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.

Hastily

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.

 

 

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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.

Lost Arts. The Gregg Method.

My mother was a prolific list maker. They were all over the house and jammed into her purse.  If the season changes and she added a chic new exchequer, the lists made the transfer with her lipstick and wadded up currency and life savers.  They were as constant as the rising sun and the stars in the sky.

Those bits of her streams of consciousness always smelled of TABU and tobacco and sported the inevitable loose speck of her Virginia Slims. Every once in awhile she would cleanse the house of her lists and slowly, but surely the accumulation would begin again. Mostly they were grocery lists, but there were reminders to write her sisters or her brother. She never wrote “Bill”…always “Brother” and the random events…PTA meetings and Christmas parties…birthday notes and something for a neighbor. Her conversation with herself because there was no other adult in the household to share the weight of her thoughts.

I am her.  I have a lifetime of my own lists…and remake them religiously.  I keep notebooks and they are a grand design of random thoughts, tasks, and doodles.

Many of my mother’s lists were simply replays because in the melange the original was ‘somewhere’ and time was wasted sorting through the paper trail to update them.   Besides, I think it was a comfort device for her to put those things down in her flourishing handwriting and begin afresh.  Again…like me.

Except for Christmas lists. Mom was trained in Gregg’s shorthand.shorthand
She knew my sister and I would stumble across one of the months of wish lists and spoil her Christmas Day surprises. Instead there were among the daily wool gatherings that began in October, the purposeful squiggles that we couldn’t decipher…no Google in the 1950’s. It wasn’t driven by today’s nutty Christmas marketing before Halloween.

No, it was about a single mother putting our gifts on layaway and paying on them incrementally until they were freed from their ransom and she could bring them home for her girls.

The only telltale mark that my sister and I sleuthed out was the check mark next to a line of squiggles…some ‘thing’ was paid for.

One elegant purse lives vividly in my memory.  She carried it at my wedding.001  Mom had saved for it and treasured it above others.  Yes.  Elegant.  That was her.   And when she helped me change into my ‘going away dress’, she opened her purse to retrieve a hankie and there in the midst of the familiar tobacco bits, lipstick tubes, crinkled cash and perfume was her latest list of ‘things to do’ the morning of my wedding.

I am so fortunate to have had a wonderful mother who kept lists and loved to be vivacious until her last days.   I bought her a new purse for every birthday and put in a note in lieu of a list…one item.  Thank you, Mom.

Deborah J.  Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright October 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

The Flowery Kingdom

Occasionally genealogists spend research time delving into the nooks and crannies of history to broaden the knowledge of an ancestor’s life.   For some time I have been gathering information on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.  Specifically the Japanese Pavilion under the direction of Royal Commissioner Seiichi Tejima (1850 -1918) and the charming teapot exhibit contributed by my first cousin, Frances Lorinda Heath Eldridge (1847-1930) of Yokohama, Japan.

As described by R.E.A. Dorr in “Arthur’s Home Magazine, Vol 62”.  Published in 1892,

1893-columbian-exposition-japan-pavilion

1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. Japanese Pavilion. Chicago, IL.

“Of all the countries that will exhibit at the fair, the plans outlined by Japan are now attracting the greatest interest.  The appropriation of $630, 000 by the legislature or parliament of the Flowery Kingdom was a genuine surprise, and there was at once much curiosity to learn how so large a sum was to be expended.   A few days after the appropriation was announced by cable, Mr. S. Tegima (sic), the Japanese royal commissioner, arrived in Chicago.  He was a most courtly, elegant gentleman, who, except on occasions of extreme ceremonial, appeared in European costume.  He was wined and dined at the Chicago clubs and in the most exclusive homes.  He was taken to Jackson Park and shown the exposition grounds and plans of the buildings in process of construction.

Finally Mr. Tegima asked for a business meeting with the director-general and chief of construction.  At this meeting he unfolded a plan of operations for Japan which it is believed will eclipse the plans of any other foreign power.   He demanded space at the north end of the wooded island for a Japanese building to cost $100,000 and for a botanical garden to cost nearly as much more.  He proposed an annual appropriation by his government to keep both in order and repair.  The propositions were both accepted, and Mr. Tegima, having secured surveys of the ground allotted him, left for Japan with the promise to return in July with two hundred native carpenters and gardeners and begin work on August 1st.

