Monday, May 17, 2010

Florence Baker Young Leet, By Aunt CB

Florence, sister to Byron, was a feisty little lady, a soul who spoke out and called things exactly as she saw them. She married a man--Frank Young-- a widower much older than she was (he was 59 years old when they married and she was 31 years old, a 28 year difference). Both were important in Ethel Baker Taylor’s life.

Her husband, Frank, was born in Allentown, PA, and during the Civil War, had driven an ambulance in the fields. He was a conductor on the D.L.& W. Railroad (Delaware, Lackawanna and Western) for fifty-two years, and as such, lived in the company hub, Scranton, PA. Florence, although raised a country girl, really enjoyed the bustle of the big city and its many conveniences.

She particularly made use of its services when her mother, Nancy Borthwick Baker, came to visit, for there was a ‘Carnegie’ (library) near them and Nancy read rapidly and widely. Frank’s job offered free passes for travel, therefore, when Ethel was teaching in East Orange, NJ, his route between Scranton and New York City allowed him to escort her to and fro and to visit her occasionally to check on her housing arrangements with a family and to help oversee her finances. Vacations Ethel always returned home to Center Lisle, but by way of Scranton where she stayed a day or two; Florence was a kind, loving and interested aunt.

When Frank retired in 1920, they returned to Center Lisle to a small hillside farm on the Caldwell Hill Road, very near the center of the village. At this point, her older sister, Nell, and her husband, Dell, lived near, and Lillian and Elmer Howland, Ethel’s sister and brother-in-law, owned and ran the general store in the community.

Further up the hill lived Florence’s sister-in-law, Kate Young Baker, with her son, Adin, who owned and worked the family farm. Florence’s small farm (fifty acres?) originally belonged to Leonard and Nancy Borthwick Baker.

Frank lived until 1933 when, at age 86, he died of cancer of the stomach. Florence, lonely, remarried Newton J. Leet, eighteen months after Frank’s death. Newton was a butcher and old acquaintance of Florence’s, but I don’t remember him at all.

Adin, Florence’s nephew, worked the farm for her. He gathered hay from the upper slopes and stored it in her barn for the cattle, as well as plowing and helping her to plant a flower and vegetable garden ( I remember how scary a ride it was on the wagon, when, piled high with hay, Adin, pants low on his hips and standing at the front to control the horses, would guide them down the hill at a diagonal to thwart its steepness.).

Florence did the weeding and harvesting of crops. She also kept one or two cows, milked them morning and night, and churned butter for sale at the Howland General Store. Chickens roamed freely there, ducks too, and their eggs she also offered at the store. At one time, I remember a pig or two. Ethel always liked to stop there for a visit and drink a glass of buttermilk after a dusty walk down the hill from her childhood home to her sister’s store.

Florence’s home was filled with beautiful china that she had handpainted. She’d learned how to do this during her years in Scranton. In fact, she’d encouraged Ethel to purchase a set of plain white French chinaware, suitable for painting. She taught her how to paint a gold edge on the rim of each piece with special gold paint, and the serving pieces she painted roses on herself. A lovely set for twelve which was always our ‘good’ china for use on Sundays and for company when we were growing up.

I do remember in the early and mid 1930’s, Aunt Florence’s yard. The house was a rambling old place, set back from the road. A long driveway separated it from the big barn to the right of it. In front of the barn, between it and the road, was a big pond where lived the biggest bullfrogs a body EVER saw (of course, I was little then). At the side of the house facing the barn, was a long, covered porch, shaded with vines in the summer. It was here I can still see her, churning away, patiently waiting for the butter to ‘come’. Aunt Lil always said that Aunt Florence made the best butter of anyone around, but she had to say so carefully as her own mother, my grandmother, made some for the store too.

In the front yard, between the house and the road, was the most exciting thing, though. Aunt Florence called it a ‘round a-bout’ and I’d never seen one before. We spent hours running along side this circular ten foot diameter wooden platform, one foot on and one foot pushing from the ground, then hopping on for a ride when it got up to speed, our hands clutching the waist high supports. We rode miles in a circle!

Aunt Florence’s last years must have been lonely. I don’t know when Newton died; I do know that finally, desperate to gain someone to care for her as she grew old, she found a family that was congenial and deeded the farm over to them in return for her being cared for by them. It seemed to have worked out for her. She did love my mother, though. She was always so pleased to see her, and they could spend hours talking about ‘the old days’.

Both Frank and Florence are buried in the Center Lisle cemetery on the hill behind their house.


Sue Kinsella said...

Are all the pictures of Florence? The picture of the couple - is that Frank and Florence?

Pat said...

Yes, Dad sent them to me and guessing at ages, just said,

'Beautiful, but what age does to us!'

And yes, Frank and Florence...

MOM/CB said...

Yes, those are all of Aunt Florence. The one I remember best of her is the last, the one with the flowers. On her way up to the cemetery on the hill behind her house.
A story passed on tells of Lenard Baker calling his 16 year old son in on a hot day in August, 1874 and saying, " Byron, hitch up the horse and go get the Doctor." Shocked, Byron exclaimed"what for Pa, is Ma sick?" "She's going to have a baby " my great grandfather replied and thus Florence was born > There was also 11 year old Nell in the family.

Nancy Taylor Wright said...

I am always amazed at how much I learn about parts of the family that I never knew -- and how much everyone has a story and a legacy and a life so similar yet so different. It's truly great that we have this blog to document so much on! Love it!

Lislehistory said...

Newton Leet, born 1869, died 1936 at his home in Center Lisle. He is buried in the Killawog Cemetery, Town of Lisle, NY. He had previously lived in Killawog and had a general store there.

William and Myrtle Smith of Caldwell Hill Road, Center Lisle took care of Florence Baker Young Leet. Myrtle had been a nurse and came from New Jersey. She signed her name "Myrtle Y. Smith" and may have been a Young.