Friday, March 26, 2010

The Long and Winding Baker Road to Center Lisle, by Sue and Jim Kinsella and Pat Herdeg

Last summer, during the week the Kinsella family spent at Lake George to celebrate Aunt CB and Uncle Jack's 60th wedding anniversary, our brother, Jim, organized a History Day. He's writing a history of our Baker ancestors and he wanted to see the area where they lived, near a town called Granville, not far from Lake George, when they first came to New York.

Today's Granville is a small village of about 2500 people, nestled up against the Vermont border. One of the sights our relatives would have seen every day were the Green Mountains of Vermont in the near distance. While Granville would eventually become the ‘colored slate capital of the world,' the slate deposits were only discovered in 1850, when the Bakers were long gone. Instead, back in their day, theirs was an agricultural life.

We trooped into the Granville Historical Society offices  and librarians brought us dozens of books, some hundreds of years old, so we could search them for references to our family - which we found! Then we piled into two cars and drove out into the countryside to find what might remain of the area called "Truthville" where our family had first settled.

We drove and drove until, at last, Jim veered off to the side of the road and pulled up in a desolate area. He sat staring straight ahead. Pat, who was in his car, realized that he was staring at the Green Mountains across the state line in Vermont, soaking in the sight that must have been so familiar to our ancestors. But there didn't seem to be anything left of the settlement.

I pulled my carload of history buffs up alongside Jim's and he called over to me, "You know that dip in the road a little ways back? That was where Truthville was supposed to be." He looked dejected. "It looks like there's nothing left now. I'll just try one more small side road and if we don't find anything there, we'll go back. I'm sorry ...."

I followed him as he turned down a nondescript country road. It looked just as unpromising as the previous dip in the road. But then ... we came around a corner and laid out before us was a small settlement, anchored by a white clapboard Baptist church. The sign in front of it said, "Erected 1784, The First Baptist Church in the Town of Granville." Jim cried, "This is the Truthville Baptist Church our Baker family founded!" 

We saw a woman coming from the church lot and Jim ran up to her, crying breathlessly, "Is there a river behind this church?" Yes, she said, there was. Jim again, "Is there a grist mill on the river?" She wasn't so sure of that, but her brother owned the house next door, on the river, and Jim could go look - or see it better from a bridge nearby.

Dad, Jim and I went into the church, which was getting ready to celebrate its 225th anniversary of continuous use. A deacon took Jim to see the original books describing the founding of the church and the early activities there, hand-written by one of our relatives. He actually held in his hands the same book our ancestors had held and written in 225 years before!

Jim was also given some of the beautiful lapped cedar panels from the original ceiling. I went up into the ancient attic to see remnants of the original wallpaper and building construction, while Dad took pictures of the sanctuary from the balcony. Pat, Tom and Christi, Mom and Chris went across the street to the cemetery and found many Baker gravestones memorializing our ancestors' siblings, nieces and nephews.

It was all deliriously amazing, but I really wasn't sure what I was seeing until Jim filled us in on the history. This is the story that he wove:

After arriving on the Mayflower, our Baker family eventually settled on the eastern side of Connecticut, near Rhode Island. In 1769, Jerusha Baker married John Joe Backus, who was from another family that had lived in the same area for many generations.

Both families had been leaders in the "Great Awakening," an evangelical religious revival promoted by independent, open-air preachers who drew large and emotional crowds. Benjamin Franklin devoted many front pages of his newspapers to these sermons, spreading the word even further.

This movement is credited with playing a key role in the development of democratic concepts leading up to the American Revolution. In particular, it challenged the traditional British conviction that social stability depended on deference to the privileged class. Instead, the preachers of the Great Awakening taught that the Bible declares all men created equal, with the true value of a man indicated by his moral behavior, not his class, and that the souls of all men can be saved. They called for religious freedom, claiming that liberty of conscience was an "inalienable right of every rational creature."

This attitude did not sit well with the Congregationalist Church, which was the establishment in CT, and those who did not conform to its authority were subjected to severe discrimination. Are you surprised to learn that the Baker and Backus families were among its targets? In fact, they were leaders in the very first church in New England to separate from the Congregationalist establishment and two of our ancestors' brothers served as pastors in this Separatist Church. The sanctions against them became so severe that John Joe and Jerusha decided to leave CT and follow her parents north to Jericho, MA.

