An Englishman in a Complicated American Life

A Note to My Readers: In furthering my knowledge of my paternal 2nd great grandfather, David Penird (1830-1901), a London born Englishman who migrated to the United States around 1850 and settled in Cayuga County, New York, I began to look at where he spent a good deal of his energy and time. I started with the task of writing a biographical profile with the facts. First I had to embrace the fact that over the decades, what eventually became the surname Penird was morphed many times from Pennard to Penard to Peniard and countless odd transcriptions and at last settling on Penird.

Upon his arrival in America, David immediately married 16 year old Elizabeth White of Auburn and soon after the couple had twin girls, Lucy Jennie and Mary Elizabeth. Elizabeth died in 1852 leaving David with the infant girls who had not yet celebrated their first birthday. On May 21, 1854, David married Martha D. Colwell of Summerhill in Union Springs and the pair took up Lucy Jennie and their own infant daughter, Ida Mae and moved to Cherry Valley, Illinois in 1856, leaving little Mary Elizabeth with her maternal grandmother in Auburn.

During their attempt at farming in Illinois two more children were born to the Penirds –sons John and George. While it is unclear what the circumstances were, a legal notice in the January 1st, 1861 issue of the Rock River (Illinois) Democrat reported the proceedings of the Winnebago County Board of Supervisors.

ROCKFORD, Dec. 3d, 1860.
Resolved. That Geo W. Miller be allowed the sum of Forty Dollars, for care of Lucy Penird, and for sending said Lucy Penird to her friends in Auburn New York, and the Clerk of this Board is hereby directed to draw an order on the Treasurer for the amount.
Resolved. That Burnap & Harvey, attorneys be allowed the sum of twenty-five dollars for their services in the case of U. D. Meacham, States Attorney, against David Penird, and the Clerk of this Board is hereby directed to draw an order on the Treasurer for the amount.

Lucy Jennie was sent to live with her mother’s sister, Olive White Arnold who had migrated to Wisconsin where Lucy continued to live, marry Horatio Theodore Harroun and raise six children. Between the time Mary Elizabeth was 14 and living with her grandmother in Auburn in 1865 until her marriage to William C. Heard on January 19, 1880 at the age of 29 in Bayonne, New Jersey I lost track of Mary Elizabeth.
It is clear, however, that the twin Penird girls – however far flung – and their half-siblings kept contact and indeed were named as heirs in their half-brother, George’s 1927 will.

By the spring of 1861, the Penirds were back in Summerhill, where Martha gave birth in May to my great grandfather, William J. Penird. David enlisted to fight in Mr. Lincoln’s War on November 16, 1861, mustering in with the newly formed 75th regiment out of Cayuga County. When his first duty was completed, he re-enlisted on January 24, 1864, collecting a bounty of $300 and was again in the throes of battle bivouacked in Florida and Louisiana, fighting at the Battle of Sabine Cross Roads and mustering out in Savannah, Georgia on August 21, 1865. He mustered out with the rank of Sergeant having lost all of his teeth as a result of continuous vomiting brought on by typhoid fever. He had suffered the travails of typhoid alongside his son’s father-in-law, Samuel French, a Summerhill farmer, who died of the disease in the hospital at Camp Dwight in Louisiana.

1875 Summerhill Map

1875 Summerhill Map

Returning home, David found his pious and competent wife Martha had become a good farmer owning several acres in Summerhill and living on her farm along Lick Road. By the late 1870’s he was itching for adventure and good fortune, so he scooped up my teenage great grandfather, William, and headed for Deadwood City in the Dakota Territories. They are both enumerated in the 1880 Federal census living in Deadwood as laborers next to Dr. F. W. Wilson and the barber shop run by E. R. Sims. As I read into the history of Deadwood, I came to understand that former Civil War soldiers banded together and headed to Deadwood to seek their fortune after the devastating effects of the war on the economy. By December of 1880, William was back in Summerhill when he married his Summerhill sweetheart, my great grandmother, Emogene Lillian Case.

The aging David settled in Auburn with Martha though she kept control of the farm in Summerhill for decades. David had learned about resources…scrap material to be exact…in his duties as supply sergeant in the old 75th and in the mineral mining community of Deadwood and began to build what is indelicately called ‘the junk business’. His eldest son, John had managed the Summerhill farm and as a family story told by his descendants relates, he was told to stay away from the mills and the shops in Auburn as they were hotbeds of tuberculosis. It did not save him as luck would have it. He died of the disease contracted in the plagued community of Summerhill in 1888 at the age of 31 just four years after his older sister, Ida. She, too, was lost to ‘consumption’ in Summerhill when she was 29.

Auburn became the center of the family’s activities as the scrap business boomed.  David’s remaining sons, George W.Auburn Weekly Auburnian May 1893 Coy and Penird New Address and William J. both became involved with their father’s enterprise. In the year 1888 after his older brother John’s death, George became the head of the business first partnering with Nehemiah Coy to form the company of Coy and Penird with offices in Ithaca and Auburn.  As George matured into his role and became politically active in Auburn as Third Ward Supervisor,  David gradually found other avenues for his remaining energy.  The Grand Army of the Republic and The Order of the Sons of St. George and a brief fling at local politics.

Though I never found evidence of David becoming a naturalized citizen, I did find him involved on the periphery of the Independent Labor Party in 1891. But the majority of his time was devoted to his brothers-in-arms and his fellow English ex-pats. He is found marching in parades and dining at banquets, organizing the 11th annual reunion of the ‘Old 75th” in 1891 in Auburn. More marching and dining and conventions and fund-raising for the General Gordon Lodge, No. 211 of the Order of the sons of St. George and serving as one of its Trustees in his 60’s. He continued to be an ‘agent’ and ‘peddler’ for Coy and Penird until finally the family set up residence and shop at 21 – 23 Perrine Street where George had built a large warehouse and arranged to have the railroad run a side track. Over the decades David had been listed as living in various locations…Martha in others.  In his man’s world of the time, he favored their company and the social events, but Martha kept to her sewing circles and managing her Summerhill property.  David is buried alongside Martha in Groton Rural Cemetery, but the pair seemed to live very different and individual lives after he returned from his service in the Civil War.

The Order of the Sons of St. George

Order of the Sons of St. George.  David Penird is seated, far left

Order of the Sons of St. George. David Penird is seated, far left

I had all manner of records about David’s involvement in the Grand Army of the Republic, but not the Order of the Sons of St. George. Could this very English affiliation tell me more about David other than the doings of his family and business activities?

Oh yes, indeed, what was already complicated, sometimes uncomfortable and oddball became colorful, if not downright boisterous.

