Saturday, December 31, 2022

Covid is Still with us in 2023

The Spanish Flu & History!

As I have said many times in this blog, “History always repeats itself,” &  it is truly our best way to learn about the future by studying the past. I had no idea when thinking about doing a column for my blog site on the Flu that it was a precursor to an actual flu epidemic arriving in real time. This I wrote in knowing it would still be with us today!

Influenza ,,,now Covid 19... is an Italian word Influenza di freddo, meaning, “influence of the cold” because it surfaces in colder weather.

The worst epidemic in recorded history was the “Spanish Flu” of 1918 that actually had nothing to do with Spain.  Spain at that time was a restful destination during WWI for people, since it was close to Europe’s war but a warm neutral country and its presence was first noted there.

The virus spread into Army camps easily since men were gathered together in close quarters.  So many men were infected and even though they were young and healthy they died by droves.  The symptoms were like a normal flu but progressed quickly and killed, settling into the lungs and turning them into blood and fluid filled sacs.  Luckily, samples of the lungs were taken, placed into preserving fluid and sealed in wax and kept in Army warehouses where they became of value decades later. Though for many years after its exit we did not understand where it came from…  the question remained as to would it ever return.  

Although much research has been done on the average flu and we have learned how to make vaccines and adapt them to new strains and have developed anti viral drugs…this disease continues to mutate and return yearly occasionally in a severe form.

My interest in it came when a researcher contacted me looking for information on the Madison County Home and its death records.  The research she was doing was to try and come up with a better understanding of how many people in an area had died from it.  Most local hospitals and health care places listed deaths as pneumonia, since there were few facilities that recognize flu distinctions.

This strain of flu it is estimated killed over 50 million people worldwide and over 675,000 in the US alone. (This number is probably light.) The flu strain infected people on remote islands, countries around the world and even remote Alaskan native missions, one of which would play an important role in it research.  To give you an idea of its deadliness…this isolated village on the tundra had 80 people of which over 70 died.  It is a heavyset woman who was buried in 1918 there, and dug up in 1997 that provided our best information and a sample that researchers resurrected the deadly virus from so that it could be completely genome sequenced…recreating the deadly virus under strict security measures in Atlanta. The work was started in the 1950’s when a young researcher named Hultin…from Sweden studying in the US, decided to find the virus in a corpse preserved in the permafrost of Brevig, Alaska… at a mission… since the religious missions kept records.  He failed in his first attempt but returned in 1997 and found a corpse he named Lucy who kept the virus frozen below a layer of fat.

This allowed scientists to remake the virus genome under strict condition and try to find how it started and why it was so deadly.  The main idea is that it was likely was an ancestor or closely related to the earliest influenza virus’s known to infect mammals. However, they believed the virus likely obtained its HA from avian viruses, but were unsure how long the virus may have been adapting in a mammalian host before emerging in pandemic form, perhaps starting in 1915 – 1918. Today the World Health Organization keeps tract of possible Pandemics and we monitor flu stains all of, which appear to come from China. 
They realize that Worldwide Pandemic could in the future be used for warfare and flu strains that could be developed for that reason…

From our CDC... *Of note, the study was able to sequence the entire code of the 1918 virus’ NA from the virus sample obtained from “Lucy’s” body. So here again, Hultin’s work proved invaluable. The authors found that the NA gene of the 1918 virus shared many sequence and structural characteristics with both mammalian and avian influenza virus strains.9 Phylogenetic analysis suggested the NA gene of the 1918 virus was intermediately located between mammals and birds, suggesting that it likely was introduced into mammals shortly before the 1918 pandemic. Furthermore, the 1918 virus’ NA obtained from Lucy suggested that it is very similar to the ancestor of all subsequent swine and human strains.

For more information you can visit the CDC website which wrote a great article on the pandemic in 2018 for its centennial or read the FLU by Gina Kollata that reads like a Forensic File murder mystery.

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

A History of A Christmas Past!

Christmastime, refugees story, history, Fort Ontario and the American participation in WWII.

With all of the wrangling about immigration and the refugee problem I thought it would do us well to look to the past.  Our past has been clouded by bigotry for many years, as a matter of fact because of our quotas during WWII
we acted selfishly in forcing our Allies and friends to take in refugees but failed to do it ourselves.  Here is a local story on history that you can learn about today and part of it took place at Christmastime.

One of the least known Christmas time stories from history happened on December 22, 1945, when the then President Truman issued his “Truman Directive” executive order. This order finally allowed the United States to fill immigration quotas with what were then labeled as DP’s, “displaced persons”.
This story had its immediate impact with the only refugee camp for DP’s in the United States, a camp at Fort Ontario in Oswego, NY, now known as Safe Haven.