Then the Revolutionary War broke out. Jerusha's brother, Solomon Baker, helped Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen (a distant Baker cousin) capture Fort Ticonderoga, on Lake George in what is now NY, from the British. John Joe volunteered for militia duty and marched with his MA comrades to the fort to help hold it.

The area around Fort Ticonderoga was a wild territory, with no roads, only trails too narrow even for wagons. There were very few settlements and the still-strong, fearsome Iroquois Indian presence discouraged migration. In addition, there were continuous raids by Tories who had fled to Canada after losing the Battle of Saratoga. Furious about losing their homes and lands, they frequently returned with the Indians to burn and ravage any area settlements attempted by American pioneers.

Are you surprised to learn that the Baker and Backus families found this to be a bracing and exciting opportunity? John Joe brought Jerusha from MA and they settled into a house abandoned by Tories, one that included a near-by grist mill. He convinced his in-laws, the Bakers, to join them, as well, in a settlement near Granville called Truthville.

The American victory in the Revolutionary War in 1783 brought peace to most of the colonies, but not to Washington County, where Granville and Truthville were located. Tories still mounted devastating raids on the area from Canada and, in one of those raids, John Joe and Jerusha's grist mill was burned down.

They were assaulted from other directions, as well. The debts incurred during the Revolutionary War crippled the nascent country for years and the Articles of Confederation exacerbated the situation by refusing to grant taxation authority to the central government. Farmers were hardest hit since taxes were calculated by their individual states largely based on the amount of land they owned.

By 1786, the inhabitants of the Granville area were beginning to believe they had traded one tyrannical government for another.  Several local farmers were put in debtors' prison, a number of others had their property and even homes confiscated, and the rest grew angry at their treatment by New York State. Trouble erupted in January when the residents of Granville forced a sheriff to actually EAT the writs for payment he had brought with him and then ran him out of town.

As one of the leaders in the town, John Joe Backus was almost certainly involved in this incident. NY sent in its militia and Jerusha's brother, Solomon Baker, a lieutenant of a company in Granville at the time, surely would have been among those sent in to quell what was termed a “rebellion." Luckily, or actually most likely because it was Solomon Baker versus John Joe Backus (relatives and friends), conflict was avoided.

(However, on an historical footnote, a farmer named Daniel Shay heard about this rebellion and started his own revolt in MA six months later. This "Shay’s Rebellion" is cited as the main reason the Founders scrapped the Articles of Confederation and created the stronger Constitution. Once again, our relatives quietly changed the course of the nation.)

By 1798, Granville's assessment listed 400 heads-of-household, with the Baker and Backus families among the richest. They had settled down to farm. As the county prospered through building bridges, creating highways for stagecoach lines, and increasing population, they prospered also. Stores, mills and blacksmith shops sprang up, and also churches.

By this time, probably still upset about the discrimination that had driven them out of CT, our families had turned their backs on the Congregationalist Church and become Baptists. Jerusha's brother, Benjamin, opened a tavern in Truthville and served as the first Deacon of the local Baptist church.

Yes . . . the same Baptist church that we discovered still in use on our History Day 225 years later! And the same Benjamin whose writing is in the original church log book that Jim held in his hands, and whose gravestone, along with those of his children, is in the cemetery.

Alas, despite having lived in the area for nearly 25 years, there were also storm clouds gathering. John Joe and Jerusha did not have clear title to their land. Two different people claimed to be the original owners. Our ancestors had paid one of them but the other claimed that he was the true original owner and should have been paid instead. In 1798, he sued.

Just as today, it took years for the lawsuit to wind its way through the courts, with several verdicts returned in our ancestors' favor. But in 1810, a higher court of appeal found against them. To settle the suit, our ancestors would have had to buy their land all over again, but this time at the much higher value created by their decades of work to make the area so prosperous. Are you surprised to learn that they said, "No way!"

So after more than 30 years, John Joe and Jerusha, along with most of their children, and Jerusha's brother Solomon, with his family of boys, vacated the land they had lived on for so long and pioneered again. This time, they chose land in an area that had been left unsettled when the first wave of pioneers had leapfrogged to the Genesee Valley.

