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Interesting Gems

Old Newspapers Can Be Fun To Read

A postcard of the Victoria Hotel located at the summer resort, Victoria, on Chautauqua Lake. This postcard was issued after 1907, so this may be a newer hotel building than the one that was to be built in the summer of 1890. Willard Marcey developed the summer resort known as Victoria in 1890. Submitted photo

While sorting and filing endless piles of paper recently, I discovered a photocopy from a page of a scrapbook with newspaper clippings. Most of the clippings were the “50 years ago” column from probably the Jamestown Journal in 1940 since the 50 years ago was 1890.

I had marked the item of interest. But this page contains a number of other interesting gems of information. What had apparently caught my eye whenever I had looked at this scrapbook was an article about the Holland Purchase company. Having done research on the Holland Land Company, anything Holland Purchase and land is of interest to me.

The Holland Purchase company was “organized a few years ago to search for titles of land in Chautauqua county from 1811 down to date.” But the article informed the readers that the company was going out of business. “Thousands of dollars were expended in preparation of this work. The record for this city has been completed from 1811 to 1846 but these records are valueless unless completed.” One wonders what happened to those papers!

In total, there were seven of these columns for 1890 copied from the page. Other happenings recorded included a couple of mentions of the steamer Vincent. One time at Long Point, the steamer Vincent lost her wheel and drifted ashore. Another time “one of the steam pipes of the Vincent blew open when the boat was in the middle of the lake and the noise of escaping steam alarmed the passengers considerably.” These were just two of the “bright shiny objects” that caught my interest and piqued my curiosity. A search of the newspapers in 1890 turned up a little bit more about the steamer Vincent that summer. When that steam pipe blew open there were a large number of passengers on their way to a Knights of Labor picnic and they were frightened badly, although no one was hurt. One woman was so frightened that she attempted to jump overboard with her child and another woman, in leaving the steamer, forgot to remove the life preserver she had adjusted during the fright. It was on June 3 that the Vincent lost her wheel and on August 9 that the steam pipe blew. Another incident happened to the Vincent on July 28 when she broke her crank. Repairs took two days, but in the meantime her upper woodwork was repainted. On September 6, it was reported that the steamer Vincent “will be lengthened 25 feet and supplied with a new double engine before another season.” Hopefully that provided a smoother season in 1891.

A few other items that caught my eye include some building projects. From the July 1 column we learn about three different buildings. Proposals for the erection of a stone church for the First Baptist Church will be received by the building committee until August 1. The actual article in the newspaper gave more details on what was expected. The second project was the fact that R. E. Badgley of Cleveland had completed plans for the new Swedish M. E. church. This was “to be erected on the Weeks lot at the corner of Foote and Chandler streets for which the society had paid $10,000. The church was to cost $15,000.” A third more modest project was the new summer resort to be started opposite Long Point by Willard Marcey. It was to be called Victoria, in honor of his wife. A new dock had been built and a building to cost $2,500 to $3,000 was to be built in the next few weeks.

Reading past newspapers is a great escape which can eat up a whole afternoon before one knows it. You can learn not only the political news and the events happening in the world, but you can find who visited who and when, details of interest to the local residents such as the problems with the steamboats, even the price of butter. The butter price was important to some, since this area was a great producer of butter and the butter, in markets such as New York City, was considered the best. Social events were reported such as the fact that “Dress hops are held at the Kent house every Saturday evening and very swell affairs they are.” Birthdays and anniversaries are recorded often with the story of parties held. It seems that the person or persons celebrating was often surprised by a large group of friends coming to their home and conducting the party. Sports were also included whether it was baseball, cricket, or the report of a large fish that had been caught.

If you are curious and like history and have some extra time, find an old newspaper to read.

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