A memorable lunch on the White House lawn: This week in Mohawk Valley history

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1861, 162 years ago

A memorable lunch

I'd like to think that the conversation between President Abraham Lincoln and the White House chef went something like this

CHEF: "But, Mr. President, there are nearly a thousand men out there."

LINCOLN: "I can see that. Nevertheless, I want each of them to have two ham sandwiches and a quart of coffee. So, you and your staff had better get busy."

The soon-to-be-fed men are members of the 14th New York Volunteer Regiment of Infantry and most of them call Oneida County their home. (The regiment became known as the First Oneida.) After a long march from Baltimore, they are resting on the lawn of the White House, waiting for orders where they are to camp tonight. (It will be in a small wooded area on 14th Street in Washington.)

Many stores in downtown Utica in the early 20th century did not have restrooms, so the city built a “comfort station” on the north side of Elizabeth Street, between Genesee and Charlotte streets. Its underground restrooms for the public operated for about 40 years. By the 1940s, however, stores like the Boston Store and Woolworth’s had restrooms and the little-used comfort station fell into disrepair. The city closed it in 1973 and the building was torn down.

Before arriving in Washington, they had gotten a taste of what the two-month-old Civil War was all about. They had arrived by train in Baltimore and had learned that the day before, the 6th Massachusetts was marching through the city when they were ambushed by a large group of southern sympathizers. They threw bricks and stones and fired shots into the regiment. The men from Massachusetts returned the fire, killing 12 civilians and wounding dozens more. Four of the soldiers were killed and 17 wounded.

Now the 14th New York prepared to enter Baltimore and march along the same route the 6th Massachusetts had taken the day before. Colonel James McQuade of Utica, the commander of the 14th (and a future mayor of Utica), was determined not to be taken by surprise. If southern sympathizers attacked, the 14th would be ready to fight back. As the men began to march, McQuade barked the order, "Fix bayonets!" Fortunately, there was no trouble and the 14th was able to head for Washington without incident.

Now they are resting on the White House lawn, enjoying a lunch courtesy of the president. And they are being watched, for on the White House veranda is President Lincoln, in full view and no doubt enjoying what he is seeing.

More: Why Captain James McQuade was tasked with grocery shopping in 1861: Mohawk Valley history

1923, 100 years ago

Sherman statue

George Brewster is selected to design a statue of the late James Schoolcraft Sherman of Utica, elected 27th vice president of the United States in 1908. He served with President William Howard Taft from 1909 to 1912. The statue, to be built by the Gorham Company of New York City, will be on the Parkway, facing Genesee Street, opposite the statue of Major General Friedrich Wilheim Baron von Steuben. Uticans are paying for the statue with their donations to the Sherman Memorial Committee.

1948, 75 years ago

Air hero

Captain Henry Ogiba, of Whitesboro Street in Utica, is one of four P-80 jet fighter pilots who completes the longest over-water flight by planes of that type. He flies 821 miles from Andrews Field in Maryland to Bermuda in one hour and 50 minutes. Ogiba, a graduate of Utica Free Academy, flew 73 combat missions in World War II and earned the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with five oak leaf clusters.

More: Why a local man was court-martialed for saving Lafayette's life: Mohawk Valley history

1973, 50 years ago

Mayoral election

In Utica, city Treasurer Louis Barile emerges as a possible Democratic Party candidate to challenge Republican Mayor Michael Caruso in the November elections. Other Democrats who say they are interested are Councilman Frank V. Andrello, Oneida County Probation Officer Frank Scalise, accountant Alfred Fraccola, former City Comptroller Sebastian Convertino and Councilman Louis LaPolla.

1998, 25 years ago

College dorm

Utica College (today Utica University) will build a $5 million residence hall on its Burrstone Road campus. College President Thomas Brown says the new dorm is needed because more students are seeking to live on campus. Currently, about 700 do. The three-story building will be located between South Hall and the Strebel Center, facing Champlin Avenue.

Richard Goff is elected commander of the New Hartford American Legion. Other officers include: Fred Williams and Luke Raiano, vice commanders; John Jadlowski, finance officer; Jerry Schillo, chaplain; Daniel Alamond, historian; Bill Tenbrink, sergeant-at-arms; Al Smithling, service officer, and Clark Briggs, adjutant. Post auxiliary officers include: Helen Raiano, president; Helen Harrington and Vera Siringo, vice presidents; Janet Proctor, treasurer; Joyce Goggin, secretary; Roberta Anderson, chaplain; Mabel Kimball, historian, and Marge Smoulcey, sergeant-at-arms.

The Oneida County Board of Legislators appoints five members to its Ethics Board: Robert G. Simmen of Whitesboro, Frank Gruenewald of Marcy, Betty Holmes of Verona Beach, John P. Sullivan of Whitesbioro and Edwin J. Baranowski of Utica.

The All-Mohawk Valley High School Baseball team consists of: from Whitesboro, Todd Birdsall, Brent Wengert and Zach Kittleman; from Thomas R. Proctor, Pat Murphy and Joe Guidera; from Rome Free Academy, Eddie Harper and Mike Rushford; and Chris Morse of Oriskany, Geoff Loiacona of Herkimer, Adam Fay of New York Mills, Corey Blair of Oneida, Doug Johnson of Camden, Ryan Finn of Clinton, Dave Palmer of Sauquoit Valley, Rich Bowman of Ilion and Seth Crossett of West Canada Valley. Coach of the year is Tom Stevens of Camden and player of the year is Steve Baker of Rome Free Academy.

2013, 10 years ago

Dairy princess

Megan Goldstein, of Sauquoit, is named Oneida County dairy princess. Senior dairy ambassadors are Emily Goldstein, of Sauquoit, and Kenna Williams, of Waterville.

In American Legion baseball, Clonan Wicks-Staley defeats Utica Post, 8-5. Clonan is led by the hitting of Tommy Jalowiec and Josh Holtham, the pitching of Chris Hillman and the hitting and pitching of Robbie Slivinski. Connor Roth gets two hits for Utica.

Becky Nugent is named principal of Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Utica. She has been serving as assistant principal at James H. Donovan Middle School. Meanwhile, Michael Spost is named principal of New York Mills Junior-Senior High, replacing Gary Hadfield who is retiring.

Trivia quiz

George Washington is the only president who never slept in the White House. He died before the capital was moved from Philadelphia to Washington. But the name he preferred for the home and office of the president was not the White House but (a) the Peoples' Palace, (b) the President's House, (c) the Peoples' Mansion or (d) the Executive Mansion. (Answer will appear here next week.)

Answer to last week's question: When Vice President Calvin Coolidge learned that President Warren G. Harding had died (on August 2, 1923), Coolidge was visiting his family home in Plymouth, Vermont. His father, John Coolidge, was a justice of the peace so at 2:47 in the morning, he administered the presidential oath of office to his son, Calvin, who became 30th president of the United States.

This Week in History is researched and written by Frank Tomaino. E-mail him at ftomaino221@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Mohawk Valley history: A memorable lunch on the White House lawn