The Family and Home of Guy T. Lowrey
by Bea L. Eldridge
Guy Towser Lowrey was born in Wilawana, Pennsylvania, on June 12, 1831. His parents were of
Scotch and Welsh descent. Mr. Lowrey died September 2, 1914, in Portville. Melissa Meribee
Lowrey was born September 14, 1837, on the Deer Creek Road, Town of Genesee, to Lemuel and
Jane Mullin Wales. She died in Portville, July 27, 1923. When a young man, Guy came to Portville
where he met Melissa Wales. They were married March 7, 1858.
To this union were born eight children: Flora Adell who was married and a designer for three large
stores in Boston. Later she owned her own manufacturing business. Upon retiring, she came back to
the old house. Jane and Jared died when small of diphtheria. Vinnie Merribee was a private secretary
to the different Commissioners at Ellis Island, New York, for 28 years. Upon retiring, she too came
back to Portville.
Next in line came William Ulysses. He was so named because the day he was born, Guy had planned
to go to Olean to hear U. S. Grant deliver a campaign speech but Will’s arrival put an end to that. Bill
worked for 5 years as telegraph operator for the P. R. R., five years for the B. & O. and 50 years and
8 months for the Boston Maine Railroad as train dispatcher, out of the Boston Station, retiring at age
76. He and his wife also came back to Portville.
Lillian Edna remained in Portville. She married and at one time they owned a bakery. After the death
of her husband, she lived in Rochester, later in Cleveland, where she spent the rest of her life.
Harriet Wales went to Buffalo to work in the office of the Remington Typewriter Company. Later,
she married and lived in Buffalo the rest of her life. The last was Guy T., Jr., who died when a young
child of scarlet fever.
Mr. Lowrey was always interested in town affairs, having served as Justice of the Peace for 53
years. Many came to his office for advice. He was a carpenter by trade and built several houses in
the town. In the days of the saw mill, every spring and fall the town was visited by a large flood.
Guy made many boats for people to be used in these times of high water. Guy would ride in a boat
from the house to the barn to feed the live stock and milk the cow. He built the first iron bridge
across the Allegheny River at Steam Valley.
In those early days, Pennsylvania required a marriage license but New York state did not, so many
couples came over the line for Guy to marry them. They usually gave some small payment for the
job. Once the man asked what the damages were. Mr. Lowrey said: “Anything you want to give.”
The man said: “I have some beans at home and I will give you a pound.” But the Judge never got
Mrs. Lowrey was a home body. There was always a jar of sugar cookies on the pantry shelf. In the
summer every Sunday for dinner there was chicken and home made ice cream. Also, summer found
Melissa making butter to store for winter use. When the Pennsylvania Railroad was laid through
Portville, she boarded 25 of the workers. Sundays always found her in her pew in Church. Many a
quart of milk was sold for 5¢ or a dozen of eggs for 5¢ or a pound of butter for 8¢. Never a
neighbor, friend or stranger in need was turned down empty handed from the Lowrey’s door.
Early records show that the Lowreys once owned the land where the Portville Central School now
stands. From there, they located on Green Street (now Temple Street) in the house now owned by
Miss Jeanetta Herriman (#15). In 1871, they purchased the North Main Street property consisting of
about five acres. It ran from the Percival line to near the Lowrey drive, was fenced with a board
fence, thence back to a barn yard and across to the Percival line. This field was used for a cow
pasture. Back of this was a pine and chestnut grove. Many years later, blight hit the chestnut trees
and killed them.
That year, he built the wing of the house and they moved in. Later, he made plans on building the
upright. He went to the owners of the mill to buy the lumber. Seeing a pile which took his eye, he
asked Mr. Mersereau how much he wanted for it. Mr. Mersereau said $30.00, so Guy bought the
pile. This furnished the entire amount of rough lumber for the upright. Could you do that today?
