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  1. After the apparent suicide of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain I've seen several posts on social media apparently shaming others for feeling bad while "ignoring" the average 22 vets that commit suicide everyday. 

    You know why no one says anything about those 22 vets? Because we didn't know. We don't hear about it because of the stigma society attaches to suicide. Like a pregnant unwed mother in the 40's, it's avoided, not talked about like some shameful thing. Put away so we can pretend things are neat and tidy in our little world. We like that, it's easier. 

    Hell, what about the other people, the non-celebrity, non-veteran suicides? According to statistics from 2016, 120 people commit suicide A DAY. And reports indicate that the number has increased since. Why aren't the other 100+ people included in that meme?

    Why need to prioritize one group of people over another?

    It's perfectly okay to feel bad when ANYONE commits suicide, regardless of their station in life. EVERY death by suicide is sad. I didn't personally know Bourdain, Robin Williams, or anyone who was just found this morning. For anyone who let's that darkness overtake them, we can still feel sympathy for them; the 14 year old whose been bullied, the soldier fighting demons of war, or some rich guy on tv. 

    Like many Americans, I too have felt the loss of someone I know after they decided to take their own life. Additionally, because of my former profession I've seen the aftermath first hand. It's not easy to understand, it's not easy to see, but it can't be ignored. It needs to be addressed, and it's not something that you can just plug into a meme on social media and move on.

    Perhaps Bourdain's and other celebrity suicide deaths can bring about discussion on the topic of suicide and mental health in America. Shed that stigma and make people more aware, more open to talk about it today. And maybe, just maybe, lead to a few less self inflicted deaths tomorow. 

  2. I knew the summer would fly by!  Here it is --- August already!!  Brown-eyed Susans orange day lilies and Queen Anne’s Lace dot the roadsides.  Before we turn around, there will be golden rod.  The self-seeded sunflowers are sporting saucer-sized yellow blossoms that seem to be smiling.  And I smile back when I see them.  The expensive ones I planted, however, are reluctant to thrive; some didn’t even germinate!  So much for my green thumb where sunflowers are concerned!  Perhaps the crow colony on the hill watched me plant and then had a dawn snack.  And speaking of snacks, Mama Turkey is bringing young ones down to our bird feeders; part of their survival training no doubt.


    August is my natal month; I am a Leo astrologically although I have enough trouble connecting my dots, without the complication of star lore.  Astrology was a respected science for many eons, especially in the Golden Age of Ireland; a complicated and exacting way of determining when one should marry, travel, etc.  Currently it is frowned upon by many, still followed by some and basically disregarded by most, as I tend to do.  However, because I think nothing created is useless (though I wonder about mosquitoes and ticks), I am sure the stars have their place in the stories of the world.  After all, the Magi were astrologers.

    Part of our family is about to gather for the annual picnic on the shale-layered shores of Cayuga Lake.   It is more difficult now as children have become teen agers, college attendees and couples with children; they have their own schedules calling.   And, as is true with many families, we are scattered from coast to coast.    This summer picnic helps us to stay in touch.  Besides marvelous food and lively conversation, one thing that we find useful and amusing is our Family Quiz.  I send out a request for items of interest asking people to share some of their accomplishments, bloopers, and what they are currently doing and loving, with the rest of us.  When I’ve gleaned what I can, a set of questions goes out, with the answers following some days later.   For instance: “Who, is back on the race track, doing what he loves, after a long time away?”  Or “Who graduated from kindergarten this year?”  Or “Who tipped the tractor over in the snow and walked away unscathed?”   Because we care, we try to stay current and remember who we are.  “Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me.  Be still, they say.  Watch and listen.  You are the result of the love of thousands.”*   Getting together reminds us of this truth.

    Before we all scattered to the winds, my siblings and I were in and out of each other’s houses frequently.  The furthest away anyone lived was fifteen miles.   I expected, when I graduated from college, that I’d be coming home again, finding a job, etc..  As it turned out I was home only for the summer; Kerm and I married the September after graduation, and moved to Washington DC.   After that, leaving for new pastures seemed to happen regularly among the younger family members ---- Connecticut --- Massachusetts---- California ---- Virginia ---- Montana.  Leaving what we’ve always known --- wide fields, glacial hills, making hay, Sundays with family, small town ambiance, Northrup’s ice cream ----- was not easy.   New adventures are almost always scary and a bit risky, but, accompanied with courage, they also may be the road to growth, as I think we’ve probably discovered.  Not everyone leaves; there are those who stay and hold the traditions, and others who seem called to follow new paths.  When a call comes for either way, refusing due to fear is like remaining in kindergarten when we are actually ready for first grade.  It stunts our growth as surely as the old customs of foot-binding or whale-bone corsets.  Hugh Walpole said: “It isn’t life that matters, it’s the courage you bring to it.” ** Listening to that inner voice usually leads us in the right direction.

