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  1. I'll admit right off the bat I am biased here, just so all the cards are on the table. 

    Attending the Spring concert at Elmira High School the other night was, in a word, impressive. It seems like every event we attend the students' skills grow in leaps and bounds, the energy and time they put into practicing evident. The music was fantastic, as always. They've got one hell of a music program at the Elmira schools. Watching a couple of the soloists fidgeting nervously or taking a couple deep breaths before launching into their piece, I was thinking, "You got this, kid," because I know they've worked hard.

    And they nailed it, the look on their faces afterwards, the look of maybe relief but more pride than anything, priceless. Same for the whole group after each piece. 

    Towards the end of the concert, they took a moment to recognize the seniors, who made up a large part of the group, and what they're plans were after graduation. Out of the twenty or so they introduced, every single one of them had plans for college and a career path. Computer security, dentistry, chemistry, theater, mathematics, and even a couple pre-med... every one of those kids has a path they've laid out before themselves to a promising future. 

    As the introductions wrapped up and the concert proceeded, it bothered me how the public doesn't hear all the positive things going on inside the Elmira schools. Yeah, they had a rough patch a couple years ago with near riots in the hallways and brutal assaults documented on video. Right here on this site, I very bluntly compared the schoolyards to a prison yard at the time. But things turned around pretty quickly. With a strong message and better leadership in some of the buildings, there's been amazing progress. In a world gone mad, they're fighting an uphill battle there in the classrooms, both the teachers and students alike. But they're trying. Those seniors standing up there ready to chase their dreams prove it. 

    At the very end of the program, the entire group played a rendition of "This Is Me" from the 2017 movie, "The Greatest Showman" to reflect the idea that no matter what, it's okay to be themselves. As they played an instrumental version, the lyrics showed on a screen accompanied by pictures of all the students doing what they enjoy:

     When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
    I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
    I am brave, I am bruised
    I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
    Look out 'cause here I come
    And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
    I'm not scared to be seen
    I make no apologies, this is me

     

    And I believe they mean it. If this close knits group of 10th, 11th, and 12th graders is representative of the entire student body, there's more good things going on in those hallways than a music program. I'm proud of every single one of them. 

    Of course I know me saying this means little to many, even less to some. There's always going to be the naysayers who judge the majority by the actions of the errant few who exist everywhere. People like to complain, it's a favorite past time around here apparently. Time for a reality check, people:

    There will always be drop outs. There will always be unruly students. There will always be fights.

    In any school building in America. Elmira is not some anomaly where such things occur. 

    So the next time someone out there decides to complain about their taxes wasted on the schools. The next time someone someone starts to type a message on social media about how the students in Elmira are out of control, are a waste of time, all headed for jail... Or call them "all a bunch of hood-rats, welfare trash", here's a message from me:

    Stick it in your ass. 

    Those kids are gonna have it hard enough in this world, the last thing they need is the people of their own trying to beat them down. 

     

     

     

  2. by Erin Doane 

    Burlesque shows were a popular form of entertainment during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Today, people may think of burlesque as a glorified striptease but the shows were different in the early days. Drawing from vaudeville theater, American burlesque shows included a variety of short skits and performances, comedians, and music, as well as, attractive young women. Many of the burlesques playing in Elmira theaters from the 1890s through the 1920s were even meant for the whole family.

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    A burlesque was originally a literary work or theatrical performance that would satirize or lampoon another more serious work for comic effect. Shakespearian and classical dramas were commonly parodied. Burlesque shows became popular in Victorian England beginning in the 1840s and quickly spread to the United States. The shows included short theatrical scenes that could be absurd and crudely humorous, comic skits, and dancing girls. By the end of the 1800s, the English were losing interest in burlesque but Americans were still fans. Nudity, sexually suggestive dialogue, exotic dancing, and quick-witted humor were becoming distinct features of American burlesque shows by the 1890s. Many shows became more risqué through the early 20th century until burlesque became almost synonymous with striptease by the 1930s.

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    While these racier, cruder burlesque shows likely played in Elmira theaters, the shows advertised in the local newspapers tread a fine line between naughty and family-friendly. In 1899, Sam T. Jack’s Own Burlesque Co. played at the Globe Theatre in Elmira. Ads for the show promised “mostly girls” and “truly a great show Tobascoed with spicy decency.”  The three day run of the show broke house records. A review in the Star-Gazette praised the ladies of the show as being “young, vigorous and in goodly numbers” and wrote “of the men’s chorus – but who wishes to know much, if anything, about the men’s chorus? – it’s there, so let it go at that.” Despite the blatant focus on the “shapely maidens,” the reviewer pointed out that it was the type of show that elevated the standard of burlesque from the cheaper class of vaudeville houses to theaters that the more refined class of show goers would attend.

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    By the 1910s, burlesque shows seemed to have fallen out of favor in Elmira. In 1914, the manager of the Lyceum Theater announced that the Reis Circuit Company of New York City had been contracted to perform high-class burlesque shows at the playhouse in August. The shows were to be produced by talented musical comedy companies catering to both ladies and children with clean, up-to-date, attractive performances. Tickets to daily matinee performances cost just 25 cents (roughly $6 today) while evening show tickets ranged from 25 cents to 75 cents (about $18). Unfortunately, people were just not interested in the shows. The theater had barely covered its expenses because of the exceedingly small attendance. By October of that year, it was announced that there would be no more burlesque at the Lyceum. 

    I found no report on the actual quality of the shows at the Lyceum but other poorly reviewed shows may have turned the public off to further attendance and made them the stuff of open ridicule. In 1913, the Elmira Telegram ran a scathing review of the “Merry Burlesquers” show at the Colonial Theater. The entertainingly acerbic article criticized the age of the chorus girls, lamenting that it was a difficult to see the elderly matrons so scantily clad at their time of life, and called the show’s leading woman the “largest in captivity.” In closing, the reviewer wrote, “a number of our married men were present at both performances without their wives. However, there were no wrecked homes in Elmira because of the ‘Merry Burlesquers’ and all wives should be pleased to have the troupe play here again.”

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    The Lyceum brought burlesque back to its stage in 1916 to fairly good reviews but the shows were discontinued again in 1921 because they once more proved to be unprofitable. In 1923, the Lyceum joined the Columbia wheel, one of the major burlesque circuits in the northeast. The Columbia Amusement Company organized refined burlesque shows that were not smutty or crude but still featured pretty girls. The Lyceum hosted a regular weekly series of Columbia Burlesques through 1925.

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    Burlesque shows in Elmira received mixed reviews through the early 1920s. Mediocre shows were said to still have good attendance but critics were lukewarm, at best, in their appraisals. “Big Jamboree” was considered “okay but could be better” and “Hippity Hop” was declared not “the worst burlesque that has visited Elmira.” At some shows, children in the gallery would throw pennies at the actors on stage or cause other disruptions for their own amusement. By the late 1920s, Elmira theaters hosted few, if any, burlesque shows. Audiences found entertainment in other forms such as plays, musical theater, and movies. In January 1930, Elmirans could go to the Colonial Theater to watch “The Broadway Hoofer,” a movie about the romance of life behind the curtain of a traveling burlesque show. 

