Frederick Sherman, “F.S.,” Place was a teacher, professor, agriculturalist, craftsman, and local Prohibition Party politician in Alfred, New York. He served a term as town supervisor of Alfred, New York, in 1898.
F.S. Place was born on August 15, 1858, in Wirt, New York. He was the son of Alvin Ayers “Alva” Place (1821-1898) and Ruth (Sherman) Place (1827-1895). His father was a pastor for the Seventh Day Baptist church in Scio. In 1859, the family moved to the hamlet of Nile, in Friendship, New York. He spent his childhood growing up in Nile and attended a local district school. When he was eleven, he was baptized as a member of the Seventh Day Baptist Church, by Rev. L. A. Platts in Nile.
He is said to have learned a love for reading and metalworking from his father, and at some point, developed an interest in agriculture. In 1875, F.S. Place moved to live with his sister Jane and her husband Charles Stillman, in Alfred, New York. He would stay with them until 1880, doing chores and going to school. He spent four years studying agriculture at Alfred Academy; graduating in 1879. He then spent three years studying at Alfred University and received a Bachelors of Arts degree in 1882. Place then completed the main part of his higher education by studying at Alfred Theological Seminary for three years and received a Bachelors of Divinity Degree in 1885.
F.S. Place married Martha Ann Burdick in 1882. They would go on to have four children: Bertha Jane (1883-1975), George A. (1886-1973), Margaret Eola (1891-1983), and Mildred Frederica (1895- 1973). Place would construct his family home in Alfred in 1887. He and his family were involved in the local Seventh Day Baptist church in Alfred. He would 45 years serving as a deacon for the church and would spend 54 years singing in the church choir.
After finishing college, Place began his career as an educator. In 1886, he started working as a tutor at Alfred University. In 1888, he was made a professor of industrial mechanics at the university. By 1896, he was in charge of the teaching of industrial mechanics and astronomy at Alfred University. He would continue in this position until 1897.
Place was also involved in the study and teaching of agriculture and nature. By the latter half of the 1890’s, he was highly involved with local agricultural groups, such as the Allegany County Farmer’s club. From 1895 to 1914, Place delivered numerous lectures to farmers and other community members in Allegany County. The subjects of his talks included birds, insects, plants, how plants grow, the role of birds in balancing insect and plant life, soil, horseshoeing, and bacteriology. With birds being a favorite and common topic of his lectures.
While working to impart knowledge, he also worked to keep up to date with advances in his areas of study. In 1897, he took special courses at Chicago University on subjects including comparative anatomy, bacteriology, methods in histology, and botany. Place was a trusted local expert on agricultural and natural topics. In 1896, he wrote the chapter on the natural history of Allegany County for John Minard’s book Allegany County and its People: A Centennial Memorial History of Allegany County, New York. His knowledge of birds was so well known, that when a local farmer shot down a bald eagle in 1904, they had Place examine the body to evaluate the quality of the specimen. Place had established himself as a prominent local scholar and educator in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
F.S. Place became involved with the temperance movement and the Prohibition Party by the late 1890’s. At an 1896 meeting of the Allegany County Farmers Club, Place put forward a resolution that the farmer’s club endorse the bill to make temperance education required in common schools. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the club. By 1898, F.S. Place was a member of the Prohibition Party and was involved with local Prohibition Party activism.
In 1898, the local Prohibition Party nominated F.S. Place as their candidate for Town Supervisor of Alfred. The Alfred Democratic Party decided that they would also nominate Place as their candidate for Town Supervisor. The Republicans nominated incumbent Town Supervisor D.S. Burdick. Place received 204 votes (51.78%) to 190 votes (48.22%) for Burdick and was elected as the new Town Supervisor of Alfred.
From looking at the election results for all local offices in Alfred in 1898, we can gain some sense of where Place gained his support from. Most candidates that were nominated just by the Prohibition Party received votes in the high 80s, with the highest performers receiving 91 votes. Most candidates nominated just by Democratic Parties tended to receive votes in the high 70s, with their highest performer receiving 87 votes. Most candidates that were nominated just by the Republican Party received votes in the 210-230 range. Two other candidates that were nominated by both the Prohibition and Democratic Parties received 158 and 187 votes, while a candidate nominated by the Prohibition and Republican Parties received 313 votes, a candidate nominated by the Democratic and Republican Parties received 309 votes, and a candidate nominated by all three parties received 387 votes.
