Friday, November 26, 2010

Dan Maffei, Our Congressman By Susan Kinsella

In September, I did a week-long business trip to Washington, DC. My meetings took up almost the whole week, but I hoped I could find a way while I was there to meet my cousin.

Well, okay, if you want to get technical, I think Dan Maffei is my second cousin, once removed. But regular readers of this blog know that we all just consider ourselves to be “cousins,” without the qualifiers, no matter whether near or far.

I was unsure how to go about it, though. I knew that, as a Congressman, Dan would be immensely busy and meeting distant family could not be one of his priorities, even if he wanted to. But I thought I’d try.

Dan’s Aunt Dorothy was part of my quartet of “The Crazy Cousins” when I was a kid. (Kathy Taylor Mills and Julie Lochner Riber are the other two suspects.) I had heard news of her niece and nephews over the years as they were growing up but I hadn’t met them. Dan is her nephew and godson, but I figured he probably hadn’t heard anything about me. However, he knows my parents – they lived at the very edge of his district until three years ago – and he knows my brother, Tim, who lives in his district, and has met some of my other brothers. So I would be able to reference my family in explaining to him who I am.

I called Dan’s Congressional office and asked if there were any way I could skip in for a few minutes that week to meet him. His staff people were great and soon my call was passed on to Dan’s scheduling person. Eventually we ended up with a time late Thursday afternoon. But when I got to Dan’s office, his schedule had changed. Not to worry, though, his scheduling assistant said, if I would wait a short time, she would walk me over to a bakery on Capitol Hill where Dan would pop in on his way to an event.

This being Dan’s first term, his office is small and out-of-the-way, but his staff people were terrific. They were friendly, showed me his office, and remembered Joyce Henderson’s visit with her family in the summer and Diana Taylor McCarty’s the year before. Then we walked over to the bakery, where Dan showed up within a few minutes. Of course, I had only seen campaign pictures of him – other than decades-old pictures from when he was a teenager – but he looked like family right away. We grabbed some lemonade and sat at a table in the back, talking double-time to fit everything into a short visit.

I liked Dan so much! He seemed incredibly knowledgeable about technical subjects affecting his district. I do recycling and environmental work and have colleagues in the Syracuse area; it turns out that we knew several of the same people. There were intricate issues in my field that came up in this past Congress and Dan knew all about them – and interpreted them the same way I did (so of course he was right!).

I told him that I had lived in Washington, DC for several years at the same time that his Aunt Dorothy had run the Folger Shakespeare Theatre there. He knew all about that. And I told him that, when I lived there, one of my dreams had been to be a Senator.

“Wow! I thought I was the only one in the family with crazy dreams like that!” he exclaimed. Long ago, I had ended up deciding that I wouldn’t do well with the high-pressure demands of a Senator to always be “on” and extroverted, so I found other ways to be influential. But I was so proud of Dan that he had gone and gotten himself elected. It’s unusual, as he pointed out, that someone who had been a Congressional staffperson for a long time, as he had been, would turn around and become the candidate and then Congressman, but he had done it grandly.

Now, I said, I’d been watching his race on, a wonky polling and election projections website, and he seemed to have good odds for re-election. Dan cautioned, though, that one can never count on that until it’s real. In fact, he said, “I’ve got to get to a fundraising event now. Do you want to come with me?” That sounded great to me, so we went off to the upstairs of a nearby restaurant, where he introduced me to everyone as his cousin. I waited a while there because Dan said Abby, his wife, would be there soon and I could meet her, too, but I had a dinner planned with friends that night so had to leave before she arrived.

Throughout the rest of September and all of October, I checked frequently. The projections for Dan’s election changed sometimes but always it gave him an extremely high probability for re-election, with a healthy margin between Dan and his competitor. Then, towards the end of the campaign, Karl Rove poured huge sums into Dan’s competitor’s campaign and I got worried, but Dan was still projected to win. I hoped that would hold.

By November 3rd, the day after the election, most of the races nationwide were decided. There were just a handful that were too close to call. Unfortunately, Dan’s was one of them, with only about 600 votes difference between him and his competitor. I started reading the Syracuse newspaper online. The race was going to depend on the results of counting the absentee and military ballots, some of which weren’t going to come in for another couple of weeks. It would be a nailbiter and it wasn’t going to be decided soon. Dan’s competitor did best in the rural counties of the district, while Dan did best in the urban areas, but both had supporters everywhere.

