Bits of News

Genesee Timber

February 24, 1895: “John Chaffee, who lived one and a half miles below St. Helena, drew to the yard of the Elitsac Company, a mammoth cottonwood log, sixteen feet long and three feet through at the top and four feet through at the butt, scaling 1,024 feet. The log was cut on the east side of the river near the county line of Wyoming and Livingston, several weeks before. It was put on the bobs and drawn as far as the river, where it tipped over. Six horses were then hitched to the log and it was drawn across the river and up to the road. It was again put on the bobs and began its five-mile journey. When it was within one and a half miles of Castile, it tipped over and lay beside the road for several days. It was finally loaded again and ended its journey at the mill yard where it was converted into lumber.”

New Postmaster

The Castilian, February —, 1897: “Postmaster L. S. Coleman secured the appointment of Mrs. Lucy A. Wallace as postmistress at St. Helena. It is expected the contract for carrying the mail between Castile and St. Helena will be advertised shortly, as Mrs. Wallace has already received her commission. This new office will be of great convenience to the farmers who reside in the north-eastern part of the township and on the Reservation roads. Mr. Coleman has worked hard to get the office established. . . .”

Mrs. Wallace was the grandmother of Norman and Phyletus Phelps of Castile. The post office in St. Helena had been closed since June, 1867.

Death of Timothy Holbrook

In November, 1898, occurred the death of a long-familiar figure about St. Helena. Timothy Holbrook died at the home of a friend at Gardeau. Charles Locke of Castile, then poormaster, was notified and a distant relative was located at Mt. Morris, who made arrangements for burial at Mt. Morris. Mr. Holbrook was known as “The Button Man.” He was a man of fine appearance and well-educated, but overwork had claimed its toll. For years he had wandered about the country, preaching to those who would listen. He claimed to be ordained of God to preach the second coming of Christ and called himself Timothy Washington Moses Holbrook. He wore a long black coat of clerical cut, nearly covered with white pearl buttons. One cluster surrounding a large one represented Christ and the twelve disciples. Other emblems had also been sewn to the coat. Whenever a noted man died, Timothy would sew on another button in his memory. A strange man who lived in a world of his own.

St. Helena Neighbors

In 1866, Mrs. Rucksbe Brainerd and her son Lyman bought the garden and fruit farm at the top of St. Helena west hill. For more than thirty years, Mr. Brainerd’s peach orchards and melon fields were known for miles around. Each year he shipped produce into the Pennsylvania coal fields, as well as dealing extensively with the local farmers. He married Miss Olivia Van Klecck. An only daughter, Gertrude, died at the age of twenty-three. Mr. Brainerd died in 1912, shortly after receiving a broken leg as a result of being thrown from his wagon near Castile station.

Others residing near by were Daniel Bills on Lot 69, Mrs. C. Brownell on Lot 67, and Franklin Eddy, George Emmett, and William H. Thayer on Lot 68. Mr. Thayer was a carpenter and joiner.

Source: Anderson, Mildred L. H, and Marian P. Willey. St. Helena, Ghost Town of the Genesee, 1797-1954. Castile, N.Y, 1954. Print.

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