Fred M. Locke
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Fred M. Locke was born on April 24, 1861 in the small community of Honeoye Falls, NY (previously known as West Mendon). The countryside is quite beautiful today, leaving the impression that little has changed over the last 100 years. Life must have been simple and carefree by today's standards; however, even that seems little changed as you visit Honeoye Falls. The large Victorian houses with their quiet tree-shaded yards, and the old buildings downtown, provide a gentle village atmosphere. Honeoye Creek still flows over Honeoye Falls, which is located right in the middle of town. The gentle rolling countryside is covered with green, well manicured farmland, intersected and bordered by neat fence rows. One cannot help but feel the serenity of village life. Driving from village to village, between Honeoye Falls and Victor, it is easy to imagine what life must have been like a hundred years ago.
All of the small roads that connected the villages and communities in the late 1800's were unpaved dirt roads traveled only by an occasional buggy, wagon, or horse. Even though villages were just a few miles apart, trips to other communities were probably infrequent. The railroad was the major means of travel to the larger towns of Rochester and Canandaigua, all of which are but a short drive away today. Both the telephone and electricity were novelties, only to be read about in books and newspapers. By the late 1880's, a few big cities were putting up electric arc lights, the new Edison incandescent light, and experimenting with electric trolleys. In this western Finger Lake region of New York, barely 40 miles southeast of Rochester, water power was the choice for saw mills, flour mills, and other small industry. Kerosene lamps were standard in every home, except for the more affluent homes, which used gas lights. The telegraph was widespread and connected many towns and villages along the railroad routes.
Fred spent his entire youth in Honeoye Falls. He attended public school but never attended a college or university. One family member said that Fred never completed all twelve grades, and she recalled someone saying that he did not go past the eighth grade. The local school district did not keep records from that time. It was not unusual in many parts of rural America during the 1800's, and even as late as the 1920's, for boys to drop out of school and seek employment, either for reasons of helping the family income, or a desire for independence. Fred's father probably had a modest income as a telegrapher, a job he left in 1874. So, with five children, there may have been a need for Fred to start work early. It is believed that he did attend a course at the Valentown School of Business, in the huge, three‑story frame shopping plaza, school, and community center known as the Valentown Hall, at Fishers, NY. Whatever his educational background, Fred never let his lack of formal education inhibit his dreams. He was naturally curious, not afraid of asking for help, and so he quickly absorbed the experience of others. What he could not determine from reading, observation, and questioning, he learned from experimentation. He idolized the inventors of his time, such as Cyrus Field and Thomas Edison. Fred was self-taught in chemistry, astronomy, and photography. He had many interests which consumed much of his time. His financial success at an early age enabled him to retire at age 43, which allowed him time to pursue his many interests.
Fred's father, William Morton Locke, was a telegrapher and station agent for the New York Central Railroad "Peanut Branch" at Honeoye Falls from 1855 until 1874. When Fred was a child, they lived across the street from the depot and railroad yard. He was attracted to his father's job and the goings-on around the depot. Fred's father was replaced as station agent by Theophilius "Tot" Pierce from 1874 until 1883. Fred and "Tot" were friends, who may have allowed young Fred to "pound the key". Fred eventually earned a job as relief telegrapher in 1880, when he was 19 years old. Fred was one of four relief telegraphers working for "Tot", and he pursued a career as telegrapher from early 1880 until about 1887. Sometime in the last half of 1883, Fred was transferred to Canandaigua as a relief telegrapher for the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad. His initial income as a relief telegrapher at Canandaigua, NY was reported to be only $30 per month. Later he earned about $12 per week, with $3 per week added for his extra work at Mertensia Station. Canandaigua was a large village on the north end of Canandaigua Lake, about 15 miles from Victor, and about 40 miles from Honeoye Falls.
Fred's wife, Mercie Emily Peer, lived in Honeoye Falls. He knew Mercie before he left Honeoye Falls, but she would have been 17 years of age when he moved to Canandaigua. Mercie was born on February 22, 1866, in Canandaigua, NY, where her family lived on Antis Street. In 1881 or 1882, when she was about sixteen years old, they moved to Honeoye Falls. Mercie was the ninth child of a family of thirteen children. Her father was a boot and shoemaker in Honeoye Falls. One source said that Mercie's parents, Andrew Peer and Ellen Splaine, had eloped in Ireland before traveling to America. Mercie's father was 17, and her mother was 16, when they were married in Ireland. Mercie was nearly five years younger than Fred.
On Thursday, March 6, 1884, barely two weeks after her 18th birthday, Mercie and Fred eloped. If there were any hard feelings from Mercie's parents over the elopement, it never became a lasting issue. They evidently delayed getting married until she was 18 years of age because her parents refused to give their consent for them to marry at an early age. Her parents probably tried to persuade Mercie and Fred to wait until she was older, so she would be more likely to make the right decision.
It has been said that Mercie changed the spelling of her name from "Mercy" to "Mercie" sometime after they were married, but this could not be confirmed by a birth certificate or any other factual source. Her recently discovered autograph book was evidently an early Christmas present, since the first page was dated December 24, 1880. Written on that same page was, "Mercy Peer Canandaigua N.Y.", and all of the "autographs" were addressed to "Mercy". Fred gave his address as Honeoye Falls when he signed her book on May 22, 1883, and wrote "Compliments of your friend." That "autograph" certainly gave no indication that Fred viewed Mercy as a possible wife. They were married less than ten months later.
Initially the couple lived in Canandaigua, on East Gibson Street, where Morton and Louis were born. In 1887 Fred was named station agent for the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad at Canandaigua, NY. That was a busy job with about 14 trains each day passing through the station.
Sometime before October 1888, Fred, Mercie, and their two sons moved to Victor, where he was transferred as ticket agent for the New York Central & Hudson River Railroad (Auburn Branch). They lived in a little house on Dryer Road known as "The Creamery", about two blocks from the Victor New York Central Railroad Station, and about one block from where the insulator factory would be built ten years later. They lived in the first house on the left after turning on Dryer Road. That house was torn down years ago, and the lot has become over-grown.
Shortly after James was born in June 1898, they moved to a house on Coville Street since "The Creamery" was too small for a family of five boys. "The Creamery" was torn down many years ago, but the house on Coville Street is still there, being either the second or third house on the left, going toward town. The house on Coville Street was about two blocks from the insulator factory. Fred's business address of "300 Coville Avenue" was given in an advertisement dated April 1898. There is no Coville Avenue today, but there is a Coville Street (sometimes spelled Covill); however, none of the houses on Coville Street are marked with either a "3", "30", or "300" address, and the family did not move until after James was born in June. That address, and what purpose it served, is still a mystery. It was typical during that time to give addresses only as name, city, and state, so there was no need to provide a street address. All of Fred's business advertisements and correspondence that I have seen from 1893 until 1904 were addressed to either, "Fred M. Locke, Victor, N.Y.", or "Fred M. Locke & Co., Victor, N.Y.". In 1900 Fred and Mercie purchased the Clark home at 305 East Main in Victor.
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