And then this week I got an e-mail that Dan sent out to his constituents and supporters. He wrote, “I am deeply and forever grateful for the opportunity to serve you during the past two years. When I won the Congressional seat, I pledged to give it my all everyday and I did just that. I came home every weekend, stayed focused on local issues while supporting national policies beneficial to our region, and did my best to bring our troops home safely from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I served every day honored to live in a city where a shy kid of modest means from a proud Syracuse family and a graduate of the Syracuse public schools could grow up to earn the trust of his community to represent you in Congress.

“My staff both in Washington and in Upstate New York was terrific. I helped them assist thousands of you with challenges ranging from not getting fair treatment from insurance companies and banks to getting life-saving Veterans benefits to keeping businesses open. . . .

“I make no apologies, except to my friends, supporters, and staff for the fact the final outcome was not what we wanted. . . . I made it to Congress - my dream - because of all the great Upstate New Yorkers who, like me, care so deeply about our future. And while the dream was short-lived, my gratitude is eternal.”

I can only imagine how agonizing it must have been to have to concede his seat after such a hard-fought election and with a difference of just a few hundred votes out of more than 200,000. I have to say I wasn’t sure what was the best thing for me to wish for Dan. This next term in Congress looks like it will be a frustrating and harsh experience, no matter the party. I was appalled by the viciousness of the commentaries about Dan that followed all the Syracuse newspaper articles. The escalating level of people’s callous cruelty towards elected officials is heartbreaking to me, especially when I see it directed towards someone in my family, but even when I see it directed towards politicians I think are wrong. As another “shy kid” who does extroverted work, I can’t see how good people will continue to put up with that to serve the public in these perilous times. Still, I sure wish that Dan was going to be there in Congress to keep injecting good, thoughtful, intelligent solutions and leadership.

I don’t know what Dan will do next, nor if he will run for election again sometime. But I am so proud of him that he served in Congress! It is a really, really tough job when done well.

As regular readers of this blog have seen, our family has been deeply involved in the history and formation of New York State, New England, and the nation of the United States since the time of the Pilgrims. We have been courageous seafarers, pioneers, rabble-rousers, religious leaders, political leaders, and even sometimes successful business leaders, all while also being people of modest means who loved the land and our community. I am struck by the stories here about how we seem so often to have had an uncanny ability to be ahead of the curve, creating new directions for our region and nation.

Dan fits right into this family tradition and we are so fortunate that he has represented us in Congress. Being one of our Baker cousins, we know from our history that he will soon find another way to continue to lead with courage, intelligence and grace.

Thank you, Dan!

Picture One: Sue and Dan
Picture Two: Dan and Diana
Picture Three: Tim Kinsella and Dan at Lockheed Martin (notice sign in background)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving, 2010: By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

I hope that every one of you is enjoying this Holiday with family and friends, lots of food, pies, laughs and stories.

I give you these pictures to remember the good ole days, and the joy of feasting on different types of foods.

Love to all, and may all of you enjoy a nap on the floor this afternoon, after eating ohh so much turkey and stuffing.

Picture One: Aunt CB and Uncle Jack Thanksgiving 1998 or so.
Picture Two: A nutella crepe enjoyed by my daughter, Alison, recently in France
Picture Three: Thanksgiving 1971 at Uncle Harold and Aunt Barb’s house—From the left side of the table, Aunt Barb, Dan, Beth, Judy, Ann at the head of the table, Tom, Jim, Tim, MaryLou and Chris in the high chair

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Woodlawn, in Oakfield, NY: August 1, 2000 By CB Taylor Kinsella

Jack, Doris and CB met in Batavia and went to visit the old Taylor homestead, Woodlawn, on Macomber Rd., on the corner of the Batavia-Oakfield town line road, where Alabama, Batavia and Oakfield townships meet. CB had met a neighbor and the daughter of Carl Scroger, the present owner, at Rochester General Hospital, when he was ill. His daughter gave us permission to go through the house. He has since died and the house is up for sale. Because he allowed two daughters to build on parts of the farm, the 180 acres will probably be separated into three parcels. (Mom writes in 2010 that yes, the house has been sold).

Gideon Morehouse Taylor was born in Westport CT in 1789. He moved to Wolcott, VT as an infant (his parents, Thomas and Mary, founding the small town), where he grew up. He married Phebe Walbridge, born in 1794, around 1820. They moved on to Genesee County, NY probably in the spring of 1829 or 1830; Gideon’s sister Elizabeth accompanied them (BWTaylor’s diary says about 1832).

