Niagara County

Porter's Past - Apr 2000

Newsletter of the Town of Porter Historical Society
April, 2000

Monthly meetings are held in the Civic Guild Room of the Youngstown Civic Center, 240 Lockport St., Youngstown. It's on the second floor and is elevator accessible. Meetings begin at 8:00 p.m. Refreshments are served in the Historical Society museum after the meeting. Bring along a friend.


April 17 Meeting: Underground Railroad, One Stop Closer to Freedom, speaker Carol Murphy of Burt, NY. SPECIAL NOTE: Our meeting will start at 7:00 instead of 8:00 and will be held in the Ransomville Free Library, 3733 Ransomville Rd., Ransomville. The museum in the old post office in back of the library will be open at 6:30 for you to browse around in before the meeting starts.


Niagara Falls Gazette, Dec. 17, 1879


Dr. Hugh MacGregor Wilson and Mrs. Adeline Hotchkiss, formerly residents of this county but of late residents of Detroit, were indicted by our late grand jury for the alleged poisoning of Geo. C. Hotchkiss, of Youngstown, twelve years ago. Both of the indicted parties have been arrested and are now in the county jail at Lockport. The case has assumed proportions of great interest, and the trial, which is to open in Lockport in February, promises to prove the most noted of any that ever took place in this part of the state. The facts in the case, as far as known, are stated by the Lockport Journal as follows:

In December, 1867, G. C. Hotchkiss, a prominent resident of Youngstown, was taken suddenly and violently ill, and complained of a severe pain in his stomach. Up to that time Mr. Hotchkiss, who was then fifty-six years of age, had been unusually healthy, scarcely ever complaining of sickness. Dr. Smith was called in to see him, but was unable to do the sick man any good, and he grew worse. Mrs. Hotchkiss was his principal attendant, administrating his medicines and attending to his wants.

During his illness, Dr. Wilson, then a resident of Youngstown, visited the house several times. Dr. Wilson had long been Mrs. Hotchkiss' medical adviser, and the two were on quite intimate terms.

On the 24th day of December 1867, Mr. Hotchkiss died in great agony. About a year afterwards, Mr. H.'s son died at Buffalo, under peculiar circumstances. But as the family were highly respected, the attending physician, Dr. Lewis, while remarking on the strangeness of the case, paid no further attention to the matter. On the death of this young man, Mrs. H. took possession of the property left by Mr. Hotchkiss [Calvin Hotchkiss, the young man's great-uncle], amounting, it is said, to some $40,000. On the 18th of last June, by the order of Coroner Balcom, Drs. Tryon and S. T. Clark, of this city, repaired to Lewiston, where the remains (those of Mrs. Hotchkiss' husband) were interred, for the purpose of exhuming the body, or what remained of it. Although the body had long since turned to dust, the doctors secured portions where lay the stomach and abdomen, which were examined. Coroner Balcom subsequently empanelled a jury and held an inquest at Youngstown in the premises. At the inquest held, Dr. Tryon testified emphatically that his analysis showed the presence of arsenic in the remains. The case, owing to the absence of several witnesses, was adjourned until the 20th of October to the American Hotel in this city. The Coroner's jury found Mrs. Hotchkiss guilty of murder in the first degree and Dr. Wilson as an accessory. The case was then submitted to the Grand Jury, with the result as stated.

Niagara Falls Gazette, Dec. 24, 1879


Dr. Wilson and Mrs. Hotchkiss have been admitted to bail in $10,000 each by Judge Haight, of Buffalo, their release at once only depending on the execution of sufficient bonds.

What the line of defense will be remains to be seen. Dr. Wilson assumes a defiant and threatening attitude and claims that both are innocent. It may at this late day, be hard to fasten responsibility anywhere for dosing Geo. C. Hotchkiss with arsenic. No one believes that he took it knowingly, and the evidence seemed unanswerable that his death was caused by administering arsenic. We shall rejoice if the accused parties prove their innocence. In the meantime it is not the province of the press to try the prisoners.

Mrs. Hotchkiss is a daughter of Chapman Hawley, an old resident of Lewiston and this place [Niagara Falls]. He was connected with one or two of our then principal hotels about the time of the Canadian Rebellion. [Editor: That was probably what was also called the Mackenzie Rebellion of 1837.] He will be remembered by the older citizens of both towns. Of Mrs. Hotchkiss, our old Lewiston friend, Fairman, now editor of the Elmira Advertiser says:

Forty years ago, nearly or quite, when the writer of this was a young boy in his teens [and] a pupil at the Lewiston Academy, there was another pupil at the same school named Adeline C. Hawley. She was the daughter of a well-to-do and reputable farmer who tilled his ample fields on the mountain just south of the village. She was a bright, black-eyed, black-haired brunette, of perhaps sixteen summers, charming, chaste and beautiful.

