History of Business in Geneva, NY

SARACUSE, N. Y., 1893


The mention of this subject naturally takes us back again to the early history of the village to a time when the principal business interests were centered at the square. From Mrs. Bradford's valuable history we learn that " the early merchants of Geneva were Grieve & Moffat, Samuel Colt, Richard M. Williams, Elijah Gordon, Richard M. Bailey. Abraham Dox." Septimus Evans was an early settler and "respectable" merchant. Daniel W. Lewis was an early resident and lawyer. Polydore B. Wisner practiced law here in 1805. Moses Hall had a shop where Edward Kingsland lives now. Samuel Colt has already been mentioned among the business men. Dr. William Adams was the first physician; other early medical men were Drs. John Henry and Daniel Goodwin. "Among the earliest mechanics were William Tappan, John and Abraham Hall, Moses Hall, William W. Watson, John Woods, Foster Barnard, Richard Lazalere and Jacob and Joseph Backenstose."

From Colonel James Bogert's reminiscences of Geneva, published by Mrs. Bradford, it is learned that in 1805 there were thirty-five houses on Main street, seven on Seneca street, five on Castle street, two on Genesee street, and one on Pulteney street, and that many of the now important streets were not then laid. From the same authority we also learn "that the north side of Seneca street on which there is now (1833) a compact mass of beautiful and substantial buildings, was long after we commenced the publication of our paper (1806) improved as a mowing field."

However, it is not our purpose at this time to dwell at length on the old business interests of Geneva. There are now living in the village many persons whose recollection carries them back from fifty to sixty-. five years; persons who have observed the growth of the place from the small hamlet to the metropolitan village, now having a volume of business equal to some of the cities of the State. In a preceding portion of this chapter we have traced the development of business and noted the gradual decline of the park vicinity and the corresponding use of Seneca, Exchange (formerly Water), and Castle streets as business thoroughfares. But in manufactures Geneva did not gain any great prominence until after the building of the railroads, and the greatest strides in this direction have been made during the last quarter of a century. Glancing over the village directory for 1867, the names of manufacturers appearing are as follows: James Alexander, brewer, David W. Baird, carriage manufacturer; Henry D. Beach, bedstead maker and "leader of the band;" Charles Bennett, brickyard; Wm. H. Brundage, carriage factory; Bullard & Co., manufacturers of dial attachment dampers for stove pipes; Alfred Catchpole, foundry and machine shop; Conger & McKay, saw and planing mill and spoke factory; Patrick Coursey, wool puller and tanner; John B. Dixon, tile manufacturer; Wm. B. Dunning, proprietor iron works; P. H. & G. W. Field, maltsters; Samuel L. Jones, planing-mill; Benjamin W. Keyes, carriage manufacturer; Rubert & Co., yeast factory; Richard Snyder, brick yard. A few of these industries are still in existence, and may be mentioned among those of the present day. Especially are the names of Wm. B. Dunning, Benj. W. Keyes and David W. Baird familiar to quite recent business interests.

The New York Central Iron Works Company, that great Geneva industry, was incorporated in 1890, and is the outgrowth of an original business established by Wm. B. Dunning in 1851. In 1853 Mr: Dunning began making boilers, mill irons and other articles on a larger scale, and with each passing year found a largely increasing business. The old works were burned in 1870, and at once replaced with the present buildings. Here are made the Dunning steam and hot water heaters, steam engines, boilers and general machinery. The company was incorporated July 1, 1890, having $100,000 capital. Its officers are Wm. B. Dunning, president; O. J. C. Rose, vice-president and treasurer; E. N. Squires, secretary and manager.

In 1868 Edward W. Herendeen established the Thomas Harrow Company for the manufacture of harrows, also various kinds of other agricultural implements. This branch of business has not been wholly discarded, although the chief products of the present large plant are the Furman heaters, and steam and hot water boilers. The Herendeen Manufacturing Company was incorporated in February, i888, with $100,000 capital. The officers are: Edward W. Herendeen, president; Francis A. Herendeen, secretary; Wm. L. Herendeen, treasurer; Frederick J. Furman, superintendent.

