Bicentennial Biographies No. 161 – 165

A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Samuel G. Love (Jamestown), John Bowman (Jamestown), Vern Holtz (Cassadaga), Lorin Blodget (Jamestown) and Roger Tory Peterson (Jamestown). Originally broadcast on local radio stations Aug. 22 – Aug. 26, 2011.

No. 161 – Samuel Love

A collage of Jamestown Public Schools at the turn of the 20th century. (Image from the "Illustrated history of Jamestown, Chautauqua County, N.Y" By Vernelle A. Hatch)

Samuel G. Love was born in Orleans County, New York on May 30 1821. He attended the local public schools of the area and then went on to Hamilton College to study education.

Following college, Love became a teacher in the public schools of Buffalo, and then moved to nearby Randolph to teach and also serve as principal there. In 1865 he came to Jamestown after the consolidation of the local schools into the Jamestown Union School and Collegiate Institute – today known as Jamestown Public Schools – and was the first principal and superintendent.

“Professor Love,” as he was always called, pioneered the teaching of physical education, manual training and commercial education. He believed in education of the hands and of the whole body as well as of the mind: physical, manual and vocation education.

It is believed that Love was one of the first administrators in the country to emphasis the importance of gymnastics under a trained instructor in American public schools. Love’s vocational courses were so well received, that he wrote a book entitled Industrial Education – which was eventually distributed to other schools throughout the state.

In 1883, Love became one of the founders and the first President of the Chautauqua County Historical Society. He contributed many valuable papers and research during his time with the organization. He remained principal of the Jamestown Union School until 1891, while staying on as superintendent until he retired in 1890.

Following retirement, Love accepted to accepted the position of librarian of the James Prendergast Free Library. Love was the first librarian of the library and devoted himself to cataloging the books in accordance with the most advanced systems. After library was opened he applied himself unremittingly to make it what it was intended by its founder – an aid for the education of the people.

He died on Nov. 12, 1893 at the age of 73.

No. 162 – John Bowman

John Oliver Bowman was a native of Jamestown, born in 1884 and spent most of his living in Chautauqua County. He was educated in Jamestown and graduated from Jamestown Business College in 1914. In 1916, he enlisted in Company E, 74th Infantry and defended the Mexican Border against the incursions of Poncho Villa, and also fought on the front lines of World War I in France and Belgium between 1917 and 1919.

One of the many images from the Chautauqua County Historical Society’s Bowman Collection. (Photo processed by CCHS Trustee Niles Denning).

In 1919, Bowman returned to Jamestown and found work with the county as an auditor, purchasing agent, and deputy county clerk. He also did extensive volunteer service with the Chautauqua County Historical Society, starting in the 1930s, eventually serving as curator and director. In 1950, Bowman was involved in negotiating a 75-year lease that allowed for the Society to be headquartered in the McClurg Mansion, where it remains located today.

In 1936 at the age of 52, he purchased his first box camera with seventy-five cents and six coffee coupons. He then spent his free time photographing a wide range of subjects, with the majority of his photos featuring small-town living, farmers plowing the fields, or the sun setting over Chautauqua Lake.

In 1939, Bowman presented a solo exhibit of ninety-nine of his prints at the New York World’s Fair, earning him nationwide praise in the popular press. Throughout the 1940s his images appeared in various magazines throughout the county, and in 1946, Collier’s Magazine even called him “the undisputed Box Camera Champion of the Universe.” In fact, from 1936 until his death, Bowman produced an estimated 8,000 gelatin silver prints, mostly images taken from one of the many box cameras that he owned.

Bowman died in 1977. After his death, all of his prints were given to the Chautauqua County Historical Society and are available for viewing upon request.

“Each morning brings its budding opportunities to start our lives anew. Our real joys are within the mind, not without. It is today we live. As we think, so we are. We are all giants in strength and mind power, capable of surprising feats. Good is everywhere. It is in every living soul, but only works its miracles in those who are conscious of its powers. The man who is mean, is mean to himself.” – John Bowman

Ref: “The Photographic Vision of John O. Bowman (1884-1977), ‘The Undisputed Box-Camera Champion of the Universe'” by Katie Esther Landrigan

No. 163 – Vern Holtz

When it comes to the well-known residents of Cassadaga Lake, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who was better known than Vern Holtz, Cassadaga’a boat builder.

Hotz was a native of Cassadaga, born in 1895. In the early years of the village, Vern purchased a piece of land along Dale Drive. Since it was swamp land, he had it filled so that a boat livery could be built. He then started his boat building opearation.  But rather than sell the vessels, he decided to rent them and many people would travel far distances to rent one of his boats.

