John B. Swain of Throop (1799-1891) was the husband of my maternal 4x great aunt Almira J. Tyler (1804-1873). Almira is the sister of my 3x great grandfather, Lonson W. Tyler (1794-1872).  In 1890 John Swain’s recollections were published by the Auburn, NY Daily Bulletin on January 18th.  His reference to his father-in-law in his recollection is to my 4x great grandfather, William Tyler (1773-1860).

L to R: John B Swain, his son-in-law Martin Van Aken and his daughter Martha Swain Van Aken.

L to R: John B Swain, his son-in-law Martin Van Aken and his daughter Martha Swain Van Aken.



How He Came to Auburn and the Many Things He Remembers About the Early Days.

To the Editor:
Seeing in the BULLETIN your request to old inhabitants of the city to write of the early recollections of Auburn, and observing the meagre details thus far, I was prompted to submit a few facts which I hope you will consider of sufficient interest to publish. I am not a resident of the city, but have lived within three miles of the prison gate for sixty-nine years.

I was born in New Jersey June 15th, 1799, and consequently nearly 90 years. When eighteen years of age I left home with my brother for the State of Ohio, then considered the far west. We traveled in a one-horse wagon, there being no railroads, and landed in Smithfield county, Ohio at the end of thirty days. I visited Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland until 1820, when I started for this county the called the lake region. I made the journey afoot, the distance about 500 miles, in just twelve days. I came by way of Pittsburg, Finch creek and up the Allegany river to Olean, then across to Pike Ferry, Moscow and Geneseo, and thence through Lima, Bloomfield to Canandaigua, and east to Auburn. There was about a foot of snow on the ground when I arrived but the weather was quite pleasant. The place was known as Hardenburg Corners in those days.

The walls of the first few acres enclosed for the prison were built by Lawrence White and Ralph Decamp of New York. At the conclusion of the work White built a house at the corner of Van Anden and North Streets, and lived there, rearing a large family. Decamp settled on a farm near Fosterville and remained there until his death. West Van Anden and Seymour streets were a wild swamp. The land from the site of the State asylum to Hackney was covered by heavy timber. It was in the woods at a point about where the asylum gate is now that the eccentric Lorenzo Dow used to preach. From that point south, to Clark Street, was a wilderness almost impenetrable.

Jack Harris was the first man received at the prison. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for burning the Rome, Oneida county jail. At the expiration of twenty years he was pardoned. He learned the coopers trade during his confinement, and upon his release he worked for John Hepburn, counting staves at the corner of Wall and Cross streets, until he was nearly blind. He was finally removed to the county house, where he died about ten years ago, aged 100 years. My father-in-law’s brother, Gideon Tyler, a small boy, was the first person buried in the North Street cemetery. The prison chaplain was Mr. Bowser, a Methodist preacher who conducted a chair factory on Market street.

On the corner of Mechanic and Genesee street in 1821 there was a general merchandise store owned and conducted by two brothers named Patty.  Mrs. Arnett, of whom Mr. Bostwick speaks, was a relative of the Patty’s.  Mrs. Arnett’s husband had the Cooper contract in the prison and I worked for him nearly five years.  Richard Steele’s drug store stands to-day in the same place it did then.   Walter Weed had a hardware store just below.  When boats began running on the Erie Canal, Mr. Weed built a basin for the craft to load and unload cargoes.  The point was then called Weed’s Basin, but it has since been changed to Weedsport.  In a two story building where the Auburn Savings bank now stands, U. F. Doubleday, published a weekly newspaper, the Cayuga Patriot.  A Mr. Lounsbury was employed in the office, also a Mr. Allen who finally became a partner.  Finally Mr. Doubleday got out of the business and the paper was published by Allen & Lounsbury.  There was also a two story building where Seward’s bank now stands.  The ground floor was occupied by Abijah Fitch, who conducted a dry goods store.  The second story was occupied by the Auburn Free Press office, a newspaper published by a Mr. Oliphant.  In a room in the upper story of a building which stood about where Hunt’ drug store is now located, Judge Miller had a law office and William H. Seward studied law with him, and Enos T. and Geo. B. Throop were then residents of Auburn.  The former was afterwards Governor of the State.

