Niagara County

Porter's Past - Nov 1998

Newsletter of the Town of Porter Historical Society
Vol. 22, No. 3, November, 1998
Vee L. Housman, Editor


  1. Brass Bell of the Youngstown Lion's Club engraved with the names of the Lion's Club presidents from 1948 to 1972. Donated by the Youngstown Lion's Club.
  2. Natural School Geography book used in Town of Porter School District #2, published early 1900s. Donated by Dorothy Samples
  3. Old bottles washed up on the Niagara River shore, gathered up and donated by John W. Owen of Main St., Youngstown.
  4. Large framed photograph of Dr. William F. Falkner, Mayor of Youngstown, 1937-1943 and April 1951 to Nov. 4, 1952. Donated by the Town of Porter office.
  5. Town of Porter Tax Assessor record books from 1918 to 1989--total of 87 volumes. Turned over to the museum by the Town of Porter. A GREAT source of historic information. Now, all we need are some sturdy shelves to store them on. Does anyone know of an inexpensive source?

Come up to the museum and enjoy our display of beautiful old dolls. Helen Murray has loaned us her collection of dolls that she has accumulated from family and friends. See Shirley Temple in her doll buggy, Madame Alexander dolls, bed dolls, Gerber Baby doll, Kewpie dolls and antique dolls. They'll be on display through Christmas. Many thanks to Helen and to Gretchen Greene for arranging the display.


This is a very unusual story about three of our veterans of World War II:

Buffalo Courier-Express, October 27, 1946

Infant Found on Tracks After Crash Brought Up as Ransomville Physician's Third "Son"

There are six names on the plaque of the new memorial organ at the Ransomville Baptist Church. Two are listed as the sons of Dr. John C. Plain, but folks around Ransomville know the doctor really lost three boys in the war.

It goes back 34 years. In October 1912, as the Smithson family buggy approached the West Crossing, the horses shied, reared and then there was a terrible crash. [Clarence] Smithson was thrown clear, but his wife [Hanna (Schulze) Smithson] was mangled under the engine. The freight with its 20 cars rolled past. Between the rails lay little Raymond Smithson.

Dr. Plain was called. He glanced at the dead woman and spoke to her uninjured husband before spotting the bundle of white on the tracks. Tenderly he lifted the trembling infant into his arms. "Like a frightened rabbit he was," said Dr. Plain, "his heart pounding and his pulse racing." The four-month-old baby was just 11 days younger than his own son, Gardner. That night Mrs. Plain had two sons.

Although relatives later claimed Raymond, the two boys were brought up together . . . Gardner "joined up" first. On February 1, 1941 he entered service, becoming a paratrooper with the 502d Regiment. About a year later Raymond followed in his footsteps, joining the 505th Regiment as a paratrooper. It was while he was in training at Ft. Benning, Ga., that Raymond received word that the war had taken the first of Dr. Plain's boys. Gardner was killed in a plane crash in New England.

Now a corporal, the boy Dr. Plain picked up from the railroad tracks 30 years before stood at his side as his own son was lowered into his grave in the North Ridge Cemetery of Ransomville [sic].

In January, 1943, Dr. Plain received his second message which began, "We regret to inform you . . . ." Another son, Lieut. Roger M. Plain, was killed in North Africa. Dr. Plain still had one boy in service, Raymond.

Then came D-Day. Dr. Plain knew Raymond was in England. He figured he'd be in on the invasion, and he was. His outfit was one of the first to hit the beaches of Normandy. He wrote Dr. Plain about it. Raymond fought some more. It was in January 1944, that the third message came: "We regret to inform you . . . ."

That's how half the names on the plaque are Dr. Plain's boys. The folks in the little parish knew this when they installed the $2,200 memorial organ.

"I wish they could be together again," said Dr. Plain. "Gardner is buried in Ransomville, Raymond lies beneath French soil. Roger's in North Africa. I'd like the boys together again--always."


When we think of the horse and buggy days, somehow we don't picture them quite like this:

Suspension Bridge Journal, Feb. 20, 1892

YOUNGSTOWN. A team owned by Jas. Bradley of Wilson ran away here last week. They ran about one mile when they were stopped by running into a tree. Slight damages were done to horses, cutter and harness.

