Throughout Batavia’s history, there have been many successful businesses, both large and small, that have filled needs and wants within the community and farther abroad.
Some of those names we know very well and are carried on in memory and material to this day. But many have slipped beyond our reach in some way and are soon lost, or only faintly remembered.
One very interesting entrepreneur from the turn of the century was Walter Buxton. He was varied in his business interests and crossed many fields during his time in Batavia.
Walter Buxton began his entrepreneurial career in Batavia in 1885. The first business he created was a carting business that specialized in freight and baggage carrying, with his office at 61 Jackson St.
By 1890, he became the agent in Western New York for the Standard Oil Corporation. Over time, the demand for oil and gasoline increased significantly, and Buxton focused more on his oil interests and less on his carting business.
Buxton also became involved in the ice business, which he also began in 1900 with Frank Huntley and John Tuthill, operating out of the old Wheel Works on Walnut Street.
In 1910, the partners opened a new ice plant on Central Avenue on land that Walter owned. Soon after, Buxton cashed in and sold the plant to a new company, Batavia Pure Ice and Water Company, of which he was a major stockholder.
In April 1913, he sold his cart and horses to Edward and William Carroll who ran it for a short time as the Carroll Carting Company, still out of Buxton’s office.
Around the same time, Buxton started a new venture. He began bottling and selling water from Seven Springs, under the company Purity Distillers.
He sold water from Seven Springs until his plant burned down in October 1914. With the coming of World War I, Buxton transitioned again, operating the coal yard on Ellicott Street.
He built a coal elevator there to better unload the cars from the Erie Railroad. Following the war, he returned to his major interest of gasoline distribution.
He expanded to supply gas tanks and pumps to retail customers, mostly the local country grocers. He would then supply them with oil and gasoline delivered by horse and wagon.
However, this investment did not sit well with Standard Oil, but this did not deter Buxton. With help from a partner in Buffalo, he expanded the installation of gasoline tanks to Batavia.
He then also bought the old St. James Church on Ellicott Street from the Batavia Odd Fellows and converted the property into a Standard Oil garage and service station. He continued to buy properties in and around Batavia for the rest of his life.
Buxton was also an important investor in nearly every local project through the 1920s and 1930s. By the late 1930s, he started breaking up his Standard Oil holdings, and began looking forward to retirement.
Walter Buxton died Aug. 4, 1937.
Ryan Duffy is executive director of the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia. His “History with the HLOM” column appears twice a month in The Daily News. To read past columns, go to thedailynewsonline.com.