A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Arthur R. Maytum (Fredonia), Aloysius A. and Richard J. Lutz (Dunkirk), Thomas J. Jeffords (Chautauqua), Brad Rendell (Falconer) and George Abbott (Forestville). Originally broadcast on local radio stations June 6 – June 10, 2011.
No. 106 – Arthur R. Maytum
Arthur Richard Maytum was born Oct. 13, 1866 in the County of Kent, England. At the age of 19 he arrived in the United States and less than two years later, he married Gertrude Prushaw in Fredonia, N.Y.
When he arrived in Fredonia, Arthur first apprenticed as a grocer before opening his own business on Water Street in the village. Around 1892, Maytum strung a phone line from his store to the train depot so he could get advanced notice of the specific time the train came in. This allowed him to offer more efficient service and fresher produce to his customers by calling the railroad depot for up-to-the-minute reports on his shipments. It was the first telephone line installed in the village.
As a result of installing the telephone to better serve his customers, he initiated something that would soon serve the community on an even broader scale – the Dunkirk & Fredonia Telephone Company.
The telephone company was incorporated in February of 1898 and started business that August, serving 64 customers. It was only fitting that Maytum serve as the fledgling company’s first Secretary and General Manager. Over the years, he would guide the company as it grew, prospered, and brought new communications services to the people of Dunkirk and Fredonia.
In addition to his work with DFT, Maytum also served as chairman of board of visitors of Fredonia Normal School and Teachers College from 1927 to 1953. He also served on the village board for several years and was president on several occasions. From 1931 to 1938, he served as supervisor for town of Pomfret. He was a member of the Fredonia Rotary, Masons and Odd Fellows. He received the Fredonia State University College Alumni Association Award of Merit in 1942.
Maytum died on Oct. 7, 1953. In 1968, the administration building at the college was named in his honor (Maytum Hall). To this day, the DFT Company still serves the residents of Dunkirk, Fredonia and surrounding areas.
No. 107 – Aloysius A. and Richard J. Lutz
Born in 1903, Aloysius A. Lutz grew up near the shores of Lake Erie in a Polish neighborhood of Dunkirk. One of eight children, he was born in the early years of the 20th Century and grew up hearing stories of immigration to America from his grandparents. During the Great Depression, he promoted amateur boxing in Dunkirk, and later worked in Dunkirk industries.
In the 1940s, Aloysius retold many of the stories he heard as a boy to his own son, Richard J. Lutz. In the 1950s he began writing a fictionalized historic account of Polish immigration entitled Jadwiga’s Crossing, but died in 1966 before completing it.
Richard worked in commercial and public radio and television in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin before moving to New York City as a digital technology and mass communications consultant. He holds degrees from The University of Michigan, where he was also a journalist in residence in 1978-79.
As a fellow at University of Michigan, Richard completed his father’s work after further research. Jadwiga’s Crossing was released in 2006 and was holds an average rating of 4.83 out of 5 stars on Amazon.com, based on 12 reviews. One contemporary author said the book “is a must-read not only for Polish-Americans, but for all readers who are interested in learning about the challenges and joys of the trans-Atlantic crossing made by millions of European immigrants in the late nineteenth century.”
In retirement, Richard edits and publishes The Main Street WIRE, the fortnightly community newspaper serving Roosevelt Island in the City of New York. He also is working on completing Jadwiga’s America, the sequal to Jadwiga’s Crossing.
No. 108 – Tom Jeffords
Thomas Jonathan Jeffords was born January 1, 1832 in the town of Chautauqua. Jeffords grew to be a tall, quiet, red-haired man and in 1862, he arrived in Arizona while serving as a scout for the U.S. Army.
A year prior to his arrival, warfare between the Army and group of Apaches had begun, when Cochise, one of their chiefs, was accused of kidnapping an 11-year-old white boy from a nearby ranch. Cochise came forward under a flag of truce to declare his innocence, but the Army chose not to believe him and tried to place him under arrest. Cochise escaped, but six men who had accompanied him were held and then hanged.
Jeffords was the superintendent of a mail line that later became part of the famous Pony Express system. After some of his mail riders were killed by Apache raiding parties, he rode alone into the camp of Cochise to parley. This bravery so impressed the chief that he became friend and blood brother to Jeffords, granting his mail riders safe passage.
President Ulysses S Grant sent General Oliver Howard to the Arizona Territory in 1871 with orders to end the Apache Wars by negotiating treaties with the tribes. Howard enlisted the help of Jeffords in concluding these treaties. A treaty was signed in 1872, ending the decade-long war. Among other terms, Cochise requested that Jeffords be made Indian agent for the region. Cochise died a year later of natural causes.