I found that the Order’s motto was (and is) “Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense”, an Anglo-Norman phrase that translates “Evil unto him who thinks evil of it” or “Shame upon him who thinks evil of it”. Historians attribute the phrase to the Most Noble Order of the Garter established in 1348 and its founder, King Edward III of England. The Most Noble Order of the Garter is the highest order of chivalry and is dedicated to St. George, England’s patron saint. It is the world’s oldest national order of knighthood in continuous existence.

The Order of Sons of St. George was first established as a cultural and benevolent society in 1871 by English emigrants living in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Some of the literature hints at some violence between the English born mine owners and officials in the area perpetrated by the secret society of the Irish Catholic group the “Molly McGuires” and thus the Order’s formation as protection.

As time moved on, the Order of the Sons of St. George evolved into an ethnic fraternal society to benefit Englishmen, their sons and grandsons, living in the United States. Sick and death benefits were offered to all members and the social activities such as dances, picnics and dinners were part of lodge activities. Membership was limited to first, second and third generation Englishmen. A separate organization…an auxiliary for females…was called the Daughters of St. George.

In its prime over 600 lodges existed in North America with a membership of 45, 000, but as insurance companies took over the benefit market, the need for membership in a benevolent society for financial security became less of a necessity.  As the migration from England diminished and the generations became absorbed into American life and culture, the desire to belong to a heritage society was lost on them. Though few, lodges still exist today in the U.S. and in fact, in England as well and celebrate the history and observe the traditions of the Order.

My paternal great great grandfather was a trustee in the General Gordon Lodge, Order of the Sons of St. George in Auburn, New York and if there was an event, he was there. In the 1900 Auburn Directory (Lamey), the lodges are listed.

Sons of St George, (Gen Gordon Lodge)–Organized June 21, 1886. Meetings held at St George’s Hall, over 8 Genesee St, first and third Wednesday evenings of each month. Headley Tutton, W P; Charles Spencer, Sec’y; James Williamson, Treas.
Daughters of St George, (Red Rose Lodge No. 112)–Organized March 10, 1897. Meets alternate Wednesday evenings at American Hall, over 145 Genesee St. Mrs. Georgia Kober, W P; May Sandham, W V P; Mrs Elizabeth Kerslake, Sec’y; Mrs Ada Williams, Treas.

General Gordon Lodge, No. 211

From its inception in June 21, 1886, Auburn’s General Gordon Lodge, held scores of events to raise money for the benefit of its members. According to Lodge Comptroller, Ernest Hunt, in a speech given in 1913, Auburn’s lodge was formed out of compassion for the plight of a fellow Englishman.

When a young Englishman, who had not friends or relatives in this country, came to Auburn and succeeded in finding employment as an engineer at Stalker’s mill, a position for which he had no training and as a result a boiler exploded, wrecking the building and killing him, it became necessary for the city of Auburn to arrange for his burial. After some time it became known or rumored that he had not been given proper burial, but that the coffin provided was not long enough for the body and consequently the undertaker had crowded the corpse into its receptacle. This aroused much indignation among the Englishmen, with the result that a meeting was called and arrangements made for a proper burial. From this incident originated the lodge of the Sons of St. George with membership of 350 members.

Headquartered at St. George’s Hall on Water Street, the organization held gatherings there that were strictly for men only. In 1891 the Lodge celebrated the anniversary of General Gordon’s birthday by giving an old English dinner. David was one of its organizers.

All formality was laid aside. The company was decidedly ‘stag’. So happily and smoothly did each event succeed the other that there was scarcely time to think of the absent fairs sex although toasts to their health were drank and their praises echoed in the songs and speeches of the evening. The spacious lodge room was turned into a banquet hall. The tables, heavily laden with all that goes to make up and old English dinner, greeted the merry party as they filed into the hall and took their seats at the table. There were over eighty in all, including the members of the order and their guests. Mrs. C. C. Lynch served as substantial and wholesome a dinner as any Englishman could desire. She was the recipient of compliments from all sides for her Old English plumb pudding with brandy sauce which was disposed of with relish. The rest of the menu was in keeping with the occasion. The dinner was served from 8 to 11 o’clock when the feast of reason followed. George Salvage filled most acceptably the position of toast master. The toasts were drank with a hearty cheer and the sparkling wine which flowed freely brought with it good cheer, witty speeches and merry songs. The first toast of the evening was to Queen Victoria of England and President Harrison of the United States.

The party broke up in the early hour of the morning with the best of good fellowship after singing several old English songs. All agreed that the anniversary of ’91, was one of the most enjoyable events in the history of the organization.

When David died on August 12, 1901, the Lodge gathered at his Perrine Street home to honor their brother and see him off to ‘the higher plain’. I imagine there were speeches and toasts…many speeches and many toasts ‘which flowed freely’ bringing with it good cheer, witty speeches and merry songs in the manner of all of their gatherings when he walked among them.

Author’s Note: I knew so little about my father’s mother, Sarah Leonie Penird Martin Merithew Palmer. She died before I was five and I have but one memory of her in her little brick house on Ross Place…and her curio cabinet full of knickknacks and memorabilia. While the adults talked, I pressed my nose to the glass examining the riot of things that belonged to her. She who knew so much about David Penird…she who belonged to the ladies auxiliary of the Sons of Union Volunteers. She who went to England just before World War II broke out to explore her grandfather’s English roots and who had to sail abruptly back in 1937 on the S. S. Aquitania to avoid “the unsettled conditions in Europe”.

The genealogist’s lament.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

 

 

Timetables and The Parlor of Samuel Jenney

A Note to my Readers:  It is such a small world and nothing illustrates that more than my research of my James and Jennings and Jenney family members.  They all migrated from the city of New Bedford in the early 1800’s.  The City that Lit the World…the whaling capital of the world…was losing it influence when whale oil stopped being the driving commodity for gathering wealth or at the very least financial security.   The family alliances…both through marriage and business…are like a spider web pattern and if I am not industrious, I will get lost in the intricacies. Particularly because of the repetition of first names…Samuel, Abigail, Harriet, Deborah and James.   Sometimes, one individual clarifies it all and becomes such a comfortable character in the process that I like to take time to visit awhile.  Even though he is not a direct ancestor, he is a sweet nexus in his farmhouse along Cayuga Lake and beloved by his neighbors, friends and family.   The year of 1885 was one of noteworthy moments in the widower’s life and so I take the H. G. Wells time machine out…drag it into the garden and set it to 1885.  See you there.