    That first move away was difficult.   I am a “nester”---- a person who wishes to snuggle into well-known digs with my pictures and pillows.  But it was good for us, as a new couple, to be forced to only rely on each other in that new place.    However, it should be noted that my aversion to relocation didn’t go away after one move; I’m a slow learner.   To this day, as the car rolls down the driveway – even for vacations --- I often want to turn around and go back.  Twelve years after that first move, on the way to our third move, it took me three months to unpack the boxes.   I was inundated in depressive home-sickness for the place and friends we’d left back in Pennsylvania, and I simply couldn’t function beyond getting meals and tending children.   There are those who can live life by lightly touching down and easily wafting away again.  But if one is a nester, moving from a well-loved place creates trauma.  That’s just the way it is, and learning to cope with this has been challenging.   Perhaps that is the lesson: the process may well be painful, but the positive experiences that come after the “pack up and move” can bring new gifts and happiness, which we’ve always found --- eventually ---- in each place.

    I try to remember (when I’m cranky about a situation) my conviction that life is essentially a training ground for eternity.   Sometimes (not often) I am actually successful in recalling this. ☺   In retrospect, I have found that even in the locations or situations where we weren’t all that comfortable or thrilled to be there, that there was something we needed to learn as individuals and/or in the collective of our marriage.  Both of us can look back and say, “Yes, that move was something we needed, pain and all.”

    A delightful and wholly non-painful experience was a recent visit by our granddaughters.  This time they stayed without benefit of mother and daddy, and I think we all had a really good time.   Besides having quiet times with crafts, being outside in the gardens and lawn, and reading, we explored Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology at Sapsucker Woods, visited Josh’s riding stables where they got lesson #2 (lesson # 1 was last summer), visited Morrisville’s Dairy complex, and both girls helped a bit with our community Bible School.   We saw a few fireflies, lit sparklers and enjoyed slightly crunchy S’mores (our marshmallows didn’t melt the chocolate very well).   We are grateful for the time.

    Now, as we enter August, I’ve been weeding, exposing both disappointments and surprises.  Where is my Holy Basil?  Why does it not want to grow here?  Why only a half row of lettuce when I planted the whole row.   How did those cucumbers suddenly change into jumbos?   And I thought kale would grow anywhere, but I don’t see it.  Speaking of kale, everyone knows this is one of the current health fads; kale smoothies, kale salad, kale chips ---- is there kale ice cream yet?  I learned a new trick recently for making kale quickly palatable.  At our recent pinochle gathering, our hostess made a kale salad.  To tenderize, one usually marinates kale overnight, but Gail put it right into a salad by first massaging it!!  She gave those leaves a good rubbing ---- that apparently did the trick, for the salad was delicious.  Education just goes on forever if one is open to it.

    The last time I wrote, I mentioned that we needed rain.  That problem was certainly eliminated with last week’s continuous all-day showers and down-pours.  The only time prior to this when I remember a week-long rain event it turned into the 1972 flood.  There were some areas this past week that experienced flash flooding, but fortunately, Spencer did not, though our creeks were high.  I hope wherever you are, that you have just enough rain, plenty of sunshine and are ready to enjoy the month of August.

    Carol may be reached at: cpeggy@htva.net.

    *Linda Hogan – born 1947.  American poet, story-teller, academic, novelist and environmentalist.  This is NOT the ex-wife of Hulk Hogan, whose name also comes up in a Google search.

    **Hugh Walpole ---1884 (New Zealand) – 1941 (England).  English novelist.

  3. by Rachel Dworkin 

    All the young Italian couple wanted to do was see a movie at the Colonial Theater one night in June 1914. Alas, it was not to be. Despite having paid the 5 cents to sit on the first floor, they told they could sit on the second floor or nowhere. There were plenty of open seats on the first floor, so why were they sent upstairs? Because, according to the manager, they were Italian and not fit to sit with respectable people.


    The Colonial Theater, 1933


    At the turn of the 20th century, no one in Elmira much liked Italians. They had begun coming to the area in the 1880s, mostly young, single men working as laborers to send money back home. The Elmira Sunday Telegram described them as an “infestation” which “injured, materially and directly, the chances and prospects of the poor laboring men of the city.” According to the paper, they were “taking the bread form civilized people” by accepting just $1 a day instead of the $1.50 demanded by native-born laborers. Apparently, it has always been popular to scapegoat immigrants rather than confront the rich about their refusal to pay a living wage. By the 1910s, there were nearly 2,000 Italians and their native-born children living in the area. Their neighbors may have seen them as dirty job stealers, but they knew that, as human beings, they were worthy of dignity and respect.

    The couple filed a complaint with the police alleging a violation of their civil rights. The police chatted with the management about it, and decided to do nothing. That wasn’t good enough for the Italian community. On the evening of June 29, 1914, a small crowd of nearly 30 Italians went to the Colonial Theater. They all purchased first floor tickets and were all refused entry. A small altercation broke out. Theater owner John J. Farren allegedly assaulted Italian Frank Tress and police arrested Anthony Pronpi for disorderly conduct after he shouted abuse at the theater staff.    

    Three men, Patrick Cassetta, Frank Tress, and Louis Muccigrosso filed a series of civil and criminal court cases against the managers of the Colonial Theater charging them with violation of the New York State Civil Rights Act of 1895. The law forbade discrimination in public accommodations, including theaters, on the basis of race, creed, color or nation of origin. Throughout July, there were five separate court cases concerning the incident. The theater managers were acquitted of all criminal charges, but were forced to pay $100 in damages in one of the civil suits.