The building will be a duplicate of one of the emperor’s most beautiful and ancient temples.  It will be built in Japan in sections, taken apart, sent to America in a Japanese war-vessel, and put together by the emperor’s own workmen at Jackson Park.  The garden, too, will be laid out in Japan, and Mr. Tegima promises that landscape gardening effects will be produced far more wonderful and beautiful than anything before seen outside his own country.  Tons of earth will be brought with the plants, as many of those to be used thrive only in their native soil.

Inside the Japanese palace will be a collection of relics, carvings and other articles showing the implements of industry and the art treasures of this ancient people.  Many of these articles will be loaned by the emperor from his private collection, and from the national museums.  Native attendants and soldiers will have charge of and guard these treasures of the East, and native gardeners will have exclusive charge of the flower beds.  In short, a small section of Japan will be shown at the fair.

Altogether Japan will occupy within the exposition grounds 148, 975 square feet of space.”

Anxious to provide the exposition with the best representation of Japan, the number of items shipped far exceeded by many tons the contracted amount.  The Meiji had heavily invested in the industrialization of Japan and promoting their arts and goods to the world.  The enthusiasm for the opportunity the exposition offered was met with an enormous gathering of exhibit material.  What was excess was sold at the Exposition and shops in Chicago.

“The Japan Daily Mail” revealed that the “Ho-o-den” – the pavilion- was so jammed with items “as to be well-nigh bewildering”.  The pavilion, known to westerners as the Phoenix Pavilion, was given to the City of Chicago as a permanent showcase of Japanese art and a gesture of good will and the city maintained it thus for 120 years.

The pavilion was lost to fire in 1946, but many of the individual items remain and revitalization is underway.  Just last year three two-sided panels called fusuma were found in a Chicago Park facility.  Yoko Ono has contributed a major piece of art to the project.  The garden in Jackson Park has been re-designated as “The Garden of the Phoenix” and promises to restore the grounds, install a pavilion and once again inspire visitors to the site.

tejima_seiichi

Seiichi Tejima.

It is worth noting that Seiichi Tejima is a venerated figure in modern day Japan.  Mr Tejima was curator of the Tokyo Educational Museum.   He had relationships with many collectors and museums and as Dr. James Stuart Eldridge (my cousin’s husband) was favored by the Meiji emperor and was a collector of Japanese art, artifacts and antiquities, it would be no small leap to think that Mr. Tejima went to Frances and asked her to contribute her collection of rare Japanese pottery teapots.

Since my cousins…the Eldridge’s direct descendants…did not know of the exhibit, but do have letters and Japanese artifacts, it might be fun to have them go through what they have in order to find mention of Mr. Tejima and together perhaps we will be able to connect the 123- year-old dots.

 

Deborah J.  Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright September 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

 

Photograph of Mr. Tejima courtesy of Tejima Seiichi Sensei Den (手島精一先生伝), Published in 1929.

 

Edward Gray. Clam Chowder and Genetic Memory.

I have lived in several different areas of the country other than my beloved New York State Finger Lakes region over the years and some places had that inexplicable sense of ‘home’ almost immediately. None so much as living in Rhode Island. It was instant and heartfelt. I could never put my finger on it until in my later years I began to research my heritage and discovered my deep roots in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

When I return now to research, it is with a heightened awareness of my heritage and love of the New England coastline. I fondly recall the drive through Tiverton and heading south to Newport and the anticipation of a steaming bowl of clam chowder at the Black Pearl and a leisurely afternoon strolling through the grounds of one of the grand mansions.

And always the smell of the sea.

Perhaps there is something to the scientific theory that we have genetic or ancestral memories.

Plimoth Plantation is part of my heritage with both Mayflower passengers John Billington, Edward Fuller and Reverend John Robinson and a plethora of Great Migration settlers as well. As I have been working these lines for some time now, it occurs to me that like my New York State family, a New England nexus is present so I am building a graphic to illustrate the connections and to show the disbursement points westward. A much more daunting task than the New York State project because of the sheer number of ancestors in New England.

So what…or should I say WHO compelled me to begin this New England project?

