Historian Articles

Victor’s Own Sears Roebuck and Co. Catalog House

By Babette Huber, Town and Village of Victor Historian

Sears started selling mail-order houses from their specialty catalog—the Book of Modern Homes and Building Plans--in 1908. It is reported that over 100,000 houses were sold between 1908 and 1939. Why was it so popular? You had a choice, over the years, of over 400 different styles; you could save money by building it yourself; they were made of quality building materials and Sears offered liberal loan policies. A family could have a custom home at a certain price for a certain size—the family made the choice and built it themselves.

The custom made Sears Modern Home was advertised that, for a precut house with fitted pieces, it would take only 352 carpenter hours to assemble as opposed to 583 hours for a conventional house. Sears sold complete houses including the plans and instructions. By 1911, the catalog would include illustrations of the interior of the house and provided homeowners with blueprints for the ability to furnish the home with Sears appliances and fixtures. Owners could also modify the plan, for example,  by using brick instead of wood siding or reversing floor plans.

In 1908 only one model—number 125—was sold for $945.  After that, the models had names like Adeline, Maplewood, Magnolia and the one built in Victor—the Crafton at 6427 Route 96 in East Victor.

The “kits” were about 25 tons and shipped by railroad—30,000 pre-cut parts, plumbing, electrical fixtures and as much as 750 pounds of nails. Building the house was done step by step using a 75 page instruction book and blueprints. Sears, in time, offered three built qualities—Honor Bilt, Standard Bilt and Simplex Sectional. Many of the low end models were smaller, simpler and didn’t include a bathroom. (The company did sell outhouses separately).

The framing system, called “Balloon style” framing didn’t require you to be a skilled carpenter—they were built faster and usually only needed one person. This type of framing used precut timber in standard sizes. Another easier homebuilding material to use was drywall—it was easy to use and cheaper than the plaster and lathe that was used by skilled carpenters. Another material that had just been invented was the asphalt shingle which took the place of tin or wood roofing materials.

These homes are known for their sturdiness, variety and the latest technology available to modern homebuyers in the early part of the 20th century. Central heating, plumbing and electricity were all new developments and Americans wanted these conveniences. When the kit house business ended, Sears lost most of its records. Many people didn’t document their home as being a Sears catalog house. The blog Kit House Hunters has found over 10,000 Sears houses still preserved. The Northeast and Midwest have the most because they sold best in those regions.

Victor’s one documented Sears catalog house was built in East Victor by Ermil Peglow in 1931. It was the best plan offered by the Crafton model—Plan 3318D. This house plan had the most square footage—988—with six rooms and a bath. It was a bungalow with cedar shingles and a large porch with a baluster railing. Mr. Peglow kept all of the documentation for his home—the lists of inside and outside doors, windows, sashes, door trim and jambs, pipes, linoleum, lumber, nails, sheet plaster, septic tank, furnace—even down to the clothes rods and lamp bulbs! This was the complete house—all one needed to do is to assemble it! Instructions on how to build the house were given in the form of blueprints. A separate sheet explained how to lay linoleum and Floor-or-leum and a booklet explained instructions for installing modern plumbing systems. Although Mr. Peglow kept all of his documentation, none of it included the final price he paid for his home. It is safe to say, though, that it was about $1400 EXCLUDING plumbing, heating, wiring, electric fixtures and shades and appliances. 

Sears discontinued its Modern Homes catalog after 1940. Sales through local sales offices continued into 1942. I wonder why—was it because of World War II? Years later, the sales records related to home sales were destroyed during a corporate house cleaning. Only a small percentage of these homes were documented when built and Mr. Ermil Peglow probably didn’t know at the time that keeping his documentation was very important to Victor’s knowledge of his special house! 

Information and photos courtesy of:
Paul Prietz
Town of Victor Archives

Present Day Sears House
Sears Floor Plan
Sears Catalog Page
  1. Seed Potato Capital
  2. Gypsum Mills at Victor
  3. Hamlet of Fishers Post Office

Drawing of Potato with words Maggie Murphy printed on sideFishers, New York - Seed Potato Capital of the World

In the little hamlet of Fishers, New York, now part of the Town of Victor, potatoes were king! From the Civil War to well after World War I every available space was planted with potatoes. The sandy loam soil was the perfect earth in which to grow seed potatoes.

The boom all started in 1877 when the Valentown Grange sent Charles W. Ford to the Farmers Alliance convention in Morristown, NJ. The New Jersey growers were complaining about the difficulty that they were having keeping potato seed between seasons. Ford explained that the tubers grown in his area—that is, Fishers, NY, were very hardy and offered to send potato seed to anyone who wanted it. From then on and for at least 50 more years Ford sent seed potatoes to New Jersey.

Arthur G. Aldridge of Fishers had a warehouse with 50,000 bushels of seed potatoes and his catalogs went around the world. For years he had a photo of “the world’s largest potato”—a spud grown on his farm on Valentown Road the size of a pumpkin.

