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


Sue Kinsella said...

Heavens, this house sounds like another ancestor we need to know! Seven bedrooms? AND a two-bedroom apartment?

Years ago, I was friends with a woman from Thailand whose father built a house in their village that was big enough for his expectation that all 8 of his kids would continue living with him and his wife, with their families. Woodlawn kind of sounds like an American version of that idea! Would love to see it.

Thanks, Mom, for recording such a detailed description of it.

Mom/CB said...

The last 2 bedrooms over the kitchen, reached by a stairway that had been removed, were to be occupied by the "help". However, BW, my grandfather seldom could afford any but a field worker when his own boys were small, thus Emmma, grandmother to me whom I never knew, had her sister with her much of the time. That was Libbie and when twins came, my father was Libbie's "boy". she died 2 years later [ appendix} and poor little Clara filled the gap!! "Gentile living", {the Taylor way} was hard work!!!

Heather Klotzbach said...

We lived in this house for 8 yrs. It has since burned down. My kids always chuckled because in 2008 when we moved out, Floyd's name was still etched on the wall.

Pat Herdeg said...


Thanks so much for finding us! We love any added memories. I will email your comment to my mother and also the Floyd Taylor descendants--don't know if we knew Floyd had etched his name on a wall!

We did know that Woodlawn burned down. An old neighbor alerted my mother. Here is our story on that part of Woodlawn's history.

Thank you again for adding to our story!

Pat Kinsella Herdeg

L. Klotzbach said...

Oh! I am so glad to have read your account of my old house!! Actually, it is your family's old house, too, and the Scroger's house before me. I bought the house in 2001 and lived in it until 2012 when it burned down. I was devastated. It was not completely demolished until September of 2013 because I just couldn't bear to have the old beams and boards destroyed. Everywhere I tried to save some, I found them to be burned on the opposite side of where I was looking. The floor boards upstairs in the room we called "Floyd" had boards that were 22 inches wide and 1 1/4 inches thick--probably virgin timber when the house was built! We called the last room upstairs, the south-most room, "Beyond Floyd." It had a wood-working bench in it with a "bench slave" that helped the wood worker hold his planks. That is the only thing from upstairs that survived because we moved it to the barn when we replaced the rotted window in the south end. That very rough, very shabby room was one of my favorite in the whole house because of the views out the south and east windows. By the time I got the house, it had deteriorated in a lot of places...I wished I was a millionaire so that I could have fixed it up and restored it to its original glory. I saved the black walnut stair treads and railing spindles from that wonderful main staircase...That is the side where my nephew's family lived. I had the narrow, steep, stairway in my half of the house...I learned to walk sideways on those stairs! And my brother made me a railing for my first Christmas in the house. I am so glad that you wrote the history of the house...I always wondered about it. I cried a lot of tears over the loss of that beautiful old place. We had names for all of the bedrooms upstairs--"Floyd, Beyond Floyd, The Flower Room, The Green Room, The Blue Room, The Master Bedroom, The Nursery." Every room had a big closet in it, which was amazing for the era...and a board with hooks on it fastened on the bedroom wall for clothes to hang. The big chimneys were still in place when I bought it, pulling in the walls with their weight since they had no support since the fireplaces were gone. I had to take them down, which made the appearance not so pretty and quaint. The south chimney was solidly plugged with creosote and the beams in the attic were charred where they had almost caught fire at some point...I think the previous generations of owners had neglected the chimney cleaning! It was such a shock when my house burned down...and it made me cry to think that it had not burned down with those clogged chimneys, but did burn down "on my watch!" Well, I have spewed enough, but I enjoyed seeing the old pictures and learning more about the house. We enjoyed our years there...and you will be glad to know that we drilled a new well--the well that was known for never going dry even with 80 cows drinking from it, went dry my first year there...and the septic tank was about 25 feet from it and it just spewed things straight out of it to the pasture!! I drilled a new well and put in a vast new septic system, too...after all, those seven bedrooms required a big one to meet the new codes!!
Lorna Klotzbach
March 28, 2016