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Patty Dumville (née Shockey)
‘The Dumvilles of Lockport’

told by Patty, wife of Harry C Dumville (1907-1992),
in a wonderfully lively letter to Jill Holroyd, September 1989

No run-down of the Lockport-Niagara Falls branch of the Dumville family is complete without mention of Harry's Aunt Anne Dumville (1875-1978)…, Annie L, as noted in the family record, but always Aunt Anne to the rest of us; and duly revered as such in the memory of her several great-nieces and nephews… and their children, who by this time know her only remotely as a sort of legendary Lady Santa Claus, who lived in a big white house on High Street with 9-foot windows, was unfailingly cheerful and affectionate, adored her two nephews, Bill (when young Harry was always known as Bill to family and friends) and George, was the provider of great boxes of mittens, games, books, trinkets for the tree at Christmas… and lovely summertime lunches of Chicken and Strawberry Shortcake (smothered in whipped cream, of course).

Actually her apt. was only about one quarter of the first floor of said big Victorian house on High Street, but even the kitchen had 9-ft windows - great for climbing in and out of. Having no children of her own, she more or less adopted all other children as her own and never seemed to tire of 'spoiling them' with home made goodies. She is the one, as you might gather, that our granddaughter Anne Valentine is named for…

drawing: 233 High Street, Lockport

233 High Street, Lockport, which was
the home of Eliza and Joe Dumville (1851-1939)
and their children Lillian (1880-1923),
Florence (1881-1967) and Nettie (1886-1974).
(See photographs of the house.)

You may also have gathered that no history of Lockport is complete without reference to the Joseph Dumvilles, also of High Street… Uncle Joe (Jr), Aunt Eliza, Florence and Nettie and their house at 233… across the street from Aunt Anne's and at opposite ends of the same block though you might have thought a few thousand miles apart in terms of communication. It is only fitting that a picture of the house was included in the pages of the Lockport Bi-Centennial Calendar I'm including…

There is no doubt the house is as indispensable to a history of Lockport as the Canal itself… The Erie Canal has had its day and shows signs of crumbling in a few places but Uncle Joe's house (some say it was built simultaneously with the Canal and out of the same material) goes on forever and looks exactly as it did when built, which is more than you can say for the famous locks and the 3-way bridge and canal boats that made it famous in the first place. (Harry says the story of the building material is apocryphal; he thinks it was granite, the papers say Marble! - we think they're dreaming, or mis-informed. At least it's built to last.)

(The 1986 Bi-Centennial Calendar says it was 'built by Joseph Dumville between 1907 and 1912 with eight railroad cars of marble brought from Govenor, New York, and finished with a tile roof coming from Akron, NY. The original Otis elevator installed still services the three floors.')

… The other day, I had a phone call from previously mentioned Loyal Friend in Lockport to tell us the unbelievable news that #233 was on the market again. The only other time the house was (shudder!…) on the market was back in the 70s after death of Nettie, last of the Joseph Dumvilles.

Nettie left no will (typically stubborn!!) and there being only four remaining relatives… Margaret Gordon Sumner - in Connecticut; her sister Susan Gordon Mize - in Dallas; George, also in Dallas; and Harry. It fell to us, being the closest, to sort things out and do something about disposal of house and contents - a 75 year accumulation of family mementos, much added to, I'm sure, over the years - and never a thing thrown away. Or parted with. Even found Aunt Eliza's wedding dress rolled up in an old pillow case, stuffed into a window seat in the third floor (I hesitate to call it an Attic…) It was the most beautiful wedding dress I've ever seen…

… I'm sure that back in the Early Days there wasn't a self-respecting town in the States, Eastern half at least, that didn't have its High St… not the cobblestoned Royal Mile or winding lane its name might suggest, but a nice, wide, comfy sort of street through the middle of town, with lots of elm trees, yards with green grass and the kind of houses ladies liked to go calling and leave their 'cards' at. Whatever the town one could almost look down the row of houses (Queen Anne, Victorian, Italianate, Greek Revival, Carpenters' Gothic or whatever…) and predict, with variations, of course 'that's where the Banker lives… the Town Attorney… Old Judge So & So… the Local Publisher… the Misses So & So… the Captain's Widow… across from her the Other Banker, etc, etc'.

