In His Words: Brockport, 1858-1866, The Diary of Joseph A. Tozier


Since 2013, Sue Savard has led a volunteer project to renovate and restore the Emily L. Knapp Museum of Local History at 49 State Street in Brockport. While organizing and documenting the museum’s collection, she came upon the diary and scrapbooks of Joseph A. Tozier (1836-1894). Feeling they needed to be shared, she transcribed his handwritten words and included in the book appropriate selections from Joseph’s scrapbooks.

Savard’s book has just been released: In His Words, subtitled, Brockport, 1858 – 1866 The Diary of Joseph A. Tozier and published by Create Space, a subsidiary of Amazon. It is for sale at the Lift Bridge Book Shop, 45 Main Street in Brockport and on Amazon. There will be a book signing on Saturday, February 4 from noon till 2 at Lift Bridge Book Shop.

Joseph A. Tozier was a Brockport resident, an educator, scholar, school commissioner, entrepreneur, and observer of people and institutions. Through his eloquent writing Tozier captures the pulse of the social, cultural, and political life in Brockport during a critical time in our nation’s history. Using his writing and speaking ability, he chronicles and comments in the local newspapers and at area events during a period of time that saw many changes in technology, customs, and political discourse. While continually striving to improve himself through study, he eventually became a pharmacist and owner of a drug and bookstore in Brockport.

Sue Savard is a graduate of SUNY Albany and The College at Brockport. After college, she taught business education subjects in Brockport and Albion. In retirement, she has been volunteering at the Knapp Museum. About the experience of delving into the words and life of Tozier, Savard said, “Through Joseph’s eyes and ears and writing, I felt as if I were experiencing the vibrancy of Brockport’s early years.”

New Year, Old News: Bits from The Brockport Republic of January 4, 1917

by Sarah Cedeño, village historian


Fire on Main Street.

The Benedict Block suffered two fires within three years’ time. The second of these fires happened in early 1917, when owners returned from business to find their stores engulfed in smoke. This particular fire was one of a spate of fires that had occurred on Main Street in the past three weeks, and though there was an investigation, officials declared “spontaneous combustion” as the cause.

The flames were never visible from outside the building since the fire originated in the basement of the building. Both store owners lost their inventory.





The grip in Brockport’s words.



Though the outbreak of the Spanish Flu would become a pandemic, killing more Americans than WWI, the tone of this 1917 article in The Brockport Republic offers a candid account of the symptoms of influenza with a pretty ambiguous message about either the nature of the disease or the nature of the afflicted at the end: “Don’t care for anyone on earth, not one whit. No one cares anything about you–Glad of it.”




Runaway horse.



When Fred Richards, overseer of the poor, tried to cross a wintry Main Street in Brockport to get hold of Duke Bennett’s horse, he was almost trampled, but managed to capture the horse anyway–and to much appreciation. But the editor suggests quiet recognition, to spare Fred Richards’ embarrassment.

In Memory of Jacqueline Morris

by Sarah Cedeño, Village Historian

Jackie Morris, Village of Brockport Historian Emeritus passed away on November 16th, 2016.


Jacqueline Morris

Jackie was born in 1925 in Indiana and married Raymond Morris in 1943 after courting long distance during WWII. Jackie’s first child Rayleen (Bucklin) was born shortly after.  The family moved to Brockport in 1946 so Raymond could serve as manager of the Houston’s store on Main Street, and there the family (Jackie, Raymond, Rayleen, and Mark) resided at 45 Maxon Street. Raymond passed in 2012, and Jackie lived in their home on Maxon Street the remainder of her life.

Before serving as village historian, Jackie served on many boards and committees. She worked as the head cook at Brockport’s Ginther Elementary School.

Jackie was plainspoken and kind. She was generous with her time and devoted to her position as Village Historian, which she assumed after William Andrews retired. When img_1476asked how she became historian, she joked, “I was the only one still alive.” She was quick-witted and genuine. She kept the Knapp Museum open with her daughter Rayleen and friends Doug Wolcott and Dan Burns for some years. Jackie worked with many College at Brockport students who studied and interned at the museum as part of their programs in Anthropology and Museum Studies.

If Jackie didn’t know the answer to a question, she sought it out. One time, I approached her at the museum researching a Brockport crime that occurred in 1982, and when Jackie admitted she didn’t have anything to share, she invited the investigating officer to her house for tea and the next time I visited the museum, she provided me with a copy of the deposition and an interview with the officer.


Raymond and Jacqueline Morris

Jackie loved gardening and had a large collection of Americana. Her home resembled a museum in its own right. The early Knapp Museum Board held a few meetings in her dining room, and one time she took me into the den and gestured to a photo of Raymond, speaking at length about his pipe collection and his time in the military.

As a part of the Knapp Museum Board, Jackie acted in the best interest of the museum and worked to preserve the collection. She was strong in her positions and her views. It was a loss when she resigned.

Her commitment and devotion to educating others about local history has had a major impact on the Emily Knapp Museum’s identity.

Please feel free to share memories of Jackie in the comments section.


A Wonderful Nucleus

When College at Brockport anthropology student Danielle Maerlender was cataloguing the Mary Jane Holmes’ Room, she found an envelope that had been donated to the collection anonymously by a Brockport resident sometime after the 1950s.

