The Story Behind the Candle in the Window of Canandaigua’s Garlock House
A Stately Old Mansion at the Corner of Ft. Hill and N. Main Streets
For longer than most people can remember an electric candle has glowed, day and night, in the front window of the home located at 211 N. Main Street in the Western New York city of Canandaigua.
This stately mansion, known locally as the Garlock House, was built about 1847 by a man named Jarad Willson. Willson had purchased the property with its original house in 1829. He eventually removed the original house and replaced it with the elegant mansion that occupies the property today.
Willson died in 1875 but members of his family continued to live in the home until 1900 when it was sold to Assemblyman and Mrs. Jean La Rue Burnett. Mr. Burnett died in 1907 and his widow continued to reside in the home until 1927.
Garlock House Today
For Olin and Pauline Garlock the Home was Love at First Sight
In the spring of 1927, while driving down Main Street, a wealthy industrialist from nearby Palmyra, Olin J. Garlock and his wife Pauline, saw the home. The couple liked the home so much that Olin Garlock quickly convinced the widow, Mrs. Burnett, to sell them the home.
Pauline Garlock then lived in the beautiful, fourteen room mansion, from 1927 to 1959.
According to local legend and periodically reported in books and newspapers throughout New York State, the candle glows in memory of a son who went off to fight in World War I and never returned. In some accounts the son was a soldier killed in the trenches, while in others he was a flyer who met death when his plane was shot down in that war.
While the story of the lost son has been told and retold for decades, the name of the son and how he died remained a mystery to most.
Garlock House at Corner of Main St. and Ft. Hill Dr. in Canandaigua, NY
New Light on the Victim’s Identity
Recently, two local authors, Nancy O’Donnell and Maureen O’Connell Baker, in separate articles published on the web, have identified the son that the candle memorializes as being Jack Garlock, Pauline Garlock’s son by a previous marriage.
It turns out that Jack Garlock, who was only 13 years old when the U.S. declared war in 1917, never served in the military. While he did die in a plane crash, he was a passenger in the plane which his step-father, Olin J. Garlock, had purchased and which Jack had just picked up from the factory.
While not the heroic self-sacrificing son portrayed in the legend, something must have caused Jack’s mother to have kept the candle glowing in the window for the 32 years between his death in 1927 and her selling the house and moving away in 1959.
In addition, there is also the question of why, in the apparent absence of any stipulation in the property’s deed requiring the candle to remain lit, subsequent owners have continued to honour Jack Garlock’s memory by keeping the candle glowing to this day.
On the Shore of Canandaigua Lake
Jack Garlock as a Wild Rich Kid
The longer and more detailed account cited above was written by Maureen O’Connell Baker using for her research a scrapbook of letters and newspaper clippings in the possession of the Ontario County Historical Society in Canandaigua.
Most of the letters, which were written between 1924 and 1927, were from Olin J. Garlock to Jack Garlock who was Olin’s legally adopted step-son.
Included with the letters in the scrapbook were newspaper clippings describing the secrets of success, the importance of responsibility and accounts of car accidents involving cars driven by intoxicated young men. The motivational newspaper clippings were included in the letters Olin sent to Jack and his brother Sherry.
There are no letters from Jack in the scrapbook.
According to Ms Baker, the picture that emerges of Jack in the letters is that of a spoiled young rich man interested only in partying, drinking, driving fast cars, flying airplanes and chasing women.
Difficult to Believe that Jack Garlock Memorialized for Living His Self-Indulgent Fantasies
This image of Jack Garlock that emerges from these letters is not one that would cause him to be memorialized for nearly nine decades.
Maureen O’Connell Baker concludes her article by suggesting that maybe Jack Garlock was “daring, fearless, and talented; living the way many of us, given the wherewithal, would live.” She then ends writing that his mother may have put the candle in the window “to honor his courage to live the way he wanted.”
Living on the other side of the nation and not having access to the contents scrapbooks I don’t dispute Maureen O’Connell Baker’s account on what she found in the letters.
That being said, I found her assumption that the candle was placed in and has remained in the window to honor her son’s courage to use his step-father’s money to live out his self-indulgent fantasies a bit of a stretch.
Ontario County Courthouse in Canandaigua, NY
More Research Provides a Different Picture of Jack Garlock
While I was not able to view the letters in the possession of the Ontario County Historical Society, I was able to search through the numerous area newspapers from that era that have been digitized and made available on the Internet.
