Panama Baptist Church Decor circa 1905

Christmas Time in Panama

by Juan Wilson

(C) 1996 The Gobbler Winter Crystal

On this webpage are some images of various scenes in the town of Panama, in Western New York, near Christmas time. The photos span three generations of my family's photo albums, dating back to the turn of the century.

The photo above of the Baptist Church was taken at Christmas time when my great grandfather, William A. Howes, was minister of the church. At that time my grandmother, Grace Anderson, was attending the church and was attracted to at least two of the minister's four sons. She was courted first by Roy, but later married William J. Howes.

August Anderson's home on North Street circa 1930


She was the daughter of August Anderson and at that time lived in the house he built just above the town line on North Street (Route 33). After a life traveling and teaching, the Howes' retired to a house that they bought in 1933 on Wiltsie Road, adjacent to the Anderson's farm. In August Anderson's days Wiltsie Road continued east all the way to North Street. My wife and I live there now.

William & Grace Howes' home on Wiltsie Road circa 1960

Panama, with its lake effect snow, has always been picturesque at Christmas time. When the snow has turned to brown slush in Jamestown, you can almost always come home to the hills of Panama and find a fresh dusting, if not a blanket, draped over the ground and tree boughs. Below is a picture of what we always called Baker's Place on School Street (now owned by Carl Olsen). It's just down the hill from our house on Wiltsie.

Baker's farmhouse on School Street after the plow circa 1960


A life long resident of Panama, Norm Button, visited my office as I was assembling these photos and saw for the first time the bridge over the old Mill Pond spillway (now Route 474).

Route 474 Bridge at Panama Mill Pond circa 1915

He remembered that his great-grandfather, on his father's side, had been killed constructing the bridge in 1911. This jogged my memory about a photo I had seen that Fred L. Yagear had taken of a construction accident involving a collapsed stone structure.

Millpond Bridge Construction Accident 1911

Sure enough, in my grandmother's photo album was a reproduction of that photo. Between us we realized we had glimpsed into an event, 85 years old, that Norm had only heard about.

Panama storefronts at site of current Post Office circa 1910

Norm Button can also tell you about the stores pictured here. He remembers who lived upstairs before the buildings came down. Ask him; it might be part of a life story you're connected to.


Editor's note: All the private homes shown in this article are still standing and look much like they do in these photos.