Our Baker and Backus ancestors had started out young in the untamed Washington County near the border between NY and VT. Now in their sixties, they became the first settlers in a frontier land again - this time, the untamed territory of Cortland County, in southern New York.

In 1817, the families intermarried again. John Joe and Jerusha's daughter, also named Jerusha Backus, married Ira Baker, who as the son of Solomon, her mother's brother, was also her first cousin - a common pairing at that time. They would have a son whom they named Leonard Timothy Baker. And Leonard, in time, would become the grandfather of Ethel, Adin, Ruth and Lillian Baker of Center Lisle, in what is now Broome County in New York's Southern Tier.


Photo 1: The History Tour group outside the Washington County Historical Society library in Granville, NY - Aunt CB, Pat Herdeg, Christi (Tom's sweetheart), Tom Kinsella, Sue Kinsella, Jim Kinsella, Chris Kinsella; Photo by Jack Kinsella

Photo 2: Researching family history in the Historical Society library - Jim, Aunt CB, Christi, Tom, Chris

Photo 3: The Truthville Baptist Church in the township of Granville - and here's a mystery: Notice that the right side of the church, near the window, is blurred, as though a  mist or something is passing over it. I (Sue) took this picture after Jim, Dad and I had investigated the church, and after Jim had held the church's log book in his hands and I had explored the ancient attic. The pictures that I took before and after this are all crisp, and even the left side of the building in the picture looks fine. Note that the room where Jim read the log book is inside where that window on the right is. Do you think that maybe one of our ancestors could have come back while we were there to meet his future family while we were meeting our ancient one? Just asking.

Photo 4: Sanctuary of the Truthville Baptist Church

Photo 5: Original log book from building the church and its first years of service, written by Benjamin Baker, who was the brother of Jerusha Baker Backus

Photo 6: Gravestone of Benjamin Baker in the church cemetery

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring in Waterloo, By Ann Taylor

These are pictures from my backyard and down at the cottage.

We used to have a fence around the backyard when Jess and El were little. We planted tulips and daffodils outside the fence toward the road. They have been multiplying every year since.

Charlie our cat is hiding in one of these pictures.

The pictures with the ducks are about two years old, but the ducks were so cute when they would come up on the boat landing and eat the cracked corn.

Happy Spring to All!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Springtime in the Rockies, by Julie Lochner Riber

March, as a rule, is the snowiest month here in the Rockies, or so the weather people say. Yes, we've had snow, and we've had temperatures of 65 degrees with a topper this St. Patrick's Day of 70. The snow we've had has not amounted to much yet. Some think this has been a long, chilly winter. I'm still enjoying it. The beauty of Colorado is that if you don't like the weather one day, just wait till the next.

Two weeks ago I spent the weekend in a yurt in Golden Gate Canyon State Park, just west of Boulder, with a couple girlfriends (husbands were not interested without a Holiday Inn right down the street). I'm sending you pictures of the wonderful time we had, and it included the best of both winter and spring. We went snowshoeing and hiking in shirtsleeves.

Right around home here I noticed just today the daffodils starting to pop up through the lingering piles of snow in my flower beds, sprouts of green grass coming up all over our yard, robins and mountain bluejays noisily arriving in droves each day...and another snowstorm heading this way in a couple days. That's Springtime in Colorado!

Love and mush,

Cousin Pat adds that Julie sent this story a few days ago. As I put this online, it was a beautiful sunny day in Julie’s part of the country, with highs in the mid sixties. However, as Julie said, tomorrow is set to bring a storm that could dump another ten inches of snow on them!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring in Mid March, Part Two

My big sister Sue writes from the San Francisco area,

I love the look of snow, but I figured out early on that I was very unhappy living in it. So I practiced some “geographic therapy” and moved to where it’s always at least spring and often summer. What a difference!

I especially appreciate that I can celebrate my February birthday with flowers, birds, butterflies and sunshine rather than grey clouds and dirty snow covered with two months of car exhaust.

If I want snow, it’s four hours away in the mountains; but I especially love that I can leave it whenever I want and go back to spring. Even without the snow, we definitely have changes in seasons here.