The firm of T. Smith & Co. is the outgrowth of a business established on the Waterloo turnpike in 1859 by Ezra Havens, who had a spoke and bendings works in that location. At a later date the firm of Kipp, McDougall & Co. succeeded Havens, and the business was moved to Exchange street, occupying the old Burrall foundry building. Thomas Smith afterward became owner of the works, but the buildings were burned in 1873. Being at once rebuilt, the firm of T. Smith & Co. was formed, Daniel Catchpole and Thomas McBlain becoming partners with Mr. Smith. The present firm comprises Mr. Smith, Daniel, Edward A. and Lewellen G. Catchpole, and was formed in November, 1891.

In 1871 the Geneva Malt House was established by Samuel K. Nester, and the industry thus founded by him more than twenty years ago has grown to mammoth proportion, being recognized as one of the most extensive of its kind in the country.

The Geneva Optical Company, whose extensive works until recently were on Linden street, but in 1893 moved to an elegant large building at the corner of Lyceum and Nursery avenue, was formed in January, 1875, for the purpose of manufacturing optical goods. The active originators of the industry were Corydon Wheat, Andrew L. Smith, and William Hall. The officers of the company are: Thomas Smith, president; Wm. Smith, vice-president; Thomas J. Smith, treasurer; Wm. Bowker, secretary and superintendent. The company is capitalized at $100,000. and employs about 200 persons.

The Standard Optical Company was organized in 1883, to operate in connection with the Geneva Optical Company. Its capital is $300,000.

The large Steam Roller Flour Mill at the south end of Exchange street, was built in 1877 by Patrick and Stephen Coursey. In 1880 Stephen Coursey became sole proprietor. This is one of the best mills in the county, and has a full equipment of roller machinery, with a capacity of 125 barrels of flour daily.

The Geneva Preserving Company was incorporated in March, 1889, with $40,000 capital. The buildings are located in the north part of the village, and here during the year 1892 were canned 1,250,000 packages of fruits and vegetables. The officers are: Irving Rouse, president; S. D. Willard, vice-president; B. E. Rouse, secretary; E. H. Palmer, treasurer.

The Phillips and Clark Stove Company. In 1885 the firm of G. H. Phillips & Co. moved from Troy to Geneva, and soon thereafter a proposition was made to organize a company for the manufacture of stoves on an extensive scale. Local capitalists hesitated about entering into the enterprise, but after a short time a stock company with $100,000 capital was incorporated. The Phillips interests expressed a willingness to take a $75,000 of the stock, a fact considered quite surprising at the time, but Mr. Phillips was experienced in business and saw grand possibilities to be attained with works at Geneva. The necessary buildings were at once erected and the company began business; and it is a fact that this is by far the largest and best paying industry now operating in Geneva. The works employ about 250 men, while the output of stoves is about 100 per day. The officers of the company are: George H. Phillips, president and manager; F. 0. Mason, vice.president; E. B. Webster, secretary; W. A. Clark, treasurer; L. S. Phillips, superintendent.

The Patent Cereals Company of Geneva was incorporated in 1888 with a capital of $350,000, for the manufacture of goods from wheat and corn, producing food and brewery products. The officers of the company are: George W. Pier, president; Fred. Licht, vice-president; Jno. T. Munn, secretary and treasurer.

The Geneva Carriage Company was incorporated on April 7, 1891, as a local manufacturing concern, though its principal practical men were formerly in business at Seneca Falls, from whence the works moved to Geneva and became known as above noted. In this village the company first occupied a building near the railroad on Exchange street, but in March, 1893, moved to the large and more suitable building on Middle street, formerly occupied by Pierce, Butler & Pierce. The Geneva Carriage Company manufactures a large variety of vehicles, chief among which is that known as Morrell & Eddy's patent cut-under wagon, which is fast gaining popularity throughout the country. In fact Morrell and Eddy, jointly and severally, are the inventors of many valuable appliances relating to wagons and carriages, and are now justly reaping the deserved harvest of the fruits of their genius. The capital of the company is $50,000, and the officers are: O. J. C. Rose, president; Millard F. Blame, secretary, treasurer, and general manager; directors, O. J. C. Rose, E. N. Squires, M. F. Blame, Wm. N. Morrell, Chas. A. Eddy.