The only hat store was owned by Nathaniel Garrow, afterwards Garrow & Linds, and finally the firm name became Carpenter & Linds.  The latter was soon after appointed principal keeper at the prison, and then the firm name became Carpenter & Bodley for a short time when A. T. Carpenter bought out the business.   When Charles Carpenter became of age the firm name was changed to Carpenter & Son.  The store is now run by A. T. Carpenter’s grandson, Charles.

In 1820, Milton Sherwood, a son of old Colonel Sherwood who was then keeping the Stage house at the foot of Skaneateles lake, came to Auburn and built a stage house called the American hotel.  He conducted the house until the railroad was finished and there being no further use for stages he retired from the business, settled on a farm, near where the fair ground is now, and engaged in breeding fancy cattle.  There were two whiskey distilleries and one beer brewery in Auburn in 1820.

There were four churches – one Episcopal, a little wooden building on West Genesee street which was burned in 1826; the First Presbyterian, a wooden building, corner of North and Franklin streets; the Baptist meeting house on Exchange street; and a Methodist place of worship on Chapel street.  The place where Richardson’s furniture house now is was formerly a Universalist church.

In 1824 a company of light infantry was organized in Brutus, Sennett and Mentz.  It was named the “Brutus Blues.”  One night a man rode up to my house and notified me to be at Auburn early in the morning, well equipped, to escort the Marquis De La Fayette into the village.  The company mustered early and marched out some distance and met the distinguished visitor.  He was in an open two seated carriage with three or four of the prominent men of the village.  I do not remember the names.  We escorted him to the hotel, fired a salute and then broke ranks.

The first building of the Theological Seminary was began in 1825.  I could write a volume of early recollections but I will forbear for this time.


Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright November 2017. All Rights Reserved.


Eggs, Dresses and Postcards

Eggs, Dresses and Postcards

My 2nd great aunt Ida C. Curry Bedell (1866-1943) was a teacher for most of her life in New York state schools in Cayuga, Tompkins and Broome counties. Born in Aurelius, Cayuga County, New York, Ida is the sister of my maternal 2x great grandmother Katherine “Kate” C. Curry Curtis.

Deborah Tyler et al

Deborah Jane Tyler Curry, Jennie B. Curry Sinsabaugh, Ida C. Curry Bedell in Ithaca, NY

My mother used to talk about Ida…”Aunt Ida” and would invariably pull out the image of  a photograph (circa 1900) of Ida sitting on the porch of her sister Jennie B. Curry Sinsabaugh’s home in Ithaca with Jennie and their mother, Deborah Jane Tyler Curry and Jennie’s daughters Cora and Elsie.  At the time, Ida was teaching in Ithaca and living with Jennie and her family and their elderly mother.   Three generations and one of my treasured possessions.

Ida was single for a good portion of her adulthood until at the age of 39,  she married in 1905 to widower Charles Henry Bedell of Aurelius, Cayuga County, NY.

A few years ago, after I posted a story about Ida, I was sent an image of Ida by a descendant of Charles Bedell and his first wife Frances. The photo was taken when Ida was a young woman. Among the keepsakes that belonged to Ida were some folksy postcards that she had sentimentally kept.

With no telephone (or social media) a plea for eggs on a postcard.  How fast did this get resolved?

Eggs gone and I would like more before Sat if possible.  Have been repairing the hen house and it disturbed the hens so they are not laying so well and i have not enough of my own for Saturday morning. So if you can not come please send card so I will now.


Ella Fowler

Ida’s stepdaughter, Flora Viola Bedell Lasher sent a request for eggs…TWO DOZEN in a 1909 postcard.  Evidently Ida had some prolific hens!