The Parlor

The year of 1885 along Cayuga Lake and around the nation was full of joy, sorrow, surprises, schemes, secrecy and mosquitoes…

On February 5th, Adelia M. Jenney, daughter of Samuel Jenney, Jr. and his wife, Sally Sharpsteen, married Franklin Eugene James in the parlor of her widowed father’s Union Springs home. Samuel’s father…who was also Samuel…was first married to Abigail James…Adelia’s grandmother and my 2nd great grandmother’s sister (Harriet James Jennings).   Her groom was my 2nd great grandmother’s nephew…which makes the newlyweds cousins.   The James’ and the Jenneys and the Jennings all came from New Bedford, Massachusetts to the shores of Cayuga Lake in the early 1800’s where Samuel’s generation was born.

At the residence of the bride’s father in Springport, Thursday, Feb. 6th, by Rev. S. A. Beman, Miss Adelia M. Jenney to Franklin E. James of Newfield. After the ceremony Mr. Jenny in a few appropriate worlds welcomed his children both to his heart and home. Mr. James, then through the officiating clergyman, presented his father-in-law with an elegant easy chair expressing the hope that he might live many years to enjoy it. Another elegant chair was also presented to the his bride. The occasion was an impressive and enjoyable one. The happy couple took the evening train on a trip to Buffalo and Niagara.

Just one month later, forty friends and family members of Samuel Jenney gathered in the Jenney home to celebrate his 65th birthday. The parlor was once again filled with celebration.

Monday evening last was the occasion of a pleasant surprise to Mr. Samuel Jenney when about forty of his friends and neighbors very unexpectedly came in to celebrate his sixty-fifth birthday. His cordial manner at once assured them they were welcome. A bountiful repast was served, and good music added much to the enjoyment of the occasion. The wish of all as the good nights were spoken was that their host might live to enjoy many happy birthdays.

The Jenney neighbors…the Gaylord family of Union Springs lost their yellow and white Scotch Terrier and offered a ten dollar reward for his return. In today’s currency that’s almost $250!   Some dog!

Samuel’s brother-in-law, William Sharpsteen, came for a visit that July from Defiance, Ohio and on a warm summer’s evening passed away in the Jenney’s home. William was laid out in the parlor and a somber funeral was held there in the very spot that his sister’s body was viewed a the time of her death five years earlier.  William’s mortal remains were transported to Chestnut Hill Cemetery were he was laid to rest near his sister.

And the World Turns

But…beyond the parlor and its activities in 1885 the world continued to spin and nature had its way with the residents.

It was a bitter winter and even into March Cayuga Lake was frozen solid.  Seneca County historian, Naomi Brewer,  reports that her great grandmother, Carrie Coleman wrote an account of the March weather in her diary .

…on Feb. 17 the lake was frozen over and many people skated on the lake, with one getting the mail this way. On March 4, the ice thawed in places but refroze the next day. On March 6 the ice roared and groaned as it froze harder. Iceboats were in use frequently. On March 27 she reported teams crossing on the ice but there was some thawing and water on the ice. Thawing continued so that there were open streaks on April 4.

That March temperatures held at freezing and below with a relentless grip.  An immense cake of ice reported to be 150 feet Glenwood Hotel 2long, 30 feet wide and 10 inches thick was cut from Cayuga Lake and towed to the hotel ice house to stock the Glenwood resort.

Reverend Ezra Dean, a retired Baptist minister of Auburn died from the effects of asphyxiation by coal gas. He and his wife were found unconscious when their daughter called upon them for a visit. It was too late for the minister, but his wife survived.

Roller skating…which had become a phenomenon in Auburn…faded into oblivion that winter and both rinks closed like a light winking out.  I imagine the ice being plentiful afforded the hardy winter sporting enthusiasts with more than enough surfaces to indulge themselves and for those that shied from the frigid cold, a good book and a warm fire kept them at hearth and home.

The going rate for a one way fare to San Francisco was a modest or princely sum depending on your circumstance…. of $50.00. (about $1219.00 in today’s currency).

My 2nd great grandmother’s brother, David Sands Titus…known as the Major…was a supervisor from Cayuga county and traveled from his home in the village of Cayuga to Auburn inspecting the old jail. The county was about to build a new jail and the Major and his fellow supervisors were inspecting the various proposed plans after visiting several cities and reviewing their facilities.

By July travelers of the NY Central between Union Springs and Auburn were relieved to find out that the old time-table had been restored. The new schedule had proved so inconvenient that officials heeded the complaints.

That summer the President of Yale College, Noah Porter, was reported to be revising Webster’s dictionary…in secret.  Gossip was rampant as to the nature of the revisions.  As with other editions…before and after, it was quite the hot topic with debates on the ‘war of words’.

And Detroit was beset with mosquitoes that summer…something the folks in the Finger Lakes knew too well. So was published a home remedy for the pesky critters…mix four ounces of cloves, two ounces of oil of peppermint, eight ounces of Persian powder (an organic blend of crushed Chrysanthemums and Tanacetum or Tansies), four ounces of gum camphor. The concoction was guaranteed to drive them from the room.

But as is the experienced and practical nature of advice from the folks along the lake,  there was a bit of extra wisdom to be shared.

“If it fails, hit him with a wet towel.”

Reluctantly I left the research visit with the Jenneys and Cayuga Lake and the year of 1885 with the full understanding that I would be back to visit in their autumn…when the leaves are golden and the flocks of Canada geese settle on the lake for a brief respite during their migration.

I am a Time Traveler.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

 

The Earth Shook and Two Old Men Went Home

A Note to My Readers:  Like many historians and genealogists, I spend a good deal of time pouring over old publications in search of mention of an ancestor…a marriage…a birth…a death…a family gathering.  Every bit is a tender thread to weave a story of the times in which they lived.  Context.  History.  Flavor.  Going beyond the discovery of a specific published morsel…is the indulgence in a full blown meal.  Reading the whole page…in fact, the whole publication…it changes the perspective.  Getting beyond the ‘ah ha moment’ and the impulse of stashing the nugget into your research is critical to becoming a complete historian and to developing a meaningful biography of your ancestor.  Everyone knows that there is more satisfaction when you eat slowly…enjoying a lively and interesting conversation with fellow diners.  The same holds true when researching.  Reading the complete document…savoring the complexities…sipping a lovely wine before nibbling on the next delicious tidbit…makes it a memorable occasion.  Before you snip and run, make the time to read the surrounding material.  By opening up your research strategy, you will know your family on an intimate basis in ways you couldn’t contemplate.  Enjoy the feast, historians!

Newspaper Auburn NY Semi-Weekly Journal  15 May 1906 banner

In mid-May of 1906 the weather was mild and the farmers of Cayuga County were well into their spring chores. In fact one old fellow had fields to till and was in need of beasts with which to pull his plow. As reported in the Skaneateles Free Press, James B. Robinson made quite a stir as he turned Genesee Street into the scene of his small cattle drive.