My paternal 8th great grandfather -The English immigrant EDWARD GRAY, SR. (1629-1681) of Plymouth, Massachusetts

“where he settled as early as 1643, and died in June 1681. He received a grant of a double share of land at Plymouth, June 3, 1662, and was made freeman, May 29, 1670. He received a grant of one hundred acres at Titicut (located at a bend of the Taunton River), March 4, 1674, was grand juryman, 1671, and deputy to the general court in 1676-77-78-79. He was appointed a member of a committee, July 13, 1677, to examine the accounts of the various towns on account of the recent Indian war. He had nine-thirtieths of a tract of Tiverton lands, purchased with other, March 5, 1680, for eleven hundred pounds.” [i]

“Before Europeans arrived, the Pocasset people fished and farmed along the eastern shore of the Sakonnet River in what is now Tiverton. Forests, swamps, and streams provided fresh water, game, wood products, berries, and winter shelter. In 1651, Richard Morris of nearby Portsmouth purchased the Nannaquaket peninsula from its native inhabitants. There is no evidence of Morris settling here, so he may have used the peninsula to grow crops and graze animals. In 1659, Morris’ claim was recognized as legitimate by Plymouth Colony, which at that time included the Tiverton area as part of its holdings.

Strapped for cash by King Phillip’s War (1675 – 1676), Plymouth sold a tract of this land in 1679 for £1100 to the Proprietors of Pocasset. The “First Division” of the Pocasset Purchase created thirty large lots, with the northernmost edge close to the present-day Fall River-Tiverton border and the southern boundary at the Tiverton-Little Compton line.

Edward Gray (1667 – 1726) held nine shares along the southern boundary of this purchase. The 237-acre tract now known as Pardon Gray Preserve passed to Edward’s grandson, Pardon Gray (1737 – 1814), who farmed the property. During the Revolutionary War, Pardon Gray became a Colonel in the Rhode Island militia, and he was placed in charge of the local commissary, which he ran from his home. Colonel Gray supplied 11,000 militia and Continental troops stationed at Fort Barton prior to the Battle of Rhode Island in 1778. Marquis de Lafayette briefly used a house nearby as his headquarters. Pardon Gray died at the age of 78 in 1814, and he is buried alongside his wife, Mary, in the family cemetery.”[ii]

That land purchase in Tiverton caused his son EDWARD GRAY, JR (1666-1726), my 7th great grandfather, to migrate there and like his father was a merchant who traded between Plymouth and Newport. His many descendants and my ancestors were born, lived, married and toiled along the coastlines in Tiverton and Newport, Rhode Island and Dartmouth and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

Edward Gray, Jr. is buried on his former property in Tiverton.  The house was on the main road (Route 77) in Tiverton between Newport and Boston, and not far from the intersection known as “Four Corners.” (Routes 77 and 179)   The grave is not marked. On an old Tiverton map the location is indicated by a cross.  (Plat 15, Book 1, Town Hall. Notation: Old Edward burying place.  Tiverton Town Hall Land Records).

The Pardon Gray Preserve

I am excited to visit this historic preserve and visit the old Gray Family cemetery and perhaps get that tingle of ancestral memory.

The 230-acre Pardon Gray Preserve was purchased and preserved as permanent open space by the Tiverton Land Trust in 2000. It is an active farm and forest preserve adjacent to Main Road in South Tiverton and contiguous with the 550 acre Weetamoo Woods Open Space. The property, originally part of the Pocasset Purchase signed in 1676, contains many colonial artifacts including the Gray Family Historical Cemetery, an old well house (restored as a visitors’ kiosk) and original stonewalls. The Tiverton Land Trust stewardship program focuses on protecting open space, agricultural lands, historic sites and wildlife habitat. (Sakonnet Historical Society).

Edward Gray Burial Hill Plymouth monument stereoptocon

Stereopticon Card Image of Edward Gray Monument. Burial Hill, Plymouth, Massachusetts

Edward Gray, Sr. is buried in Plymouth in Old Burial Hill. His restored monument still stands.

 

 

 

 

 

[i] NEW ENGLAND FAMILIES, Genealogical and Memorial.  A Record of the Achievements of Her People in the Making of Commonwealth and the founding of a Nation.   Compiled under the Editorial Supervision of WILLIAM RICHARD CUTTER, A.M. THIRD SERIES. Volume 1.  New York, Lewis Historical Publishing Company.  1915.

[ii] History of Pardon Gray Preserve By Tiverton Land Trust with research support from Tiverton Land Trust.

Deborah J.  Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

© Copyright August 2016.  All Rights Reserved.

