Surnames/tags: Cohoe Stover
Family Background and Early Life in Ontario – North Norwich and Springford, 1875-1885
Pages 1-81 from MY FIRST NINETY 1875-1965 by Wallace P Cohoe
We have scanned, and slightly reformatted, but with the page numbering unchanged, the first 81 pages of Book I of Joan’s grandfather’s book, My First Ninety. The first part of the original was typed by Joan’s sister, Barbara, and it was very well done – we have changed only three spelling errors found by Word’s spell checker. Joan and John Moore, June 2008
I have added an index which includes wikitree id's when I have found them. Joan Moore, February 2020
On the last page of Book I (page 130), Wallace gives a good preface: “And now, my daughter, my grand-children and my brothers and sisters, I have made a record which covers my childhood and perhaps a little more. I think I am correct when I say that when your sisters’ friends are not just girls, but young goddesses, then childhood is over. I am sending out this record because it ends a period in a child’s life. I call this an interlude, because if my health and my right hand hold out, there may be more. May God have mercy on your souls – try to bear up, remembering that we Cohoes are a hardy race. Written at 131 East 69th Street in New York City, this twenty- second day of May, 1958. At this time I have used up one-quarter of my eighty-fourth year.“
Book dedication by Wallace: To CHRISTINE In gratitude For her constant watchfulness when these pages were begun and for her loving care as wife of my old age during completion of this record. I dedicate “MY FIRST NINETY” 1965
BOOK I: HOW DEAR TO MY HEART ARE THE SCENES OF MY CHILDHOOD 1875 – 1891
BY WALLACE P. COHOE
TO ELEANOR *** GRAND-DAUGHTERS PATRICIA, BARBARA, JOAN *** MY BROTHERS AND SISTERS AL, BESS, GRACE, ED, GORDON
When I read again the other day some recollections which my father had put on paper, my enjoyment was so great that I determined to do something for posterity myself. At the age of eighty- two, therefore, I start. In that I do not follow my father’s example. He waited until he was ninety before he set pen to paper. Now, my children, grand-children, brothers and sisters, I will start a generation back with my father’s recollections.
SOME MEMORY PICTURES [by Daniel Cohoe]
“That mysterious something we call memory recalls vivid pictures of long past events and makes them appear as something that occurred only a short time ago. But as we try to trace the events of our very earliest recollections those events seem far away.
As I recall my first recollections I was sitting in a wagon beside my mother in front of what was then known as Webster's Store a mile and a half north of Norwich. My father had gone into the store. In the bright sun-light of a hot summer day I noticed crystal drops of sweat chasing each other down the hip of one of the horses. My mother must have noticed what I was looking at and she said Charley sweats. For people generally there is no particular charm in those words. But for 86 years I have cherished them as a priceless treasure. Perhaps they suggest that my mother had a kindly regard for dumb animals.
But memory has preserved for me also the voice which was the channel through which words came to me. It was such a mild sweet voice. But the chief reason why they were remembered and cherished by me was because they are the only words that fell from my mother's lips that I can remember. In vain I have urged memory to produce other sayings and a picture of mother's face.
In my next recollection I was with my brother John in the cornfield where my older brothers were cutting corn. With my bare foot I stepped on a corn knife making a gash in my heel, the scar of which I still carry. Some mysterious angel, whose form and face I can't remember, bandaged my foot; made me a little bed where I could look out of the south window and cooked me some fish my brother had just caught. That good angel must have been the same one that nursed me through the measles and came to my rescue when I had been run over by a wild colt.
Another vivid recollection recalls a time when I was standing alone by the family cradle in which I discovered a pretty little baby. Andrew, my oldest brother, noticed my wondering gaze and came to me and told me that it was my little brother.
And now perhaps I can venture to give some account of what happened in my childhood home beyond the bounds of memory.
The log house where I spent my first year was still standing after I had attained my manhood years. The house was probably 24 by 32. There were two bedrooms in the west, leaving a good sized living room; also sleeping rooms above. There was a large fireplace in the living room which served for warmth and all the cooking, besides adding light to the dim tallow candle's light. At the east end of the house there was an outside cellar. At the south side, which was the front side, there was a dooryard fenced with logs or, rather large long poles. At the southeast corner of the house a stake made from the trunk of a green elm sapling was driven into the ground to hold the poles in place against the corner of the house. That stake has a history. It sprouted, took root and became a beautiful tree that marked the spot long after the house had been removed. It was under the shade of that tree that the Cohoe family reunion had its beginning. On the north side of the house was an outdoor oven where the family baking was done. It was made of stones set in clay mortar. A little to the right was a clear spring with a hollow log for a curb. While still to the north, was a beautiful spring creek that had its rise on the farm. It was bridged with a split hollow log. Still on the north of the creek stood my father's log stable; I suppose large enough for his yoke of oxen and three or four cows. A little to the right stood a log henhouse. I should judge my father's whole outfit for farming would not cost half as much as the cost today of a low priced automobile.
And now we are ready to ask "How did they live in a log house on a farm that was covered with timber?" I presume my father made some clearing before he built the house so that they could raise some grain and all the vegetables that they could use the first year with some land cleared each following year. Money was very scarce. I heard one of the early settlers say he had gone all summer without money enough to pay postage on a letter. And yet there was not a child in his large family that was not well provided for. The living necessities were very largely provided from the farm. No bread was quite so good as that produced from the home grown wheat and baked in the home made oven. No potatoes could begin to equal those baked in the ashes in the fireplace. No sugar was half so sweet as the maple sugar made in the bush. There was an abundant supply of eggs, butter, cheese and vegetables. Also, the farm supplied all the meat. My father kept a fine flock of sheep. The woolen goods needed were provided from home grown wool and largely manufactured in the
home. In the absence of money, trade was mostly carried on by exchange of commodities. There were general stores where goods were exchanged for farm produce.
The question is often asked: Did the people who lived a hundred years ago enjoy life as much as the people who are living today? During the past hundred years knowledge has greatly increased. Discoveries and inventions have far surpassed the dreams of the wildest dreamer of that day. The unbelievable has become a reality. The impossible has come to pass. But has knowledge alone contributed to man's happiness? The pioneers of a hundred years ago had contentment.
Not the contentment we sometimes interpret as laziness, but the life that can enjoy present conditions without anxiety until better conditions can be afforded. Those pioneers were always ready to take the advance step. Very early they built houses for school and secured teachers for their children. They early built houses for worship and enjoyed their Christian faith. Then those heroic men and women were encouraged by the fact that they were constantly making improvements. Each year saw my father and mother literally "getting out of the woods". At the end of twelve years the hundred acres of forest had largely become grain fields with an orchard bearing all kinds of choice fruits. A good barn had taken the place of the little log stable. A substantial brick house took the place of the log house that was built in the woods. Yes, I can readily believe that the people of a hundred years ago enjoyed living quite as much as the people of today.
When I was six years old, my sister was married and, owing to the previous death of my mother, my sister's new home became my home. Although it was a good home, my childhood was never weaned from my first home. It was always a delight to me when there was a prospect of a visit to the old place. I always called it "going up home". I suppose the altitude was about the same. Perhaps as a boy I did not know why I called it "up". But now as a man I can see other reasons than altitude why for me it should be called up. It was the pleasant home my father and mother had reclaimed from the wilderness. It was my first home. It was there parental love had guided my life and later always when I went up home, I found members of the family there. Such associations exalted it far above any other home upon the face of the earth.
I was a boy in those far-off days. Now my years number four-
score and ten. I have a pleasant home near the home of my childhood. All my needs are well supplied. I have six sons and daughters, every one of whom would be ready to sacrifice personal comforts for me if there were need.
Outside of my immediate family I have many friends whose friendship I value very much. At the same time my faith discerns another home which is far better and that home seems to me to be "up"."
[end Memory Pictures by Daniel Cohoe]
Two recollections both concerned with food were told me by my father. In the first it would appear that short-order service was not unknown in the eighteen fifties. From the second it is quite clear that electronic process control was then not even a gleam. My father remembered that they had a colored man who served as a factotum. As there were no telephones in those days, visitors came to see the family without notice. At that time the road ran over a hill to the west of the house. One of the colored man's duties was to keep an eye open for the approach of visitors over the hill. When this happened (everybody always came for a meal) he would go out and catch a chicken and have it cooking by the time company reached the front door.
My father mentions in his recollections the outdoor oven. Most cooking was done at the big fireplace with its cranes, pots, pot hooks and Dutch oven. For heavy baking of bread and roasts the big oven came into use. This was heated by wood fires within the oven. When judged hot enough the fire was pulled outside. Then the question arose - was the oven properly heated for the work in hand? I remember asking father how they got along without thermometers. The measurement of heat was
simple - a bare arm was thrust into the oven and held there for a certain count. If the owner of the arm could stand it for that long the oven was hot enough.
CHAPTER ONE. FAMILY BACKGROUND
The name Cohoe has never in my experience been confused with any other names other than Kehoe and Keogh of which latter our name is probably the aspirated form. The city of Cohoes must have been named by the Indians as it was called so long before any of our name came to America.
The name is distinctive and probably an ancient tribal designation. Perhaps a place name but certainly not a trade name. I have never heard it made a subject of ridicule. My friend, the late George Baekeland, said it was useful because you always knew when you had reached the end of the Cohens in the New York Telephone book. One Pennsylvania branch of the family dropped the final letter and wrote their name Coho. This was a purely local deviation because the name suggested an Irish origin and in Lancaster, Pennsylvania “no Irish need apply". For purely imaginary reasons they said our origin was French - Cahaux. My brother Albert has an artist friend, Seumas O'Brien, who assumes that Cohoe is the aspirated form of Keogh and supplies the following information -
"Keogh Family has produced Noted Names. [by Seumus O'Brien]
Of the Keogh family there have been several prominent members, most eminent of whom in recent times was John Keogh, the distinguished leader of the Irish Catholics previous to the agitation under O'Connell for their emancipation. John Keogh born in Dublin in 1740, was a prosperous merchant, and he used every means to stir up the Catholics from their lethargy. It was largely due
to his abilities and energy that the concessions of 1793 were secured and new life infused into the great mass of the Irish people, previously sunk in a state of apathy and hopelessness. O'Connell characterised him as "the venerable father of the Catholic cause, for he was the oldest as well as the most useful of her champions." Another distinguished bearer of the name was the Rev. John Keogh, T. C. D. M. A., scholar, born in Clooncleagh, Limerick, in 1678. He was the Protestant minister at Strokestown living like Goldsmith s Vicar of Wakefield. He wrote Latin verse on the Trinity. He gave mathematic demonstrations of religious problems and was admired by Newton. His son, John Keogh, D. D., became rector of Mitchelstown and wrote valuable works on Irish botany and zoology and a vindication of the antiquities of Ireland which contain an account of his family -
"The Keogh family was founded by Eachach or Eocha of the Irish race and it belonged to the Clanna Rory tribe, founded by Heber Donn, son of Ir. Iechaid was the ancient name. It means "the speaker". The Sept held possessions in Wexford and Roscommon. The latter clan were a branch of the 0'Kelleys, princes of Hy Maine, chiefs of Omhanach (later Onagh) in Taghmacell parish, Athlone barony, County Roscommon".
Judge William Nicholas Keogh, born in Galway in 1817, was the bone of contention in his family. His appointment as attorney- general in 1852 gave great offense to the extreme nationalists who denounced him as an "oath breaker attorney-general. As judge in 1865 he denounced bishops and priests and was burned in effigy. In 1878 at Bingen-on-Rhine, he made a murderous attack upon his valet and cut his own throat. "
[end by Seumus O'Brien]
Among the Keogh family there were both Catholic leaders and Protestant clergy. The first Daniel Cohoe, born in Ireland, who came to
America may have been a Protestant who did not change his coat for the love of Mary Cutter. The author of "Friendly Persuasion" speaks of Irish Quakers in one of her books.