This little known piece of history is an interesting look into the policies of the United States on immigration, (especially Jewish). A time when we set tight limits on the number of immigrants allowed entering the USA, because of the war that was on.. The fact remained that as the Allied Forces swept through Europe and Nazi Concentration Camps were liberated, the many people who lived through the horrific experience had no place to go. Though countries all over the world took in DP’s the, United States did not.

With much political pressure, Roosevelt finally in 1944 allowed 982 Holocaust survivors and political prisoners of war that were liberated or displaced to come the United States as his “Guests”. Interior Secretary Harold Ickes sent Ruth Gruber an assistant to escort these refugees to the United States and to record their stories..
The people who were chosen met a criteria that consisted of those who had helped in the Allied War effort, had lost relatives in the Holocaust, had family in the United States or had talents that could help run the American shelter. The selection also gave preference to those who had several family members with them. The catch was that after the war they would all have to return to their homeland – they had no standing; they were only regarded as guests of the President.

The group left from Naples, Italy on the troop transport Henry Gibbons under heavy escort; the ship also carried another 1,000 wounded service men. Ruth Gibbons in her book “Haven” which was made into a TV movie, chronicled the trip and stories of these refugees. It also showed how much pressure had to be used to get just this small group of mostly “Jews” to the United States.

As the war came to a close in 1945, these immigrants who had learned English, whose children attended school in Oswego, and who had become part of the American spirit were to be shipped back; many to homes that no longer existed and to a world devastated by war.

The “Truman Directive” issued while Congress was on Christmas holiday came in time to keep these people from this. The fact was however, that they had to leave the United Sates and then return with visas. Taking the refugees to the Rainbow Bridge in Canada, and then allowing them to reenter with visas accomplished this. Of the 982, only 100 chose to return to their homeland.

Today the Safe Haven Museum at Fort Ontario welcomes visitors and through beautiful displays and video helps tell about this dark time in American history, a time when we ourselves turned our backs on not only Jewish immigrants, but also on our own American Japanese citizens.

The fort itself  is trying to gain National Park status and it is my hope they succeed. The Safe Haven Museum located on its grounds is open year-round

Friday, December 16, 2022

A Special Christmas Wish for You!

For All My Friends & My Favorite Christmas Poem

Once again on the week behore Christmas I find myself lost amid old memories, problems of the present... and the dificulties of living in this (at the very moment) place in history where in seconds news is flashed, reflashed, disected and rehashed within the blink of an eye. 

So.. I decided to try and go back to a much nicer time, a time when life was simple and the holidays were something to look forward to...times to remember in your heart with joy!  Here is a repost from last year...but some things to think about.   I question...are we living in better times???

I painted the above picture for a Christmas card in 1995 and wrote the poem to go with it.  The story came from discussions with the old members of our little community group who shared their remembrances of "Christmas Past".

They are all dead now... but like on old clock I have turned my mind back to that year and leave the poem to you as my Christmas blog and my hope for a quiet and warmer future built on love...not hate....on families....not presents and shopping...and on love for your neighbor!

Going to Grandma’s for Christmas

Going to grandma’s for Christmas,
A very special day.
Through the city, past the suburbs,
Out the country way;
Past the now frozen pond,
Where children skate and sled;
While moms and dads look on.

As we approach the old farm house’
With barns in red and white;
I feel a glow of warmth,
In just picturing the sight,
The front door swinging open;
As waves and cheers abound.
It seems a million years ago,
Last Christmas came around.

The tree in its shining hour;
Standing in the hall,
So it might stretch to its fullest height,
And run from floor to floor.
Grandma’s fresh baked cookies,
Cooling by the stove;
And gingerbread decorated,
With swirls, and dots, and love.

The goose stuffed and waiting;
Cranberries and popcorn strung;
The neighbors gathering at the door,
Singing carols just for fun.
After all the presents,
Are unwrapped and tucked away;
I slip upstairs to Grandma’s room, 
To kneel with her and pray.

Then curled up in a feather bed,
So snug and fluffy warm;
I feel at ease with all the world;
And safe from any harm.

No matter how many years come and pass away,
Grandma and the country,
Will be the heart of my Christmas Day!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

KEEP CALM...If You Can!

Thanksgiving time is always a time of reflection and remember and for me.  I saw a news segment that reminded me of London, it also reminded me of my latest present from some friends.. a poster.   The poster was a copy of a historic poster put out just before Britain’s anticipated entrance into WWII in 1939.  Humorously, the poster was never publically displayed and recently was found and has become a new I love… “Keep Calm and Carry On”.  What could be more British...perhaps only thoughts of Winston Churchill!

