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Brockport student's 1962 essay gathers an audience 55 years later

by Matt Clark - COPY EDITOR
Tue, Apr 25th 2017 09:30 pm
Photos courtesy of brockport.edu
ESSAY DISCOVERED - Eleanor Coselman (top right) wrote a paper in 1962 containing maps, photos and a summarized history of her hometown, Royalton.
Photos courtesy of brockport.edu ESSAY DISCOVERED - Eleanor Coselman (top right) wrote a paper in 1962 containing maps, photos and a summarized history of her hometown, Royalton.

An essay written in 1962 by The College at Brockport graduate student Eleanor Coselman has been rediscovered. Coselman graduated as part of the class of '48  and wrote an essay for her Folklore of the Empire State class. The essay entitled "Reminiscing in Royalton" details the history and folklore of her native town of Royalton in Niagara County. 

This essay is about 70 pages and includes several maps and pictures of Royalton and its surroundings. 

Coselman organized her essay into three chapters entitled "History and Folklore of the Towns", "Two Early Settlers" and "My Home Locality". 

"History and Folklore of the Towns" details the founding of Royalton and its villages as well as its early laws. In an effort to control the wolf population, citizens were to be paid $5 for the skull and skin of every wolf they killed in the town.  

Royalton was founded on March 11, 1808, 154 years before Coselman wrote her essay. Coselman details the business and lives of several early residents of Royalton in her writing. She relayed the story of John Davison Senior and Junior, the great-grandfather and grandfather respectively of then current Royalton resident, Miss Bell Davison, who traveled to the United States by walking 1,800 miles on foot from Nova Scotia.   

"Two Early Settlers" recounts the stories of two specific Royalton residents, Asher Freeman and Severus Swift. Coselman's knowledge of Freeman came from his autobiography, which Coselman obtained from his descendants. 

Freeman was a wealthy landowner and cattle transporter whose influence led to several Royalton landmarks bearing the name Freeman. 

Coselman noted that she lived on one of the farms that used to be owned by Freeman and his family. Coselman also cited an old newspaper that described an accident Freeman was in. He was crossing the railroad tracks on his horse as his horse was struck by the train but Freeman was thrown to safety with no serious injuries.  

The second of the "Two Early Settlers" was Coselman's great-great grandfather Severus Swift. Severus Swift and his family suffered many hardships upon settling in Royalton including poor harvests, loss of livestock to wolves and starvation. Eventually, Swift and his family built several saw mills in an area of town that became known as Swift's Mills. 

The final chapter "My Home Locality" details the history of Coselman's neighborhood of Peet Street and Griswold Street. One house near Griswold street is rumored to have been associated with the Underground Railroad. Coselman also mentions a church that used to be near Griswold Street and this church would excommunicate its members if they saw fit, leading that person to be ostracized by the community, as almost everyone in the neighborhood belonged to that church.    

Coselman ends her essay by detailing her family's history in Royalton. She wrote about her great-aunt Eliza Coselman who was born blind and lived to the age of 99. She included a picture of Eliza that was originally published in the papers of a Buffalo newspaper.  

The essay was added to the Drake Library Digital Commons and is available to download and according to Brockport librarian Charlie Cowling, it has already been downloaded over 800 times.

@MGLCLARK11 

mclar12@brockport.edu