After the death of her husband, Sarah Connelly carried on the family business under the name of SJ Connelly because it was unusual for a woman to run a business at that time. She named one potato after her sister—the Maggie Murphy.

Ambrose T. Lane, another potato magnate exhibited 50 potato varieties at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.

The Victor Rose, Victor White and Brownell’s Best were some of G. B. Pickering’s seed potatoes that, as his catalog boasts, “ The potatoes we offer were grown in the vicinity of Fishers, Ontario Co., N.Y. … No other section produces more healthy or more vigorous seed potatoes.”

Noah Baker grew 10,000 bushels of potatoes a year on Baker Hill and was rated the single largest grower of seed potatoes in the United States.

And did you know that the land that Eastview Mall is built on used to be a huge potato farm?

Produce dealers, like Leslie Loomis in Victor, shipped, at its peak, 500 train car loads of potatoes a year. Big warehouses and freight houses stretched out along the Lehigh Valley and the New York Central’s Auburn Railroad tracks. Railroad Mills, Fisherville and Valentown also became shipping points.

old wooden warehouse

With Fishers the potato capital of the world, it became one of the earliest areas to make use of the newly invented telephone.  The Fishers telephone exchange was started in 1887 with eight outside lines.

Potatoes were so commonly grown that it was thought that the boom would go on forever. But today the sleepy hamlet of Fishers no longer grows seed potatoes—the Aldridge Warehouse was remodeled into offices for Lifetime Stainless Steel, but now the building is used by the Fishers Fire Department.  Other storehouses, railroad stations and warehouses are gone.

The demise of the seed potato industry was the demand for lower quality seed potatoes grown elsewhere (more potatoes could be grown per acre with the lower quality) and the trucker who would buy right off the field, eliminating the middle man in Fishers who would act as the buyer. In 1950, with the last of the Aldridge family passing away in 1950, the glory of the seed potato industry in Fishers was gone. Today the rolling countryside around the Ontario-Monroe county border is home to Eastview Mall, other commercial endeavors, light industrial development, housing developments and the Thruway. Valentown Museum, as the original Victor/Fishers Grange, awaits the visitor to see the way things were in the heyday of the seed potato industry in Fishers.

Babette Huber, Victor Town Historian, 2013

  1. Reflection on Early History
  2. Early Settlement to 1812
  3. Civil War Heroes

Victor - A Reflection on its Early History

By Babette Huber, Victor Town and Village Historian

Victor—Webster’s dictionary defines “victor” as a conqueror, a winner in a battle. As the history of Victor evolved, the name will attest to its appropriateness. On July 13, 1687, a French army of some 1,500 men marched into the Victor valley under the leadership of Marquis Denonville, governor of New France (now Canada).

Along with French regulars were Canadian militia and Indian allies who were to attack and crush the Seneca Indians at Ganondagan. Clad only in his underwear and jack boots (because of the heat of July), Denonville and his army destroyed “the keepers of the Western Door.” Before the French could have the glory of destroying Ganondagan, the Senecas themselves set fire to the village. The invaders finished the destruction by demolishing the corn storehouses and the palisade. Without a home any longer, the Senecas moved to join their confederacy neighbors and relatives, the Cayugas, and the attack only intensified their hatred of the French. Why did the Senecas have such a hatred of the French? The French, who are the “victors,” gain control of the rich fur trade routes that the Senecas have had for hundreds of years and that now the French and English are trying to control.

The Senecas house Ganondagan (Boughton Hill site) as the spot for their capital in the 17th century. It had a commanding view of the surrounding terrain, and one half mile to the west, was the site of Fort Hill and the granary. The village itself was believed to have been inhabited by up to 3,000 Senecas, 100-150 longhouses and surrounded by palisades twelve feet high. A spring was located to the west from which basswood pipes were used by the Senecas to carry water to the village.

Over one hundred years after Denonville’s destruction of Ganondagan, the area once again began to inhabit settlers. This time, however, they were settlers from Massachusetts. Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham made an agreement to buy 2,600,000 acres of land that is now known as the Phelps-Gorham Purchase. (Its boundaries were Lake Ontario as the northern boundary, Pennsylvania as the southern boundary, west to the Genesee River and east to the Pre-Emption Line). The purchasers agreed to pay the Indians $5,000 cash and an annuity of $500 forever. The land was then divided into townships about six miles square. In 1789, William Walker, an agent for Oliver Phelps and Nathaniel Gorham, began, for the first time, to sell land directly to the settlers. Walker’s secretary was Enos Boughton of Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Enos and his brother Jared visited the area where Ganondagan is today as representatives of their father, Hezekiah. Enos Boughton then bought Township 11, Range #4 (a six mile square piece of land) of the Phelps-Gorham Purchase at 20 cents an acre. The crossroads became known as Boughtontown as settlers from the Boughton family of Stockbridge, Massachusetts began arriving. Enos and Jared Boughton built a log cabin in the area in 1789. The intended community on Boughton Hill was in the form of a square, with a school, a cemetery and the first tavern (the Wilmarth Inn). The tavern’s construction started in 1808 and opened on Christmas Day, 1813. It was a common stop for travelers and stagecoaches. Within eight years, however, the stagecoach route was changed and no longer ran in front of the tavern. Today the Wilmarth Inn is a private residence.