    Erin Doane is the Curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. To see more of their blog, go to http://chemungcountyhistoricalsociety.blogspot.com

  3. Ta-Da!!  The kittens are gone.  The SPCA outside of Ithaca kindly received them for neutering and adoption.  They were such bouncy, amusing little creatures that I’m sure they were snapped right up.  However, on the down-side, the Mama cat is accosting me every time I go outside; staring at me from a safe distance and obviously asking WHAT I did with her babies.  Now to trap HER!

    Due to the arrival of some good weather, our “winter lights” are now in storage.  We can’t really call them Christmas lights, because they go up on a good day around Thanksgiving, and we seldom get them off until March or early April.  Since decent weather was late in coming, we have just removed them from the trees going up the driveway and across the front lawn.  Their absence does create a problem for those trying to find our driveway; the lights make it much easier.

    What a difference a few hundred miles makes!  We have just spent ten days in the vicinity of Willis, Virginia, enjoying time with family.  They are mowing lawns there and planting gardens.  The red bud trees were a glory all the way down from Maryland to Virginia and back again.  And in Virginia, the dog woods were just beginning to bloom.  Back in NYS now, I’ve missed some of my daffodils; they blossomed while we were gone.  But the tulips are beautiful, and the garden soil is good enough to get the potatoes planted.  

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    Mother’s Day, is this coming weekend ---- a holiday celebrated in 40+ countries sometime during March through May.  In the United States, it was begun by Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honor her mother ---- a care-giver during the Civil War and a Public Health advocate.  So, in 1908, at St. Andrew’s Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia, Anna Jarvis began this custom with a celebratory service.  Currently, Grafton is also the site of the International Mother’s Day Shrine.  By 1911, all states observed it and in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation that “Mother’s Day” would be observed annually on the second Sunday in May.  Anna Jarvis was greatly disturbed when Hallmark cards began to “commercialize” this celebration, but I think that however love is expressed and shared is valid and good --- whether via phone calls, cards, visits or sky-writing.

     I’ve written considerably over the years about my own mother, and recently an essay about her achieved first place in a “Women of Distinction” writer’s contest.  My mother was a homemaker who, when her children were sufficiently grown, became a Dekalb salesperson.    She was respected by area farmers for her energy, integrity and expertise.  After retiring from an awards-filled sales position, she took lessons and excelled in a traditional Early American mode of painting on wood and tin, had amazing gardens, participated in her church, the Grange, Home Bureau and was a good neighbor.   She’s a hard act to follow for her life has left an impact on her children, her grand children, perhaps a great-grand child or two, and on the neighbors who came to her with their problems.  She had pretty definite ideas and gave voice to them very clearly, but she also tried to listen, learn and be fair about new thoughts and philosophies.  She seldom, if ever, interfered in her adult children’s lives, though I’m sure there were many times when she probably wished she could.  We were able to discuss books, theology, gardens and the latest technological advances right up to her death, at age ninety-four.   In addition to my mother, I was also fortunate in my mother-in-law, who was wiser in many areas than I and very accepting.   Also I was privileged to watch my older sister and sisters-in-law who became parents long before I did.   Parenting is not easy, and most of us do so with little if any training, so mentors such as these were a blessing.  They taught me to pick my battles and to just keep moving forward.

     Regardless of errors in parenting that we may have made, we respect and take delight in the grown-ups who used to be our toddlers.    They’ve turned into fine adults, who’ve made wise life choices.  Our daughters-in-law are intelligent, caring and accomplished women.   Growing up well would also be true of our nieces and nephews.  Watching youngsters mature from children to adults is sometimes a tad painful and often a little frightening.  But the accomplished results (in our families at least) have been worth all efforts, fears or irritations that came along with the process.  And now we have granddaughters!  :)

    One of the activities our granddaughters do is dancing.   One takes ballet lessons and the other participates in liturgical group dancing that acts out stories.  I envy their litheness and agility.  At this point in my life, moving the body is often problematical.  The joints ache, the muscles would rather not make the effort and the energies are miniscule.  We have a lift at church now as an alternative to the steep stairs that take one from the lower level to the sanctuary.  I do use it sometimes, but try to keep that from being often.  As arduous as the stairs are, I have a feeling that if I stop using them, my muscles will “smile complacently” and refuse to do even what they do now.   As Leonardo da Vinci said: “Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.”  Of course, there are days when being gentle with one’s self is a very good idea ---- so long as it doesn’t mean a spiral descent into couch potato-ism before that’s really necessary.

    Gardening is one way I choose to keep moving.  Right now, I’m a bit handicapped by a severe neck issue and today, we are also getting light showers, but hopefully those things will not long be problems.  The weeds are growing apace and it’s time to plant the garden beds with lettuce, peas and carrots.  Soon the lilacs will be sending their purple fragrance throughout the yard along with the viburnum carlesii.  I know that around here, one should not plant before Memorial Day, but it has been such a long winter that we are all eager to begin the cycle of planting and harvesting.  So I may sneak in a few things and hope for the best.    

    If you garden, I wish you a wonderful garden this year, and whatever you do, go ahead and enjoy spring!!  “Sometimes it is good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy!”**  Guillaume Appollinaire

    *Leonardo Da Vinci--- Italian Renaissance man who excelled in painting, architecture, music and many other of the arts.  1462 – 1519
    **Guillaume Appollinaire was a French poet; 1886 - 1918
    Carol may be reached at cpeggy@htva.net. 

  4. Once again, a Chemung County official has accused a local candidate of distorting facts for political gain.

    In an article published online today by the Star Gazette, Deputy County Executive Mike Krusen criticized Sheriff Chris Moss, one of Krusen’s opponents in the county executive race, for failing to be honest with the community:

    Quote

     

    You should accept that Chris Moss’s Your Turn piece dated April 18 regarding the proposed creation of a Council of Governments is a self-serving distortion of the facts.

    As this election season heats up, it will be important that we keep on high alert for the crowd who works through distortion, not fact, as a way to win the hearts of voters. We do not need to look far to see the carnage of these types of elections.

     

    I have no involvement whatsoever with Moss’ campaign, and don’t offer this post as support of his candidacy. Instead, the post’s purpose is to point out what seems to be an unfortunate emerging theme.

    An unprecedented number of people are running for local office in Chemung County this year. In an attempt to drill down the issues, these candidates – including myself – are discovering things our county government does really well, along with ways the county could improve. Indeed, this type of scrutiny is the essence of what it means to live in a democratic society. People who feel they can help out learn about the issues, share what they learn with voters, and let the voters decide who is best suited to serve.

    The way Chemung County does business has not faced this type of scrutiny in a long, long time, as a small number of people have held most of the county-wide elected positions for many years. However, instead of addressing the issues that are being raised and considering whether or not there are new and better ways to do business,  some Chemung County officials have chosen to attack the credibility and veracity of the people raising them.

    It is easy to chalk this up to “politics as usual”, and there is some truth to that. But this type of behavior is one reason so many people have lost faith in government and avoid running for office, outcomes that run directly contrary to building a strong, successful community.

    By way of example, after hearing Chemung County Budget Director Steve Hoover state that the county will likely be forced to raise taxes in 2019 among other concerns about the county’s fiscal health, Tony Pucci, a candidate for legislature in the 1st District, and I both wrote Your Turn editorials about the matter, found here and here.

