The Seneca River was the source of Baldwinsville’s industrial prowess for nearly 200 years. River water siphoned through millraces powered scores of local mills and factories, and the Seneca-fed Baldwin Canal (1809-1965) transported raw goods and finished products to and from the village center. Foundries, tanneries and dairies; carriage, cigar, brick and pottery manufacturers; and saw, grist, flour, knitting, and paper mills kept Baldwinsville buzzing and economically secure.
For almost 150 years, Morris Machine Works was chief among Baldwinsville’s businesses. Established as Heald & Sisco in 1864, and known later as Heald & Morris, Morris Machine Works and finally Morris Pumps, the company produced world-renowned centrifugal pumps. Heald and Sisco was founded on the south side of the Seneca River, but a November 1870 fire destroyed thirteen buildings, including the company headquarters. In 1871, Morris began construction of what would become an impressive complex of factories, warehouses, and offices on Canal Street (now East Genesee Street). From its perch on the banks of the Baldwin Canal, Morris shipped pumps to every corner of the globe. Over the years, Morris expanded its product line, as well as its workforce. From 75 employees in 1896 to 350 in 1919, Morris was a Baldwinsville anchor and household name.
Baldwinsville’s manufacturing sector thrived through World War II. In addition to industries located in the village center, a wartime munitions plant known as the “New York Ordnance Works” opened on 10 square miles of reclaimed farmland where the planned community of Radisson is now located. “The Works” operated from January 1943 to August 1945, and employed 8,000 local men and women during peak production.
After the war, global manufacturing slowly consolidated, and local industries moved to larger population centers. The Baldwin Canal, rendered obsolete by highways and airplanes, was covered over in 1965.
In 1981, Morris Pumps was sold to the Gould Pump Company of Seneca Falls, NY. Gould continued to operate in Baldwinsville until the mid-1990s, but the local workforce gradually dwindled. Gould’s Morris Pump Division is now owned by a Chicago-based firm that still produces Morris-patented pumps for the global market.
Although Morris Pumps and the Baldwin Canal are gone, East Genesee Street is once again host to a stalwart community institution. In 1994, the Baldwinsville Public Library broke ground on a stately, custom-designed facility on the former Morris property. Exactly one year later, the Library opened its new home to the public.
Stu Reeves, Morris Machine Works Employee and Expert Fisherman
Stu was raised on Baldwinsville’s Phillips Street and attended the Elizabeth Street School and Baker High School. At age 18, Stu began working afternoons as a shipping clerk at Morris Machine Works, where for two years he prepared giant pumps for shipment to Canada, France, Germany and many parts of Africa and South America. After leaving Morris, Stu worked for General Electric, R.M. Lamb (a snow mobile distribution company), Agway’s Seed Division, Van Wie Chevrolet, Allied Chemical, and the Town of Van Buren’s Highway Department.
An avid fisherman, Stu spends the warmer months trolling Skaneateles Lake for salmon and trout in his 22’ Lund cabin cruiser, named “Papa’s Toy” by his two granddaughters. Stu got hooked on the sport in elementary school, when his father took him fishing at Beaver Lake. A seasoned angler, Stu now trolls the bigger waters where he has caught them all: perch, bass, walleyes, northerns, salmon, trout, sheephead, and catfish. His largest lure, a 36-pound king salmon, was reeled in from Lake Ontario.
Bonnie Kisselstein, Town of Lysander Historian
Bonnie grew up on Baldwinsville’s Salina Street, across the road from her grandmother’s house. Inspired by her own teachers, Kay Germain and Pearl Palmer, Bonnie obtained a B.A. in Education from SUNY Geneseo, and spent twenty happy years as a Baldwinsville School District classroom teacher. After completing Syracuse University’s Masters in Library Science program, Bonnie left the classroom to become Elden Elementary School’s librarian, a post she held until she retired in December 2000. Four years later, Bonnie became the Town of Lysander Historian.