Don't know whether Uncle Joe qualified as heir to the Brewery or had the extra credentials of being connected with the Bank, but judging from the no nonsense flourishes of his handwriting on the pile of old old cheques & documents found in the old roll top desk, he was not one to be outdone in the building of stately - and state of the Art monuments to himself and his success in the Here and Now. From various other Acc't books and bills for Venison, Spirits, cakes, etc, it seems he liked to keep Aunt Eliza busy entertaining in them, too.

The same old desk drawers produced every bill, I think, ever submitted during the 4 or 5 years of the building - and furnishing, of the house. Screens, door locks, Walnut Dining Room chairs, faucets, fire tongs - no item too humble to keep the bill for, stamped Paid in Full, though pretty generally known throughout the rest of the family, particularly his brother and sister's children, as the Old Skinflint (and with good reason), it's pretty obvious that Uncle Joe didn't want to find himself confronted at the Heavenly Gates with any Unpaid Bills, from 1912…

The Elevator, of course, was the piece de resistance. I'm sure nobody on High Street topped that. Not even the Publisher of the Sun-Times, down the street a few in a pink stucco Italianate, directly across from Aunt Anne's (Federal Style Victorian) - which his widow, a very gracious aristocratic lady of the Aunt Anne generation willed to the City for a Rehab Center when she died not too long ago…

Uncle Joe, along with the Brewery business and the Bank, must have been quite a hunter, as well. Along with the drawers full of old Acc't Books, cheque stubs, etc, still giving a live picture 75 years later!… there was an album or two with brownish snaps of what must have been some very he-mannish hunting parties - hunting for the Bear, it would seem, judging from the trophies displayed, and the size of guns which he and his two or three hunting companions seemed to be flaunting. From the thickness of the clothing, it must have been cold, too. And probably in Indian territory; at least there always seemed to be an Indian guide or two in the offing, even sole whole family groups of Indians with wives, I guess.

Actually one would not have to go any great distance to be in Indian territory as there is still a very live Tuscarora Indian Reservation nearby. Our children, a couple of them, still recall scrunching down in the back of the car when we took a certain route from Niagara Falls to Lockport in the summer time, fully expecting to be shot at by arrows if they were seen. Uncle Joe's pictures however look much more Northwoods than peaceful Niagara County. Oddly enough, no album ever turned up with slightest likeness of Aunt Eliza or daughters, though from the few snips of evidence around, and brief recollection of her as a dainty 90-year old lady, I can only assume she must have been quite a beauty in her day; an affectionate mother and conscientious hostess to all Uncle Joe's banking and/or hunting (?) companions.

I did hear whisperings from the Niagara Falls younger generation that Aunt Eliza also had Temperance leanings: that she 'and the girls' were very much in favor of the Temperance Movement and the Abolition of Hard liqour - one of those odd quirks of character (probably from the Mackay side which may have been what contributed to the other cousins thinking of them as a bit 'stiff necked'. That, combined with Uncle Joe's well-known penny-pinching with respect to his brother's widow (Grandmother Harriet) in her hour of need, and his refusal to give her children, or his Sister's only son, a small consideration from the, family resources toward their education, is explanation aplenty for the rather cool attitude that defensive, generation gap or otherwise, kept the two families pretty much at arms' length the rest of their lives.

It is hard to think of so gentle a soul as Aunt Eliza as being stiff-necked, or even Florence and Nettie, who we know for a fact liked to throw the Brandy and Sherry flavorings around in their cookery, even a bit of Rum now and then, from the remains we found in the pantry, along with the zillions of recipes they had saved. Even Aunt Anne said they were marvellous cooks; at least they were very diligent and unstoppable cooks, though it is not on record that they ever invited Aunt Anne to tea, luncheon, or dinner, to be tagged with Temperance Movement sympathies, however, was a pretty serious charge, just or not, and it's thought that might be the reason for Uncle Joe's reserving the third floor for his own private hideaway, complete with fancy Poker table, cozy chairs, hunting photographs, model steamships, humidors, dramatic seascapes, a frieze of souvenir whiskey bottles around the wainscoating and ample space for the spirits underneath. What it all adds up to is that Uncle Joe was either an avid admirer of Mark Twain, who had a similar arrangement for getting away from the ladies, or maybe he was just one of your more determined male chauvinists, before the term was invented.

… Needless to say, by the time we got to Uncle Joe's hideaway it was already so filled with hundreds of other put-aways… beds, bric a brac, tea pots, linens, picture frames and such that it could have been anybody's Miss Havisham type attic… the faint outlines of the old male stronghold were still there, but it was an archeological dig of a few weeks to get down to the original, when much to everyone's surprise there was the old poker table, good as new, with the chairs neatly arranged around it, like the Club had just disbanded the night before.

