Friday, October 17, 2014

More Taylor Reunion Pictures--Thank you Chuck Lochner!

Gordy and Jim
Aaron, Joe and Cam
Dave and Anna

 Packing Up

Dan and Karen
Fireworks to End the Reunion

Thursday, October 2, 2014

A-Cousining, by Susan Kinsella

Milky Way and Air Glow Over Lake Elmore
Elmore, VT Website
I first met my cousin Andrew Jackson Olmstead when he was just 20 years old. I cannot tell you what he looked like, although I can imagine him. 

I see a lad of medium height with a strong but lithe body, clearly coming into his own as a young man but still with some of the boy in his face. He is good-looking, of course – after all, he is my cousin. His dark hair curves rather straight and long down to his chin that is stubbled and haphazardly shaven, as though he cannot stop long enough to do the sporadic whiskers justice. His dark eyes sparkle merrily beneath long, luxurious lashes and, no matter the topic, he cannot keep his mouth from sneaking into a grin. Yes, he has the uncertainty and awkwardness of a boy on the threshold of manhood but, at the same time, there is a joyousness that cannot be contained. 

Still, I have never seen a photo of him, and it is unlikely that I ever will. For if I were to meet him now again, he would be nearly 200 years old. My memory of him when he was 20, though, is just as fresh as the letter he wrote to his cousin, Daniel Rockwell Taylor, my great-great grandfather, in early March of 1848.

“Dear Cousin Daniel R. Taylor,” Andrew Jackson begins. “I now have an opportunity to write you a few lines to remind you that there is just such a creature on this earth as I am and I am alive and well and a’kicking.” 

Oh, yes, I have read enough of these old family letters now to know that most of them devote an uncommon amount of space to apologizing for taking so long to write and then reporting on everyone’s health. Of course, for families such as these ancestors who worked farms homesteaded out of virgin forests in the wilderness, health was everything. After all, while they did have some draft animals to help them, most of their work – indeed, their survival – relied on the strength of their own bodies. 

Elmore Church Against Elmore Mountain
Andrew is writing from his family’s farm near Elmore, in the far north of Vermont near the Canadian border with Quebec. His mother, Betsey Walbridge Olmstead, is the younger sister to Daniel’s mother, Phebe Walbridge Taylor. Phebe and Betsey had grown up near Wolcott, VT, a town founded by Phebe’s husband’s family only a few miles from Elmore as the crow flies. However, traveling from one town to the next in such rugged, mountainous parts of Vermont was likely to be rather roundabout. 

Yet the cousins of the nine Walbridge siblings’ families seem to have made great efforts to know each other and stay in touch. When Phebe married Gideon Morehouse Taylor and a few years later they moved with their children to Oakfield in western New York State, the family connections stretched all the way there right along with her. 

In fact, Andrew Jackson’s older brother, Seth (22), is visiting Daniel Taylor’s family at the time of this letter writing, and the letter is nearly as much to him as to Daniel. And, as you might expect with a 20-year-old boy, Andrew is rambunctious, randy and wants to see the world. The kind of letter he writes to his cousin, only six months younger, is definitely “a boy’s letter.” 

“I should like to go to York state and see the folks and the Country too,” he writes to Daniel in far off “York State.” Then he writes a message for his brother, who apparently has been visiting their Taylor relatives for an extended time: “Tell Seth that I have heard all about that gal and suppose that it is her that has made so much of a Yorker of him.” In fact, he wonders whether the gal that may have caused Seth to delay his return is “one of those Dutch gals” that apparently Seth mentioned in a previous letter. He adds, "Tell him if it is he must strap down his pants when he goes to see her." Whether this truly refers to a girl who is Dutch or possibly to a girl who is “Pennsylvania Dutch” (who were actually “Deutsch,” i.e. German) is unknown and, in any event, apparently immaterial. When Seth marries a few years later it is to a Vermont girl. 

Despite the “wink, wink” messages in the letter, Andrew Jackson seems to still be forging his friendship with his cousin, Daniel. Apparently that was helped immensely when Daniel visited Vermont a year or so before. Andrew assures him, “We are all the same ugly ignorant sort of folks that we were when you was here and as for being Polite we have improved just none a’tall.” 

Summer Hayfield, Elmore, VT
by Bob Burley
Daniel may have come with his mother and some of his siblings to Wolcott, where he had been born and his parents had grown up, although the others are not mentioned in the letter. Perhaps Phebe wanted to see her father and her siblings again. Her mother had died in 1843 and her husband had died the following year. In any event, Daniel’s family seems to have made a lasting impression on Andrew, who says, “It seems as if I should know all of your folks now if I should see them or meet them in the road.”

