Friday, March 10, 2017

Seth Genung and the Cannon of Lafayette Park, By Jack Kinsella

As mentioned in the previous blog about Postcards of Waterloo 

 the Genung Funeral Home was started by Seth Genung and he turned it into a very successful business. After several such years, he realized he could no longer keep up with day to day operations so he turned it over to his son, Charles, who earned enduring fame (at least in Waterloo) for embalming Bill Bailey.

It did not take Seth long to realize that retirement was not for him so he arranged to have the city fathers award him a volunteer job. He became the custodian of Lafayette Park, the beautiful area adjacent to Waterloo High School and conveniently, just across the street from the Genung Funeral Home. Below is a picture of Lafayette Park.

History is silent about what Seth did in this volunteer job to keep himself busy-- with one exception: He reported to his overseeing committee that upon examination of one of the two Civil War cannons in the park, he noted that one of them still contained a cannon ball.

It is a well known fact that in any small town when something unusual happens, almost immediately, two stories circulate—one, the official story and  two, the local version of what REALLY happened. So here are the two versions:

The Official Story:

Seth decided that it was not safe to have a cannon with a cannon ball in its barrel so he decided he would put a very tiny amount of gun powder into the cannon and then light a fuse to “puff” the ball out. When he did this, instead of one ball exiting the cannon mouth and falling harmlessly to the ground a few feet away, two cannon balls roared out and landed on a Main Street building a quarter of a mile away. There was damage to the building but fortunately, no one was hurt.

The Local Version

Everybody knew that Seth and his wife were not getting along. Everybody knew he would do anything to get rid of her.  And everybody knew that the cannon in question was 200 feet from the Genung Funeral Home and was aimed directly at the room that Seth’s wife always did her knitting every afternoon. To add credence to this version, the cannon balls did pass his wife’s knitting room within a few feet on their way down Main Street.

In addition to all the above, there is a direct connection to this story and the Taylor blog. Harold B. Taylor has his own version of what REALLY happened that fateful day when the Civil War cannon went off:

Harold always insisted there were really three balls in the cannon and the third ball traveled another mile south of the other two and struck his house. As proof, he would point to an eight inch diameter round hole on his kitchen wall. Whenever any of his grandkids or nieces or nephews asked what caused this large round hole, he couldn’t wait to tell them his cannon ball story. He did admit it only worked while they were still quite young. After they reached about five years old, they begin to doubt his story. They would say smarty things like “cannon balls weren’t that big” or “that hole looks like a stovepipe for a stove went there once.“ Harold would just laugh and say, “I have learned to only tell the story to the young kids.”

Friday, February 17, 2017

Rural View, William and Jane Carson’s Farm By Pat Kinsella Herdeg and CB Taylor Kinsella

William and Jane (Livingston) Carson (my great great grandparents) lived in West Bethany, NY on the farm they called Rural View. Bought in 1880, the Carsons owned Rural View for forty years. A huge horse chestnut tree, which sheltered many a Carson Reunion, was begun by Jane who plucked a horse chestnut, scooped out a bit of dirt near the back right of the house, and planted the chestnut. The tree grew, and grew!

Carson Rural View, circa 1912

Their farm was on a road now named West Bethany Road, at one point also called Creek Road (the 1915 NY State Census).

1904 Bethany, NY Map with Rural View

As we wrote in our blog post about Jane:

she and William raised their eight children at Rural View.

-Albert Livingston Carson was the oldest. He was a wanderer. He settled, for a time, in the Chicago area and married, then went on to Oceanside, CA.

--Our Emma was next—as we know, she married B.W. Taylor and had an eventful life in Oakfield. She died at Woodlawn at age 55 after suffering a stroke.

--Mary Elizabeth was the next oldest. Reading through Emma’s journals, Libbie was her favorite sister. At age 36, Libbie died of a burst appendix.

--Theodore William was the next in the family, four years younger than Albert.

--Anna Margaret was next in the family line. She married and had three children. She died in 1949 at age 82.

Libbie, Emma, Anna

--George Grant was William and Jane’s sixth child. He died in 1946.

--Edward Everett married and had four children. He was born thirteen years after the oldest, Albert, and six years after Anna.

--Harry Hayes was the youngest, born eighteen years after Albert, and seventeen years after our Emma.  Harry married and had one daughter.

