Niagara Gazette

Columns

August 5, 2013

HIGGS: School bells are ringing again

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Further south at 910 Hyde Park Boulevard is the Charles B. Gaskill Junior High School now known as Gaskill Preparatory School. It was originally named after Charles B. Gaskill another noted contributor to our local history. Born in Wilson on Nov. 28, 1841, he enlisted as a private in the Civil War in 1861. Within a short time he was promoted to 2nd lieutenant and by the end of the year he was transferred to Company K and sent to the battlefield. The following year he was seriously wounded at Gaines Mills, Va., and taken prisoner. His wounds were not treated properly and he was sent to a hospital in Baltimore for treatment following a prisoner exchange. He remained out of the service for nine months but later became a captain in the 78th United State Colored Troops and soon was promoted to major in the 81st U.S. Colored Infantry where he remained until he resigned is commission in December of 1865.

At the end of the Civil War he married Helen I. Sherwood of Niagara Falls and they briefly settled on a plantation in Mississippi. He re-entered the Army, becoming the commandant at Jackson Barracks in New Orleans and followed this stint at Fort Mason, N.C., as assistant adjutant general during the reconstruction period.

Charles and Helen, now with three daughters, returned to Niagara Falls where he been engaged as an active businessman building the first industries that utilized water from the hydraulic canal. Known as the Cataract City Milling Company and later the Pettebone Paper Company, they were both sold to the Niagara Falls Power Company and discontinued to make better use of the water power. He became actively involved in the Niagara Falls Power Company seeking funding to assure the future of this enterprise. Gaskill and others took over the former horse rail line and converted it into an electric railroad, known as the Niagara Falls and Suspension Bridge Railway Company where he served as president. He also served as president of the Village of Suspension Bridge during 1888 establishing strict law and order. When Niagara Falls became a city he was appointed to the board of education serving for a number of years. It was his proposal that initiated a teacher pension system.

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