Historical Society of Elba


Check out Historicalsocietyofelba.com.


General Membership meeting and election of officers tomorrow night, 12/6/18 at the museum on Maple Ave. Ext. at 7pm.



Historian –Town of Elba
Historian – Village of Elba [email protected]
President – Historical Society of Elba
Master – Elba Grange #783 November 23, 2018 2018-12


The Methodist Church has notified The Elba Grange that they will no longer be able to serve meals at our monthly meetings. We wish to thank them for many years of preparing wonderful meals at a reasonable price. Fortunately, The Elba Diner (Chap’s) has stepped forward and will be hosting future Grange dinners, third Wednesday of each month, April thru October.

Next meeting is scheduled for December 6th at our museum at 7 P.M. for annual election of officers.
Condolences go out to the families of Stewart Hare & Thomas Pierce, who have recently passed away. Stu Hare was a life long member of our community. Stu & his wife Jean (also deceased) were supporters of our museum. Tom Pierce, although only a twenty year resident of Elba, aided his wife, Irene, in Museum activities, especially in the preparation & serving of our annual roast beef dinner. We shall miss them!!!!!!!!!!!

November 11th represented the 100th anniversary of the signing of the armistice that ended “The War to End All Wars” (WWI). As such, I think it appropriate that we not only recognize the soldier(s) that risked their lives in battle, but also the men & women that took care of their medical needs.

The preparations for military medical care began long before the U.S. entered the war against Germany. In September 1915, Major General Wm. C. Gorgas (Surgeon General of the Army) and Dr. John M. Swan of Rochester, NY met in Rochester and discussed the formation of base hospital groups that could be quickly mobilized in the event of war. The intention being that the Rochester medical community would obtain the services of doctors, nurses and other medical personnel necessary to form and operate a 500 bed hospital. The Rochester group would operate as “Base Hospital Number 19”, other area would also form similar groups, Buffalo & Syracuse also operated “Base Hospitals”.

The winter of 1915/1916 were spent obtaining the services of physicians who were examined and commissioned first lieutenants in the Medical Reserve Corps, at this time the Red Cross (they would supply the nursing staff) became involved.

Page 2

In June 1916, enrollment of enlisted personnel would begin under the provisions of the enlisted reserve corps and not regular U.S. Army. Throughout the balance of 1916 and the winter/spring of 1917, meetings would be held at Brick Church Institute and then the Third Regiment Armory. Instruction covered included not only military drill, but also personal hygiene, hospital ward routine, first aid & bandaging, anatomy and other medical processes. During this time, acceptance of medical equipment & supplies began, the first being from the DAR – Irondequoit Chapter and the Order of the Eastern Star.

In February 1917 after relations were severed with Germany, the Base Hospital No. 19 set up headquarters in the Hotel Rochester and the first muster & inspection was held. In May 1917, the process of conversion from a reserve corps to active service began.

On December 17, 1917 orders were received to mobilize for overseas duty. January, February, March, and April were used for daily hikes & drills, inspection of equipment, instruction in the wards of various Rochester hospitals and instruction in the duties of the medical department soldier. During this time, a decision was made to increase the size from 500 beds to a 1,000 bed organization. Extended mobilization period was due to lack of transport ships and u-boat activity.

On May 5th, the nurses left for NYC and the remainder of the Base Hospital personnel left Rochester on May 14th. June 3rd, all would board the White Star Line “Baltic” for transport to Europe. The ship arrived in Southampton on June 15th and on the 18th, personnel boarded the SS St. George for transport to Le Havre, France whereby personnel would board rail cars for a final destination of Vichy.

Five “Base Hospitals” would operate out of Vichy with an increased capacity of 10,000 beds. The Rochester group would experience its first wartime service on June 27th with the arrival of 350 patients. Base Hospital No. 19 would be responsible for contagious disease, respiratory infections and care of wounded German prisoners. During its operation of six months and eights days, a total of 11,071 patients were handled with 78 deaths. Medical care took place at 22 different hotels that were used as hospitals with total bed capacity of 4,114.