2014 marks Bonnie’s 10th year as Board President of the Female Charitable Society, one of Baldwinsville’s many celebrated civic organizations. Bonnie’s mother, Aileen Palmer, was the organization’s Treasurer for 25 years, and her father, Albert J. Palmer, was the first honorary male member. Bonnie volunteers with the Syracuse Home Auxiliary coordinating volunteer ministers for the Sunday services, and serves on the Volunteer Center’s Christmas Bureau, which collects and distributes gifts and food for community members in need. Bonnie has coordinated the Colonial Festival for Baldwinsville School for 31 years, and she is active at the Methodist Church, where she is the church historian, a member of the choir, the altar guild, and Head Communion Steward. One of her favorite things about B’Ville is the greater community’s overwhelming desire to volunteer and care for one another.
Catherine Rice, Beloved Baldwinsville Resident
Catherine comes from a long line of B’Villians. Her maternal grandfather, Albert John Perkins, was a partner at Perkins and Petley, who transported goods along the Baldwin Canal from B’Ville to Syracuse, and docked right behind where the B’Ville Diner is today. Albert’s packet boat, the E.W. Tucker, is prominently featured in the Baldwinsville 4 Corners Mural Project. Catherine’s father, Pete Montague, made pump parts for Morris Machine Works until he was in his mid-70s. Pete was also in the Village fire department, and helped to start the original crew when they were known as the “Morris Hoses.”
For Catherine, community spirit has always started at the home. Growing up on Salina Street during the Depression, Catherine’s parents hosted weekend picnics to feed the extended family. “We always had a gang there,” she recalls. “I thought the Depression was a picnic all the time!” Her father provided produce from their garden’s abundant yield, and other family members contributed what they could. Her mother, Gert, reconstructed old fabrics into fantastic new clothes for Catherine, her four older siblings, and an abundance of cousins.
Catherine fondly recalls community street dances held before World War II, particularly Saturday night “Pavement Dances,” when the Village closed the street across from the Village Hall. Musicians played by ear, and Catherine learned to dance by standing on her brothers’ feet. One Saturday night, Pete and Gert Montague competed as waltz finalists against their son, Dutch, and his girl friend, Mildred. The younger couple prevailed, and married several years later. Catherine also preferred the waltz. At noon on school days, she and her classmates played records and practiced dancing like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, while the Baldwinsville High School principal cheered from the bleachers.
After graduating, Catherine studied dressmaking and design at St. Lawrence University’s Canton campus. After a year of course work, she married fellow B’Villian, Carl Rice, a pattern maker at Morris Machine Works, and later the manager of Van Wie Chevrolet. The Rices had five children, and Catherine helped to organize the Mothers’ Corps for St. Mary’s School. Like her parents, Catherine was famous for nurturing and entertaining in her yard. She and Carl opened their Oneida Street swing set and sand box to the local youngsters, who poured in from all directions after the Rices bought the Village’s first galvanized rubber pool. “I changed more diapers and trained more kids,” she laughs. Catherine has fifteen grandchildren, twenty-six great grand children, and four great-great grandchildren. She continues to care for her numerous nieces, nephews and neighbors like her own.
Sue Ellen McManus, Director, Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse
Sue inherited her love of history from her mother, an expert in Georgian silver, and auction navigator extraordinaire. By age 8, Sue found her own niche, having amassed an impressive collection of antique images of her native Rochester, and leather postcards depicting distant locales. After graduating from Le Moyne College with a degree in Accounting, Sue and her husband, Ed, began hunting for another elusive treasure—an old house located in an excellent school district. In 1976 the search ended in Baldwinsville, where they found a wonderful Victorian home within shouting distance of an award-winning high school.
Armed with a connoisseur’s eye and a collector’s dedication, Sue took a leading role in the community’s nascent historic preservation movement. August 1977 marked the grassroots beginnings of the local preservation organization now known as McHarrie’s Legacy. After joining the National Trust and operating in tandem with Syracuse-based preservationists, McHarrie’s Legacy incorporated as a separate entity in 1983. Three years later, they took stewardship of the historic structure that would become the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse.
An accomplished author, Sue reported for the Baldwinsville Messenger and has published several books, including the “Greater Baldwinsville” volume of the Images of America series (Arcadia, 2010), as well as professional pamphlets on local history. Sue is currently the Director of the Museum at the Shacksboro Schoolhouse, where she enjoys curating museum exhibitions and organizing the annual Peony Fest and Book Fair.