    The Italian community also petitioned the mayor to revoke the Colonial Theater’s operating license based on their repeated violation of the civil rights law. After a series of hearings, Mayor Hoffman sided with the Italians. On November 21, 1914 he issued the following proclamation: 



    “I have thoroughly investigated the charges contained in your petition of July 20, 1914, asking for the cancellation of the license of Colonial Theater, and I find that the management of the Elmira Theater Co., Inc. did, in effect, previous to July 1, 1914, exclude respectable people of the Italian race from the first floor of that theatre for no other apparent reason than the fact of their race, and that the management of that theater company did say on various occasions that it was the policy of their company to segregate their patrons. This action is clearly contrary to law and will not be tolerated in any theatre.

    However, since the Elmira Theater Co., Inc. no longer holds the license under which the Colonial Theater is conducted, said license having expired and the license for that theater having been taken up by Mr. Buddington, I am unable to take any action at this time.”


    Rachel Dworkin is the archivist at the Chemung County Historical Society. See more of the museum's blog HERE

  4. We Americans love our 4th of July celebrations!  We especially enjoy big parades with lots of floats and marching bands.  We look forward to fireworks with their beautiful colors and designs exploding in the night sky.  We decorate our homes with flags and bunting.  And, we salute, or respectfully place our hand over our heart, as our nation’s flag is carried past us by military veterans in parades. 


    “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”  What precious meaning these words have held as we take time to gaze backward to their origins, something I never tire learning about.


    As I contemplated our nation’s celebrations, I thought about the effort and sacrifice it took from many to give us the freedoms we so often take for granted.  I am so thankful for all we have in America which many around the world do not enjoy.  But, I also wondered if perhaps we have forgotten all that took place a long time ago, and if this day has simply become a traditional fun holiday.  Though no nation or government has been perfect as far back as the beginning of time, the early days of a young nation’s beginnings provide perspective for today’s America, this bastion of freedom.  So, it’s fitting that we ponder what part our ancestors played in the making of our great America some 240 years ago.  And, I might add, one of the best parts of researching my ancestors was the great lasting friendships I’ve made with other descendants.


    Several of my ancestors served in the Revolutionary War in various capacities, some of whom I researched more extensively than others.  Originally, I did not plan to bring them into this article.  But, then it occurred to me that would be fitting.  Knowledge of personal service and sacrifice often provides us with a greater understanding of the historical era and what our collective ancestors experienced. 


    Numerous events, political acts, and taxes over many years led to the First Continental Congress meeting from September 5 through October 2, 1774 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  It was held to counteract the British Parliament’s Coercive Acts (commonly called the Intolerable Acts by the colonists) which were intended to punish the colonists for their Tea Party held in Boston’s harbor.  (see timeline at end of article)


    But, among the early precipitators of the American Revolution was the import ban in 1774 against firearms and gunpowder enacted by the British government.  Next came the order to confiscate all guns and gunpowder.  The aptly named “Powder Alarm” took place on September 1, 1774 when Redcoats sailed up the Mystic River to capture hundreds of powder barrels stored in Charlestown.  Taking the event seriously, 20,000 militiamen turned out and marched to Boston.  Battle was avoided at that time, but ultimately took place the following spring at Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775.  Within these events lie the foundation of our Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as written by Thomas Jefferson in 1791: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”


    The Second Continental Congress began meeting in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775.  That very same day, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys seized New York’s Fort Ticonderoga from the British after traveling west from Vermont.


    On June 14, 1775, delegates from the Second Continental Congress created the Continental Army from colonial militia near Boston.  The next day, they appointed an esteemed and experienced military and civic leader as commanding general of their new army, a humble man by the name of George Washington, congressman of Virginia.  Nearly a month later, Washington arrived in Boston to take command on July 3rd.  The Continental Congress then approved a Declaration of Causes on July 6th.  This proclamation outlined why the thirteen colonies should stand united against Great Britain’s political clout and military force.


    Through these early years, and with pressing urgency, the great minds of the day began formulating a bold statement of the burdens the colonists bore from an overbearing government an ocean away.  Initially, the colonists were not looking to start a war; they simply wanted their concerns heard and addressed.  But, revolt would be a relevant term regarding that which was festering.  They felt the heavy hand of tyranny over them like a smothering umbrella with their king and his government’s over-reaching philosophy of “taxation without representation.”   


    It did not take much for congressional delegates to think back and recall the Boston Massacre of March 5, 1770.  Several colonials had taunted the ever-present British soldiers.  Reinforcement soldiers shot into the crowd killing five civilians, injuring six others.  Three years later, the Tea Act in May 1773 was followed by the Boston Tea Party on December 16th.  The year 1775 began with several new tax acts put in place; labeled collectively as the Intolerable Acts, they were Britain’s answer to their colonists’ unrest.  And then an auspicious delegation met in Virginia on March 23, 1775.  Those present were never to forget Patrick Henry’s speech and resounding words, “Give me liberty or give me death!”


