Buckley Road: Life in the 1920s and '30s


Town of Salina, Onondaga County, just north of Syracuse, New York, USA

Updated: February 1, 2017

Saturday, October 17, 1998, Sally Sessler, Howard Easter, and Bob Ranger spent the afternoon at Buckley Road viewing points of family historical interest. After lunch at Denny's, Howard treated us to many stories and details about life in the early part of the century as occurred at the Easter, Schiesser, Ranger, Avery, Bendict, Concolino, Dudley, Hafner, Dixon, Emmi, Ford, Lowe, Mara, Melvin, Reck, Schmid, Smith, Van Alstyne, Vickery, Wagner, White, and other farms in the Buckley Road area.





To begin this account, we must go back in time to the mid to late 1860s, when Basil David Ranger Sr. (b1835 in Les Cedres, nr. Montréal, Québec) migrated to the States and worked on farms in Redwood, N.Y. and Wellesley Island, N.Y. He is thought to have met his wife, Margarit "Maggie" Pilon (Pelow) in Clayton, New York. After several years farming in New York state, David and Maggie settled in Elisabethtown, Leeds County (Brockville), Ontario, Canada. Four of David Sr.'s sons, John, Louis, Frank, and David Jr., migrated to Syracuse, and they ended up owning some of the finest produce growing land in the area.

The migration from Brockville to Syracuse was part of a general migration from Canada to New York State and New England. A whole community of Brockville natives set up farms and businesses, and made homes in the Syracuse area. A major difference between Canadians who settled in New York State and those of New England is that the French language didn't survive in New York at all, the way it did (and still does) in New England. Howard can remember that the whole Ranger family, including Old John, were completely Americanized in speech and mannerisms. Of the family, the only French speaker Howard knew was Archie Larocque, and I suspect Archie picked up his French when he played semi-pro hockey.





John David Ranger and his wife, Catherine Deruchie, raised their family in Syracuse for the most part. As a young family (when "Old" John was young), they lived in Brockville, and moved to Syracuse in around 1918. It's difficult to pinpoint just when John and his family came to Syracuse. John shows up in the Syracuse city directory for the first time in 1910, but his daughter, Edna, was in a Brockville school photograph in 1915. It could be that John and some of the older members of the household arrived in Syracuse first, while some of the younger family members finished school in Brockville. And there is also speculation that he and his family lived in northern New York state for a time, and that some of the later children were born in New York state. John was a landscape gardener and he helped construct the grounds of one or more of the many hotels on the St. Lawrence River. He also worked on the grounds development at Syracuse University.

When their children were grown, John and Catherine, unfortunately, went their separate ways. Catherine owned a restaurant [Dad said she owned it, Howard's version is--she didn't own, but managed it]. John moved into the Ranger homestead on Buckley Road and worked at the greenhouse. He died in 1956 at the age of 94 after spending his last days at the Cardinal nursing home in Theresa, N.Y. From this, we speculate that Rangers still had contacts in northern New York as late as the 1950s.





That my grandparents ran a farm on Buckley Road was something of a surprise to me. Charles Antoine Ranger Sr. and Florence Rita Larocque, his wife, held land from Buckley Road all the way to Beartrap Creek -- over one hundred acres of land, a large farm for that area. But only a small portion, the land situated near Buckley Road, was arable. A quarter-mile back it's all swamp and brush. Charles used to till the land with his horse, Smokey. Howard Easter talked about how my grandfather would let him and his brother, Bob, ride Smokey on occasion. Our dad, Charles Jr., often reminisced about life on Buckley Road as he drove past the various houses and buildings, although without mention of the farm itself.

Charles' farming career was to be short-lived. After a series of unfortunate events, Charles Sr. and Florence separated and as a result, the young family would soon unravel. Our grandmother Florence moved into Syracuse and Grandpa Ranger returned to Brockville. My dad's younger brother, James Edmund (Ed) lived with some neighbors (Avery's) for a time, and Dad moved himself into a milk shed on an adjacent farm (Wagner's). They say that Dad painted and cleaned up the place, and he acquired a piano. According to Howard, from that shed he could often be heard playing the piano late into the night.

