SGHS - 99th Anniversary of Geddes Village (19 Apr 1931)

Syracuse Herald, Sunday, 19 Apr 1931, Section 2, Pgs. 6 & 10

Rich in Tradition, Village of Geddes Recalls Many Events as It Marks the 99th Anniversary of Its Incorporation

Named for Judge James Geddes Who Settled at Head of Onondaga Lake in 1794


     Tomorrow is the 99th anniversary of the incorporation of the village of Geddes, which has been a part of Syracuse for nearly 45 years, the legislative act legalizing the annexation having been passed on May 20, 1886.

     Geddes, which takes its name from Judge James Geddes, who settled at the head of Onondaga Lake in 1794, was first surveyed and laid out as a village in 1807 by Judge Geddes with about 20 lots on either side of what is now West Genesee Street.

     In 1822 John Randell, deputy surveyor general, laid out the village substantially as that section of Syracuse is today.  The streets were 100 feet wide and a square, now known as St. Marks Circle, was reserved as a village park.

     A lot also was reserved for school purposes and at least three successive schoolhouses occupied it preceding Geddes High School, which was erected in 1871 at a cost of $26,000 and which became a grade school when Geddes was annexed to Syracuse.  It was wrecked by fire a few years ago.  It was replaced by the present Porter School building, named for the late Dr. Wilfred W. Porter, High School principal, physician and professor in the medical college of Syracuse University.

     In the days of Geddes as a village, Genesee Street with its laterals made up the residential area, with the business section in Lafayette Street.

     Many old landmarks dating from the early days of the village are still standing and men and women descended from pioneer families are living in all parts of Syracuse.

     Dr. John C. Shoudy, of 1716 West Genesee Street, born in Geddes and the oldest practicing physician in what was the village, recalls many of the early residents and has seen great changes in the business life of the community.

     Dr. Shoudy was graduated from Syracuse High School, which then stood on the bank of Onondaga Creek where Engine 12 now has its quarters.  He received his diploma in 1886, the same year that Geddes became a part of Syracuse.

     He was graduated from the medical college of Syracuse University in 1890 and has been a practitioner for nearly 41 years.

     In Dr. Shoudy's youth the western limit of Syracuse was at Geddes Street and the village of Geddes stopped at the Erie Canal, leaving a great stretch of farm land along Genesee Street between these points.

     One of these farms was owned by Cady Sackett and his farmhouse today forms parts of two separate residences in Apple Street, whose soil was once turned by Mr. Sackett's plows.

     A plant nursery owned by Smith & Powell, who had a big dairy farm along Onondaga Lake at Lakeland, also occupied part of the open country along West Genesee Street and the Bronson farm lay on the north side of the street, the Bronson house forming the nucleus of Syracuse Memorial Hospital, vacated a year ago for the new building on the heights between Irving and Renwick Avenues.

     Dr. Shoudy remembers as a boy, seeing a few gravestones in the old Geddes Cemetery along Harbor Brook, north of Genesee Street, but this burial ground was abandoned before the Civil War for Myrtle Hill Cemetery on the extreme western edge of the city of Syracuse.

     On the present site of Star Park and adjacent land were 20 or more small cottages in which families of salt workers lived.

     Acres and acres north of that district, including the land now occupied by the wire mill of the Crucible Steel Company, were devoted to the production of solar salt.

     On the approach of a storm a bell hanging in King's warehouse was rung and women and children rushed out of the cottage colony to assist in putting the covers on the salt vats.

     Fayette Street between Genesee and William Streets was the main business section, the store of Poole & North being one of the principal gathering places in the village days of Geddes.

     A salt office, headquarters of the salt superintendent and inspectors, stood near the Hubbell Block site and a barrel making plant was close by.  The barns where horses and cars of the street railway connecting Geddes with Syracuse were quartered, are still in use as a storage house by the Sanford Motor Truck Company.

     One of the first stores kept in Geddes was erected by Simeon Spaulding, who was the first school teacher in the village.  It stood in Fayette street near Williams.  Mr. Spaulding served many years as justice of the peace.  His granddaughter, Mrs. Arthur McGinnis, whose husband is a member of the Syracuse post office staff, lives at 105 Emerson Avenue.

     David Vrooman was an early settler.  He was a carpenter and hewed the timbers used in the construction of the old salt water reservoir at Willis and Milton Avenues, the mound of which still stands.  Charles Vrooman, a great-grandson, still lives in School Street.

     E. R. Smith was for many years clerk of the village of Geddes, and also acted as secretary of the board of education.  His account books show the marked contrast between teachers' salaries of the 70's and today.  He was a tailor.

     The average salary for women teachers in Geddes, according to the records in books left by Mr. Smith, was $46 a month, and the principal, Prof. N. D. Bidwell, principal of the village school (sic), was considered a highly paid teacher at $100 a month.

     E. R. Smith was the maternal grandfather of Mrs. W. A. Papworth, wife of Alderman Papworth, alderman of the Seventh Ward.  Mrs. Papworth, whose home is at 108 Herkimer Street, is of the fifth generation of the Willey family to live in Geddes, her paternal ancestor, Joseph Willey, having settled there more than 100 years ago.  He founded the first manufacturing business in the village, aside from salt, by making small, round wooden boxes in which fine salt formerly was packed.  The residence he erected still stands at 110 Herkimer Street, next door to the home of Mrs. Papworth.