In the same manner there may be briefly mentioned the other business and manufacturing interests of the village and vicinity, among which are the Border City Manufacturing Company and the Superior Land Roller Company, both of which are in the suburb known as "Border City" and "East Geneva." In the village also we may make mention of the brewery and malt-house of James Thwates on the Preemption road; the church organ factory of John J. Pole, at 52 Castle street; the extensive cooper shops of J. H. Fellows, on Exchange Street; the sash, door and blind factories of Wm. K. Butler and Daniel E. Moore; the machine shop of W. K. Bennett, and the metallic packing works of F. B. Smith & Co.

The Nurseries.- Incidental to the business and producing interests of Geneva and locality we may with propriety refer to the great and leading industry of the region, that which in importance and volume has far outstripped all others, and that for which the village and town of Geneva have gained a wide reputation. The Seneca Indians knew of the fruit producing tendencies of the climate and soil of this region, for they had extensive orchards of various fruits, which were in full growth when Sullivan's avenging army came and destroyed villages, trees and all crops. However, it remained for a later generation of occupants to develop the valuable resources of the soil and produce nursery stock, and as each generation has observed the success achieved by its predecessor, we find the entire outlying region, extending throughout the town of Geneva, and into the towns of Seneca and Phelps, and elsewhere, almost one vast nursery, while general agricultural pursuits have been discarded as comparatively unprofitable, and now the vineyard, the orchard and the nursery command the chief attention of the pioneer husbandman. As to who was the pioneer of the nursery business in this region would indeed be difficult to determine, and while nearly all the pioneer farmers grew their own orchard stock, there were nurserymen within the proper meaning of the term, and although the growing of young trees has been a feature of trade in this locality for more than half a century, the business did not reach its maximum in volume until a much more recent date.

The first nursery that the editor has any knowledge of was located on the Waterloo road, a little east of the limits of Geneva. The following advertisement copied from the Geneva Palladium of December 31, 1817, is an account of the same:

GRAFTED FRUIT TREES.- The subscribers having on hand and will constantly keep for sale, a large assortment of Grafted Fruit Trees, at their nursery, two miles east of Geneva, on the Turnpike to Albany, among which are-Newtown Pippins, Yellow Sweetins, Fall Pippins, Hog Island Sweetins, Long Harvest Apple, black and yellow Gilliflower, Jersey Sweetins, Newark Crabs, for Cider, Pound Sweetins, Golden Pippins, White Cider Apples, Queen Apple, Royal Crown, Spitzenburgs. Seeknofurthers, Vandeveer, black, Ox, Swaar and Bough Apples, Pearmains, King Apple, Taliman Sweetins, English Russetins, Farmer's Profit, Queen Ann Apple, Bellflour. Together with a variety of other kinds; all of which they will warrent to be of the genuine kinds, and Grafted under the ground. They flatter themselves that, as they have taken unwearied pains to select their Fruit from the best Orchards in several of the states, and as there is no establishment of the kind equal to it in the country, it will meet the patronage of the public.

Junius [Waterloo] Seneca C. Oct. 1, 1817.

In 1846 Thomas, William and Edward Smith established a nursery west of the village, occupying at first not more than a few acres, but gradually enlarging to meet a rapidly increasing demand for stock. In 1863 Edward Smith retired from the firm and made a beginning on what is now a vast fruit growing business. Thomas and William thereafter continued the nursery business, and now, under the name of the "W. and T. Smith Co." (incorporated March 1, 1892), are the owners of 900 acres of land, of which 400 acres are in fruit and ornamental nursery trees and stock.

In 1848 Thompson C. Maxwell purchased the ten acre nursery formerly owned by Isaac Hildreth, and soon afterward associated in the business with his brothers Henry E. and Joshua I. Maxwell, thus forming the well-known firm of T. C. Maxwell & Bros., a name known to the trade for more than forty years. Henry E. Maxwell died January 24, 1889, but the firm name remains unchanged. During the last five years the firm have practically withdrawn from the nursery business, and become fruit growers. They have about 900 acres, 300 acres of which are in orchard.