    In response to what we wrote, Chemung County Treasurer Joe Sartori countered by stating:

    Quote

    Mr. Pucci has to ignore many facts and distort others to make this representation work. It is unfortunate that political discourse has degenerated to this level.

    Sartori used similar language to refute a "Your Turn" piece I wrote last month about the county’s newly proposed plan for a Council of Governments, stating:

    Quote

    If the voters of Chemung County wish to believe the good story that Mrs. Sonsire is telling and choose to ignore the facts, then they should vote for her for county legislature. If, however, they decide that good stories should be left for bedtime and listen to the facts, they may choose to vote otherwise.

    This kind of rhetoric is extremely disappointing – and exhausting.

    Distorting facts in order to mislead friends and neighbors so that I can get elected to the county legislature is an outrageous mischaracterization of what my entire campaign is about. In fact, the reason I created this blog in the first place is to have a place to share ideas about how to improve the community. Each post contains many links where readers can go to view information and data themselves, and I welcome any corrections to things that I say or do so that the ideas we discover are rooted in fact and as accurate as possible.

    Change is hard, and can be uncomfortable – but it is also necessary and inevitable. It is too bad that some of our local leaders are choosing to attack those looking for solutions rather than work together to find out how we can make Chemung County a better place to live.

    Christina Bruner-Sonsire is a local attorney and candidate for Chemung County Legislature

  5. It is fast becoming one of the most anticipated days on the State Legislature’s spring events calendar.

    I’m talking about the New York Wine Industry Association’s (NYWIA) annual “Sip and Sample” tasting event in Albany, which, since 2014, I have been proud to host with Assemblyman Phil Palmesano and several other legislative colleagues. This year’s fifth edition on May 7 featured wineries, cheese producers, restaurateurs and food manufacturers from the Finger Lakes, Long Island, the Hudson Valley, and Central and Western New York.

    A group of grape growers, winery owners and other industry professionals established the NYWIA (www.nywineindustryassociation.com) in 2009 as an advocacy, public awareness and education organization.  

    NYWIA President Suzy Hayes, of Miles Wine Cellars in Yates County, said, "’Sip and Sample’ has become one of the favorite events for legislators and their staff because they get the chance to try wonderful New York products while meeting the producers themselves in a festive, informal setting. It is a showcase of New York's finest....the products and the people that make New York a ‘grape’ place to be!"

    The event has steadily grown over the past several years. It is now one of the Legislature’s primary tools to help keep our incredible wineries, cheesemakers, food manufacturers and other producers at the forefront of state government’s attention. It has become a rite of spring at the Capitol. (Visit my Senate website, www.omara.nysenate.gov, for a full list of this year’s participants.)

    Assemblyman Palmesano and I are proud to promote the excellence and quality of these sectors of the Empire State’s agricultural economy. They represent amazing and interesting stories of culture, history and economic growth. These industries are indeed economic engines for communities right here at home, of course, but throughout the state as well from Long Island to the Hudson Valley up into the North Country and out into Western New York. In every region of the state, they are providing good, sustainable livelihoods for thousands of New Yorkers. 

    The New York Wine & Grape Foundation (https://www.newyorkwines.org/) estimates the state’s grape, grape juice and wine industry annually generates upwards of $13 billion in overall economic benefits to New York State. It directly employs more than 62,000 workers. It encompasses 450 wine producers and more than 11,000 acres of vineyards.

    I have long noted that the rise of New York wines to secure their place on the national and international stage is one of this state’s greatest of all success stories and, with the heart of the industry right here in the Finger Lakes, we should be proud to take every opportunity we can to celebrate it.

    On the cheese front, the New York State Cheese Manufacturers’ Association (http://www.nycheesemakers.com) was founded in 1864 – in other words, it remains one of our oldest and proudest industries. New York is the fourth leading state in America in total cheese production. I am proud to recall that my grandfather was a cheese maker who operated the Colosse Cheese Factory in Oswego County in the early 20th century, where he helped produce award-winning cheeses. 

    Again, our region is prominent. The Finger Lakes Cheese Trail was established in 2010 to establish what has become a highly successful and vibrant partnership between small family farms and cheesemakers. According to the Finger Lakes Cheese Alliance (http://www.flxcheese.com), you would put 500 miles on your car if you visited each of the farms on the trail. Amazing.

    By the way, the Alliance’s signature event, the Finger Lakes Cheese Festival, takes place this year on Friday, July 28 at Sunset View Creamery in Odessa, Schuyler County. Visit the Alliance website for additional information and tickets.

    These industries are cornerstones. They represent some of the best of New York.

     

    "From The Capitol" is a weekly column distributed to local media by Senator O'Maras office for publication. 

  6. Linda Roorda
    Latest Entry

    Wisdom... that value within our heart and soul which helps guide our steps on this path called life.  An entity more precious than gold.  Lady Wisdom’s knowledge often comes from experience, by learning and gaining insight the hard way… you know, those mistakes that can either break or make us.  She brings a common sense, discernment, shrewdness… an innate understanding of what’s best.  But, this sound judgment can be lacking when we become distracted or enticed by what seems so right, yet, in reality, is so wrong when we heed the voice of Folly.

     

    One of my favorite life verses is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)  As our Pastor Steve put it recently, “Wisdom is knowledge applied God’s way.”  Yet, like I’ve said before, I often think I can take the reins and direct my own way… only to realize that I erred, once again, and need to grasp His hand, allowing God to guide me as I learn from His infinite wisdom.

     

    With wisdom comes the ability to discern or judge right from wrong… to think and act appropriately, and to not become enmeshed in Folly’s foibles.  As God searches the depth of our heart, His Spirit reaches out to us with a still small voice in our inner being.  If we’ve embedded Lady Wisdom’s truth within our heart, we’ll know whose voice to trust and follow.

     

    And, as we humbly follow Lady Wisdom’s righteous ways, a calm and peaceful tranquility will envelope our soul.  We’ll know we’ve chosen the right path when we’ve given time and consideration to acting in a way that would receive God’s blessing.  I love the book of Proverbs for the depth of wisdom gleaned as we “Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.  Blessed is the man who listens to me… for whoever finds me finds life… but whoever fails to find me harms himself.” (Proverbs 8:33-36 NIV)

     

    Lady Wisdom… a personification of God’s attributes in the feminine form.  She is not meant to take His holy place, but rather to give a human side to God’s omniscience… for “the fear [awe, respect] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NIV)

    Lady Wisdom

    Linda A. Roorda

    Lady wisdom carries high her torch

    She lights the way with truth on her side.

    Her words bring strength to face life’s trials

    With comfort and peace when the winds blow fierce.

    ~

    Listen and heed her still small voice

    Words to the soul that lead and protect,

    For like a lantern which brightens the way

    So is Wisdom in guiding your life.

    ~

    When lured and tempted by desires for more

    Do not be swayed by enticements sweet.

    For trust is earned with truth and respect

    A higher calling than rebellious ways.

    ~

    Seek out the Lord whose hand will uphold

    Stand firm on His word within your heart.

    Learn at His feet, discerning the right

    His knowledge gain with treasured insight.