Of our Cohoe ancestors we know very little. Daniel Cohoe, the first of our name in America was born in Ireland and came to this country about 1740. Whether a romance with Mary Cutter (born in Plymouth) began in Bristol where her father was a wealthy merchant, we can never know. Mary Cutter came out to Philadelphia and lived among the Welch Quakers there. Here they were married and settled in Bucks County. They had a large family among whom our interest centers on Ambrose (born 1743). In 1774 he married Deborah Heacock and had a family of six. They all migrated to the Niagara district of Canada just in time to encounter the year without a summer. Ambrose Cohoe starved himself to death so that his wife and family might live. Deborah died in her hundredth year. Their son Andrew (1785 - 1857) married Lydia Wesley. Their second son Francis was born in 1811. He was my grandfather, who begat Daniel, my father.
(Years ago there came to my office in the Trinity Building a person of respectable appearance who announced himself as Daniel Cohoe from the Isle of Man. It did not occur to me at the moment that the name Cohoe was on my door or that the name Daniel, my father, was in "Who's Who in New York". I found the incident intriguing until the question of a loan arose, when my interest in family history then and there withered on the vine.)
For the most part the Cohoe family have lived next to the land, owning and working it. They have been prosperous, have lived well, worked hard, have raised good sized families and educated them. All were Quakers until the nineteenth Century was in its last quarter.
I cannot recall that any of them were ever engaged in "trade", that is to say in the buying and selling of merchandise. Apparently we are not the salesman type. Some were manufacturers. Edward Cohoe made most of the water pumps in North Norwich. My father and two uncles at one time manufactured Cheddar Cheese. I have been told a curious incident by one of the family who saw, in an antique shop on the Pacific Coast, a flax spinning wheel. On turning it over to learn its origin the legend "made by John Cohoe" was discovered.
My grandfather Francis Cohoe (b. 1811) settled on a farm at the first concession of North Norwich and there built himself a log house and barn described by my father in his recollections. My grandmother Elizabeth Willson was a daughter of Justus Willson who drove up from Pleasantville, New York, in the family carriage. This vehicle, the only carriage in the township, was in great demand for weddings and funerals as long as it lasted. Justus Willson was a nurseryman - most of the orchards in the township were derived from his stock.
My great grandmother Willson must have been quite a resourceful
person. After the Mackenzie Rebellion in 1837 the rebels fled in all directions and were chased by British soldiers in red coats. One of these rebels sought to take refuge in the Willson house. Now in these homes there was usually a "parlor" bedroom in which was a grand bed with valances reaching to the floor. When the redcoat came, this old lady told the refugee to get under the bed. When asked if she had seen a rebel she replied "Thee must find that out by thyself". Upon looking around my great grandmother observed that the rebel's feet were sticking out into the room under the valance. Did she show signs of dismay or surprise? Not a particle. She went on with her housekeeping and taking a broom began to sweep the parlor floor systematically. When she reached the rebel's feet, she said angrily "Pull in thy feet". The stupid redcoat missed all this and departed shortly.
In the early 1850's my grandfather deserted the log house which my father describes to live in a brick house which he had built some distance south of the former home. Here my youngest uncle Francis (1854) was born. His mother died at this time of an unobserved hemorrhage.
My grandfather married subsequently one who was known to us after she married again as Ann Clarke. Father and Uncle John lived with them at a place two miles south of Springford. Ann Clarke was an energetic woman with snappy black eyes. She was demanding and avaricious. She was left money by subsequent marriages but lost it all
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in attempts to obtain high returns.
We have a photograph of Francis Cohoe. In it he looks tired but what patient Quaker could look pleasant during the long photographic exposures required in those days. He was clean shaven; had high cheek bones and dark hair cut long.
When insurance companies have requested vital statistics regarding Francis Cohoe I have said that he died of an attack of asthma. Today it is easy to think that this attack was angina. Now I am also inclined to think that he died as a young man (aged 52) by that pleasant form of suicide known as a second marriage.
Well there they were - a family of six with no father and a "stepping-out" stepmother. How they got along for the next three years there is no one left who knows. The baby Francis was taken by Aunt Polly Peckham and he lived with her until he was grown up. The oldest of the family, my Aunt Harriet, was only thirteen. She was a real person and the family owes its existence to her. At the age of sixteen she married Isaac Barker, a schoolteacher. She took my Uncle John and my father to live with them. Isaac Barker deserves credit for this but I am certain he never received it. My Uncle John said that he owed more to Isaac than he did to anyone else because Isaac showed him all the characteristics that he, Uncle John, wished to avoid. He was an awful liar and in his latter days was so shaken by Parkinson's disease that his teacup had to be the size of a jorum half filled. He came of a good family and was my mother's cousin. His father William Barker
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was a good business man and did well with land given to his wife by Frederick Stauffer. When I knew him he was a very staid Quaker dressing in plain clothes and using plain language exclusively. In old age his mind gave out and the pious old Quaker became most ribald in his language.
One example of Uncle Isaac's lying will be plenty here. Llewellen Barker, who succeeded Dr. Osler at Johns Hopkins, was a nephew of Uncle Isaac who always told us that he was educating young Lew in his medical studies. Long after his uncle was dead, Dr. Barker wrote an autobiography in which he told that during his internship he became very hard up and appealed to his grandfather who gave him three dollars, to which Uncle Isaac added two dollars - this completed his education.
My Aunt Harriet (b. 1840) known to our generation as "Aunt Hat", was one of the most remarkable women I have ever known. She was a mother to all her brothers and sisters and she endured Uncle unto his old age. She had no children of her own but she made all of our generation feel as if we were her children. A Quaker, she had a parlor organ in her home. How she got by the Quaker Meeting on this I do not know. She painted in oils and had a wonderful sense of color: could copy anything but was weak on design. In this painting the Quaker Meeting tried to catch her again. They said she made images which were prohibited in the Bible. The committee took the
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matter to my mother's uncle, Jesse Stover, who was senior to them all. He told them that Harriet Barker was a good woman and that they had better go home. They went.
When we went to see her she was as young as any of us. When she was in her nineties she could remember the events of the past up to the last ten minutes - then she was lost. As far as I know, in spite of a strenuous life, she never had any illnesses nor suffered any pain. When she died at 96, her housekeeper Eliza said that there was nothing the matter with her - she just gave out.
My uncle Andrew (b. 1843) lived near Windsor, Ontario, and was a combination farmer and politician. He had six children. We did not see very much of him as he did not live near us. I visited there in my college days. They were prosperous and had a happy home. Uncle Andrew lived well into his nineties.
My uncle Justus was named after his maternal grandfather Justus Willson. He was the uncle our family knew best as he married (second) my mother's sister. The two families of double cousins saw a great deal of each other. Uncle Justus took over the old homestead and lived in the brick house his father had built. We boys liked him and he us. He had wanted to be a preacher like my father. He had all the qualifications except that he couldn't preach. Uncle Justus died before his time probably of prostatitis, a disease prevalent in our family but
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not well understood in his time.
Next came my Uncle John (b. 1848) who became the only really wealthy member of the family. I will tell in another place how Uncle Justus, Uncle John and my father all learned the arts and methods of making Cheddar Cheese from Harvey Farrington who introduced that manufacture to our county. Uncle John took over that matter in a big way and at one time had twenty odd cheese factories near Dunkirk in New York. These he sold out to go to Nevada in the Comstock days. There at Virginia City he lost everything he had. He then went to California. Finally in the early nineties he was asked by the Merritt's, who were opening up the Mesabe, to come to them to make explorations. When I once asked him why he gave the town of Virginia City in Minnesota that name, he told me that it was in Virginia City, Nevada, that he lost everything he had, but in Virginia City, Minnesota, he got it all back and much more.
Of my father, Daniel Bedell Cohoe (b. 1849), I shall have much to say elsewhere.
Francis Cohoe (b. 1854) has been mentioned earlier. Of him I have a very indistinct memory as he moved into the Dakotas in the early eighties. When the dry years came he moved to other states. I think he worked as a builder. As a child I once heard my mother tell someone that Frank and his wife Jennie did too much billing and cooing. They had a family.
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My mother Miranda Stover (1850-1935) did not get her name directly from Shakespeare as it appears often in her family. She was named after an aunt. Mother had a sister Gulielma - always pronounced with a hard G in our part of the world where we were ignorant of the soft ways of the Italian language. This name was a favorite among Quakers, holding a place established by Gulielma Springett, the first wife of William Penn.
From the ancient Kingdom of Franconia there came, in the early seventeen hundreds, two brothers who bore the family name of Stauffer. One brother settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and the other in Dutchess County, New York. The brothers became prosperous and founded large families but so meager were means of communication and transportation in those days that they did not hear from or see each other after their arrival in America.
Jacob Stauffer who lived near what is now the town of Millbrook in Dutchess County was a Lutheran and was apparently of high standing in that church for when he died he was buried in a grave beside the minister. Jacob Stauffer's son Adam appears to have changed the family name to Stover. He had seven surviving children, when as a man well advanced in years in 1811, he gathered together four of his children and their descendants - twenty nine in all, and drove to what was then known as Upper Canada. They camped along the wayside and their last camp in Norwich was only a mile west of where my grandfather Cohoe settled. They did not go to Norwich unprepared for Adam Stover had already bought five thousand acres of land there. This land he
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distributed among the four children who accompanied him with their families. In order to be fair he gave to the three children who elected to stay in Dutchess County each five hundred dollars - and they were not Roosevelt dollars.
Adam Stover’s second son Frederick (1770-1857) was my great- grandfather. He settled on what is known as Quaker Street in Norwich. In this house Adam Stover spent his last days and in turn so did Frederick with his son Albin, whom I can remember when he was an old man. My mother remembered her grandfather very well and told me many stories about him.
Frederick Stover was an earnest Quaker who helped to build on Quaker Street the school and meeting house known as "The Old Brick". The picture we have, which is supposed to be copied from a daguerreotype, represents an old man wearing a broad brimmed Quaker hat and, what was not Quaker, a velvet coat with brass buttons. My brother Albert wonders whether this picture is not a photograph of Adam Stover. It seems unlikely that photography reached America during Adam Stover's lifetime.
Frederick Stover had eight children, the youngest of whom was Albert Carey Stover (b.1814) and said to be the first white child born in Norwich. He was my mother's father. How our grandfather got the middle name of Carey is a mystery. In the family papers is a document engrossed on paper appointing Arthur Carey as Seneschal of the Manor of Bangor in the County of Down in Ireland. This is
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dated May 10th, 1794. Another document engrossed on parchment with ribbon and seal dated June 25th, 1800, makes Arthur Carey Esq. a Burgess of the Corporation of Bangor. Another document which I remember but cannot locate refers to Albert Carey who was a Leet Magistrate in Ireland. There is not, presently, tangible connection between the Careys and Stovers - but why these papers?
Albert Stover married Elizabeth Webster who was born in Farmington, New York. Her people were farmers, school teachers, lawyers, doctors and a judge. Farmington is a delightful rolling country north and west of Canadagua. How one of the neighbors in Norwich, James Haight, ever got down to Farmington is not revealed to us but he got there and married the widow Webster who had a daughter Elizabeth, aged sixteen. Her mother and stepfather rode to Norwich in a "One Hoss Shay". Elizabeth accompanied them on horseback. Albert Stover and Elizabeth married themselves, as was the old Quaker custom, in the "0ld Brick Meeting House”.
Now here is where all the girl descendants of Elizabeth (Betsy to everyone) Stover came to be eligible for membership in the Colonial Dames.
It is all due to the Smith and Aldrich ancestors of Betsy Stover. Christopher Smith was in Providence, Rhode Island, in
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1696. His great great grandson, Charles Smith (b. 1758) married Lydia Aldrich, daughter of Noah Aldrich. Their daughter, Isabel, married a Webster.
On the Aldrich side - George Aldrich came to America in 1631 from Derbyshire in England. His great grandson, Noah Aldrich, had a daughter, Lydia. She married Charles Smith. They were my mother's great grand-parents.