Dear Ida

Will you please bring me a couple dozen of eggs next time you come out.  Come so you can stay a while.  We are all well.  Alvin cried for an hour that day.  He is all right now.  Good by yours  Flora

And another plea postmarked September 11, 1907 from Rochester, N.Y.  Was K. C. Katherine Deborah Curtis, my grandmother’s sister?

Dear Aunt,

Will you please send me that dress you said I could have.  Will pay charges on stage.

K. C.


Ida Curry Bedell

Ida C. Curry Bedell

It was lovely to hear how beloved Ida was by her step children as evidenced by the fact that they kept her photo and memorabilia.  The photograph is lovely to see, of course, but the postcards are what I treasure most.

Ida is buried in Lakeview Cemetery in the Village of Cayuga with her husband Charles and his first wife, Frances Harnden Bedell and just steps away from Ida’s mother and father, Deborah Jane Tyler and Frances J. Curry.

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright July 2017. All Rights Reserved.



A Tonic For What Ails You

A Note To My Readers: A gray day…thunder and rain. No wonder my muscles hurt. OUCH. Hauling out the aspirin. I think of my 2x great grandmother, Deborah Jane Tyler Curry and her granddaughter (my grandmother) Florence L. Curtis Purdy who had rheumatism. My turn.

A Tonic For What Ails You

Deborah took a ‘remedy’ called “Kenyon’s Blood and Nerve Tonic” that was pretty much cannabis. That was no secret as other ‘druggists’ sold tonics with the same ingredients. Some even added chocolate for flavoring! Evidently Ithacans in the nineteenth century swore by J. C Kenyon’s Tonic. The newspapers were full of testimonials that declared their appetite had returned and they felt much better after one bottle. Uh huh.

Kenyon’s ‘agents’ for the Owego firm….were Judson Bryant Todd and Arthur B. Brooks, druggists in Ithaca. Todd also sold oils and paints which were treatments for corns and skin ailments at his mercantile on 6 E. State St in Ithaca. He was a regular CVS..selling cigars, manicure sets, perfumes.

And ‘Hot Weather Colognes’. A display ad in the “Ithaca Daily News’ reads:

“You can get them at TODD’s PHARMACY. Those odors due to perspiration can be covered with colognes until the bath-tub is conquered. You can find a large variety there, and unless your education in such things has been sadly neglected you should have them, and at TODD’S PHARMACY they are legion.”

Brooks sold his own brands – “Jamaica Ginger” and “Brooks Hot Drops” and “Sun Cholera Mixture” at his pharmacy at 30 East State St. He called himself “The King of Tonics” and his own concoction was dubbed “Brook’s Calisaya and Iron Tonic” and advertised as having the nourishing properties of ‘Beef and Wine” at 50 cents a pint. Calisaya…an herbal liqueur. Booze.

Well, look at this way..my straight-laced Methodist 2x great grandmother lived to be almost 90 and evidently bore her suffering cheerfully. Bless that tonic…






Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright March 2017.  All Rights Reserved.


A Note to My Readers:   Family lore often assists in uncovering mysteries.  Breaking brick walls.  On the other hand, it can also be the cause of those brick walls as well.  Or the very least throw a cloud over the real lives of the people you are researching and removing an important aspect of the times in which they live.   For years I was under the impression that one family’s deafness was due to so many first cousins marrying.  It was perpetuated by other Tyler researchers like the proverbial ‘whisper down the lane’.  The more it was repeated, the more it became fact.  That is, until I began to find out more about my second cousins, the Doty Family of Cayuga County, New York.  I looked for the ‘signs’.

Researching my maternal 4th great grandfather, William Tyler (1773 – 1860) and his wife, Abelina Bartlett (1772 – 1855) also involved the extended family – the Dotys. My second cousins.  William and his wife, Abelina Bartlett Tyler, were feeble in their final years. William suffered from senility and so the pair were separated by 1850. Abilena spent her remaining days with her two daughters, Marietta Roberts and Almyra Swain in Aurelius. William went to live with his daughter, Anna Tyler Doty in Sennett. Anna married her first cousin Jason Martin Doty.  Jason’s mother, Deborah, was William Tyler’s sister and she was married to Timothy Doty.

