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PART TWO of the three-part history series:
Part Two, Penfield History Series
In 1985, the Penfield Library moved from the old Town Hall building (pictured here) to Baird Rd
In 1939, nine women in Penfield formed the town's informal Friday Club. The ladies pooled their own books together and set up a lending library in one of their homes. It turns out that these women laid the groundwork for our public library in Penfield today. Three years later, in 1942, the Penfield Free Library welcomed patrons of the community at 811 Liberty Street, a white house on the corner of Liberty St and Five Mile Line Rd.
At the time, Penfield Library workers were all volunteers. Circulation was only 2,500. Fast forward 2 years, in February 1944, the library moved to its second location - the Becker Building, a red brick building which was located on the southeast corner of Five Mile Line Rd and Penfield Rd. This was only a short-term stay once again, as the library moved once again for the third time in 1946. This time to the Haskell Building located at 1837 Penfield Rd. Currently, Perri's Pizza occupies this space.
In 1950, the library moved to the location which many still remember - the basement of the old Town Hall building - its fourth location. This shared space for the Town Hall and Library lasted until the town hall services was moved to its current location on Atlantic Avenue. In 1952, our Penfield Library became the first suburban library in the county to join the Monroe County Library System. It was also the time when the library transitioned from 100% volunteer to paid workers. Note, circulation in 1959 was 54,493 (quite an increase from the library's first days). So, in 1966, the library was able to take use of the whole building - its fifth location.
Neeraj remembers visiting the library at a patron at this time and being introduced to computers by a Mr. Wise, husband of Mrs. Carolyn Wise - who supervised Neeraj when he worked as a page in high school.
Finally in 1985, the library moved to the Baird Road Community Center - its sixth and current location - taking over space which was once the Baird Road School. Many locals remember the huge community involvement of volunteers that helped move all the library materials on school buses. Circulation in 2019 was an impressive 423,131.
The library is a very special place for Neeraj - visiting both most recent locations as a patron in grade school, working as a page in high school, and continuing to be involved as a Board member today. Currently, Neeraj happens to be the longest serving member of the Library's Board of Trustees.
These library buildings not only hold many books, they also hold many memories and friendships.
Headstone of Andrew Lincoln (1866) at Oakwood Cemetery in Penfield, NY
Most people who are from the area, think of Penfield as a land of farms. You will hear stories after stories depicting the open lands and the farms. This is all true, but it was really the waterways that helped bring Penfield into prominence. Irondequoit Creek attracted Daniel Penfield (and others) from the Hudson NY region to invest in building mills in our local area. Daniel Penfield came and quickly controlled virtually all of the water rights of Township 13.
Two other millers in the area were Samuel Rich and Andrew Lincoln. In fact, both these gentlemen formed a partnership and built a gristmill upstream and just past Daniel Penfield’s control. Some consider Rich as Daniel Penfield's milling business rival. The Rich-Lincoln partnership ended, and both individuals continued to invest on their own.
Lincoln built a flour mill near his homestead near the Lincoln Bridge (the artery to what is now East Rochester from Penfield’s Four Corners). His Lincoln Mill was one of the larger mills around. Lincoln’s homestead is on the corner of Linden Avenue and Bluff Drive.
Rich moved downstream to build, again just past Daniel Penfield’s control. Built in 1848, the flour mill was erected using lumber cut from the property itself. Rich carved out a pathway to access his mills now referred to as Rich Dugway, an access point to Ellison Park. Even after the operations of the mills stopped, the buildings remained operational as a restaurant for many years – the Daisy Flour Mill (the only mill still standing in Penfield today). Rich’s homestead is the large white building on Five Mile Line Rd and south of Four Corners.
Foot bridge crossing Irondequoit Creek in Ellison Park
Indians (not the Bombay version) were attracted to this area probably because of the wooded areas and abundance of fish. In fact, the meadows of today's Ellison Park was referred to as the Indian Landing. The Indians kept and launched their canoes onto Irondequoit Creek. As it turned out, this area was used by the indigenous Iroquois as the beginning of the portage route which stretched along Ellison Park.
Indian Landing was the scene of adventures and romance for more than 300 years. There were Indian wars, the struggle for empire between the French and the English, and historic significance in the revolutionary and pioneer periods.
It was the site of religion, commerce and war. The Lost City of Tryon, originally founded in hopes of creating a commercial settlement, used the Irondequoit Creek for trade. A store was built that bartered with the Seneca Indians, beginning its trading roots.
On a hill is the presumed site of Peter (Pieter) Schuyler’s 1721 Trading Post, known as “Fort Schuyler.” Its purpose was to encourage trade with the Senecas and complete with the French for furs. In 1938 this log cabin (picture attached) was erected to commemorate this site. Schuyler was the first mayor of Albany and the family has a big name (and mansion) in that area of New York.