With Olin J. Garlock being a prominent local business and civic leader, there are numerous accounts of him and his family in these newspapers.
The picture of Jack Garlock that emerges from the newspapers is one of a young man who, in the words of Ms Baker, was “daring, fearless, and talented…”. He could also be described as a wealthy young man sowing his wild oats before settling down and becoming a mature and responsible adult.
The same could be said of his brother and two stepbrothers, all three of which matured into very responsible and productive adults. In fact newspaper accounts show Jack maturing into a responsible adult at the time of his death which occurred a few weeks short of his 23rd birthday.
Jack Frances Myers Becomes Jack Garlock
John (Jack) Frances Myers was born in Carthage, New York to Frances (Frank) and Pauline Harvey Myers (1883 – 1972) on August 13, 1904. A younger brother, Sherry B. Myers was born in 1907.
Sometime after Sherry’s birth Frank Myers died leaving Pauline a widow with two young sons to care for alone.
At some point, probably in the early 1920s but possibly earlier, Pauline met the wealthy Palmyra, New York, industrialist Olin J. Garlock (1861 – 1942). The two were married in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on April 24, 1922.
Shortly after his marriage to Pauline, Olin legally adopted Pauline’s two sons. Following the adoption, Jack, who would have turned 18 on August 13th of 1922, took the Garlock name while his younger brother Sherry (who would have been 15 at the time) elected to keep Myers as his last name.
Canandaigua Lake at South End of Main Street
Following their marriage, Olin and Pauline moved frequently as Olin’s business interests kept him constantly on the move. Olin did maintain a home in Palmyra, his hometown and headquarters of his business, the Garlock Packing Company. He also had a summer home on Keuka Lake near Penn Yan, New York.
During this time Jack seems to have moved around as well. In 1922 and 1923 the family, according to newspaper accounts, seemed to consider Penn Yan, New York their address. The Penn Yan address was probably Olin’s home on nearby Keuka Lake.
For the year 1923 the following accounts regarding Jack appeared in local newspapers:
January 26, 1923 the Penn Yan Democrat reported: Jack Garlock is at his home here suffering from infection having developed in his right hand and arm. Garlock has been attending military school.
March 2, 1923 the Penn Yan Democrat reported: Jack Garlock was towing some “bobs” up the hill at Head street Tuesday night when his automobile went into the ditch. No one was hurt. (Note: “bobs” appears to be 1920s Flapper Era slang for young ladies.)
June 12, 1923 in the “Penn Yan Briefs” column, the Geneva Daily Times reported: Jack Garlock has been spending the last few days in Watertown. (Note: Watertown is near Carthage, NY)
While Jack was in Penn Yan, possibly with his mother, when he wasn’t away other places in 1923, his step-father, Olin J. Garlock was living at the Powers Hotel in Rochester, New York where, in April 1923, he had just purchased a controlling interest in the Crandall Packing Company.
Following his Lackluster School Days Jack Begins to Mature
Prior to his mother’s marriage Jack probably attended the local Carthage high school. However, in a lengthy July 22, 1927 account of Jack’s death, the Penn Yan Democrat stated that Jack had attended several schools among them Penn Yan Academy, Manlius, Culver Military Academy, Villa Nova and Fordham.
Penn Yan Academy, Manlius (located in Syracuse, NY) and Culver Military Academy (located in Culver, Indiana) are all college prep schools with Culver and possibly Manlius being boarding schools. A 1925 article has him attending, for at least part of a semester, Fordham University in New York City.
Jack was probably not a scholar, but his step-father, Olin J. Garlock, appeared to be trying to provide Jack with educational opportunities he himself never had.
According to newspaper accounts, Jack spent the last two years of his life, from 1925 to 1927 living at and managing Olin J. Garlock’s Owl Pine Farm near Carthage.
Jack also spent 18 months attached to Troop D of the New York State Police. Eight months were at the Homer, New York sub-station and ten months in Oneida. An athletic young man, he was also a member of the troop’s rough riding team.
Some of his time with the state police appears to have overlapped his time managing Owl Pine Farm. The State Police position may have been a reserve or part-time position. Also, his brother, Sherry was living at the Owl Pine Farm at this time and may have been helping Jack with the farm’s operation.
On April 5, 1926 Jack married Hazel R. Sweeney of Marion, NY. The marriage was performed by the Reverend E. J. Dwyer at a local Catholic church in Palmyra, New York. Jack’s days of chasing woman were apparently over.
