Sunday, February 26, 2017

Winter, Cows, Fog, The Old Town of Eaton Museum and Me!

Burchard Farm as it used to look...still standing in Pine Woods
It seems everyone has been down with something health wise this winter.  For those that haven’t been affected physically they have been depressed by the ups and downs of the weather.  I myself am one!  It had to be tough on animals with near zero to mid sixties and back again. This got me thinking about the cows, yes the cows.
Few people realize the role the Town of Eaton has played in the history of the Holstein-Friesian breed whose relatives still dot the countryside today.  Many know of Gerrit Smith Miller and his famous cow, but few realize that the Chenango Breeders Association brought the first actual breeding herd here from Holland in the 1800’s.  As a matter of fact the group of Eatonites included Sylvester Burchard, Charles Payne and a very interesting man called by many Deacon (Alva) Cole.  As a matter of fact Burchard and Payne wrote the rules the breed was judged by. (I have some of Cole’s and Burchard’s artifacts and pictures in the Old Town of Eaton Museum.) It is also interesting to note that the old Burchard Farm was the first dairy in Madison County.
So with that being said… the “FOG” we had the other night down here made me think of a good story I remembered. One of the many things I did not realize when I move here was the meaning of the term “leavings”.  Old Nellie Wooten always would say as she went here or there that there were a mess of leavings. Okay, what are leavings? But not inquiring…. I would just shrug my shoulders and figure it was something or other. I finally realized the actual meaning once, which made sense months later.
It was a hot spring week, but the nights were still quite cool, and my cat Chat my cat woke me up and kept running to the side door. I got up and followed him as Chat was very smart, and I assumed some- thing was wrong. As we went out onto the porch I could hear this mooing that sounded eerie. It was dancing in the thick pea soup fog that had arisen. It seemed to be moving at one point, then sounded as if it was in my back yard, but neither the cat or I could see anything.
The next morning I went across the street to my neighbor Mike Curtis’ and asked, “Were there cows loose running around town last night”? He just laughed at me. ”It’s the fog, it makes everything sound that way!” I walked over to Bob Rollins, struck up a conversation and told him about it. He said, “Oh the fog can really fool you; it was for sure the farm up above.” He told me a story about how some local men had been lost in the local swamp after going bullhead fishing because the fog was so thick. He said they even had to send a search group after them when they did not return home! Something I stored in my memory should I ever go bullhead fishing in a swamp in spring! 
Just then Nellie came strolling down the street heading “over town” as she called it. I greeted her and asked her if she had heard cows roaming in the back yards last night. She said no but asked if I had looked in my back yard for leavings!
Ah, leavings. All of the bells and whistles went off in my head: leavings! Sure enough, there were cow leavings, and the piles of stuff that they left were quite visible. Even today I politely call them leav- ings!

So csome to the old Town of Eaton this Spring and view “Cow” history!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Eaton History, Bob's Mini Mart and Old Times!

Old Picture of Robie's Drug Store
This has been a sad year so far.  The old group has lost so many of its originals.  I was really sad to hear of the passing of Bob Cramphin.  Thinking of Bob brought back so many memories of 20 years ago when the little community worked together to put on a special event.Bob ran the grocery and gas station, and it was a great place to shop. You didn’t have to go far if you needed something, and believe me, the closest grocery store is in Morrisville or Hamilton, over 5 miles away in each direction.Bob was a very quiet person who served good coffee and I, because of his formal demeanor, would call him ‘Robare’.For our Bicentennial in Eaton I wrote the poem below for his ad in our history book since the mini mart was located on the site of the very famous Robie Drugstore in Eaton. The drugstore was a Mecca for summer folk and the rich who in Eaton’s Victorian heyday had ice cream there, bought ice, and bought very expensive souvenirs to take back to New York City.

After setting the whole Eaton Bicentennial thing in motion in 4 months and killing myself to get everything in place the morning of the event, people were disheartened because it was pouring rain at 7 am. But I was optimistic … the weather would improve... so I went into the mini -mart to find someone to help me get the 8 foot Birthday Cake from a Morrisville restaurant where we had stashed it. I found Bob a “basket case”; he was actually shaking. He said ,“I’m more nervous than you are!” He was too.