    ~

    Be wise in judgment, perceiving the darts

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart.

    Lean not upon your own understanding

    But acknowledge Him, the giver of Wisdom.

    ~~

    03/17/17 ~ 05/30/17

    All rights reserved.

    May not be reproduced without permission of author.

    ~~

  7. I haven't written much about our monthly sister meetings since Sister #3, Andrea, died unexpectedly May, 2016.  We have continued to get together each month since her passing but it hasn't been the same until recently.

    I came up with the brilliant idea of getting together monthly with my five sisters and so I hosted our first sister meeting October, 1997.  The idea was simple.  Starting with the eldest each month we'd take turns hosting.  Each sister picked her date and planned how she wanted to do things.  Full course meals or simple snacks, totally up to the hostess.  No pressure about attending, if you could you did and if not we'd see you the next month.

    We've been doing this every month for twenty plus years.

    Andrea's death affected us all deeply and changed the tone of our monthly sister meetings and also how we treat each other.  

    Before Andrea died our meetings were full of laughter, teasing, sarcasam, arguing and sometimes anger.  No one censored anything that was said and believe me, plenty was said through out the years.  We'd play card and dice games, for money of course, and since some of my sisters are very competetive, it could get down right nasty, especially when losing.  It was fun, even when there was an argument because sometimes the sharp, angry words would end in laughter.  No matter what, though, we never stayed angry with each other.

    After Andrea died, our monthly sister meetings were very subdued.  Sometimes I got the feeling we were walking on egg shells and tip- toeing around the fact that our lives had changed drastically.  Our sister was dead. 

    That first year or so after Andrea's death we were together at our sister meetings but we weren't really there.  I can't explain the difference, except to say it was lonely, it was sad, it was painful, it was just horribly different.  We were each dealing with her death in our own way, quietly, personally, but not really sharing how we felt with each other.  We were just going through the motions, grieving separately, not together.  There was no teasing, no arguing, no games, no real life to our sister meetings.  We had even discussed stopping our sister meetings because her absence was just so damn hard to accept. 

    I think we were afraid to be as we used to be with each other because we didn't want to do or say anything to hurt or offend someone.....just in case.   

    I'm glad we kept going.

    Sister #2 hosted our December, 2017 sister meeting.  She planned a small dinner and invited our spouses.  While the men were gathered in the kitchen, we held our sister meeting in the living room.  As in the past,  we exchanged small Christmas gifts but what made this sister meeting special was that sister #4 participated without any prompting or chastising about her "humbug" attitude.  She's not much on holidays and all the hoopla but she planned for this one.  Sitting around the Christmas tree we talked and opened our gifts to each other. 

    Sister #4's gift to each of us was a necklace.  A small silver heart that held some of Andrea's ashes and an angel wing.    Finally, more than a year and a half later, we cried together, as sisters, acknowledging what we had lost, seeing what we still had, and accepting that it was going to be okay.      

    January, 2018 was sister #4's month but she decided to cancel because, as she said, "she wasn't up for it".  December didn't bring a miracle healing, there were and still are good and bad days.  We all understood but we also knew she was hurting and needed our support.

    Sister #5 contacted everyone and said she was bringing donuts, meet at Sister #4's home for coffee early on a Saturday morning.  Given Sister #4's temperment, however, there was some trepidation as to how she'd react.  Sister #5 and I discussed it and we both agreed there was a real possibility she'd be ticked off and tell us "nice to see you, there's the door"  but what's life without taking a chance now and then.    

    I arrived last and perhaps that was a subconscious thing on my part.  If my sisters cars were parked in the driveway I knew our unannounced appearance was well received.  It wasn't until I showed up last, though, that she caught on to what was happening and that said so much about my sister's state of mind.  You can't easily get anything by Sister #4 but we did that day.

    What was really nice about that sister meeting was that we were able to speak of Andrea.   About her, her life, the sometimes stupid but funny stuff she used to do or say.  

    Sister #5 hosted our February, 2018 sister meeting.  What struck me about that get together is that it was more like our usual sister meetings.  There was teasing, laughter, and even some display of temper and arguing over a game we played.  It was a card game, I think called "cards against the world".  It was the most obnoxious, rude, insulting game I've ever played and I never laughed so much in my life.  It was a good sister meeting.

    Sister #6 held our March, 2018 sister meeting.  At Christmas she had given everyone an Appleby's gift card so we all met there for lunch then went to her home for desert.  Again, it was more like our old sister meetings.  

    Which brings me to our sister meeting held on April 28th.  We played a card game, for money, and Sister #2 actually got snarky with Sister #5 who won both pots of money.  Sister #2 won't admit it but she hates to lose. 

    There was a very loud silence after Sister #2 asked Sister #4 to do something for her and Sister #4 declined.  We all knew Sister #2 was angry about the response she received. Her red face said it all.  No one said anything, though, as we all just sat there waiting for the angry words we could clearly see she was thinking.  She remained quiet and held them in.  As I'm writing this I can't help but think maybe it would have been better if the angry words were spoken.  They probably would have been doosies and we all know Sister #4 can give better than she gets.

    Obviously, we're not quite back to normal yet but I can see light at the end of the tunnel; we're getting there.  I'm beginning to think a nice argument might be good for us.  No more egg shells and tip-toeing around each other.  I'll have to see what I can do if the opportunity presents itself at our next sister meeting.

    Wish me luck.

     

     

     

  8. A Scottish castle on the Hudson?  Drawn to the hazy beauty of this photo, I was mesmerized by the castle’s classic lines… so reminiscent of centuries-old castles scattered around the British and Scottish moors and highlands, intrigued to know it sat upon American soil.  After researching and naming my Mom’s maternal Scots-Irish, I am proud to say that they, too, hold a special place in my heart amongst all my Dutch ancestors.

     

     

    Screen Shot 2018-04-21 at 9.52.49 AM.png

     

    Photo by Will Van Dorp, Tugster

     

    Think back with me to an earlier day when the adventurous Europeans followed Henry Hudson’s momentous sail north on a river now bearing his name.  It was an era of exploration, a prosperous time for the Dutch and their friends as they established a considerable presence in the settling of Nieuw Nederlands… and traveled freely up and down the North River with its invitingly peaceful, and beautiful, sylvan surroundings.

     

    Now envision a fairy-tale castle of Scottish design built upon a solid rock foundation, entirely surrounded by a pristine and placid river as its moat.  At times though, depending on the season and storm, the waters become riled and treacherous, perhaps evoking images of an ancient castle set upon the lonely and stormy seacoast of bonnie Scotland.  Such a sighting embodies the ambiance of castle life in the Middle Ages…  a time of chivalry when knights in shining armor went out to battle, bravely protecting their sovereign and his empire, returning home with honor to win the heart of a certain fair young maiden…

     

    Roughly 50 miles north of New York City lies an island comprising about 5-1/2 or 6-1/2 acres (depending on source) along the eastern shore of the Hudson River as you head north.  Pollepel Island is a lush growth of trees, bushes, flowers and gardens, clamoring vines, weeds, bugs, ticks, snakes, and rocky ground.  Not surprisingly, the hardy Dutch left their influence on our language and place names all throughout the new world in both New Amsterdam proper and environs of the greater New Netherlands.  Naturally this little island, Pollepel (i.e. Dutch for ladle), was named by these hardy early settlers, situated in an area designated as the “Northern Gate” of the Hudson River’s Highlands.  Just like in the Old Country, the island’s natural harbor provides the perfect setting for a castle… Bannerman’s Island Arsenal, to be exact.  Arsenal, you ask?  Yes, a place where knights could well have donned shining armor for their king and perched behind the battlements with all manner of arms.