Canandaigua's Historic Sonnenberg House
Jack and His Stepfather Share and Interest in Aviation
Despite Olin Garlock’s letters and the 1923 newspaper reports of Jack Garlock’s activities, Jack seemed to be maturing in the years 1924 to 1927. At the time of Jack’s death on July 20, 1927 he was 24 days shy of his twenty-third birthday which would have occurred on August 13th.
According to accounts, Jack had a strong interest in aviation. His step-father Olin, who may have known the aviation pioneer and aircraft engine manufacturer, Glenn Curtis who lived in the same part of New York State, was also very interested in aviation.
Olin Garlock was reported to be considering the purchase of an airplane as early as 1917 and his biological son, Harold O. J. Garlock (1896 – 1963), had been trained as a naval aviator just prior to World War I.
While Jack appears to have had a wild side and an appetite for fast cars and airplanes, his aviation experience at the time of his death was as a passenger and student only.
Prior to his untimely death, Jack had been taking flying lessons from W. Knox Martin an instructor and pilot for F. H. Taylor’s flying service in Watertown, NY. Knox Martin had extensive flying experience in both war and peace and had also become a very cautious and careful aviator by the time he became Jack’s instructor.
Knox Martin was supposed to have accompanied Jack to pick up the airplane. However, when his contract with Taylor’s flying service ended shortly before the trip, he elected not to renew it and returned home to Salem, Virginia where his wife and children lived.
Jack and Pilot Charles Baughm Travel to Illinois Factory to Pick Up Airplane Olin Garlock Purchased
F. H. Taylor replaced Knox Martin with Charles Baughm, a professional pilot and World War I aviation combat veteran. It was Baughm who travelled with Jack to the National Airways System factory in Lomax, Illinois to pick up the Air King bi-plane that Olin Garlock had purchased.
Following Charles Baughm’s appearance before the City Council in Watertown on Monday evening July 18th to testify in support of establishing a municipal airport, he and Jack left for nearby Syracuse where they caught the New York Central Railroad’s late night Wolverine to Chicago.
The two had planned to arrive at the National Airways System/s factory in Lomax, Illinois on Wednesday afternoon, pick up the plane and fly to Detroit where they would spend the night. They would then complete the flight back to Taylor’s airfield on Thursday.
Things appear to have gone as planned until take off. The plane was a two person Air King bi-plane with open cockpit. Baughm climbed into the front seat and Jack Garlock into the seat behind him.
Jack Garlock & Charles Baughm's Route to Pick up the Air King Aircraft
Where Jack and Charles started their trip.
Where Jack & Charles boarded New York Central RR's Wolverine to Chicago
Where Garlock and Baughm changed trains for Lomax, IL
Lomax, IL - location of the National Airways System's factory & place where Jack Garlock died with the Air King bi-plane he had just picked up cra
Plane Crashes and Jack is Burned Alive
With Baughm at the controls, they took off.
After climbing about thirty feet, Baughm appears to have banked the plan to avoid hitting the top of a tree. Unfortunately, as he did this one of the wings hit a tree on the other side which put the plane in a spin.
The low altitude gave Baughm no time to regain control. The plane crashed upside down and burst into flames with Baughm and Garlock suspend by their seatbelts and hanging upside down in their seats.
Baughm appears to have unhooked his seatbelt and fallen to the ground before passing out.
Hearing the explosion and screams, the workers ran to the scene from the factory. They were able to pull Charles Baughm to safety. He was taken to a hospital in nearby Burlington, Iowa but was not expected to survive.
Jack, screaming as the flames engulfed him, tried in vain to unhook his seat belt and free himself. The intense fire was such that the rescuers from the factory could not get to him as he burned alive before their eyes.
Olin J. Garlock and the Garlock Family
To better understand Jack Garlock and his potential, it is important to get to know and understand the Garlock family.
Olin J. Garlock was a wealthy self-made man. He began his career as a young man working in a lumber factory in Palmyra.
While working in the engine room Olin found himself having to continually repack the steam engine’s stuffing box to stop it from leaking.
One day he decided to try cutting a piece of discarded fire hose into strips, soaking the strips in oil and then using them for packing. The new technique worked and Olin began making and selling his new packing in his spare time.
Olin eventually founded what became the Garlock Packing Company, which is still in operation in Palmyra, NY. Under Olin’s tutelage The Garlock Packing Company produced and sold his product throughout North America and Europe.
