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“THOSE WERE SOME GUYS” Pat Blackler, Village Historian
Jerry and Tom Shallish came to Skaneateles from Somersetshire, England, in the 1840s, before they were ten years old, two brothers coming across the ocean with their family. The voyage took eight weeks and four days. When Jerry died at 95 in 1926, he was one of the oldest and most highly respected citizens of the Village.
When he was 19 years old, Jerry started a plumbing and tinning business and carried on his craft for 71 years. From 1888, his shop had its location in Legg Hall. In his 90s he still ran ads in the newspapers to publish his plumbing business. Jerry was regular and temperate in his habits, working winter and summer in all weathers. He was never intoxicated in his whole life. He was proud of his Masonic record, holding the office of High Priest for 18 years. He was also a Knights Templar and a Shriner.
In the late 1800s, he bought a lot on Leitch Avenue (#10 today), made the plans and built the house. In early 1908, when most men of his age would feel they should take life easy, he wired his home for electricity and installed all the fixtures. “I never turned down a job because I thought I couldn’t do it. I took anything that came my way and did it. Copper and tin work, silver plating for carriages, opening safes: I have done them all.” (Skaneateles Press, July 13, 1923) He also assisted in putting up the pipe organs in each of the Skaneateles churches. He claimed in a 1923 interview for the Post Standard that people were softer then than they were in the old days. What would he think of us today in 2008?
And what about Jerry’s younger brother Tom? The “Laura,” for many years the champion sailboat on Skaneateles Lake, was captained by Tom Shallish, carriage maker and sailor. Henry Latrobe Roosevelt owned the “Laura,” which had been designed in 1856 by George Steers, who had also designed the “America,” the first winner of the America Cup races, in 1851. The “Laura”was built in Skaneateles.
Captain Shallish had a 12-man crew; the “Laura” was a sandbagger in those days. To celebrate her victory in the Inter-Lake races of 1874, Mr. Roosevelt had a picnic on his lawn (116 East Genesee Street) in honor of the winning sailors. The prize was a silver set composed of a teapot, coffee pot, water pitcher, sugar bowl, cream pitcher, and spoon holder. The crew were given gifts of money, but the silver service was given to Tom Shallish. The set is inscribed: “First Sailing Race won by the Laura at the Regatta on Skaneateles Lake, August 20, 1874.” The “Laura” was sailed for 75 years on Skaneateles Lake. The silver service is now owned by the Historical Society and can be seen at the Creamery.
Tom died at 71 in 1905; his wife Nancy died five months before her 100th birthday in 1939. Tom and Nancy were the great grandparents of Peggy Palmer Major, who lives on Austin Street. You have some great genes there, Peggy.