E. A. Bronson began business in 1867, and the late firm of Bronson & Hopkins was the outgrowth of it. The firm of Hammond & Willard originated in the older concern known as Graves, Selover, Willard & Co., the latter being formed about 1867. Selover & Attwood are the actual successors to the old firm and still known to the business, and are extensive growers and dealers. Attwood, Root & Co. began in 1870, while Richardson & Nicholas were older in business; and were also large growers. R. G. Chase & Co., and Hammond & Willard are also old firms in the nursery business. Referring to a directory of the nurserymen in business in Geneva town and village in 1867 these names are found quite prominent, viz: Anderson, Sears & Henry, Jacob W. Baker, Bronson, Graves & Selover, Cyrus Churchill, George W. D. Churchill, C. S. De Witt, John B. Dixon, Seabury S. Graves, Herendeen & Jones, T. C. Maxwell & Bros., Nicholas & Newson, A. D. Pratt, W. & T. Smith, Abram Y. and Franklin E. Van Epps.

Comparing the foregoing list of proprietors with that now representing the nursery trade in Geneva town and village, it will be noticed that the above numbers but few whose names are now familiar in nursery circles. An examination also shows that the number then in the trade was very small when placed beside those now representing the great industry. A directory of the nursery stock growers and dealers at the present time shows these firms and proprietors to be engaged in the business having nurseries or places of business in Geneva village. Attwood & Co., F. S. Bronson & Co., Bronson & Hopkins, H. W. Foster & Co., W. & T. Cass, R. G. Chase & Co., John Hammond, The Guarantee Nursery Co., W. D. Chase & Co., James Hallahan, Hammond & Williard, H. E. Merrell & Co., John Jordori, James W. Love, A. McGraw & Co., Wm. L. McKay, Victor Pavalock, John D. Scott, E. B. Richardson & Co., D. H. Patty, William Sessen, Sears, Henry & Co., S. C. Selover & Co., Selover & Attwood, Chauncey Sheffield, W. & T. Smith Co., E. Smith & Sons, T. C. Maxwell & Bros., C. L. Van Dusen Nursery Co., George W. Trautman, John N. Twomey, William Wilson & Co., Wyatt Bros.

The Geneva Permanent Loan and Savings Association was incorporated and organized in 1885, according to the provisions of the act of April 10, 1851, authorizing the formation of building, mutual, loan and accumulating fund associations. The business done by this association has been in every way legitimate and successful, and justly it enjoys a full share of public confidence. The officers are; M. F. Blaine, president; M. S. Sandford, vice-president; W. G. Hemiup, secretary; W. O'Hanlon, treasurer; Meyer Jacobs, F. C. Hofmann, James R. Vance, W. L. Young and W. G. Dennison, trustees.

The Peoples' Building, Loan and Savings Association was incorporated and organized December 22, 1887, through the efforts of D. F. Attwood, E. A. Walton, S. F. Gascoigne, M. S. Sandford, Dr. N. B. Covert and D. W. Hallenbeck. The association began business in 1888, and has grown to proportions which are enviable indeed. The present officers are as follows: Dr. N. B. Covert, president; D. W. Hallenbeck, vice-president; D. F. Attwood, secretary; E. A. Walton, treasurer; S. F. Gascoigne, manager; T. F. Costello, N. B. Covert, S. F. Gascoigne, D. W. Hallenbeck, E. J. Rogers, D. F. Attwood, P. N. Nicholas, E. A. Walton, and 0. N. Whitney, directors.

The Universal Savings and Loan Company was incorporated in March, 189!, having authority for a capital of $5,000,000. Its object is to encourage industry and frugality, and to promote thrift and economy among its members by providing a medium through which their savings niay be invested. The present officers are as follows: M. C. Haight, president; Grove R. Watson, vice-president; D. W. Hallenbeck, treasurer; Wm. Wilson, secretary; E. H. Fleming, general manager; Fred. A. Malette and Thos. H. Sweeney, trustees.

