Michelle Ann Kratts

Archive for the ‘Old Lewiston’ Category

More interesting stories of old Lewiston

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


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).


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

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

“In the days of enormous head gear for women”… and other interesting stories of Old Lewiston

In Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, Old Lewiston on June 24, 2014 at 8:48 pm

I found yet another historical interview neatly typed up in my file cabinets. This interview was undertaken on February 19, 1975. Mr. A. Gow Brownell, former head of the Foreign Language Department at Niagara Falls High School, was interviewed by D. George Vanderhoek, former president of the Lewiston Historical Society. Mr. Brownell describes early ways in and out of Lewiston, selling fruits, The Lewiston Academy, the Lewiston Public Library and…what was found in Mr. Hotchkiss’s attic.






An Invitation Finds its Way Home

In Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, Library Programs, Old Lewiston on April 14, 2014 at 9:23 pm

It has been 104 years, but thanks to Cynthia Van Ness, Director of Library & Archives, Buffalo History Museum, an invitation has come home.
Finding this item in her collection at Buffalo to be either “a duplicate or a better geographic fit” for our collection at the Lewiston Public Library, Ms. Van Ness mailed an invitation to a celebration of the 178th anniversary of George Washington’s birth back to the Lewiston Public Library today.  The commemorative event was held at the historic Frontier House on Center Street on Tuesday evening, February 22, 1910.
page one

page 2



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

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.

The Beautiful Lewiston Village Cemetery

In Cemetery Plots, Lewiston, Lewiston Public Library, Library Programs, Niagara Deaths, Old Lewiston on June 26, 2013 at 3:25 pm

We did something unprecedented on Saturday, October 31, 2009. About a dozen people surveyed the lovely Lewiston Village Cemetery for 24 hours.
As the sun came up, as the day wore on, as the moon and stars filled up the night sky…we we there with cameras.
We captured one day in a cemetery and here it is for you to enjoy!


In Niagar a River, Old Lewiston on March 19, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Introducing….Lewiston, New York, circa 1920’s…

Lewiston from the Niagara Escarpment, 1920'sClick on the photograph for a fuller view.

Mystery solved!

Just a moment ago, I was stopped by a wonderful woman just about to walk out of the door.  She asked if I was “me” and if I had received all of the “little gifts” she had left anonymously on my desk through the year. How exciting to finally meet her! She went on to tell me that she was the one who left me the beautiful print of the winding river. As the photograph was not labeled, I was hesitant to declare that it was Lewiston. Cynthia said that it was, indeed, Lewiston, and that the picture was taken from her parents’ house, up on the Escarpment, back in the 1920’s.

Quite a different scene than we are used to….but nevertheless…Lewiston.