Albert Carey Stover and Betsy Stover, when I first remember them, lived on a farm just west of Holbrook which was really nothing more than a four corners on the road leading to Woodstock nine miles to the north. There was a general store and post office combined and of course a blacksmith shop. A branch of the infant Otter River rose in a swampy piece of land on grandfather's farm. My grandparents had a happy home in a rather large wooden house surrounded by an orchard on two sides and farm buildings on another. Towards the west there was a clear view towards their neighbors of the white brick schoolhouse where my mother went to school with Hulda Minthorne, Herbert Hoover's mother. Another neighbor was Squire Nesbit who always said he was Scotch "unfortunately born in the north of Ireland". His son, Wallace, was early given to forensic effort and on a Friday afternoon recital put on "The Solitude of Alexander Selkirk". In this he developed an unintended locution well worth recording, as follows:
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"I am monarch of all I survey
My right there is none to dispute
From center all round to the sea
Oh Lord I'm a fool and a brute. "
Wallace Nesbitt subsequently became a prominent and successful lawyer and eventually Chief Justice of Canada.
Albert Stover was a man of rather stern appearance which he couldn't help. He was always kind to us children and we always liked to be with him. He would take us on long wagon rides and seemed to enjoy doing so. Canadian winters in those days (the early eighties) were cold and snows were heavy. Grandfather liked this. He enjoyed driving his one-horse cutter on the snowy roads. In the spring there was always the joke on him that he would still drive that cutter as long as there was snow in every other fence corner.
Grandmother's picture shows her in Quaker garb. She was truly a beautiful woman of serene countenance. Even after more than seventy years I can picture her vividly. She did her housework with no apparent effort and she liked to work in the open air. She had a green thumb. She made candles and always poured them into the moulds outside. I was an interested spectator but had to stand away because the tallow was very hot. Grandmother also made “salt rising bread". It was good and I suspect made by the "leaven" method. In rising, the protein sulphur was released into odor. An uninformed observer always thought someone had committed a social error.
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As they got older grandfather retired and they lived in a house in the village of Norwich on Stover Street.
The children of my grandparents were as follows:
Isabel (1838-1889), a stiff backed old maid if there ever was one. In going to meeting on first day, the old people sat comfortably in the front seat of the democrat wagon. Auntie Belle sat straight upright in the back seat, setting a good example for everybody, for seven whole miles. Auntie Belle had artistic leanings which found an outlet in "spatter work" to make framed mottoes such as "God Bless Our Home." There were other forms of amateur work but no real art or ability to produce it.
(Note on the democrat wagon - This vehicle preceded the surrey. It was a four-wheel two-horse wagon. There were usually two seats. If there was a large family, there were more. Everybody went to church or market in one. My Uncle John Cohoe had brought up my cousin Stella as a staunch Republican. When she first came to Canada she spurned the democrat wagon and refused to ride in it.)
John Wesley (b. 1840), was killed in a barn raising in my mother's girlhood.
Mary (b. 1845), married William Costain. He came from the Isle of Man and was most cantankerous in his old age. Their three children were my playmates at Holbrook where Uncle Will taught. He tried to be a doctor but didn't make out.
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Gulielma (b. 1847), was known to us as Aunt Nellie. She married my Uncle Justus and her five children were our double cousins. She was a most truthful person and lived to be 94. Her hobbies were the family diet and constipation.
Miranda (1850-1935), was my mother. Before she was married she taught school south of Holbrook.
Lydia died when sixteen.
Frederick, the ne'er-do-well, mostly laziness, probably spoiled by a lot of sisters. He had ability for gadgetry but no push. He used to visit Aunt Nellie and Uncle Justus and came intending to make quite a stay. Uncle Justus would set him to work and he soon went away.
The county of Oxford, in which my grandfather settled as a pioneer, is situated in southern Ontario about midway between Niagara and Detroit. It is a rich and fertile county. The county town is Woodstock, named after the royal manor of that name in Oxfordshire, England, where as I remember was located Fair Rosamund's Bower. Here also Amy Robsart perished. Old St. Paul's church in the Ontario Woodstock has on its walls many tablets commemorating members of English families who settled here. Some of these attempted at first at least to maintain the same standard of living to which they had been accustomed in their English homes. Circumstances were against them.
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Here was located the "Canadian Literary Institute" to which my father went in the sixties. The name was later changed to "Woodstock College"" which I attended in the early nineties. This was a Baptist institution which may be regarded as having finally developed into McMaster University now located in Hamilton, Ontario. The old Woodstock buildings are now occupied by a Roman Catholic order.
North Oxford was settled by Scotch Highlanders. Every Sabbath Day they came to Knox Church in Woodstock where Doctor McKay preached in English in the morning and Gaelic in the afternoon. They stayed for the whole works being either gluttons for punishment or just Scotch. Two Scotch townships were East and West Zorra; at that time of the Fenian Raid, one neighbor was heard to say to another ""They may tak Hamilton or they may tak Toronto but they'll no tak Zorro. "
South Oxford, particularly the townships of North and South Norwich, were settled by people from the United States. Among these were Lossings, Palmers, Barkers, Willsons and Stovers - all from Dutchess County, New York State. The Cohoes came by way of Niagara from Bucks County, Pennsylvania. All were Quakers. Dereham Township to the west of Norwich was settled in part by Irish Catholics.
Oxford was a fertile county, originally heavily forested by hard woods. When these trees were cut down they were burnt.
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From the collected ashes, potash was extracted and exported as the wood potash was in great demand before the Stassfurt deposits were worked. As a boy I remember seeing abandoned potash works which had not then become totally ruined.
The soil of Oxford was very deep and glacial. An outcrop of stratified rock was a rarity. The whole country-side was, however, covered with glacial boulders. Most of these were metamorphic rock but, also, the ice brought down many pieces of coral rock grown in a warm polar sea in pre-glacial ages.
Streams for the most part were insignificant. There was only the one river - the Thames, which like its English name-sake, had its source in Oxford.
The county was well supplied with railways. But the advent of the motor vehicle has caused many of them to be abandoned.
Concerning highways the less said the better. Dundas Street ran through the county from east to west. Originally it was a military road. There were some toll roads but usually the highways were deep mud in fall and spring and deep dust in summer. There was, however, the so-called coal road. This was made by piling logs on the right of way, covering them with earth and setting them afire. The charcoal produced thereby provided a dry road foundation.
As lumber was very cheap the plank road was often laid down. It consisted of planks laid close together across the road.
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The planks were laid directly on the soil. As this was an uneven base a weight on one end of a plank excited phenomena at the other. When a wagon passed over there was only a squirt which hit nobody but the dog under the wagon. When a man on horse-back passed over, the phenomenon was not so pleasing.
The corduroy road made of logs laid side by side had pretty well passed when my father was a boy. This road was not conducive to harness racing.
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INTERLUDE - I DISCOVER AMERICA
It was Washington's birthday, February 22nd, 1875, in the south-east upstairs chamber of the house which my grandfather had built twenty years before that I, Wallace Patten Cohoe, came into a cold Canadian winter world. That is a long sentence for a small man child.
The old farm house had come to my uncle Justus Willson Cohoe. His wife Marian Farrington had died and my father and mother, married the previous March, had come for the winter to keep house for Uncle Justus and his infant son Frank. Came also my mother's sister "Nellie" (Guleilma) to take care of mother and myself. This arrangement exploded into a romance. Aunt Nellie married Uncle Justus and the final result was eleven double cousins. In our childhood these double cousins were almost like brothers and sisters to each other.
They named me Wallace Patten after a close friend of my father. This was a custom in those days. My father was named after a friend of his father, Daniel Bedell. Of him, we of my generation knew only that he is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery on Quaker Street in Norwich Township. William Wallace Patten was one of a good family living in Paris, Ontario. He was a school teacher in the days when to be a good school teacher meant something. He was the equal of the preacher and the doctor. He taught in the
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"Gore" school directly east of the town of Norwich. This was near the home of my Aunt Harriet Benker. He and my father were very close friends. He called my parents "Uncle and Aunty Dan". His picture shows a man of fine appearance with bushy, curly hair, clean shaven except for side-burns and a kindly expression.
My first summer was spent in a place called Bervie, located near Kincardine in the county of Bruce. My father had a cheese factory there. He never liked the canny Scotch farmers who brought their milk to the factory. When the fields got dry and milk scarce they could get more for butter than for cheese. When father's factory supply of milk diminished, in spite of contracts, I can fancy that father's exhortations were quite equal to the conditions.
I have been told that I nearly starved during the early part of that summer because the promise of nature's fountains were lacking in fulfillment. This all changed when the family adopted a cow. I really cannot tell how this circumstance ties in with my present allergy to milk.
In this Scotch community there were enough English to support an Anglican Church. This, my parents attended. My mother was tone deaf -- she could not carry a tune or recognize one -- but the Gloria as sung impressed her greatly as worship and the majesty of worship. When I was a child she often tried to describe the Gloria to me but all attempts failed.
I do not know where the winter of 1875-6 was spent but the spring
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1876 found the three of us installed in a cheese factory at Holbrook. This was only a short distance from my mother's old home. The cheese factory buildings were still standing, but inactive, when I was twelve years old. There was the frame house in which we lived, the cheese factory with its boiler house and chimney and, larger than the other, the cheese storage and curing house. In this building were shelves in which were placed the cheeses, which weighed on the average about thirty pounds. They had to be turned over regularly and it was in this building that curds cured into Canadian Cheddar. It was always good cheese. The greater part of it was shipped to Great Britain. Part was consumed locally and in my boyhood retailed for from ten to twelve cents a pound. It was and is just as good cheese as we pay a dollar a pound for here in New York. Even in those days there were cheese parers. One of these was Mrs. Dyer Wilcox who lived in a large house but was "careful". She went to the village store and announced her intention of buying cheese - "and how much is your cheese, Mr. McGuire?" "Twelve cents a pound, Mrs. Wilcox". Tasting a good sized sliver (such was the custom) - she said, "Well, Mr. McGuire, you may cut me off an ounce". The question remains - how did McGuire make change.
The cheese, after ripening, was taken to the cheese market in Ingersoll. The farmers who supplied the milk loaded their wagons
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with cheese and drove to the Ingersoll market. The arrangement of milk supply and cheese sale was cooperative. The farmers were known as patrons. The cheese was sold for cash which was in the custody of my father and the treasurer. On one occasion they felt that during their return from Ingersoll they were being followed by men of evil intentions. So they divided the money between the two of them and father and mother went to bed in a state of some trepidation. In the middle of the night, a knock was heard on the front door and father went downstairs. "Who is there?" he demanded. "Open up and see,” was the answer. Father finally did open up and the visitor was their friend, for whom I was named. Wallace Patten. Then they discovered that the front door had not been locked.
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CHAPTER II: The Farm
Sometime in the Winter of 1876 or Spring of '77, the family of three moved to the "farm". This was a property situated in the second concession of North Norwich nearly to the eastern boundary of that township. This home has always been spoken of in the family as "the farm" despite the fact that father owned several other farms before and after he owned this one. Our father had a genius for making money out of farm property. It has been said that if he had not gone into the ministry, he would have owned the Township of North Norwich. He would take a farm that was languishing, make it attractive and sell it at a profit. In the meantime, his neighbors, struggling over mortgages, using routine methods and just getting by, would say that Dan Cohoe was no farmer - he just knew how to buy and sell property. At this period, values were low and a man with a little capital could accomplish much. I remember being told by great- uncle, Billy Barker, that George Cook, a village magnate, was a very wealthy man who did not have to work, for he had an income of five dollars a day no matter what happened.
The farm itself was attractive. The high point was in the center and there the farm house and the farm buildings were located. The frame farm house was simple but ample
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for a small family and the in and outside help. The inside help was known as a "hired girl", of which there was one. For the farm work, there was a hired man all the year round and usually another during the busy season. The rather large fields were all visible from the house or from the hill behind. On the south end there was a sugar bush of which I shall say more later. The farm buildings, of which there were four, were built around a center court which was the barnyard. Under the eaves of the cow barn, many swallows made their mud nests, making a lively chatter night and morning. There was a fine and rather large orchard to the west, newly grafted to bear select apples. Between the orchard and the house there was a depression occupied by a pond. This pond was rather stagnant so father decided to drain it. A drain was dug and tiled, leading to a water course on the northern boundary. I can still remember the rush of water which flowed out of the pond when the last earth between it and the drain was removed. The following summer the rich soil where the pond had been became a strawberry patch. When the fruit was ready to pick neighbor girls came in and they got paid - one cent a basket. After the baskets were inspected and packed into crates, came the exciting time - the trip to the railway station. It was a proud moment when the prancing horses drew up opposite the waiting train and the berries began their trip to market.
