Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for the ‘Lewiston Interviews’ Category

More interesting stories of old Lewiston

In Lewiston, Lewiston Interviews, Lewiston Public Library, Old Lewiston on August 28, 2014 at 4:23 pm

20000leagues-wardlock

This interview begins with the Lewiston Library…  Poor Isabel was given the wrong book by that “elderly maiden,” Miss Ottley, “who didn’t like children.”  For “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,” was a miserable book for a six year old!   Miss Ottley was actually the second librarian at the Lewiston Library.  The first librarian was Margaret Wright.  Miss Wright was a writer and playwright through much of her life, but first began her career in literature at the Lewiston Library.

There are other stories here, too.  Perhaps, you can find the grave that Isabel speaks of, yourself!  The one carved with a weeping willow and… (just one more tell-tale symbol of the man’s life)…a bottle.  Apparently someone found that quite offensive (as Mr. Rich was known to imbibe from time to time) and chipped it off.  Or did they???

Make sure you read toward the end as there is a story that links Lewiston to the assassination of President McKinley– one fateful day back in 1901. 

Interview with Isabel Cornell, Evelyn Cornell, Herbert Vaughn, and Fred Koethen

Stories of a Lewiston Desperado

In Crime, Lewiston Interviews, Old Lewiston on August 7, 2014 at 8:31 pm

By Michelle Ann Kratts

Although Lewiston, New York, often boasts of a peaceful landscape …that wasn’t always the story back in the early 1900’s. Our latest historical interview from Lewiston’s past mentions a story that I just couldn’t dismiss. (It is briefly mentioned on page 11.)

Interviews with Phil Pitts and Herb Vaughan

Once Phil Pitts mentioned that “there was quite a write-up in the paper…” I had to look into it myself.

Brace yourself. This story will take you back into the lawless days of old Lewiston…

Lovely Liz Creighton (formerly Elizabeth Murphy)  had been a resident of Lewiston her entire life. Hard-working and well-respected, she probably never imagined she would find herself fighting for her life at St. Mary’s hospital, Niagara Falls, one fall morning, following a brutal assault.

The story begins in early September of 1907. Liz was merely going about her own business, keeping house in Lewiston, with only her little boy and her aged father to keep her company. Her husband, Thomas, was often away in Toronto as he worked as a baggage man on a steamer. On this particular day, Burt Carpenter, well known across the area for his drinking problems and offensive behavior, a desperado, found himself at her front door.  It is believed that the Creighton house was located on Sixth Street near Onondaga.   He attempted to effect an entrance but Liz made every effort to keep him away. As she barred her doors, he went for the windows, smashing them to pieces and damaging the house to a great extent. She screamed for her life and several neighbors responded. They were able to hold Carpenter down until the constable arrived. Liz called upon the Justice of the Peace and swore out a warrant for his arrest on charges of disorderly conduct. Carpenter was then taken away. But the story does not end happily ever after. The following day Elizabeth Creighton appeared at the hearing. Carpenter was found guilty and sentenced to 60 days hard labor. As Liz attempted to remove herself from the court room the court attendant came out with the prisoner in his charge. As they passed Mrs. Creighton, Carpenter suddenly drew a revolver and fired two shots at the woman. One bullet lodged itself within the woman’s body.  Great excitement prevailed throughout the court room and in the confusion Carpenter escaped. He ran out into the street but not without flourishing his revolver in the faces of the innocent bystanders. He stopped to reload at one point and then took off down Fourth Street in the direction of Niagara Falls.

Mrs. Creighton was gravely wounded. She was placed aboard the New York Central train that left Lewiston at 10:00 and arrived at the hospital in Niagara Falls by noon. The bullet that had entered her body passed through her left side just below her heart.  For several weeks, Liz lingered between life and death. She eventually survived the ordeal. Remarkably, Carpenter was not apprehended until the following year after being arrested in Charlotte, Michigan, on suspicion of complicity in a safe cracking job in that city.  Somehow he had evaded the authorities for a very long time.  In the end he was sentenced to twenty years in the State prison at Auburn for his assault upon Mrs. Creighton.  Below is the notation revealing his prison term.

woman shot down by lewiston desperado

From New York, Governor's Registers of Commitments to Prisons, 1842-1908

From New York, Governor’s Registers of Commitments to Prisons, 1842-1908

                                                                                                                                  Click on images to make larger. 

Carpenter was not new to a life of crime.  In fact, he had quite a personal history of acts of violence. Just about ten years before the incident involving Lizzie Creighton, “half drunk and in an ugly mood,” Carpenter met with Constable James Townsend on the hill leading from the boat docks and up into the village and without warning drew a revolver and “blazed away at him.” The officer drew his own weapon and was able to strike Carpenter at least once (in the eye). Both men survived the ordeal.

During this most interesting time Lewiston was the scene of mayhem and lawlessness.   It was written in the local papers that  a terrible rash of burglaries, petty thievery and highway robberies had become the norm. “A gang seemed to have organized among the tougher element, who had complete control of and held in terror the entire community.” Burt and his brother, Charles, had been under close surveillance for some time.   They were considered possible leaders of this gang of criminals.  The brothers, who lived with their parents east of the village, were thought to be responsible for several local crimes. Charles Carpenter had been arrested following a Lewiston post office robbery in which marked bills were found in his possession. Burt had been arrested following the burglary of Clapsaddle’s store (out in the country).

gang

However, in 1905, a strange turn of events landed Carpenter as the victim–with a blade to the stomach. After a brawl at the Iron Dollar Saloon at Lewiston, in late March of 1905, Constable Butler (who owned the establishment) knifed Carpenter.   The occurrence took place following an earlier incident at the Iron Dollar Saloon in which Butler had had to subdue Carpenter by hitting him over the head several times with a bottle.  It was said that Carpenter was looking for an opportunity to get even with the constable.  On the particular night in question, the Iron Dollar Saloon was the setting for quite a commotion.  Carpenter had caused quite a ruckus…however, the law wasn’t playing around anymore.    Butler did not hesitate to rough up Burt Carpenter when he had the chance.

constable butler stabbed burt carpenter

It appears the Iron Dollar was located at 419 Center Street.  This advertisement was in the Niagara Gazette in 1964.