Gideon purchased the original parcel of land from the Tonawanda Indians (their reservation is presently nearby) and built a home. Whether the present house was completely built then is not known but he used cobblestones for the four foot thick cellar walls. He died in 1844 and is buried in Cary Cemetery, Maple St, Oakfield, as is his wife, Phebe. She lived until 1861, and offered the farm to their son, Daniel, if he would work it and allow her to live there. Daniel had spent one year at Yale (1851) but had to leave because of poor health. He returned home, married Martha Cordelia Waller from Elba on November 16th, 1852, and they made their home in the farm that Phebe had called “The Homestead” and Cordelia called “Peace Farm”. As they aged, they made an identical offer to Bryant (B.W.), their eldest son, to farm the land and let them live in the house. B.W., who had married Emma Carson in 1885 and now had four children, had been teaching and land speculating in the West and keeping a store, with little success.

He accepted their offer and moved there in early 1893 when the twins (Lloyd and Floyd) were less than one year old. He built an apartment for Cordelia and Daniel in the right side of the house. It had a living room, dining room and bath downstairs and two bedroom upstairs. This area now encompasses the main open stairway and center hall and is reached by the front door. We did not see it as it was rented and is occupied.

Daniel and Cordelia spent their winters for many years in the home of their son, Carlton. He and his wife were professors of speech in Illinois School for the Deaf, Jacksonville, IL. They owned a home on the corner of Rt. 63 (Dunham’s Corners) and Elba and Batavia Townline Road where they spent summers. It was called ‘Bonny Burn’.

Cordelia died in 1908. Daniel, who had Parkinson’s Disease, died in 1911. Both are buried in the Oakfield Cemetery.

Emma Carson Taylor died in the downstairs bedroom at Woodlawn, as she and B.W. had renamed the farm, in August 1916, from a stroke. B.W. put the house and its contents as well as the farm up for auction that fall and moved to Batavia. Carl Scroger’s father bought it and when Carl married, he bought it from his father.

We started our tour at the backdoor. This is enclosed by a shed which was a woodshed in B.W.’s time. Behind the shed is a well, also enclosed, which is the famous cause of many cases of typhoid in the family over the years. At this well, in this room, Doris had a clear feeling of ‘having been here before’. It took her a few moments before we could continue the tour.

The journals of Emma C. Taylor detail these illnesses of typhoid with many queries to God as to their origin. It was unknown to them then that the animal barn, less than 100 feet away, certainly provided a fertile drain for the germ to enter the well water as it seeped through the rocks beneath. Eventually, their youngest daughter, Mildred, weakened by typhoid a month before, succumbed to scarlet fever at age six.

In early 1900, B.W. built a two story workshop behind the well house. He intended to sell pumps and loved to work with wood. This is still in use.

Entering the kitchen, one sees the area straight ahead, now a sink area and facing the road, was originally a pantry. To the right of the kitchen is a small room which used to contain a flight of stairs to the two upstairs back bedrooms which the hired help used. To the left of the kitchen is the old dining room. From here, one can reach the upstairs by a steep narrow flight of steps called the back stairway. Just beyond this is the cellar door, with the same type of steep cellar steps going down. Also off the dining room at the front is a door to the front side porch, which is now enclosed. We have several pictures of Daniel and Cordelia seated here, as well as one of Harry, Emma’s brother, who died of Tuberculosis, as he tried to cure here by spending days sitting on this porch.

Beyond the kitchen is the living room, a square room with two windows fronting the road. To the right side of the room is a door to the same enclosed porch. On the back of the living room is a small bedroom which overlooks the back parking space and barn area; this room is probably where Emma died. Beyond this living room is the open main staircase, foyer and apartment.

Up the steep stairs we find one bedroom facing the road and another behind it facing the barn. In this room is the stairway to the attic. Passing through the first, is another bedroom, with a door leading to a hallway which turns and follows the back wall of the house, to give entrance to two more bedrooms. The very last one, on the left side of the house is the one where the help entered via the back stairway. These are now gone. These bedrooms have not been used in many years. There are seven upstairs bedrooms in all, in the home.

