A trip to Stromness in 1903

February 2023

A trip to Stromness in 1903

This month’s Bill’s Post takes us on a journey from Stromness to Williamsville NY and the villages around Williamsville.  We meet tourist who found Sherbrooke Township and its inhabitants a welcoming place to visit.  Our story starts with an article I found in an early 1900s newspaper.  We also get a photo look into the Minor family who are mentioned in this first paragraph.  So, let’s get started.

“Stromness is a quaint little town in Canada, situated about eighty miles from Buffalo on the line of the Grand Trunk railroad.  We left Williamsville Tuesday, August 18, to spend a week’s outing and enjoy the lake breezes.  We were met at Stromness with a two-horse team and taken to our destination through the country about four miles distant.  We stopped at the commodious farm house of Mr. Reuben Minor, where one of the most pleasant weeks in our history was spent. The home of the Minors is located on a point of land having lake on the west, south and east, with a beach that is almost unsurpassed for its fine bathing and many other attractions.  This beach is famous for corn roasts, a memorable one being held last Saturday evening proceeded by a bonfire of unlimited proportions built of huge pine knots and brush, which lighted the shore and lake for many miles.  It was our great pleasure and satisfaction to visit and explore the immense Mohawk Light-house on Gull Island, an island consisting of about five acres of solid rock two and one-half miles from shore.  The light-house is about 75 feet high and is kept immaculately clean by its jolly keeper, Capt. Smithers.  Fishing in its season is of the best, and boats can be obtained if so desired.  Our table board could not have been better. The large number of cattle on the farm furnished an abundance of cream and food made most relishable by one who understood the art of fashioning edibles “fit for kings”.  This is a great blackberry country, a party of three picking thirty-five quarts in about three hours’ time.  We went for rest and we found it in the homelike household of the Minors at Stromness on Lake Erie.” The Amherst Bee   Thursday, August 27, 1903

Captain Richard Oswald Smithers

Who wrote this article and where was he or she from?  This is revealed in another section of the paper known as the PERSONALS.  It reads.

“Miss Ida L. Zent and Miss Grace A. Ely returned Tuesday from a pleasant stay of one week with Mr. Reuben Minor and family at Stromness, Ont.  Mrs. William H. Locke and Miss Georgie Locke of Buffalo accompanied them.” The Amherst Bee  Thursday, August 27, 1903

Let’s look at a couple other articles I found in papers around Williamsville NY.   “Ida Zent, daughter of Mr. Frank Zent, who has been sick with diphtheria the past ten days, has about recovered.” Amherst Bee Williamsville, Sept 17 1885

As you know I like my stories to take you on a expedition to places my original subject have no business going!  My first journey was to figure out who this Ida L. Zent was and maybe even to hunt down the others mentioned in the personal column.  The first one I found was Ida who was not a young lady in her teens or early twenty as I assumed.  She might have been 47 years of age when she made this visit to Stromness.  Genealogy records state she was born in Erie New York in 1874.  She would pass away on Sept 29, 1934 in Williamsville New York in Erie County.   Ida’s life and Grace A. Ely’s life go hand in hand as I discovered they both worked for the Amherst Bee the local paper.  In a historical article found in the SUBURBAN COURIER EXPRESS is the following paragraph from a much larger article telling about a home in Williamsville NY.  “… Later. King sold his interest in the mill to Hopkins, who became sole owner. At the same time Hopkins sold his two-thirds interest in King’s residence on Main St. King sold the house to Nancy E. Zent (likely Ida’s aunt) in 1863. Later owners were Miss Ida Zent and Miss Grace Ely and, eventually it became the home of the Niagara Permanent Savings and Loan Association”.  SUBURBAN COURIER EXPRESS from Amherst of January 31, 1974.

So why did I write “She might have been 47 years of age?”  The more hunting I did for Ida and Grace the more tangled Ida’s information became.  I am reasonably certain now that I have spent days looking for one Ida when there may have been two Ida Zent’s.

And then there is this open letter on page one of the AMHERST BEE: “Dear Sir: Enclosed please find $1.00 to renew my subscription to the BEE for another year.  I have enjoyed receiving it very much.  I had the honor of pulling the lever of the Washington hand press on the first copy of the BEE some thirty years ago, being on of the first employees of Mr. Rinewald in his editorial venture.  The office force consisted of my brother Ed, Marvin Reist, Dan Sweitzer, Ida Zent and myself, . . .   Your truly, WILLIAM JOCHUM  605 Parmelee-Dohrman Bldg, Pacific Coast Home Supply Ass’n William Jochum, President. Los Angeles, Cal., Aug 22, 1912.” Amherst Bee Williamsville September 12, 1912

At this point in my research, I am afraid I got a bit sloppy and failed to record what papers and dates I found information on Grace A. Ely and others,

Grace A. Ely, was a lady who was active in the Williamsville NY area who as mentioned earlier worked for The Amherst Bee.  She was surely one of Williamsville socialites.    I attempted to do some genealogy on Grace but hit a wall.  However, I did find information on a man whom I believe was an ancestor of hers.  His name was Israel Ely.  Israel was a pioneer resident of that area having been sent there by the New York Missionary Society as an explorer among the Seneca Indians in the early eighteen hundreds.  Isael would become a major player in the Underground Railway running a branch from his home.

As for Mrs. William H. Locke I found her husband’s obituary assuming this is the same William H. Locke mentioned above.  He died at home on N. 26 Lyon Street presumably in Batavia NY a town not too far from Williamsville.  As was often the custom until about the 1920-30s the wife was often left off the obituary.  If she was lucky the obit might state. “He leaves his wife,” giving no given name.  In this obituary it does mention her but in a rather strange method.  It reads “Friends present from out of town included Mrs. And Mrs. A. G. Sherman, Miss Florence Sherman and Mrs. William H. Lock of Buffalo, David Locke of Lockport, Mrs. John F. Bower, etc.

Let me tell you where Ida and Grace’s wonderful vacation took place.  Reuben Minor and his wife the former Elizabeth Catharine Kinnard owned the land at the south west corner of the Niece and Downey Roads in Sherbrooke Twp.  Reuban’s home was on the west side of the Downey Road where later the Jew Camp; “Camp Kvutza” was located.  His land was the property where the Rock Point Provincial Park is located today though the park owns more property than what Reuban owned. 

Reuben Minor’s Home at Rock Point

During a conversation with Jim Dickhout of Lowbanks he told me he had photos of the Minor family and one of Reuben’s former home at Rock Point.  The photo was taken in the early 1950’s when the house was in need of being torn down which would happen shortly after the picture.

Writing this article took me on a journey connecting me to Gloria Lawrence, Nee Barnes.  I called her to ask her if she knew for sure where Reuben owned land suspecting she may know since her father George Barnes had done considerable work for Camp Kvutza located there in the 1950s.  To my surprise she told me she was related to Reuben.  I don’t think we talked much about Reuben but did go down memory lane together.  Gloria and I are fifth cousins though we did not know that when we went to school together in Stromness.  The article also gave me a chance to email and eventually talk with Elizabeth Bowers of Jamestown NY who is doing her family genealogy and is related to Ida Zent.  Ain’t history fun!

Sarah Minor, her mother Elizabeth Nee Kinnard wife or Reuben, Sarah’s husband Menno Edward Rhora Jr.  In back row is Reuben Minor
Fr row Billy Winters, Unknown, Anson Minor
Back row Unknown, Arthur King, Unknown, Bruce King