Town Historian: Liz Albright
Mailing Address: 1850 Ridge Road, Ontario, NY 14519
Office Address: 2202 Lake Road, Ontario, NY 14519
E-mail Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hours: By appointment or by chance
Office Phone: (315) 524-2942 ext.703
Home Phone: (315) 524-9127
The Ontario Town Historian maintains archival records pertaining to the history of the town of Ontario. I also continue the tradition of compiling today’s history. I love to share the history of our town, and am available to meet with school groups, scout groups and local community organizations. I am also available to assist students and residents researching local history topics, as well as people researching their family or house histories.
ResourcesThe following resources are available for use, by appointment, at the Ontario Town Historian’s Office at 2202 Lake Road (across from Bear Creek Harbor Boat Launch):
Local History Books
- History of the Town of Ontario 1807 – 1957
- History of the Town of Ontario 1807 – 1971 + name index
- Ontario’s History 1807 – 1993 + name index
- Heritage Square at the Brick Church Corners
- Landmarks of Wayne County + name index
- Military History of Wayne County + name index
- History of Wayne County + name index
- Images of America: Ontario
- Ontario in the World War
- 1858 Wayne County Map + name index
- 1874 Wayne County Atlas
- 1904 Wayne County Atlas
- Ontario Volunteer Fire Company 1907 – 1982
- The History of the Ontario Fire Company 1907-2007
- Union Hill Volunteer Firemen’s Association, Inc. 1942 – 1992
- Complete set of yearbooks from Ontario High School (1922-1949)
- Misc. yearbooks from Wayne Central High School (1950-present)
- Scrapbooks from several town residents from the 1940’s forward
- Miscellaneous school records including trustee minute books, programs, photos, etc.
- Miscellaneous military records
- Hoffman Research Papers pertaining to Ontario, NY
- Family Files
- Business Files
- Community Organization Files
- Subject Files
- Oral Histories
- Ore Miners’ Payroll Book
- Ledgers from Stuber’s Blacksmith Shop
- Computer access to Ancestry.com including original federal census records
- Cemetery records
- Large photo collection
- Miscellaneous books of general historic interest
A Brief History of the Town of OntarioThe Town of Ontario is located in the northwest corner of Wayne County along the shore of Lake Ontario. The first settler was Freeman Hopkins, a Quaker, who arrived from Massachusetts in the spring of 1806 and built a log cabin on the lake shore when this area was still a part of the town of Williamson. On March 27, 1807, the town separated from Williamson under the name of Freetown and on February 12, 1808, changed its name to Ontario. In 1829 Walworth separated from Ontario leaving Ontario’s boundaries as they are today. Other early settlers were Peter Thatcher (the first blacksmith), Noah Fuller, Daniel Inman and Zebedee Hodges.
Although the land and climate were ideal for agriculture, especially fruit farming, the land was heavily forested. The early pioneers cleared the land. However, industries such as saw mills, potash, charcoal and brick making and blacksmithing at first took precedence over farming. By the 1850s, however, fruit, dairy and grain farming were flourishing. This led to the canning and freezing industries that came to Ontario in the 20th century.
Iron ore was discovered in 1811 by Mr. Knickerbocker while he was digging a well to water his cattle. A few years later, the manufacture of iron was begun and continued until about 1918 progressing from the crude shovel and wheelbarrow days to the steam shovel era in the 1880s. In the early days, the ore was hauled by horse and wagon to Bear Creek Harbor on Lake Ontario and loaded on ships bound for Charlotte. The roads along this route gradually turned red from the iron ore, and neighboring villagers could always identify a person from Ontario because of the red on his boots, wagon wheels and even his moustache. At its peak, the mines and blast furnaces employed over 200 people at a time including many Irish, Dutch, Belgian and Italian immigrants. Before the ore mines completely closed down, iron ore was sent by railroad spur to the “Paint Mill” where the ore was ground into a powder and shipped all over the world to be mixed with linseed oil and made into red barn paint.
There were thirteen one-room schoolhouses built in Ontario. The earliest one was built of logs in 1816 on Lake Road near Knickerbocker. The first high school was built in 1895 across the street from the present-day Elementary School on Ridge Road. The school district was consolidated in 1949 and the one-room schoolhouses eventually were sold.
The first church was formed in 1812 when the Methodist followers met in Zebedee Hodges’ home located where the Ginna Nuclear Power Plant now stands on Lake Road near Ontario Center Road. Their ministry is carried on today in the North Ontario United Methodist Church (“Brick Church”) located at the corner of Brick Church and Ontario Center Roads.
The Lake Ontario Shore Railroad ran through the town and was opened for travel in 1874. Between 1900 and 1929, the trolley came through Ontario. It made its way down Ridge Road from Rochester to Sodus Bay. In the spring of the year, because of the many orchards along its route, the ride was advertised as “40 miles of blossoms.” Route 104 was built in 1949.
Ontario is home to twelve beautiful cobblestone houses. This type of building construction is unique to Western New York. Over ninety percent of cobblestone houses are located within a sixty-mile radius of Rochester, New York. These cobblestone homes were built between 1825 and 1860.
Today’s focus of Ontario’s history is at Heritage Square at the Brick Church Corners located on Ontario Center Road one mile south of the lake. These corners were recognized as a mid-nineteenth century crossroads community and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. This area consists of the Brick Church, the Pease Homestead and Heritage Square Museum (www.heritagesquaremuseum.org)
Located at Heritage Square Museum are the Ruffell Log Cabin, the Baptist Meeting House, the Brick Church Schoolhouse, the Watson Iron Ore Miner’s Home, the Warner Farmhouse, the Lockup, the Apple Dryhouse, the exhibit barn and the Ontario Train Station. This museum is lovingly cared for by the Town of Ontario Historical and Landmark Preservation Society and is open to the public from 1:30 – 4:00 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays from June through September.
- Town of Ontario Historical and Landmark Preservation Society
- Wayne County Historian
- Wayne County New York history and genealogy