Newspaper Auburn NY Semi-Weekly Journal  15 May 1906 Long Overland Journey


“One day last week James B. Robinson who occupies the late James J. Gross farm in the southwestern part of the town, went to Fox Ridge, where he bought a pair of steers, driving them to Auburn, a distance of fourteen miles in one day, and the next day driving them home, where he is now using them in plowing and doing other farm work. His journey through Auburn attracted much attention, a yoke of cattle being a rare sight these days in city streets, or farm roads, either. Mr. Robinson is nearly 84 years old, but is a vigorous and active man.”

Newspaper Auburn NY Semi-Weekly Journal  15 May 1906 Scenes From San FranAuburnians F. D. Burleigh and his wife Clara L. Stockwell Burleigh wrote a letter home to her father recounting their ordeal in San Francisco having survived the great earthquake. Her letter was transcribed in complete. 

“We escaped San Francisco yesterday with what little baggage we could carry by hand. Last night we were taken in temporarily by acquaintances here and are trying to find a way to reach Los Angeles. Dean and Mr. Pyre represent a company with $35, 000, 000 in capital but cannot get in communication with them and we are almost penniless. Oakland banks are all closed, fearing a run, and no one here seems to be able to give us any help financially. If we can reach Los Angeles, money and telegraphic communications will be easier to obtain we hope. And, too, smallpox has broken out in San Francisco, it will soon be quarantined and in that case this place will be infected, too. The fire is out and our flat was saved.”

Mrs. Burleigh tells that the fire did not damage their household goods but she lost a valuable watch at a jeweler’s. Continuing she says:

“The weather has turned cold and the suffering and sickness will no doubt be doubled. we have cause to be grateful that our lives were spared and our household goods saved. But no one who was not there can ever get even the faintest idea of the horror of the hours since 5:15 last Wednesday morning. I have to stop and study before I can name a day that anything happened, for every hour seemed a day and every day was nameless.”

Her letter told of fear and death and desolation during those first dreadful hours.

“The house rocked back and forth and rose and sank all at once, together with an awful roaring and rambling and the noise of falling bricks and breaking crockery. I got to the door just as soon as the floor was quiet enough to let me walk and by even that time the first column of smoke was rising in the south. Little did we think that it was signal of a horror worse than the earthquake.”

“Thousands camped as thick as grass blades with no shelter except some kind devised from their small store of baggage; women fainting in the road and carried by the loads to the United States hospital.”

Amidst the colorful and witty charm of cattle being driven down Genesee Street and the harrowing and moving recount of Mrs. Burleigh’s earthquake experience in the May 15th Auburn Semi-Weekly Journal, sits the brief and practical death notice of my 87 year old, great great grandfather, Daniel J. Jennings.

DIED

“JENNINGS – At the residence of his daughter Mrs. John J. Trowbridge, East Orange, N.J., Thursday, May 10, 1906. Daniel Jennings (formerly of Auburn) in the 87th year of his age.
Remains will arrive in Auburn via N.Y.C & H. R. R. Sunday morning, May 14 at 6:46 o’clock. Funeral services at the residence of his son, W. H. Jennings, No 9 Easterly avenue, in the afternoon at 3:00 o’clock. Burial at North Street Cemetery.”

The Friday, May 11th edition of the Auburn, New York Citizen Advertiser offers only the additional Daniel J Jennings Auburn Newspaper Obit May 11 1906words “a well known and respected citizen of this city” to his obituary.

“The funeral of Daniel J. Jennings who died at East Orange, N. J. was held there (Auburn) this afternoon at the home of his son, W. H. Jennings, No. 9 Easterly ave.”  reports the Syracuse Daily Standard.”

I spent a great deal of time creating Daniel’s biography.  Beginning with his birth in the whaling city of New Bedford, Massachusetts to Samuel and Ruth Jennings and through his 1839 carriage maker apprenticeship as a young boy with Silas N. Richards.   Discovering his 1843 New Bedford marriage record to Harriet Jane James and their migration to central New York with their young family.  Exploring Daniel’s politics as a member of the Whig Party in Ithaca with his brother, Nathan supporting Zachary Taylor and Millard Filmore in their bid for the White House in 1848.  The Jennings family membership in the Trinity Methodist Church.  Daniel’s carriagemaking career first working at the shop of Bench Brothers Cayuga Wagon Works crafting wagons, carriages and sleighs and eventually opening his own business “Jennings & Lewis” on Dill Street.

Decade by decade assembling the life of the man who is my paternal great great grandfather, I came to know him and his children in Auburn, New York in the 19th century.  The days when the streets were filled with mud and sidewalks were fashioned of wood planks.  When horses pulled wagons and sleighs and trolleys.   During the Civil War when his 16 year son, Charles, went off to fight with the 111th NYS Volunteers and later his service as Auburn’s Chief of Police.  Exploring the successful business story of Trowbridge and Jennings that son William established with his sister Emily’s husband.  The pride of son Daniel carrying on his father’s craftsmanship with carpentry.  Giving away his teenaged daughter, Lillian, to a young man named Henry Martin, my great grandparents,  at Trinity Methodist Church.   Waving the pair good-bye as they left Auburn in 1884 for their newlywed adventure and the promise of the business boom of the New York City area fostered by the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.  Celebrating the marriage of 49 year old daughter Harriet who after years of being the family’s dutiful spinster daughter,  wed widower Roderick White in 1901.  Mourning his dear wife, Harriet and their daughter, Lillian and her son, Harold.

Coming Home

Amid the wealth of words in three newspapers, I could only find the briefest and final arrangements of Daniel’s death and his journey home.  No elegy to his character and his rich life.  That is left to me to construct over one hundred years later.

As part of that biography is the imagery of his daughter Emily’s long train ride accompanying her father’s body to Auburn and their arrival at the depot, steam billowing from the engine and the somber carriage ride to Easterly Avenue on a fine spring day where the siblings, Emily, Charles, Daniel and Harriet and grandchildren gathered to say farewell to their patriarch.

The intimate family rite transpired as the world still went on…lilacs coming into bloom;  the Burleighs recovering from the San Francisco earthquake and James Robinson leading his steers through the fields of his farm.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

 

An Attack of the Jim Jams

A note to my readers:  A good number of researchers scour old newspapers for obituaries, birth, death and marriage notices.  After all, they are usually rich with names of relatives and biographies and satisfy so much of the personal data we are looking for.   Occasionally there is a relative that tells you more.  Charles Wallace Jennings is my great great grandmother’s brother and he served as a Union Soldier in the Civil War…enlisting when he was barely sixteen.  He was also the Chief of Police for a few years in my hometown.   The Chief’s newspaper reports went from the ho-hum administrative stuff of counting the unlit street lamps and inspecting the awnings of Auburn’s commercial establishments to the 1880’s version of “COPS”.    He had a desk…and a PHONE!…that he promptly had moved to a meeting room.  I assume even in those days the danged contraption became a nuisance to a busy man of law. 