The farm is near the present site of a commercial office park, Salina Meadows - on the right as you travel north on Buckley Road, across from present day Volney Drive. It appears that Salina Meadows is planning to use the land for future development.

Curiosity got the best of me -- I drove back in on the property as far as I could, and then walked, or should I say shlogged, around. It appeared that nobody was going to hastle me for trespassing, so I looked around on the property that was formerly my grandparents'. As hard as I tried, I couldn't get a true feel for the past. Jet airliners from nearby Hancock International were taking off and landing. And although not visible because of the tall brush, the roar of the traffic on Interstate 81 was easily heard, so it must have been very close by.

Looking for artifacts -- a foundation . . anything at all -- proved futile. The land has been altered beyond recognition by ongoing construction projects. For instance, tons of sand were poured into the marsh, presumably to give bulk to the land, to make way for yet another commercial building. Items of interest are surely buried deep beneath the soil by now -- not by Grandpa Ranger and Smokey's plow, but by Salina Meadows' excavators and trucks.




One half-mile north of Charles and Florence's farm on Buckley Road stood the farm and greenhouse operated by Dave Ranger. He was a resourceful businessman and a clever negotiator. Dave (Basil David Ranger Jr.) and his wife, Lillian Merrill, ran the farm and developed the greenhouse business (produce and flowers) over the years. Dave's brother, Louis, was a partner and he also might have been married to a Merrill girl. No one in the family can remember whether there were any children born to Dave and Lil, or Louis. They may have had children, but nobody, including my mother, can remember any offspring.






After many years of operating a successful farm and greenhouse business, Dave Ranger, in the mid or late 1950s, sold the land to the New York State Thruway Authority and to Holiday Inns at a handsome profit. We never heard much about Dave, Aunt Lil, and Louie after that, but they are known to have retired to Florida. Coincidentally, both of Syracuse's Interstate highways, I-81 and I-90, run across former Ranger farm land.

Today, the Ranger farm and greenhouse acreage is occupied by a portion of the New York State Thruway (I-90) and by Club Hotel by Double Tree, part of the Holiday Inn Corporation. If you go north on Buckley Road, it is on the left just over the Thruway bridge, about a quarter-mile north of Seventh North Street. In the present day (1999) photo collage at upper left, the picture on the lower right might give a hint of how it was in those early days to look north on Buckley Road from the front of the farm.


Antoine Wendling was the husband of great great aunt Christine Ranger, daughter of Basil David Ranger Sr. and Marguerite Pilon. We know that Antoine ran a hotel on King Street in Brockville and after that, ran a large hotel (it's not really clear whether the place was a hotel, or Antoine's residence) on the St. Lawrence River, about three miles (southwest toward the Thousand Islands Bridge) from Brockville, called High View. Antoine was a good friend to the Buckley Road contingency. He did seem to have a lot of money -- more than you would expect even of a successful hotel keeper on the St. Lawrence during prohibition.

Family members, including my grandmother, would go to High View often. Antoine apparently let them stay free or else he didn't charge them much -- the whole family visited more often than would have been possible otherwise. Larocques, Easters, Schiessers, Rangers, all seemed to have free rein at the place. It is said that old Antoine was a genial host and was kind to the many children and cousins who visited -- although at times he was probably happy to see them leave as well.

The legend. According to my dad, Antoine Wendling was a patent-medicine magnate and successful manufacturer of pills, and he was possibly involved in some other business as well. He made a fortune and he intended to leave his family a good inheritance. My father and grandfather were to be beneficiaries and, in fact, both their middle names were Antoine in homage to wealthy Uncle Antoine.

Well, it seems that old Antoine, now a widower in his eighties, met a beautiful woman who "made him young again." Yes, she made him happy and he would even do a little dance on his yacht to show how young she made him feel. As you might imagine, the beautiful young lady ended up with the Wendling fortune.