     Mr. and Mrs. John D. Hayhoe, 107 Erie Street, are old residents.  Mrs. Hayhoe is a sister of Alderman Papworth.  Mr. Hayhoe operated a hardwart business for many years and owned the property now used as Lewis Street playground and as a site for St. Brigids Church.

     Older residents of the West End recall the old brick post office building, which stood at the foot of Williams street near the present site of the Sanford Motor Truck Company building.  It was a nightly gathering place for villagers "going after the mail," as free delivery service did not come until Geddes was made a part of Syracuse.

     One of the first mail carriers to work in that area after the village was annexed to the city was "Dick" Parkinson, father of Myron Parkinson, Syracuse lawyer and deputy state attorney general.

     Mark Hayden, a pioneer resident, operated a butchering business for many years.  His slaughter house was just west of what is now Avery Avenue.  A son, John Hayden, is a resident of Oneida, and a daughter, Miss Margaret Hayden, has been a teacher in Porter School for many years.

     The Gere family was one of the most prominent in the village days of Geddes.  In the spring of 1824, Robert Gere settled on a farm about one mile west of the village.  His brothers, William S. and Charles, located on adjoining farms.

     Robert Gere later became an extensive manufacturer of salt and engaged largely in the lumber business.  In 1835 -36 he was a contractor and associated with Elizur Clark in supplying ties to railroads then building across the state.  In 1843 he moved to Syracuse and became a partner of William N. Alexander and C. C. Bradley in the foundry and machine shop business.  He served as superintendent of the salt springs and with the late Horace White founded the Geddes Coarse Salt Company.

     Robert Gere's daughter became the wife of J. J. Belden, who served as mayor of Syracuse, and his sons, R. Nelson, George C., W. H. H., and N. Stanton Gere, were prominently identified with the business history of Geddes and Syracuse.  Monroe Gere, a great grandson of Robert Gere lives in Parsons Drive.

     Isaac Pharis located in Geddes in 1811 when young.  He afterward was married to Lavina Root.  He subsequently bought a lot at Essex Street and Orchard Street, now Emerson Avenue, and spent his life there.

     Mills. P. Pharis, one of four sons, lived for many years at School Street and Lowell Avenue where his house still stands.  He was a salt manufacturer for half a century and also built blocks.  For 19 years he was state inspector.  Mrs. Bert E. Salisbury is his daughter.  Miss Ella Pharis, who lives in Douglas Street, also is a descendant of Isaac Pharis.

     Another pioneer of almost the same name, Simeon Phares, was a Revolutionary soldier.  His wife was Anna, daughter of John Lamb, pioneer hotel keeper.  Miss Etta Phares of 201 Emerson Avenue is a great-granddaughter.

     George Kastler, still living in Avery Avenue, was long identified with the canal business, at one time operating 11 fleets of boats on the old Erie.

     Robert Geddes, great great-grandson of James Geddes, first settler from whom the village and town take their names, is living in Syracuse.  He is the son of George Geddes, who was the grandson of another George Geddes, son of the pioneer and a widely known writer on agriculture.

     In 1831 Platt & Durkee erected the large brick building still standing at Genesee Street and Erie Boulevard.  This was intended for stores, but soon after its completion it was purchased by Cyrus Thompson, founder of the so-called "Thompsonian" system of medicine, who had settled in Geddes before 1830.  He used the building as a manufactory of his herb remedies and as a sanatorium.  It is now an apartment house.

     The house at 511 Emerson Avenue built by Freeman Hughs, second settler in the village, and long occupied by the late Colonel E. R. Chamberlain stands virtually the same as when built in the early days of the 19th century.  It is now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. T. R. Brigham.

     The Gere house at Lowell Avenue and Hamilton Street, the home of the late Dr. Porter in Emerson Avenue opposite Porter School, the residence of Mrs. Winkworth, mother of Edwin D. Winkworth, who was a Sweeting, one of the pioneer families, and that of John D. Drake in West Genesee Street, who has lived in Geddes nearly all his life, are among the other landmarks still standing.

     Mr. Drake is a former U. S. counsul to Kiel, Germany.  He is 85 and the oldest native of Geddes living.  He lived for 14 years in Aberdeen, S. D. where he was publisher of a newspaper.  He also served there as county judge and was a colonel on the staff of the governor.

     W. W. Porter, son of Dr. Porter, and Benjamin and Harold Avery, descendants of Benjamin Avery, are among other members of old Geddes families still living in Syracuse.

     In addition to salt manufacturing, Geddes had several other thriving industries.

     A brickyard, part of whose site is now occupied by the saleratus works of Church & Dwight, is recalled by many older residents as a hive of industry.

     The Onondaga Pottery Company of which N. Stanton Gere was long president, is a pioneer manufacturing plant, which has come to be known the world over.

     The Sanderson Steel plant, since acquired by the Crucible Company and of which William A. Sweet was manager for many years, the Syracuse roller mill, where the Paragon Plaster plant now is, the Barnes bicycle works and the Sterling Iron Company, headed by J. J. Belden were other thriving industries of Geddes village days.

     St. Patricks Church, completed in 1872, and the West Genesee Street Methodist Episcopal Church of Geddes in 1870, are the oldest churches in the former village limits and for many years were the only ones.

     The late Msgr. James P. Magee, who served as pastor of St. Patricks for more than 50 years, was active in civic circles and was president of the Geddes board of education for several terms.

     Geddes grew fast in the period following the Civil War, expanded from a village of less than 1,000 in 1868 to nearly 7,000 when annexed to Syracuse in 1886.  Martin Lawler was the last village president.


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