     

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    Photo by Will Van Dorp, Tugster,

     

    Long before there was a castle of dreamy old-world architecture, it was said that Native Americans refused to take up residence on this mound of rock.  Believing the island to be haunted, the Indians rarely dared set foot upon it in daylight, if at all, while their enemies flaunted that fact by seeking refuge on the rocky shore…

     

    The hardy mariners who once sailed Hudson’s North River left a legacy of legends and tales of this little island.  Washington Irving of Tarrytown, told with skillful imagination the story of “The Storm Ship”,  also known as the “Flying Dutchman”.  Fear of goblins who dwelt on Pollepel Island was as real as that of their leader, the Heer of Dunderburgh.  It was well known that Dunderburgh controlled the winds, those furies which provoked the waters, making safe passage of the Highlands a thing to be envied.  With the sinking of the famed “Flying Dutchman” during an especially severe storm, the captain and crew found themselves forever doomed.  And, if you should ever find yourself traveling the river near Pollepel in such a storm, listen closely… for in the howling of the winds which whip the sails, you just might hear the captain and his sailors calling for help.

     

    Another legend which early Dutch sailors spoke about was that of Polly Pell, a beautiful young lady rescued from the river’s treacherous ice.  Romantically saved from drowning by the quick wit and arms of her beau, she married her rescuer.  Such are the dreams of the romantically inclined…

     

    From a more practical perspective, Gen. George Washington used the strategically placed Pollepel Island during the American Revolution in an effort to prevent British ships from sailing north.  “Chevaux de frise” were made of large logs with protruding iron spikes which, when sunk upright in the river, were intended to damage ships’ hulls and stop the British from passing through.  However, these particular obstructions, set up between the island and Plum Point on the opposite shore, did not deter the resourceful British.  They simply sailed with ease past the sunken deterrents in flat-bottomed boats.  Washington also planned to establish a military garrison for prisoners-of-war on Pollepel Island, but there is no proof extant that his idea was ever implemented.

     

    According to Jane Bannerman (granddaughter-in-law of the castle’s builder) in “Pollepel - An Island Steeped in History”, the island had just five owners since the American Revolution era:  “William Van Wyck of Fishkill, Mary G. Taft of Cornwall, Francis Bannerman VI of Brooklyn, and The Jackson Hole Preserve (Rockefeller Foundation) which donated the island to the people of the State of New York (Hudson Highlands State Park, Taconic Region, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation).”

     

    Francis (Frank) Bannerman VI, the island’s third owner, was born March 24, 1851 in Dundee, Scotland.  His ancestor was the first to bear the honored name of Bannerman seven centuries ago.  At Bannockburn in 1314, Stirling Castle was held by the English King, Edward II.  Besieged by the Scottish army, however, Edward II’s well-trained troops were ultimately defeated in a brutal battle.  Less than half the size of England’s army, the successful brave Scotsmen were commanded by the formidable Robert the Bruce, King of Scots.  During that battle, Francis VI’s ancestor rescued their Clan Macdonald’s pennant from destruction.  In reward, Robert the Bruce is said to have torn a streamer from the Royal ensign and bestowed upon Francis’s ancestor the honor of “bannerman,” the auspicious beginning of the family name.

     

    Fast forward a few centuries and, interestingly, we learn that two years after the February 8, 1690 Schenectady (New York) massacre by the French and Indians, there was a similar massacre in Scotland.  Barely escaping the Feb 13, 1692 massacre of the Clan Macdonald at Glencoe in the Scottish Highlands by the Campbells, Francis Bannerman I and others sailed to Ireland.  With the family settling in Antrim for the next 150 years or so, it was not until 1845 that Francis Bannerman V returned his branch of the family’s presence to Dundee, Scotland.  There, Francis VI was born into this distinguished family.  When but a lad of 3 years, his father brought the family across the pond to America’s shores in 1854.  Settling in Brooklyn by 1856, the Bannerman family has remained with a well-respected presence.

     

    Francis V earned a living by reselling items in the Brooklyn Navy Yard which he’d obtained cheaply at auctions.  A few years later, on joining the Union efforts in the Civil War, his 10-year-old son, Francis VI, left school to help support the family.  Searching for scrap items after his hours in a lawyer’s office, young Frank VI also sold newspapers to mariners on ships docked nearby.  In the evenings, he trolled or dragged local rivers and searched the streets and alleys, ever on the lookout for profitable scrap items, chains, and other odds and ends, even sections of rope, all eagerly bought by local junkmen. 

     

    Returning from war an injured man, Francis V saw how successful his son had become with his scrap business.  By realizing that items he sold held more value than ordinary junk, young Frank had made good money.  To handle the growing accumulations of items his son had collected, and the military surplus in 1865 purchased at the close of the Civil War, Bannerman’s storehouse was set up on Little Street.  Next, a ship-chandlery shop was established on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn.  Returning to school with his father at home, young Francis received a scholarship to Cornell University.  However, owing to his father’s disability, family loyalty won out and he declined to pursue the halls of higher education in order to help run the family business.

     

    In 1872, 21-year-old Francis VI took a business trip to Europe.  Visiting his grandmother in Ulster, Ireland, he met Helen Boyce whom he married June 8, 1872 in Ballymena.  Two of their sons, Francis VII and David Boyce, eventually joined their father in the family business.  A third son, Walter Bruce, took a different path by earning his medical degree.  Sadly, their only daughter died as an infant.  Charles, grandson of Francis VI, married Jane Campbell, a descendant of the ancient Campbells who had attempted to destroy the Macdonald clan (from which massacre Francis I had escaped).  Their marriage showed love was the impetus to rise above the ancient rivalry between the families, reminiscent of the Appalachian’s storied Hatfields and McCoys. 

     

    Considered the “Father of the Army-Navy Store”, Frank Bannerman VI opened a huge block-long store on Broadway by 1897.  Here, his large building of several floors housed untold numbers of military supplies, munitions and uniforms from all around the world.  Francis/Frank was the go-to man in equipping soldiers for the Spanish-American War.  At that war’s end, the company bought arms from the Spanish government and most of the weapons which the American military had captured from the Spanish.  Printing a 300-400 page mail order catalog from the late 19th century through the mid-1960s, collectors found a large array of military surplus and antiquities.  As city laws limited Bannerman’s ability to retain his massive holdings within the city proper, a larger facility was sought to store their collection of munitions.  

     

    As he relaxed by canoeing the Hudson River around this time, David Bannerman observed an inconspicuous little island.  Finding Pollepel Island perfectly suited to their needs, his father, Frank VI, approached the Taft family and purchased the island in 1900.  Designing a Scottish-style castle to honor the family’s legacy, they built an arsenal to store their vast munitions supplies, with a smaller castle providing a family residence.  On the side of the castle facing the Hudson River, “Bannerman’s Island Arsenal” is embedded in the castle façade, clearly informing all passersby of its purpose to this day.