Except for Albert, the siblings remained in fairly close proximity through the years, so family tragedies must have hit even harder for them.

Rural View’s house had room for two households, and as the parents aged—the smaller apartment in the home—off the porch and through the back door, was where William and Jane lived, at least by the 1900 census. 

William and Jane Carson

In the 1900 Federal Census, William (aged 70) and Jane (aged 65) were living with their son Theodore and his family. Given William’s age, we have to expect that Theo was doing most of the work on the farm.

In October, 1906, Theo was 43 years old.  By this time, he and his wife Eunice had two children, Charles and Marion. He became very sick with pneumonia and after taking too much laudanum (in confusion or depression), he died at Rural View.

Theo and Eunice, 1897

Our Emma Carson Taylor lived at Woodlawn, in Oakfield, about fourteen miles away. Her journals are filled with trips that she and B.W. and the boys made to Rural View to help for a day of thrashing, planting, etc.

We know from the 1910 census that sometime after Theo died, his brother Edward and his own family moved in to work the farm.

Youngest son Harry and his wife and daughter were living in Cincinnati in the 1910 census, but he came down with tuberculosis; since he and his wife did not want their baby daughter to catch tuberculosis, Harry came back to Woodlawn in Oakfield to ‘cure’. While with Emma and her family, he often made the trip to Rural View to see and visit with his parents. Unfortunately, the cure did not take, and Harry died at age 36, in 1913. 

Harry and Blanche Carson, 1899

William Carson died in 1911 at age 81.

In the NY State 1915 census, Edward and his family are still living with Jane on Rural View farm. Also in the 1915 census, brother George and his wife Jennie are living on Francis Rd, less than two miles away from Rural View.

Edward wanted to buy Rural View, his family farm, but his father’s will stated that for a sale to occur, all children must agree. His sister Anna refused to allow Ed to buy it. So, Ed continued to work the farm, as he had for over seven years, but did not own it.

In March of 1917, after many hardships and disappointments—three horses died, his wife hated living in the country, his oldest son didn’t like to farm-- Edward took his own life in the barn. 

Ed Carson, Six Months before his Death
(with one of the horses that died?)

After Ed died, George and Jennie moved in to Rural View, at least long enough to be registered in the 1920 census.

George and Jennie Carson

By this time, Jane had left to live with her daughter Anna at her home. In the 1920 census Jane, aged 85, can be found living with Anna and her family in Concord, NY.

In early October 1921, Jane Livingston Carson died at age 87. Then, in February of 1922, George Carson, executor of the estate, has an auction for the farm. While horses, cows and hens are auctioned, as well as all sorts of farming equipment and tools, there is no mention of the house and the land. Most likely they too were sold very soon after the auction.

Just down the road from Rural View farm is the West Bethany Baptist Church, the Carsons’ church. Across the street is the one room school house which the youngest four Carsons attended, and later in early adulthood, both Anna and Theo taught at.

One Room School House, 2017

Behind the church is the West Bethany Cemetery. Here we find the graves of William and Jane, and four of their children—Albert (note that Albert does not have a gravestone, rather his ashes are buried at the base of the Carson monument), Libbie, Harry, and Theo and his wife, Eunice. Even in death, they are very near to Rural View.

West Bethany Baptist Church, 2017

For more than forty years, the house, barn, outbuildings and land had sheltered and maintained the Carson family. Rural View certainly saw its heavy share of tragedy; we can only hope that joy brimmed over more brightly for the Carsons.

Rural View, 2017
Rural View, 2017

As I think about the towering horse chestnut tree, with its branches thrown wide toward the sky, I wonder how many times Jane looked out at her horse chestnut tree and remembering its tiny beginnings, felt peace that from so small a piece of nature, such monumental things could grow.

Rural View Dog, taken by Ruth Carson, Ed's daughter

----Many many thanks to my brother Jim, for his 'Taylor Ancestor Tour' booklet which I used while writing this story, AND to Evelyn Taylor and her daughter Pam for making the trip to Rural View in February for these current pictures--Terrific! Thank you also to Linda Schmidt, the Bethany Town Historian for all of her help with this story.

