My aunt, Ruth Taylor Maney, wrote this essay in eighth grade in Geneva, NY. It was based on her mother’s—Ethel Baker Taylor—notes and family tradition. What a wonderful image we get of Joshua Mott!
Joshua was born in 1791 in Coram, Long Island, New York. When Joshua was 24 years old, he married sixteen year old Permelia Saxton. Together they had thirteen children, two of whom died very young. Permelia died in 1871 in Virgil, NY and Joshua died the following year.
My most interesting ancestor was great great grandfather Joshua Mott. He was a pioneer. He lived on Long Island in the year eighteen hundred ten but later he moved to Cortland County, New York.
As Long Island was near the sea most of the men were sailors. They expected to be sailors as that was about all there was to do there. Great great grandfather then had two sons and one daughter. If they stayed there the boys would surely become sailors. Great great grandfather didn’t want them to be sailors because very often word would come of someone being lost at sea and he didn’t want to lose his sons that way so he decided they would have to move.
A Page from Ruth Taylor's Written Essay
Moving was quite an undertaking in those days for the roads were very poor where there were any and, in many places, they had to make roads. They loaded their few possessions into an ox-cart and started. Among the things were great-great grandmother’s spinning wheel and a large brass kettle, articles much prized, even then, in the family.
They made the two hundred mile journey in about two weeks. Sometimes they stopped over night with friends who lived on the road over which they were traveling.
When they got to Cortland County, the family stayed with friends while great great grandfather made a clearing and built the home. They arrived too late to put in any crops but it didn’t matter as they had provisions enough to last through the winter. It was a long winter and there was lots of snow but they lived comfortably in their new home. During the winter, great great grandfather cut down trees for fuel. Next spring he finished clearing the ground and put in some crops.
Joshua Mott's Gravestone
He raised potatoes and corn. Cornmeal was used every day in some form for food. He kept cows, pigs, sheep, chickens and geese for meat, tallow, wool, leather and feathers. Every spring he made enough maple syrup to last through the year for very little white sugar was used as it was hard to get. They had no fruit cans to keep canned fruit in so they made preserves by cooking the fruit down until it was thick and putting lots of sugar into it. They kept it in large crocks or big earthen jugs.
Almost everything was made in the home. Great great grandfather picked the geese and the feathers were used in making feather beds and pillows. The wool was spun and made into cloth for blankets and clothing. Some of the wool was made into yarn which was used in knitting stockings and mittens. Great great grandfather saved all the tallow and grease and helped great great grandmother make candles and soft soap with it. Once a year a man came and made shoes for the entire family. These shoes were supposed to last until he came again which wasn’t very soon.
Permelia Saxton Mott's Gravestone
Great great grandfather had seven more children after he came to Cortland County. He then decided he had done right by moving there. He was very religious and brought his children up to be religious also. All the children had the best education then afforded and each was taught a trade. One of the girls began teaching school when she was thirteen years old and another girl went from house to house tailoring which was very unusual for a girl to do. Most of the boys became farmers. Two boys went to the Mexican War and one to the Civil War. One of the boys who went to the Mexican War was killed.
They did not travel as much nor have as many entertainments as we do. It was a great treat for the children when great great grandfather occasionally took them back to Long Island to visit relatives. Most of the parties were among neighbors, helping each other such as husking bees, apple-paring bees and quilting parties. At school they had spelling bees and singing school. Through the winter they had many sleigh rides.
All the children helped. The older boys helped their father with the farm work while the girls helped with the house work and cared for the younger children. Two older girls learned to spin and weave cloth. The younger girls did not have to do this because by the time they were old enough to learn, people had stopped doing it and were buying more of the cloth their clothes were made of.
Great great grandfather helped to build up his community. Since he lived in a favorable location, people came to live there and so formed a town, now called Virgil. He was a very well liked man as he had a peaceable disposition and was friendly to all. He lived to be eighty-one years old.
The story of great great grandfather’s life teaches us many things. One of these things is thriftiness. They had to save everything they could for they couldn’t go to the store whenever they needed anything. I don’t think it would hurt anyone to save a bit even now when we can go to the store. You should also help each other. Great great grandfather and his family helped their neighbors with their work and the neighbors helped them in turn. Don’t always do as your neighbor is doing. Great great grandfather didn’t want his boys to become sailors as his neighbors were doing so he moved and taught his children something else to do.
When thirteen year old Ruth Emma Taylor wrote this essay for her teacher in 8B, Albert Einstein and Albert Hubble were doing research at the California Institute of Technology, Thomas Edison had just submitted his last patent application, Dick Tracy, the comic book detective, had just made his debut in newspapers, Al Capone was sentenced to eleven years in prison for tax evasion, and the George Washington Bridge opened.
Ruth’s world in 1931, so different from Joshua and Permelia Mott’s world, is much different from ours today, eighty four years later. Yet today, her words still ring true—be thrifty and help other people.
Thank you, Ruth, for this mirror into my great great great grandfather’s life.
--Pat Kinsella Herdeg (daughter of Lucille Taylor, granddaughter of Ethel Baker, great granddaughter of Kate Youngs, great great granddaughter of Diadamia Mott, and three times granddaughter of Joshua and Permelia!)