    Paul Revere,with his midnight ride the night of April 18/19, 1775, warned of British ships arriving at Boston’s shores.  [From the interstate, I have seen Boston’s diminutive North Church tucked beneath the shadows of modern “skyscrapers,” and walked the upper and lower decks of the U.S.S. Constitution from the subsequent War of 1812 – with a sailor in period dress uniform talking on a telephone!]  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Paul Revere’s Ride” (“Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere…”) has been said to contain many inaccuracies; in reality, it was written 80 years after Revere rode out with several others on horseback, quietly alerting other Patriots, but it may also be that Longfellow simply wrote a flowing ode to Revere with embellishments as any poet is wont to do. 


    The British government was again intent on confiscating all weapons held by the colonists.  Bands of British troops were sent to confiscate ammunition stores in Salem, Massachusetts and part of New Hampshire.  Both times, Paul Revere, a silversmith, was among members of the Sons of Liberty who alerted townsfolk in advance of enemy troops, giving them sufficient time to hide weapons and frustrate the British military.


    Desiring to alert citizens, Revere garnered assistance from Robert Newman, sexton at Boston’s North Church.  To warn that the Redcoats were coming from the shorter water route across Boston’s inner harbor, Newman hung two lanterns from the steeple window.  These lanterns were clearly seen by those in Charlestown, including the British, unfortunately.  Newman must have felt tremendous fear as the Brits attempted to break into the church while he was still there.  Reportedly, he managed to escape capture by quietly sneaking out a window near the altar moments before enemy soldiers entered the church to begin their search.  And the very next day, April 19, 1775, the Minutemen and British redcoats clashed at Lexington and Concord with “the shot heard ‘round the world.’” 


    Two months later, June 17, 1775 saw the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill) on the Charlestown Peninsula overlooking Boston.  Per military records, my ancestor John Caldwell McNeill was present as part of the Hampshire Line.  As British columns advanced toward American redoubts, the colonists were reportedly told by their commander, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”  The British were shot virtually pointblank and hastily retreated – twice.  It was not until the third advance by the British that the inexperienced colonists lost to a superior military force.  As the colonists’ limited ammunition ran out, hand-to-hand combat took place on that third advance.  The redcoats took control with greater troop numbers despite their loss of over 1000 men, while the colonists counted over 200 killed and more than 800 wounded.  Yet, the inexperienced Americans realized their dedication and determination could overcome the superior British military which, in turn, realized this little uprising was going to bring a long and costly war to the Crown.  


    With pressure mounting, the congressional delegation met the next year in the City of Brotherly Love.  Here, they commenced to hammering out wording for what would henceforth be termed a declaration of independence. 


    “Monday, July 1, 1776, [was] a hot and steamy [day] in Philadelphia.”  In a letter to the new president of Georgia, Archibald Bulloch, John Adams wrote, “This morning is assigned the greatest debate of all.  A declaration, that these colonies are free and independent states… and this day or tomorrow is to determine its fate.  May heaven prosper the newborn republic.” (John Adams, David McCullough, Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, New York, NY, 2001, p.125.)  The delegates felt the tension amongst themselves in the debates and wording of their declaration, and the voting at the end of the day was not unanimous.  Their tension was heightened that evening as news reached the city that one hundred British ships had been sighted off New York, with eventually more than 300 joining the initial fleet.  The seriousness of what they were undertaking was felt by every man in the delegation for they knew their very lives were on the line.


    July 2nd saw an overcast day with cloudbursts letting loose as the delegates met.  The New York delegates abstained from voting while others joined the majority to make a unanimous decision.  Thus, on July 2, 1776, twelve colonies voted to declare independence from Britain.  More than anyone else, John Adams made it happen.  His elation showed in writing home about the proceedings to his wife, Abigail.  “The second day of July 1776 will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America.  I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.  It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.  It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”  (McCullough, pp. 129-130)


    News spread like wildfire throughout Philadelphia.  A young artist, Charles Willson Peale, journaled that “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.”  (McCullough, p.130)   But, Congress still had to review what the delegation had written before an official statement could be made.


    July 3rd blessed the city with a drop of 10 degrees following cloudbursts the day before.  Tensions had even begun to ease among the men, but still there was much work to be done.  More discussion and deliberation ensued as they reviewed the language of their declaration.  (McCullough, pp. 130-135)  Much had to be cut and reworded to make it a more concise document which then boldly declared, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.  When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” 


    Benjamin Franklin offered encouraging and comforting words to the now-silent Thomas Jefferson whose many words were debated and cut.  When their work was finished, it was still Thomas Jefferson’s words, however, which have held a firm and tender spot in the hearts of Americans ever since.  To Jefferson goes the credit for writing “…We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”  (McCullough, p.130-136)


    Thursday, July 4, 1776, dawned cool and comfortable.  The tension was gone from the weather just as it was now from among the men of the delegation.  Discussions were again held through late morning when a final vote was taken.  New York still abstained, but the other twelve colonies voted unanimously to support the hard work they had wrought in this Declaration of Independence.  Ultimately, the delegates from all thirteen colonies, including New York, signed the document in solidarity. (McCullough, p. 136)


    Celebrations began on the 8th when the published Declaration was read to the public.  Thirteen cannon blasts reverberated throughout Philadelphia, bells rang day and night, bonfires were lit everywhere, and candles shone bright in windows.  The news reached Washington and his troops in New York City the next day where the Declaration was read.  More celebrations sprang up as the crowds pulled down the equestrian statue of King George III.  (McCullough, p.136-137)  But, their elation was not long in lasting.


