Two days before Valentine’s Day, the Taylors who descend from Bryant Waller Taylor and Emma Jane Carson, suffered a loss even though most of us had no idea at the time.
On Sunday morning-- February 12th-- of this week, a fire spread quickly through Woodlawn, our ancestral home. The fire fighters battled snow squalls and high winds in the cold weather as heavy smoke and fire leapt from room to room. The home is considered a total loss.
The fire is thought to be electrical in origin, caused by an electric heater plugged into an extension cord. The family renting the house managed to get out safely, although the father had to fight through heavy smoke in the upper bedroom to rescue his thirteen-month-old son.
Previously we have written up about Woodlawn (see http://taylorbakercousins.blogspot.com/2010/11/woodlawn-in-oakfield-ny-august-1-2000.html for the full story of Aunt CB, Uncle Jack and Aunt Dot visiting) but a brief history of the home follows.
The old Taylor homestead, Woodlawn, on Macomber Rd., sits on the corner of the Batavia-Oakfield town line road, where Alabama, Batavia and Oakfield townships meet. Gideon Morehouse Taylor and his wife Phebe Walbridge Taylor, moved here from Vermont in the fall of 1829. Gideon had come out earlier, in February of 1828, and purchased the original parcel of land from the Tonawanda Indians for $372. He built first a lean-to, then a log cabin, and then this current house.
Gideon died in 1844 and his wife Phebe asked her son Daniel and his wife Cordelia if they would work the farm, with the understanding that when she died, the farm would belong to them. Daniel and Cordelia agreed and made their home in the farm that Phebe had called “The Homestead” and Cordelia called “Peace Farm”.
As they aged, Daniel and Cordelia made an identical offer to Bryant (B.W.), their eldest son, to farm the land and let them live in the house. B. W. and his wife, Emma Carson Taylor, accepted the offer and moved there in early 1893 when the twins (Lloyd and Floyd) were less than one year old. Now their turn to live in the home, they renamed it ‘Woodlawn’. Later, B.W. 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 bedrooms upstairs.
Cordelia died in 1908. Daniel, who had Parkinson’s Disease, died in 1911.
Emma Carson Taylor died in the downstairs bedroom 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.
Both Emma and Cordelia before her wrote journals all of their lives, so we have a rich account of their lives in this house. In 1900, after staying in another home, Cordelia writes “but it is better to go back to spend the little time left to us where we have spent the most of our lives. May our last days be our best.”
One hundred and eighty years later, the wooden structure built and lived in by so many of our ancestors, called ‘The Homestead’ and ‘Peace Farm’ and then ‘Woodlawn’ is gone. I myself have never seen this corner plot of land or the house, but it survives in my head because of the many pages of journals written over a sixty year span by two remarkable women. Luckily for us, the land and the pictures and the journals and thus, the memories, remain.