Friday, June 10, 2016

“Journal of the Board of Supervisors…”

by Rich Remling, former board member, CNYGS

Meeting minutes and reports that are found in Board of Supervisors journals can be helpful to genealogists. My own experience has been with the journals from Onondaga County, but I’m sure you can find other counties’ journals in courthouses and libraries throughout the state. Personally, I didn’t find the Onondaga County journals to be as helpful in my research as the Syracuse Common Council proceedings were, but county journals are definitely worth taking a look at. As my example I am using the Journal of the Board of Supervisors of Onondaga County from 1870. In particular I’ll look at three reports found towards the end of the journal.

The Report of the Onondaga County Orphan Asylum

This report for the year ending Nov 1, 1870 lists the orphans who were residents of the asylum under the care of L. C. Suydam, Matron. The asylum was located at the time on E. Fayette St near Crouse Ave. in Syracuse.

To show a sample entry, here are the orphans listed for the Town of Geddes.

Orphan                                   Received                  Discharged     Weeks             Days
Mary Fitzpatrick                    Jun 14, 1870              Jul 24, 1870        5                      5
Joanna Fitzpatrick                      do                                do                5                      5
Keron Fitzpatrick                        do                         Nov 1, 1870       20
Timothy Fitzpatrick                     do                                do               20

Searching the 1870 federal census for the orphan asylum one finds that Lydia C. Suydan, aged sixty-five, was the matron of the asylum. Eighty-six children were enumerated, among them our four Fitzpatrick orphans. I was unable to determine if any records from the Onondaga Orphan Asylum still exist. Its successor is the Elmcrest Children’s Center located at 960 Salt Springs Road Syracuse, NY 13224. 

By 1875 the four orphans were split up by sex. The 1875 NYS census enumerates the residents of the House of Providence, located outside the city limits in the Town of Geddes. Here we find the boys enumerated along with ninety-three other boys and elderly men.  The Daughters of Charity, a Roman Catholic religious order, staffed the facility. The 1875 NYS census also enumerates the St. Vincent’s female orphan asylum that was located on Madison St near Montgomery St. in Syracuse. Joanna and Mary are listed along with 73 other girls at this asylum. Records for both facilities are located at the CatholicCharities of Onondaga County offices at 1654 W. Onondaga St. in Syracuse. You must be a former resident or direct descendant to view the records.

Report of the Acting Superintendent of the Penitentiary

This report contains information about people who were incarcerated in the county jail that was located on Lodi Street in Syracuse. A total of 601 men and 80 women were incarcerated during the year ending Oct 31. There were 275 people arrested for intoxication, by far the leading offence. The most common sentence was 30 days or a $10 fine. A total of 217 people fell into this category. Only 25 inmates were serving more than six months. Most claimed to be natives of the United States. The rest came from 8 countries: Canada, 40; England, 30; France, 3; Germany, 20; Denmark, 3; Ireland, 170; Scotland, 12; and Nova Scotia, 1.

Adolphus Engle, Deputy Superintendent in Charge, reported that the biggest improvement to the prison property was the sinking of a well, 96 feet deep. Prior to this the convicts drank impure water, which in the previous summer had caused a great deal of sickness according to Engle. The inmates were kept busy performing a number of jobs including farming. On part of the property fruits and vegetables were cultivated. Although the summer was a dry one the farm harvest included 680 bushels of potatoes, 160 bushels of beets, 10 bushels of apples, 2 bushels of grapes, 60 bushels of carrots, 2 bushels of cucumbers, 10 bushels of squash, 3 bushels of parsnips, 2 bushels of beans, 10 bushels of tomatoes, 5 bushels of onions, 200 heads of cabbage and 3 tons of hay. Inmates also worked in the shoe shop and chair shop. The amount of income generated by the shoe shop was a substantial $7,498.19.

Here is the data listed for one particular inmate, Eliza Appleton: When Received, March 10, 1869; Offence, keeping a disorderly house; Fine, $250; How Disposed of, paid; Where Convicted, sessions; When Discharged, March 8, 1870. Eliza was quite well known to area residents. She appears in the 1850 federal census (6), enumerated with husband Thomas Davis and son Oscar. This union did not last long.  Thomas Davis would later become the chief of police in Syracuse. There are many newspaper articles about Eliza that give us a glimpse of her life.