Auburn, New York Chief of Police Charles Wallace Jennings was a hands-on guy.   Good thing, too!

In the early 1880’s Auburn was a hotbed of scalawags and flim flam men, horse thieves, drunks,  ladies in distress and non-functioning street lamps.   And then there was the constant corralling of those that sank into the clutches of the demon rum.

One frigid night in December of 1880 was particularly full of colorful events.  The police report couldn’t be more poetic.  It goes….

Timothy Arundel was arrested for assaulting a Russian with an unpronounceable name; he paid $1.

Constable Mulvey found Moses Howe lying in a snow bank on North street this morning.  He conveyed him to the station house to thaw out.  Howe was stiff as a dead mackerel when Mulvey found him and the officer brought him in on a bob sleigh.

At about 3:30 o’ clock this morning, officer Callanan saw a man running through State street hatless and coatless.  He halted him and from the man’s incoherent talk, the officer thought him crazy, and being unable to find out where he belonged he locked him up in the cooler for safe keeping.”  Chief Jennings is of the opinion the man is suffering with an attack of the “jim jams”.

In fact, the Chief seemed to come across all manner of folks with a taste for gin.   “Chief Jennings was serenaded last evening while on his way through Franklin street.  On looking about to see when the music proceeded, he found the singer lying on his back, happy and full, gushing with vocalistic melody and primed to the full with gin and lager.  The combined solo and chorus in one were invited in (to the calaboose) when it was discovered that the concert was from Skaneateles and “loaded for a bar.”  A small fine released the mellow melodist and he skinned out for Skaneateles today.”

Of course, it wasn’t all tales of Mayberry’s Otis Campbell…there were some serious moments when it was a matter of life and death.

April was a very busy month for Auburn’s finest and it seemed that intoxicated individuals gave the Chief and his force an attack of the “jim jams”.  John Hughes from Waterloo, a father of seven, after coming out of a saloon on North street was observed reeling by Officer Crosbie, “who thought he was about ripe enough to harvest”.  Hughes spotted Crosbie and attempting to evade him by entering another saloon, staggered and threw out both hands to balance himself when he fell against a plate glass window fracturing it.   The Officer escorted the bleeding man to headquarters “their passage to the building being marked by a crimson trail”.  By pressing his thumb on the severed artery, Chief Jennings checked the flow of blood ‘which was running in a stream almost equal to a garden engine.’  When the doctor arrived, he found that one of the main arteries and tendons and muscle had been completely severed.  “But for the timely assistance of Chief Jennings, the injured man would have bled to death before I could have got there to render him any aid, ” the doctor said.  After his wounds had been tended to, Mr. Hughes was locked in a cell.

Newspaper Auburn NY Evening Auburnian 2 FEb 1881 Jennings saves dogThe Chief was no stranger to rescue.  In February he had found a small black and white dog nearly frozen to death near his home and carried the pup into the house and ‘by application of friction to its body it was thawed out.  The animal passed the night under the folds of a warm blanket and this morning was very lively and frisky.”

Auburn wasn’t the only community that called upon the Chief and his force.  No sirree!    A postcard (YES A POSTCARD!) was sent to Chief with a description of a horse and sleigh stolen from Marcellus.   The fine folks of that village had had enough of horse thieves making off with their carriages, sleighs and horses and formed the Anti-Horse Thief Association to nab the scoundrels.  On a bitter March night, George Baker had discovered his horse and cutter (sleigh) had disappeared from the Presbyterian sheds.  At first it was thought some young boys had made off “intent on a ride” so the vigilante group set a watch to catch the ‘sportive chaps’.    Men were dispersed throughout the area to lay in wait, but to no avail.  Cold, tired and disgusted they set out to search the area – one fellow all the way to Cortland and another to Moravia upon reports of the stolen rig being seen in those areas.  A telegram from Weedsport stated that the stolen animal had passed through going westward.

Citizens of Union Springs also made their way to Auburn to seek help from the Chief.  Peter Yawger had hired a young man who gave his name as Charles Smith to work on his Springport farm.  Mr. Yawger locked up his house and went to the village to meet his wife on the five o’clock train from Cayuga after she had visited Auburn.  When the couple returned home, they found that the new hired man had disappeared leaving his old duds and taking with him Mr. Yawger’s full dress suit, a pair of pants, boots, hat, shirt and a gold ring.  The next day the hapless Yawger made his way to Auburn and the Chief’s office at police headquarters.  Meantime, Mr. Smith…who was really Mr. Kinney…had ‘tramped’ to Auburn and disposed of the ‘plunder, getting gloriously drunk on the proceeds’ when he had been arrested by Chief Jennings.  According to the chief, Mr. Smith “stands a fair chance of going to Copper John.”

I am sure the Chief was more than relieved when his concerns for the moment ran to unlit street lamps, a tattered awning and warming up a pup.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

 

Scarlet Fever in Scipio

A Note to my Readers:  Family historians…genealogists if you will…are noted in the big world as those that plot lineage.  Who begat whom and all of that.  Except that is just the tip of the iceberg.  We are on the hunt for THE STORY.   What was their life like?  And so we go beyond all of the names, dates and places and visit HISTORY…or HERSTORY.  So much of what surrounds an individual is the greater drama with an interesting cast of characters.  Context.  Life.

Hoodoo.  Hemstitching.  Healing.

In the spring of 1915 my grandmother’s brother and his family thought they had struck gold.  Due to the Dreythaler family’s series of misfortune, their farm became available for a pittance and Floyd William Penird snapped up the opportunity to cultivate the rich Scipio soil.   His wife, Emma Hurd, and their infant son, Floyd were moved into the farmhouse and they began to make it their own.  The wood floors were scrubbed on hands and knees and the old paper was ripped from the walls to brighten up the house.

Newspaper Auburn NY Citizen 1915 Scarlet Fever in ScipioIt wasn’t long before the tiny baby was in the terrifying grip of scarlet fever.  Floyd and Emma sent for the village doctor – F. C. Smith – and prayed that their child would survive.  The little one, who was their only child, healed, but their tale put fear in the hearts of parents in the Auburn area with news of the doctor’s theory of just how Floyd, Jr. contracted the dreaded disease.

The month of May had been a hectic time for the village doctor -reducing fractures and stitching wounds.  Farmer Selah Allen was dragged some distance on the back lot of his farm before his runaway team came to halt.  Allen had suffered scrapes and bruises and a fractured arm which Dr. Smith treated.  He had just completed the needed care for farmer Allen, when he was called to the home of David Meyers of Fleming Hill “to do a job of hemstitching on Meyers’s head.”  Meyers had been placing his horse in its stall after a long day of work, when the creature spooked, reared up and struck him in the head with his hooves.