 

The Luck of the Irish

Researching my Irish third great grandparents, Anthony Curry and Bridget Grant over the past few years has been a piecemeal effort. I was thrilled when I found their names in Francis J. Curry’s Civil War documents and his actual birth date, April 12, 1829. In New York State and Federal Censuses his birth place was enumerated each and every time as “Free Ireland”. That is one generous and complicated research pool. And what was “Free Ireland”?

It was time to delve into Irish history and learn about the timeline of Francis’ life and have context for why a seventeen year old would migrate alone across the Atlantic Ocean to a young country. The big question remained. How do I narrow down where to search for Anthony and Bridget Curry? After the usual Boolean attempt and finding nothing, I went back to their son to see if there could be a clue in some document.

F J Curry Death Certificate rFirst, I ordered his death certificate from New York State Vital Records. Francis died in 1887 on his farm in Montezuma, Cayuga County. Though New York State began death certificate registration in 1880 and 1881, I found that was no guarantee that one had been filed. Especially in rural areas. It wasn’t until 1913 that compliance was reliable and complete. Luck of the Irish, his death certificate was filed with the state and unlike some others, the information was complete and the handwriting quite legible. And the clue I needed was there. Not “Free Ireland”, but County Clair (sic).

Back to online Irish sources and I went to County Clare Library to see what types of records were available. The first easy step was to “search this site” with the surname Curry and I expected to find either mountains of Curry families or none at all if the records were sparse. First hit was Anthony Curry in the 1855 census transcript in Ennis and there was a Bridget Curry in Ennis as well. The Parish was Drumcliff, but there were place names like Ballyfaudeen and Killaspulgonane and Clonroad and Drumcaurin. Another source stated that in County Clare, a processor named Anthony Curry, worked on documenting the poor. A third document showed an Anthony Curry living in Drumcliff Parish on ½ acre of land in the town of Drumcaurin. I clearly need to learn more about geopolitical boundaries and geography and social, political and religious aspects of County Clare before I try to parse records. Search isn’t research without having a set of valid parameters and all I had was the location of County Clare, but I am not researching with enough basic understanding of its community.

What I am beginning to understand is its history and the event known as “The Great Famine” or the “Irish Potato Famine” and its implication in the migration of my seventeen year old great great grandfather to America. I am also catching on to the continuing reference of “Free Ireland” versus just stating “Ireland”.

Frank Curry arrived in his new home in 1846 and in 1850 Frank was working on the farm of James and Abbie Tyler Jenney in Springport, Cayuga, New York. It is where he would fall in love with and marry Deborah Jane Tyler, Abbie’s younger sister. Debry, as she was affectionately known by her family, was part of the large Tyler family who came to Cayuga County in 1793 and collectively owned some of the best farm land along Cayuga Lake.

By 1855 Frank, Deborah and their two infant sons, William and Henry Eugene, were living in1856 Naturalization Record p1 the village of Cayuga and farming. In 1856 Frank’s father-in-law, Lonson Tyler took him to the Cayuga County courthouse and there Frank became a naturalized citizen. Both men signed the document. Frank was literate not just a poor tenant farmer’s son with no education. He could write. Another clue toward Frank’s life in Ireland. Free Ireland. County Clare.

By 1860 the Curry family included my great grandmother, Kate C. Curry and they were living on their own modest farm in Montezuma where they had an apple orchard and cows and chickens.

Frank enlisted in the NYS 111th infantry Company in August of 1864, kissed his wife and two sons and two daughters goodbye and went to fight in the Army of the Potomac. When Lee surrendered at Appomattox, the 111th was there. He mustered out in Alexandria, Virginia in June of 1865 and with his fellow New Yorkers made the journey home. Like his fellow veterans, his health was fragile the rest of his life and he died at the age of 57 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

My notes are better populated with avenues to research and I am hoping that the Anthony Curry I found in Drumcliff is my ancestor and I have the Luck of the Irish working for me.

Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat.

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh
Author, Writer and Genealogical Researcher
© Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Beyond the Black and White Image

I was talking with some genealogical researchers today and we were discussing physical traits of our grandparents East Gallery Walland great grandparents. Because I was born late in my parents’ lives, I did not know my grandparents and my kids barely knew theirs. There are records that give physical descriptions…mostly for men as they are military…that state height, hair color, eye color and ‘build’. On occasion there is a traveler who gets a passport that gives us our female ancestor description. Kids, you have seen my heritage portrait wall of black and white photos, but that doesn’t specify the details or the histories and I realized that I am your link to know about those facts.

