Monday, July 6, 2015

This historic week in Eaton, a bit of history, and a plea to help our Old Town Museum

Another morning in this little historic town.  The Fourth of July has passed and it is only about 7 or 8 weeks until the first frost.  This week I have had a fire every night... incredible.  One year in the 1800 Ellis Morse recorded scraping frost off of the plants in his garden.  I had one 4th of July here... where we all sat around the wood stove with it blazing, eating our picnic indoors.

The history of Eaton Village and the Town of Eaton have continued now for 220 years, in a way it is just a pebble in the sand of time just like so many of the rural communities here in southern Madison County.

The horses and the wagons that carried people to this once wilderness have disappeared and in their place have sprung up horse facilities and horse farms of all variety…but these for more pleasant enterprises than hauling people and their belongings up the steep old trails.

The hills that surround the town are still steep but huge tractor-trailers whiz over them with little thought of the heavily burdened ox carts that once served the same purpose.  The wood fires are still burning, yet coal, wood pellets, and oil have overtaken their importance.

The memories of the town’s famous inhabitants have now faded, and the young do not have the time to remember their wonderful historic roots.  It seems it is not until they reach the age of retirement that they are suddenly filled with the nostalgia needed and the wish to find out about their past genealogy.

The cell phone and Internet have brought the outside world to a place where young Samuel Chubbuck stood testing and developing the pony key and sounder for S. B. Morse’s telegraph, an invention that would change the way news was transmitted across the world in the 1800s.

Gone is the factory of Wood, Taber and Morse, who developed four-wheel drive equipment that we think little of today as we watch huge John Deere equipment plowing the fields using the sisters of the first four-driver traction engines they developed.

The church is still standing and open… seeming to follow the historic past, but all the many denominations have spread out of the small villages and into the surrounding area, where stood three now stands one.  Famous preachers are now replaced with musical groups who tour to raise spirits in the ever-more connected and depressing world.

Missionaries like the Deans, Emily Judson, and the Wades have faded but some still go out via the local churches as missions, but it is not the same.

The promise of gas lights and heat at a cheap rate has gone away, though today there are more gas heads and gas lines crossing the town than ever before… yet no gas is delivered to a majority of its rural population.

Cows are really no longer family with pictures and names that are revered…now they are part of a mechanical business we call production.  Herds that once roamed free have expanded to hundreds, fed and milked, in barns, never to see the light of day.

Children no longer walk to school and return home with lunch pails in hand talking about their day to their friends along the way.  Local education that was the pride and care of the community has disappeared… replaced by central schools and huge buses that run around the town mostly empty… back and forth, back and forth.

Yes, things have changed, we now drive miles to stores rather than walk “over town” to shop locally. We spend our money at institutions run by millionaires and foreign countries rather than keep our money local, helping the butcher, baker and candlestick maker.

Doctors no longer make house calls and you can’t stop at Mrs. Chase’s for a remedy or liquid cure…now we have specialists and travel to big complexes in Syracuse. Our children leave for college and a better way of life, to never return in many cases…but sometimes I wonder… are we really better off in the modern world?  Only history will tell.

****Preserving our history is another thing this little town is trying to do.  We have put out a great little history book for its 220th official birthday, the book is available on line at for $10 plus shipping or you can pick it up in person from Dougherty's Pharmacy in Morrisville or Perry's in Hamilton.  Stories in the book include the history of the canal, reservoirs, and the different mills located along the Eatonbrook in West Eaton.  Also are stories on the Irish Settlement, Hooks Wilsey and a ton more.  So help us keep our history alive and well.

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