    In reality, it would be several more years before celebrations of this magnitude would again be held.  In reality, though the hard work of writing such a declaration was finally completed, even harder efforts and sacrifices of thousands of men and boys on battlefields were about to begin.  In reality, the conflict about to begin would affect every man, woman and child living within the thirteen colonies in ways they could never have imagined.  And, ultimately, their great sacrifices gave rise to the freedoms which we enjoy and tend to take for granted today.


    The lives of the men who signed this declaration were also forever affected.  If the new America lost its war for independence, every signer of said document faced charges of treason and death by hanging for actions against their king.  In signing, they gave “support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, [as] we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” 


    There were 56 representatives from all thirteen colonies who signed, ranging in age from 26 to 70 (the oldest being the esteemed Benjamin Franklin).  Over half were lawyers, but the men included planters, merchants and shippers.  Most of them were wealthy men who had much to lose should Britain win.  Though none of them died at the hand of the enemy, four men were taken captive during the war by the British, with one-third of the signers being military officers during the war.  And, nearly all of them were poorer when the war ended than when it began. 


    There was much at stake in the days and years ahead after the Declaration of Independence was signed and the war began in earnest.  Some men abandoned the battle lines, their friends, and what once seemed like worthy ideals, and simply walked home.  Many suffered untold pain and suffering as prisoners of war.  Many suffered deprivations of food and clothing along with disease and death within their own military camps.  Many fought family and friends in the same community as Patriot was pitted against Tory, i.e. Loyalist.  Schoharie County, New York, considered by historians to be “The Breadbasket of the Revolution,” provided an abundance of food for Washington’s northern troops.  To frustrate the colonists’ efforts, the British and their Loyalist supporters, including many Native Americans, destroyed and burned crops and buildings as they captured, killed and scalped settlers throughout the Mohawk and Schoharie Valley and along the western frontier during the war. 


    In reality, however, we likely would not have won our independence if it were not for Washington’s spies.  Barely two months after the Declaration was signed, a 21-year-old Yale graduate by the name of Nathan Hale from Massachusetts eagerly volunteered to spy for Washington.  He intended to go behind enemy lines on Long Island and in New York City to infiltrate the British strongholds.  Instead, not being sufficiently familiar with the area and its people, and likely having a New England accent, he was caught and found to have sketches of fortifications and memos about troop placements on him.  Without benefit of legal trial, he was sentenced to death.  His requests for a clergyman and a Bible were refused.  Just before being hung on September 22, 1776 in the area of 66th Street and Third Avenue in Manhattan, Hale was heard to say with dignity, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.”  (George Washington’s Secret Six, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2013, p.1.)


    George Washington knew that he desperately needed spies, but he needed them to work in such a way that they would not be discovered.  His tender heart for his fellow countrymen deplored that even one should die for the cause of freedom.  Yet, he also knew that such loss was inevitable.  And, thus was born Washington’s spies so aptly named, “The Secret Six.”




    Out of the realization that Gen. George Washington desperately needed spies, and hating to lose even one more life after the hanging of Nathan Hale, a ring of trustworthy spies was gradually pulled together.  Washington’s “Secret Six” included five men and one woman embedded within and around New York City and Long Island, each familiar with the land and its people.  They reported to Washington on British movements and military plans in a timely fashion. 


    Because they knew the area, and were known by the people, they were readily accepted as they maneuvered amongst the enemy.  That is not to say, however, that they didn’t come close to being found out.  They lived in constant fear of such, not to mention the fear of losing their own lives and destroying their families in the process.  At times they were emotionally frail, depressed and despondent.  But, because of their passion for the freedom movement afoot, they came together for the greater benefit of all.


    At one point, Washington’s army was entirely surrounded by the British in New York City.  With tips from his spies, and being a man given to much time and prayer with God, his troops managed to quietly evacuate the city under the cover of night at an area not under guard.  With dawn, however, came the realization that a large contingent still remained behind and would be very visible to the enemy.  An answer to prayer was soon forthcoming to allow the balance of his men and equipment to leave the city – an unexpected and extremely dense morning fog enveloped the area, allowing them to continue crossing safely over into Jersey with the British unable to do anything about the Continental Army’s escape from their clutches. 


    Because of the work of Washington’s spies and the “important memos” he managed to have planted with false information behind enemy lines, the Americans were able to surprise the enemy at Trenton, New Jersey on Christmas Day night 1776 after the British had relaxed their guard and celebrated the day in style.  Needless to say, the Americans enjoyed a vital and rousing victory.


    Because of the spies and their efforts, accomplished with great fear for their own lives and that of their families, warning was given to Washington of 400 ships arriving from England.  The spies’ insider knowledge that the British were planning to attack and scuttle the French ships and troops coming to Washington’s aid allowed him to turn the tide in a timely manner.  He was able to fool the British into thinking he was readying an imminent attack on New York City, causing them to leave Long Island Sound, thus allowing the French time to land and move inland to safety in Connecticut without battling the British at sea before they even disembarked.