… Fortunately Uncle Joe had the foresight, back in 1912 (?) to get his house hooked up with City Steam - a central heating system offered at the time in Perpetuity; or as long as there should be residents still using it. Need I say the system had long been abandoned by every household in Lockport, save one. We don't know how many years the Power Co had been dutifully putting out steam to service #233; but inasmuch as Lockport was buried that Christmas Day in a heavy snowfall we were certainly grateful for the heat.

High Street was so still and so deep in snow all day you could practically hear the traffic light at the corner turn from red to green, except if anybody had looked in at the windows of the Upstairs Hall (front left) they probably would have been shocked to see us sitting there sorting out boxes and having hysterics listening to old records. I'm sure they would have enjoyed the snatches of 'Johnny Get Yr Gun…', 'I Wish I Was a little Raindrop So I Could Fall On You' and the like (with Harry doing a little bit of the Charleston), 1'm sure even the ghosts in the attic were enjoying it. You can imagine how disappointed we were to come back in January to find such a mess, and the poor Victrola beyond saving.

(Between visits by Harry and Patty, thieves had broken in and ruthlessly stolen or vandalised all the treasures, 'even the holey big old family-size Victrola had its front battered in')

… Back to High Street… and the inside of #233 in the forty or so years we were accustomed to visit there. Had you walked in that front door you would have found yourself in a medium size tiled vestibule and greeted (to your surprise) by a nice big stuffed Black Bear, man-size, of course, with a very friendly (positively gregarious) smile and outstretched paw; actually the most hospitable welcome you were ever likely to get in those forty or so years, particularly after Aunt Eliza was gone, with Miss Florence and Miss Nettie, as I always thoughts of them, holding the fort. We never knew whether the Bear was one of Uncle Joe's trophies, kept there to perpetuate Uncle Joe in spirit - offering conviviality to his friends… or on the other hand, kept there to scare them off.

The Bear was slightly smaller that a Grizzly, with a silky black coat and very well preserved (I can see old Ida, the girls' faithful once-a-week, sent out to dust him off every Spring, along with the Spring housecleaning; the disarming smile always looked a bit strange on the face of an animal who could obviously have struck you dead with one blow - we could only surmise Uncle Joe must have picked a taxidermist with a sense of humor. Or maybe it was his own little joke).

Once inside the second heavy oak and glass door, the layout of the house was quite straightforward - center hall, with parlor to left, parlor to right, elevator straight ahead, with wraparound stairs to upper regions (help strictly forbidden to ever use Elevator). Both parlors very light and identical in size; each a square with corner cut off for fireplace with white mahogany mantelpiece, mirror, etc. Parlor on left, very formal - for 'receiving', no doubt, though I never saw it used, Really a very pleasant room; it had the nice Victorian love seat and lady Chairs later stolen… and the rosewood piano that got so battered. Parlor on the right was more the Sitting or living Room side - where we frequently sat and exchanged civilities for half an hour or so on our semi-annual 'state visits' (and then probably went back across the street to Aunt Anne and Grandmother's for ice cream and cake, especially if we had the Twins, or other pair of little ones with us).

From living room on right, one looked into darkish wainscoted dining room with roundish table and the nine walnut backed chairs (Victorian with green velvet) - I counted them later! spaced around the room. There was also visible, in the distance, the usual buffet piece with mirror and lots of cut glass - later stolen, along with the chandelier! Beyond the buffet and the swinging door was unknown territory, and like the upper two floors, never seen or even visualized by the rest of us till Nettie, the last of the family, had gone.

On one occasion, however, Florence, who was the older of the two sisters surprised us by taking each of the twins by the hand (it must have been while Aunt Eliza was still around) and asking if they'd like to ride up on the Elevator and see the Parrot! None of the rest of us ever got invited up to the inner sanctum but of course everybody knew about the Parrot. You always heard him Up There somewhere, mumbling about the state of the world, it sounded like, or wondering How about a Cracker?

Parrot was reputed to be very old, and obviously concerned himself with more than just Crackers. Also noted for making very caustic remarks when he heard Uncle Joe tiptoeing up the stairs to his hideaway, trying to make it as silent as possible in the early AM hours. So the other Dumville Nephews and Cousins always said.