The farm produced grain, pork, milk and fruit. There was thus
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a variety in farm life as the seasons passed. The herd of cows led by the bull (always spoken of by the hired girls as "the animal") went to pasture early every morning and in the evening was brought back for the evening milking. Every morning came the milkman - not to sell milk but to collect it for the cheese factory. After the harvest was in, the threshers came with their red machine (huge in our eyes). In my early memory this machine was driven by horse power through a turntable. This gave place to a steam engine which greatly intrigued my young mind. Quite unacquainted with some of its characteristics, I took my young brother Albert out to see it. Then the whistle blew! This was a totally novel and unexpected phenomenon. Scared - - I gathered up my young brother and took refuge under some planks which afforded shelter.
My earliest memory goes back to this period. How young I was, I do not know but it was in the northwest bedroom on the ground floor of the house and I can still remember seeing the reflection of my head in the two pupils of my mother's eyes as she held me in her arms.
In August 1877 Albert was born on the farm. In August 1879 my sister Bessie discovered America. All I remember of this birthday party was an early rising, when the hired man went for the doctor and Aunt Nellie. Mr. Bell had not at that time put his telephone into use. Sister Grace was born in August two years later.
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On the farm I had to give up my Newfoundland dog. As a pup he played with me but he grew faster than I. Afterward I had to play alone in the yard around the house. I had imaginary visitors - one of them was a Mr. Harmer - I enjoyed these visitors who were always sympathetic to my ideas. My mother was afraid that these conversations would turn me into a liar.
In the Spring there were always young chickens. The old hen was confined to a coop with a slat front. The peepers swarmed around within clucking distance. My mother had to stop me from picking up the peepers because I loved them so much that I squeezed them inside out.
One Autumn, I remember, I had to come into the house because my eyes smarted so much. There was smoke everywhere. The grownups said that the smoke came from forest fires in Michigan.
About this time, there was a good deal of talk among the grown-ups about Arctic Exploration. Not to be outdone, Albert and I used to bundle up and play "going to Greenland" on a big sleigh we had. This was a perfectly satisfactory form of sport until the weather got really cold. We stuck it out as long as we could and then came into the house with smarting fingers - all desire to visit Greenland gone.
Our farm house was about three quarters of a mile north of where Aunt Harriet Barker lived. When Albert was three or four years old,
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he and I used to walk over to see her. This led us down our lane, through two wood lots, full of nice chipmunks to chase, and then we came out on Quaker Street in front of Aunt Harriet's house. She was always glad to see us and invariably had lots of good things to eat. I can remember her freshly fried doughnuts. Perhaps they started my equatorial expansion. One thing we could always be sure of and that we did not enjoy. Aunt Harriet was always suspicious of the grooming we got at home and consequently, every time we visited her, we had our necks and ears washed - hard.
The walk through the woodlot reminds me of maple sugar. In the woods there was a “sugar shanty". This was a small house which contained the boiling down pans, sap buckets, sap vats and the like. When the sap began to run in the Spring - sunny days and snappy nights - the trees were tapped and the sap brought to the shanty on horse drawn sledges. There the water was boiled out and the sweet syrup left behind. When brought to the proper gravity the syrup would crystallize into sugar. If poured upon snow it made the most delicious taffy. Albert remembers one of these sugaring off parties which must have taken place when he was only three and a half years old. I cannot remember that father sold any maple sugar. We used it for cooking. There was a big sugar tub the size of a barrel. Into this, the finished syrup was emptied, which duly became solid. And what cookies we had! There were always lumps of solid maple sugar disposed over the surface
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of the cookie. These lumps were darker than the rest of the cookie. They were always saved until the rest of the cookie had been eaten away, leaving something like a praline for our delight.
I must have been very young when I was first taken to Quaker Meeting in the Old Brick Meeting House on Quaker Street. This building is still standing although no longer used for religious meetings. In the spacious grave yard behind it my Stover ancestors are buried.
The building itself, built of white brick, was plain and the walls were pierced by many windows on all sides. There were no window shades. These were “worldly". There were two doors on the south side leading to loading and unloading platform just the right height for the vehicles in those days. The west door was for women and the east door for men. Inside a partition with movable panels divided the large room in half. The reason for this division is not known to me and I very much doubt whether the close relation between religious emotion and sex attraction was a factor to the Quakers. (This factor was very well understood by professional revivalists.) On the north side of the almost square room was the high seat. This was divided in the middle by the partition. On the north east corner of the building was an additional opening by a door to the women’s
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side. All babies were birth-right members of the Society of Friends and in this addition "their several necessities" (as the prayer book hath it) received attention.
The service was most simple consisting for the most part of silence. Sometimes a friend would say a few words or one who fancied himself a preacher would lapse unto the Quaker sing-song way of speaking. This I am unable to describe. Aunt Harriet Barker, long since gone to Glory (1934), could once in a while be persuaded to mimic it and this she could do to perfection. In those days no one spoke until the spirit moved him or her. In later years there may have been some programming. Before the funeral of one of my friends in Delaware, I heard his widow say to a prominent Quaker "I hope the spirit will move thee to say something about Joseph."
The service (men wore their hats) lasted about an hour but it was a long hour for a small boy on a hard seat. At last great Uncle Jesse Stover reached through the partition and shook hands with the woman on the other side.
Then came the business meeting. The panels in the partition were raised and the men and women had their separate business meetings. These were probably concerned with questions of discipline. This accounted for the partition. My father was disciplined and expelled from the meeting for setting up Bible
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Meetings in private homes. This was illegal according to the Book of Discipline. Many years afterward father was glad to find out that the motion had not been carried out. His name was still on the rolls.
As a peace loving society, the Quakers would not fight anyone but their own fellow members. All these fights were about doctrine or discipline. The first to break away were the followers of Elias Hicks. Subsequently they became known as Hicksites. Some time during the late seventies the Norwich Meeting broke in two. There were then two bodies. The conservatives came to be known as "Old Friends" while the liberals were called "Young Friends". To this latter branch my parents belonged. They had recognized preachers and sang hymns. As far as I know there was never any musical instrument in the meeting house.
(Whenever I visit England I make a visit to my friend Howard Potter. He always drives me to the out skirts of Beaconsfield where is the meeting house of Jordans. The building is nearly as old as George Fox and was attended frequently by William Penn. There are the plain pine benches and high seat but no partitions. It is still in use and is very peaceful. In the grave yard along-side are buried William Penn (1644-1718), his first wife Gulielma Springett and several children.)
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One mile across the fields, but three around, lived Charles Walker and his family. They were English Friends of good estate and they used a language greatly superior and more precise than that we used in our daily talk. Erected on Charles Walker's place was a small meeting house. Here my father did his first preaching as far as I can remember, and here I used to sit on the high seat beside him.
The Quakers were divided into Meetings which were geographical in character. Adjacent meetings came together in monthly meetings. Covering a wider territory was the quarterly meeting. A large territory would comprise many meetings and was called a yearly meeting. The Philadelphia yearly meeting was the mother of them all. To this Friends came from distances and to it they brought their piety and appetites - so much so that to long suffering Philadelphians it became known as the "Yearly Eating".
When I was about five years old the Canada yearly meeting was held in Norwich. To it came much imported oratory. There was loud language and pulpit calisthenics. All this made a great impression on me and I attempted to emulate it in our big wood- shed. Standing upon an upturned apple barrel, I shouted and stamped my feet. Just as my mother, hearing the noise, looked into the wood- shed, the barrel refused to hold up any longer and down I went out of sight. My brother Albert was a witness to this
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and he described for me a little while ago, the look on my mother’s face as I went down out of sight. I haven't preached since.
On the north side of our living room was a clock shelf which held a clock and beneath it was a calendar and beneath that a couch. I must have known something about figures for I, in some way, knew the significance of the figures of the calendar year 1881 and wondered when a symmetrical arrangement like that would ever come again. On this couch, I also remember, as I lay, popping a steel helix about one quarter inch in diameter by two inches long in and out of my mouth. Some how I missed the gate and down went what had been the handle of a crochet hook into my department of the interior. It has never been seen since.
In September, 1881, my parents thought I should be exposed to some education under the instruction of my Uncle Will Costain (Uncle of Tom Costain) who taught at the little red school-house about a mile distant over the fields. I used to walk this alone and was never afraid or lonesome for there were birds, squirrels and half way was a most intriguing dingle where there were hazel nuts to gather. My first lesson was printed on a large card. It showed an ox behind a gate. "This is an ox"-"Is it an ox?"-"The ox is in it"-"Is the ox in it?".That was all very satisfactory except that I could not understand the nature of "it". My uncle explained that the gate in the field indicated a field which the ox was in. The word field was much too long for lesson one.
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Uncle Will used to take me home to the village with him for noon day dinner. About this time was born to Aunt Mary a long looked for son. This circumstance lead me to wonder about the facts of life. I asked my mother where babies came from and she told me from Heaven. Now I could accept Heaven for I was well brought up. But how? I thought perhaps they were let down from Heaven in a basket. When, however, a long rope - miles long - came up, I ceased speculating and asked my mother who answered, as I remember, by half truth evasion.
(Here is recorded my first attempt to convey information. I cannot remember this except as my mother told it to me. I was very fond of the nursery rhyme Humpty, Dumpty - calling for it frequently. Always after "all the king's men and all the king's horses" I would add "wye wyes too". Nobody knew what I meant and we found out in a very natural way. On the way to the Old Brick Meeting house, on a diagonal road, we passed a farmstead. The house was on one side of the road; the barns and the barn yard on the other. Whenever we passed this place, I would shout "wye wyes". This performance enlightened no one until one day I forgot my good manners and pointed to the farm wagons and shouted "wye wyes".)
In the autumn of 1881 things began to happen. One day I was informed that my father and mother had been baptized. Then they had deserted the Society of Friends and had joined the Baptist Church. The term Baptism did not mean a thing to me. It was
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explained that it was a ceremonial immersion beneath water. I didn't worry about father and mother, but a distant cousin who had beautiful blonde braids was baptized at the same time. I felt distressed at the thought of those braids becoming wet.
Then there came to the house some large pasteboard boxes. Upon opening them, fine black broad-cloth suits appeared. Afterward I came to know that these were father's new preacher clothes.
Then came the auction sale of everything on the farm except the buggies and the horse father intended to use as a driving horse. He sold his best horse because it was too good a horse for a preacher.
Finally the sale came on. I did not attend this and I am not sure whether I was not sent away. The reason for all this protection was that at an auction sale in the country, the language gets to be rough. To maintain interest, the auctioneer makes jokes and tells stories. These are not told in the parlor.
Apparently, great Uncle Jesse had been given a mortgage by father. Anxious to square up as soon as possible, father put some of the auction money and his six year old son into the buggy and drove over to Uncle Jesse's. I shall always remember Uncle Jesse as a genial, friendly old man.
This is what I remember of life on the farm. Those few years
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were happy ones and I have always felt sorry for the child who is condemned to the city for what should be the happiest time of his life. At this point, I am nearly seven years old.
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Into the Baptist Parsonage in Springford we moved sometime in the autumn of 1881. As I remember, our first Christmas was spent there. It is remembered because it was so different from the Quaker celebrations of Christ's Birthday which had preceded this one. Oh! the Quakers believed in the birth of Christ, but they did not brag about it. There were stockings filled with candies and oranges and on our first Christmas Tree, a penny bank for Albert and myself. Albert's was a mechanical monkey sitting on a box and holding out his hand. When a penny was put into his hand and a crank turned, the coin was deposited and the monkey signified his satisfaction by nodding his head. My bank consisted of a marksman with a gun pointed towards a target on a stump some inches away. Pull back a spring slider on the gun and place a penny in front of it. The marksman would take aim. When one of his feet was pressed, the penny would shoot into the stump and the marksman would lift his head as if to say "Got him!" These banks, after all these years, have become museum pieces.