    Because of the spy who owned a print shop which seemingly supported King George, important plans were heard and passed on to Washington.  Other spies were privy to the upper level of command amongst the British military at parties in a particular merchandise shop and a certain coffeehouse.  A circuitous route was set up for their messenger across Long Island to Setauket where packets with concealed or innocuous-looking papers written in invisible ink and code were rowed to the Connecticut shore in a whale boat (while being pursued by the British) where another member took the seemingly innocent packet of merchandise and rode his horse overland to Washington’s camp in New Jersey.  At times, someone simply traveled out of New York City to visit relatives in northern New Jersey and met up with another dependable link to pass the information along to Washington’s headquarters.


    Because of their courage and resolve, the spies assisted in uncovering the Crown’s Major John Andre` (who, himself, ran a British spy ring) as he worked with Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, American commander at West Point.  Despite a prior stellar military record, but due to personal bitterness, Arnold was in the process of handing West Point over to Andre` and the British.  Through a series of blundering mistakes, because of the spies’ knowledge given to Washington at just the right moment, and because of the quick thinking of a couple of patriotic guards on a bridge leading back into New York City, Andre` was captured and later executed.  Arnold’s hand-over was thus thwarted, although Arnold managed to escape behind enemy lines and ultimately fled to England.


    Because of the supposed loyal British support by the owner of said print shop, a little book was obtained through his work as an undercover spy.  This inconspicuous little book contained key information on British troop movements at Yorktown, Virginia.  With important knowledge gained of the enemy’s military plans, Washington was able to redirect appropriate troops and ships to Yorktown.  General Cornwallis surrendered for the British on October 19, 1781 in an American victory where total defeat for the Americans would have otherwise taken place. 


    Because they swore themselves to secrecy, no one knew the full involvement of all six spies, nor all of their names.  Only gradually over the last few hundred years has their identities become known, the fifth not confirmed until recently.  All five men are now known, but the woman’s identity is not; she is simply known as Agent 355.  It is believed she was captured and became a prisoner; but, there is no hard evidence by research even to prove that conjecture. 


    The efforts of the six spies as they secretly obtained information and passed it along (devising their own specialty codes, using a unique invisible ink, and more) enabled them to maintain total secrecy.  Nor did they ever seek accolades for their work after the war was over.  The secrets to their successful accomplishments have been among the methods still taught and used successfully by our CIA today.


    In the interest of sharing the spies’ courage which undoubtedly helped us win the Revolutionary War, their story (as briefly described above) has been extensively researched and written by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger in George Washington’s Secret Six, The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution.  It was one of my Christmas gifts from my husband a few years ago, and I highly recommend it to other history buffs.  It’s a read you’ll find hard to set down!


    While researching my ancestry over ten years ago, I purchased Revolutionary War pension application files of several ancestors who had served.  For those whose government files I did not purchase, their data was obtained from Schoharie County Historical Society, various Revolutionary War books, CDs, and documents proving their service.  Hoping that my family research might provide us a closer glimpse of the war through their experiences, I share their legacy.


    1) Frantz/Francis Becraft/Beacraft, bp. 06/12/1761, Claverack, Columbia Co., NY - Private, 3rd Comp., 3rd Regiment, 1st Rensselaerswyck Battalion, Albany County New York Militia, on muster roll from Berne in 1782, 1790 census at Berne.  In an 1839 affidavit, Francis Becraft of Berne stated that he “served as a Private in a company commanded by Capt. Adam Dietz in the County of Albany...” Frantz/Francis married Catherine Dietz (sister of said Capt. Adam Dietz), my g-g-g-g-grandparents.


    In researching my ancestors, I discovered an apparent familial tie to the notorious Tory Becraft/Beacraft.  This man felt no remorse in aligning himself with Joseph Brant’s Indians to capture, kill and scalp Patriots throughout Schoharie County, known to have brutally killed and scalped a young boy in the Vrooman family who managed to escape the house after his family had been murdered.  After the war ended, Becraft/Beacraft had the audacity to return from Canada to Schoharie County where he was immediately captured by ten men.  In meting out a punishment of 50 lashes by whip, the men supposedly reminded him of his infamous acts against the community, his former neighbors.  Roscoe notes that death did not linger for him after the final lash, and his ashes were buried on the spot.  Of the ten men who swore themselves to secrecy, apparently only five are known.  (History of Schoharie County, William E. Roscoe, pub. D. Mason & Comp., 1882, pp.250-251.)  


    However, in "Families (to 1825) of Herkimer, Montgomery, & Schoharie, N.Y.," a genealogical source on many early families by William V. H. Barker, it is noted that the Tory Becraft/Beacraft was Benjamin, born about 1759, brother of my ancestor noted above, Frantz/Francis Becraft.  If this is accurate and they are indeed brothers, they were both sons of Willem/William and Mareitje (Bond) Becraft.  Another source, “The Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea…” notes Becraft survived his whipping and left the area (pg. 64), just as other undocumented sources indicate he survived and returned to Canada to live with his family.  So, I am uncertain as to whether Tory [Benjamin] Becraft actually died from his whippings or survived and left the area.