I don't remember Aunt Eliza ever speaking at all, but she was always very taffeta, lace and veils, very tiny, always sitting in the same salmon pink velvet chair, hands folded, always smiling, with a sort of sweet inscrutable smile like one who maybe knows more than she's given credit for and finds it slightly amusing. Florence was the older of the two daughters, taller and rather matronly in build, with the kind of rather pleasing, melodious voice that goes with the giving of orders and being unmistakably head of the household. Nettie was shorter, a bit plump, and always, it seemed, just on the verge of being a bit belligerent. We were never quite sure whether she liked taking the offensive, per se, or was just anxious to get back to her baking. No visit ended without a homily on the virtues of the Nash as opposed to anything Gen'l Motors was making. Their 19?? Nash was still in the garage, unfortunately, after the closing - the one item we wished the thieves had made off with…!

When Harry and I got back to Lockport for what I think of as Phase II or even III, of the clean-up, we got our first real glimpse of the 3rd floor; and what was left of the contents after the thieves got through and whatever choice antique pieces removed (we'll never know!). A local Appraiser & Wife Partner had also gone through in order to make an inventory of the contents for probate records, etc. It was they who unearthed the wedding dress I mentioned earlier, stashed in a window seat - along with a shoe box full of old silver shoe horns, button hooks, ivory handled glove stretchers - in short, all the accoutrements of a ladylike Life Style circa 1870s-1900s.

I couldn't resist mentioning the Wedding Dress because when shaken out of the old pillow case it had been buried in for a few decades, it looked as fresh and pristine as though made yesterday. It had nary a bow or ribbon or a piece of lace for trimming, but it was so architecturally structured I'm sure it could have practically stood by itself. I guess we would call it Candlelight white these days - corded silk, and of such quality and put together with such exquisite workmanship it was more like a piece of sculpture than something to be worn. We couldn't help wondering what inspired seamstress or House of Worth put it together.

At least we could deduce that Aunt Eliza must have had about a 16-inch waist, went in for fine pleats and a chic sculpted train as her only means of adornment - and with a couple of plumes and her long white gloves could easily have been mistaken for one bowing to royalty. In short, she must have been a beautiful bride, and I guess what struck me so was the obvious reversal of the normal order of things - Aunt Eliza long gone and the dress coming out of its dusty old sack to make her suddenly seem more alive than she had ever been… in the years we knew her, that is. If I seem to stress the wedding dress and some of the more frivolous aspects of the house at #233, it's probably because, as we sorted things out, they began to make the occupants seem a bit more human, and the house less of a fortress than it had always seemed in the past. Mainly, I hope when you spot the names Eliza, Joseph Jr, Florence, Nettie, Annie, Grandmother Harriet, etc., they will maybe be more than just little lines on the Family Tree (or names on a tombstone!)…

photograph: 351 Market Street, Lockport

351 Market Street, Lockport,
home of Harriet and George Dumville (1849-1888)
and their children Annie (1875-1978)
and Harry (1877-1969)

Grandmother Harriet (Lewis) fits the picture of everyone's loving Grandmother. She was married to Joseph Jr's brother George; when he died she was left with two children, Annie L and Harry Charles (later M.D. - present Harry's Father). Joseph and George also had a sister, Margaret - later Margaret Gordon, Mother of Margaret and Susan. Story is, Joe Jr so appropriated all the inheritance from the Brewery business that the other two were left in the cold and had to fend for themselves. G'mother Harriet supported her two by carrying on as a Nurse, and Annie (Aunt Anne) had to quit school, take a business course and get a job to put her Brother through Medical School. (As you can see from the leaflet I sent - the job with Upson's turned out to be a lifelong one…)

Harry has told me that his Aunt Margaret was an accomplished pianist and apparently supported herself before marrying by playing at all kind of functions and was still in demand for same long after. Like Harry's Father, her son Joe, though carrying the family name (Joseph Dumville Gordon) got no consideration from Uncle Joe either, toward his education or the family survival. Needless to say, the two nephews developed a lifelong antipathy for the Heavy-handed Uncle who would have let their Mothers sing for their suppers; though I must say, at least in the case of Harry's family, the attitude must have softened a bit, for I well know that every November, after the Fall Partridge or Pheasant Shoot there was always a ritual visit to Lockport to present Aunt Eliza 'and the Girls' with another pair of birds for their Thanksgiving Dinner. And I'm sure there wasn't the slightest note of irony in Aunt Anne's mind as continued to send cakes and puddings across, the street from 204 to 233 every time there was a Birthday; or to send a pot of hot soup at each rumor of a migraine or a touch of Lumbago.