Jane Carson at Rural View--We've used this picture 
before, but I love it!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Thoughts on Cemeteries We Have Visited By Beth Kinsella Sakanishi and Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Beth and I had so much fun writing back and forth about our visit to northern Vermont and its three cemeteries where some of our ancestors lie! See this link:

So, Beth pulled out some of her writings from her last trip to Ireland. Here are two more cemetery visits which stuck with her:

This makes me think of other emigrants from Derry, that I found out about only after coming across this blissfully calm, very small, graveyard off to the side on the city walls. I ducked through the doorway simply because I could see a tiny expanse of green, and colorful, delicate flowers. It was like a secret garden towards the end of the walk along four-hundred year old cobblestones, among cannons and cannon balls and views of the surrounding countryside seen from slits in the defensive walls. Once inside, I could see very old grave slabs but the odd thing was they were not upright at the head of each grave, as they always are in cemeteries, but had been  lined up, leaning against the churchyard walls. Apparently, I found out, they had been arranged this way so they would not be damaged by cannon fire during the sieges. This small, enclosed space was beautiful but haunted, after I read that.  

 Derry Cemetery

 Now, I’m a Kinsella, I grew up taking walks in graveyards, reading the gravestones,  often the ones in Perth, after a visit to the Dairy Queen across the street. The dead in cemeteries don’t bother me. But this did. Unsettling me further was the plaque outside the entranceway I had missed on my way in. It said this was the first Presbyterian church in Derry, and I knew from my reading, that the Presbyterians would be almost as persecuted as the Catholics in Protestant-controlled Ireland. The Penal Laws, that so viciously and diabolically discriminated against the Catholics, were also used against the Presbyterians, whose only crime was that they were not the right sort of Protestants (not Anglicans). I learned on this trip to Derry that most of the emigration from Ireland in the 18th century was from this port, and most of it was people we call the ‘Ulster Scots’ and they, to my vast surprise, were the Presbyterians fleeing poverty and discrimination. That majority of signers of the Declaration of Independence that we are taught are Ulster Scots? They were this group, who were leaving a place for a second time, and going to a country where they would fight to make a different kind of place.  

When I was at the Yeats Summer School in Sligo, we all went to an Eavan Boland poetry reading which was one of the highlights (she had been my Yeats teacher one semester in Dublin and I had loved her). One of her most moving poems was about the ‘famine roads,’ that went nowhere, that you can happen upon today, still. But she has another of hers that described a certain spot in Dublin I had noticed and had wondered about, when I was in Dublin for a few days before the summer school. The poem captures as well, the depth of loss and displacement and fear that I come across in so much of my reading about the sixteenth century, but also what was felt by those leaving Cobh, and Derry (which I hadn’t known was a Famine port) and Dun Laoghaire (which was just up the road from me my year in Ireland), and the Highlands -- for foreign soil. 

The Huguenot Graveyard in the Heart of the City!
 It is the immodesty we bring to these
names which have eased into ours, and 
their graves in the alcove of twilight,
 which shadows their exile:

There is flattery in being a destination.
There is vanity in being the last resort.
They fled the Edict of Nantes –
 hiding their shadows on the roads from France –

 and now under brambles and granite
 faith lies low with the lives it
dispossessed, and the hands it emptied out,
 and the sombre dances they were joined in.

 The buses turn right at Stephen’s Green.
 Car exhausts and sirens fill the air. See
the planted wildness of their rest and
 grant to them the least love asks of

the living. Say:  They had another life once.
And think of them as they first heard of us:
huddled around candles and words failing as
the stubborn tongue of the South put

 oo and an to the sounds of Dublin,
and of their silver fingers at the window-sill
 in the full moon as they leaned out
to breathe the sweet air of Nimes

for the last time, and the flame
burned down in a dawn agreed upon
 for their heart-broken leave-taking. And,
for their sakes, accept in that moment,

 this city with its colours of sky and day –
and which is dear to us and particular –
was not a place to them: merely 
the one witty step ahead of hate which 

 is all that they could keep. Or stay.