However, certain white residents disapproved of the arrangement because it denied them access to the copper and silver that had been discovered on Apache lands. They branded Jeffords “Indian lover” and wrote scathing reports to politicians back in Washington. In 1875 he was removed as the federal agent and Cochise’s Apache tribe was relocated to the San Carlos Reservation. The Indian wars began again, but were ended in 1918 Arizona with the Battle of Bear Valley.
Jeffords became a stagecoach driver, a deputy sheriff of Tombstone, Ariz. and finally a gold prospector. He lived out the last 22 years of his life in the Tortolita Mountains north of Tucson, Ariz. He died on February 21, 1914 and was buried in Tucson’s Evergreen Cemetery.
The story of Tom Jeffords, General Howard, Cochise, and the Apache wars was told in historically-based but dramatized form in a novel entitled “Broken Arrow” by Elliott Arnold. It was adapted into a 1950 film staring Jimmy Stewart. There was also a 1956 television show that ran for 72 episodes based on the same story.
No. 109 – Brad Rendell
When it comes to Chautauqua County track legends, its hard to beat the accomplishments of Brad Rendell. Rendell was born in 1918 and attended the Falconer School district.
During his time at Falconer, Rendell became a track standout where his time of 4:28.1 in the mile was a county record for 37 years. His sectional record in the mile stood for 30 years. In 1936 he was awarded the Governor Roy Smith trophy for the world high school record in the Schoolboy Olympics in Albany. His time was 4:22.4. He also held the unofficial world’s record for five-mile cross country at Cato with a time of 23.35.
After graduating from high school, Rendell went on to run track at Alfred State. In 1939 he was the fourth fastest two-miler in the United States which qualified for the Princeton Invitational Track & Field Meet. Rendell broke the cross country record at West Point when Alfred beat Army in 1939. As co-captain at Alfred he was fourth and fifth in the collegiate cross country championships.
He won the 1500-meter steeplechase at the 1939 Penn Relays and was selected to run that event for the United States in the 1940 Olympics. Unfortunately, the games were cancelled when the war with Finland and Russia began. During his track career, Rendell also ran 17 times at Madison Square Garden by invitation.
Rendell taught at Panama Central School for one year and started the track team in 1946. He served on the Panama Central School Board of Education for eight years. He was co-owner of B&B Fur and Fox Ranch in Ashville. He was also vice-president of the Western New York Fur Harvesters.
In 1965 Rendell was awarded the All-American status from the National Collegiate Cross Country Coaches Association. He was inducted into the Alfred State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 1982. He died in 2002.
No. 110 – George F. Abbott
George Francis Abbott was born June 25, 1887 in Forestville. While growing up his family moved to nearby Salamanca and residents twice elected his father mayor. In 1898, his family moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming, but a few years later returned to Western New York, where he graduated from Hamburg High School in 1907. Four years later, he obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Rochester, where he wrote his first play, “Perfectly Harmless,” for the University Dramatic Club.
Following Rochester, Abbott went on to Harvard University, where he studied playwriting under George Pierce Baker. Under his tutelage, he wrote “The Head of the Family,” which was performed at the Harvard Dramatic Club in 1912. He then worked for a year as assistant stage manager at the Bijou Theatre in Boston, where his play “The Man in the Manhole” won a contest.
While acting in several plays in New York City, he began to write and his first successful play was “The Fall Guy”, opening in 1925. Abbott acquired a reputation as an astute “show doctor.” He frequently was called upon to supervise changes when a show was having difficulties in tryouts or previews prior to its Broadway opening. His first great hit was “Broadway,” written and directed in partnership with Philip Dunning. It opened on September 16, 1926 at the Broadhurst Theatre and ran for 603 performances. Other successes followed, and it was a rare year that did not have an Abbott production on Broadway.
Some of his most popular works include “Damn Yankees,” “The Pajama Game” and “Broadway.” Among those who crossed paths with Abbott early in their careers are Desi Arnaz, Leonard Bernstein, and Liza Minnelli.
Abbott died of a stroke on Jan. 31, 1995 in Miami Beach – aged 107. Even a week and a half before his death he was dictating revisions to the second act of “Pajama Game” with a revival in mind. Among numerous honors, New York’s “George Abbott Way” – the section of West 45th Street northwest of Times Square – is named after him.
Bicentennial Biographies is a not-for-profit radio project designed to raise awareness and increase interest in local history. It is brought to you as a public service by the Chautauqua County Historical Society throughout 2011 to celebrate the county’s 200th birthday. To learn more, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org or contact your local historical society.
– J. Sample