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Updated: Feb 19

Which story to tell about the Wakeley family of Levanna was a dilemma to this writer. Would it be Dr. Elizabeth Wanzer Wakeley (1831-1902), a Quaker and prominent physician who practiced medicine in the area for over 30 years during a time when men dominated this profession? Or would it be her husband, Dr. Charles C. Wakeley (1832-1916), the grandson of Abner Wakeley, a Baptist preacher and pioneer settler of the area?

Charles distinguished himself as a manufacturer, farmer, civil engineer, surveyor, architect and astrophysicist. In 1863 and according to the New York Times, Charles Wakeley and his associate, Lewis Rutherford, took the first photographs of the moon through a photographic telescope which they had developed. The telescope is now in the collection of Columbia University. But Charles' early roots in farming held fast. In 1874, two years before Heinz Catsup was first manufactured, Charles founded the Cayuga Lake Catsup Manufactory which the family continued to operate until 1904. In the early days, the catsup was shipped out in different sized bottles from the Cayuga Lake landing near their home. By 1880, the operation employed 15 workers from area families and produced 7,000 gallons of catsup. By 1896, bottles were abandoned in favor of large barrels which could be shipped out by the LVRR line which traversed the eastern shores of Cayuga Lake. By 1900, 60 tons of catsup were being processed in a season. So the next time you are in the grocery store, check out the many varieties and sizes of catsup offered and think - what if?

Last week's inauguration of Kamala Harris as the Vice President of the United States burst many barriers for the women of our country.

If we look back to 1952, another local woman, Mary McGhan Perkins, also burst several barriers in her own right. Mary and her husband, Walter, lived in the village of Cayuga with their children, Richard, Jean, Karen and Lynne. As the owner of Jenkins Laboratories in Auburn, Mr. Perkins was well known in many business and civic circles. In business since the 1920's, Jenkins Pharmaceuticals was a reputable and respected name in its industry never having been cited for misrepresentation of its products. The firm marketed or manufactured over 175 different pharmaceutical formulations with a full line of tablets, liquids, ointments, capsules and injectables.

Sadly, at the pinnacle of his business career, Mr. Perkins died at the young age of 48 leaving his family to cope and continue not only without his life but the business which he had managed as president since 1935. Undaunted by becoming a young widow with four children, Mary became the president of Jenkins Labs and continued in this role until the sale of the business in 1962. During her tenure, the business continued its many achievements developing a culture of team work and success.

This would not be the only first for Mary Perkins. In 1956, she was the first woman to be elected as a village trustee in Cayuga County garnering the most votes of all candidates. This was a remarkable accomplishment for the time, especially when you consider that she was the president of a major business, a single mother with four children and a respected actively contributing member of many civic and community organizations.

In this week of firsts, we pay tribute to Mary Perkins, another hidden hero no longer hidden!

Jenkins Pharmaceutical Liquid Sedajen
Perkins Home

Updated: Jan 21

During these unprecedented times, we are seeking ways to bring the Frontenac to you. Hidden Heroes will feature the stories of past and present residents of the areas which we serve: the towns of Aurelius, Fleming, Ledyard, Springport and the village of Union Springs. In recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, our first resident to be featured was a beloved resident of Union Springs, Sally Taylor.

Sally's front page obituary from the January 31,1941 Union Springs Advertiser tells us that she was born on a North Carolina plantation about 1853. Her parents were slaves who took the last name Taylor after that of the man who owned them. As a child, she was sold three times. Following the Civil War, she returned to North Carolina and was reunited with her mother. When offered an opportunity to study a vocational subject, Sally took cooking classes at a Washington DC school. This training provided many employment opportunities across the country, including her finally coming to Union Springs to work in the Clinton T. Backus mansion, which was located where the present day Union Springs Post Office is sited.

Sally's fine cooking skills were utilized in many area homes including numerous and "all are welcome" parties held in her home at 2 Arnold St. Sally's other great love was fishing. It was a sure sign that the fish were biting when Sally was seen heading to the lake, barefoot until the snow fell, with her rod and tin of worms as she knew where the "big ones" were biting. Her favorite places to fish in the spring and summer were the numerous quarry holes. In a 1940 newspaper interview, Sally was quoted as saying: "Fish stories are taboo. Either you get them or you shut up." And most memorably "I've just about cooked every place but hell and I'm sure headed for there so I'm sure to have cooked about every place there is."

Sally was known to be every thoughtful as well as a great friend and hostess to many. Those who served as pall bearers at her funeral speak of the high regard in which she was held: Hartman Carr, Fred Shalibo, Earl Turney, William McGuire, Jerome Backus and Jack Clark. So today we salute Sally - a hero who is longer hidden!

Sally Taylor

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