Clearly, Andrew was reveling in “a-cousining,” a term another of his and Daniel’s cousins, Dustan Walbridge, used later in a yearning letter home from the Civil War. It was apparently a common term in the 1800s. Even Ralph Waldo Emerson was said to put aside his writing and delight in jaunts with his cousins, cutting “all mental work off short” and laying “down his pen when the cousins came a-cousining and literally took to the woods.”*

Perhaps Seth went home with Daniel’s family to New York after their visit to Vermont. That appears to be one way that the cousins got back and forth for visits, so it is reasonable that Andrew expected one of the Taylors to accompany Seth’s return trip. Andrew says to his cousin Daniel in his letter, “I shall expect to see some new cousin when Seth comes home in the spring. If I don’t, I shall be disappointed. Tell Seth not to come home till some of your folks will come with him.” 

Although, truly, Andrew is torn. He’s itching for an adventure himself and he would rather do the traveling than wait for someone to come to him. So, after telling Daniel he “should like to go to York state and see the folks and the Country too,” he jokes: “I should like to see Daniel ranging the fields and woods with an old gun (under the pretense) of hunting or gaming.” 

Barn on East Elmore Road
Elmore, VT Website
Throughout the three pages of the letter, Andrew manages to both write the news and then add critiques of his writing. These are included almost as crib-notes in the margins along the sides and at right-angles to the text. Most are highlighted with a hand-drawn picture of a finger pointing to the comment. 

In the first one, he tells Daniel, “Warm it when you begin to read it.” Remnants of red wax show over the words, suggesting how the letter had been sealed. I am guessing that he’s suggesting that warming the letter would both better melt the wax and possibly also improve the readability of the ink. But why would he need to explain that to someone for whom this was the normal way of sealing letters? Could Andrew have maybe written something in a fluid that produces invisible writing (possibly milk, vinegar or onion juice?) that only shows up when the paper is warmed? If so, it is not visible now. 

Andrew inserts one of his hand-drawings directly into the text when he remarks, “Oh Daniel, I have a little bit of news to tell you but I suppose you have heard of it before now. I have got another Brother and he is well and smart and Mother is about the house as comfortable as we could expect.” Hmm, I thought, had his mother just had another baby? But, looking at the birth dates in the family tree, that didn’t fit. 

Then I noticed that his 17-year-old sister Phebe has just gotten married. (Phebe Taylor Olmstead seems to be named for her aunt, Daniel’s mother, whose name is Phebe Walbridge Taylor.) Is Andrew referring to his new brother-in-law? But why would that affect his mother’s comfort? Is she missing her daughter Phebe’s help at home? Are the newlyweds living with her family? The letter doesn’t tell us, but the likelihood that he’s referring to his sister’s marriage is increased by his reference to Phebe, herself, in the same paragraph: “Tell Seth, Phebe says if you don’t write soon she will come out there and take you for breech of promise.” Apparently Seth is not keeping up with his family’s letter-writing expectations!

One of the other notes that is emphasized with a pointing finger, written up the side of the letter, made me laugh out loud. It seems to sum up this young cousin’s playful nature. Andrew wrote, “Please be so kind as to burn this up as soon as you read it.” Thank goodness Daniel Taylor did not comply!

Andrew goes on with what seem to be some silly riddles, as well as comments about school. In the fall, he’d had many papers and compositions to write, but now, in mid-winter, he hasn’t gone to school for three weeks. And then he suddenly signs off with the phrase that so totally charmed me and made me fall in love with him: “The pen and ink are so poor, I will break off as short as a goat’s tail.” 

Ahh, Andrew Jackson Olmstead, thank you for writing this delightful letter in 1848 so that I, too, could someday go a-cousining with you, as well!


* Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great, by Elbert Hubbard, 1916

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Taylor Family Reunion 2014 By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Saturday in upstate New York dawned a bit cloudy and misty, and very windy. But, Glenn and I hoped the weather would be better than last year’s monsoon rains, and by noon—the start of the Reunion—it was! Sunny and not too cold –never needing a jacket—we’ll take it!

 Rose, Jill, Jen, Aunt CB and Pat

Kathy and Gordy and Ann and Dennis had done their magic, with the help of Jess and little Olivia—the place looked great when we drove up—appetizers already on the tables and smiles and hugs all around.

By the time the group had all arrived, I think we had about 45 cousins—All the Lochners (Julie and Wes won the prize for coming the furthest distance) and a good amount of Maneys and Kinsellas.

