Saturday, July 15, 2017

NETTIE BULLIS

Pages 15-18, Susan Crowley's Document: Bullis House: Home of a Notable Family



     "Among the graduates in the 1911 class of Macedon High School was Nettie Aurelia Bullis, daughter of Abraham R. Bullis. Her valedictory was entitled, "Life Like Every Other Blessing Derives Its Value from Its Use."  Nettie Bullis lived by the message she delivered at her commencement.

     "Nettie enrolled and attended Cornell University but never completed her degree, a fact she often alluded to with regret. After a relatively short stay, whether from homesickness or some other reason, she returned home to Macedon. A well-disciplined woman, talented and ambitious, Nettie found work as a bookkeeper at the Gleason Works in Rochester. She held that position for about ten years and was seriously contemplating a change to work for the Buffalo, Rochester, and Pittsburgh Railroad Company headquartered in Rochester until advancement within the Gleason Works presented itself and she decided to remain there. She continued her diligent climb up the corporate ladder and became the first woman treasurer of the Gleason Works.

     "Miss Bullis was described as tall and willowy, with beautiful dark eyes and brown hair. She was stately and ladylike, always wearing a hat and gloves. Nettie was quiet but friendly in her business setting, enjoying the friendship of the other employees but holding them at arm's length when they shyly suggested visiting her at her home in Macedon. Perhaps the rundown appearance of the cobblestone house and Charles' growing reclusive lifestyle made Nettie reluctant to extend any hospitality. This and her own ambition kept her quite aloof but ready to help any employee who needed her. A former Gleason Works employee remembered the many kindnesses and good advice Miss Bullis Extended to the young and inexperienced. She was never too busy to lend a helping hand and was more than willing to share her expertise with the uninitiated.

       "Until after World War II, Nettie Bullis commuted to her work in Rochester with another Gleason employee from Macedon. One commuter remembers Nettie Bullis as she appeared early each morning; in summer picking her way through Charlie's waves of flowers, and lighting her way with a flashlight through the unbroken snow in winter. Her hat and gloves were in place and the ever-present briefcase held smartly in her hand. Her style of dress was plain and businesslike with few changes over the years. On the evening drive home, a short stop would be made at the grocery store so that Nettie could buy her simple supper, usually two slices of bologna, sometimes bread, and always a pint bottle of milk.

     "The pressures of her responsible position at Gleason Works did not hamper Nettie Bullis' love of reading and the stock market. Through careful planning, saving, and wise investments she became a wealthy woman, spending little of what she accumulated. After World War II and the death of her mother in 1954 Nettie spent more of her time in Rochester, living in the modest but pleasant apartment she kept on Park Avenue. The cobblestone house became increasingly run down during this period and brother Charles less approachable about the repair and upkeep of the house. Nettie knew that she and her bother were aging and that upon their deaths, the Bullis House would have run out of Bullis' to live in it. The valuable library which filled three rooms of the house was of special concern to Nettie and she wanted it to be preserved, perhaps with the notion that others would get to know the Bullis family through their choice of books.

     "When Charles Rogers Bullis died in 1974, Nettie tried to make intelligent decisions about her family home and the fortune she had amassed. After consulting with her attorney, she decided to leave the Bullis House and acreage to the Town of Macedon. The books would be housed in a special room in Macedon Library, which she paid to have built and endowed. A park would be established  on land north of the Bullis House and she hoped the town would use the house for town offices.

     "Miss Bullis designated a substantial amount of money for the education of Macedon students. The most generous is a fund which enables each graduate of Palmyra-Macedon High School who proves himself capable of earning at least a C average after one semester of college, the opportunity to receive a Bullis Scholarship. This amounts to about two hundred dollars per student and is renewable each year for four years. Other educational endowments include the Chair in Mathematics at Cornell University in honor of her father, a scholarship at RIT for engineering students, and a medical school grant to honor her grandfather. All of these scholarships are given after a student has shown aptitude and achievement.