Local individuals serving as part of the Base Hospital include First Lieutenant Hiram I. Randall of LeRoy (Ward Surgeon), Sergeant Major Mark Heath of Holley (Adjutant), Sergeant Thomas P. Kerwick of Batavia (Dispensary) and PLUMA A. PFANN OF ELBA (NURSE).

Above information obtained from the book “A History of United States Army Base Hospital No. 19 American Expeditionary Forces – Vichy – France A-P-O-781”

Pluma Pfann was my grandmother’s sister and my next newsletter will contain some of her experiences as a nurse in the war.

Did you ever wonder where that big rock next to the Village of Elba office came from, why it is there and how it got the...

Did you ever wonder where that big rock next to the Village of Elba office came from, why it is there and how it got there? Now you know. I was doing some work at the museum today and found this article from a Rochester newspaper dated Wednesday, July 6, 1966.



Historian –Town of Elba
Historian – Village of Elba [email protected]
President – Historical Society of Elba
Master – Elba Grange #783 July 25, 2018 2018-7

Greetings – If anyone has a particular topic on Elba or its history that they would like additional information on, I would be happy to cooperate.


On July 19th, The Elba Grange was fortunate to have as guest speakers, two young farmers from South Africa. They are currently working for Craig Yunker and CY Farms of Elba. They are participating in an international program that allows young farmers to travel to other countries and work for other farmers in order to gain experience and knowledge of different farming practices and management techniques.

Jacques Marais is from Bothaville (Free State province), South Africa, which is located near the Vaal & Vals Rivers. His family has a farm of several thousand acres that produce corn and other field crops. They employ approximately 40 individuals and furnish not only employment, but also housing and some education for those individuals and their families. Jacques is fluent in several languages including German, French, English as well as several dialects of local native languages. Gaining the respect of employees is very important and an important part of that is to learn their native language. Racially, the area is approximately 5% white and there has been instances where the locals will overrun a farm and kill the owners and steal their property.

Jacques did mention that because of the soil types that are farmed, that stones & rocks do not exist. No rock picking!!! While our local farmers complain about the number of deer that invade their fields; it pales in comparison to the local animals that Jacques’ family has to contend with, which range from elephants to bands of monkeys .

Juon DuPlessis is from Nelspruit, which is the capital of Mpumalanga province, located in the Valley of the Crocodile River and is near Kruger National Park. Because of its climate, the area is big in citrus & tropical fruits, macadamia nuts and forestry products. Juon’s family has several hundred acres of macadamia nut trees.

Differences in agricultural practices and equipment exist, but much of that relates to the fact that the US farmers are using larger equipment (12 row planters versus 24 row planters) and that US farmers are more progressive in using modern technology (GPS, drones, etc.).

Page 2


Our next meeting will be August 2nd at seven P.M. at our museum. All are welcome.
All, members & non-members are always welcome to join us.


Recently, July 8th, Elba lost one of its landmarks, The Stumbling Inn (The Elba Hotel), to fire. Because of the sizable demolition and cleanup costs, the community has organized a benefit event to be held at the Elba Fire Department Recreation Hall on September 30th from noon till 7:00 P.M. Jim & Steve Goff, owners, have been active supporters of the Elba community and its activities in their thirty-nine years of ownership.

I have included below a brief history of that landmark as put together by Scott Benz (former town & village historian) in Elba’s 175th anniversary book.

Elba’s first hotel was founded in 1815 by Stephen Harmon on the same site as the Stumbling. Pine Hill was still five years away from being separated from Batavia and becoming the Town of Elba. Elba was a convenient stop for travelers going between Batavia and Albion (Erie Canal) and the lake port located at what now is known as Point Breeze.

In September 1874, the building, now owned by Wm. Moreau was destroyed by fire. A, new two story hotel was constructed and open for business on July 25, 1875. On April 23, 1878, Wm. Moreau sold the business to John and Anna Swartz of Hazelton, Pa. John Swartz was a Civil War veteran who had lost a leg in the war. John eventually died in 1887 due to war related wounds. His widow, Anna, would continue the business until her death in 1895.