Karen, Richard and Dan Maney

The food was wonderful, as always. Julie’s Concord grape pie hit the spot for me, but I am sure everyone had different favorites. Elderberry pie and Tom Kinsella’s loon cookies, Mom’s baked beans, breads and soup and salads….one or two plates of food did not hold the many choices!

Olivia and Leah

Mom wandered from group to group talking all the while, and Dad held court wherever he sat. The younger cousins played and ran together, digging through Kathy and Gordy’s pumpkins and gourds to see which should be taken home. And, at one point, I think they cornered Rick Lochner in the porta potty, as a huge racket of clanging and hitting on the john could be heard. We all perked up our ears and ran to help whoever was held hostage until Annie said ‘Oh, it’s just Rick. Well, that’s okay then.’ We returned to our conversations. I saw Rick later, so he did manage to crawl out somehow.

Patrick and Joe ---Look at those grins--Is Rick STILL in that porta potty?
The day ended too soon, and we were packing up our gourds and Cub Scout popcorn (thank you Cam and Joe!) for the journey home. It would not be a short drive, but we had so many memories and stories and laughs to go over again as we headed east to Massachusetts. Wonderful time, and so good to see everyone. 

  Ted, Karen and Dan

As a Walbridge cousin once said “We may yet spend many happy days where we can see each other and where our little ones can visit back and forth, as we used to go cousining.” 

Yes, it WAS a good ‘cousining’ reunion. Thanks again to Uncle Harold’s girls!

Kathy, Julie
Glenn, Mike

P.S. These are only some of the pictures. I will put up more!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Walking with Aunt Dot By Beth Kinsella Sakanishi


Years ago, when I was back in Rochester one time, I went to visit Aunt Dot with Jim. We hopped from subject to subject, happily talking our way from the present, to the past, and back. At one point Aunt Dot and I were talking about her fabled ‘green thumb’ and how she would love Japan with all its flowers, flowering bushes, flowering plants, flowering trees, some of which she would recognize (dogwood, azalea wisteria) and some native to Asia or Japan, or just needing a warmer climate than western NY, which she would not (bush clover, the ‘handkerchief tree’). 

I went back to Japan and had the good idea to put together a photo album of the things I saw blooming in my walks around the neighborhood. As I walked for about an hour or so, many days, at that time, I saw a good variety. I started it with the intention of doing a ‘calendar’ of flowers: photos of what I saw each month, with just a phrase or two to identify what I had photographed. 

But then I got sick and could not do those walks at all for a long time. So I never did finish the ‘flower calendar album’ for Aunt Dot. 

She must be up there whispering in my ear, though, because I have never forgotten the impulse and often think of it, and her, on my walks, which I have taken up again. 

I decided to start a sort of blog recently (just for me, really, and perhaps Mom and Dad), where I can explain to them what I see in my walks that range in all directions, through a varied landscape, month by month. I worked on an entry for August/September a few days ago, after thinking for days in a row, as I passed a certain temple, “I must take photos of those crape myrtle trees in bloom,” and then walking the ten minutes there, finally, and taking some photos. 

 Crape Myrtle Tree--Japan

The photos alone would not mean as much as if I explained different things about this temple area, so the few paragraphs I had in mind, became pages, and thus my ‘Masuo flower calendar’ was born, from the original idea for Aunt Dot. 

I thought of her the entire time I was taking the crape myrtle photos. They are a tree that originated in Asia, but my friend Rebecca, from California, knew them, so though I had never seen them before coming here, she had. The Japanese call them ‘saru suberi’ (‘saru’ = monkey, and ‘suberi’ = slippery) because, with its smooth bark, “even a monkey would slip down its trunk.”

They usually start to bloom sometime in August and are the perfect lacy, delicate texture and pale colors against the searing, bright blue sky, made even more delicious in September, when we start to get what I call ‘shredded clouds,’ wisps of white against a paler blue sky. The tiny blossoms of the crape myrtle can be pink, white, or a light lavender. One website I looked at called the last variety ‘Twilight lavender,’ which I rather liked. 

They are delicate blossoms, though, and since August and September are typhoon season, we sometimes wake up and after the strong wind and rain, find the poor crape myrtle blossoms spread across the entire road, a beautiful carpet of pastels against the black pavement or bits of color strewn across puddles. 

It is these small details I have kept track of in my head for years, in the album I continued to ‘make’ for Aunt Dot. There is a pilgrimage that Tim and I have been wanting to do ‘someday’ for years: it is 88 temples on Shikoku Island. The founding priest, Kukai, went to China in the 8th century, came back and helped popularize Shingon Buddhism in Japan, creating this 1200 kilometer pilgrimage route, among other things. When you walk it, you are advised to ‘walk with Kukai’ in your heart. I think that, when I am on my long walks, delighting in this or that flower or someone’s garden, I am really ‘walking with Aunt Dot’.