Going back downstairs and outside, we find a cellar way with center opening doors on the right side of the house. It is a large area, with walls built with cobblestones which are four feet thick. Mr. Scroger told of there being 200 crates of apples kept there over the winter as well as many root vegetables. There are two pillars of brick which once supported a fireplace in the living room. It is not mentioned in any of the journals, although the neighbor said Carl told of there being a mantle on the living room wall, between it and the dining room at one time. Beyond the fireplace supports is a room, half of which is an old cistern. There is also a root cellar there. The first part of the cellar is 24 feet wide by 40 feet deep, with the next room maybe half that depth.

On the same side of Macomber Road, but on the opposite corner, stands the one room schoolhouse where all the Taylors attended school up through 8th grade. Beyond that, they went to Oakfield (originally called Cary) for their high school years. Oakfield is where Ethel was teaching mathematics and drawing when she met Lloyd at a church young people’s group. Daniel and Cordelia undoubtedly met there also, but in their day it also provided them with first year college as Daniel entered Yale as a sophomore.

The B.W. Taylor children carried a pail of water daily to the schoolhouse for use there. One wonders whether the infamous well did others in too?

For years before he died, Lloyd and Ethel attended reunions yearly at this school and kept up with neighbors and friends from the area.

Picture One: Woodlawn, 1900
Picture Two: Taylor Family, 1903—Woodlawn is behind them—B.W., Emma holding Mildred, Clara, Lloyd, Floyd, Florence in front and then Leon.
Picture Three: Woodlawn, taken 1975
Picture Four: Bedroom beyond the first bedroom, 2000
Picture Five: Woodlawn with outlying buildings

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Adin’s Letters for Veteran’s Day, By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

As we all remember, Adin Baker, brother to Ruth, Lillian and Ethel, was to fight in World War One; he came down with the dreaded Spanish Influenza before he could fight (see the blog , "Adin Baker, World War One, and the Spanish Influenza" by Aunt CB on June 24th, 2009).

He did write letters while he was in, so here are a few snippets:

While at Camp Greenleaf, Fort Oglethorpe, GA, Adin writes his Aunt Florence:

July 21st, 1918

" I got your letter last night. Was glad to get it, the only mail I've had here at Greenleaf. We left Camp Upton 3PM, 1500 of us Friday the 12th. 'Thru trains' got here following Monday 7AM. Our seats on the train were convertible into beds, we sleep one up and two down. Averaged about two meals a day on the trip. The Red Cross met us at principle cities, gave us peaches, milk or buttermilk, post cards, chewing gum and cigarettes so we got along fine, sang songs and roared like lions through the small towns.

It is not much hotter here than at home. Am in the Medical Corps. Was disappointed to be put in that as I signed for Infantry at Upton but drafted men go where they put them. I have a medicine belt with twelve compartments filled with bandages, linaments, powders and a short hatchet. If I meet the Kaiser I hollar "hoo hoo hoo" and then I swing on him as I have no rifle. They say we get an automatic revolver when we get across."

Next, Adin left Georgia for Camp Crane in Allentown PA, nearer to home. On August 12th, 1918, he writes:

"Dear Mother,
Got 2 letters from you last Thursday night, one directly here and the other via Greenleaf. Got a card from Ethel that had been on the road for 30 days. Will write her a letter right away. Am getting along good here. Guess I will wait about coming home until after the war as I can only get a 36 hour pass.

It is very nice here, sleep in the grandstands. The cots are placed on wide concrete steps. It is hotter here than it was in Georgia."

On August 18th, still at Camp Crane:

"Lillian wrote you were all done haying. Must be getting along good at home.
There is one more exam yet to pass, the hardest one they say. Would like to go to Russia and there is a chance alright. The Unit One has a lot of Russian Polish in it, stout, husky fellows."

On September 17th of 1918, Adin writes from England:

"Dear Mother,
Just a few lines to you. Am alright, feeling fine. Had a good trip across, did not get seasick, but some did and you ought to see them puke.

Hope you and Pa are alright and keep well. Do not work too hard. The war news sounds good, the English people sure use the Yanks good. You ought to see them when we unloaded. We marched through town to the camp, small boys and bigger girls walked on both sides. "

Adin's mother and father next heard from the Red Cross in a telegram:

'It is our sorrowful duty to inform you that you son is critically ill at this hospital.'

We know the rest of the story--it ended well, and Adin's next letters were sent from Ellis Island, where he stayed for a few months to recuperate.

November 5th, 1918:

“Dear Mother,
You ought to heard the whistles blow around here yesterday on account of Austria surrendering. They blew about half an hour in N.Y., Hoboken and Jersey City.”