The Manufacturers' Accident Indemnity Company was incorporated December 10, 1886, chiefly through the efforts of Wm. D. Chase and D. J. Van Aukeri. Its business increased rapidly until a total of 18,000 members were obtained. In April, 1893, the company left Geneva and located in New York city. The officers, while Geneva was the seat of operations, were: Thos. Smith, president; Wm. D. Chase, secretary and general manager; D. J. Van Auken, vice-president; R. G. Chase treasurer.

Folger Corps, Thirty-fourth Separate Company, N. G. S. N. Y., was organized in February, 1880, and has, therefore, been one of the recognized organizations of Geneva for more than thirteen years. As is well known, the company was named in honor of that distinguished statesman, legist and jurist, Charles J. Folger. In 1891, through the efforts of Captain Wilson, Lieuts. Schell and Malette, the State gave Geneva a fine armory building, in every way an ornament to the village, the cost of the same being about $45,000. The first captain of the corps was Charles W. Folger, who was succeeded by Geo. S. Prince. The commission of Capt. Wm. Wilson bears the date of October 4, 1884. C. C. Schell is first lieutenant, Fred. A. Malette, second lieutenant,

The Young Men's Christian Association of Geneva was organized in 1886, and incorporated in 1888. In 1891 a lot of land on Castle street was acquired through the generosity of the Maxwell family, and other splendid gifts have enabled the association to erect on this lot a beautiful building. The entire property is valued at $50,000. The officers of the association are: H. A. Wheat, president; W. I. Bonnett, vicepresident; Geo. F. Ditmars, recording secretary; A. E. Robinson, treasurer; A. P. Gillett, general secretary.

The Church Home of Geneva on the Foster Swift Foundation, incorporated April 27, 1878. By two splendid gifts from James T. Swift, in honor of the memory of his brother Foster Swift, added to which were other donations, the Church Home was founded. Upon the organization the corporation purchased the property at the corner of Pulteney and High streets, which was remodeled and arranged for the purposes of the Home. It is supported mainly as one of the dependencies of the Episcopal churches of Geneva. The hospital department was added in 1886, the fund therefor being given by Admiral Craven in memory of his wife. The interior management of the Home is in charge of a board of lady managers. The officers of the corporation are: Rev. Dr. Henry W. Nelson, president; James P. Mellen, treasurer; A. P. Rose, secretary; and F. W. Wilson, James Rankine, A. L. Chew, James P. Mellen, Henry L. Slosson, trustees.

The Geneva Civil Service Association was organized in 1883, and has about forty members. The officers are F. 0. Mason, president; A. P. Rose, secretary; A. L. Sweet, treasurer.

The Medical and Surgical Hospital of Geneva was incorporated March 27, 1892, its purpose being to erect and maintain a general hospital in the village. The plan had its origin in a munificent gift by the late John V. Ditmars of $12,000. The association has a lot on North street, on which the hospital building is to be erected. The officers are as follows: F. O. Mason, president; Geo. F. Ditmars, vicepresident; M. S. Sandford, treasurer; A. L. Sweet, secretary.

The Kanadesaga Club, the most prominent social club organization in Geneva, was incorporated in August, 1892, and has seventy-five members. The club-house is on Main street in the new Music Hall building, the latter one of the most artistic in design of the many attractive structures of the village. The club officers are: Walter A. Clark, president; Louis D. Collins, secretary; Jno. W. Mellen, treasurer.

Arh Lodge, No. 33, F and A. M, was chartered by the Grand Lodge, September 2, 1807, and was, therefore, one of the oldest Masonic organizations of Western New York. The present lodge membership numbers about one hundred persons.

Geneva Chapter, No. 36, R. A. M., was organized November 1, 1813, the original members being Jacob Dox, Garrit L. Dox, Ellis Doty, Walter Dean, Philetus Swift, Arthur Lewis, William Burnett, Nathaniel Allen, Orson Bartlett, and Samuel Lawrence. Present membership, about sixty.

Ontario Council, No. 23, R. and S. M., was chartered February 5, 1860, and Corydon Wheat was chosen first master.

Geneva Commandery, No 29, Knights Templar, was instituted September 13, 1860, and has at present about one hundred members.

Old Castle Lodge, No. 299, I. O. O. F., was instituted December 20, 1871, with eight charter members.