With these details taken together, it can be inferred that Place likely received the main share of his votes from Prohibition Party voters, received his second largest share of votes from Democratic voters, and received a couple dozen votes from people that mainly voted for Republican candidates. By combining the support of both the town’s Prohibition Party and Democratic Party voters and attracting the support of some of the typically Republican voters, F.S. Place was able to acquire the support needed to get elected Town Supervisor.
After winning the election, Place served a one-year term as Town Supervisor. As Town Supervisor, Place was the head of the town government, tasked with managing various aspects of the town government’s services and activities. As Town Supervisor, Place was also a member of Allegany County’s Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors was the legislative body of the county government at the time, whose functions included creating county laws, managing finances, and overseeing the operations of county departments. Place was initially appointed to the committee on United States Deposit Fund and the committee on Town Accounts. But Place ended up contracting typhoid fever and missed much of the annual session of the Board of Supervisors.
F.S. Place shifted his career from teaching college to becoming a public school educator in 1898. He left his position at Alfred University to become the principal of the Alfred Grammar School. He would serve in that position until 1905.
In 1899, Place was nominated for re-election by the local Prohibition and Democratic Parties. He again faced Republican candidate D.S. Burdick. Burdick won the election and regained the position of town Supervisor.
On the political front, F.S. Place would continue to be involved with the Prohibition Party and to run as a candidate for local offices. In 1905, the local Prohibition and Democratic Parties in Alfred came together to nominate a joint fusion ticket of candidates for town offices. F.S. Place was nominated as the Prohibition and Democratic candidate for Town Commissioner of Highways. He ran against Republican candidate E.P. Hamilton. Place received 103 votes (31.12%) and came in 2nd place to Hamilton.
In 1908, the Allegany County Prohibition held its convention in Wellsville. F.S. Place was selected as one of the delegates from the county to attend the 1908 Prohibition Party State convention in Syracuse. Place was one of over 700 delegates at the convention that worked to select the party’s 1908 candidates for state offices and approve its 1908 state party platform.
F.S. Place ran for multiple offices in the early 1910’s. In 1910, the Alfred Prohibition Party nominated F.S. Place and E.P. Saunders as its candidates for Town School Directors. They ran against Republican candidates F.L. Greene and William G. Whitwood. Place received 41 votes (13.16%) and Saunders received 40 votes (12.84%), to 271 votes for Greene and Whitwood.
In 1911, Place was nominated by the Prohibition Party for Town Supervisor of Alfred. He ran against Republican incumbent W.H. Crandall. Crandall was re-elected with a plurality of 131 votes. In 1913, the local Prohibition, Democratic, and Progressive Parties nominates F.S. Place as its candidates for Town Justices of the Peace. They ran against Republican candidates Edward F. Smith and W.H.H. Kellar. Place received 126 votes (34.01%) and Champlin received 132 votes (35.62%), to 242 votes for Smith and 241 votes for Kellar.
While Place did not manage to get elected in any of these races, he still managed to be a significant contender and at times manages to attract multi-party support in his campaigns.
In the same decade, F.S. Place entered into the next phase of his career. In 1910, Place began working at the New York State School of Agriculture at Alfred University. The State School of Agriculture was a state-funded agricultural school that was initially established as a subdivision of Alfred University in 1910. This school would grow over the following decades and expand to include various polytechnic programs. After 1948, the school would split off from Alfred University to become its own separate college in the State University of New York system, now known as Alfred State College.
Place worked as a teacher for the State School of Agriculture from 1910 to 1924. He then become the head person in charge of running the school’s greenhouse; which he ran for at least the next six years.
While running the greenhouse, he also turned his interest in metalwork into a profitable hobby. He built his own shop at his house for creating ornamental ironwork. Place would spend the later years of his life focusing on his greenhouse work, metal crafting, his other hobbies, and his family.
Frederick Sherman Place died on May 4 th, 1936. His funeral services were held at his home and at the village church by his pastor and former Alfred University President John Nelson Norwood.
In his life, Place had been a teacher, professor, agriculturalist, and craftsman who pursued his interests and shared his knowledge with others. He was a husband and father. He was a local Prohibition Party activist and politician, who promoted the cause of temperance and Prohibition on the local level. By harnessing local Prohibition Party activism and appealing to voters from a variety of partisan affiliations, he managed to get elected to a term as Alfred Town Supervisor and spend that time helping to lead his community.
Source: https://615c4beb-b241-4f4a-a6b4-a074dc02ce34.filesusr.com/ugd/2cc7be_96bb639d92ee4fd588260cf404146 908.pdf
-- Contributed by Jonathan Makeley