December 8, 2021

Big jeans, murder mystery

Homer’s history features series of unusual events, attractions

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Jim Contento tells the story Thursday behind the 8-foot Wrangler jeans on display at Homer Men and Boys in Homer.

As with any place, the people, places and things that make up a hometown also make up the identities of the people who live there.

“We all like to think that where we’re from has something about it that’s unique because if it’s unique it’s special and if it’s unique and special that makes you unique and special,” Homer historian Martin Sweeney said. “It’s part of your identity. It gives you a sense of who you are.”

Here are some lesser known quirky facts about Homer.

Those are some big jeans

It’s hard to miss an 8-foot-tall pair of jeans in Homer once you know where to look.

Perched on a stand overlooking the stairs that lead to second floor of Homer Men and Boys are the almost 50-yearold jeans, part of a promotional campaign by Wrangler Jeans to guess how many stitches were in them, said store employee Jim Contento.

Contento, who was working at the store when the jeans arrived in the late 1960s, said someone won the contest, but he doesn’t remember what the number of stitches were.

Homer Men and Boys employee Jen Zolla reminisces Thursday, about the first time she saw the 8-foot tall Wrangler jeans as a little girl on display at Homer Men and Boys store.

Store employee Jen Zolla always heard about the pants growing up and now as an employee she gets people who stop in just to see them.

“They’re fun,” Zolla said. “How can you not smile when you see pants that big?”

Walking down Main St.

Amelia Jenks Bloomer did not create bloomers. However, the Homer native helped make them popular, Sweeney said.

The women’s rights advocate was visiting home in the 1850s when she walked down Main Street in Homer wearing the pants.

“It was not without giggles and derisive comments from some local boys trailing along behind her,” Sweeney said. “We do not giggle anymore at the sight of trouser-ed women, nor do we find it appropriate to ask the question ‘Who wears the pants in the family?’”

The Lincoln connection

Three men from Homer have connections to President Abraham Lincoln, Sweeney said:

• Eli DeVoe was not only born in the same year as Lincoln, but became a detective who helped stop one of the assassination attempts against Lincoln when he was on his way to take the oath of office in 1861.

• Francis B. Carpenter is the artist behind one of the most famous paintings of Lincoln, according to Sweeney. Carpenter, a portrait painter, did an oil on canvas painting titled “The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet.”

“Because it appears in textbooks it’s the one we most often have come into our mind the minute someone says Lincoln,” Sweeney said.

The painting, “The First Reading of the Emancipation Proclamation before the Cabinet,” was painted by Francis B. Carpenter of Homer.

It took him six months to paint, starting in February 1864. Today the painting hangs in the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

• William O. Stoddard was the personal secretary to both Lincoln and his wife during the Civil War.

An unsolved murder

Four days before Christmas 1894, farmer Patrick Quinlan was killed while walking home on Creal Road from a pub that is now Dasher’s Corner Pub in the village of Homer.

He had stopped at the bar to have a couple of beers.

Sweeney said two men in their 20s, who had also been at the pub, were arrested and tried on murder charges, but were not convicted. The murder was never solved.

“It remains a cold case and proves you can get away with murder in Homer, at least in 1894,” Sweeney said.

Baby Jesus goes missing

“Brandon was a mischievous dog,” said Patrick Perfetti.

He recalled growing up with the dog at his family’s home on 14 S. Main St. in Homer, which has now been sold.

So when the baby Jesus from the nativity scene on the village green went missing in the mid-to-late 1980s, the family knew it had been their dog.

“When the cops were out looking they ended up finding it on my parent’s side porch,” said Perfetti, who later joined his father, David’s, law office before becoming the Cortland County district attorney.

Sweeney said the dog was reprimanded and the doll was returned.

Perfetti said a news report was published on the incident and his mother, Margaret, saved the clipping, hanging it up in their home.