In a few hours Smith was called to treat young carpenter Will Bowen when his chisel slipped off a piece of hard wood and struck him in the thigh inflicting a six inch long gash more than an inch deep.  He had lost a great deal of blood by the time the now weary Doc Smith reached Bowen’s Fleming Hill home.

His next stop was at the Penird place to care for the ailing infant.

During that time black measles was making its way through the community, tuberculosis was a serious problem…infantile

Dr. Frank C. Smith

Dr. Frank C. Smith

paralysis would crop up within a year or two…followed up by the impact of the world wide plague…Spanish flu.

Astonishing to think about what Auburnians and their neighbors had to deal with just about one hundred years ago.  And what the life of a country doctor was during that time of house calls in a horse and buggy world.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

 

In the Cool Shade of Sighing Willows

A Note to My Readers:  I get riled up when it comes to the loss of a heritage site.  That and when I run out of Nespresso…but that is another story and much more easily remedied.   Every year I stop in my hometown of Auburn, New York to research and spend time in the field…in the pioneer burials…updating my information and to assure myself that the old burial monuments have been saved from time and another central New York winter.  It inspires me that I can walk down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, Scotland and pop into an ancient burying ground dating back centuries and it is serene, well-kept and almost to a startling degree…intact.  Conversely, it irks me to no end when I visit a cemetery in the city where I grew up and the quintessential pioneer cemetery has gone to ruin through vandalism and frankly neglect over a paltry century and a half.  Oh…not total neglect.  It is worse than that.  Begrudging sums were thrown at it over the last century where one sexton had to beg for $50 to tackle the care of the monuments and grounds over a year’s time.  Prisoners were utilized periodically to mow and weed as an economic ‘solution’ and every half-hearted effort added insult to injury.  After all, these were dead people that we cannot tax and we have things to do.  Not in one thing that I have read after 1870 thus far.. save one article in 1876.. shows respect and the sense of heritage that North Street Cemetery represents.  Fallen stones were carted away and graves left unmarked for eternity because…well because.  Lost.  Forever.  I cannot restore or reclaim these indignities and disregard for pioneer history, but I can raise awareness and inoculate today’s citizens with a good dose of HERITAGE MATTERS.

PIONEER DAYS

Auburn, New York has a rich pioneer history established by a few brave souls after the Revolutionary War.   Some of those souls are my Tyler descendants, headed by Gideon Tyler and his wife, Phebe Elliott, who migrated from the stony

Gideon Tyler Tombstone in North Street Cemetery

Gideon Tyler Tombstone in North Street Cemetery

fields of Connecticut to find a new life surrounded by the rich soil and plentiful fresh waters of central New York.   Gideon and his grown son, Amos, expanded their holdings and bought land in the Aurelius military tract in 1796 and the Tyler sons, William (my 4th great grandfather), Elliott, Warren and Salmon began to settle in and enlarge the family.  Early records show the existence of Tyler Springs, where Gideon and his family established their grist mill in Sennett and where settlers came from far and wide to process their grain.  Amos and his son, Nathaniel established an inn in Sennett that was run by several of his descendants.  Generations of Tylers played a role in the history of Cayuga County and can boast a Mayor of Auburn as one of them…James Elliott Tyler.

As a Tyler descendant and family historian, I can go on and on about the Tylers and their fellow pioneers because the history is that deep and rich.  And I am sure that there is much more to learn.  Like all of us who celebrate our heritage, I find it comforting to pay my respects in ancestral burying grounds…taking a moment to thank them for their courage and sacrifice.  And their neighbors and fellow settlers who made it a true community.  Because of these humble souls, I am fortunate to call this home.

Gideon’s youngest son, Gideon was the first burial in 1796 on what was then the Olmstead property before the formal establishment of it as a designated public burying ground.  The Olmsteads and the Tylers and the Dibbles were all Connecticut Yankees from Sharon and settled the area at the same time.   As a member of the First Congregational society of the village of Auburn, Gideon and his sons, Amos, Warren, Elliott and Salmon along with almost one hundred others paid a subscription to the trustees to establish North Street cemetery in 1810.   Subscribers included Noah Olmstead, Silas Hawley, Samuel Crossett, Edward Stevenson, Abraham Bristol, Lyman Paine, Jacob Doremus, John C. Jeffries, Caleb Woodworth, Ashtabel Treat, Jr., Bradley Tuttle, Benjamin Ryard, David Hyde, Elijah Esty, E. & H. Hills, Hart, Burt, Rufus Wells, John H. Cumpston, David Brick, Israel Reeve, John S. Burt, J. L. Richardson, Daniel Grant, Frederic Young, R. & T. Patty, Nathan Smith, David Clapp, Arthur Miller, Benjamin Polhemus, Henry Polhemus, Henry Amerman, John Demaree, William W. Cook, George Hudson, Peter Sedam, Lemuel Spoony, Zenas Goodrich, John Sawyer, William Court, Noah Taylor, James Rood, David Storke, James Murry, David Smith, Jeremiah Sutton, William Boyles, James Wilson, Aaron Hayden, David Eastman, Ambrose Olmstead, Ashbel Treat, Ezekial Goodrich, Noah Gilbert, Moses Gilbert, James Baker, Elijah Baker, Willys Lathrop, James W. Bridges, Elisha Patchin, Isaac Patchin, Timothy Doty, Matthew Rockwell, John Haire, Abraham Carpenter, Solomon Tibbits, Thomas Thut, Abraham Bonker, William Carpenter, Abraham Drake, Edward Allen, David Murray, Elisha Fitch, Jr., David Snow, Amos Bowen, Samuel Bonker, Jehiel Clark, Joseph Cole, David Horoer(sic), Robert Dill, H. & J. Pace, Seth Kruger, Ephraim Hammond, Isaac Camp, Thomas Hibberd,  Silas Olmstead, Friend Phelps, Abner Beech, George Smith, Nicol Parker, David Brinkerhoff, E. T. Throop, Oliver Lynch, R. Porter, Chancy Dibble, E. Williams, Jr.

Warren was the only Tyler to move west to Illinois with his wife, Diadema Hatch and their children.  Though there is no burial record for Salmon Tyler, it is fair to surmise that he was buried in North Street Cemetery or in Throopsville Cemetery where his children are buried.  Gideon and Phebe and sons, William and his wife, Abilena Bartlett and Amos and his wife, Elizabeth Goodrich and Phebe Tyler Stewart  are recorded buried in North Street.   Only the monuments of William and Abilena Tyler and Phebe Tyler Stewart, Gideon and Phebe’s youngest child, are missing…probably because they were buried further back and subject to vandalism.  Daughter Deborah and her husband, Timothy Doty settled in Sennett and is buried in Throop.  Mary “Polly” married Thomas Barnes and settled in Throop where she is buried.  Their stones remain though Deborah’s has fallen.

