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Wayne County Life Q & A

Subject: Cannery Row in Newark, NY
Date: 19 June 2009
Participants: John M. Zornow (Newark-Arcadia Historical Society), Seth C. Burgess (Wayne County Life

Seth C. Burgess:

When driving through the west end of Newark on Route 31, there is a sign marking the plaza behind McDonald's, Mark's Pizzeria, and Tom Wahl's. The name of that plaza is Cannery Row. What is the origin of that name? Is the Erie Canal significant in the history of those buildings?
John M. Zornow:

Newark Firm Lasts 100 Years. 
"Without a doubt, the most illustrious of all New York State cannery firms," was the way Edgett-Burnham Co. was described in a 1960 anniversary booklet published by the New York State Canner's and Freezers Assoc. 
Newark's Edgett-Burnham canning company was founded in 1863 as the Wayne County Preserving Co. by Ezra Edgett of Camden, New York. 
Everything was local then and crops were grown mostly on the factory farm, now site of the Newark Plaza, or purchased from area farmers. Featured were fruits, vegetables, and--it is said--even canned turkey and geese for civil war troops.   
The factory was located at what was then the western edge of the village of Newark and employed many seasonal workers.   
By 1889 Ezra Edgett had passed away and E.K. Burnham, local attorney joined the firm, helping Edgett's widow Harriett run the company. In 1908, the firm was incorporated as the Edgett-Burnham Company and E.K. Burnham's son had joined the firm. 
Edgett-Burnham was located first on the Erie Canal and later the enlarged Barge Canal. The waterway served the firm for shipping and receiving as did the West Shore Railroad that followed the route of the canal through Newark. Business was prosperous through two world wars and the early 1950's, with the company producing canned goods under their labels Faultless, Wayne, Winsom, West Shore, as well as Burnham and Newark brands. By the middle 50's only contract canning was done, packing corn, peas, beans and beets for large supermarkets and putting the customer's labels on the product.
By the 1960's, any company doing business on or using the canal for dumping of waste water, found that times were changing. Regulations by New York State would require the building of expensive pre-treatment facilities. Edgett-Burnham Co. was sold to Perfection Foods who operated the firm until 1973. The entire parcel and buildings then passed to Rodney Graybill who developed the property, selling off parcels for a McDonalds, and other stores and developed the plant into Cannery Row Plaza.
Photo: "Gene" Flynn, grandfather of John Zornow, is shown at his roll top desk in about 1915 at the entrance to the Edgett Burnham plant. The desk still exists, owned by John Murphy of Grant Street in Newark.


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3 Comments to "Edgett-Burnham Canning Company"

  1. Anonymous Said,

    One of Newark's great companies.

    Posted on Wed Jun 15, 06:37:00 PM EDT

  2. Unknown Said,

    The cannery waste flow into the canal may have been pollution but the gigantic carp who lived nearby didn't think so. They always thronged under the outfall pipe in pea-canning season, to take in the solid waste and liquor from the cooking process. Those fish were not popularly regarded as good eating so they were safe from anyone except kids with BB guns.
    The other Edgett-Burnham recollection is even
    more vivid. During that same pea-canning time,
    a vast mound of discarded peavine grew up at
    the wes end of the building, decaying with a stench which was penetrating and gagging. I always felt sorry for the folks who lived in the unpainted workman's houses on the low bluff overlooking the vine stack. Their kids came to
    school well-enough washed, but you could tell where they lived; the odor clung to everything.

    Posted on Sun Dec 16, 11:20:00 PM EST

  3. Seth C. Burgess Said,

    Thanks for sharing the memories John. Sometimes those small peculiar ones are the most interesting!

    Posted on Mon Dec 17, 07:37:00 AM EST


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