Yes, Bob’s Mini Mart stood right where the old Robie Drugstore used to stand. That drugstore was talked about by all of the locals during the time I lived in Eaton.

Eaton was quite a hot spot in its day. Of historical interest is the fact that when they tore the drugstore building down, Hyle Poole, who had bought the old Union School to turn it into a residence, purchased the two large front store windows. Today, if you drive by the historic marker on Brooklyn Street and look at the Old Union School, which was Pauline Brown’s house, you will see the two large windows still in place.

Today the mini mart is called the A=Z Mart. Condolences to the family and all the community that can remember hanging around or working at Bob's Mini Mart!


The mini-mart has taken the place
Of ye old country store.
Where people stop to fill their tanks,
But oh it’s so much more.
A spot to gather and chat a spell,
To catch up with the news.

A place that carries almost anything,
One could ever use.
Neighbors greeting neighbors,
With a handshake or a hi!
Children looking through a case
For candy they can buy.
Bait to fish, shells to hunt,

Or socks to keep you warm.

A place to check the temperature
 And hear of an impending storm.
A dusty picture hangs above the door,
It’s faded and unclear.

It seems that it’s the old drugstore,
That used to stand right here.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

A Holiday Wish for Peace on Earth and Understanding... from the Back Street in Eaton!

Happy Holidays to all… as we celebrate in this crazy year of news, crazy weather, and crazy political events.  What more can one say!  Rather humorously the phrase  “Peace on Earth” and “Good will to Men” has become an impossible wish that even praying appears unable to solve considering the religion of violence which has overcome us all.

As I sit here on the quiet “Back Street” of old Eaton I am blessed in a way... its quiet, boring, everyday life, is a far cry from the world out there.  Oh yes there are problems here and there, but it is a country town quite capable of sustaining itself in a permanent state of suspension.  No terror acts, little crime, prayer groups, basketball at the church, gossip at the local mini-mart and small groups of people that keep the cemetery, church, fire department and museum going.

I do wonder if we here in America who have so much ever stop to consider how very fortunate even the poor are.  We have no war that is bombing us, destroying our communities, reducing our cities to ruble or turning our children’s lives into horror.  Yes children’s lives, that help form the hatred for the invaders or the enemies that are causing them so much pain. A learned hatred that passes onto fighting of more wars and reasons to for them to become warriors.

Reflecting on all this I hope for a moment that we all stop to consider what we have and offer a prayer or wish that all men on earth would one-day share in the richness of what we have.

To those amongst us who are the “have not’s”…take heart and continue on… look around and appreciate what you do have if only good friends or good family or strangers that care.  To the “haves” try not to flaunt it…money and gifts cannot buy happiness for your loved ones or for you.  That “Christmas Feeling”…is short lived.

I try to look back to a time when a child was born…a child who changed the world’s thinking… a child that advocated peace and understanding. 

There have been many of them…and we need many more.  Children that grew up and changed the world around them with peace and hopeful words not words of hatred, boasting or threatening…only words advocating peace and acceptance… truly great men and women like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, John the XXIII, and many more…and of course, the man whose birthday we celebrate this week Jesus Christ!

We need men and women who advocate on behalf of People... poor or rich, old or young, of this religion or that… ones who are pushing the one thought of Christmas… “Peace on Earth and Good Will to ALL Mankind.

A bit of history on John the XXIII.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Holidays in the Old Town of Eaton and a "Thank You".

Morse House
First I would like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who donated cans to our museum can drive…. thanks…it was a success. Another thank-you to the helpers – Michele Kelly, Barb Keough, Jen Caloia, Chris Klein and a special thank you to Steve Brown for hosting us.

The season is upon us… yes that time of year.  I often get questions on what the “Holidays” would have been like in the old days of Eaton when it was just a fledgling community with log or stone buildings and no access to a shopping center... except perhaps traveling to market in Albany one hundred miles away!.