But of course, the focus is on the history of North Street Cemetery.

AN UNPLEASANT TRUTH

North Street Cemetery NYS Historical Marker

North Street Cemetery NYS Historical Marker

The first time I visited the North Street Cemetery I was armed with an old list and I was so excited when I approached the wrought iron fence along North Street.   Peering through the fence, the first stones I spotted were the Tylers…Gideon and Phebe.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.  These were the earliest stones so as I stepped into the cemetery, I had high hopes to find an amazing pioneer burial grounds.   Then I walked a few feet in and my heart dropped.  It became worse as I walked to the back of the cemetery and the poor condition of the few remaining monuments told the story along with a vast emptiness in what had been a significant burying ground.   Hundreds of pioneers lay at my feet with nary a stone monument.  My research told me so…but my eyes…tearing up…told me an unpleasant truth.

I needed to know why and set about to learn what I could about how a community’s earliest cemetery could come to such a state.

The “haunting of North Street Cemetery” just may have more to do with bad politics than any other single reason.

I have posted a few times in the past about North Street Cemetery…its historic significance and its inexplicably deplorable condition. It must be something in the air…undefinable…but definitely contagious to the politicians over the years. At one time the city fathers and citizens took pride in the cemetery and in 1850 it was planted with lovely trees and flower beds and pathways that had benches strategically placed for those that cared to walk the cemetery to visit departed family members or just for an afternoon stroll.  The last few words tell us that long before the 1850 clean up and improvements that the cemetery was allowed to fall into disrepair.

IMPROVEMENT OF THE NORTH STREET CEMETERY-Auburn NY Journal, July 1850

The Common Council are improving the North Street Cemetery by removing the brambles and surplus shrubbery therefrom, laying walks between the tiers of graves, and grading the surface of the ground to as near a level exits natural conformation will admit.  This will be an excellent improvement upon the whole, if the walks shall be graveled; yet it will have something more of a garden-bed appearance than is really tasteful.  It will admonish our citizens who have friends buried there to re-adjust their monument to suit the modern walks and grading, so that upon the whole the Cemetery will present a far better appearance than it has for several years.

In 1851 Fort Hill was opened for business and North Street slid back into deterioration though determined loved ones continued to bury their family members there.

North Street belonged to the entire community and thus it had a potter’s field where indigents and unclaimed bodies from the prison were given a ‘decent’ burial.  Burials continued for decades until the sexton came to Auburn politicians with the news that the cemetery was ‘full’ in 1873.  I understand that at one time, desperate loved ones buried their dead on top of another family member in the middle of the night because they were refused a permit.

Dozens of Civil War veterans are buried there and monuments had been installed for each after the passage of a federal law in 1873. Auburn Police chief and Civil War veteran Charles W. Jennings and my great grandmother’s brother organized the effort for the area with Charles H. Shapley and Thomas J. Bell. Even with his good efforts, three Civil War soldiers’ graves –men of the 193rd- were found with worn and cracked wooden ‘boards’ at the east end ‘among the disregarded graves.’  Reading the accounts of their efforts, these men and fellow veterans, walked the Cayuga County cemeteries on a mission for over three years…and they missed these three because they were in an unkempt area of North Street cemetery.

The Auburn NY Morning Dispatch, September 12, 1886 decries

In the cool shade of sighing willows, which fan breezes laden with the sweetness of clover over the many disregarded graves in the east end of the North street cemetery, on a slight eminence well- populated with the dead, three plain round-topped board, well cracked from exposure to the sun and weather, designate the location where three of the 193d. who resigned their lives to their country’s defense, are resting.  They are inscribed:  “L. CRONK. Died April 5, 1863 Aged 16 years. Co. G, 193 N.Y. Vol.”  “R. CROSSET. Died April 3, 1865. Aged 17 years, 193 N.Y. Vol.”  G. ALLEN, Volunteer, Veteran 193”.

Strangers, foreigners, in these parts, if they gazed upon these crude, sickly memorials would be apt to recall the oft-quoted adage that the Republics are ungrateful.  There is no excuse for this condition of affairs, however.  The government has generously provided granite stones to mark the tombs of the fallen dead, and it does seem as if the veterans should interest themselves in procuring more imposing headstones for their form(er) comrades.

Charles W. Jennings is buried in North Street Cemetery in 1902 and today his veteran’s stone no longer marks his grave.  In fact, I had to refer to old burial records and a sexton’s hand-drawn map made in 1875 at the request of the Common Council and supplemented by the record book that began to be kept in 1881 to figure out where the Jennings family plot is located.  The last Jennings burial in North Street Cemetery was Charles’ sister, Harriet Jennings White, who died in 1944.  She was a devout Methodist who was active in her church and in fact saved it from burning to the ground.  She was also a beloved family member of my father’s family.  There is no way that she would have been buried in an unmarked grave, but like her other family members buried in North Street Cemetery…no stone exists.

The recorded statements of the politicians about its obvious deterioration boggle the mind. In a city council meeting in 1876, the disagreement over burials in North Street Cemetery became heated. It had been three years since it had been declared full and the desperate sexton was pleading for help.   Alderman Hudson and Alderman Wheeler (who would become mayor and the nemesis of Charles W. Jennings) saw no reason to invest in North Street Cemetery and that people could be ‘buried in the roadways’ thus eliminating the pathways throughout the cemetery. Mourners and undertakers carrying caskets would be forced to walk over the graves and between the narrow spaces of monuments. Keep in mind that by that time the cemetery was declared full and though today there are a paltry few left, it was dense with gravestones at that time.

Aldermen Perkins and Crocker and Rathbun fought the penurious pair and eventually additional land was purchased from Mr. Amizi Wood to provide additional proper burial space for Auburn’s citizens. The reported debate in a public council meeting gives a clue as to the resistance to expand. Wheeler stated that the

north street cemetery, comprising less than eight acres, had been occupied for the past 80 years. For 55 years of that time it was the exclusive burial ground for the entire city. Twenty-five years ago Fort Hill cemetery was started, and more recently the Catholic cemetery. Not one third of the lots on Fort Hill had been sold in 25 years.

It isn’t a small leap to understand that Fort Hill needed burial business and North Street was ‘old’ and no longer had the social panache and would be taking away ‘business’ from Fort Hill. A good number of folks preferred to be buried in North Street with their family members. Money and class might just be the culprits that found its way to the demise of a heritage site of Auburn’s pioneer families.

Why not have both the presence of new success while preserving the resting place of those that established the community? Why let one go to ruin?