Suspension Bridge Journal, March 5, 1892

YOUNGSTOWN. While Fred Balcom, son of Mr. and Mrs. Charles Balcom, was leading a horse to water on Monday, the animal suddenly wheeled and kicked, striking him directly over the stomach, leaving the print of its hoof and rendering him unconscious. He is expected to recover.

Niagara Falls Journal, July 16, 1892

YOUNGSTOWN. A horse owned by Seitz & Co., undertakers, Niagara Falls, ran away in this village Saturday night, breaking a rough box and medical case that were in the wagon. No other damage was done.

Niagara Falls Journal, December 24, 1892

RANSOMVILLE. Walter Brockway of North ridge left his team attached to a wagon loaded with coal hitched in front of the Ransomville House Tuesday night and they became frightened and ran away colliding with a carriage driven by Walter Peterson. Peterson's vehicle was badly damaged but no one was hurt.

Niagara Falls Journal, June 9, 1894

YOUNGSTOWN. A horse owned by Luke Tower of this town, ran away in Ransomville on Saturday afternoon, smashing the buggy into kindling wood and breaking the harness.

The Daily Cataract Journal, Sept. 8, 1905

RANSOMVILLE. There was an exciting runaway and accident in front of the post office in Ransomville on Tuesday noon. The handsome team of blacks belonging to Postmaster Gentle, used on his undertaking wagon, became frightened at clothes flapping on a line in the yard at the side of Mr. Gentle's store and residence, and ran into the street. The wagon was partly filled with barbed wire that Bert Foster had been unloading. The runaways collided with a one- horse rig of an Italian peddler in the roadway. A five-year-old son of the peddler in the latter's wagon was thrown headlong to the ground and was painfully but not seriously injured. George Monohan and H. A. Swigert stopped the runaways. Mr. Gentle offered to engage a physician to attend the boy and to also give the Italian $5 in cash to settle for all damages, but the Italian wanted more money.

The Daily Cataract Journal, Nov. 24, 1905

RANSOMVILLE. The team of William Hyde of Ransomville ran away at Randall Road station the other day and made things lively there for a little while. Mr. Hyde had taken a drummer from Buffalo with a load of trunks from Ransomville to L. A. Bradley & Sons' store at Randall Road and hitched the rig to a telephone pole near the store. The team became impatient at standing and broke loose, then ran into the field with rig jolting over stones and through ditches. A large trunk was spilled out upon the ground and the team became ensnared in a barbed wire fence. One horse was somewhat cut up about the legs and that was the extent of the damage.

Niagara Falls Gazette, Jan. 8, 1914

YOUNGSTOWN. A well known farmer who resides east of this village is receiving the merry ha! ha! from his many friends, as the result of a little piece of forgetfulness on his part, the forepart of this week.
He drove into town Monday morning and went from here to Buffalo via trolley. He returned Tuesday morning, and upon going to a friend's barn where he usually leaves his horse, he found that the animal was not there. He then "hoofed" it home, thinking some one of the family had taken the horse home again, but such was not the case. Following an all day search, the patient animal was finally located in the Murphy sheds where the farmer's tardy memory at last reminded him that he had left the horse there.




The Niagara Falls Journal, December 4, 1903

RANSOMVILLE. The pleasant home of supervisor J. W. Thompson was the scene of a most delightful gathering on Thanksgiving Day. All of the members of the local branches of the Thompson family, 25 in all, were present from the aged mother to the wee great-grandchild -- the first time there has been such a complete reunion in several years.

The able host and hostess spared no pains in providing for the comfort and enjoyment of their guests and the happy joyous spirit with which they later entered into the pleasures of the day, could come only from hearts filled with gratitude for the past year of prosperity.

Shortly after noon the beautifully decorated tables were set forth and the guests seated. The hostess, assisted by Mrs. Calvert, served such a dinner as only a most perfect cook could prepare and such as one remembers for an entire year and to which all present did ample justice. From the table the guests repaired to the parlor, where, gathering around the piano, they poured forth their gratitude to God in songs of praise. Early in the evening the guests reluctantly departed, hoping that each might be spared to enjoy many more such Thanksgiving Days.

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

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