Our acquaintance with Mr. Hotchkiss dates back to the time when he was a dry goods merchant in the then lively village of Pekin, more than forty years ago. He was most agreeable in manner and made friends of all acquaintances. He subsequently became a resident of Youngstown where he died in 1867. On the death of Calvin Hotchkiss, of Lewiston, his will was found to have bequeathed a large sum to Hawley C. Hotchkiss, an only son of Geo. C. Hotchkiss, and a smaller amount to Mrs. Geo. C. Hotchkiss.

The theory of those who believe the prisoners guilty is that the motive for poisoning the husband, and about a year later the son, was to obtain full possession of the fortune left them by Calvin Hotchkiss. It is a terrible charge. The not very savory reputation of Dr. Wilson will not of course be proof that he is guilty of the offense. We never heard a word against Mrs. Hotchkiss until scandal stories were circulated of her intimacy with Dr. Wilson. As we have said, we hope both may satisfy the public of their innocence of this charge.

Niagara Falls Gazette, April 21, 1880

The trial of the Wilson-Hotchkiss poisoning case is expected to commence at Lockport today.

Niagara Falls Gazette, May 5, 1880


The trial of Mrs. Hotchkiss, at Lockport, for the alleged poisoning of her husband, ended Friday, the jury, by order of Judge Haight, rendering a verdict of acquittal. A nolle prosequi [prosecution ended on the count] was subsequently entered in the case of Dr. H. McGregor Wilson, indicted jointly with Mrs. H. The expense of the trial has been about $2000.

[Editor's questions: Did George C. Hotchkiss and his son Hawley really die as a result of deliberate poisoning? And if so, was it administered by Adeline Hotchkiss with the aid of her "friend" Dr. Wilson (who was married all the while to his wife Cynthia, by the way!)? If so, they certainly got away with it! If not, at least the jury acquitted them. But hmmm, the questions still remain! From the testimony given at the trial, the only thing lacking was the "smoking gun."]


[Editor: What with the following two articles, maybe a notice should have been posted to the voters, "WARNING: Voting can be dangerous to your health!"]

Niagara County News, Youngstown, NY, April 13, 1883

-- A serious accident befell Mr. Lewis Leffman as he was returning from the polls Tuesday. While riding along the road in Mr. John Turner's democrat, by a sudden start of the horse he was precipitated from the back seat of the democrat to the ground, striking on his head and shoulders in a violent manner. Mr. Leffman is a very old gentleman, being over eighty-five years of age, and a fall like this, which, perhaps a younger man would think of no consequence, is apt to hurt him severely. His injuries, if any, are internal, and at this writing they cannot be said to very dangerous. [Editor again: Many of you will recognize Lewis Leffman as the retired Ordnance Sergeant who had served in the U.S. Army for fifty-nine years. For nearly forty years he was stationed at Fort Niagara. He and his wife Elizabeth helped establish St. John's Episcopal Church in Youngstown. He died of old age in 1885.]

--Mr. Edward Millard, in alighting from the democrat in which he rode to the polls Tuesday, caught his coat on the step, and being crippled by rheumatism, as everybody knows, he could not extricate himself in time to save a fall. As soon as he struck the ground, it startled the horses and they made a step or two forward, drawing the wagon over Mr. Millard. The driver backed the team up, and over Mr. Millard again, and before assistance came he had been run over several times. Aside from a few bruises, he was not injured to any extent.

[Editor again: I must admit I had to giggle a bit over the last article. Oh what a bad day that dear man had! From our records I know that he was about 58 years old, he was a shoemaker and a widower, and all that he wanted to do that day was just go to the polls to vote. Don't you just hate it when something like that happens to you??]


-- Hiram Porter is recovering from an attack of malignant diphtheria.
-- H. Perry Jr., who caught and bruised his hand, and smashed his thumb, is on the gain.
-- H. Gaskill has sold his farm, and is soon to move to Hartland. He is a good neighbor and will be much missed in this locality.
-- Stephen Lake, who has been confined in the county jail for the accidental shooting of Mark Gaskill is out on bail. Cause of imprisonment, refusal to pay personal damages.
-- Wm. McCormick is soon to commence a medical course. We congratulate Mr. McCormick -- as he is an energetic young man, and no doubt will make a skillful M.D.
-- The sociable held at the residence of G. L. Moote, on Wednesday evening last, was a perfect success.
-- The Tryonville Merchants were in East Porter last week having some repairing done to their peddling wagon.
-- Edward C. is the Champion Pugilist of East Porter.
-- Last week Mr. S. Brasington sold a three-year-old heifer to Judd Hacket for $55 that tipped the scales at 1200 lbs. Who can beat it?
-- Mrs. Charles Atwater is the Champion Quilter. She put a quilt on the frames in the morning, and by six o'clock in the evening it was taken off finished.
-- Seth Johnson and family, of Wilson, have been visiting friends and relatives in East Porter the past week.