When completed, the house had 15 rooms. Three were used for an apartment, renting at $5.00 per
month. You went from the kitchen into what was called the “milk room” with stairs leading down
cellar which extended under the entire house, also a door at the head of the stairs which went out on
the back porch. This went across the back of the house. There were eight doors in all going out of
doors. Three have been closed, one in the dormitory (extreme back end of the house); one leading
from the living room onto the front porch and one from the apartment bedroom onto the back porch.
The milk room has been made into a bathroom – the cellar stairs closed off. Near the back was the
water well with a pitcher pump, which furnished water for all family uses.
A porch ran across the front and along the side of the house to the kitchen door. Underneath this
porch was a lattice work all handcarved by Mr. Lowrey. He bought the paint locally but one year sent
to Chicago. He was given a prize of a set of dishes for buying the paint – as to the quality of the
paint, no wonder they offered a set. Mr. Lowrey was proud of the “house that Guy built” and he had
it painted every two years white.
Mr. Lowrey built a large barn at the side of the barnyard. Directly back of this was a hen coop and a
pig pen. From the grove to the far corner of the barn was an old fashioned apple orchard – (Northern
spies, maiden blush, greenings, russets, etc.) This extended to the Howe line. From the orchard to
close to the back of the house was the family garden where vegetables were grown in “beds.” In
front of the barn yard and to the side of the barn was the ice house. Each winter this was filled with
large cakes of ice from the Allegheny River and packed in sawdust for use in the summer. Next to
this was the “privy,” a five-holer, three for adults and two for kids. On the side towards the road
were lilac bushes to hide the view from the curious passersby.
On each side of the house and extending to the road were old fashioned rose bushes and flower beds.
Near the Wormer Medical Center is a beautiful maple tree. This was brought from Paris, Kentucky,
by Col. R. L. (Dick) Pooley, Retired, when a young man. The tree then was only a small one.
The drive was merely a dirt one. Later, a grandson had a cinder drive made. The front lawn on the
side towards town was the “Umbrella” tree which still stands (probably 100 years old), and an apple
tree and on the other side two apple trees. Melissa did not think apple trees belonged in the front yard
so she tried to kill them by pouring salt water around the roots – “no soap.” Then she bored a hole on
each and poured turpentine in each – “success.” The flowers on the side towards the Howe line were
converted into a hydrangea hedge. Years later, the Lowrey’s youngest daughter, Harriet, planted two
small pine trees near the hydrangea hedge – one at the front corner of the house and the other near the
back corner of the house. These grew to be very large trees.
The cow pasture next to the Percival line - a lot was sold to Mr. and Mrs. R. M. Marble, who in turn
sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Mark McIntyre. The rest of the field was owned by five or six different
parties and then Dr. D. C. Wormer bought it for his Medical Center. From this hedge to the Howe
line was later sold to Mr. and Mrs. Freeman Burroughs. The Lowrey home was later sold to Mr. and
Mrs. Vernon Norell.
So what? Time marches on.
and lend a hand.
The author of this piece, Bea Hatch Eldridge, was the granddaughter of Guy T. and Melissa Wales
Lowrey. For some reason, she did not identify the married names of their children. Bea’s parents
were Wilson and Lillian Lowrey Hatch, who died in 1907 and 1935, respectively. In Bea’s “A History
of the First Presbyterian Church of Portville (1849 – 1969),” she mentions her Aunt Harriet’s
wedding: “The first wedding to be celebrated in the new church took place on October 16, 1900.
This was the marriage of Miss Harriet Lowrey to William R. Pooley of Buffalo.”
|The Portville Historical and Preservation Society
|17 Maple Avenue
Portville, NY 14770
Portville, New York
A young Bea Hatch; we can just imagine her feeding her Grampa's cow.
"The House That Guy Built," (1871-2008) on Portville-Olean Rd; Note the old "Umbrella Tree"
The Lowrey property originally extended over to the Percival line (the big white house).