    2) Johannes/John Berlet/Berlett/Barlet, b. 05/08/1748, Schoharie, Schoharie Co., NY – Private, Tryon County Militia, 3rd Reg’t, Mohawk District.  He married Maria Gardinier, b. about 1751; their daughter Eva/Eveline Barlett married Martin Tillapaugh, b. 1778, my g-g-g-grandparents.


    3) Johann Hendrich/John Henry Dietz, bp 05/10/1722, Nordhofen, Vielbach, Germany – served in Lt. John Veeder’s Company, Rensselaerswyck, later under Capt. Sternberger’s Company at Schoharie.  He married Maria Elisabetha Ecker, bp. 1725; their daughter Catherine Dietz, b. 1761, married Frantz/Francis Beacraft above, my g-g-g-g-grandparents.


    As per my upcoming article on Chemung County’s Newtown Battle, the Indian/Loyalist raids and massacres also touched my ancestral families in New York.  In Beaverdam (now Berne), New York near the Switzkill River on September 1, 1781, the Johannes Dietz family was attacked.  Johannes’ son, Capt. William Dietz was captured and forced to watch his elderly parents, wife, four young children and a Scottish maid be killed and scalped.  (see “Old Hellebergh,” Arthur B. Gregg, The Altamont Enterprise Publishers, Altamont, N.Y., 1936, p. 24; signed by Gregg, in Roorda’s collection from her father.)  Capt. William Dietz’s father, Johannes, was an older brother of my ancestor noted above, Johann Hendrich/John Henry Dietz. 


    4) Johan Dietrich Dallenbach/John Richard Dillenbach, b. 1733 per cemetery records, Stone Arabia, NY; father Jorg Martin Dallenbach born Lauperswil, Bern, Switzerland, emigrated with 1710 German Palatines.  John Richard Dillenbach married Maria Mynard; their son Martinus took name of Martin Tillapaugh (my lineage), married Eva/Eveline Barlett as above.  Dillenbach reported for duty March 20, 1757 when Sir William Johnson called local militia out to protect Fort William Henry on Lake George for the British.  The Seven Years’ War, or the French and Indian War, began in 1754 and ended with the European peace treaties of 1763 during which year Dillenbach again reported to defend Herkimer with the Palatine District Regiment.


    James Fennimore Cooper wrote The Last of the Mohicans about the siege of Fort William Henry.  Roughly 2300 colonial troops were protecting the British fort when the French arrived with about 8000 troops in August 1763 and heavily bombarded the fort.  With additional supporting troops not found to be on their way, the garrison was forced to surrender.  The men were to be protected as they retreated by generous treaty terms.  However, as the Indians entered the fort, they plundered, looted, scalped and killed about 200 colonials, many of them too sick to leave.  In desecrating graves of those who had died before the siege, the Indians exposed themselves to smallpox, taking the germs back to their homes.  The French destroyed the fort before returning to Canada.  Fort William Henry was reconstructed in the 1950s.  Visiting this fort in 1972 with the Lounsberry Methodist Church youth group, I was unaware at the time that my Dallenbach/Tillapaugh ancestor had walked that ground, having been involved in the siege and survived. 


    5) Timothy Hutton, b.11/24/1746, New York City.  He married 2nd) Elizabeth Deline b.1760.  Their son George b.1787 married Sarah Wyckoff b.1793, my g-g-g-grandparents.  Timothy served as Ensign in Philip Schuyler’s Regiment of Albany County Militia, at defeat of Gen. Burgoyne in Saratoga October 17, 1777; appointed Lieutenant in New York Levies under Col. Marinus Willett; defended Schoharie County from burnings and killings by British, Loyalists and Indians.  This Timothy is not to be confused with a nephew of same name and rank, b. 1764, which many have done, including an erroneous grave marker in Carlisle, New York.  Sorting their military service out was part of my extensive thesis and documentation in researching and publishing two lengthy articles on the origins and descendants of this Hutton family in the New York Genealogical & Biographical Record in 2004-2005. 


    My Timothy’s nephew William Hutton served extensively in the Revolutionary War throughout New York City, Long Island, and the Hudson Valley.  My Timothy’s nephew Christopher of Troy, NY served as Ensign, promoted to Lieutenant, member of the elite Society of the Cincinnati.  My Timothy’s nephew, Timothy Hutton b.1764, served as Lieutenant in New York Levies under Col. Willett, enlisting 1780 at age 16 in the Albany militia.  My Timothy’s nephews, Isaac and George (brothers of Christopher and the younger Timothy, all sons of George Hutton, my ancestor Timothy’s older brother), were well-known influential silversmiths over several decades of the Federal period in the late 18th/early 19th centuries in Albany.  Hutton silver is on display at museums in Albany, New York.


    6) Johannes Leenderse (John Leonardson), b.06/18/63, Fonda, Montgomery Co., NY - enlisted as private in 1779 at age 16, Tryon County Militia, 3rd Reg’t; Corporal in 1781; served on many expeditions in the Mohawk Valley and at forts; joined Col. Willett’s company on march to Johnstown October 1781 in successful battle against enemy who had burned and killed throughout Mohawk Valley; re-enlisted 1782.  Married Sarah Putman b.1773.  Their son Aaron Leondardson b.1796 married 3rd) Lana Gross, parents of Mary Eliza b. about 1732 who married William Henry Ottman, my g-g-grandparents.