The parsonage was a wooden house situated on ample grounds adjoining the church yard. It was hardly large enough for our family of six and a maid, but it had to do then as it did later for succeeding ministers, until quite recent years. On the ground floor was a living room, a bed room and a parlor. In this room,
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young couples coming to get married were joined in Holy Matrimony. Some of the family acted as witnesses. One time a young couple came to be married but they were told that my father had the mumps. He was out of bed but his neck was all swollen and around it were red flannel bandages. The young people cared for nothing except that they did want to be married, so married they were. Mother and I were witnesses.
The living room was on the west side of the house. It was heated by a stove. Above these rooms were father's study over the living room and on the other side were two bedrooms. On the north side of the house was a one-story wing. There was a dining room, a pantry, kitchen and a maid's room, which must have been very cold in winter. The house had no proper cellar. There was a cold room, the floor of which was down a few steps. Here apples, potatoes, cabbages and roots were stored. There was a time on Park Avenue, New York, when the fashion of having a sunken living room was rampant. Harkening back to our half cellar in Springford, I have always called these sunken living rooms "root cellars”.
There was a barn with a hay loft where our horse and our dog "Trim" lived. It was here that the minister danced the "Can-Can". In one corner of the barn was a big box which father used as an oat bin. One time when this became nearly empty, father
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thought it was a good time to do some housecleaning. So into the bin he got, much to the discomfort of a large family of half-grown mice. So scared and confused were these mice that the only escape route they could find was up father's pant's legs. This invasion of his privacy so disturbed the minister that Albert and I saw him dancing most vigorously, while at the same time he was endeavoring to pinch to death the climbing rodents. Father won, but it was an effort.
The church yard (never a grave yard) was fenced off from the parsonage. The church itself was a wooden structure. There were wooden columns over a porch in the front. There were two doors leading to the inside. The columns were painted and sanded as to their surfaces. This system was calculated to prevent small boys from writing on them. It did.
The church would seat about three hundred people in pews which were about shoulder high. Each pew had its own door. On the north end was a platform with a pulpit and proper seats. To the right of this was a lower platform for the choir. The church was heated by two wood-burning stoves. There was a vacant space between the south wall and the pews and into this dangled the bell rope. The bell lived in a square tower which rose well above the ridge pole of the church. It had a beautiful low and sweet tone. It did not clang. When it was installed, this bell cost seventy-five
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dollars and was a gift of one of the church members. It was rung for all services and could be heard for miles. It was, when we first went to Springford, tolled as a passing bell - one stroke for each year of the dead person's life. Albert and I together could manage to ring it and we enjoyed so doing. One winter, when father was holding revival services in the church, Albert and I had to do the ringing. This we did louder and longer than was required. It so happened that in August, 1883, the whole Island of Krakatoa in the East Indies blew up - the greatest volcanic explosion known to man. Dust was blown into the air for over twenty-five miles and was carried right around the world, causing remarkably red sunsets. Here were two small boys ringing the bell too long and a glowing red sunset to the west of them. To Uncle Rusty Woodard, who lived to the east of the village, this seemed like a fire alarm with the fire glowing in the west. He set out in the snow to investigate, but only to find two small boys on the end of a rope.
Whenever the church bell was rung in the daytime, our black and tan dog Trim would crawl under the gate, station himself midway in the church yard and howl. We never learned whether Trim regarded his act as one of worship or as a musical contribution.
Northwest of the church were the horse sheds - a fine play-ground in bad weather.
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In front of the church were two large willow trees. They were fine to climb in. In spring and early summer, when the cambium layer was soft, we would cut off a piece about half an inch thick, cut it around toward the end and slip the bark from the wood. After cutting the wood and the bark properly, we put the bark on again. We then had a willow whistle. These afforded much joy to small boys.
Of course, I was too young to understand why my father felt that he had a call to the Baptist Ministry. His attendance at the Canadian Literary Institute in the sixties may have given him an inclination in that direction. Doctor Fyfe, the principal, was an exceptional man. He was known nationally and helped fight the battle of the Clergy Reserves on behalf of the non-conforming churches. Fyfe, a man of presence, was at the same time sympathetic and understanding of a young man's problems. George Gilmour asked me the other day whether father had told us of any specific interest Doctor Fyfe had in foreign missions. The question arose from the fact that in my day at McMaster, there was one day a month - free of lectures - given to the work of the Fyfe Missionary Society. I couldn't remember any such emphasis. Yet the Canadian Baptist Foreign Missionary movement was active in Woodstock when my father attended. His great interest in missionary work began with the farewell
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of that pioneer missionary, A. V. Timpany. He roomed at Woodstock with the late John McLauren, whose later work in India always held father's interest. They were lifelong friends.
Father did not consider his exposure to learning at Woodstock in any way adequate and desired to enter the University of Toronto. This idea was simply appalling to Isaac Barker who advocated the purchase of land instead. And so it went. Only after moving to Springford did father take up divinity studies at Toronto Baptist College. How he came to be called to the Springford Baptist Church, I know not. I suppose he did preach simple sermons to the good people of this church. Of all this I did not hear, or have forgotten. In any event, he was "called" to assume the duties of minister to the Baptist Church of Springford and the collateral churches of Otterville, three miles to the east, and Bookton, still further on. Father preached in Springford at eleven o'clock every Sunday morning. He then had his dinner and drove - in a peculiar one-horse, platform spring gig - to Otterville, which was a larger village, but a smaller church, where service was held at three. After that he drove to Bookton where he had supper with some household of his congregation and then had a service at seven. After service, it was home by twilight. In winter it was often pretty tough. Roads were not plowed out in those days. They were "broken". If horses
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could not break a road, a team of oxen could. When one team could get through, others could follow. Father's high wheeled gig could get through where a present day super-duper of a motor car could not travel its own length. Father's three services and fourteen mile drive made every Sunday a strenuous day. One time some one asked me if I was brought up to a strict Sabbath observance. I said "No, Sunday was the day on which Father worked all day to beat Hell. "
I think we moved to Springford in December, 1881. Of this move I remember nothing. Possibly Albert and I stayed for the first night at the big James Wilcox house. (Three Wilcox families live in it now.) The younger Wilcox boy, Judson, many years later married my older sister Bessie.
The Village of Springford was not imposing in 1881 and was very little more so when Albert drove us through it in 1956. It is situated at the corners where the eighth concession of the township of South Norwich is crossed by the (north and south) west quarter town line. On account of bad surveying, the north road came into the east and west road a couple hundred feet west of the place where it should have. The small detour was called a "jog." There are thousands of these small detours in Ontario, where the surveying was pretty bad. Whether the grid-iron plan of mapping or the heavily wooded terrain or
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just plain human nature caused these mistakes, is hard to say. Sometimes the results were rather astonishing. I remember a one-hundred acre farm which father bought, turned out to contain one hundred and twelve acres.
To a grid-iron system of mapping, errors did not provide any picturesque quality. To get anywhere except east and west or north and south, one must traverse two sides of a rectangle. In my childhood days every valley was not exalted nor was every mountain and hill laid low. The crooked was not made straight for it started straight. A hill had to be pretty high before the road went around it, but a lake would cause detour - the surveyors couldn't swim. Villages usually sprang up where two roads crossed and four farms pointed up together.
Such was Springford On the northwest corner was the Haley farm. On the northeast was the Anstice homestead. The rather pretentious house of Charles Jenvey was on his farm to the southeast. On the southwest came in the two hundred acres of William Bell. I am sure there were not more than three hundred people in our village. Their houses occupied plots taken from three of the farms William Bell's southwest corner had not invaded. In the Jenvey corner were three back streets. The most easterly of these led to the Jenvey farm buildings.
There was a spring brook rising in the Anstice farm and crossing the road a hundred yards south of the corners. This
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brook flowed into Plum Creek (which was larger) on the Bell farm. It had its origin in woods and swamps to the southwest, received another tributary from the north on the Bell farm and crossed the south-going road half a mile below the village. Here arises the problem - are places named by picking their names out of the air, or after some natural feature or a name given because of some association with the old country? I was told that the original name of this village was Springbrook. I can remember such a sign nailed to the horse sheds of the Methodist Church. This was descriptive. When the name came to be changed, no one seemed to know. In 1881, Springford was official. It was the name of the post office and the railway station.
Relative to Place Names
In 1912, David Rubidge with his friend Frederick Arundel (afterwards known as "Uncle Freddy") drove Edith, Eleanor and myself through the country between Cambridge and Norwich. Nearly all the names in this part of England have been given to places in southwestern Ontario. The object of the day's journey was to take me to old Norwich, after which was named the Norwich where I was born. We passed through a great number of villages the names of which were so familiar to me that I called it my day. Somewhere in the county of Norfolk we drove down a slight hill into a small picturesque valley in which there was a little lake, great oaks, some cottages and a post office covered with climbing roses. Edith, of course, wanted to stop the car so she could buy post cards. On looking at the post office sign for the name of the hamlet, we saw the name Denver - Edith's birthplace. My day then became our day.
After the diversion in the matter of place names, I should
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return to Springford in much the same manner as the preacher we all know, who always preached the same sermon (he had only one). This sermon he could preach from almost any text, but he always concluded by saying "And now, brethren) this brings us back to our text again." He was what might be called a consistent preacher.
Taking an angular course on the northern limits of the village was the railway, which ran from northeast to southwest and thus crossed the north and the west roads. There was a station (on the upper floor of which lived the station master and his family), a freight shed and a grain elevator. At that time it seemed proper to give little railroads big names. Thus our railroad was officially "The Brantford, Tilsonburg and Pacific. " The word Pacific was pure swank. Brantford and Tilsonburg were real and all of thirty or thirty-five miles apart. The Baptist Church was, say, two hundred yards west of the corners. There was a Methodist Church on the southeast corner of the "jog". Just east of this church was the combined general store and post office. The schoolhouse, a white brick single room institute of learning, was on the east side of the north road near the railway tracks. On the northwest corner was a hotel in which the bar was quite active. On the northeast corner was Bill Wilson’s blacksmith shop. The upper story was a place where wagons
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and buggies could be made. I fancy the factory-made product had beaten out the hand-made product in my day. On the Anstice farm there was a cheese factory. This furnished a market for the milk of the countryside. A shoe maker, two carpenters, one painter, a tailor and a butcher supplied our needs. Two preachers and the school teacher represented the learned professions. There was no doctor, no dentist, no lawyer, no fireman, no policeman, no telephone, no bakery and no income tax. EHEU FUGACES.
My introduction to Sunday School was dramatic and somewhat terrifying. There lived in the village a man called "Crazy Nichols". He was an odd-job man around the village and an epileptic. Why he came to Sunday School he didn't say. This Sunday he not only came, but had a fit just as we got there. His head struck one of the stones and as a consequence, blood flowed. He did a great deal of yelling. This terrified us all so much that it was remembered for years. This, for me, was a first experience and I didn't realize that a man who made so much noise was not past praying for.
Attendance at a neighborhood Sunday School near the farm had made us not unfamiliar with it. Springford, however, was another surprise. They still adhered to the idea of Robert
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Raikes that the purpose of a school was to teach ragged children how to read. My teacher confronted me with a very ragged copy of the first reader. This did not impress me deeply since I had read it all - under Uncle Will Costain's instruction in the autumn of 1881.
The church service itself was something to which I was accustomed. In Quaker meeting latterly there was a sermon and there were carefully prepared and memorized extemporary prayers. To read a prayer was a "rag of Popery" and merited a free ticket to the "everlasting bonfire".
Of course, music added greatly to the service. There was a choir, led by James Wilcox - an outstanding man, never to be forgotten. Mrs. Steve Pratt, a sister-in-law, played the organ.