New York Institute for Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb

New York Institute for Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb

It wasn’t uncommon in the Tyler line for first cousins to marry. Kin was a big deal…family wealth was kept close and family loyalty was paramount. It wreaked havoc on the gene pool back then among many families that practiced the tradition.  At first I thought that was borne out by the number of individuals that are recorded as ‘deaf and dumb’ in the family of William B. Doty…John Mason Doty’s brother. Will and his wife, Lucretia Pierce, had eleven children. Three of them were deaf and dumb and were sent off to New York City to the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb to learn to read and write, but more importantly to learn to sign to stay connected to the greater world. After their education, the children returned and married fellow students of the institution.

Several poignant records came to my attention regarding the Dotys. The first was the 1850 Federal Census that shows sisters Phebe Doty Cuddeback (1833-1930) and Rebecca Doty Gilbert Cross (1829-1915) living at the NYC school as students and enumerated as ‘inmates’ and ‘deaf and dumb’.  Inmate is a term frequently used for students and patients in institutions when enumerating in the censuses.

I also came across Phebe’s marriage announcement in a local newspaper – the Auburn, NY Weekly Journal from November of 1852.

“At Weedsport on Tuesday, November 9th, by the Rev. S. R. Brown, Mr. CORNELIUS CUDDEBACK, of Phelps, Ontario County, to Miss PHEBE DOTY, of Weedsport. Both were graduates of the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb. The ceremony was performed in the language of signs.”

U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages

U.S. Special Census on Deaf Family Marriages, Rebecca Doty weds George M. Cross

For Rebecca Doty, I found her first husband, Gustavus O. Gilbert and his sister, Lucy, each listed as an ‘inmate’ at the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb in the 1850 census. Rebecca and Gustavus were students there at the same time. When Gustavus died in 1865, Rebecca married George M. Cross, another young man who was profoundly deaf. Their marriage record in the U.S. Census on Deaf Family Marriages tells the real story about why the three Doty siblings were afflicted. The cause was attributed to WHOOPING COUGH. The Dotys were not ill at the same time as their ages ran a span of decades.  Rebecca and Phebe most likely were ill at the same time as they were just four years apart, but the youngest, who was also deaf, was not born until 1846.   All lost their hearing at a young age which in turn affected their speech.

As I read through Auburn area newspapers from the 1840’s and 1850’s, it became apparent that whooping cough was a widespread problem during that time.  Along with whooping cough, scarletina, diphtheria and consumption (phthsis),  the area residents had suffered for several decades prior to the 40’s and 50’s as well.  It was a constant threat and institutions had been established to manage the long-term effects.  The New York Institute for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb was established in 1817.  The U.S. Census on Deaf Family Marriages (1888-1895) read more like a medical report defining the cause of the deafness and details on the parents and other siblings.  This was a society looking desperately to manage infectious diseases that clearly impacted large segments of the population and remained unchecked.

Adelmor Doty Monument.  Throopsville Cemetery

Adelmor Doty Monument. Throopsville Cemetery

I mentioned three siblings…the last was Adelmor Doty (1846-1864) who died at the New York Institution for the Deaf and Dumb of typhoid when he was just 18 years old. Adelmor is buried among his Doty family members in Throop’s Community Cemetery. His monument is particularly touching. It features three signs that spell out G. O. D. and the inscription:

“The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped”. Isaiah 35 Chap 5 Vse. Selected by his teacher.”  ADELMORE. SON OF WM. & L. DOTY.  DIED AT WASHINGTON HEIGHTS, N.Y. CITY

In my initial research of this Doty family, I found Adelmor’s monument first as I did Tyler work in the old Throopsville Cemetery.  Walking cemeteries in the process of documenting my family’s old pioneer burials, I happen upon monuments that capture my attention.  They have a character that tells you that there is a bigger story to tell.  The unusual engraving and the inscription on the stele of Adelmor Doty was the beginning of that deeper research.



Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian, Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2015.  All Rights Reserved.