Canandaigua City Hall
Olin J. Garlock - Failure as a Husband, But...
Olin’s passion in life was business. In addition to the Garlock Packing Company in which he was President and a major shareholder, he was a real estate investor and active in civic and community affairs.
However, when it came to family life, Olin was less successful. He was married at least three times and each of them ended in failure probably due to his being away on business most of the time. However, as a father he seems to have done fairly well despite his absences.
Olin sired a son with each of his first two wives.
He married his first wife, Nina V., sometime in the mid-1880s. On December 10, 1887 Nina gave birth to Olin’s first son who was born in Palmyra, NY and was named Nelson John Garlock. Less than a decade later, in the fall of 1895, Nina filed for and was granted a divorce from Olin.
Olin wasted no time in marrying his next wife, Lillian B., who gave birth to his second son, Harold O. J. Garlock, on September 9, 1896.
While I wasn’t able to find any record of Olin divorcing Lillian, the marriage seems to have fallen apart some time before World War I. Lillian died on June 21, 1923 a little over a year after Olin married Pauline Harvey Myers in Philadelphia. Lillian appears to have been buried in the Garlock family plot along with Olin and his parents in the Palmyra Village Cemetery.
...Success as a Father
While Olin could not hang on to his wives, he does seem to have maintained a close relationship with each of his two biological sons as well as his two step-sons. In fact, the surviving letters of Olin to Jack maybe but a sample of Olin’s correspondence with his other sons.
Maureen O’Connell Baker’s article indicates that some of the letters in the scrapbook were directed at Jack’s brother Sherry as well and Olin probably corresponded frequently with Nelson and Harold while he was away on business and when they were away at school.
Letters were probably one of the primary ways Olin J. Garlock managed to maintain a strong presence in his sons’ lives. In this he was a good father in that all four of them grew up to be responsible citizens and family men.
Nelson Garlock, the oldest, served six years in the New York State Naval Militia (a reserve National Guard organization) and was employed at the Garlock Packing Company which was run by his father, Olin Garlock.
Despite having previously served and been honorably discharged from the Naval Militia, he, as required by the World War I inspired draft law at the time, registered for the military draft and re-enlisted in the Naval Militia shortly after the United States declared war in World War I. Nelson served as a naval officer during World War I.
Following the declaration of war, Olin J. Garlock himself immediately became an active supporter of the war, serving as chairman of the Wayne County Home Defense Committee and chairman of the War Bond Committee.
Younger Brother Harold a Naval Aviator who Fought in World War I and World War II
Nelson’s younger brother, Harold O.J. Garlok, also joined the New York Naval Militia prior to the war and, at the start of World War I, was serving as an ensign in the Naval Militia Aviation Corps. Harold, spent the war serving aboard the battleship Wisconsin and rose to the rank of lieutenant during the war.
Following the war, Harold remained in the Naval Militia and went to work for the Garlock Packing Company in Palmyra.
Harold appears to have returned to active duty during World War II and then remained on active duty in the Navy following the war. He retired with the rank of commander and, upon his death which occurred on October 10, 1963, he was buried in the Ft. Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.
Sherry Myers - World War II Veteran and Career Army Lawyer
As for Sherry Myers who was still a teenager when the unflattering comments about him were written by Olin in the letters now located in the Ontario Historical Society, he also matured into a responsible and successful citizen and family man.
In 1931 Sherry enlisted in the New York Militia (now the New York Army National Guard) and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in that military reserve organization. The notice of his commission lists the Owl Pine Farm as his address so he was probably either continuing to work for Olin there or had taken over his brother’s job as manager following Jack’s death.
Sherry is listed as having attended Fordham University with Jack and appears to have graduated from Harvard University. Following his undergraduate education he went on to Georgetown University Law School where he received his law degree on July 12, 1933.
He taught law at the University of San Francisco and then returned to Canandaigua where he sat for and passed the New York State bar exam. He either volunteered for or was called to active duty at the start of World War II where he served in a legal capacity as an officer in the Army’s Provost Office.
Promoted to Lt. Colonel in December of 1945, Sherry remained on active duty and was sent to Dachau, Germany where he led the prosecution of Nazi war criminals charged with murdering, rather than taking prisoner, over 1,200 American flyers shot down over Germany.
Sherry married sometime before the war and eventually had four children with his wife. Following the war he remained in the Army working in the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army in Washington, D.C. and living in nearby Arlington, Virginia.
