[Note: This article includes the Table of Contents and the Introduction to Dr. Biddle's manuscript. The entire manuscript is available at the Allegany County Historical Center in Andover, N.Y.]

Cecil Peterson – Eleanor Bliss: Family Newspaper Clipping File Transcriptions, Summer 1973

Article List, Transcriptions, Name Index
Compiled by
Stanton F. Biddle
August 2016


I. Preface - Introduction
II. List of Newspaper Articles – by NA Item Numbers, 1 – 99
III. Scanned Transcriptions of Articles by Item Numbers, NA 1 – NA 99 (30, 31 and 32 are Missing)
IV. Name Index to Transcriptions Listing “NA” Item Numbers

This document is a transcription of family newspaper articles collected by Eleanor Bliss of Friendship, New York. Most of the articles relate to African Americans in the villages of Friendship and Wellsville in Allegany County, and Olean and Portville in Cattaraugus County, New York. Most are from the late 1930s through the mid-1960s. The newspapers covered include the Wellsville Daily Reporter, the Friendship Register, the Olean Times Herald, and the Portville Review among others.

Eleanor Mabel Bliss (1919-1998) was the daughter of John Maynard “Jack” Bliss (1887-1955) and Zaida Frances Tolliver (1886-1950) of Wellsville, NY. Cecil Peterson (1919-2006) was the son of Oscar Edmond Peterson, Sr. (1878-1916) and Zoe Louise Tolliver (1884-1920). Zaida and Zoe were two of the six daughters of William H. Tolliver (1850-1900) and Florence Peterson Tolliver Brown (1860-1942) of Scio and later Wellsville, NY. Therefore Cecil and Eleanor were first cousins on their mothers’ (Tolliver) sides.

Cecil’s drive to acquire and share information about his family’s history arose from the fact that he and his older brother Oscar Jr. had been given up to the child care system shortly after their mother’s death in 1920. First they were taken to the Salvation Army, and later they became wards of the Children’s Aid Society based in New York City. Over the years Cecil was moved among foster homes, orphanages, a medical facility for hyperactive children, and finally a boys’ correctional institution. Eventually he was placed with a family in Harlem that gave his life stability and he was able to focus on his education. Throughout the years he was in the system, his only contact with the family upstate was a brief visit as a teenager with relatives in Syracuse in 1937.

Fortunately, despite his challenging beginnings, Cecil was able to complete high school, serve two terms in the military (1942-45 and 1948-52) earn a bachelors degree from Long Island University, and establish a successful career in California as an educator and civic leader. After his retirement in 1970, he turned his attention to writing his autobiography and researching his family’s history. Although he had grown up an orphan, this effort reconnected him to his siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins in western New York State. He corresponded with social service agencies to document his experiences in the child care system. He also did extensive research on the history of the Petersons and related African American families in western New York. In doing this research he became aware of his cousin Eleanor Bliss’s collection of newspaper articles documenting the family’s activities in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties. In the summer of 1973 he was able to persuade her to lend him the collection of nearly a hundred clippings. He took them back to California, transcribed them by hand, and returned the originals to her. Years later, when he learned of my interest in our family’s history, he gave the transcriptions to me.

In addition to his desire to document and share information on his family’s history, Cecil Peterson would like to be remembered for his association with Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt. The friendship began when he was a teenager working one of the Federal Programs for disadvantaged youth and lasted until her death in 1962. It is documented in letters they exchanged over the years, some of which can be found by doing a key word search on the Internet.

I was very grateful to Cecil for sharing his transcriptions with me. I have circulated copies among family members and others who are interested in the histories of African American families in western New York. I have also used them as source documentation in my research, genealogy publications and family history presentations. In recent years, as the elders in our families have passed on, I have been getting more and more questions from the younger generations about our families’ histories and the relationships among the different branches of the families. I thought I should do something more to share the information that many members of the families had passed down to me. I digitized Cecil’s transcriptions, created a list of the individual newspaper articles, and compiled a name index to every person mentioned in the collection. I am sharing this collection in this electronic format in the hope that others in our families will benefit as I have. Any questions can be sent to me at the e-mail address below.

Stanton F. Biddle August 31, 2016