It appears the Iron Dollar was located at 419 Center Street.

At this time, I am not sure whatever became of Lewiston’s most infamous “desperado.”  I will have to dig a little deeper.  Perhaps he continued his life of crime…or perhaps he made some changes and cleaned up his act.  But that is unlikely, as Carpenter, himself, knew that he was destined for trouble.  He said to the newspaper back in 1897:  “I guess I was born for the electric chair, and all I will live for now is a chance for revenge…”

born for the chair

“The horse that had asthma terribly”

In Lewiston Interviews, Old Lewiston on July 31, 2014 at 4:52 pm

Hotels burning left and right, three legged dogs, the Fairbanks, the Lattas, the Powells….more stories of Old Lewiston from Herb Vaughan and Isabel and Evelyn Cornell.

The story of the Milk Cave is a humorous story…I will let Mr. Vaughan tell you about that.

My favorite story is about the poor horse that had asthma terribly. Mr. Cornell’s “pride and joy.”

Interview with Herb Vaughan, Isabel Cornell and Evelyn Cornell

Isabel Cornell

Isabel Cornell

Evelyn Cornell

Evelyn Cornell

The Skeleton of a Soldier

In Lewiston, Lewiston Interviews, Lewiston Public Library on July 21, 2014 at 8:36 pm

On June 2, 1976, George Vanderhoek conducted a most fascinating interview with Mrs. Gilbert Farr (Gladys Alice Perrigo Farr). The descendant of an old Lewiston family, Mrs. Farr had many stories to tell including detailed descriptions of life in old Lewiston. Her grandparents were former residents of the Kelsey Tavern (also known as the Lafayette House) on Center Street. Her interview includes an eerie legend concerning the rattling bones of an old soldier…whose skeleton and buttons may still remain in the cellar of that building. She also mentions Lafayette’s visit to Lewiston back in June of 1825. Perhaps someone today knows where his medicine basket is located?

Interview with Mrs. Gilbert Farr

 

Life mask, Marquis de Lafayette Courtesy Cornell University

Life mask, Marquis de Lafayette
Courtesy Cornell University

Marquis de LaFayette

Marquis de LaFayette

A Stroll Down Center Street in the Early 1900’s

In Lewiston, Lewiston Interviews on July 2, 2014 at 8:39 pm

 

What was Lewiston like over 100 years ago? Mae Meacham Brown gives us an interesting peek into another world in this interview from August of 1975. Imagine walking down the “wood plank” sidewalks of Center Street with a lantern in your hand…past the sparkling Moss Hall, where music would play until 4 in the morning…if the orchestra was willing.

Mrs. Charles Brown Interview

“So we began our search for knowledge…”

In Lewiston, Lewiston Interviews, School Days on June 30, 2014 at 8:47 pm

What was it like being a teacher in one of the only one-room schools in this part of the country back in 1949? Read about it in her own words as Edith Breckon, a former teacher at Hickory College, Lewiston, New York,  is interviewed by D. George Vanderhoek on April 25, 1975.

Edith Breckon Interview

Click on photos to make larger

DOC063014-06302014161154-0001

DOC063014-06302014161154-0002

DOC063014-06302014163017-0001

Stories from Lewiston’s favorite Switchboard Operator

In Lewiston, Lewiston Interviews, Old Lewiston on June 26, 2014 at 4:21 pm

It is hard to imagine a world devoid of all of our instant messaging. Mrs. Joseph Vana, former supervisor of the telephone switchboard in the village of Lewiston, had many stories to tell Mr. Vanderhoek back in February of 1975. Can you imagine having the switchboard in your living room? And fires were a whole different story for the switchboard operator…

Interview with Mrs. Joseph Vana

The Lewiston Librarian and the Indian Chief

In Lewiston, Lewiston Interviews, Lewiston Public Library, Tuscarora History on June 4, 2014 at 5:49 pm

Chief Elton Greene

I recently found these documents while going through a file cabinet…looking for something else and it caught my eye. One of our favorite Lewiston librarians from times past, Virginia Scipione, had interviewed Tuscarora Chief Elton Greene in February of 1975. A Lewiston librarian, myself, I have also interviewed Tuscarora chiefs and I have heard some things about the Little People that Chief Greene mentions. I wrote of the Little People in a book called, From the Mouth of the Niagara River; Stories of Four Historic Communities. They were called: Oogweshiya.
Does anyone know of these Little People? If you do, I hope you will share.

This interview also contains legends of big animals and monsters, the Tuscarora language, the clans, choosing a chief, the maternal lines and other fascinating incidents in Tuscarora history.   I find it especially remarkable how the Native Americans follow a matrilineal line of descent as genetics today proves that our DNA contains common elements that are passed on from mother to child for endless generations.

Click on the following link to read the transcript of the full interview:

Interview with Chief Elton Greene