     "The Bullis Trust Fund is another example of Nettie Bullis' generosity. This fund, which is guided by a Macedon committee of King's Daughters, is provided to help individuals cope with unforeseen financial emergencies. Children and the elderly have been the  most frequent recipients of the Bullis Trust Fund.
     
     "In the late 1970's Nettie Bullis' health began to fail. She knew she did not have the strength or time to restore the cobblestone house in her lifetime. Sensing that the time was near when no Bullis would live in the house, she designated money to be used for its restoration. As her health continued to deteriorate it was obvious that she and her nurses could not remain in the house with such primitive facilities. By special permission from the Town of Macedon, a modern mobile home was brought in and parked on the north lawn of the house. It was placed so that Nettie could look out at the beloved Bullis House until she, the last Macedon Bullis, died on October 1, 1979."

Thursday, July 6, 2017

CHARLES R. BULLIS

Pages 10 -14, Susan Crowley's Document: Bullis House: Home of a Notable Family




Charles R. Bullis

     "The tall, lean man wearing a long overcoat and tall rubber boots was a familiar sight as he made his daily trek from Canandaigua Road to the village of Macedon. Charlie Bulls was considered eccentric but pleasant by his friends and acquaintances. They regarded him as another of the talented Bullis'.

     "Charles Rogers Bullis was born in the cobblestone house in 1891 and lived there all of his life except for the time he served in World War I.  Following graduation from Macedon High School, he taught at District #2 school in the Town of Walworth. In 1913, Charles made application to Cornell University, passing the entrance examination, but never attending the university.

     "Mr. Bullis became a renowned botanist by extensive self study, reading, and experimentation. His expertise was respected and his advice sought by other botanists throughout North America. His urge to share knowledge with others is evident in the contributions Charles R. Bullis made to horticulture bulletins and journals. One of these papers is respectfully referred to by a Canadian forest-tree geneticist in material gathered around the Bullis House and its prolific flowers.

    "Frugality is the adjective often used and thought of in regard to Charlie Bulls. A man of simple tastes, he favored peanut butter and brown sugar sandwiches. His habit of making the rounds of Rochester bakeries for stale breads and pastries was well known. These items, soaked in warm water, were made good as new. Dry cereal was another favorite food and the empty boxes were recycled into filing boxes for business purposes. Charles Rogers Bullis inherited the New England thriftiness of his ancestors. He lived by the old Yankee adage, 'Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.' Thrift was a source of pride to Charlie, who once remarked innocently to friends that one year he was able to live on only forty-five dollars.

     "It may have been the heavy financial losses Mr. Bullis suffered in the 1929 Crash that further increased his closeness. He shared the information that he was all but wiped out financially in 1929, but what he was able to salvage, he put right back to work in the stock market. He enjoyed the wheeling and dealing of the market activity, watching with interest as his fortunes turned back to the plus side.  The study and gambling seemed more important to Charlie than the actual dollar value. Money rarely left Charlie's pocketbook if he could barter with something else. On an occasion when he was presenting one of his horticultural papers, he needed the services of a typist and found one among his neighbors. When the paper was typed and sent off to the journal, Mr. Bullis paid for the clerical work with some of his prized tulip bulbs. He was known to share the bounty of his flowers with those who admiringly requested a bouquet. Charlie Bullis charged ten cents for a handful of glorious blooms.

     "As the years progressed, Charles Bullis became more solitary minded. His father, Abraham Rogers Bullis died in 1928, his sister was employed in Rochester, and his mother spent more and more of her time at the home of her semi-invalid sister. The Bullis house began to show signs of loneliness and neglect. Improvements were not ongoing. Vines and trees began to shroud the elegant lines of the cobblestone house until finally it became almost impossible to determine whether or not the house was occupied. This appearance must have appealed to the murderer who dumped a body in Charlie Bullis' woodpile one cold January night. The body remained under the snow for about two weeks until Charlie, going out to rearrange his woodpile, discovered the frozen man. His shaken phone call to the chief of police was probably as emotionally excited as anyone ever knew him to be.

