Frank M. Keane who served as the first engineer of waterworks in charge of the pump station that was located on the south side of Grand street, South Grafton resigned to accept his former position with the Baltimore and Ohio railroad as inspector of the water stations along the line of the railroad, Millard F. Carr, a practical machinist, was appointed to fill the position. A son of John Carr who established the first machine shops and foundry in Grafton and in which the son gained practical experience made him particularly fitted for the position and operation of the pumping plant.
Benjamin F. Baldwin, one of the oldest settlers, who filled many responsible positions in the municipality died at his home March 11, 1896. He was one of the most friendly men, kind, courteous and whose friends were legions. He was a member of the old brass band organized in 1864 and was active in the Masonic fraternity. Stricken with that terrible disease that laid waste the kidneys, Bright’s disease, which ended his sufferings on the above date he was carried to Bluemont cemetery and interred with the ritualistic rites of his Masonic order.
Gorton’s Minstrels played their farewell engagement in the Opera House February 27, 1896. This organization annually visited Grafton since 1883 and while not a large troupe contained some of the best known black face artists and some of the best speciality acts seen on the local stage. The band provided with solid gold instruments was composed of musicians of more than ordinary ability and under the direction of Joseph Gorton, the founder, had untold admirers in Grafton who lined the streets during the parade of the troupe and came at night to listen to the concert prior to opening of the theatre doors. The oldsters never forgot Johnnie Styles, probably the best black face artist of his time, and Hank Goodman, equally well known, the Miller brothers, acrobats, Welby and Pearl, Miss Nellie Gorton, the first woman baritone horn player, the McAvoy’s. Harry Baxter, George Lambson. Tommy Middaugh, Richard Chalfant, De Witt Cook and scores of others who came at times to entertain on the local stage for almost two decades.
In the town election held Tuesday March 16, 1896, William O. Boyd received 408 votes and William F. Clark received 300 votes for Mayor; for council, first ward, John F.Caveney received 178 votes and George F. Green received 126 votes; for council, second ward, Hiram Gaines received 140 votes and Terring W. Heironimus received 104 votes; for council, third ward, Benjamin F. Bailey received 74 votes and John L. Wittman received 77 votes; for tax collector Franklin Ringler, unopposed received 600 votes, and for board of education, Dr.Charles A. Sinsel received 412 votes and Thomas C. Long received 297 votes.
For the board issue for curbing in the amount of $1,500, $3,500 for sewerage, and $50,000 for surfacing West Main and Latrobe streets, the bond issue was ratified by 501 votes for and 139 votes cast against the improvements, Cornelius Kennedy submitting the lowest bid was awarded the contract for these improvements.
On the question of saloon license 459 votes were cast for license and 184 against license.
Mr. Kennedy began grading that part of West Main street and was followed by the forces of the water and gas companies sinking trenche for the water and gas mains. Traffic was diverted by the way of West Grafton and Washington street while this surfacing was in progress. That part of Latrobe street from Shaw’s corner to the approach of the West Grafton bridge was also began and this old narrow lane along whose length the first settlers of Grafton erected their homes was lifted from the mud it had known for so long and covered with smooth brick surface.
The Noss family came to the Opera House for thier farewell performance March 23, 1896. This organization that came to amuse the theatre going public for a dozen years and always found a warm welcome. After the younger members had attained womanhood thier parents decided to retire from the stage. Frank and Fred entered the vaudeville business and for some time acted in houses devoted to this class of entertainment.
The people of Grafton are indebted to that patriotic woman, Mrs. Maria Leeds for her foresight in perpetuating the beautiful Memorial day exercises. In 1896, she realized with the fast diminishing ranks of the veterans of the Civil war that unless something was done to keep alive this custom of paying a loving tribute to the men who came forward to save this nation from disintegration, the exercises would die out for want of those to carry it on. She went before the board of education of the public schools and sought the preceptress of St. Augustine school and asked the children be placed in line of march on May 30, 1896, to replace the thin line of veterans.
Both schools signified their willingness to obtain the parents consent for the children to be placed in the line, consent was obtained and some two hundred children from the schools took their places in the line.
Those from the public schools were in charge of Misses Mattie Jaco and Winifred Warthen and Mrs. Mary Donohue Moran was charged with the care of the children of St. Augustine school. If the eyes of the women were permitted to look down on the scene of May 30 during the past few years, from the world in which she dwells, doubtless she would feel highly gratified at the proportions that this custom has assumed since the years with her passing. That she deserves mention in the Memorial day exercises for her efforts to perpetuate this custom none will deny, but her name has never been mentioned in any of the tributes held in the National Cemetery since her passing in 1923. She, too, sleeps under the sod of that hallowed city of the dead where the of these last few years lay a fragrant spring blossoms above her resting place without knowing of her and her part of keeping alive this beautiful day’s commemorative service. Memory is a treacherous thing and possibly with the passing of the years someone will take credit for originating this memorial custom like other people make claims to founding Mothers Day which had its initial observance in Andrews Methodist Episcopal church in 1908.