The schoolhouse was used by the children of the Boughton Hill area until 1941. In 1941, the Victor Central School’s first building (now the Victor Early Childhood School) was completed and opened to all children in the newly consolidated and centralized school district. In 1945, the schoolhouse was sold to the Boughton Hill Cemetery Association for one hundred dollars. It has since been dismantled.

Soon the crossroads of Boughton Hill began to lose its importance to the valley where a more prosperous village began to grow. The settlement grew in the valley because it was located on Merchants Road, the trade road east and south to Canandaigua, the capital of the “frontier,” and the road west and north to the falls of the Genesee (Rochester).

In 1812, the Town of Victor was officially established by the State Legislature, and set apart from Bloomfield (which was composed of Mendon, Victor, East Bloomfield and West Bloomfield). In October of that year, a meeting was called to name the town. It was unanimously agreed that the name would be VICTOR after Colonel Claudius VICTOR Boughton who distinguished himself in the War of 1812. On April 6, 1813, the town was formally organized and the first town meeting held with Jacob Lobdell voted to be the first Supervisor and Eleazor Boughton as the first Town Clerk.

Information from this article was taken from—

  • Articles in The Victor Herald
  • The Boughton Hill Site as a National Landmark, Charles F. Hayes III, 1965
  • The History of Victor, New York, 1776-1976, Fagan, Guiffre, Snyder
  • History of Ontario County, New York, 1876
  • Various clippings on the history of Victor, NY from the Town of Victor Archives

Babette Huber, Victor Town Historian, 2015

  1. The McCrahon Brothers
  2. War of 1812
  3. Civil War Heroes, Part 2

Looking at Victor's Pastblack and white photo of Alexander McCrahon white shirt and vest with watch and chain

By Babette Huber, Town and Village of Victor Historian

The McCrahon Brothers—Union vs. Confederate

As the Civil War series continues, Victor had a unique family in which two brothers from the same family fought on different sides in the Civil War.

Alexander McCrahon of Fishers joined the 108th NY Volunteers in August, 1862, when he was 16. His brother, Edward, a salesperson for the old Ellwanger and Barry Nursery in Rochester was working in Louisiana in 1861 when he joined the 7th Louisiana.

Both brothers saw heavy fighting during the Civil War. Edward became an orderly for General Thomas Jackson (“Stonewall”) and fought in the Battle of Bull Run under him. Both brothers were pitted against one another at the bloody battle of Antietam. At Gettysburg, Alexander received a serious wound in the leg and Edward escaped unscathed.

Edward revered General Jackson and soon took on his nickname of “Stonewall”—presumably after Jackson’s death in 1863. At Rappahannock Station in late 1863, Edward McCrahon was taken prisoner by the Union Army. After three months he took the oath of allegiance to the United States and was released.

Alexander, after being wounded at Gettysburg, served out the Civil War and was honorably discharged in August, 1865.

After the war, Alexander McCrane (he changed the original spelling) worked as a railway employee in the West and in Mexico. He died on November 17, 1925, and is buried in the Soldiers Home National Cemetery in Washington, D.C.

artists sketch of Edward McCrahon black and white shoulders up with mustache

Edward “Stonewall” McCrahon became an engineer on the New York Central Railroad. He married Margaret O’Connell of Syracuse and they had ten children. Edward died on August 24, 1918, and is buried in St. Agnes Cemetery, Syracuse.

The McCrahon Brothers family homestead is on Log Cabin Road, Fishers.

Information from:
Town of Victor Archives
Articles by: Father Robert F. McNamara, John M. McCarthy and Wilma Townsend

Babette Huber, Victor Town Historian, 2013

  1. Whistlestop History
  2. Goldfarb's General Store
  3. Village Street Names

The Whistlestop History

The Whistlestop has been a business district ever since its early history. The New Yocolor photo of Whistlestop restaurantrk Central Railroad which passed through Victor beginning in 1840 (and known then as the Auburn and Rochester Railroad) had a train station here (where Sequels is today), a hotel, produce warehouse, coal tower, water tower and flour mill. The flour mill, known as Victor Milling, was built in 1876 by Amos Scrambling. In 1890 the generator from the flour mill was hooked up by Fred Locke (“Father of the Porcelain Insulator”) to run an electrical line to his home to provide electricity for experiments and arc lights on Coville Street—which was adjacent to the Whistlestop area. The flour mill burned in 1937, but the two story section which was used to store the flour stayed intact. Today it houses Finn’s Tap Room Restaurant. The hotel was originally built by Chauncey Felt and became the Aldrich House, Covill House, Benson House and then the Insulator Hotel. It was demolished in 1946. The water tower was across the parking lot from the entrance to Finn’s and the produce warehouse was demolished but unknown when.

Babette Huber
Victor Town and Village Historian, 12.2.13