    " Charles Bullis enjoyed the companionship of an old and cherished schoolmate and was always welcomed when he visited the home of Judge and Beth Rodenberger Loomis. Beth had attended school with Charlie and was one of the few remaining members of old Macedon society. Dr. Rodenberger, Beth's father, owned the lovely Main Street mansion which is now known as the Bickford House. The gardens which surrounded the house were especially lovely and the flowers and shrubs in them knew the gentle, knowing hand of Charles Bullis, He visited and dined with the Loomis' three or four times a week and Beth always sent him home with plenty of leftovers.

     "Procrastination was a characteristic of Charles Bullis' personality. It seemed that he had many great starts but difficulty seeing them through to completion. Examples of this included teaching school briefly and not attending Cornell University. The car anecdote is yet another instance of this trait. Charlie decided in the late 1940's that he should learn to drive. Putting the cart before the horse, he purchased a car from a local dealer and had it delivered to his home, where it was left parked under an apple tree. Charlie never got around to learning to drive and so the car remained under the apple tree until it was junked many years later. The same kind of procrastination seemed to present itself when Charlie thought it best to protect himself, his books, and flower bulbs against the possibility of nuclear war by building a bomb shelter.  The hole was dug and cement poured, but no stairs were ever completed. It remains today the way he left it, unfinished.

    "The sporadic presence of his sister, Nettie, in the home did little to change the style of living that Charlie Bullis had established for himself. One light was illumination enough. To sit over a heat register, with a large cardboard box cut out to allow him to sit within the box, thereby conserving heat, was comfortable enough. Water could come out of a pump as readily as a faucet. The only extravagance Charlie Bullis could ever be accused of indulging in was producing the beautiful, showy flowers which brought pleasure to everyone who saw them.

     "Charles Rogers Bullis remained in the Bullis House until his death in 1974. The legacy of his flowers is more of a monument to him than his cemetery headstone."

Monday, June 26, 2017

ABRAHAM R. BULLIS, III



Pages 6 & 7, Susan Crowley's document:
Abraham R. Bullis, III

     "Old Abe" Bullis is part legend and part reality in the history of Macedon. A boy of unusual academic talent, he alternately amazed and amused the rural community with his brilliance and wit. One day the principal and math instructor had filled the blackboard with a long problem in arithmetic. Suddenly from the back seat, Abraham (probably out of boredom) threw an apple, slightly rotten, right into the center of the problem. Abraham, considered a mathematical genius, became a licensed surveyor and contributed many articles to various technical and mathematical publications throughout the United States.

     Education was important to the early families of Macedon. Dr. Cyrus Jennings, a prominent Macedon physician, admired the photogenic memory Abe Bulls. The two would entertain themselves by testing Abe's memory on many evenings, thoroughly enjoying the activity. When Dr. Jennings' young son, Charles, was puzzled by a particularly difficult math problem, Abe was delighted to help him out. The University of Rochester professor Charles turned these problems in to would always ask the same question, "Did Abe Bullis teach you to do it this way?" His mathematical prowess was well known and recognized.

     Abraham R. Bullis, III was also a talented engineer. The bridge tale is one which was circulated and repeated for many years by proud Macedonians. It seems that a bridge was being built over the canal and some unseen problem prevented its successful completion. The baffled engineers were about to give up when someone suggested that Abe Bullis be asked to take a look at the bridge. Abe looked and studied the construction briefly and then pointed to the place where the problem existed. The workers were able to correct the error and the bridge was completed without further delay.

     Abraham R. Bullis, III and his wife, Josephine Breese lived in the Bullis House with their two children, Charles and Nettie. These children became the next and last Bullis' to occupy their great-grandfather's house.

Friday, June 9, 2017

ABRAHAM R. BULLIS, M.D.