And now you know why one of our elementary school is named Indian Landing (just a few steps from the historic Indian Landing). The Bombay Indians were attracted to this area because of Kodak, Xerox and French's mustard.
LaSalle's Landing on the north side of Empire Blvd in Penfield, NY
Irondequoit Bay happened to be a very strategic spot for the French in its desire to control Indian Landing and hold an outpost of New France. LaSalle, the French explorer came to the area in 1669 - “LaSalle’s Landing” is on the north side of Empire Blvd across Lucien Morin Park on the bay. To communicate with the natives, he learned the Iroquois language. His goal was to explore the land of the Ohio Trail. The Senecas were very helpful to LaSalle in understanding the outlay of the land.
Greed and desire to control the fur trade created friction with the Senecas and the growing presence of English made matters worse for the French. A new leader was needed to handle the vulnerabilities. So France's Louis XIV tapped Marquis de Denonville to lead. And lead he did.
In 1687, Denonville left Montreal and arrived at our Bay. He planned to meet western Indians to help him out to annihilate Seneca nation. The scene was set. They journeyed from the bay to take care of business. It ended up being one of the more historic routes of the area - Bay to Creek to Embury to Qualthrough to Clark to Whalen to Five Mile Line to Linden to Bluff to Lincoln to Marsh to Bushnell Basin to Pittsford-Victor Rd to High Rd - the "Denonville Trail" - a route that went right through the heart of Penfield and leads to where the Iroquois Confederacy / Haudenosaunee tribes would meet (Ganandogan area) - "keepers of the fire."
Denonville and his people did great damage to Seneca nation, but in the end the French lost out. Seneca Indians later sided with the British through the Revolutionary War.
Interestingly, Penfield's first junior high school was named after Denonville - logically named as the Denonville Trail went down Five Mile Line Rd where the school was located. The school's first mascot was the Chiefs, presumably named after the Indians that Denonville came to get rid of. Now, children at Penfield are referred to as Patriots, maybe as a reference to the Patriots who won the Revolutionary War at the expense of the British (and Indian allies). It has kind of come full circle in a way.
Today, there is a small town "park" (swampy and marshy area that my sneaker went in... ugh) along Irondequoit Bay named LaSalle’s Landing Park on the edge of Penfield.
Whalen Family lot at Oakwood Cemetery in Penfield, NY
Take Whalen Rd to Jackson Rd has a special meaning now.
Prominent farmers in the Town of Penfield, the Whalen and Jackson family residences were of adjoining land parcels, although about 1/4 mile away from each other.
The current owner of the Whalen homestead purchased it from the Footer estate (son of the housekeeper for Mr. Whalen's family). We can absolutely envision Thomas Jackson's kids playing hide and go seek with the Whalen kids at sunset. Interesting to note, the Whalen farm was referred to as Maple Hill Farm back in the day. The Whalen homestead - the haunted house, as many naughty kids referred to - was built in 1875. Can you imagine trick or treating and approaching this house at night?
Just as the Whalen and the Jackson family were neighbors, they will forever rest near each other - across Seventh Lane at Oakwood Cemetery. Pictured above are current pictures of the families' homestead and their resting place.
Author Martin M. Wamp has written a beautiful book titled Penfield (Images of America series). It is a book that not only has meaningful text, but also has images of the town's history.
You can purchase Martin's book titled Penfield on amazon.com. Martin dedicated his book to his grandmother Frances Schnarr, a lifelong Penfield resident who rests today at Oakwood Cemetery.
Martin M. Wamp authored book titled Penfield (Images of America series)
Katherine "Kay" Wilcox Thompson was the Town Historian for Penfield. As part of the Town's 150th anniversary in 1960, she published a very comprehensive book entitled "Penfield's Past." Kay is originally from Michigan, but must have thought of Penfield as her home. She rests today in Oakwood Cemetery.
Katherine Thompson authored book titled Penfield's Past with her headstone at Oakwood Cemetery
We are truly very lucky to live in a Town that is so supportive of Penfield's rich history. Not all towns have devoted resources towards a Local History Room, which is really an extension of the Town Historian's Office. The Penfield Local History Room aims to organizing materials, constructing historical displays, researching various topics, helping patrons, and coordinating volunteers. It is located in the Penfield Public Library - all the way in the back. I encourage you to visit next time you visit our library.
I want to especially thank Mrs. Kathy Kanauer, Penfield Town Historian, and Ms. Anna Jarvis, our Local History Room Coordinator. They have a wealth of knowledge and it has been a privilege to chat and learn from both. They are great people themselves. Thank you so much Kathy and Anna.
Three books that I would like to acknowledge are listed below. I want to thank Martin for his time. I text him a lot and talk to him often about Penfield history. I have to be careful, though - because often our conversations lead down various rabbit holes!