Doris and her Love of Plants!

--In an email, Beth added a few days ago: “Here’s to Aunt Dot! 
IF the weather cooperates — a big if at this time of year -- I will actually be in Kamakura on her birthday and part of my itinerary is to check out two temples that have bush clover blooming. Bush clover is another flower I have never seen and I discovered recently that this is because it is native to Japan. Even so, I had never seen it near me, and so look forward to seeing it at these two temples that are famous for having two different kinds (one white, one red). Aunt Dot will definitely be with me on that trip!”

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taylor Reunion Songbooks By CB Taylor Kinsella, Pat Kinsella Herdeg and Chuck Lochner

Looking through various music books in Mom’s collection, I came upon a yellow folder titled ‘Taylor Reunion Songbook’. “I remember these!” I exclaimed, although in truth I never made many of the early reunions. I had heard the stories of the dark starry nights and the crackling bonfire as cousins, aunts and uncles encircled the flames and sang by the light of the fire to songs that were familiar to the oldest generation. And, I remembered long drives up to our cottage in Canada, singing these songs as we drove.
So, I asked Aunt CB to write a few words:

 Dennis and Ann Catherman, Aunt Barb and Uncle Harold with Kathy looking over their shoulders, 1980

“Reunions started after Mom died. We all needed to get together to report on jobs each of us were doing, and also just needed to be together! It fell into a pattern of a weekend in September, near my parent’s wedding date (September 30th, 1915), and we started at one another’s houses.

As we grew up, we had a piano at home, and we each took lessons. And, at every Taylor get-together (B.W. and his boys), they always sang hymns. So it was natural for all of us to sing. We sang in two and three part harmony. Esther usually played the piano as she was the best, but we sang anything. We also sang in the car when we were going to Grandma Baker’s in Center Lisle  or to B.W.’s in Batavia. So it was natural for us to sing at reunions.

 Aunt CB, Aunt Ruth and Chuck Lochner on guitar, 1980

After a bit, I put together this songbook and had about forty songs (this current songbook contains 222 songs!—Pat).When we went to the park in later years, we had a little table organ to use, but we didn’t need it; I would just start them off and anyone would call out a song to sing. In later years, the younger generation did not seem to have the same enthusiasm for singing as we four girls did, so we were outvoted; the songbooks were put away.”

Mom remembers some songs in particular when driving in the car:

  • ·         ‘American the Beautiful’

  • ·         Old McDonald’

  • ·         ‘I’ve Been Working on the Railroad

  • ·         ‘You Must have been a Beautiful Baby’

  • ·         ‘In My Merry Automobile’

  • ·         ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’

When singing around the piano:

  • ·         ‘When It’s Springtime in the Rockies’ (ALWAYS, Mom writes—lovely to harmonize. According to Mom, this was their signature song, and to quote her ‘We really rocked on that one!’)

  • ·         ‘I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover’

  • ·         ‘By the Light of the Silvery Moon’

  • ·         ‘In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree’

  • ·         ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth’ (Another good harmonizer writes Mom)

  • ·          ‘In the Garden’ (Mom writes that Aunt Doris had this played in the background at her funeral. When Mom explained to the minister how much this meant to Doris and her siblings, the minister had them sing it at her graveside.)

And, at Taylor Family Reunions, the little kids especially enjoyed:

  • ·         ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’

  • ·         ‘On Top of Old Smokey’

  • ·         ‘He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands

The songs Pat remembers so fondly include:

  • ·         ‘O Tell Me Why’

  • ·          ‘Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley’

  • ·          ‘Bicycle Built for Two’

  • ·         ‘Five Hundred Miles’

  • ·         “Hello Dolly’

  • ·         ‘Swing Low Sweet Chariot’

I KNOW cousins have more favorites, more memories of these Taylor Reunion songs. Add in the comment section!

 Chuck Lochner, so often our guitar player, writes: “Ahh those Taylor genes. Brings back the vision of Esther on piano with her siblings gathered around singing ‘Heart of My Heart, How I love that Melody.’ Memories Forever.”

“Heart of my Heart”ends with -- “I know a tear would glisten if once more I could listen To the gang that sang ‘Heart of my Hearts’. How I would love to see the gang of Taylor siblings once more singing that song, no doubt in perfect harmony.

Looking forward to another Taylor Reunion in September!

 Bob Taylor and Aunt Doris, 1980, No Doubt discussing the words to 'Little Miss Bliss' !