A Man and His Dog

March 23rd.  National Puppy Day.

My family has long had a love affair with dogs. In fact, my great grandfather’s brother, Henry E Curtis Jr 21Henry Eugene Curtis, Jr. was ferocious about his pup.

In September of 1879 it got him into a lot of hot water when a fellow Cayugan (NY) threatened the dog. Henry punched him so hard, the man went down like a ton of bricks.  In fact, it was a prominent new story in the local paper.

“John Heifer, of Cayuga, a middle-aged man and one of the witnesses in the late church trial at that place, received a severe drubbing at the hands of Henry Curtis, Friday. The fracas occurred near the home of the latter and resulted from a chain of circumstances of which the seemingly harmless questions, ‘will your dog bite?’ was one of the links. It is alleged that Curtis, whose name was extensively used in connection with the unproved scandal of this trial, was deeply incensed against those who sought to defame his character, and that Heifer was one of the more prominent witnesses pressed forward to bring about this result. Like all similar questions, this one has two sides and the action is both eulogized and severely condemned by members of the community who are thoroughly conversant with the details of the scandal and the resulting fracas. The story told by Curtis is to the effect that Heifer while passing the Curtis property asked him if his dog, which was near, would bite. To this he replied his insistence that he hoped not, such a creature as he was. That thereupon Hiefer called Curtis insulting names and struck him, or at least struck at him. This so has libeled the latter that he dealt Heifer a blow. In the melee which resulted Heifer was badly pumelled (sic). The other version is that when Heifer asked the question in regard to the dog Curtis responded by calling the latter an opprobrious name and immediately followed it up with an attack on Heifer’s person. It is reported that a warrant has been issued for the arrest of Curtis. The matter is the leading topic of conversation in Cayuga. No matter what the provocations, such occurrences ceased fail to produce a demoralizing effect on the community which tolerated them and they are sincerely to be regretted. In addition to this, the peace and order loving position of the community have a right to be protected and they should trust upon entire measures being taken to insure against a reoccurence of such demonstrations – no matter who may be the offender.”

BTW… Henry was not held at fault and remained one of the Village of Cayuga’s most popular citizens.

And the dog? Well, if the portrait is any indication…he appears to be that good creature Henry held him to be.

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Genealogist, Author and Contributing Writer

(c) Copyright 2020

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