Pages 6 & 7, Susan Crowley's document:

"Perhaps because of declining health, Charles Bullis deeded the farm to his physician son, Abraham, in 1863. Dr. Bullis graduated from the Geneva Medical School, which soon afterward became noted for graduating America's first woman physician, Dr. Elizabeth Blackwell. Abraham Bullis was touched by the fame of an even  more aggressive feminist. His cousin was women's suffrage leader, Susan B. Anthony. In later years his own granddaughter would become a leader in the corporate world. Dr. Abraham Bullis married Lydia Lapham, a member of one of Macedon's founding families. The oldest of their seven children, John Lapham Bullis, became renowned as a military man, fighting in the Civil War, and going on to become a legendary Indian fighter.

     John Lapham Bullis, son of A.R. and Lydia Bullis, was born in New York state on
     April 17, 1841 and was educated at Macedon Center and Lima, New York. On
     August 8, 1862 he enlisted in the 126th New York Volunteer Infantry; in 1864 he
     was captain of the 118th Infantry. He served on the Texas border during 1865 and 
     1866 and entered the regular army in 1867. The greater part of his military career
     was spent in Indian warfare in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. He gained national
     recognition for his work with the Seminole scouts along the Rio Grande, and the 
     Texas Legislature adopted a resolution thanking him for his service against the
     Indians and other enemies of the frontier .. President Theodore Roosevelt approved his
     appointment as brigadier general on April 13, 1905 ... He lived in San Antonio from his
     retirement until his death on May 26, 1911. Camp Bullis was named in his honor.

Dr. Bullis was a popular and dedicated physician adding the teaching of anatomy at the academically fine Macedon Academy to his list of accomplishments. Charles H. Bullis and his son Dr. Abraham Bullis both died in 1866, within a month of each other. The cobblestone house was bequeathed to Abraham's son, Abraham R. Bullis, III."

Thursday, June 1, 2017

THE BULLIS HOUSE

Volunteers continue to review Bullis Room documents and process them according to subject. This task is proving to be more time consuming than originally planned. One reason for the additional processing time is the temptation to pause in the process, in order to read through these fascinating old papers.

Recently, a  documents titled "Bullis House: Home of a Notable Family"  caused this volunteer to put aside the sorting task to read Susan E. Crowley account oft the original Bullis home on Canandaigua Road in Macedon.  Here is the beginning of the story of a house that was (and still is) a true home.


Photo courtesy of Marshall Handfield

Page 1:
"Bullis House: Home of a Notable Family

     For more than four decades, from the 1940's until the 1980's, people glanced briefly or not at all at the old cobblestone house on Canandaigua Road in Macedon, its simple yet elegant lines all but hidden from view by the towering trees and tangled vines surrounding it. Only in spring and summer did those who passed hesitate to better observe the tulips, daffodils, and masses of oriental poppies which flooded the yard. There always seemed to be a widespread peace over the house and fields, a quiet testimony, as it were, to the pioneer farmer, physician, mathematical genius, botanist, and corporate leader who were among the inhabitants of the Bullis House throughout a time period of 144 years."



Page 2 & 3:
"Charles H. Bullis

     In 1837, a depression threatened the economy of Vermont and the migration of farmers in search of more fertile fields was facilitated by the Champlain and Erie Canals which provided easy transportation to the West. Charles Bullis and his family were among the pioneers who made the decision to "go West", doing so in 1838. Leaving their farm in Manchester, Vermont, they supposedly started for Ohio, interrupting their trip to visit Charles' sister in Macedon. The rolling hills and fertile land of western Wayne County apparently appealed to the Vermont farmer for he abandoned plans to go further west when he purchased a fifty-nine acre farm adjacent to the Erie Canal from Charles and Lydia Smith for $2,631.64.

     In addition to the rich fields, Charles Bullis' farm was ideally located approximately one half mile from the Erie Canal and one half mile from the Main east-west road.

