Tonawanda News

March 8, 2014

TUCKER: History buffs recall bridge

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — An update on last week’s column on National Fuel and a scheduled re-reading of my meter to adjust the bill that was six times normal.

NFG insisted the next available meter-reading would be March 11, due date of the bill. Lo and behold, a meter reader came early Monday morning followed by a call saying the reading was done and a follow up by a worker to check the meter. The latter, friendly and knowledgeable, said the meter was leaking gas, which he fixed and ordered a new meter for spring. That’s the kind of welcome service I expected first time around.


Bob Derner’s report on the railroad bridge garnered several responses, first from Bob himself.

My mistake,” Bob wrote, “the bridge was built by the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad Co. Permission was granted in 1886. Sorry about naming the wrong bridge builder.”

Jack Van Slyke called to say his grandfather, Jim Kelley, was killed on the bridge in 1919 when he fell between two railroad cars.

“They brought (his body) home in a lumber wagon and laid him on the couch. I was 14 at the time. There were eight kids in the family. He’s buried in the St. Francis Cemetery.”

Chet Tacka of Bethel Park, Pa., sent an email about the bridge.

“I could ‘see’ the bridge in your column, but I could not pinpoint the location. While trying to do that, I found  pictures and railroad links. The reference in a railroad link reminded me of all that is gone from Young Street: Star Theater, the old hardware store, so much has changed.”

Chet passed on the following links in case any of you would  like to read more — they’re fascinating. and recently posted: as well as

Have fun!


Father Peter Berg, formerly of Tonawanda and now pastor of two churches in the Adirondacks, sent a copy of a 2005 newsletter of the Historical Society of the Tonawandas which presented the history of St. Francis of Assisi parish and school.

“The school,” the article reads, “a three-story brick structure with a mansard roof was dedicated in 1884. It stood on the site where St. Francis Church stands today. ...  The 1856 frame school house on Adam Street was moved in 1889 to the foot of Morgan Street where it was converted into a dwelling.”

Today’s St. Francis School news includes the determination of the students to help a sister-school, St. Bernadette’s in Orchard Park, which the diocese will close at the end of the school year. St. Francis recently won the Channel 2 Andy Parker Weather Machine contest and the students are now working to make sure St. Bernadette’s wins the March contest. So they are enlisting parents, friends and anyone who’d like to join in the project to email the weather word of the day in favor of St. Bernadette’s. As of last count, the school has gone from 20th to ninth place. For each month the contest continues, the school will pick one of the schools on the “closing list” to help that school win the contest. “We want their kids to have something fun and something to look forward to, as well,” an eighth-grader emailed. Talk about paying it forward.

Another email from St. Francis notes that the school is almost at 100 percent re-registration. As a thank you, all families who have their completed registration packets into the office by March 21 will be entered into a drawing for a Kindle Paper white, donated by the Home School Association.

It seems St. Francis is not in favor with the diocese as proven by the listing on the diocese’s official school Facebook page (!/WNYCatholicSchools) listing that Catholic Academy of West Buffalo won second place in the Weather Machine contest, but did not even mention that St. Francis won the event. Kudos to Catholic Academy. However, what about St. Francis?


Marilyn Baxter, well known in the community for her dedicated work with the BPW (for 50 years) as well as the Erie-Niagara Sunrise Exchange Club, died this week. Marilyn was an active and committed member of these groups, serving as president of each and turned her energies to St. Matthew Lutheran Church. She loved to play golf and never gave up on the Bills. Outspoken, determined, funny and witty, she loved life and her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. A terrific person who will be missed.

Contact Community News Editor Barbara Tucker at or 693-1000 ext. 4110.