The third surprise that day came with the collection. My father had given me pennies for something he said was a collection. My Quaker bringing-up had not prepared me for this and no one revealed it to me. Towards the end of the service, two men took each a box which was fastened to a long six foot handle. Starting at the front of the church they passed the box the length of the pew and I could see people putting money in the box. When it came to me I did as the others. After church father asked me if I had put my pennies in the collection. 'Yes", I said, "I put them in the cornpopper when it
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came around." This innocent and quite naive remark was told by father on so many occasions that finally I felt sorry that I had not appropriated the pennies and lied about the collection.
Our church had a big Christmas Tree on the eve of Christmas Day. It was set up in the church where the choir lived during services. People brought their family gifts and they were put on the tree. There got to be so much keeping up with the Joneses that the custom had to be discontinued. Simple joy and emulation were incompatible.
In the summer of '82, father was ordained as a minister. Of this I saw nothing, but the "laying on of hands" was described to us by mother. I do remember that we all got, for this event, some wonderful new clothes.
Too young to appreciate the act of worship in the great silence of the Quakers, I had also become accustomed to sermons, long prayers and hymn singing. I suppose as a child I regarded them as routine matters. That these practices were holy did not occur to me. Had I not seen the choir practicing? I knew that father was preparing a sermon upstairs in his study when I heard him speaking bits of it out loud. Consequently, I was totally unprepared for the first act of real worship which came to me, at the back of the church where I was allowed to sit, while father conducted the simple ritual of communion.
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The plain words of "Last Supper" were perhaps not fully understood, but the actual worship impressed me with a solemnity never forgotten. My father was no longer just a preacher for he was a leader in the worship of the Almighty.
The element of solemn worship did not enter into the revival services held at least once a year. In these services the two churches usually joined. The meetings were usually held in the Methodist Church in the center of the village. A professional evangelist was often employed. As a child I was of course affected by the mass emotion of a meeting. I was not impressed greatly and it would have been better to have kept me home in bed. In justice it should be said, however, that once in a while there was a real turning away from the ways of sin. To many, the meetings were an emotional catharsis rather than a "calling of sinners to repentance. " The last meeting of the series was a rollcall and a counting of the take. Names were called and people stood up and stated which church they had chosen. Then village affairs resumed a normal course for another year.
As an appendum to the last paragraph, I may say that it was in this Methodist Church that I first and last heard the "lining" out of the hymns. The minister read out two lines of the hymn; the congregation sang it. Then he read two more lines; they sang
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it. Then he read two more lines; they sang and so on to the end. Whether this practice was due to a scarcity of hymn books or prevalent illiteracy, I know not.
School was started in January, 1882. I can fix the year by a definite happening. On a dark day in March of this year, our teacher - Mr. Cody - told us that the children's poet, Mr. Longfellow, had just died at his home.
Our school house was in no sense modern; nor is it today, for when Albert and I passed it in 1956, it was still the same white brick building. It was set well back from the street with playgrounds back and front. The plain oblong structure projected east and west. On the west transept were entries for boys on the right and girls on the left. Here coats were stored and there were shelves above where dinner pails were kept. The east transept was a class room - it was never used for classes. In a one-room school, whenever the teacher left the room, pandemonium broke out. We thought this was great, but our teacher had different ideas.
The teacher's platform and desk were on the west side of the room between the entry doors. Stoves on the north and south heated the room in spring and fall and tried to in winter - winters were cold in the early eighties.
I will now point out a pedagogical error which existed in this
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school. A large frame standing on the floor contained the maps of the world on rollers. By turning a crank, one could emulate the devil in the wilderness and display "all the kingdoms of the earth" to the beholder. There was not a thing wrong with this system of displaying maps, except that it was placed on the west wall of the room, when it should have been against the north wall. The result? Well, for all my life, west and north have been confused to me. When I go into a city for the first time, having no previous idea where cardinal points should be, they come correctly, curiously enough, as in the crooked old town of Boston. I am correct in Berlin, but in Paris, all wrong, and Rome is upside down. I am not right in New York. A succeeding teacher put the maps against the north wall where they should stand. But it was too late. My young mind had been poisoned. We sat at desks (crude, according to present standards) two and two facing the teacher. The little ones had small desks down front while the big boys and girls sat at the big desks at the back. And this arrangement was the crux of school discipline. These big boys came to school only in cold weather. At other times they were working. They were sixteen to eighteen years old - Big, husky and hard as nails. They could not be treated as children. Any schoolmaster who tried this had to be able to lick any one of them or quit. Some schoolmasters had a dignity and a presence which met all demands. Our school would be reckoned as
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"difficult". We had four schoolmasters in five years. The last schoolmaster in my time was Thomas Dowler. He was an Englishman and an Anglican; boarded with the only Anglican family in the place and plodded to school for two miles every morning. He hung pictures on our bare walls and hung flower baskets in every window. As I remember, he was the best schoolmaster we had - but he met his Waterloo in Jack Jenvey, who was husky, strong, and weighed over two hundred pounds. He was always good natured to us boys; never lost his temper but was inclined to inflict pain where he could do so without apparent intention. Mr. Dowler had given us all numbers instead of names and Jack was assigned number sixty-four. When addressed by Mr. Dowler, he would answer "Number Sixty- four, Sir" and that was all he would say. Greatly annoyed, Dowler went to Charles Janvey (Jack's father), who did not care to assume responsibility (perhaps he couldn't) but threw the case back at the school teacher for a good licking. He would supply the canes. Next morning Jack brought to school some young saplings about three-quarter inches in diameter. Jack took off his coat, according to Hoyle. Dowler grasped the rods of punishment in his right hand and Jack's shoulder in his left. Jack held Dowler's left shoulder with his left hand. Then in front of the whole school, Dowler began to whack Jack's back
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in no uncertain manner and Jack began to circle - and so it kept up until both were well tired out. Jack held up so well that Dowler had no abject surrender. It was a no-decision contest. Jack got a licking and I think, left school.
Such an event here in this country at this time could only end up in the Supreme Court - years hence.
We had lickings in all the Public Schools I attended. Usually, we had the choice of writing lines or a licking. We usually took the licking. They were easier and took less time. The "namby-pamby" schools came later.
The curriculum of the Public Schools of Ontario compassed all subjects up to the high school entrance. We had our readers, our geographies and our arithmetic books. Lessons were assigned and recitations held upon the same. To recite, the whole class drew up in front of the master's desk. Questions were asked. If the answer was right, you moved up the line; wrong, down. We thus had the head of the class and the foot. Sometimes, when the classes were very small, the position of second to the head was the foot. These viva voce recitations could be heard by all; whereby a bright pupil could gain much advanced knowledge.
We played games before school, during noon hour and at recess time. Games were not organized or supervised. There
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were Shinny (the ancestor of "Cow Pasture Hockey"), Pom Pom, Pullaway, Prisoners Base, One Old Cat and Two Old Cat. The latter is thought to be the ancestor of baseball. This we also tried but did not get very far.
Of course, there were three minute horses in the early eighties but everyone did not own one. Maud S. was the champion harness horse at that time. She did her mile in two minutes and ten seconds. The average driving horse would do about six miles an hour. As a rule, the radius of horse and buggy travel was nine or ten miles. There and back was eighteen or twenty miles and that was an average day's work for a horse. Consequently, it made the circle of the average community. We often went by horse and buggy (it was the only convenient way) seven miles to Holbrook to see our Stover grandparents. Frequent visits to Uncle Justus' home were more time consuming; that was twelve miles away. To go to Woodstock or Brantford, further away, we took the train.
Although the horses and their owners did not recognize the invasion of the bicycle as a danger to their position, this invasion was already at hand. Did not our schoolmaster, Lou Copeland come to school on a wire-wheel, ball-bearing, nickel-plated high-wheel with a bell on the handle bars and a lamp attachment for night riding. On this wheel he could coast
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down hill with his legs over the handle bars, causing much admiration and also trepidation among the bystanders. One of the Jenvey boys had a very crude wooden high-wheel but rubber tired wire-wheel machines were being assembled in Otterville.
Our railways in the eighties really gave us service. They aimed to please, as they do now, having passed through a surly period when they "waxed fat and kicked". In Springford we had two daily passenger and one freight each way. Now there is one combination each way - if any.
We boys always knew when a train was approaching our station. It whistled loud and long a full mile away. Was it proud of itself? Perish the thought. There were no air brakes and the whistle was a call to duty for the brakeman. Rain or shine, frost and snow, he must get out and wind up all brakes by hand. This meant over the top on a freight train. The engines of that day were small. Our road had left one wood burner with the big stack. This locomotive was used in emergencies. Passenger and freight equipment was primitive. The old link and pin system of coupling was still in use. The absence of anything better was the cause of so many bad accidents in train assembly and switching operations. Primitive as was the equipment, none-the-less, the conductor wore a frock coat with
The uses of the railway as a common carrier were varied but the service it performed was necessary to the community. As an instance - in the autumn a grain buyer came to Springford and took possession of the grain elevator. In a short time all surplus grain which the farmers within teaming distance desired to sell, was unloaded and sold here within a comparatively short period of time.
In addition to our railroad line, the Canada Southern Railway ran east and west a couple of miles to the south of Springford. From Buffalo to Detroit it was an ideal railroad because it had no grades, one curve and only two tangents. In the eighties it was leased to the Michigan Central and is today called by that name. On account of its easily run road bed, vast quantities of freight came over it; on account of this, the tendency was to make the freight trains longer and larger without any corresponding increase in the horse power of locomotives. As a consequence when a small boy woke up on a winter night, he could sit up in bed listening to the slow puff, puff of an inadequate locomotive (valves wide open) laboring hard to pull a heavy train over a level track at a speed which any horse with four legs could overtake.
The people of Springford were of high character. There
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was no one, with perhaps one exception, who could be called poor. On the other hand, there was no one who could be called rich. Everyone had all the necessities of life and some of its luxuries.
The Wilcox family are especially remembered, partly because they were outstanding people and also because we have never lost touch with them. Judson Wilcox was a little boy in skirts when I first knew him. (Little boys wore skirts in those days.) Later he married my sister Bessie. He has just had his eightieth birthday and, with his son Truman, runs an "egg factory" near Tacoma, Washington, the hen population of which is around fifty thousand. James Wilcox, the head of the family, was a man never to be forgotten. He had a black beard and a melodious bass voice. He led the choir and was the friend of everyone especially so to us children. What better can be said of any man. My memory of him goes back to more than seventy years and it is still vivid.
William Haley's farm pointed into the village. He was one of the church deacons. The families were friends and his grandchildren were our playmates. Ebenezer Haley lived in the village in retirement from his farm. He was lame and used a very fancy cane. The shaft thereof was encircled by a serpent
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which made a loop for a handle. The head reached down to swallow the shaft and its eyes were red. It was painted green with red spots. We used to wonder whether the staff of Moses was anything like Uncle Eben's cane. Aunt Rachel, Eben's wife, was a little brown woman, very active in all her movements. She grew her own tobacco, cured it and smoked it in a blackened clay pipe.
To the west of the village were the Martin Harrises, whose son Johnnie was our playmate. In this we were joined by the Shattuck boys from across the road. Nearer the village lived the Vardons. To the south were the Bells; there were two boys older than Albert and I but our good friends. They tried to teach us how to play that "instrument of the devil" known as a fiddle. We did not get very far. Today one of the Bell boys owns and lives on Grandfather Stover's old home at Hollbrook. The Anstice family were our friends. The Mahon family lived east of the village. George Mahon became a prominent lawyer in later years.
Among the families we visited were the Bodwells of Mount Elgin. They were a prominent family in the county and province. One of the sons, Hazen, played the piano at home and the organ at church. My mother thought it would be quite fitting for me
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to learn to play our parlor organ and otherwise preside over the family music. Next door to us lived a maiden lady named Smith who gave music lessons. I became her unwilling pupil. Her method of counting time had a peculiar cadence - one, chew, three, four; one, chew, three, four. I had one lesson a week. That did not bother me very much but the time I had to spend in practice deprived me of playtime. But practice I must. As my mother was totally tone deaf, any sounds coming out of the parlor organ were interpreted as practice. So as not to disappoint her, I would lay a knife or other object on the keys, pump the pedals and read a book held up by the music rack.