Jack Begins to Mature
I don’t doubt that Jack Garlock had a wild side as a young man. It is not uncommon for young men basking in both the new freedom from parental control and the lack of family responsibilities to take often foolish risks and act in an irresponsible manner.
However, there is no evidence of their breaking the law other than their drinking which was a violation of the Volstead Act (the federal law banning the production and consumption of alcohol during the Prohibition Era of the 1920s) – this law was regularly ignored by many including public officials.
Sherry obviously matured into a very responsible adult. Jack seemed to be on his way to maturity despite the fact that, at the time of his death he not quite 23 years old.
Prior to his death, Jack had worked a year and a half as a state trooper, for two years had been managing the Owl Pine Farm for his step-father and had been married for a year. Marriage usually causes a young man to mature and act more responsibly. That is why the high car insurance rates for men under 25 are reduced when they marry.
The evidence indicates that, while Jack Garlock started out as an irresponsible young man, he began to mature as he advanced into his twenties.
Jack Saved His Stepfather's Letters and Began to Follow the Advice in Them
Jack not only started taking to heart and following the advice in the letters and newspaper clippings that his step-father sent him, but also appears to have saved the letters and clippings.
The scrapbook in which he kept the letters probably ended up being given to Jack’s mother following his death and she saved and ultimately donated the scrapbook to the historical society.
The scrapbook is Jack’s personal collection of letters from his step-father and not a collection of Garlock family letters and papers. This is why there are no letters from Jack – these would have been sent by Jack to Olin and were apparently either not saved by Olin or were saved and were not among those donated to the historical society.
Olin was not only frequently away traveling on business but he and Pauline parted ways around 1930. While Pauline remained in Canandaigua, Olin returned to the long time residence he had in Palmyra (which is also known as the Garlock House and was a local museum until recently).
Candle Still Glowing in Window of Garlock House
Pauline Garlock Placed a Candle in the Window of Her Home for Jack's Safe Return
Jack left on his fatal, final trip not from his family’s home in Canandaigua but from the Carthage area where he and his wife lived at the Owl Pine Farm.
Jack either accompanied Charles Baughm to the local Watertown council hearing that evening regarding the proposed new municipal airport or he was picked up by Baughm after the meeting and the two either drove or were driven to the New York Central train station in nearby Syracuse where they caught the late train to Chicago.
Hoping for his safe return and knowing that he was catching a train that evening, Jack’s mother, Pauline Garlock, probably placed the candle in the window of the Canandaigua home sometime that day or evening. This was not an uncommon practice.
Following Jack’s death in the crash, Pauline apparently decided to leave the candle glowing in the window in memory of her son.
Newspaper accounts about Pauline in the 1930s and later describe her as a quiet person with a small circle of close friends.
With husband Olin frequently away and Sherry and the rest of her relatives living in the Carthage area, Pauline, in Canandaigua, was left with her small circle of friends, her fourteen room mansion and memories of Jack.
This is not to say she was a recluse, but she doesn't appear to have been a social butterfly either.
The tragic loss of her firstborn obviously left a hole in her life which is probably why she left the candle glowing in the window and kept the scrapbook of his letters.
Links to Some Sources Used in Researching This Hub
Great source for digitized newspapers from all over New York State
- Homeowners in Canandaigua, New York Carry on a Tradition - Yahoo! Voices - voices.yahoo.com
Homeowners in Canandaigua, NY carry on a tradition of keeping a light on for a dead man.
- Northern New York Historical Newspapers by Northern New York Library Network (NNYLN)
Access to digitized copies of northern New York State newspapers
A Legend Develops
While Jack's tragic death was well publicized, newspaper accounts of the candle do not seem to appear until years later. When they did begin appearing, the legend was well established and this was the account that was reported.
While the candle is easily detected by passers by at night, one can easily pass by the home during the day without noticing it. As a result it may have taken a while for people to both start noticing it and also become aware that it was always there.
Since Olin J. Garlock and his family were well known in the area and since two of his sons fought in World War I with one being an aviator it is easy to see how people came to link the candle to a son lost in the War.
Thus, over time the legend grew that the candle was originally placed in the window to help a son find his way back home from the war and then left glowing in the window when the son never returned.
Except for the fact that the candle was placed in the window a decade after the war and was for the safe return of a son on a business trip, the theme is the same.
© 2013 Chuck Nugent
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