Shultz and Blackney to be portrayed at cemetery tours
Tickets for the tours, including round-trip transportation to the cemetery are available at local merchants as well as at the Gowanda News office and the Chamber of Commerce office. The tours may be purchased separately, but a specially priced package is available for both.
In second part of a four-part series, the lives of two Charles’ of interest are explored, one of whom met a tragic and mysterious death in a horrific murder-suicide that rocked the young village.
Charles J. Shults
Few people knew that Charles J. Shults was 72 years old when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1934.
He had been so active in public life, right up to his death, that most people thought he was a much younger man.
Born in Ellicottville in 1868, Shults was interested in the printed word at an early age. After moving to Cherry Creek, he published a newspaper there, serving both Cherry Creek and South Dayton. He was also postmaster in Cherry Cheek.
Later he purchased the Gowanda Herald and combined it with his other newspaper ventures. His expanding newspaper empire of local papers included a lucrative advertising company in Buffalo.
By the time he had moved to Gowanda, he had begun the publishing of a history of the towns of Dayton, Persia and Perrysburg. These histories have become invaluable assets to modern-day historians as they research the genealogy and pattern of settlement in northeastern Cattaraugus County.
Perhaps one of Shults’ biggest contributions was to the volunteer fire companies of the area. He was the financial secretary of the Southwestern Association of Volunteer Fireman and his tireless efforts brought the 1935 convention to Gowanda. He had just completed the 1935 annual yearbook for the Southwestern Association when he suddenly died.
A son, Harry H. Shults, gained fame in Buffalo as the inventor and manufacturer of mail racks and other mail-handling equipment that helped modernize the postal system.
A grandson, who used the name Jack Elliott, gained great notoriety as the writer of over 600 songs used in Hollywood movies in the early 1940s.
Charles W. Blackney
Today we are riveted to news outlets when we hear of a heinous crime. Many times we speculate about our modern society and blame today’s conditions. But history reveals to us that our modern world does not have a monopoly on such happenings.
In 1875, the young village of Gowanda was rocked with the news of a horrific murder of a talented and promising young lawyer, Charles W. Blackney, and the apparent gruesome suicide of his murderer, Lewis Darby, a young farmer residing about a mile south of Gowanda in the town of Collins, who was also considered a good citizen.
Blackney was only 29 when he was killed and had already made his name known in the growing and prospering village. He had been named as a delegate to the state Democratic Party convention, and was a leading county politician, and was very well respected as an attorney. His practice was growing and he and his wife presented a picture of a bright future.
Darby, who was unmarried and also 29, was a successful farmer and had done well in real estate. He was also very well known and respected in the community.
The two had been boyhood friends, which only added to the mystery, and the details of the crime and the conclusions of the inquest into the incident will be revealed at Blackney’s graveside in the Pine Hill Cemetery during the Heritage/Harvest Festival in September.
Next week, the lives of two famous women who were born in Gowanda, but are not buried here will be featured.
CORRECTION: A tip of the hat to Historian Phil Palen, who caught two errors in last week’s story about Daniel Garnsey. The name Lodi was dropped in 1848. Garnsey visited his friend and relative Ralph Plumb who lived in Gowanda in 1851, not Lodi as reported. Also, the Pine Hill Cemetery was not established until 1867. Garnsey was at first interred in the Presbyterian Cemetery across from what is now the McDonald’s restaurant and later moved to Pine Hill.