Of course, every village had its characters. In this Springford was not different. There was always a village idiot. In this case she was feminine, but as "Old Soak" put it with respect to the Ackles girl - "Her elements had kind of soured in her head". She was personable and friendly. One young man left town.
Jimmie Fitzgerald was the son-in-law of Eben Haley. His was a friendly soul who would taste too much - with amiability. He was a house painter and played the fiddle at all the dances. These in our day were considered sinful. My brother Albert tells a story of Jimmie 's conflict with a cottage prayer meeting.
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The people were all kneeling. Jimmie was due to play at a dance and his fiddle lay in its case under the bed in a room beyond the praying neighbors. Some kind soul, perceiving Jimmie's trouble, quietly conveyed the fiddle to Jimmie over the heads of the people.
Quite different was Electra Bodwell, who bore a name highly respected in our county. Electra was not insane, exactly, but she had her psychoses. She had been associated with the Burns family and one of them lived with her. He apparently had some money, for when ever he received a remittance he went down to the village bar from which he sometimes needed help on his return home. Electra had two houses standing amid apple trees. Both houses exhibited the greatest disorder - especially the one in which she lived. She had a son of about twenty who was a clerk somewhere. He would visit his mother from time to time and she always hoped he would live in the second house. On which side of the blanket he was born was never revealed to me. Electra came to our house to do the family washing every week. She was a tall, rather gaunt, but powerful woman who did not appear queer to me except when she talked on and on - which was boring.
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West of the village, on the Shattuck place, there was a most trim and well painted cottage set in an orderly garden. In this yard was a flag pole on which a flag flew from morning until sunset every day. Beside the flag pole was a saluting cannon. In the cottage lived, all alone, a retired naval officer. Every afternoon he would come out in front dressed in his uniform and stand as straight as a ramrod. We did not know anything about him and he did not talk to barefoot boys. He must have been there for some years because the village took him for granted and never a word was said about him.
There were two or three men in the village who at times seemed to be unusually happy and talkative. They were men who would never be seen in the village bar, but still they exhibited all the evidence of insipient inebriety. Finally, the secret came out. Our general stores could and did sell, in quart bottles, such medicines as Burdock Blood Bitters and Radways' Ready Relief. The remedies, in addition to pleasantly alliterative names, bore forty percent alcoholic content - delightful to the heart of man - if the man was not too particular.
There were certain events to which we looked forward with eagerness and sometimes impatience. Christmas always seemed very slow in coming. May twenty-fourth, the Queen's Birthday in our time, had an importance now lost. On this day - a national holiday - we had picnics. Sometimes we went fishing in the Otter
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two miles away at Spencer's Mills. I cannot recall that we ever caught any fish worth bringing home, but it was good fun. There were too many people and too few fish. Mill dams made the fish migration impossible.
Every summer there was a Sunday School excursion to Port Stanley on Lake Erie. To this we went by train. At Port Stanley there were picnic grounds, a harbor and high bluffs looking over the lake, the margin of which was a splendid beach of white sand, sloping away gently into the water which was warm. Most of our day was spent in the water - a rare luxury, greatly enjoyed. Leading from the beach to the top of the bluffs was an inclined railway - the first I had ever seen. It was powered by a retired locomotive. Drums had been substituted for driving wheels. This retired locomotive seemed content to bring people up and down instead of backwards and forwards.
From these bluffs, I saw for the first time a segment of that great circle of the earth. Since then it has been easy to believe that the earth is round. After harvests were in and the grain threshed came the Otterville Fair. It held forth for two days and was attended by
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everyone from far and near; cattle, horses, sheep, pigs, vegetables, pies, cakes, quilts, canned fruit and vegetables, and for the satisfaction of art tendencies, oil paintings done by the esoterics.
It has already been stated that on one of the four corners of our town was a hotel. Exactly on the corner was the bar thereof. There was not a great deal of mystery about this because we played every day with the hotelkeeper's son.
We peeked in the open door. All we could see was a counter with bottles, and on the wall behind, a clock face without hands. Underneath on the wall was printed the financial principle on which business was conducted "no tick here."
Every year the host had a turkey shoot. There was only one turkey and it was not the target. He was the prize to take home.
The real target was fastened to a stump in Bell's field across the road from the hotel. Men came from far and near to
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shoot. They used muzzle loading rifles and the bullet was hammered home, as I am told it still is where fancy shooting is done. (There was in the village, a curiosity in the form of a pioneer repeating rifle.) The object of the meet always seemed to be fulfilled in the large cash intake at the village bar.
In my time in the country, there was no such thing as juvenile delinquency. Our parents took good care that certain chores were done and for this, we had to find time. For the many things we wanted to do on our own, there was hardly time enough. There was a triangular field between the parsonage and the railroad track. On the third side there were the backs of houses. This field belonged to Deacon Haley. As he never used it, the boys and girls of the village adopted it for a playground.
We had a rather extensive garden - too much so when duties therein encroached upon our play time. In the village, there was the annual contest to see who would raise the first potatoes of the season. The only part of this I remember vividly, was the job we boys had of knocking potato bugs from off the vines with a paddle into a bucket. At the back of the garden were some poles upon which hop vines (useful for home-made yeast)
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were a prophecy of the distant future, as I shall relate. In 1898, if I remember correctly, some of my friends at Harvard surprised me greatly by asking me to dinner and to the theatre. I was glad to accept this kind and unexpected attention. We landed up in the top gallery of the old Tremone Theatre to see the "Belle of New York", then new. The leader of the opening chorus started as follows -
In far Cohoes where the hop vine grows
And the youth of the town
Are prone to dissipation
This gallant band
Under my command
Have embarked on a tour of moral agitation.
The whole party had been arranged so that they could watch my face during the opening chorus.
When we first went to Springford, one of my duties was to take a two- quart tin pail up to the Vardons for milk. This cost all of three cents a quart - simply ruinous. So father bought a cow. In the township, it was allowable for cows to pasture on the roadside where grass was abundant. Every morning, the village cows were turned out to this pasture after
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milking. Every afternoon in summer time, after school, we boys had to find the cows and bring them home. They would usually go north or west. Out the south way there was a cross dog and on the east there was too much competition. We did not know in which direction the cows had gone, but a "Daddy-long-legs" spider would tell us. He was not always right, but that did not matter greatly because the cows would always come home at supper time. We usually had pennies and, before starting after the cows, we would invest in some candy or chewing gum. The first gum we had, consisted of white wax, sugar and some oil like peppermint. There was a colored lithograph cut-out on every piece. This gum competed with Spruce Gum - good gum, but hard on the jaw. Then came the so- called rubber gum. The doctors were doubtful about this for many years. This was the chicle gum of the present day. It was made by the Robertsons in Toronto under the management of Steve Britton who, as manager for the American Chicle Company in New York, engaged me as consultant. This position I held for thirty years until I resigned.
About this time another novelty appeared. Previously, we boys had worn paper collars. These looked like linen, but
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of course, had only a one-time use. They must have been popular for some years because their trade mark was "Comet". They were probably named after Donetti's comet, very large, which took people by surprise in the late 1880's. But the long period of demand was soon ended and the paper collar met its Waterloo when celluloid (pronounced celliloid) appeared. Paper collars could not be wiped clean nor could paper cuffs rattle so impressively.
Going to the post office for the mail was a duty performed every evening. Most mail came in on the evening train and was sorted into a series of rented glass-faced pigeon holes. When the mail was late, we had excellent opportunity to savor the odors (flattering word in some cases) of tobacco, cabbages, dried and smoked herring, lemons, oranges, salt cod, turpentine, bacon and the all- pervading fragrance of kerosene coming from the barrels in the shed outside, that spilled on the floor and that evaporated by the burning lamps.
Albert and I often went fishing in Plum Creek. We caught nothing larger than four inches until one day when I caught myself on the right thumb. I could not pull the hook out. They aren't designed to work that way. Finally, I gave up, but concealed the condition of my thumb until it began to swell. We didn't know anything about anthrax inoculations then.
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When further concealment became impossible, my father put me in the family buggy and started to see Doctor Culver in Otterville. Fortunately, we met the doctor half way. He took a quick look at my thumb and quickly pushed the hook through. This operation not conducted in entire silence on my part.
In the eighties, the beach trees in the wood lots bore nuts in abundance. The nuts were small and sweet. It was an interminable task to pick them one at a time from the ground. To make the task of gathering easier, we would borrow a sheet and spread it under a tree. By shaking the branches or clubbing them, the nuts would fall down upon the sheet. Several quarts could be gathered easily. One Saturday in autumn, Albert and I went up to the Martin Harris place with our sheet. Here Johnny joined us and we proceeded to gather beach nuts. In order to find good trees for our purpose we went so far north that we came to Spitler Creek and a splendid swimming hole. The use of this was something forbidden at any time without special permission. In the season when nuts were ripe, swimming was simply unthinkable. The day was warm, however, so we tempted fate and went in. We really forgot the passage of time until the afternoon was getting on. Accordingly, we picked up and made tracks for home, but as we were late father had started after us. He met us about half way and suspected from
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our appearance that we had yielded to the temptation of the old swimming hole. He asked me if I had been in the water and I said no. At this time, lying came easy with me. Adults were always curious about what was going on in my mind. This I resented. As a defense mechanism, I would not tell them my thoughts, which were my own business, but would say something calculated to please. In this case any statement to father's question contrary to facts could not be put over. Father felt our hands. They were wet. Father did not even give us a ride the rest of the way. He promised to meet us at the barn door. He did just that and gave me a licking good and proper. When I came out, it was Albert's turn to go in so I told him to yell like the dickens. This he did and to this day thinks that all father did was to go through the motions.
In the winter, we did not have so much fun. There were no proper hills for coasting. We did have skating. Some of the big boys would throw a dam over the brook at the Anstice place. This would give us great fun until the snow would build up on the ice and prevent skating.
One winter we had an ice storm after a heavy snow-fall. This converted the whole country-side into a vast skating rink
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It was great fun to skate over the fields and fence tops.
In Springford all our stoves burned wood. I did not know then that a wood fire was really an implement performing destructive distillation. Some of the products of this distillation would condense in the chimney and stove pipe. One autumn afternoon, when both parents were away, in my play out in our yard I saw flames coming out of our living room chimney. I had heard of chimney fires so I ran down the street to Bill Wilson's blacksmith shop and called to him "Bill, Bill, our house is on fire. " Bill came, threw some salt in the stove and the fire was out. That night late, I was found in my night clothes, feeling the chimney with my hands. I was sound asleep.
We all went on short trips by horse and buggy to different places. To Tilsonburg, a small town, we went by train. It was there that John Northway made my first suit of clothes. Starting in that small store, John Northway built up a large business centered in Toronto.
Our visits to grandfather Stover in Holbrook were always made by horse and buggy except in winter, when it was horse and cutter. Winter was the most fun. Grandfather lived seven miles directly north. The north and south road was sixty-odd feet wide. In winter, the prevailing wind was west. This
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meant that the snow drifted fence high, thus making the road impassable. Were we dismayed? “No." We simply took down a panel of the fence and drove through the fields alongside. When we went to visit Uncle Justus, conditions were much the same except that the going was not all north and south.
In these horse and buggy expeditions, our horse "Fly" took us. Sometimes the pull was hard as it was up the high banks of Spitler Creek. Fly was more for style than speed but we all loved her and she became one of the family. I have told about her in another place.