Having referred to a number of the charitable, benevolent, social and secret societies and organizations of Geneva, that are of more than passing importance, we may with propriety mention the names of others which also have a seat of operations in this village, though histories of secret societies, regardless of their general usefulness, are not fairly within the scope of this work. The Algonquin Club was organized in 1889. The Independent Battery was organized in 1879 Among other societies, clubs and orders we may mention the existence of the Ladies Auxiliary Y. M. C. A.; the Deiphian Historical Society; the Delta Sigma Club; the Equitable Aid Union; the Geneva Club, organized 1875 ; Geneva Lodge 231, K.. of P.; Geneva Lodge, No. 40, E. O. M. A.; Hastings Commandery, No. 174; the Swift Relief Corps, organized May 14, 1891; Swift Post, No. 94, G. A. R.; the Royal Templars of Temperance; the Seneca Club, incorporated 1886; White Springs Lodge, A. 0. U. W.; the Woman's Employment Society; and the Geneva Republican Club. All of these have a certain usefulness in local history, but a history of each is not deemed advisable.

The Seneca Lake Navigation Company was incorporated in June, 1893, to succeed and enlarge upon the business conducted by the Seneca Lake Steam Navigation Company. The latter was incorporated in November, 1882, and succeeded a still older company of the same name, the latter having its origin about 1853 and a capital stock of $200,000.

To Captain Charles Williamson attaches the distinction of having built and put on Seneca Lake the first vessel of any considerable size, being the famous sloop, which was built at Geneva and launched with great ceremony during the year 1796. In 1814 the schooner Robert Troop was built, and navigated the waters of the lake. The first steam craft was the Seneca Chief, built by the Rumney Brothers. In 1832 she was bought by John R. Johnston and Richard Stevens, and the next year was lengthened and improved at Big Stream and named Geneva. Capt. "Joe" Lewis "run" the Geneva in 1835 and '36, at which time the name had been changed to the Geneva. In 1835 the Richard Stevens was built, followed later on by the Chemung, Canadesaga, Chemung, Seneca, and Ben Loder, the last mentioned boat being built in 1848 or '49.

The Seneca Lake Steam Navigation Company (limited) was incorporated in November, 1882, as the successor to the older company of the same name. The company is the owner of the four boats called respectively Onondaga, Schuyler, W. B. Dunning, and Otetiani. The principal officers are: Samuel K. Nester, president and Wm. B. Dunning, general manager, secretary and treasurer. The Seneca Lake Navigation Company, recently incorporated (but not yet organized), succeeds the company above mentioned, and is brought into existence for the purpose of increased local traffic.

The New York Agricultural Experiment Station.- This almost wonderful institution (though never fully appreciated by those most active in bringing it into existence), was established under authority of the State in the year 1882, in pursuance of an act passed by the Legislature in 1880. The leading farmers of the State, the State Grange, and the State Agricultural Society, for many years urged upon the executive and legislative branches of State government the desirability of establishing a station to promote agricultural interests through scientific investigations and experiments, and in response to this demand the Board of Control was appointed by the governor. In February, 1882, the State purchased the Denton farm (west of Geneva) of 125 acres, to which four and one-half acres were subsequently added, and here the station with all its useful appliances and appurtenances was established.

Its first director was Dr. E. Lewis Sturtevant, succeeded December , 1887, by Dr. Peter Collier. The full "Station Staff" is as follows:

Dr. Peter Collier,


Wrn. P. Wheeler,

First Assistant.

L. L. Van Slyke, Ph. D.,


S. A. Beach, M. S.,


C. G. Jenter, Ph. C.,

Assistant Chemist.

A. L. Knisely, B. S.,

Assistant Chemist.

W. B. Cady, Ph. C.,

Assistant Chemist.

B. L. Murray, Ph. C.,

Assistant Chemist.

A. D. Cook, Ph. C.,

Assistant Chemist.

J. T, Sheedy, Ph. C.,

Assistant Chemist.

C. E. Hunn,

Assistant Horticulturist.

Geo. W. Churchill,


Frank E. Newton,

Clerk and Stenographer.

Continued in:


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