     

    As the largest collector of munitions in the world, buying and selling to many nations, including Japan during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905,and to private citizens like you and me, even Buffalo Bill Cody, military memorabilia collectors, theatrical establishments, and artists needing props, Mr. Francis Bannerman VI held an in-depth knowledge of the military supplies and ordnance in his possession.  But, not being a man of greed, he refused to arm revolutionaries and returned their money on learning their intention.  At the opening of World War I, he reportedly shipped 8,000 saddles to the French Army and delivered thousands of rifles and ammunition to the British at no cost. 

     

    Though extremely successful selling munitions, Francis/Frank Bannerman VI considered himself a kind and generous man, “a man of peace”.  It was his intention that such a vast collection of arms as his would eventually be considered “The Museum of the Lost Arts.”  Energetic and devoted to his church and public service, he also taught a boys’ Sunday School class.  He enjoyed bringing friends to the island to experience his family’s hospitality.  His wife, Helen, who loved to garden, had paths and terraces constructed throughout the property.  Even today, tour guides point out the many flowers and shrubs she planted which have survived the decades, the beauty of which enhance the antiquity of the castle ruins.

     

    With the death of Francis Bannerman VI on November 26, 1918 at age 64, building on the island stopped and many setbacks seemed to befall his estate.  Two years later, an explosion of 200 tons of stored shells and powder destroyed part of the castleWith State and federal laws controlling the sale of munitions to civilians, sales began to plunge for Bannerman’s Arsenal.  Family continued to reside in the smaller castle on the island into the 1930s; but, for the sake of their customers, sold their goods more conveniently from a warehouse in Blue Point, Long Island into the 1970s.  In 1950, a pall fell over the island and its castle when the ferry “Pollepel” (named for the island it served) sank in a storm.  Then, when the island’s caretaker retired in 1957, Bannerman’s island remained abandoned and untended for years. 

     

    Frank VI’s grandson, Charles Bannerman, wisely predicted in 1962 that “No one can tell what associations and incidents will involve the island in the future.  Time, the elements, and maybe even the goblins of the island will take their toll of some of the turrets and towers, and perhaps eventually the castle itself, but the little island will always have its place in history and in legend and will be forever a jewel in its Hudson Highland setting.”

     

    Ultimately, New York State bought the island and its buildings in 1967 after all military supplies had been removed, and tours of the island and castle commenced in 1968.  Unfortunately, a devasting fire on August 8, 1969 destroyed the Arsenal along with its walls, floors and roofs making the island unsafe, and it was closed to the public.  Though the castle now sits in ruins, much of the exterior walls are still standing, accented with climbing ivy, and held up in the weakest sections by supports.  Since virtually all interior floors and walls were destroyed by fire, “vandalism, trespass, neglect and decay” have continued taking their toll over the decades. 

     

    In more recent years, the island once again made headlines with a tragic storyOn April 19, 2015, Angelika Graswald and her fiancée, Vincent Viafore, kayaked to Bannerman’s Castle Island.  Attempting to return from their outing in rough waters, Viafore’s kayak took on water and overturned, resulting in his drowning.  Graswald, charged with Viafore’s murder, admitted to removing the drain plug.  Arraigned in Goshen, Orange County, NY, a plea deal was later reached before the case went to trial.  Pleading guilty to a lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide, she was released from prison not long after, having duly served the time of her reduced sentence.

     

    Few people know and remember “Bannerman’s Island” during its glorious past like Jane Bannerman (wife of Charles, Francis VI’s grandson).  Assisting The Bannerman’s Castle Trust and the Taconic Park Commission to repair the buildings, Jane has noted, “…it all comes down to money, and if they don’t hurry up, it’ll all fall down.  Every winter brings more destruction.”  Unsafe conditions on and around the island are due to both underwater and land hazards, not to mention unstable castle walls.  Due to these conditions, it is advised you do not attempt to visit the island on your own.

     

    The Bannerman’s Castle Trust has initiated “hard hat” tours along with other entertainment venues.  By making island visits possible, it is the Trust’s hope they will be able to restore the castle, smaller castle home, and gardens for the public to enjoy more fully.  In the interest of preserving the rich history of this Scottish Castle on a small island in the Hudson River, we hope The Bannermans’ Castle Trust is successful in its restoration endeavors.

     

    Hudson River Cruises advertise a tour from Newburgh Landing: “Ruins of a 19th century castle on Bannerman’s Island can be seen on special guided history and walking tours departing from Newburgh Landing and Beacon.”  For information on 2-1/2 hour guided tours held May through October call:  845-220-2120 or 845-782-0685.

     

    With my own maternal Scots-Irish McNeill and Caldwell heritage, I was intrigued by the photos of such an old-world castle built on a small, seemingly insignificant island.  The fairy-tale ambiance of this Scottish castle stands out, visible by boat and train, amidst the New Netherlands’ Dutch influence up and down the Hudson River.  I hope someday to take a guided tour on Pollepel Island and see Bannerman’s Castle; but, for now, the photos and articles will have to do. 

     

    Many thanks to friend Will Van Dorp who initially piqued my interest by posting his photos and synopsis of the island, castle, and its environs on his blog, Tugster:

    Hudson Downbound 18b, April 12, 2018 - Scroll down to photo of Bannerman’s Castle which prompted my story.

    Landmarks, Bannerman’s Castle Arsenal, 2013

    More Ghosts, photography of Bannerman Castle, 2007 

     

    There is so much more in-depth reading and photography from many websites, but I referred to the following in my research:

    Bannerman’s Island Arsenal

    Bannerman Castle Trust

    FRANCIS BANNERMAN, the noted merchant and authority on war weapons

    Bannerman’s Castle: The Ultimate Army-Navy Store

    Bannerman Island: A Mystery Island on the Hudson

    Pollepel – An Island Steeped in History by Jane Bannerman

    Pollepel Island: Private Fortress on the Hudson

    Bannerman’s Island Arsenal, Historic Images – Old Photos/Postcards

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    Along the southern line of the Town of Chemung, nestled on the west bank of the  Chemung River sat a log cabin for many years. To the south - south/west of the cabin ran the Waverly to Wellsburg Road, know today as Wilawana Road. 

    The property owners today, speak of a cabin that once sat below their current home, and was destroyed during the 1972 flood. It had been renovated in the early to mid 20th century. Looking back at old maps I located the site on the 1853 map with the name N. McDuffee notated on the map as the property in question. The property originally belonging to one George Williamson who held the 1788 land patent.

    Having been raised in the Sayre/Athens area the McDuffee Family name was well known to me and well seated in the history of Athens, PA. Even though the Chemung property borders Athens Township, PA, it seemed a little far for a McDuffee to settle, so it piqued my interest. The story I was able to put together was quite interesting as the Yankee-Pennamite Wars is another one of my interests, and seemed woven through this story. If nothing else it makes for enjoyable afternoon reading.