With the arrival of the West Shore Railroad and its passengers, Anna expanded the building. The second floor ballroom was converted to additional rooms and a third floor was added for a new ballroom with a “spring” dance floor. A porch was extended over the sidewalk so that customers could step directly from their carriage to the cover of the veranda and not get wet. Each arrival of a train at the depot would be greeted by a team of horses from the in order to provide transportation to the Hotel

Although Anna died in 1895, the Swartz family would continue to operate the Hotel until 1932, when it was purchased by Jackson Filkins. The Hotel had a variety of owners until it was purchased in 1979 by Jim & Steve Goff.

In the 1920’s, the ballroom with its famous “spring” floor served as home for Elba’s high school basketball and volleyball players. The Hotel throughout its life was known for its food and entertainment.

Historical Society of Elba reached 100 likes!

Historical Society of Elba reached 100 likes!

Thanks for being a part of the Historical Society of Elba community! Share this Page with friends to help more people learn about it.


An architecture student, Nick Ambos, recently completed a project on the Stumblin' Inn. He provided the museum with a copy of his project on three posters on display in the museum. He made a timeline of the building and did past, present, and future images of the building. The architectural rendering of what it could have looked like in the future after being restored to its former glory was incredible.


The following article is taken from the Elba History book compiled in 1995 by the 175th Anniversary Committee.

Some history of the building formerly known as "The Stumblin' Inn."

As every little hamlet in the country grew and expanded with the emergence of our nation, it became necessary for the foundling towns to provide lodging for the ever western bound populace. Elba was just such a town. As pioneers, settlers, and peddlers traveled the Old Buffalo Road taking them far from the congested areas of Albany towards the new frontier, a frequent stop was Batavia. With Elba situated on the way through to the lakes and the Erie Canal, many passengers took advantage of our forefathers hospitality and rested from the weariness of the road at one of our taverns or hotels.

Elba's first hotel was established in 1815, by Stephen Harmon, located at the present site of the Stumblin' Inn on the southwest corner of Main and Mechanic Streets. Early information on the hotel is sketchy at best. In 1845, William Case became the landlord and he was succeeded by a man named McClane after 1850. Silas Hawes then took over the operation, succeeded by Mr. Norton, then John King and H.D. Matson. Later, Mr. Matson had a partner, Alexander Milliken, in 1860 and 61. Not much is known of Mr. Matson except that in March of 1868 he slid out of Pine Hill in the dead of night leaving behind many friends and creditors to mourn his disappearance, quite a number of dollars worth.

William Moreau then acquired ownership to the building, but in September 1874, a devastating fire that raged through our business district, destroyed the hotel. The good citizenry of Elba had managed to save some of his furniture and by October of that year had subscribed some $400-$500 to aid in the rebuilding of the hotel. William, or "Billy" as he was known, cleared away the debris and in early spring of 1875, the new Hotel emerged as its majestic self under the skillful work of Brockway & Ritter. By May, she was receiving her first coat of paint and in July, the last coat of plaster was set. She reopened on July 23, 1875 with such accomodations as any traveler could hope for in those days for a first-class hotel.

In four years, Billy and his wife Parmelia, were ready to sell their new establishment when a one-legged Civil War veteran from Hazelton, PA made his way to Elba. John Adam Swartz with his wife Anna, bought the two story structure on April 23, 1878, to be known as the Swartz Hotel.
The Swartz's relocated in Elba to embark on their new life with their three children, Lizzie, John Adam Jr. and George W in 1878. Elba was pleased to gain the new gentlemanly proprietor who saw to it that his hotel was not a place for roughs and rowdyism. In June of 1879, they were again blessed with a son, Charles John. Under the management of the Swartz's, the hotel continually underwent changes to increase its capacity for entertaining as well as for guests. But in June of 1886, landlord Swartz had an attack of severe hemorrhaging of the stomach and bowels, a condition that had been created by his old war wounds. During the next year, this problem would reoccur often until it proved fatal on June 8, 1887. With his eldest son, John Jr, barely 16, Anna had to take on the responsibilities of managing a hotel and raising her family of four.
Anna Swartz proved to be a wise and progressive businesswoman. When the long-awaited West Shore railroad finally stretched its tracks into Elba, it brought passengers daily. Anna realized its benefits and in 1893, she had the old second floor ballroom converted into additional rooms and added a third story, a new ballroom with the famous spring dance floor under a mansard roof. Eighty-two couples participated in the festivities of her Grand Opening and danced to the excellent music of Barber's Orchestra. The newly remodeled hotel now boasted of two second floor suites with plush interior and thick cushioned red carpets where private parties were to be held. Shrimp salad was a feature of every special occasion and to preserve the quiet serenity of the dining room, waitresses were required to don soft-soled bedroom slippers.

