Elmer Vary, Tinkerer and Inventor

In the early 70’s when my husband and I first moved to State Street, we met Margaret and Elmer Vary, our neighbors at 55 State Street.  Little did we know what a treasure of a man Elmer had been to this community for nearly 90 years. His early years were spent from the age of 14 working at the Batavia Canning and Preserving Company where he learned to love the machinery and was always looking for ways to improve their functioning. At the age of 16 he invented and patented an improved cherry pitter as well several other machines that made work easier at the factory.  By 1919 his tinkering turned to the automobile and he opened a garage on Vernon Street, at the site […]

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Middleport Inventor, Dr. E. L. Downey and his cure

On the corner of Orchard and Church Street was a broom factory. They operated there for some time, then moved out. Another inventor,Dr. E.L. Downey. Downey took over the broom factory and put up a fluid spray called “Downyside”. In one of his 1904 ads he states his insecticide did not smell like rotten eggs as his competitor’s stuff did. He outgrew this building and then went up and built a small two story plant north of the NYC tracks and west of the Resseguie Mill on Kelly Avenue. The above is from an essay by Elmer Vary on Wildcat Creek, which he felt was as responsible for the growth of Middleport as the canal. ~ Christa Lutz

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Before the electric refrigerator…

Before the dawn of the electric refrigerator, the ice box kept things cold. Needless to say, there was a need to harvest and store ice. Iceboxes date back to the days of ice harvesting, which had hit an industrial high that ran from the mid-19th century to the 1930s, just before the refrigerator was introduced into the home. What is an icebox? Iceboxes had hollow walls lined with tin or zinc and packed with various insulating materials such as cork, sawdust, straw or seaweed. A large block of ice was held in a tray or compartment near the top of the box. Cold air circulated down and around storage compartments in the lower section.  The user had to replenish the melted ice, normally by obtaining […]

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One and Only Blastfurnace

The community of Middleport has been home to many different businesses throughout the years.  Gin mills were very common and old maps show we had plenty of them to keep residents and canal workers well supplied.  We also had several nice hotels which gave travelers a place to rest when passing through. There were plenty of stores to supply everything that canal travelers could possibly need. However, records show that we have had only one blast furnace withing our community.  John Van Brocklin opened his business in 1840 at the site where the building still stands today on Vernon Street near the corner of State. This building has been the home to several other businesses and even was used as for classrooms when the school […]

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Striking up the band in Middleport

By Anna Wallace, former Village Historian The first reference to the Middleport Band was in 1840 at a Presidential Rally in the Town of Royalton and a Temperance Rally in Lockport. We don’t read of much activity again for about 20 years when the Middleport Cornet Band was organized with 16 members. Over the years, they were referred to as the Brass Band and the Saxophone Horn Band. The Middleport Band played at the “pole raising” in Gasport in 1860, which was attended by about 2,000 people. Streamers with the names of Lincoln and Hamlin were run up the 140 ft. pole. In September 1861, the Middleport Brass Band provided soul stirring music at a meeting in the Pierce Hotel for the purpose of raising […]

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