Bicentennial Biographies No. 186 – 190

A collection of bicentennial biographies from Chautauqua County, N.Y. featuring Celestine Damiano (Dunkirk), Thomas Leach (French Creek), Bina Williams Fuller (Frewsburg), Hall R. Clothier (Silver Creek) and John Schofield (Gerry). Originally broadcast on local radio stations Sept. 26 – Sept. 30, 2011.

No. 186 – Celestine Damiano

Celestine Damiano

Celestine Damiano was born November 1, 1911 in Dunkirk to  Italian immigrants Vito and Stella Damiano. Receiving his early education at public schools in Dunkirk, he studied at St. Michael’s College in Toronto for two years before entering the Urban College of the Propaganda in Rome, where he studied philosophy and theology.

On December 21, 1935, Damiano was ordained to the priesthood. He then did pastoral work in the Diocese of Buffalo until 1947, when he became an official of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in Rome.

On November 27, 1952, Damiano was appointed Apostolic Delegate to South Africa by Pope Pius XII. Damiano was highly influential in changing the face of the local Church in South Africa, where he became a vocal opponent of apartheid.  He remained in South Africa until 1960, when he was named the third Bishop of Camden, New Jersey (with the personal title of Archbishop).

While in New Jersey, Damiano made a name for himself by initiating various programs in the diocese. In September 1960, he launched a drive to raise $5 million for the construction and improvement of Catholic secondary schools in the diocese. He made significant improvements in education and also with community outreach.

Damiano was a member of the Central Preparatory Commission and attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). He delivered the invocation for the 1964 Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

While recuperating from gall bladder surgery at his home in New Jersey, Damiano died from a blood clot. He was 55 years old.

No. 187 – Thomas Leach

Thomas Andrew “Wee Tommy” Leach was born in the town of French Creek on November 4, 1877. He was a direct descendant of Alexander Findley, the founder of Findley Lake. He lived in French Creek until he was about five years old, when his family then moved to Cleveland in the early 1880s.

Tommy Leach in 1911 as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates (From the Bain News Service)

Leach started playing professionally near the turn of the century. He played for the Louisville Colonels in 1898 and 1899. In 1900, he began playing for the Pittsburgh Pirates and stayed with them for 12 and a half season. During his time with the pirates, he took part in the first modern World Series in 1903 between the Pirates and the Boston Red Sox. In the series, Leach hit four triples to set a record that still stands today, more than a hundred years later. Among his teammates was the legendary Honus Wagner.

Leach was well-known for his small stature and was nicknamed “Wee Tommy.” In 1902, while with the Pirates, he led the National League in home runs with a total of six. Fourty-nine of Tommy Leach’s 63 career home runs were inside-the-park, which is still a National League record. Among the swiftest runners of his era, Leach is also in the top 100 all-time in stolen bases and runs scored.

In the middle of the 1912 campaign, Leach was traded to the Chicago Cubs, where he played through the 1914 season. He played one season in 1915 with the Cincinatti Reds, took two years off, then finished his professional career in 1918 with Pittsburgh. He finished his career with 2143 hits.

After his playing career was over, Leach managed in the minor leagues, was signed as an infield coach for the minor league Atlanta Crackers in 1929, and did some scouting for the Boston Braves. He eventually retired in Florida where he went into the citrus business.  At the age of 86, Leach was interviewed by Lawrence Ritter for his famous “The Glory of Their Times” book published in in the 1960s.

He died on September 29, 1969 in Florida and was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2008.

Ref: Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame – Tommy Leach

No. 188 – Bina Williams Fuller

Bina Williams was born Nov. 9, 1878 in Maryland. Her family came to the Town of Carroll when she was still a child and she graduated from the Frewsburg Union School in 1896.

After school, Bina became a teacher. For a period of time, she taught in local schools. She eventually married George Fuller and the couple then moved west in the 1920s to settle in an area of Santa Barbara, California.

Near the end of the 1920s, the Fullers saw the population of their small community boom, thanks primarily to an oil strike on the property of Lee Blochman. The children who began arriving in the area needed an education and a small, two-room school house was built on property donated by the oil company, with Fuller becoming the head teacher.

While working as a teacher in New York, Bina had come up with a lesson plan that would help children better understand the duties of citizenship. In 1931 she built a miniature post office and used it to teach children how money works and also geography. A bank and a general store were also built, along with a nursery. Soon, Fuller and her pupils ran out of room in the school house. But rather than stopping, they simply moved the operation outside and continued to add new features until an entire miniature town had been constructed.

Fuller’s educational community was soon known as “Blochman City” and  was comprised of about 50 children who worked in various capacities, from working in government to running a small businesses. The students even elected officers to help run the town.

Educators all over the world became interested in the project and Fuller received a lot of press. Fuller and her “town” was featured in the October, 1939 issue of Popular Science magazine. In 1947, a newspaper from Sydney Australia wrote about the unique school.