The note on the envelope reads:

“Seal of Mary Jane Holmes, author. Her home was in Brockport and I was there when her household things were for sale–The house was opened the previous day for people and some of us went. I (thief) took this from the attic. Seal of Mary J. Holmes”

In a January 1, 1953 Brockport Republic article, Historians Helen and Harold Dobson wrote of this sale, which had happened some time in 1952, while at the same time lamenting the dismantling of the Mary Jane Holmes residence:

“There is no telling what might have happened, if we of the older generation, had had the foresight to preserve for future generations, as a museum, or library or community center, the beautiful old home, with its statuary, paintings, gardens, the beautiful stained glass window of Gretchen–one of Mrs. Holmes heroines, etc. Instead there was an auction of the priceless treasures, which were scattered among art lovers throughout the country.”

While Mary Jane Holmes’ home at 21 College Street has become a rental property, some of her belongings, like the “seal,” which College at Brockport Professor Dr. Alicia Kerfoot hypothesizes is actually similar to a pill/snuff box, but is very likely a stamp box, have found their way back to the Emily Knapp Museum.

The article, left, a bit unfocused, continues on to tour the home of Mary Jane Holmes, before further regretting that the home was not preserved as “a wonderful nucleus” for the town.

The Emily L. Knapp Museum & Library of Local History is now serving as the closest thing to a historical nucleus of Mary Jane Holmes’ history, with a complete set of Mary Jane Holmes’ Victorian novels, furniture items, and ephemera.








Part III of the Three-Part Page Family Series: Gertrude Page and the Page Family Legacy

gertrudechildThe Page Family Legacy

This post on Gertrude Page will conclude our three-part series of the Page family.

Because many residents might have fond memories or anecdotes of Gertrude, who lived in Brockport on Gordon Street until her 1962 death, after you read the post, please share your stories in a comment at the bottom. It’s the next generation of preservation!

Dissolution: A Historical Perspective

by Sarah Cedeño, Village Historian

I write this from the office in the Emily Knapp Museum on the night of the referendum to dissolve the Village of Brockport. This is a reoccurrence from 2010, but what some might not know is that the dissolution controversy was formerly called a ‘merger’ and it surfaced in the summer of 1974, and was considered as early as 1972.

Keep in mind these articles are forty years old, and the contained information pertains only to that context.

Here are the July-August 1974 articles from The Times-Union in chronological order:





An Evening to Honor Fannie Barrier Williams and William Page


On Friday, February 5 at 7 pm, the Village of Brockport will join The College at Brockport to celebrate two of Brockport’s prominent 19th Century African-American residents and their families: William Page and Fannie Barrier Williams. The celebration will include presentations, musical performances, and refreshments. It will take place on the College campus in the New York Room of Cooper Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

Sarah Cedeño, Brockport Village Historian and Lecturer in the College at Brockport’s English Department, will discuss the lives of the William Page family and their place in Brockport’s history. William Page, born into slavery in 1834 in Florida, was sent to western New York via the Underground Railroad. Page earned his certificate in civil engineering from Rochester before raising his family in Brockport, NY.

Ann Frey, retired Brockport Central School history teacher, will present the life of Brockport-born Fannie Barrier Williams. Mrs. Williams was a nationally known lecturer who worked tirelessly to promote programs to benefit the free and newly freed black women. She helped establish the NAACP and Chicago’s Provident Hospital—the first black-owned and operated hospital in America.

In addition to presentations, College at Brockport student Oscia Miles, an Interdisciplinary Arts major, will perform a speech written by Fannie Barrier Williams. Pianist Greg Turner will entertain the audience with some music composed by Harry Page.

The evening will conclude with punch and a birthday cake to celebrate the February birthday of Mrs. Barrier Williams.

This event is co-sponsored by the Museum Studies/Public History Program at the College at Brockport and the Emily L. Knapp Museum & Library of Local History in the Village of Brockport. Additional support is provided by the Department of Anthropology, the Department of History, and the Office of the College Provost.


Black History Month Flyer Final

Brockport’s “Ultra” Shoe and the Moore-Shafer Shoe Company

UltraAdThe October 2015 Night at the Museum featured a talk by Dr. Alicia Kerfoot, “The Era of the ‘Ultra’: Early Twentieth-Century Women’s Footwear in the Knapp Museum Collection.”

In the adapted video format of her presentation, Dr. Kerfoot discusses her extensive research of the shoes in the Emily Knapp Museum collection, many of which were made in the Moore-Shafer Shoe Factory, which operated in Brockport from 1888 through 1929.  To start, Dr. Kerfoot examines the artifacts themselves, dating the shoes by design, style and use and then places the quality and reputation of the “Ultra”shoe in a larger context by comparing the many “Ultra” ads with its contemporaries. Additionally, and perhaps most compelling, the talk discusses the potential causes and effects of the Moore-Shafer Shoe Factory’s demise through news stories from the Brockport Republic.

My beautiful picture

The Moore-Shafer Shoe Company, from Main Street.

This presentation illuminates a major industry in Brockport’s history and sheds a new perspective on the sliver of land between Park Avenue and Main Street, where the factory once stood.




Dr. Alicia Kerfoot has her PhD in eighteenth century British literature and culture from McMaster University in Canada with an emphasis on fashion and dress, the gothic novel, and women’s writing of the period. Her scholarship in shoe-specific academic publications and presentations include the following titles, among others: “Declining Buckles and Moveable Shoes in Frances Burney’s Cecilia,” “Let firm, well-hammer’d Soles protect thy Feet:’ Footwear and the Permeability of the Street in Gay’s Trivia,” and “Catherine Morland’s ‘Plain Black Shoes’: Practical Femininity and Buried Convents in Northanger Abbey.” She lives in Brockport, NY, where she teaches in the English Department of the College at Brockport and serves as a volunteer at the Emily Knapp Museum & Library of Local History.