And, To his Aunt Florence:

November 12, 1918:

Your letter came this noon. Was glad to get it.

We had a second Peace here yesterday and its real this time, I guess. The orderlies from here went over to New York and came back and told us about it. They said the street in front of the saloon was full of people awaiting their turn to go in and get a drink. All the whistles blew same as last Thursday only more so. I see in the paper where a street cleaner in N.Y., sweeping up confetti and papers said he hoped there wouldn’t be anymore peace for awhile.”

On November 14th, 1918, Adin again writes to his mother:

"Hope you are all well and don’t get the flu. Got a letter from Lillian and one from Aunt Florence. Aunt Florence sent me a lot of clippings from the Gleaner (editor here—The Gleaner is their town newspaper). Looks like everybody was dying in Lisle. You want to keep well and not try that stunt."

On December 24th, 1918, he again writes his mother:

" Think I will be home by January 1st and all through. Was examined by 21 doctors, one for nearly every part of the body. They OK and marked me normal in every way so I stand in class A for discharge."

Soon after, Adin came home to his beloved farm in Center Lisle.
Picture One: Adin
Picture Two: Armistice Day in Chicago

Veteran's Day, Part Two

A Poem very popular in World War One. Uncle Adin would have known it well, I think:

"In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”

- Colonel John McRae, In Flanders Fields November 11th - Veteran's Day in America, Armistice Day, 1918, Remembered

Picture One: Flanders Field, Belgium

Picture Two: Poppies

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Birthdays, Part One:

November is a wonderful month—filled with swirling leaves, honking geese overhead, crisp crinkly leaves with perhaps a bit of ice underfoot. Less sun than we would like, but the cooler air brings with it great food and soups and drinks. And, all sorts of different holidays—the Celtic Samhain, All Saints Day, Election Day, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving, AND Birthdays!

In Aunt CB Kinsella’s Family, Timothy James Kinsella and his grandson, Cameron Thomas Walker ( Kristin Kinsella’s son), Christopher Paul Kinsella and his son Joseph Aiden Kinsella, and Nicholas Sean Herdeg (Pat Kinsella’s son) ALL are birthday boys. Congrats to you all—wish I could be there with you to blow out the candles on your cakes! I know that Nick is excited that the new Harry Potter movie is opening on his birthday (just for Nick, I am sure!).

In Aunt Esther Lochner’s Family, David Richard Lochner is the Birthday Boy of the month.

Picture One: Tim and Cam
Picture Two: Nick at CU Boulder
Picture Three: Joe
Picture Four: Chris with a Northern Pike at Bryson Lake in northern Quebec
Picture Five: David Lochner at the Taylor Reunion this past September

November Birthdays, Part Two:

In Uncle Harold’s family, his wife, Barbara Marie Buck, and Judy Lynn Taylor, Jimmy Alberts ( Judy’s husband) all celebrate this month—Congrats to all, and Judy and Jimmy, I trust that Florida weather will be sunnier than Seattle!

In the Baker Family, Lily Rosena Baker Howland ( Aunt Lil) leads the way this month. Also, Merle Barrows (son of Nell and Dell ) celebrates.

In the Taylor Family, Joan Tiffany Doran (married to Thomas Doran, son of Florence Taylor Doran), and Lance Taylor (son of Bryant Taylor, son of Floyd Taylor) are Birthday Kids.

Picture One: Judy and Jimmy
Picture Two: Aunt Lil
Picture Three: Joan and Tom Doran, October 1999
Picture Four: Amanda and Lance
Picture Five: Aunt Barb and Uncle Harold

November Birthdays, Part Three:

In Uncle Arnon’s Family, Robert Arnon Taylor, Jonathan William McCarty ( Diana’s son ), Kristen Maria McCarty ( Diana’s daughter), and Faith Melton (Donnie's stepdaughter, granddaughter of Nancy Taylor Wright) all are the Birthday Kids.

In Aunt Ruth Maney’s Family, Kevin Michael Maney ( Michael’s son ), Colleen Margaret Maney (Richard’s daughter), and Jill Stauffer Maney ( Jon’s wife) share a November Birthday, and

In Aunt Doris Hawkes’ Family, Carter Michael Hawkes ( Mickey) is the Birthday Boy of the Month.

Picture One: Jon and Jill Maney
Picture Two: Colleen at 2010 Taylor Reunion

Picture Three: Kristen is at the Franconia sculpture Garden --

Picture Four: Jon at the Zoo

Picture Five: Faith