Vern also built his own log cabin on the lake edge of his property, and it is still there today. He had many designs of boats, and by renting the boats that he himself built, he was able to make a successful business of it. For nearly 60 years, the boat livery was his special business, and he became a well known and well liked resident of the community and surrounding area.

Vern was married to his wife May. He had served as a member of the Cassadaga Village Board and the former Cassadaga Union School Board. A member of the American Legion since his return from World War I, Mr. Holtz was also a member and past noble grand of the Cassadaga Odd Fellows Lodge and an exempt member of the Cassadaga Volunteer Fire Company.

He died in 1983 at the age of 88. Today, nearly 90 years after being built, his boat livery can still be seen at the corner of Dale Drive and Park Street in the Cassadaga Village.

Ref: Cassadaga Historian John Sipos

No. 164 – Lorin Blodget

Nearly 150 years before the term “Climatology” became part of our popular vernacular, a native of Jamestown was introducing the term to scientists throughout the world.

Lorin Blodget was born May 23, 1823 near Jamestown. He was educated in local schools and attended the Jamestown Academy. Afterward he attended what is now known as Hobart College in Geneva, N.Y.

In 1851, Blodget became assistant professor at the Smithsonian Institution at Washington, and it could be said that he laid the foundation of American climatology. In 1855, he published his first observations based on climatology, and in 185 he published Climatology in the United States, a work extensively circulated and very favorably received in Europe.

Besides his work for the Smithsonian, Blodget worked for the War Department to conduct climatological research. Afterward, he worked for the Treasury Department, preparing statistical and financial reports, and later working in specialized positions in the Customs and Treasury Department.

Blodget was also editor of the North American, published in Philadelphia, and secretary of the Philadelphia Board of Trade from 1858 to 1864. He contributed articles on finance to the North American Review in 1866 and 1867, besides making contributions to various other publications.

Blodget also wrote The Commercial and Financial Resources of the United States in 1864 and Census of the Manufactures of Philadelphia in 1883.

He died in Philadelphia, Pa., March 24,1901.

No. 165 – Roger Tory Peterson

Roger Tory Peterson and a young osprey (photo by alfred eisenstaedt)

Roger Tory Peterson was born in Jamestown on August 28, 1908 to Charles and Henrietta Bader Peterson. He grew up at 16 Bowen Street with his parents and sister.

Peterson was drawn to the outdoors and at the age of 11, birds “took over” his life.  He was hiking with a friend and the two spotted what they thought was a dead Northern Flicker, although it was actually just sleeping. Peterson poked it with a stick and when it suddenly came to life, he marveled at its color and movements and soon made learning all about all kinds of birds a top priority.

In 1925, Peterson finished high school at 16. During the summer of 1925 Roger painted furniture at the Union National Furniture Company and a supervisor noticed his talent. He encouraged Peterson to attend art school. That same year a national publication solicited artwork for a bird art show in New York City. Peterson submitted two paintings, both of which were accepted. He made connections and soon had other pieces of artwork displayed in other shows across the country. He was becoming a nationally known artist even before his 18th birthday.

Peterson left Jamestown for the Art Students League in New York City in 1927.  In 1929 he advanced to the National Academy of Design receiving his degree in 1931. In the fall of 1931, Roger joined the science department at Rivers Country Day School in Boston.

While in Boston, Peterson became a member of America’s oldest ornithological organization, the Nuttall Club. It was here that he met fellow member, Francis H. Allen – an editor at Houghton Mifflin Company. Allen accepted Roger’s first book for publication, which was called A Field Guide to the Birds. Initially, 2,000 copies of the book were printed, but it sold out in the first week. Numerous reprints followed and today, over seven million copies have been sold, and 52 field guides make up the Peterson Field Guide Series.

Published in 1934, the book’s meteoric success transformed Peterson’s career. For the remainder of his life, he became known as a brilliant field ornithologist, an inspiring teacher, and a gifted painter of birds.

During his lifetime, he was awarded the Linnaeus Gold Medal of the Swedish Academy of Sciences and the Conservation Medal of the National Audubon Society.  He also received nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize and honorary doctorates from numerous American universities.

Peterson died in 1996 at his home in Old Lyme, Connecticut. A portion of his ashes were inurned in the Pine Hill Cemetery in Falconer in the family plot. The Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History in Jamestown, New York is named in his honor and continues to support the legacy of Chautauqua County’s greatest naturalist and lover of birds.

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.

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