Harry's Father and Mother both loved to hunt (their only recreation except Golf every Wednesday, and Grandfather's letting his g'children skip on the edge of the Falls… and other indulgences…)… so there was always a stuffed Mallard or lovely ring-necked Pheasant hanging on the dining room wall; and however many Partridges were bagged in the Season, two were, according to Canon, always set aside for the 'Lockport Girls'. I don't know whether we're doing penance for this or not, but since we've been living here in Vermont (1970-89) we've lost 6 double thermopane windows due to Partridges flying through and leaving glass strewn across Hall or Living Room floors (two others hit side of the house and knocked themselves out)… we begin to wonder sometimes which of the ghosts of the past we're being haunted… or rewarded!… by. We've lost a lot of awfully good windows; but on the other hand we've had some quite delectable game dinners. At least you don't have to pick shot out of them.

Which reminds me that if your Mother is still interested in regional recipes here is one we have all too frequently at Donnybrook lodge: Gather up Partridge from under love seat, breakfast table or wherever it's landed this time; remove to cool place and let hang 24 hours; husband will pluck next day, and generally neaten up for cooking - by whatever means necessary, men always seem to know; once dressed, stuff with a ¼ orange, apple, slice of bread or such (whatever will fit); spread it with some butter or slice of bacon and proceed to roast like small chicken or equivalent. Serve with ample supply of boiled Wild Rice and Black Currant Jam. I guess good cooks always baste a bit while it's roasting and the stuffing, of course, is disposed of along with wings and drumsticks which are actually too small to bother with - except for dyed-in-the-wool hunter types who refuse to leave the tiniest morsel. Or eaters who like to eat frogs' legs… or lark wings. Though the Wild Rice and the Bl Currant Jam are the absolute indispensables, it helps to have a bottle of your favourite Mosel handy… and husband's favorite apple pudding or other Filling Dessert of one's choice. Even with trimmings one Partridge doth not a full meal make, but with experience we've found it seems fuller if we wash it down with a few glasses of the old Piesporter or equivalent, while we bemoan the loss of another casement window.

Lockport and the Erie Canal

… it was a part of family history, too, as well as part of big US History itself, with a capital H. The Erie Canal was the whole reason for Lockport's being where it was in the first place, and especially for being what it was, practically the end of the line for travel West. Also famous for being the architectural marvel it was; being the only city in the country, as far as I know, that had a series of five locks to lift the boats up to its doorstep, or let them down again on their way back.

The story of its building is such a tale in itself I just finished re-reading it for my own benefit this summer (I never could remember whether the canal boats went Up the canal from Albany to Lockport, or Down; I just knew it wasn't a simple matter of going in a straight line, although the thousands of times we followed what's left of the old trail along the Mohawk it certainly looked straight enough). The version I'm reading - Stars in the Water - is unfortunately out of print… It can tell you more of the early days of Niagara Mohawk Lockport country than you'd ever guess from zipping along the NY Thruway today, though even forty years ago Harry was pointing out to me a few noble stone remains here and there - moss and vine-covered, you can imagine.

The only other family connection with the Canal, other than everybody's Aunts, Uncles, Grand - or Great Grandparents having lived along its banks at one time (not to Mention the Brewery!)… well, at least, it's memorable in Harry's family since it was Grandmother Harriet's father Robert who was in the Canal Boat business. He was Grandfather Lewis, of course, not a Dumville but worthy of a respectful salute, we always feel, when reading about the early days of Lockport and the Opening of the West - or whenever Harry spots some abandoned old barge tied up somewhere along the Mohawk on our way to Buffalo or back…

photograph: 233 High Street, Lockport photograph: 233 High Street, Lockport
photograph: lift at 233 High Street, Lockport photograph: ceiling at 233 High Street, Lockport

233 High Street, Lockport, which was the home of Eliza and Joe Dumville (1851-1939)
and their children Lillian (1880-1923), Florence (1881-1967) and Nettie (1886-1974).
The lower left photograph shows the lift.

These photographs were on the Century 21 Winklhofer website.
We were told by Lori Adams that the house was being offered for sale.

See also:

Joseph Dumville (1819-1900), father of Joseph Dumville (1851-1939)

Joseph Dumville (1851-1939): Postcard to his Eldest Daughter

Joseph Dumville (1851-1939): Family Tree