While there are some flowers out all year round, lots more buds are now bursting out and trees are starting to flower. We’re right by “open space” and many streets end at gates and fences that open into wild areas and canyons, so plenty of places to take pictures of spring.

The pictures above are shown are:

-- Daffodils blooming by Alex’s school

--A cherry tree in front of a nearby school

--A magnolia tree in downtown
-- Rosemary that blooms much of the year all around our house

Springtime Pictures in Mid-March--Part One

Chuck Lochner starts us out with a picture of him back in the spring of 1954—cool hat!
The pictures shown here, except for Chuck, are also taken by Sue.
They are:

-- Jasmine just about to bloom on the trellis over our door (on the right in the picture; our neighbor’s jasmine has been growing for longer – we used to have a big mass of honeysuckle)
-- Pink flowers that bloom by our walkway
-- Some of the bushes blooming right now by where we park our car

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Making Maple Sugar, By Aunt CB

Lloyd made pancakes every Sunday before church. I thought every man did a bit of cooking—I’ve learned better!

He did love maple syrup and I remember tapping sugar maples at home, and boiling the sap down into syrup, candy, etc.

Often, he rented farms for growing some bit of special produce he got seeds for, and one year, there was a sugar bush (a grove of sugar maples) on one. He had a tin worker solder a piece of copper into a pan to fit on our kitchen stove, tapped the trees, and brought the sap home daily in a milkcan.

All day long, Ethel fed the fire, and boiled it down to syrup and stored it. Later, we’d boil it more if desired. This went on for the length of the season, three weeks or more, and we were all getting pretty sick of the ‘sweet’ smell of boiling sap, when it finally came to a close.

That’s not all that came to a close—the dining room wallpaper, newly put up two months before, and barely paid for, began to fall off, strip by strip! The excessive humidity in the air loosened the paste. That was expensive maple syrup!

Some we saved for pancakes—Mom canned it. Some little we boiled down still more to make sugar candy, but what we really loved was to boil it to softball stage and bring a pan of fresh clean snow in. Then, pour the softball syrup in a thin line around on the packed snow, leave for thirty to sixty seconds, and pick it up with your fork. It comes up in strips, and is lovely tasting.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Signs of Spring, By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Today is sunny and in the low fifties here in Massachusetts--we will take it!
Just spent some time raking out the many downed branches and pinecones littering our yard. If we are not getting snow to cover the mess, I guess I have to do something about it.

And, yes, I knew that spring was on the way when my high schooler, Nick, arrived back home almost immediately after setting off to school--the path through the woods was icy AND muddy, and let’s just say that although not wounded TOO badly, he needed to change his clothes before taking off for school again.

But, one short week ago, most of us were NOT luxuriating in sun and warmth--SNOW was on the menu. In response to my call out for spring, here is what we got from Cousin Country:

Tim and Rose Kinsella, in the snow belt of Liverpool, NY wrote:

We probably got something like 20-30 inches between yesterday and today. Today school was cancelled because there was about 18 inches on all the roads that had to be plowed. Many people didn't get plowed out until late morning which is unheard of around here. Then the sun came out, driveways and streets dried out and it felt almost springlike. Crazy crazy weather!

My brother Jim and Jill, and their girls, Maddie and Kelly, sent great pictures of the fact that spring is indeed not YET arrived in Greece, NY--Jim has built a terrific skating rink in their backyard--takes me back to my days of skating in our backyard at 2846 and attempting to be the next Peggy Fleming.

Cousin Ann, from Waterloo NY, writes:

As of Friday the 26th of February, we received a foot of snow overnight. We have run out of room in our driveway to put the snow. Very heavy too. School was closed in most of Geneva-Seneca Falls-Syracuse-Rochester--we spend the day shoveling--Whoopee!!

Her sister, Marylou writes from Wisconsin that she has eight inches of snow, but the roads are clear. When asked about her garden, she answered--

I have a small plot of land that I garden about eight feet by twelve feet, but it gets lots of sun. I grow beans, tomatoes, peppers, onions, spinach, chard, arugula, and herbs. I am a chef and I have a garden at work also-- a regular little farm girl!