Huguenot Cemetery Gate

I had just about reached the limits my body and mind were willing to go when I came upon a small, dark enclosed space. It was there on a main street, but was set back and guarded by an old-fashioned black iron gate, almost lacy in design. I suppose it is impossible that the sounds truly stopped and that in this corner silence reigned, but that is what it felt like. I didn’t go in because I could see it was a graveyard and I didn’t want to disturb them, whoever they were. It felt an ancient place to me, though, and I did wonder who, in Dublin’s skyrocketing real estate prices, had earned this undisturbed rest. I felt the strength and grace of the place and did not find out until much later, after reading an utterly moving poem by Eavan Boland, that this small, held back place was a graveyard for the Huguenots, who had fled France to a country they had not longed to go to, but which was instead, “the one witty step ahead of hate which / is all that they could keep. Or stay.”

As January runs its course, I think back to a year and a half ago, when we said goodbye to Uncle Harold on that cold October morning at the Waterloo Cemetery. We stood shoulder to shoulder, family and friends, listening to the tones of Taps resonating so beautifully. We prayed and laughed and cried together as we remembered our Harold Baker Taylor. One of the many things cemeteries and walks around them are good for—to pass on the stories of the family who came before us. Again, we thank our ancestors for their rich stories and memories they passed on to us.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Happy Birthday, Evelyn Laufer Taylor!

Today is Martin Luther King Day! One of my favorite quotes from him:

"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Later this week, we in the cousins blog family celebrate a milestone: Evelyn Laufer Taylor (wife of Bryant Taylor, son of Floyd, twin of Lloyd) turns 95 years young on Wednesday, January 18th.

Happy Happy Birthday!

Evelyn has been one of the writers who keeps this blog going. She often gives me ideas, or sends along a memory or two. Here is one she wrote on the subject of, you guessed it, Birthdays!

BIRTHDAYS By Evelyn Laufer Taylor

 Bryant and Evelyn Taylor

There are birthdays to remember and some to forget.  I recall two that were memorable for me—one as a little girl and one as a teenager.  My birthday comes in January, quite close to Christmas, so present-wise, it never was a big day.  This particular year my parents had been taking care of a litter of Boston Bulldogs for my aunt.  Naturally, we had all picked out our favorites.  Since we were a cat family, the puppies were a real novelty to me.  I do not recall asking to have one, but it would not be normal for a little girl not to at least mention it.  One by one the puppies went to their new homes and two were left.  When I came downstairs on the morning of my birthday, there was Patsy with a big red bow on her neck.  I did not need a tag to know she was mine!  She wiggled her way into all of our hearts that day.

I had a party for girls when I was a teen.  I was so thrilled because Mom set a beautiful table, using a pink Depression glass dessert set I had given her for Christmas.  JELL-O had just introduced a new dessert mixing ice cream with Jello which made a creamy dessert.  She chose strawberry, so this pink confection was served in the pink dessert dishes, accompanied by a two layer, pink, frosted cake (In later years I would have described it as a “Better Homes and Garden” table where everything matches).

Later that evening, we were playing games in the living room when we noticed a peculiar odor and saw a swirl of smoke coming from behind one of the chairs.  My little 3-year-old cousin had hidden behind the chair to see the action, but had had an accident and shorted the lamp cord. They weren’t rubber cords then.

As an adult my birthdays have come and gone, swallowed up by the never ending special parties of my children.  I only remember that the big “O” birthdays were bothersome to me - 30 seemed so old, leaving my 20’s; 40 was “middle-escence” with its restlessness that sent us off to Australia; 50 meant I had lived a half century.  Was it going to be downhill from now on?

Finally, 60 and 70 brought a feeling of accomplishment that I had made it this far.  Do I dare believe as Robert Browning said: “Grow old along with me! / The best is yet to be,” ?

Evelyn and her family just before leaving for Australia in 1968

Evelyn wrote this in 1999. Today she is 95 years old!
 Evelyn, if we could, we would be with you this Wednesday, sitting around your kitchen table as we shared a pot of tea and talked over memories and solved all of the world's problems. We would certainly like to share a piece of birthday cake, so here is hoping that your birthday is a special as you are. Thank you for ALL that you do!

And, in another email, Evelyn writes 'nothing can top the cake Bryant made for me once.  He decided to make my Crazy Chocolate Cake which is mixed and baked right in the same pan.  My recipe had two columns, the second one Bryant did not read until the cake was in the oven for a while.  When he discovered his error, he added the baking powder, salt, and vanilla which resulted in a real bumpy, lumpy cake!  It was the thought that counted!  Bless his heart!'

Pat adds--that does sound like one CRAZY Chocolate Cake!