     The immediate housing need for the Bullis family was solved by moving a wooden structure, most likely a shanty type building, to the site where the house was to be built. The west wall of the cobblestone house shows evidence that the wooden rear section of the house was built first and the family lived there while the stone portion was being constructed. Charles' wife Ellen and his three children Abraham, Emma, and Kelcy were kept busy gathering stones into piles for the masons. Some of those piles of stones and also bricks are still in evidence on the property and many of them were used in the 1983 restoration process."

Page 4 & 5:
"The Construction

     It took three years to construct the Bullis House, started in 1839. The architectural plan was much the same as the wooden rural homes of Vermont. It is supposed that Charles Bullis was satisfied with the type of house he had left behind and was pleased to reproduce it, this time in stone for his family.

    The two story cobblestone house is federal style, constructed of irregular, rough and moderate sized (2" to 4" diameter) cobblestones. The pattern of the horizontal mortar is v-shaped with pyramids cut off at the bottom in the raised vertical mortar.

     A unique feature of the Bullis House is the brick which was used to make the quoins, the lintel over the front door, and the trim around the windows. Masons most often used stone quoins at the corners of the buildings. Later, brick and wood pilaster were introduced as quoin materials. The unusual color of the bricks used on the Bullis House is puzzling. The particular pink shade is not found in any other building in the area. It has been suggested that the bricks may have been made on site which would help explain the generous piles left on the property.

     The cobblestone portion of the Bullis House consisted of four large rooms and four smaller rooms, while the wooden addition had four rooms. A fireplace in the dining room and one in the bedroom directly above were a simple style again reminiscent of the New England style hearths. The chimney on the north end of the house accommodated these fireplaces while the chimney on the south end of the house was purely ornament.

    All of the ornamentation found on the woodwork, mantels, and stairway was hand carved by the Bullis'. While the work was uncomplicated, it is a reminder of a time when personal pride had a part in the building of a home. The delicate fineness of the cherry wood stair railing and newels is particularly unique in its perfect and graceful lines. This style continues in the plain door surrounds and baseboards, combining to give a broad, sweeping cleanliness to the interior of the house.

     The house suggests that simplicity and economy were a part of the Bullis family's taste and lifestyle. Whether by necessity or choice this simplicity remains as a tribute to the original owners of the Bullis House."


Pages 1 through 5 of Susan Crowley's record of the Bullis House cover the early history. In the next several posts, the account covers Bullis family occupants of the house, down through the ages, and their influence on the family home.

Friday, May 26, 2017

"PAPA" JOHN LAPHAM BULLIS

This week, June Hamel's interesting and informative presentation on John Lapham Bullis gave attendees an overall look at Macedon's military hero --  as a son, brother, husband, and father.

Over the past nine years, we've posted information about his distinguished military career and his relationship with his parents and siblings. So today, we're sharing with you John Lapham Bullis's "husband and father side" with this photo of his second wife, Josephine Withers Bullis, holding their three daughters: Octavia, and twins Lydia, and Anita.





Josephine Withers (of San Antonio, Texas) and John Latham Bullis were married on September 8, 1891. Twins Lydia and Anita were born September 7 & 8, 1892; Octavia, on April 5, 1894. 

So far, volunteers have found very few documents relating to this family's private life; however, we think that "Papa" John Lapham Bullis must have been quite proud of his family (after all, he waited over 50 years to be a dad). So we think it's fair to surmise that he doted over them as much as he could, given his demanding life.  And, at the end of the day,  he must have looked forward to returning home from his assignments, knowing that his four girls were waiting to greet him.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

JOHN LAPHAM BULLIS

Please plan to join us at  2 PM on May 24th in the Bullis Room at Macedon Public Library  as June Hamell  presents a program on John Lapham Bullis.

As you probably know from our many blog posts on John Latham Bullis, he was a distinguished and much-decorated soldier in the Civil and  Spanish-American wars.  

So ... You are invited to June Hamell's presentation on May 24 for the "rest of the story" of this great man.