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Looking Backward: 'Who's Minding The Store?'

There's a little hamlet in the very northwest corner of the Town of Lysander. For more than 100 years, there's been a store in the building on the northeast corner of the hamlet. That was, until a few years ago. Like the churches, post office, schoolhouse and grange hall years before, the general store closed its doors, too. But, last week the little store reopened once more.

The little hamlet is Lysander. According to Clayton's 1878 "History of Onondaga County," it was "first settled about the year 1810, and went by the name of Vickery's Settlement, a family or two by that name having located here. About the year 1817, Chauncey Betts, and his brother-in-law, Mr. Skinner, located here .At this time it began to be called Betts' Corners, and went by that name until a post-office was established; they then gave it the name of Lysander."

Fagan's Atlas of 1860 shows Lysander with about 35 houses, 185 inhabitants and stores on three of four corners. Sweet's Atlas of 1874 again shows stores on three corners. By 1878, Clayton claimed that Lysander had "about 70 dwelling houses, two churches, Methodist and Congregational, two stores, general merchandise a hardware store and tin shop combined a blacksmith shop, two wagon shops, a hotel a shoe shop, harness shop, two millinery shops, two physicians a foundry and a churn factory."

That same year, L.W. and J.E. Connell exchanged their store on the northwest corner of Lysander for one in Baldwinsville owned by their uncle, Edward Connell. The Baldwinsville store would expand over time into the Connell block that dominated the east side of Oswego Street. Their uncle sold his remaining interest in the Lysander store to J.B. and W.M. Gillett.

Twenty-five years later, disaster struck the little hamlet of Lysander. On Nov. 20, 1902, the front page of the Baldwinsville Gazette & Farmers' Journal displayed a headline that screamed, "A Great Conflagration. Fire destroys nearly all of the business blocks of Lysander - - post office, hotel, three stores and several dwellings burned to the ground - - loss $30,000." This may not seem like much, but it equates to nearly $800,000 today.

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