That brought me to Churchill’s mother who was Jennie Jerome, a beautiful American who actually has great ties to CNY.  The Jerome Family farms were in CNY and the land that my family built its house on was part of the Jerome Farm…home of Jennie’s grandmother.  

Thoughts of the Jerome farm led me to ponder the fact that for Christmas one year I gave my brother the gold watch dad had given me...he had found the old gold watch in the family garden as a young man...a garden that would later become the family compound of homes.  Repaired and running, I thought it was a great family history piece and a great present.

Picture I took on a trip to London
of Churchill's statue with
Big Ben in Background
Churchill was supposed to come to speak at a family reunion in Syracuse once, but had to turn back because of the presence of U Boats...he did send a telegram to the family group assembled…a piece of history I learned from the Wood-Eaton sisters who visited me years back in Eaton.  They were relatives and were to be at the reunion and remembered the trip.   They had come to Eaton to visit their great grandfather Allen Nelson Wood’s house, the house I live in.  Isn’t it strange how life is full of so much serendipity?

Mr. Wood was named Allen Nelson Wood...Nelson for Lord Nelson a hero his family honored with the name for many generations…and then suddenly my grey cat Rascal jumped in my lap…hint …one o f Winston Churchill’s most famous cat’s  (grey) was named Nelson to honor Lord Nelson.

Churchill was a cat lover, actually an animal lover.  Winston and his wife Clementine signed their love letters to each other with little drawn pictures…he a dog (Pug) she his cat...and their daughter the PK or puppy-kitten.

His cat stories are famous and many can still picture him speaking with a drink in one hand and the grey cat next to him. One story I love is... after one of his famous speeches (he had a lisp as well as drank) a woman MP in Parliament said, “Sir, you are drunk!”  His replay was “Madame that may be true, but in the morning I shall be sober whereas you will still be ugly!”

His favorite cat in later life cat was a ginger-marmalade colored cat he called  “Jock”, named after Sir John Coville his secretary who gave it to him.  Churchill loved the color and the cat so much that after giving his home Chartwell to the National Trust… he stated in his will that it should always have a ginger colored cat in residence…and to this day it does…and always named appropriately “Jock”.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Eaton Museum Opening = Memorial Day Monday

The Old Town of Eaton Museum will open on Memorial Day Monday this year for the first time in two years.  The outbreak of Covid caused many of the small museums to close their doors, which of course causes many problems including gather funding for operational purposes. The Old Town Museum was no exception.

Memorial Day Monday in Eaton has always been our main event and honors the historic roots of Eaton and its many Revolutionary Soldiers, founders, Civil War Veterans and all veterans.

 The land mass itself was purchased from Col. William Smith, husband of Abigail Adams Smith (President Adams daughter).  The area now Eaton and Lebanon were the first settlements and clearing of what is now Madison County. One of the more interesting aspects of our area is the old historic marker that stands on River Road marking Madison County’s early settlement history.  The marker lies just below the Old Town of Eaton Museum and lists the first clearing in what is now Madison County.. 1788...The Bark Hut.

If one takes the time to pick threw Mrs. Hammond's History of Madison County you will note many stories on our early founding including where men forged into what was still considered" Indian country," and upon arrival made a rudimentary hut to stay in. This area actually formed what was eventually a set of log homes that stretched from Lebanon to Eaton then dubbed "Log City".

Most of these men and those that came later were veteran's of the Revolutionary War and some had followed Col. William Smith to his land patent set up and built by Joshua Smith (not a relative) who served under him. Joshua was sent by Col. Smith to find him the best tract of land in the area...which Joshua did, and where upon he built a bark hut.These actual squatters were indeed our first settlers and ironically today over two hundred years latter,  many of these families names still live on here.

The area dubbed “Log City” was also considered Masonic settlement as many Members of the Masonic order.  Today many stone buildings on River Road once called Water Street, reflect that including the building that houses the Old Town of Eaton Museum dated to before 1800.

Some of the earliest settlers of Revolutionary War era include notables Major Sinclair who purchased the land owned by Col Leland, now with a historical marker for the Dunbar Farm.  Sinclair kept a tavern and stable on that property for travelers.

Others include Jonathan Bates who came to Eaton and purchase land just below the Old Town of Eaton Museum, his grave on the side of the road is marked today with a large bronze plaque on a boulder.  Bates had served with the well known Patriot Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys.

