Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Life ‘On the Frontier’ in Elba, NY with the Howes and Wallers By Pat Kinsella Herdeg

Readers of the blog will remember Daniel Rockwell Taylor, who married Martha Cordelia Waller—they are the parents of Bryant Waller Taylor who was Floyd and Lloyd’s father.

Cordelia as she was known, was the child of Orrin Waller and Roxana Howe. Now, the Howes and the Wallers lived in nearby Elba, which was part of Batavia, NY.

An obituary of a long ago cousin who ALMOST lived to be 100 describes what life in Elba was in the early 1800’s, when Orrin and Roxana’s parents or great great grandparents of the twins—Floyd and Lloyd-- moved here and helped begin the Methodist church in the frontier country:

From the Batavia NY Progressive, April 1891

An Old Pioneer of Genesee.

"After nearly a century of life Phineas Howe passed quietly and peacefully away on Thursday evening last, just as the whistles were blowing for the close of the day's labor, and another of Genesee's pioneers had gone to his reward. Phineas Howe was born in the State of Pennsylvania, near the present site of the city of Scranton, in 1794.

His father, John Howe, was a native of Connecticut and previous to his removal from Pennsylvania to New York, in June, 1810, owned in connection with a brother (Seth Howe who is father to our Roxana) four hundred acres of land, where the city of Scranton now stands. The family moved to New York, traveling by means of two ox-teams, the mother riding the entire distance on horseback.

The trip occupied thirteen days, ending in Byron. On the 12th of July, 1810, John Howe moved into the town of Batavia, now East Elba, and during the next seven days built, entire, the first log house in that vicinity, 22x20, and began house-keeping on a farm that cost him $3.50 per acre. His family consisted of eight persons. There was no chimney in the house, simply a hole for the smoke to pass through; and during the winter of 1810 and '11 while the father was absent at work his son Phineas, the deceased, cut and drew fuel for the family and browsed the cattle on the tender tops of the trees which he felled.

His life during the following years was full of the hard experiences incident to frontier life, but Mr. Howe often recalled as pleasant recollections those early days and told of farming on a scale in marked contrast with that of today. Their first crop of wheat covered one acre of ground and yielded thirty bushels. Of this he took the first grist to LeRoy on horseback to have it ground. Later, when the canal was extended to Rochester, they drew their wheat there over the rough wagon tracks through the woods and sold it for five shillings per bushel. During these years wolves were very numerous, frequently killing sheep close by the house.

The home of his father, John Howe, was a frequent stopping place for travelers and was especially a rendezvous for Methodist preachers who came into the neighborhood to hold occasional meetings; the first of these meetings was a result of his efforts. The first' class' was organized under the leadership of Marmaduke Pierce, with Joseph Waller, Seth Howe, John Howe and their wives as members, and for the first two years their preaching services were held in the old log house.

The settlers came from all directions to attend their quarterly meetings, some coming even from Rochester, then a small trading post, till they literally filled the house; twenty-two persons having been lodged there at once. At such times partitions were made by hanging blankets across the room, and the men slept on the floor with bags of grain for pillows while the beds of blankets were left for the women."

The Joseph Waller and Seth Howe mentioned above are our direct ancestors, so I thought that this article provided quite the look at what life ‘on the frontier’ was like. In many ways, it reminds me of the story of Thomas and Mary Taylor in founding the town of Wolcott in Vermont

( Not QUITE like our lives are normally today!


Susan Kinsella said...

Pat, thanks for giving us some more of our family history. I keep looking at the fall leaves picture at the top of the blog and am boggled by the total carpet of red leaves. Is that what it's looking like now where you are?

Aunt CB said...

Great Scott! Can you envision living in a room that size with 7 other people? And having to cook over a fireplace with smoke all over? No wonder thay died young! And then when company came doubling up? Makes the bed we used to sleep 4 across at Aunt Lil's sound luxerious!
Grand to hear about and we should enjoy what we have all the more.