    Records from the McDuffee family tell of their ancestor Henry McDuffee who traveled with Arthur Erwin to America before the Revolutionary War to locate several tracts of land in Bradford Co. PA. When the war broke out, McDuffee retreated to Ireland. Near the end of the War, Henry’s son Daniel came to America to act as an agent for Colonel Erwin, as he became known. Daniel born in 1752 to Scottish parents, resided in Antrim County, Northern Ireland, married to an Irish woman, Dorothy “Dolly” Ladley, they came to America with three children born in Ireland: Mary, Neil (Neal) & Anna. They had a large family of twelve children with the remainder born in America: Daniel, Hugh, Dorothy, Ferdinand, John, Joseph, Samuel, Rebecca, Charles.

    Before I go on to explain the Chemung McDuffee property, I would like to take a side trip to a very interesting story of early times in our area; that of Neal McDuffee’s Father, Daniel and his good friend, Arthur Erwin.

    In excerpts taken from A History of Old Tioga Point and Early Athens, written by Louise Welles Murray, 1908, she depicts the struggle of the times with property border and land disputes. 

    For those of you who are not aware of the Yankee - Pennamite Wars, there were actually two, as if  one wasn’t bad enough. Basically the Dutch claimed the land between New Netherland and the English  colony of Virginia. King Charles the II rejected all the Dutch claims and granted the land to Connecticut. Charles the II also included the same land in a grant to William Penn. Both colonies purchased the same land by treaties with the Indians. Finally the controversy ended in 1799, with the Wyoming Valley becoming part of Pennsylvania and the Yankee settlers becoming Pennsylvanians with legal claims to their land.

    ( As a side note: Today, 3 wars were recognized in the Yankee Pennamite Struggle, ranging from 1769 to 1799. - MaryEllen )

    She writes: "The handful of settlers had another source of contention. The uncertainty as to the actual State Line rendered possible the claims of certain squatters who insisted they were in New York. While Lockhart or his representatives do not seem to have been on the ground, Colonel Erwin, who had drawn a number of the Pennsylvania warrants, was."

    Arthur Erwin, a native of Crumlin, County of Antrim, Northern Ireland sailed to America with his wife and five children. His wife died on the voyage. He later married again. He became one of the keenest land buyers in the country and was proprietor of a large tract along the Delaware. He made settlement in Bucks County, PA and in published writings of his descendants: Charles H. Erwin of Painted Post and Arthur Erwin Cooper of Cooper’s Plains, the town was named for him, Erwina. He served during the Revolution in the patriot army and for his valor was made Colonel of a Bucks County Regiment. He was cruelly murdered at Tioga Point, June 9, 1791.

    He made a choice of lands between the rivers above the Indian Arrow, also west of the Chemung, in 1785, and soon after he added lands in New York State. Possessed of ample means and having a large family (ten children) he was evidently resolved to provide them with a goodley heritage. Unquestionably he went over the line seeking to avoid the Connecticut controversy. Erwin made a settlement at Tioga Point in 1788, and brought his agent and probably purchaser, his old friend Daniel McDuffee, who followed him from Ireland and living near him in Bucks County. They were at once and continually harassed by both squatters and Connecticut claimants and Erwin began to consider buying land in the Phelps and Gorham purchase. (East of the Genesee River in Western New York)

    It is told by the descendants that Erwin and McDuffee were such firm friends that it was agreed between them that McDuffee should have as much land as he wanted at cost price, as he had less to invest than Erwin: but that at the time of Erwin’s assassination no choice had been made, although the McDuffees had been there two of three years and had built a timber house about on location of Frank Herrick House (near the Chemung River). Daniel McDuffee had resolved to take up land at Painted Post, but after Col. Erwin’s murder his sons, on account of the evident feeling against their family, urged him to remain at Athens and buy the Erwin lands there, offering even better terms than their father had. Naturally, he embraced their offer. Daniel was a noted weaver with a coat of silk and linen at one time displayed in the Tioga Point Museum. It will be seen that this family settled here apparently just as early as the Connecticut people and we think no other family of a pioneer lives today on the land originally possessed.

    The story of Col. Erwin’s purchase is as follows: In 1789 he started for Canandaigua with a drove of cattle, presumably from his Tioga Point settlement. Stopping at Painted Post to rest his drove, he hired an Indian familiar with the locality to take him him up the mountain north of Painted Post. Here he had a view of the triple valleys of the Chemung, Conhocton and Tioga, with which he was so impressed that he came down and ascended the mountain on the other side, thus commanding a wide prospect. He then quickly returned to the log hut of the surveyors of Phelps and Gorham; and directing his drovers to follow, hurried under the Indian’s guidance to Canandaigua. Though late in the afternoon, he went at once to the office of Phelps and Gorham, made an offer for the tract (later known as town of Erwin), asking them to take in payment his cattle at their own price and promising the rest to be paid in gold. The bargain was closed in the morning. His historian says: “Within twenty-four hours after the deed was signed, Judge Eleazar Lindley arrived with an offer for the same land.” The reason for Col. Erwin’s haste was no doubt because he knew that Col. Lindley was on his way to make this very purchase.

    Unquestionably, Erwin told a good story on his return, as the very next year, 1790, three of the original proprietors of Athens joined with him in the purchase called “Old Canistear Castle,” now known as the towns of Hornellsville and Canisteo; which statement is corroborrated by deeds and records showing that these men made transfers of their Athens property this year. This not only proves that the pioneer settlers at Tioga Point were uneasy about their Connecticut titles, but that they were in friendly relations with Erwin and that his assassin may have been one of the so-called New York squatters. Yet, it must be admitted that Col. Erwin had troubles as a Pennsylvania claimant. We have taken pains to study out this matter for various reasons. Erwin has been called a surveyor, (which he was not), many of whom suffered at the hands of the “Wild Yankees. He has also been confounded with James Irwin, who had no connection with him. The McDuffees were living here as early as 1788; whether in the home built on almost the same spot as the Curran Herrick house, still standing, northwest of town; or in a log house owned by Col. Erwin (which according to the daughter of Matthias Hollenback, and Major A. Snell, stood on the west side of the Chemung River, about twenty feet from the present road below the old McDuffee house now owned by Elsbree family), we will not assert. Nor is it important to decide whether it was in the day or evening, through door or window, that he was shot. In 1791 he brought two of his sons, Samuel and Francis, up the river to settle on the Phelps and Gorham tract and superintend his business interests there. His biographer says:

    “On his return he stopped at the house of Daniel McDuffee one of his tenants near Tioga Point, and as he sat in the evening listening to Mr. McDuffee’s flute a shot was heard, he suddenly arose, and staggering towards the open door said “I am shot,” and then fell. (A side note tells the story that Erwin was listening to Mr. McDuffee’s flute; that Mrs McDuffee sat in the doorway sewing; dropped her thimble and as she stooped to pick it up the shot went over her head.) He lived but a few hours. Suspicion immediately attached to an ejected squatter by the name of Thomas, who the same night stole a horse (or, as was strongly suspected at the time, he had been supplied with one) and was never after heard from. Judge Avery in his address before the Pioneer Association at Athens in 1854 in alluding to this sad but dastardly murder said ‘About that time there was some difficulty regarding the State Line, or of the Pennsylvania and Connecticut charterists; the squatters claiming that these lands were within the State of New York or came within the Connecticut chart, threatened to shoot the first person who should purchase or settle on them, they claiming title by occupation. Col. Erwin was the first and only victim and the prompt investigation of this murder either frightened them away or forced the cowardly villains into lawful obedience.’ The late Judge Avery was of more than ordinary legal attainments and though his statements were entirely new to us, we are not inclined to contradict them.”