The story my dad told of Antoine Wendling is corroborated by Howard Easter except on one point -- Howard never heard that Antoine was a pill manufacturer. It could be that Dad remembered that pills were dispensed at the hotel. In Brockville, there actually was a famous pill manufacturer, George T. Fulford, who manufactured "Pink Pills for Pale People," sold by the billions world-wide.





Other Buckley Road People and Places -- and One Very Noisy Animal

For many years I believed that the greenhouse at the Schmid farm, pictured at left was the site of the last Ranger greenhouse on Buckley Road -- Ranger & Lovine Florists. It was directly across from Dixon's barn, the front of which came almost to the pavement of Buckley Road. Due to lack of corroboration, I now suspect this was not the site, but I'm still open to the possibility. The barn and greenhouse in the photo comprise one of the few scenes that is clearly recognizable as the buildings and terrain of seventy or more years ago.

This account would be incomplete without a mention of the Ranger parrot, "Salty." The parrot was around for many years and lived in the D&L Ranger greenhouse. Salty managed to learn a few curses over the years and was particularly vocal when the phone rang. Whenever a dignified customer came in to purchase some flowers, Aunt Lil and the staff would fervently hope that the phone wouldn't ring and jar Salty out of his quietude. They tried moving the bird farther away from the phone, but it was never far enough. The listener on the other end could always count on hearing a few choice cusses delivered by Salty.

Dave's wife, Aunt Lil (Lillian Merrill), had a relative (possibly her father or uncle) called "Vet" Merrill. Howard Easter remembers that Vet would show up dressed in a fine suit of clothes, and would pull out an expensive pocket watch and "time" the various operations. He may have been an early time-study expert.

Another Brockville Ranger, Damase Ranger, was a son of Antoine Ranger, and a brother of Dave. Sr., making him a first cousin of Dave Jr. and Old John. I submit that Damase's descendants also ran a farm at Buckley Road. There was a Tom Ranger farm at Buckley Road that, according to my dad, was run by a cousin to Dave, Louie, and John.

It's fun to speculate, but we'll probably never know the answer to some of these questions. But I hope this information might be entertaining and valuable to future researchers.





Buckley Road Ranger Research Team

 
 

Howard Easter was the son of Howard Easter Sr. and Mary Kathleen Ranger (photo at right c1946), and grandson of John David Ranger. Howard and his family moved from Brockville, Ontario to Syracuse in 1921. Howard remembered the move; he must have been about five or six at the time. He was born in about 1915 in Brockville and my dad, Charles A. Ranger Jr., was born in 1917 in Syracuse. It's interesting to compare Howard's version with my dad's version of some of the family stories. Howard passed away in 2008.

Pictured at left is the present day shell of the Easter homestead. This house, originally at the corner of Seventh North St. and Buckley Road, was moved about one-eighth of a mile south to its present location. It now occupies land directly across from Ray Street, on the right as you go north, just before Seventh North Street. Children raised in this house by Howard Easter Sr. and his wife, Mary Kathleen Ranger, include: Howard Easter, Robert Easter, Glenn Easter, Patricia Easter Senecal, and Barbara Easter Mulroy.

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Sally Sessler is the daughter of Roy Schiesser and Edna May Ranger (photo above c1925), and granddaughter of John David Ranger. Pictured above left was the Schiesser family residence on Seventh North Street about three-fourths of a mile west of Buckley Road -- on the right as you travel west. The building pictured at right (in this picture it looks like a residence but it is a commercial office building) now sits on the foundation of the former Schiesser home. The Schiessers included Roy, his wife Edna May Ranger, their son Robert Roy Schiesser, and two daughters, Sally Schiesser Sessler, and Betty Jo Schiesser.
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This account is compiled by Bob Ranger, son of Charles Ranger Jr. and Olive Brennan, grandson of Charles Antoine Ranger Sr.; great grandson of John David Ranger; and great great grandson of Basil David Ranger Sr. Also, many thanks go to Larry Coderre, Ranger Family Historian, for his unrelenting search of the archives in Ottawa and for discovering the ancestry of the Ranger family of Syracuse, New York.

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