My Gardening Fool Brother, Tom writes from the southern part of New Jersey:

Here's a picture of my garden from a few years back. We should have something similar soon enough. Seeds for this year have arrived in the mail. Always a great sign of spring, when the seeds arrive in the mail!!

Diana writes:

In Minnesota, we laugh at signs of spring here which include - seeing the driveway and road with no snow and the emerging potholes - and little pieces of green poking out in sheltered areas.

Nancy from Florida writes:

We have had the wildest winter here also, long lasting cold cold spells like we've never had before. So many plants and agriculture crops also have died with the extended cold spells.

Well, gotta go -- stay warm and try to find those crocuses and daffodils sprouting for spring. By the way, this year we have had a big invasion of robins -- they usually are around in the winter/spring time in moderate numbers, but this year there are so many of them.

So, the beginning of March is here! Please do send pictures, or news of your newly sprouted flowers, gardens, potholes, frost heaves, or whatever, and we will put it up on the blog so that we all can appreciate the change, or lack of, in these seasons of ours!

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Birthdays, 2010: Part One

March First has a lot of history attached to it:
--In 1692, Sarah Goode, Sarah Osborne, and Tituba are arrested for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts.
--In 1790, the first US Census is authorized (very helpful in researching for this blog).
--In 1872, Yellowstone becomes the world’s first national park.
--In 1932, Charles Lindbergh, Jr. (20 months), is kidnapped in New Jersey.
--In 1975, color television transmissions begin in Australia (all I can say is ‘Wow! So late!’ America went color in 1954).

We have many important birthdays this month, so let's begin!—
In the Taylor Family, Dene C. Taylor, wife of Rexford Taylor (Rexford is the son of Floyd, twin brother of Lloyd), and Dene and Rex’s daughter, Barb Taylor Salenbien, and Cathy Taylor, wife of Barry Taylor, their son, celebrate birthdays in March.

I (Patricia Ann Theresa Kinsella Herdeg) am a March First baby,
And in my family, my mother, Lucille Kate Taylor Kinsella, and my baby sister, Elizabeth Ruth Kinsella Sakanishi enjoy birthdays.

Picture One: Pat Kinsella Herdeg
Picture Two: Evie (wife of Bryant, another son of Floyd’s) , Uncle Jack, Aunt CB, Dene Taylor, Rexford Taylor
Picture Three: Beth
Picture Four: Barry and Cathy Taylor

March Birthdays, 2010: Part Two

On the Baker side of the family, Diadamia Mott Youngs ( Kate Baker’s mother) and Kate herself, Kate Youngs Baker (mother of Ethel, Adin, Ruth, Lil) both were March Girls.

Kate’s grand-daughter, Leona Howland Maffei, and Leona’s daughter, Carol Ann Maffei, and Sylva’s son, Frederick David Emhof, also blow out candles this month.

Picture One: Leona
Picture Two: Carol Ann
Picture Three: Freddy D
Picture Four: Diadamia
Picture Five: Kate

March Birthdays, 2010: Part Three

Elsie Phyllis Howland Mudge and two of her great grandchildren, Alexis Henderson, daughter of Ron Henderson, granddaughter of Wendell, and Dylan Edward Marlatt, son of Kathleen Henderson, grandson of Wendell, all celebrate this month.

In Gladys’ family, Andrew Joseph Osterhout ( Wendy’s son, grandson of Gladys), and Beth Barron Smerchansky (daughter of Kathryn who is daughter of Gladys) both are Birthday Kids.

Picture One: Aunt Phyllis
Picture Two: Alexis
Picture Three: Dylan enjoying the Baker Reunion
Picture Four: Andrew
Picture Five: Lena, Beth, and Sylva

March Birthdays, 2010: Part Four

In Arnon Taylor’s family, Bethany Robin Taylor Velasco (Jim Taylor’s daughter) and her son, James Velasco, celebrate birthdays , and Salvatore Fiorello DeLuca (Cynthia's son, grandson of Nancy Taylor Wright), are the March Birthday Kids.

And, In Ruth Maney’s family, Debra DeSio Maney ( Richard’s wife) celebrates.

Picture One: Lucas, Joel, James and Bethany
Picture Two: Sal and Gabby
Picture Three: Debra and Richard