As I have stated, most of our horse and buggy trips away from home were short. One trip, however, was a long one made by horse and buggy right out of our county to Niagara. Our family had settled in the Niagara district at the end of the eighteenth century. Father visited the district often and had many friends there. These friends had extended an invitation in the fashion of that time. Father, mother, Albert and I embarked in our two-seated buggy, pulled by our horse, Fly, and set out for Niagara. After miles of uninteresting road, we passed, with some trepidation, over the narrow road leading through the mill pond at Waterford; by-passed Hagersville where we were subsequently to live. Finally we crossed the Grand River over a long bridge and stayed the night in a hotel at Cayuga. Next day we
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drove through a number of villages, passing through Welland, where a stone viaduct was being constructed. This still carries the Welland Canal over the Welland River - then known as Chippewa Creek. Finally we ended up at the Becketts in the village of Effingham. This picturesque village strolled down the Niagara escarpment from the Lake Erie level to the plane of Lake Ontario. A bubbling brook had cut a way down and as the gradient was rapid, it supplied water power for several mills.
The Becketts lived in a large farm house and I know the season was early autumn because the trees were growing peaches in an abundance over-whelming for a small boy who had never had all the peaches he could handle before.
The day when we drove down to Niagara Falls was rainy. Father chose a road which lead us behind the Falls where we could hear the roar but could not tell what was causing it. The spray we could hardly distinguish from the rain. Finally we came down the road where the old Clifton House used to stand and there we could see both Falls. It was a grand, impressive sight. At that time, the Horse Shoe Falls was not curved as it is today. Water covered a greater proportion of the curve - right to Goat Island, as I remember it. This would
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be about 1884. There was a menagerie and museum on the Canadian side at that time. This afforded us some amusement and it was dry inside. Finally we started back to the Becketts in the rain and wind. At Port Robinson, we nearly got blown into the canal.
The journey home was in the rain. At Stoney Creek, we took Fly out of the shafts and watered her in the creek. Try that now. It is a part of Hamilton. The roads were bad and both Fly and ourselves were glad when we struck the horse- car tracks, which were the same gauge as our buggy wheels. (Father stopped in Hamilton to buy a hat. By its sweat band, I would say it had a fine parentage - Scott of Bond Street. It was a flat-topped Derby. Some weeks later someone sat on it - "Pride goeth before a fall" - the hat was never the same again.) In the rain we passed through Hamilton and up the hill to Ancaster, where we stayed all night in a hotel. Taking up our homeward journey, we passed over a plank road between Ancaster and Brantford. As it still rained, there were lots of squirts of water through the cracks between the planks.
Finally, tired and wet, we arrived at the home of Uncle Justus where Bessie and Grade had been parked during our trip.
Passing events in the outside world made little impact.
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I have already told of Longfellow's death. I remember that father awakened Albert and myself to see a large comet. This was probably 1884. We heard of an instrument called a telephone in other places but its existence was not discovered unto us although Bell had worked his first outside line at Brantford, a few miles to the east of us. We had the telegraph but it gave us no news. The telegraph wire was made of iron and it sang in the wind. Our Uncle John came on from California and talked to us of Doctor Koch's discovery of the tuberculosis bacillus. This was in 1882. At this time, we first heard of germs. On this subject, there was much talk and a corresponding amount of skepticism.
In February 1885, my brother Edgar was born. Our mother tried to nurse him but her breasts became inflamed, caked and finally infected. Aunt Nellie came and took Edgar home with her. To her kindness and care, Edgar really owes his life. My mother was attended by Doctor Culver, who lived in Otterville. His practice extended over the whole countryside. He carried his pharmacy with him and I remember how neat and skillful were his movements when making up powders. It may be noted that quinine at that time was prescribed quite as freely as aspirin is today. Of mother's illness, I did not see the many lancings. But I do remember the constant use of flaxseed poultices. Mother got well, thanks to Doctor Culver. He was a fine dedicated man. He understood the human system and got his patients out of bed.
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In the fall of 1885, it became evident that if father were to continue his divinity studies he would have to live nearer McMaster. Accordingly he accepted a call to the Baptist Church in the town of Aurora, which was twenty-odd miles north of Toronto.
Accordingly, a box car was ordered. Household furniture was put into one end. The buggy was put into the other end and the center was left clear, at the doors, for our horse Fly and enough hay and water to sustain her during the train journey.
Thus, we took train for Toronto and Aurora. We did not shake the dust of Springford from our feet. The village and its people have always been remembered by our family and up to date (1958) some of us keep in touch with the people with whom we lived so happily.
Ontario or family people mentioned in pages 1-81 of My First Ninety, indexed by Joan Moore, Feb 2020
with wilwtree id, by last name and birth year
Aldrich-73 George (1605); "George Aldrich" page 18
Aldrich-1597 Noah(1709): "Noah Aldrich" page 18;
Aldrich-2425 Lydia (about 1760): "Lydia Aldrich" page 18;
Barker-12427 William (about 1805 ?): "William Barker" page 11; "great- uncle, Billy Barker" page 29;
Barker-2887 Isaac (1834): "Isaac Barker" page 11
Cohoe-40 Daniel (abt 1720): "Daniel Cohoe" page 7;
Cohoe-4 Andrew (1743: "Ambrose" page 8
Cohoe-11 Andrew (1785) "Andrew" page 8;
Cohoe-59 Francis (1811): "my father" page 2; "Francis" page 8; "Francis Cohoe" page 9; "grandfather" page 10; "Francis Cohoe" page 11; "grandfather" page 25
Cohoe-50 Edward (1837); "Edward Cohoe" page 9;
Cohoe-63 Harriet (1839): "my sister" page 3; "Aunt Harriet" page 11, 12; "Harriet Barker" page 13; "Aunt Harriet Barker" page 32; "Aunt Harriet" page 33; "Aunt Harriet Barker" page 35
Cohoe-31 Andrew (1841): "Andrew" page 1; "uncle Andrew" page 13;
Cohoe-92 Justus (1844): "uncle Justus" page 13, 14; "uncle Justus Willson Cohoe" page 25; "Uncle Justus" page 60;
Cohoe-86 John (1847): "John" page 1; "Uncle John" page 10, 14; "Uncle John Cohoe" page 20;
Cohoe-42 Daniel (1849): page 1; "my father" page 4; "Daniel" page 8; "father" page 10; "my father" page 14; "father" page 25, 26, 29; "Dan Cohoe" page 29; "father" page 33, 37, 39, 40, 81;
Cohoe-60 Francis (1853): "uncle Francis" page 10; "baby Francis" page 11; "Francis Cohoe" page 14
Cohoe-195 Francis (1868): "Frank" infant son of Justus page 25
Cohoe-146 Stella (1870) "Stella" page 20;
Cohoe-137 Wallace (1875): "Wallace Patten Cohoe" page 25;
Cohoe-140 Albert (1877): "Albert" page 6, 31, 32, 33, 37;
Cohoe-141 Elizabeth (1879): "Bessie" page 31, 48;
Cohoe-142 Grace (1881): "sister Grace" page 31;
Cohoe-143 Edgar (1885) "brother Edgar" page 80;
Costain-53 William (about 1840) "William Costain" husband of Mary Stover page 20; "Uncle Will Costain (Uncle of Tom Costain)" page 38; "Uncle WIll " page 39;
Cutter-212 Ambrose (abt 1700) Mary Cutter's "father" page 8;
Cutter-263 Mary (abt 1720): "Mary Cutter" page 8;
Farrington-267 Marian (1836:) "Marian Farrington" page 25
Heacock-595 Deborah (abt 1769): "Deborah Heacock" page 8;
Holmes-2970 Sarah (1816): "great grandmother" page 10;
Hoover-328 Herbert (1874); "Herbert Hoover" page 18;
Minthorne-5 Hulda (1848): "Hulda Minthorne" page 18
Smith-203553 Charles (1758): "Charles Smith" page 18;
Smith-203551 Isabel (before 1793) "one of the neighbors in Norwich, James Haight" married Betsy's mother page 17 Farrington-260 Harvey (1809): "Harvey Farrington" cheese making page 14;
Stober-77 Johann (1695): "Jacob Stauffer" page 15;
Stover-334 Adam (1742): "Jacob Stauffer's son Adam" page 15;
Stover-328 Frederick (1770): "Frederick Stauffer" page 12; "Adam Stover’s second son Frederick" page 16;
Stover-2623 Miranda (1794): "aunt" of Miranda Stover (1750) page 15
Stover-335 Jesse (1803); "Jesse Stover" page 13; "great Uncle Jesse Stover" page 35; "Uncle Jesse" page 40
Stover-600 Albin (1806)" "son Albin" (of Stover-328); page 16
Stover-2621 Sarah (1809): "wife" of William Barker page 12;
Stover-2115 Albert (1814): "Albert Stover" 17; "Albert Carey Stover" page 18; "Albert Stover" page 19; "Grandfather" page 19, 20;
Stover-2624 Isabel (1836) "Isabel (1838-1889)" page 20;
Stover-2625 John (1840): "John Wesley (b. 1840)" page 20;
Stover-2626 Mary (1845): "Mary (b. 1845)" page 20; "born to Aunt Mary a long looked for son" page 39;
Stover-523 Guilielma(1848): "Mother had a sister Gulielma" page 15; "Gulielma (b. 1847)" page 21; "mother sister "Nellie" (Guleilma)" page 25; "Aunt Nellie" page 31, 80;
Stover-524 Miranda(1850): "mother Miranda Stover page 15; "Miranda (1850-1935)" page 21; "mother" page 25, 26, 29, 32, 37, 39;
Stover-2627 Lydia (about 1854): "Lydia died when sixteen" page 21;
Stover-525 Sarah Jane (1858): "Jennie" page 14;
Stover-2628 Frederick (about 1859) "Frederick " page 21;
Wasley-9 Lydia(1789): "Lydia Wasley" page 8;
Webster-9795 Elizabeth (1815):" Betsy Webster" page 17; "Betsy Stover" page 18; "Grandmother" page 19;
Wilcox-8133 James (1836): "big James Wilcox house" page 48; "James Wilcox" page 53, 63;
Wilcox-7966 Judson (1877): "Judson" page 48; "Judson Wilcox" page 63
Willson-409 Justus (1776): "Justus Willson" page 9;
Willson-411 Pella (1811): "Aunt Polly Peckham" page 11;
Willson-365 Elizabeth (1816): "mother " page 1; "Elizabeth Willson" page 9;
others by page number
"John Cohoe"-46 ? (1847) "maker of a flax spinning wheel" page 9;
"Ann Clarke" 2nd married name of 2nd wife of Francis Cohoe-59 (1811) page 10;
"Llewellen Barker" nephew of Isaac Barker-2887 (1834) page 12
"Christopher Smith was in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1696." great-grandfather of Charles Smith-203553 (1758) page 17-18
"Squire Nesbit" neighbor of Albert Stover-2115 page 18
"Wallace Nesbit" son of Squire Nesbit page 18
"Wallace Nesbitt" became Chief Justice of Canada page 19
"Lossings, Palmers, Barkers, Willsons and Stovers" from Dutchess County NY page 22
"Cohoes" from Bucks County, Pennsylvania page 22
"William Wallace Patten" (good friend of Daniel Cohoe-42) page 25
"Wallace Patten" page 28
"Mrs Dyer Wilcox" page 27
"Mr McGuire" page 27
"George Cook" page 29
"Charles Walker" page 37
"Uncle Will Costain (Uncle of Tom Costain)" page 38
"Uncle Rusty Woodward" page 44
"Charles Jenvey" page 49, 58
"William Bell" page 49
"Anstice farm" page 49, 52
"Mrs Steve Pratt" page 53
Mr Cody page 56
Thomas Dowler page 58
Jack Jenvey page 58
"Lou Copeland" page 60
"William Haley" page 63
"Ebenezer Haley" page 63
"Uncle Eben" (Haley) his wife "Aunt Rachel" page 64
"Martin Harrises" and son "Johnnie" page 64
"Shattuck boys", "Vardens", "Bells", "Ansticd family" page 64
"Mahon family", "George Mahon", "Bodwells" son "Hazen" page 64
"Jimmie Fitzgerald was the son-in-law of Eben Haley" page 65
"Electra Bodwell ", "Burns family", "Electra's son" page 66
"Shattuck place" page 67
"Vardons" page 71
"Martin Harris" page 74
"Antice place" page 75
"Bill WIllson's blacksmith shop" page 76
"Becketts" page 78