The program continued at the school until the early 1950s, when Fuller retired as principal. She died Oct. 30, 1957 in Santa Barbara.

Ref: “County School Students Run Model City”Popular Science – October 1939

No. 189 – Hall R. Clothier

Hall R. Clothier

Hall R. Clothier was born Nov. 13, 1896 to Hamilton and Birdie Clothier of Silver Creek. He was born on the family farm – located on Bennett State Road – which would serve as his residence for his entire life.  He was a graduate of Silver Creek schools and attended Cornell University.

Clothier spent his adult life growing grapes on his family farm. He played a key role in establishing the National Grape Cooperative Association, serving as its first president. He was also a delegate to the Co-op, representing Silver Creek. In addition, Clothier was partly responsible for the purchase of the Welch Grape Juice Co. by farmers of the Lake Shore area.

In addition to his work in the grape industry, Clothier also was involved in politics, being first elected as Hanover Town Supervisor in 1939. He would be reelected to that position 11 times in a row. During his time as leader of Hanover, he helped to see improvements in the town hall, town park, town highway system and town government.

In 1948, Clothier became chairman of the County Board of Supervisors. He would continue to serve in that position for 15 consecutive years, guiding the county throughout the 1950s. He lead the charge in creating the County Senior Citizen Home and Infirmary in Dunkirk – without borrowing a dollar to pay for it. He also worked to establish a county tax map program and a mental health clinic.

At the end of 1962, Clothier stepped down as Chairman of the board of supervisors. He died less than a year later on June 2, 1963 at the age of 66, still holding the office of Hanover Town Supervisor. On October 4, 1970, the county’s Hall R. Clothier Building in Mayville was named in his honor.

No. 190 – John M. Schofield

John McAllister Schofield was born 180 years ago this week in Gerry. After attending local schools, he went on to study at West Point, graduating in 1853. He served for two years in the artillery, was assistant professor of natural and experimental philosophy at West Point from 1855 to 1860, and while on leave, was professor of physics at Washington University in St. Louis.

John M. Schofield

When the Civil War broke out, Schofield became a major in a Missouri volunteer regiment and served as chief of staff to Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon until Lyon’s death during the Battle of Wilson’s Creek in August 1861.

Schofield was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers on November 21, 1861, and to major general on November 29, 1862. From 1861 to 1863 he held various commands in the Trans-Mississippi Theater. He was eventually relieved of duty in the West, at his own request, due to altercations with his superior Samuel R. Curtis.

On April 17, 1863, he took command of the 3rd Division in the XIV Corps of the Army of the Cumberland. In 1864, as commander of the Army of the Ohio, he took part in the Atlanta Campaign under Major General William T. Sherman. Later that year, Schofield took part in Major General George H. Thomas’s crowning victory at the Battle of Nashville. However, during the buildup towards the battle, Schofield spoke out against Thomas, feeding Grant false information through various correspondences in an effort to try to succeed his senior in command.

Schofield continued to serve the Army until the end of the Civil War, eventually receiving the rank of major general.

After the war, Schofield was sent on a special diplomatic mission to France, on account of the presence of French troops in Mexico. During Reconstruction, Schofield was appointed by President Andrew Johnson to serve as military governor of Virginia.

From June 1868 to March 1869, Schofield served as Secretary of War.  In 1870 he wrote an article criticizing his wartime rival George Thomas, who subsequently died of a stroke while writing a response.

In 1873, Schofield was given a secret task by Secretary of War William Belknap to investigate the strategic potential of a United States presence in the Hawaiian Islands. Schofield’s report recommended that the United States establish a naval port at Pearl Harbor.

Starting in 1876 Schofield was superintendent of the United States Military Academy.  However, in 1881 he was removed from the post due to a congressional investigation that found a black cadet at West Point was wrongly court-martialed by Schofield’s administratin.

From 1888 until his retirement in 1895, Schofield was commanding general of the United States Army. He had become a major general on March 4, 1869, and on February 5, 1895, he was commissioned a lieutenant general. Schofield retired on September 29, 1895 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 64.

He died March 4, 1906 at St. Augustine, Florida, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Today, Schofield is remembered for a lengthy quotation that all cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, and the United States Air Force Academy are required to memorize. It is an excerpt from his graduation address to the class of 1879 at West Point:

“The discipline which makes the soldiers of a free country reliable in battle is not to be gained by harsh or tyrannical treatment. On the contrary, such treatment is far more likely to destroy than to make an army. It is possible to impart instruction and give commands in such a manner and such a tone of voice as to inspire in the soldier no feeling, but an intense desire to obey, while the opposite manner and tone of voice cannot fail to excite strong resentment and a desire to disobey. The one mode or other of dealing with subordinates springs from a corresponding spirit in the breast of the commander. He who feels the respect which is due to others cannot fail to inspire in them respect for himself. While he who feels, and hence manifests, disrespect towards others, especially his subordinates, cannot fail to inspire hatred against himself.”

— John M. Schofield

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 or contact your local historical society.

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