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Ottaway Park provides another history mystery

Buzzings from BeeLines

July 26, 2011
By Marybelle Beigh, Current Westfield Historian
On a hot and humid Monday morning, one day after this year’s Westfield Firemen’s Annual Ox Roast, a tall, rugged man walked into my historian office with a color photo of what appeared to be a white obelisk, or roadside mile-post marker. He asked me if I’d ever seen the item in the photo or if I had any information regarding its history.

As I studied the photo, the words “Jack’s Drive” became obvious, vertically etched into the road marker. The photo-provider stated that this marker is located in Ottaway Park on the first curve of the first roadway to the left, off the main entrance road into the park. He had taken the time and effort to clean up and paint the marker white, as he had some leftover paint from recent painting of the restrooms. Having asked several people if they knew anything about the marker or who this “Jack” might be. He mentioned a plaque on the wall of a building in the park that listed someone named Jack something-or-other, but the people to whom he’d posed his questions had indicated there was no connection. At the time he brought in the photo, I asked if it might refer to the “Jack” of Jack’s Barcelona Drive In, but he said that wasn’t likely either.

Leaving the photo with me, the man departed, and I began my research of another “history mystery” by taking the photo to the town and village officials and clerks. Again, no one had a clue as to whom this “Jack’s Drive” referred. I recalled that Billie Dibble had written a couple of Dibble’s Dabbles that had some history of Ottaway Park, and found two that provided at least a possible person whose name was Jack, and was associated with Ottaway Park.

Since both these Dibble’s Dabbles have be also republished, I will just quote pertinent information from each of them, and then propose my best guess as to the source of the name on the roadside marker. If any reader has documented or documentable information about this history mystery, please contact Marybelle Beigh, Westfield Historian, by one of the means listed at the end of this article. Thank you all for your continued updates and answers and items in response to this and previous BeeLines’ request.

One of Billie Dibble’s early articles was “Edge of Lake Erie, a favorite for many generations, first published July 8, 1981, and republished in June 2007. In this article, Dibble described the gas spring, in what was to become Ottaway Park that was used to provide natural gas for the Barcelona Light House, the first lighthouse in the world to be lighted by natural gas. Further on in this article, Dibble quotes from the June 17, 1931 issue of The Westfield Republican, “a bit of history written by Jack Allen who was at that time Westfield’s ‘Poor-Master’ and also the person appointed by the village to be ‘in charge’ of Ottaway Park.”

“Aha!” I thought. “Jack Allen just might be the person named on the roadside marker.” So I searched for another Dibble’s Dabbles in which Jack Allen and his long-time barbershop was described, hoping for further clues to the mystery marker. Sure enough, the September 23, 1982 article, “Mutt and Jeff tonsorial team” was located, which had been republished in September 2008. In this article Billie noted that Jack Allen ran his barbershop for over sixty years in “one of the most unique and antique places in Western New York,” at 42 East Main Street, this building still standing in 2011 as “Cora’s Beauty Shop.”

In addition to being one of Westfield’s best known and beloved barbers, Jack Allen was welfare officer, and ran a farm with his brother, “serving the village of Westfield in many ways and for many years.” According to Dibble, “In June of 1929 Jack Allen was appointed Chairman of Ottaway Park Development…Jack resigned from the park work in 1942.”

Given the above information and noting the details of his many years of benevolent and gracious service to Westfield, it is quite possible that the mystery marker of “Jack’s Drive” was the response of a grateful village to honor and remember Jack Allen to future generations.

What do you readers think or know about this Ottaway Park “history mystery?”

Marybelle Beigh is the current Public Historian for the Town and Village of Westfield. Her office is located at 3 East Main Street in Westfield, N.Y, 14787 — inside Parkview Ice Cream Parlor. Her scheduled office hours are Monday through Friday 9 to 11 a.m.; other hours by appointment.

Beigh can be reached at westfieldhistorian@fairpoint.net or by calling 326-2457 (office), 326-6171 (home) or 397-9254 (cell).

Article Photos

Submitted photo
A roadside marker located in Ottaway Park with “Jack’s Drive” carved in it is the source of another history mystery.

 
 
 

 

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