So. Because my kids never knew him…their grandfather (my dad) was barely 5′ 3″ and though I know he was pretty slim, I don’t know his specific weight. Look at my brother, their Uncle David Martin…that is pretty much our dad. I do know that my father had straight, reddish blonde hair with a receding hairline and that he had (my) blue eyes. Oh…and though this is not genetic…he smelled wonderful of Old Spice and starch and just a whiff of lemon drops. He had his brilliant white shirts done at (pardon the politically incorrect language) the Chinese laundry and to hide his road tipple of whiskey, he sucked on lemon drops in an attempt to hide it from my mother. It never worked, but that is another story.

Al loses finger in accident at Beacon Mill AccidentAt the age of seventeen my father lost his right pointer finger and half of his index finger when his hand was caught in a piece of machinery when he worked at Beacon Milling in Cayuga (now part of Cargill). I held his hand without a hesitation when we tromped through the high grasses along Cayuga Lake while we looked for walnuts and butter nuts…and a handful of Tiger Lillies and Bittersweet for my mom. When he would pose for pictures, he hid his hand. Mostly in his suit coat pocket. Dad was nearsighted and had gold-rimmed spectacles that he would habitually remove and clean and replace in the same fashion. Left ear…nose…right ear…in such a familiar gesture that I can still see him doing it some 50 years later. His pockets were always filled with NECCO wafers or LifeSavers and he would share them with me while I sat on his lap.  I spun the sweet candy idly around my mouth, dreamily listening as he spun odd tales in a ritual we called “The Big Lie”. It was mostly a deliberately garbled rendition of various fairy tales spiced with his inventive imagination and twist and turns that left us breathless laughing.  Those were the good times.

A E Martin 5yrsHe was a complicated man arisen from a 5 year old boy who witnessed his father committing suicide by swallowing carbolic acid. Dad was brilliant and entrepreneurial and could take anything mechanical apart and put it together again without one ounce of doubt. On occasion when he hit a snag, he might utter a ‘dammitall”, but he was persistent and by golly, it never failed to run. It was kind of a magical genius.

Human beings were another thing.

I was four when Dad was first committed to Willard State Hospital for alcoholism. I have a letter from his doctor that my mother tucked in the pages of the family bible. It spoke of a man who doubted his faith in being loved. He was in his late forties and to everyone else he was a successful self-made man.  Dad had thrived during the Great Depression and WWII. He owned an airplane and a valuable piece of Ithaca real estate on State Street in the 1940’s that has since ‘disappeared’ into urban renewal. He also had a mistress…one Harriet “Hattie” Daniels.  Mom always knew about Hattie.  I can’t imagine what it was like for her.  Dad would take the plane and fly down to D.C. on the weekends to see Hattie.  The affair lasted for decades until I was born.  You can imagine that Hattie lost it and told him to take a hike.  Then my father’s unraveling truly began and we lost everything. Our home. Everything.  While Dad was hospitalized, his business manager cleaned out the assets.  When my mother and father came back to the business, it was an empty building.  The inventory was gone and the office equipment including my little pink wicker chair that played nursery rhymes when I sat on it.  The bank accounts were almost empty.  Just enough was left to keep the accounts open.  And the business manager had fled the country.  The authorities including the FBI bumbled around and called the trail to South America ‘cold’.    Years after my father’s death, my mother shared the story with me so I knew what happened to our Ithaca life and I suppose so she could mourn the loss with a sympathetic child.

To say that ‘Daddy” – I call him that to this day- had a difficult and complicated history is an understatement. But when I attempt to describe him with ‘my blue eyes’ and a slight build…it overly simplifies it all.

I have come to the conclusion that you cannot create a biographical profile in a sterile box and with just a physical description. That said, “what did my grandfather look like” is the question. We family historians cannot resist to fill in with the other senses and emotions.

Still and all, he was my ‘Daddy’ and that means something to my child self.

When my brother, Rich died this year, we sat by his grave…next to my father’s in Lake View Cemetery in the little village of Cayuga, NY…and I allowed myself to grieve for them both.  I will return next summer and place flowers like I always do and choose to remember “The Big Lie”.

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh
Author, Writer and Genealogical Researcher
© Copyright 2015. All Rights Reserved.