Feb 13 1851 – “Eliza Appleton was arrested by officer Kenyon, charged with being a disorderly person, on complaint of Thomas Davis. An examination was held and defendant discharged.”
Jun 2, 1855 – “The alarm of fire which startled our people last night between eleven and twelve o’clock occasioned by a bright light on the north side of the Canal, between Salina and Willow streets. On hurrying thither we found the place in the utmost confusion and the flames making sad havoc with a nest of buildings fronting on Pearl street, and clustering on an alley running through from Pearl to Lock street. Some of these buildings were occupied by notorious characters whose names would be of little value to the public. Among them was the celebrated Eliza Appleton who has been the subject of so many fires before.”
Jun 4 1855 – “It is slanderously reported that eleven Police officers ran out of Miss Eliza Appleton’s house of entertainment when it caught fire on Friday night! Of course no one believes such an improbable story.”
Oct 1, 1858 – “George Blair pleaded guilty on charges of assault and battery on Eliza Appleton. Fined $15.”
Nov 10, 1860 – “Our city was last night the scene of two riotous demonstrations, made upon premises occupied by disreputable persons…The premises at which the riots occurred are…the house on Madison street, between Grape and Almond streets, kept by Eliza Appleton, one of the most notorious characters of the town…As near as we can learn at least one hundred young men and boys were engaged in these disturbances…They forced an entrance…completed the demolition of the furniture, windows and doors…The contents of the house… were a complete wreck…The occupants of the house fled on the approach of the rioters except Miss Appleton, who calmly stood her ground and saw the riot completed, and warned the parties engaged in it that she knew most of them and would bring upon them the full power of the law for their offences.”
Nov 20 1860 – “The police cleaned out a bawdy house kept by Eliza Appleton last Sunday night. This was one of bagnios visited and “gutted” by a virtuous mob a few nights ago.”
Mar 11, 1869 – “The People against Eliza Appleton…Indicted for keeping a disorderly house. Verdict of guilty. The Court sentenced the prisoner to the Onondaga County Penitentiary for one year, and pay a fine for $250, and to stand committed till paid.”
Jul 24, 1876 – “Eliza Appleton was arraigned on a warrant sworn out by Chief Davis, charging her with keeping a disorderly house, in violation of the city ordinances. She pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay a fine of $100 or go on the hill for ninety days.”
Mar 16 1878 – “On complaint of Charles Moore, of Utica and Herkimer, Eliza Appleton of Syracuse, pays $100 for keeping a house of prostitution, and Nellie Comstock, $25, or both go to the penitentiary for three and two months respectively.”      
Mar 25, 1881 “Eliza Appleton paid her regular quarterly installment of $100 to the City of Syracuse yesterday for keeping a house of prostitution.”

Report of the Superintendent of the Poor

The Onondaga County Poor House was located in the Town of Onondaga. The LDS Church has filmed the actual poor house ledgers. According to the report of the superintendent, the poor house and the asylum for the insane received 563 people for the year ending Nov 9, 1870. The number of deaths listed was 32. The poor house included a farm which produced 12 tons of hay, 3 loads cornstalks, 30 bushels of winter apples, 35 bushels fall apples, 616 bushels of potatoes, 30 bushels of onions, 109 bushels of carrots, 267 bushels of beets, 1, 800 head of cabbage, 150 celery plants, 15 bushels of tomatoes, 1 barrel of pickles, 8 lbs. of hops, and 27 barrels of cider.

A typical entry in the superintendent’s journal lists Riley Copeland who was a resident for 242 days and his stay was chargeable to the town of Elbridge. He was also one of the residents who died there. Adding 242 days to Nov 10, 1869 gives us a death date sometime in July. The 1870 federal census lists Riley as an 11 year old “idiot” at the poor house. In the 1865NYS census he is listed as a four year old pauper at the poor house.

Coroner reports contain a gold mine of information if you are lucky enough to find them. You will find coroner reports in Jefferson County journals.  As an example here are some reports from the Proceedings of the Board of Supervisors of the County of Jefferson for the year 1901.  

June 15, 1901. I was called to Adam’s Centre to investigate the death of an old man who was killed by being run over by train No. 59 going east, near the station, at about 3 a.m. I ordered the remains removed to the undertaking rooms of J. C. Heath. I found, upon viewing the remains, no means of identifying the body; requested J. C. Heath to have a photograph taken of the remains, for the purpose of identification, as the body was in such a mangled condition that it could not be preserved. I requested Dr. Fred Bailey, of Adams Centre, to act as coroner’s physician. We examined the body and found the head had been severed from the body, left leg cut off above the knee and right leg cut off just above the ankle, with the most of the ribs fractured. I learned that Herbert McIntyre, the night operator at Adam’s Centre, who discovered the body, found some money belonging to the deceased, scattered along the track where the accident occurred. He gave me six hundred fifty ($650) dollars in gold and two and 22/100 ($2.22) dollars in small change. I found upon returning to the city, Fred Weiler, of Constableville, who had read an account of the accident, could identify the body as that of Michael Bardell, his step-father, who resided in Lyons Falls, aged 67 years. I notified a brother of his at Cape Vincent who identified the remains. His relatives said that he left Lyons Falls a day or two before the accident, for Cape Vincent, to visit his brother, and that he stopped over in Watertown, as he was seen in the city Friday evening. For some unaccountable reason he presumably started to walk to Cape Vincent on the railroad track; mistaking his way at the junction, he walked toward Adams Centre where he was accidentally killed. I decided an inquest unnecessary and delivered the money over to the County Treasurer, which was found where he was killed.
July 19, 1901. Viewed the body of Ida May Blevens, age 4 years. She was drowned in a rain barrel half full of water, while trying to reach a tin that she had dropped. She had been out of her mother’s sight about twenty minutes when she found her in the barrel of water. They live just outside the village.
Nov 13, 1901. Had a child of premature birth brought to my office by a workman on the sewer on Sterling street. I investigated the case and found that while the workingmen were taking up the sewer on Sterling street the child floated through. It was an impossibility to tell anything about where it came from.

From this brief look we can see that Board of Supervisors journals have something to offer genealogists who wish to leave no stone unturned! 

©2016 Richard Remling

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