Niagara County News, Youngstown, NY, April 20, 1883

The books and papers of the Town Clerk's office were moved from Ransomville to Youngstown last Tuesday, and, for the present, can be found at the Post Office, under the care of Warren Jackman, the newly elected Town Clerk.

-- The Union Cornet Bank, under the leadership of Prof. Cummings, serenaded our Supervisor and Collector at their respective places of business on Saturday night.
-- The maple sugar party held at the Depot on Friday evening was largely attended. The proceeds amounted to $40, which will be used towards building a sidewalk from the depot to the post office. The committee now have $65 for that purpose. Great credit is due the Misses White and our station agent, Mr. Hitchcock, for the enterprise.
-- Richard Balmer and family have moved to Olcott.
-- Will Ransom is improving the looks of his dwelling with a coat of paint.
-- Solomon Warren has raised his house, and is preparing to build a cellar.
-- On Saturday evening last, as several young ladies were exercising their muscles by taking a ride on a [railroad] hand-car, when near the road crossing they saw a horse and buggy standing on the track, but were unable to check the speed of the car. Knowing a collision was inevitable, the ladies began to alight from the car in a manner that frightened the horse, which wheeled around, capsizing and somewhat demolishing the buggy, threw the occupant, Will Harris, to the ground, the horse became entangled in the harness, fell upon his back into the ditch, with his feet dangling in the air. Fortunately no injury was done to the ladies or the horse. [Editor's question: But what about poor Will Harris?]

Niagara County News, Youngstown, NY, April 27, 1883

-- Jake Robertson has recovered his lost dog.
-- Mr. Fred Baker, of Cambria Center, has leased the extensive farms belonging to Christopher Quade, of Lockport, formerly occupied by A. J. Quade.
--Mr. Laboam Smithson has another thousand dollar endowment -- 10 lbs. avoirdupois. Another farm, Boamy! [Editor's note: That was his son David C. Smithson who was born on April 19, 1883. He went west to Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where he died in 1967. His grandson Patrick Smithson and I correspond via e-mail!]
--Mr. E. E. Cornell claims to have made as fine a kettle of soap as any old housekeeper can produce. We think he had just a few instructions >From over the way.
--Miss Ella Kyle has withdrawn her accepted application to teach the school in District No. 7, and has secured a situation at Ransomville. She thinks this more advantageous in the LONG run. [Me again: That was a reference to Dr. Samuel Long. Ella and the good doctor got married a couple of years later!]

Niagara County News, Youngstown, NY, April 30, 1886

--C. Sanger went to Fort Niagara fishing on Wednesday -- no fish. --Wheat is looking well hereabout, and spring plowing goes on rapidly. Some barley already sown.
--H. B. Tower sold over two thousand dollars worth of horses last week. --Judging from the elegant headgear of the ladies at the Easter services at Baptist Church, Sunday, our popular milliner, Mrs. McCracken, must have done a good business last week.
--Ransom & Son are about to engage a lady bookkeeper for their constantly increasing business.
--The Baptist Church was beautifully trimmed with flowers for Easter service on Sunday with an evergreen cross banked in blooming flowers and the galleries festooned with evergreens. The work was done and flowers furnished by a committee of the ladies, assisted by the Pastor, and certainly was well done. The sermon by Mr. Cornell was on the Resurrection and was a very able effort. The choir singing was grand in conception and successful in execution. The concert by the Sabbath School in the evening was enjoyed by a full congregation and each in every part was well done. Everyone must have went away full of good thoughts and with love to God in their hearts.

Suspension Bridge Journal, Suspension Bridge, NY, April 5, 1890

FORT NIAGARA -- The most disastrous storm that ever visited this place occurred on March 28. The wind began to blow about midnight and in a short time raised almost to hurricane, the sea rolling higher than the projecting walls and the water being dashed nearly to the top of the "Castle," which is three stories high. The entire west sea wall was washed away in a short time. It went in sections. Large cut stone, some of which weighed a ton, were hurled 10 or 15 feet into the air and came down with tremendous force, smashing timbers, barrels, boats, fishing reels and debris of every kind.