Others include Benjamin Morse brother of Joseph Morse, Major Elisha Haden, Nicholas Byer who had been a member of Burgoyne’s Hessians, Simeon Chubbuck, grandfather of Emily Chubbuck and many more. To choose one to honor was hard.

So I decided to go back in the history of our military men and choose a known historic name, Myles Standish. Yes, Myles Standish.

Mr. Standish was a direct lineal descendant of his illustrious namesake, Captain Miles Standish of the Mayflower, one of the most distinguished of the colonists who landed upon Plymouth Rock in 1620. 

Captain Standish had been hired as the military protection for the early colony, and in true military fashion Miles Jr. was a soldier as well.

Corporal Myles Standish was born in 1748 at Duxbury, Plymouth County Massachusetts, moving to Eaton where he died on July 22, 1818 at the age of 70.

Myles Standish, Naomi Standish, and Daniel Standish were members of the Second Baptist Church of Eaton, and appear in the US Census of Eaton, Madison County.

Myles, was always called Myles by all who knew him, and took up the farm once owned by Adin Brown near Pierceville, living there for many years. Standish was an energetic businessman who invested in the Skaneateles Turnpike, and he built and kept the first old turnpike gate, which stood in the early years opposite the famous Alderbrook gristmill.  It is so interesting to see both national and local history meld seamlessly together this way.

So for a day full of History please join the Museum for its opening on Memorial Day Monday, May 30th from 11 to 4 pm.  Refreshments will be served and all are invited to travel back in time to our historic roots to honor our Veteran’s and our history.

Saturday, March 5, 2022


We indeed live in perilous times.  Listening to history as a historian I would warn of the repeat failures of our thinking.  We were isolationist before both World Wars until we could no long stay out of them.  It was not a great strategy.  We did not believe we would ever be attached until we were bombed on December 7th...a Day that we remember will live in Infamy. 

Let nights nuclear scare might have become another such day!

I think we should look at this from the standpoint of cancer can choose to cut the tip of a finger off if the cancer is there...or remove the finger before the cancer spreads to the whole hand.

Through many years this cancer has spread...much like in WWII...until we had to cut it out. We cannot let this cancer spread.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

History, Eaton's Memorial Day, Colorful Characters

I realize that I have been tardy in getting some new history blogs out...but I have also been struggling along trying to beat cancer.  Yes, modern medicine may be able to cure you, but the side effects of the drugs effect every part of your body...including your ability to think and write.

This week has been good for my brain and while watching the TV about the rising "White Nationalism" and Civil War era legislation with voter suppression .. I was reminded of an old story about Eaton.  The story actually revolves around the house next to the museum on River Road, the road that was once called Water Street. The building is one of the oldest in town and was owned during the period before and after the Civil War by the Leach family. It is "Henry" I believe who served in the Confederate Army while the rest of the town for the most part was pro North.

Small towns in those days stuck together in a more cohesive way than today I guess... and after the War had passed, it is said that on all holidays and during parades old Mr. Leach would don his Confederate uniform and march in the parade with the many members of the GAR.  Both sides it is noted paraded up and down the streets with pride.  As a matter of fact... it wrote Mr. Leach into history and he has become part of the "Tales told of Old Eaton"... ones that you can enjoy.

Curiously, when redoing the museum we held a very large opening day celebration... and Chris Staudt with whom I bought the building and refurbished it to become  the museum for Eaton... invited friends and family down for the occasion. 

Chris' dad came down and toured...after the crowd had gone home and as he was leaving, he looked up at the American flag flying over the door, he glanced across the yard to the Leach house and said... "You really need a Confederate Flg flying here also".  To this day I wonder if old  Mr. Leach was around giving us a hint of his past... could be I guess.... after all it was Memorial Day!

The concept of Eaton Day arose from Eaton's traditional 4th July Celebration which has been taken over by Hamilton today. In "the Old Days" it was a celebration of honoring the dead warriors, remembering the past and enjoying community, today Eaton's little history group has tried to keep that spirit alive on Memorial Day Monday by holding the museum open from 1-3 pm.

For this coming Memorial Day Monday,  I hope everyone will come out and visit what has become the Old Town of Eaton Museum currently owned and run by the not- for- profit museum group Old Town Folks.  Of great interest... a new group has formed to help support it...Friends of the Old Town of Eaton Museum. 

The group has officially become a recognized charity so all donations to it are are tax deductible. The museum is open on the First and Third Sunday's of the year until October  and we are currently seeking Docents who will help, or anyone interested in giving a hand.

You can contact backstreetmary@ for more information.

Attached is a video I did  for last years Memorial Day honoring the many Revolutionary War Soldiers  buried in Eaton Village Cemetery.