Some communities have a core of individuals who understand and protect its heritage and for generations it shines through.  Did we never have that?  Or was it such a small group that it could only make an occasional difference?

NORTH STREET CEMETERY AND THE  CITIZEN ANGEL

Newspaper Auburn NY Citizen Frank Avery Skilton Obit1931 - 0050I am inspired by the late Frank Avery Skilton, a gentleman from Auburn with a great sense of history and with a particular fondness for North Street Cemetery.  He left behind a collection of personal papers that most surely would be uplifting and enlightening.  I followed Mr. Skilton’s Auburn activities for decades…his law career and his lectures on Mexico and Auburn’s history and genealogy.  And his railing against the powers that be…pleading to honor the pioneers of North Street Cemetery.  His editorials were full of passion and conviction that we not abandon our own honor.

When he died in January of 1931 at the age of 70, his citizen voice was silenced and he left behind a rich library of material that he had collected over the years.  After his death, his wife, Clare, also a genealogist, wrote an editorial about his extensive work and papers and books he left behind.  Among other important historical and genealogical organizations, Mr. Skilton was a trustee of the Cayuga County Historical Society…could he have willed his collection to them?    If that is true, it would be THE most important collection that they would have.  As I write this, it is the Fourth of July and I am itching to give them a call to find out if they have them in their archives.  And to tell them to guard them with their very lives because I am packing my bags and heading there the minute I hang up the phone!

This last article I found from 1950 pretty much sums up the political ‘disease’ that contributed to North Cemetery’s Newspaper Auburn NY Citizen Advertiser 9 June 1950  North St care criticizedcondition.  One man stood up to confront the City Council, Henry J. Barretts of 18 Jarvis Street.  The question is…Mr. Councilman Charles Parker, how can you walk THE pioneer cemetery of Auburn with its appalling condition and declare it well kept? And how in the world can you have the temerity to utter those words and ask your citizens to deny what is before their own eyes?  And Mayor Boyle..shutting down a concerned citizen…with a sense of honor…I have one word.  Shame.

Makes me want to dig up these foolish old buggers, ask them why and kick them in their…well whatever is left!  I am pretty confident we can find THEM….in Fort Hill Cemetery with perpetual care.

Author’s Note:   If I sound feisty, it is because we cannot turn back the hands of time and resurrect a building or restore a cemetery the size of North Street Cemetery from generations of inexplicable mistreatment.  With some decent money, expertise and willing hands…and a solid maintenance line item in Auburn’s budget…perhaps we can grant peace to the sighing willows and regain our heritage and civic pride and perhaps pay tribute to citizens like Frank Avery Skilton.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved

 

-and daughter of Auburn, New York

A Port In A Storm

A Note to My Readers:  Organizing old photos….what a daunting task…when I came across these black and white photos taken by my brother Dave in Auburn, New York on October 22, 1954 one week after we had been in the direct path of Hurricane Hazel. The monster storm had made landfall in the Carolinas on Friday the 15th and moved up to New York State and hit Auburn during the afternoon, hammering us all through the night with winds up to 90 MPH.

Perrine Street

Perrine Street. Auburn, NY. October 22, 1954

Saturday was normally grocery shopping day and my family..with everyone else in the Northeast…had spent Friday night hunkered down listening to the world outside come apart. As soon as the adults thought it was safe, Dad made his way on foot to the auto parts business on East Genesee Street where he worked and Mom walked to the Mohican with my eighteen year old brother, my baby sister and me and we joined the other ladies and their children in line to get groceries. There was no electricity, but then there were no automatic open doors or cash registers that required electricity.  It was dim inside, but Mom knew the store from her years of shopping the aisles. She could have shopped it in complete darkness, I think. The Mohican ran out of change at one point so they could not provide change to their customers. My mother signed a piece of paper for our groceries. I was handed a black and white cookie for being patient and we went home. The next week when my mother went back for more groceries, she settled from the previous week’s shopping. All on trust.

I was seven years old at the time and there was no school that week. Auburn was a city of massive trees…oaks and elms.

North and Seymour Streets.  October 22, 1954

North and Seymour Streets. Auburn, NY. October 22, 1954

So many had fallen that it was weeks before you didn’t hear chainsaws or smell freshly cut wood. I remember walking to church the following Sunday and being lifted over fallen trees so we could get through. Men from the church had formed a line and the ladies and children were lifted over the debris. It was warm in the church, but we kept on our coats which I thought was quite wonderful. Even the grown ups were fidgety in church that day. I missed the sounds of the organ…it was an echoing creature in the big old church building on Exchange Street, but the congregation was in a grateful frame of spirit and the singing was full of energy.  The strains of the choir singing  “Onward Christian Soldiers” moved us to the pews of the old brick church.  

This was the Methodist church where as a historian and genealogical researcher  I would  learn  that from the early 1870’s my paternal great great grandparents, Daniel J. Jennings and Harriet James worshiped with their children.  Their daughter, Miss Lillian W. Jennings would marry fellow Methodist,  Henry A. Martin on July 16, 1884 in a ceremony conducted by the Reverend L. C. Queal and leave Auburn within days to live in Brooklyn, New York.   Henry’s parents, Albert S. Martin and Harriett Frear and their family were all in the member role in 1875 with the Jennings.

Jennings, Daniel M 33 Seymour St.

Jennings, Harriett M 33 Seymour St.

Jennings, Hattie S 33 Seymour St. Jennings,

Lillie S 33 Seymour St. Married Martin.

Martin, Albert S. M 13 1/2 Clark St., 60 Seward Ave.

Martin, Harriet C. S 13 1/2 Clark St. 60 Seward Ave

Martin, Harriet M. M 13 1/2 Clark St. 60 Seward Ave.

Martin, Walton S. S 13 1/2 Clark St. Rem. by C. Mar. 24, 1878

Martin, William A. S 60 Seward Ave

First United Methodist Church Membership List Summary “Circa 1872- 1885″ from the records archived at the Cayuga County Historian’s Office in Auburn, NY.

I sat next to Mrs. Glen Mosher that day. She ran the Sunday School and conducted the children’s choir…and wore fur coats…and sang like an angel.  My mother was in the big kitchen with the other ladies of the church assembling lunch for the congregation.  Big tables had been set up in the large hall with white tablecloths where plates of sandwiches and pickles and salad were served. After everyone cleaned up the church…the children, too…the men reformed the line and we made our way home. I thought that was the best Sunday church I ever went to.

WIKI – The hurricane made landfall in the Carolinas, and destroyed most waterfront dwellings near its point of impact. On its way to Canada, it affected several more states, including Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York, bringing gusts near 160 km/h (100 mph) and causing $308 million (1954 USD) in damage.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2013.  All Rights Reserved