Suspension Bridge Journal, Suspension Bridge, NY, April 18, 1891

RANSOMVILLE -- The election of April 15 resulted as follows: John Riordon, Dem, Supervisor; H. M. Ransom, Dem, Town Clerk; Byron W. Moon, Rep., Justice of the Peace; Nicholas Hoffman, Dem, Assessor; George A. Truesdale, Rep., Commissioner of Highways; Frederick Kelly, Rep., Collector; John W. Haskell, Rep., Overseer of Poor, first district; Christian Sanger, Rep., Overseer of Poor, second district; Elwin S. Carter, Newton B. Hall, Reps., Inspectors of Election, first district and James M. Foster, Rep. And A. H. Hoffman, Dem., second district; William A Tryon and Mark Schoonmaker, Dems., and Alva Logan and William J. Sweet, Reps., Constables; William J. Sweet, Rep., Game Constable; Bryron J. Moon, Excise Commissioner.

Suspension Bridge Journal, Suspension Bridge, NY, April 25, 1891

YOUNGSTOWN -- It is stated that the Niagara Navigation Company will shortly improve their dock property here and their steamers will commence running by the 15th of next month.
--John W. Raynor of this place and Miss Libbie Hall were united in marriage by Rev. Mr. Russ. They will take up their residence here.
--Joseph Pettly will shortly leave for Florida to look after lands which he recently purchased.
--Tuesday morning occurred the death of Mrs. James Kennedy, aged 71 years. The funeral was held Thursday afternoon. The remains were interred in St. Marks Cemetery.
--Born to Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Keith, a son.
--Richard Ratcliffe, formerly a resident here, committed suicide Friday last at St. Catherines. Temporary insanity is supposed to be the cause. The deceased leaves a wife and four children. He was about 65 years of age and once held the position of Past Grand Tiler of the Grand Lodge of Canada.

Niagara Falls Journal, Niagara Falls, NY, April 23, 1892

RANSOMVILLE -- W. T. Gentle has the addition to his store about completed and the building is now most decidedly an ornament to the village.
--It is stated that the chances are now more than even that a morning west-bound passenger train will be put on the R. W. & O. summer time table. It would be a great convenience to the people of this section and has long been needed.
--Station Agent McCollough was in Lockport on Tuesday as a witness in the Tryon case.
--Corwin & Taggart have started their grocery wagon upon the road.
--Farmers are now in the midst of their spring seeding. A warm rain is badly needed for winter wheat and for vegetation in general.

The Youngstown News, Youngstown, NY, April 19, 1895

YOUNGSTOWN -- The bazaar and supper given in the El Dorado Hotel Monday afternoon and evening, under the direction of the ladies of St. John's church, proved a success far beyond the expectation of the most sanguine. Notwithstanding the wet weather, a large crowd of visitors were present, and the receipts footed nearly $80, which will assist in lessening the debt upon the rectory. In the evening a violin and song recital was given by Mr. LeRoy H. Moon, a member of the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, and Mr. Walter C. Moon, organist and choirmaster of St. Luke's Church, Buffalo. The concert proved a rare treat, and the many fine selections received the hearty praise of all. We understand these young men will visit this village during the summer season, and will then give a concert to our citizens.

YOUNGSTOWN -- Bids for fresh beef and vegetables were opened at Fort Niagara Monday noon in the presence of bidders. For beef, John Haskell of this village proved the lowest bidder at 6 3/8 cents per pound. The bid of John E. Riorden on potatoes and onions was the lowest. Both these bids will undoubtedly be approved at Washington, and the contracts will begin July 1st next.

A rumor prevails that the three companies and band of the 13th Infantry now stationed at Fort Niagara, will shortly be removed to New York Harbor, and that the 17th Infantry, now in Ohio and Wyoming, will be sent to this post. Like its many predecessors, it can be taken for what it is worth -- rumor.

Niagara Falls Gazette, Niagara Falls, NY, April 11, 1925


RANSOMVILLE, April 11 -- The members and guests who attend the April meeting of the Men's Club, held in the Methodist church on Monday night, April 13, are in line for a treat. The speaker engaged for the occasion is C. W. Tugwell, of Wilson, who will speak about his recent trip to Porto[sic] Rico, and who has presented to the club, for use that night, a case of canned Porto Rico grape fruit, a gallon of onions, a gallon of Italian olives and a gallon of the choicest pickles. James Hopkins will talk on Florida, which he is said to have pretty well covered during his stay there this past winter. There may be other entertainers present, a reader and singer from Niagara Falls, but this is not announced with certainty. The committee serving the supper consists of Walter E. Reese, chairman, Roy Benedict, J. Irving Allen, John W. Moore, Stanley Parker, Archer Truesdale, A. J. Smith and Louis Diez.



Contributed by Vee L. Housman, courtesy of Town of Porter Historical Society.

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