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    Neal McDuffee Log Cabin, located in Chemung, New York can be seen on the right of this photo, along the bank of the Chemung River.

     

    It must be acknowledged that Avery was somewhat in error. While there may have been prompt investigation, nothing came of it, the assassin escaped. It seems strange that Judge Avery, with his ability and love of research, did not follow up this matter, as it is now impossible to do; perhaps just as impossible then. There can  be added to these chronicles what would seem to throw some light on this matter; a letter from Col. Erwin himself, which lay for many years unnoticed at Harrisburg, but now to be found in Pennsylvania Archives, Third Series, Vol. XVIII, page 614, addressed to Governor Mifflin: 

    April 5, 1791 Sir:  Perhaps it may appear somewhat extraordinary to carry a Complaint before the Chief Magistrate of the State, where the Laws of the land have pointed out the more regular Mode of pursuing the Means of Redress but as this, Sir, is an extraordinary case, it may probably be a sufficient excuse for the irregular Mode of proceeding in it.  You are not now to learn the troubles and embarrassments with the Connecticut-claimants to Lands in the County of Luzerne have for a series of years past from Time to Time involved Pennsylvania. It will not be necessary, I conceive, to enter into any investigation of that Business. The existing laws, were they carried into effect, would be sufficient to answer every purpose. My present application to you, however, relates to myself only. When the Land Office was opened in the year 1785, and the choice thereof determined by Lott, I became an adventurer for about Five Thousand acres in Luzerne County, adjoining the New York line, and without the Limits of any of those Townships comprehended in the late confirming or quieting Law, since repealed. These lands which lay upon the Tioga above the Point, I immediately patented, settled, cleared and improved, not doubting but the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, under the solemn faith of which I had purchased and paid for them, would protect me in the possession and enjoyment of my property. I have been almost the only man who has, in that county, asserted the Claims under the Government of Pennsylvania to the Lands in Luzerne, by which I have not only subjected myself to insult and abuse, but on more occasions than one been in eminent danger of my life, not from threats merely, but by actual assault, and that of the most agrivated nature.

    When in August, 1789, I was in that country cultivating my own ground I was obliged to have recourse to the legal steps to recover some rent due to me from a person who occupied a part of my Land there under verbal Lease, and when the property distrained was in the Hands of the Officer, the tenant with several others came and forceably resqued it, not satisfied with this outrage, they attacked me and one of them with the handle of a pitch-fork broke one of my arms and beat me in such a manner that I very narrowly escaped with my life. I then took the usual steps to have him prosecuted for a breach of the peace, but, altho’ every necessary proof was made of the fact, in that country he escaped unpunished. In the course of the last summer a number of persons who call themselves Halfshare men, a description of people, who I believe from principle and habit, are not likely ever to be good or useful citizens of this or any other country, came within my enclosed grounds at a time that I was absent, cut a quantity of hay, and to the laborours who I had there employed, used many threats against my person. After I had hauled in the hay which my people had made, together with what they had cut on my land, they came and forceably took it away, still using threats:  Soon after they took from my Laborours a quantity of Indian corn  in the same manner, which circumstances the Depositions of Daniel McDuffee, Sarah Redford, and Dolly McDuffee make appear. It is true the effects which have been violently and unlawfully taken from me are of no great value or magnitude, but if the persons who have flagrantly broke in upon my property escape with Impunity the property of no Pennsylvanian will be safe from their depradations. I have not taken any legal steps to obtain Redress, well knowing the fate of my process in the County of Luzerne, where a Pennsylvanian is a party; of this indeed I have had sufficient experience. I trust, however, that the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will do me ample Justice and no longer suffer her laws to be trampled on, her dignity debased, and her citizens injured and abused by a set of people who have ever discovered a disposition obnoxious to the Laws and Government of this State. I have, therefore, made my application to you, as the supreme Magistrate of the State, and from your prompt decision and public spirit, I hope such measures will be taken as to secure me in the enjoyment of my property in the Country, as well as to protect me from the danger which from the constant threats of those people I conceive my life to be in while among them. With every sentiment of respect, I have the honor to be, sir, your most obedient  and very humble servant,   Arthur Erwin


    Apparently this was but a few weeks before his death, which was a sad ending to an active and useful career. He had lived, with the great tracts he held in and about Tioga Point, he would have been a notable factor in the town-making. According to Matthias Hollenback, his body was conveyed in a boat down the river and carried over Wilkes-Barre Mountain to Erwina for burial.

    That completes my information on Mr Erwin and his friend Daniel McDuffee. It is so unfortunate that so many people were completely affected and in some cases destroyed by the Yankee – Pennamite War era, 1769 – 1794.  The story by Louise Welles Murray is an incredible insight into colonial times in our area and the strife of the common folk. It also shows how the war caused strife in our Town of Chemung and border communities.

    As previously stated, Neal (Neil) McDuffee was the first born son of Daniel and Dorothy McDuffee, born in the Emerald Isle. He married a gal by the name of Anna and their children were: Mary, Ferdinand, Daniel, Charles and Sarah.

    According to the US Census, he resided in Athens, Bradford Co, PA in 1820. Same was true in the 1830 census. However in the 1840 census Neal’s residence changed to Chemung, New York. So this leaves me wondering, since the property sits on the border of Athens Township, PA and Chemung, NY., is it possible this property is one in the same and because the state borders were not defined well, he thought he was dwelling in Pennsylvania when in fact it was discovered later to be in New York State?  Consistency continued through the 1865 census. It was in the following year, 1866 Neal died and was buried in Wellsburg. Anna died in 1862.

    It is also interesting to see another big name show up in the census who is well known in Athens and listed as residing next to Neal McDuffee. That of Julius Tozer. But I will save that information for another story. Another fascinating note of interest on the 1865 census, the following question was asked: Of What Material Built. The answer on the Neal McDuffee Home: LOG.

    One last bit of information on the McDuffee Property, a deed dated March 1841. It was never recorded until May 1859, which was not uncommon to be that late in those days, yet a bit curious. McDuffee purchased an additional 16 acres for his farm. It was recorded May 25, 1859 with another 20 acres recorded May 27, 1859. The acreage happened to be in Bradford County, PA and McDuffee resided in Chemung, New York. The deed reads: at a rate of ten pounds per hundred acres, but looking at the recorded information it appears he paid $1.00 per acre. Is it possible this property was already part of his original farmstead and once the boundaries were clarified he was correcting the deeds legally? My guess is yes, that is exactly what he did. With both Neal and his wife gone by 1866 that was not the end of the McDuffee property. I located the name S. McDuffee listed as a surname on the 1869 map. It is possible the youngest daughter, Sarah took over the farmstead.  

    Mary Ellen Kunst is the historian for the Town Of Chemung. To see more information, visit her site, https://historicalechoes.weebly.com

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