Chapter 02 - Social and Religious Life Before Incorporation


Social and Religious Life Before Incorporation

The early settlers in Kenmore were fully alive to the necessity of providing social, religious, literary, and musical requirements and diversions for the growing community. There were but few aged people among the inhabitants. The great majority were young married folks and children. Located five miles from the amusement places of Buffalo, and lack of transportation facilities, necessitated the development of home talent and a neighborly spirit. "Surprise parties" were of frequent occurrence. With well filled baskets of eatables the people invaded each other's homes with the slightest excuse, or none at all, simply to enjoy themselves, encourage sociability, and get acquainted. All were enthusiastic for the growth and well being of the village, it was the common topic of conversation. No more hospitable people ever lived than the people of Kenmore.

A "C. L. S. C." - Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, and not "Come love sit closer," as it was called by the profane, was organized. Miss Kate Kimball secretary of the parent Chautauqua was present to assist with advice, experience, and inspiration of those at the world famous Chautauqua Institution near Jamestown, N. Y. Mr. George E. Vincent of the Rockefeller Foundation, son of the distinguished Bishop John H. Vincent, the founder of Chautauqua, lectured in the Methodist Episcopal Church during the winter of 1892 on "Rambles in Spain and Morocco." The Kenmore Cornet Band, and the Kenmore Orchestra were organized, the later composed of six pieces: two violins, cornet, clarinet, trombone, and piano. These musical organizations provided music for local functions and were in great demand in the surrounding community for dances and parties. Kenmore had a "Standing Army" known as Junior Cadets, commanded and drilled by Ralph Harris. During the winter of 1892 a branch of the Y. M. C. A. was formed. The officers were: President, F. Babbington; Vice Presidents, Rev, G. H. Marsh, Jabesh Harris, and L. P. A. Eberhardt; Secretary, M. A. Phelps; Corresponding secretary, A. W. Olmstead; Treasurer Ralph Harris. Rooms were opened in the "White House" and supplied with reading matter and games. A Ladies Auxiliary with Mrs. Babbington, President; Mrs. A. W. Olmstead, Secretary, and Emily Eberhardt, Treasurer, rendered efficient aid, meetings being held in the Presbyterian Church.

A radical temperance sentiment prevailed in Kenmore from the beginning. A Council of Royal Templars was instituted in 1891 by the grand officers of the society. At the initial meeting twenty-two persons were initiated and formed Kenmore Council No. 248 R. T. of T. On the occasion of the first anniversary the membership was increased to seventy five and Cyrus K. Porter, the originator of the Order was present to confer the degree. A saloon located at the corner of Delaware Avenue and Kenmore Avenue, was bought out by the citizens and converted into a drug store and residence occupied by Dr. J. J. Drake. The building was later removed and now stands at No. 12 Warren Avenue. The noted Rev. Father George Zurcher of the Roman Catholic Church, well known throughout western New York in the 80's lectured in Kenmore. Many other eminent advocates of total abstinence, local option, and prohibition kept the temperance question alive, blazing the way as pioneers for the Volstead Act. Kenmore was known far and wide as a "Dry" town, and all efforts to open a saloon met with decided opposition. One of the provisions in the movement for annexation to Buffalo, which was so vigorously advocated in 1894 was the privilege of submitting the question of Local Option to a vote of the citizens of the village, it begin a foregone conclusion that the vote would be "Dry." The action of Hyde Park, when it became a part of Chicago, was cited in evidence, on suit and appeal by a liquor dealer who was refused a license by the Supreme Court of Illinois

An Athletic Association whose object was to better the vim, vigor, and vitality of Kenmore's young men and boys was formed in 1892 which proved to be very popular.

Kenmore has had from the beginning "An eye for business." A type of men schooled in old and tried methods of square dealing settled in the village. With a large and growing city across the line and reaching out toward the north the "course of empire" naturally took its way out Delaware Avenue and the foresight of the realtors in founding a village five miles from the city hall in Buffalo, looked upon with doubt by many, was more than justified within three years. Young men of ability and skill were soon attracted to the growing suburb. In July, 1893 the Kenmore Business Men's Association was organized with the following officers: James B. Zimmerman, President; George H. Marsh, Vice President; Myron A. Phelps, Secretary; Albert B. Crary Treasurer. Among the first questions taken up was "Better care of the side streets, the extension of the Boulevard, a system of water works, and the organization of a Fire Department." Annexation to Buffalo was one of the leading question of discussion in 1894, nearly all the members favoring the plan. Joint meetings were held with the Town Board of Tonawanda occasionally, at which sewerage, water supply, fire protection, lighting, and all questions relating to the growth and welfare of the village were taken up and acted upon. It was a matter of vigilance, sacrifice, caution and hard work on the part of a few determined men, but they were cheered by the steady growth of the village. The question of annexation to Buffalo was discussed by the Buffalo newspapers at some length. "Wants to marry Buffalo and be in the municipal family," said one. "Kenmore should be a part of Buffalo. The result is inevitable," said another. Money, brains, and labor had been expended in beautifying Kenmore, but water, lighting, better transportation, sewerage, and other extensive improvements were needed and many thought that annexation would end the trouble. Kenmore's business men did not wish to antagonize their neighbors by pushing their ideas to the exclusion of other townships, but a committee was appointed to draft a bill to be presented to the Legislature authorizing the annexation of Kenmore to the City of Buffalo. Some of the Erie County members of the state Legislature were in favor of taking in Cheektowaga, Amherst, West Seneca, and Grand Island. The plan to take in Kenmore only was called the "Bay Window" scheme. The Buffalo Express favored the "wholesale plan of annexation." "The result is inevitable, gravitation is not more certain."

Many years ago a pessimist said, "The country is going to the dogs," an optimist replied, "The dogs are still hungry." The situation had its amusing side also. In the Buffalo News of February 8th, 1896 a cartoon appeared showing Tonawanda's idea of annexation. It represented a Russian sled driven through a forest in winter, pursued by a pack of hungry wolves, the driver whipping the horses frantically trying to escape. A woman in the sleigh named "Tonawanda" was in the act of throwing a baby named "Kenmore" to the hungry pack, while they made a "get away."

In June 1894 Alderman Bradish sang out "All aboard for Kenmore," from the City Hall steps in Buffalo. At 2:30 P. M. the Council started out for the village in carriages. On arriving they found Kenmore in gala attire. The residents vied with each other in showing off the beauty and advantages of the village. The aldermen were escorted to the parlors of the Methodist Episcopal Church were a demonstration of how much chicken an alderman could eat took place. President Franklin, feeling a generous impulse after eating the second piece of pie, promised to annex Kenmore right away. A jokesmith of the opposition cruelly said, "An attack of indigestion made him recall his promise."

The taxable value of Kenmore at this time was §4,000,000, and a large amount of building was in progress. The village now had over 300 population, 4 miles of water mains, 1200 feet of gas mains, 60 dwellings, 3 churches, 2 schools, and 3 general stores. Improved street car service was obtained and "Kenmorites" as Buffalo delighted to call them, had access to the city for one fare, with service every fifteen minutes. As early training, advantages, and environment show themselves in growing boys and girls, so the social, religious and early business experiences of Kenmore's people had left its indelible impress, showing a healthy, progressive, growing village ready to enter a new stage of incorporated existence.

SOURCE:  History of Kenmore Erie County, New York; 1926; Frederick S. Parkhurst, Ph.D. Local Historian