Anna also involved her sons in the business. She provided a double express wagon and team and had them meet every train at the depot to chauffeur the guests back and forth. At the time, part of the porch roof extended over the sidewalk so that guests could step directly from carriages to the cover of the veranda. Friday and Saturday evenings brought the town alive as dancers flocked into Elba when the fiddles and banjos started their toes a tapping.

Anna joined her husband in his final resting place in 1895 and with that, John Jr. took over the management and eventually purchased the interests of his sister and two brothers. George Swartz became a traveling salesman for a bicycle company but later enlisted in the 65th Regiment and was stationed at Camp Alger, Virginia. After his release from the Army, he operated and Inn in Batavia known as "The Kirk" at 55 Main Street. Eventually, he moved to San Francisco, CA where he died.
John Jr. married Evelyn M. Strouts, the daughter of William and Mary (Bang) Strouts of Elba and together they continued the family business. Under their management, the hotel enjoyed and enviable reputation. But on March 11, 1914, John was stricken with an attack of paralysis in Cole's store that rendered his left side useless. He was hurriedly taken to his hotel and medical aid was summoned, but it was of no avail. He remained conscious a little over an hour and then lapsed into a coma, from which he never rallied. So widely known was the Swartz name throughout Western New York, that people from nearly every town in Genesee County as well as Orleans and Erie Counties were in attendance at his funeral. The accomodations of the hotel were taxed to the utmost to care for the number in attendance and many had to stand outside during the funeral service despite the bad weather.

Just as Anna had done before her, it was now Evelyn's turn to operate the hotel. With the coming of Prohibition in the 1920's, the Elba Hotel took on a new role in the community as the ballroom floor sprang to a different beat, the bounce of basketballs. For many years the outline of the basketball court could still be seen on the third floor where Elba High School students, with no gym of their own, played basketball and volleyball and even held their Halloween parties, Soft drinks were the only beverage sold.

The Hotel was purchased in December of 1932 by Jackson L. Filkins and the ballroom hummed again to the tunes of Hubert and Louie Griffin and other music makers. Nine years later, he sold to Jay and Emma Hale and moved to a farm on the Watson Road. But after one long year of country solitude, bachelor Filkins had had enough and was grateful to repurchase the business in 1942.

It was during his tenure as proprietor that workmen, excavating to install a septic tank in the "clothes yard" directly behind the hotel, unearthed a human skeleton with a single telltale hole piercing its skull. They dug no further, though someone suggested there might be an ancient graveyard and townspeople were left to speculate whether their eerie visitor had been a pioneer, escaped slave, or even an Indian. The skull glared accusingly at curious citizens for a few years and then disappeared, some say shipped to a Buffalo museum.
Charles and Frank Zambito purchased the hotel in 1949 and operated it until 1955, when Tom and Marty Greer became the owners. Later, Pete and Nancy Markowski ran the hotel, calling it "The Other Place." In August of 1979, the present owners, Jim and Steve Goff acquired the property, and the name became "The Stumblin' Inn."
Gone now is the front porch and wide veranda, the once famous spring dance floor and the third floor with its Mansard roof, but Jim and Steve are slowly, through their hard work, trying to upgrade the old proud structure and regain its stature in the community.

An interesting note on John Swartz, the father of our Hotel keeper, is that he was a Captain of the Washington Guards and was attached to the Union Guards in the 2nd Brigade of the 8th Division. His certificate still remains in the hands of the family and is dated May 13, 1844.


Maple Ave. Extension
Elba, NY

Opening Hours

Sunday 14:00 - 16:00


(575) 757-9094


Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Historical Society of Elba posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.


Nearby museums