description was included with the items:

At top left is a .69 cal. American musket ball found in Lewiston, New York, at a US camp called Hardscrabble, which was burned by the British in 1814.

At top right is a .75 cal. British musket ball also found in Lewiston, New York, at a site known as Sage’s Tavern.  This musket ball was used in the Brown Bess Rifle.  On December 19, 1813, after capturing Fort Nigara and burning the Village of Lewiston, the British Army commandeered this site and used it for their headquarters. 

Included are pipe bowl stems and chards from clay pipes of that era. 

Also included is Flint (used in the 18th Century) found in Artpark, Lewiston, New York.

Noel, The Lewiston Library Cat

In Christmas, Lewiston Public Library on December 11, 2013 at 4:31 pm
Noel and her kittens at the Lewiston Public Library  April 1971

Noel and her kittens at the Lewiston Public Library
April 1971

Years ago cats were a welcome fixture in public libraries throughout the country.  No one seemed to mind having them around and it might be mentioned that they loved the intellectual atmosphere–as well as the cozy alcoves that book places seem to provide.  Lewiston had Noel.  Most people I mention Noel to remember her fondly.  She appeared out of a winter storm one December night back in 1970.  Mrs. Scipione, Lewiston librarian, didn’t have the heart to leave her out in the cold and she welcomed her inside.  Noel decided that, even as the storm eventually lifted, the library was the perfect home.

Although Noel spent most of her day strolling through the old stacks of books, her favorite moments were when the children came into the library.  Many a Lewiston child looked forward to getting their homework done with Noel–for she would find a spot on top of the tables that they worked at.

By spring time it became apparent that Noel was going to have kittens.  On March 11, 1971, the checkout area of the Lewiston Library was transformed into a maternity ward.  The staff stayed after hours to assist Noel as she gave birth to four healthy little kittens.  Eventually all of the kittens found homes and Noel continued as the official “Library Cat” of the Lewiston Library.  According to an article printed in the Niagara Falls Gazette, April 1, 1971, “…in her official capacity she is providing a learning experience for children who are not allowed to have pets at home. At the Lewiston Library they can learn from their own experiences how to treat an animal properly and how, in turn she will react to kindness.”

Today, things are quite different.  It is unimaginable that a librarian will ever welcome a cat in out of storm again.  There are many rules against such things.  Our world is one of security systems and horrendous feline allergies…and the stories of the library cats are merely fairy tales we read to our children on cold winter’s nights.

Please let us know of your own library cat story.  Are there any library cats left or have they gone the way of the dinosaur?

Stars and Stripes, The Newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces, London Edition

In Lewiston Public Library, World War II on December 11, 2013 at 3:49 pm

The Lewiston Public Library now has original copies of Stars and Stripes, The Newspaper of the U.S. Armed Forces, London edition, available in the Local History Room. These items are extremely fragile.   Our collection contains 81 copies from 1944 and 1945.  Please ask for assistance if you would like to view these.   Here is a list of what we have in our collection:

Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes photo