So I thought on the information I had in my archives and came up with this…Old Town Eaton as we call it was not far removed in tradition from its home base of Sherburne & Natick, Massachusetts.   In her book Old Town Folks author Harriet Beecher Stowe talks about the family of Deacon Badger. Badger was really a Bigelow who was her husbands Grandfather and her own relation via the Stowe family ties. This couple in essence is the Grandfather and Great Aunt or relative of a number of the Eaton settlers at that time including Joseph Morse’s wife Eunice Bigelow, the Morse’s and the Stowe’s and others.  The book gives us insight into the family life and “Holiday” baking.

From Old Town Folks
On holiday food: “The pie is an English institution, which, planted on American soil, forthwith ran rampant and burst forth into an untold variety of species. Not merely the old traditional mince pie, but a thousand strictly American seedlings from those main institutions to new uses. Pumpkin pies, cranberry pies, peach pies, huckleberry pies, cherry pies, green-currant pies, pear pies, plum and custard pies, apple pies, Marlborough-pudding pies, pies of fanciful flutings and architectural strips laid across and around and otherwise varied, assisted the boundless fertility of the mind, when once let loose in a given direction.”
Morse House Kitchen
The piece goes on to describe hundreds of pies put into an open back room that allowed them to freeze an be bought out throughout the holiday season and sometimes up until April.”
* I guess this inspired our traditional Thanksgiving Pie Sale.
One of Eaton’s great little stories is of a preacher who was so long winded that in the “Holiday Season”  the women at the service would be totally unnerved by his dragging the “Holiday” sermon on and on while their wood-fired ovens could be burning the food set for the holiday dinner.

If any of us can picture cooking the family feast over a wood fire or in a wood fired Brick oven?
 Since many of the residents were relations I am sure you can picture large family gatherings and a bill of fare that was gathered from the collective families larder. A long cry from today’s  shopping at Price Chopper or Wegman’s.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Memories of the past, the Old Town of Eaton Museum, and thoughts of the Holidays!

Words cannot describe the 20 plus years we (I) have spent down here trying to keep the history of Eaton alive. Time mixed with memories that are both good and bad. 

The original group of Neighbors for Historic Eaton formed out of the group that put on the Bicentennial for the Hamlet of Eaton… a thing that took great co-operation and time…and much effort.

The result of this is the Old Town of Eaton Museum and the Friends of the Old Town of Eaton Museum, a group now left in great part to new faces as the old ones have slipped from our grasp one by one.  How sad to look back, and yet how wonderful to have these memories.

I myself am not from Eaton or Madison County, and yet by that right alone was able to solicit help that bore no old grudge nor hard feelings… as do occur in small country towns.  I started by writing weekly updates on an old word processor loaned to me by Mike Curtis.  These articles were published in the Mid-York Weekly at a time when we had to take them to the paper’s office to get them put into print…a world of difference from  in today’s world of internet sending of both prose and pictures for publication.

We also… with the help of Bob Betz and myself put up the first webpage for Southern Madison County History called Our Old Town.  I did all the writing for that and took the pictures on old used computers and a cheap camera.  That progressed to covering 20 pus historic sites for Madison and Southern Onondaga County as Fall Festival History Weekend.

We have worked hard, and we need to continue in that vain to support the Eaton Museum.  This years pie sales were a great success and this years “Eaton Day” on Memorial Day Monday was an awesome opportunity to turn the whole Town of Eaton out to celebrate it vast history.

As Christmas closes in on us, although a season of hope and joy for many, let us remember the past struggles with happiness for their success…and let us remember with much sadness those who have passed on to become a piece of Eaton’s vast history.

This year coming …will bring us closer to the future…but with sad eyes we tend to in the holiday season to look back…This weeks passing of Ginny Chilson did that for me. 

***Please take the time to view the video below… put sound on… and revisit the Bicentennial in 1995 and view many of our neighbors, relations, and friends who have passed on!