    7) John Caldwell McNeill, b. 1755, Londonderry, Rockingham Co., NH - at Bunker Hill (actually Breed’s Hill) on Charlestown June 17, 1775.  As Sergeant under Col. Timothy Bedel of the New Hampshire Line, John bought beef to pasture and butcher as needed for the troops.  Bedel’s regiment joined “Corp.1, Co. 1, New York Reg’t” on mission to Canada against British; taken captive with his cousins and friends at The Cedars near Montreal, an island in the St. Lawrence; soldiers were stripped of clothing, belongings and food, and released in cartel negotiated by Gen. Benedict Arnold before he became a traitor.  John served at and discharged at Saratoga, NY.  He married Hannah Caldwell b.1762; removed to Carlisle, Schoharie County, New York ca. 1794; their son Jesse m. Elizabeth Ostrom, my g-g-g-grandparents.


    8) George Richtmyer, bp 04/23/1738, Albany Co., NY – Captain from 1775 through end of war in 15th Reg’t of Albany Militia, defending Cobleskill and Middleburg, Schoharie Co., NY.  Married Anna Hommel; their son Henrich/Henry married Maria Beacraft (see above), my g-g-g-grandparents.


    9) Hendrick/Henry Vonck/Vunck, b. 03/06/1757, Freehold, Monmouth Co., NJ - served as private and Corporal in New Jersey and New York City; carried papers for American Gen. Charles Lee; joined units marching to same area of Canada as John C. McNeill; on return became ill with smallpox with others at Lake George when news of the Declaration of Independence was made; honorably discharged; called to serve again at Sandy Hook, NJ; captured by the British at Sandy Hook, taken to a prison ship, then to the [Livingston] stone sugar house in Manhattan, then another prison ship, the Good___  (writing illegible on the early 1800s pension document, possibly Good Hope).  After “one year and one month” as prisoner, he was exchanged and released.  “Having suffered while a prisoner great privations and disease and in poor clothing and severely unwholesome provisions many prisoners died in consequence of their treatment.” (Per 1832 affidavit of military service for pension.)  Conditions suffered as a prisoner left Henry in poor health the rest of his life; removing later to Montgomery County, NY.  Married Chestinah Hagaman; their daughter Jane Vunck married James Dingman, my g-g-g-grandparents.


    From 1776 to 1783 the British made use of decommissioned ships (those incapable of going to sea) as floating prisons.  At least 16 rotting hulks were moored in Wallabout Bay, the inner harbor along the northwest shore of Brooklyn, now part of the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  Among the ships were the Good Hope, Whitby, The Prince of Wales, Falmouth, Scorpion, Stromboli, Hunter, and the most infamous HMS Jersey, nicknamed Hell by the men. (see websites below.)  Over 10,000 men, perhaps at least 11,500, died on these ships due to the deliberate deplorable conditions.  Men were crammed below decks with no windows for lighting or fresh air.  There was a lack of food and clothing, with vermin and insects running rampant, and a lack of other humane efforts to aid the ill, all leading to the death of thousands.


    Prisoners died virtually every day, reportedly as many as fifteen a day.  Some were not found right away, their bodies not disposed of until days later.  Often, those who died were sewn into their blankets (if they had one) to await pick up by cart the next morning.  Many were buried in shallow graves along the shore (unearthed during major storms) or were simply tossed overboard, later washing ashore.  With development of Walloon Bay area over the last two centuries has come the discovery of their bones and parts of ships.  To commemorate these soldiers’ lives and what they gave in the fight for independence, the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument was built.  Located in Fort Greene Park, Brooklyn, it was dedicated on April 6, 1808 with improvements made to it several times since.  (see websites below)


    At least another 5-6000 men died in the sugar houses, bringing the total who died as prisoners to more than 17,500 in the sugar houses and ships, more than double the battlefield losses.  Sugar houses were buildings meant to store sugar and molasses.  Affidavits by my ancestor, Henry Vunck, and friends note he was held for a few months in the “stone sugar house.”  This could only mean the Livingston Sugar House, a six-story stone building built in 1754 by the Livingston family on Crown (now Liberty) Street in Manhattan.  Demolished in 1846, buildings No. 34 and 36 are now on the site.  (see website below)


    A second sugar house, the Rhinelander, a five-story brick warehouse, was built in 1763 at Rose (now William) Street and Duane Street.  This building was eventually replaced and is now the headquarters of the New York City Police Department.  A third, Van Cortlandt’s sugar house, was built about 1755 by the early Dutch family of this name at the northwest corner of the Trinity Church in Manhattan.  It was demolished in 1852.  (see website below)


    10) Hans Georg Jacob Dubendorffer (George Jacob Diefendorf), b. 01/23/1729, Basserstorff, Switzerland – a Loyalist during Rev War, he left Mohawk Valley for Philadelphia and New York City, returned to a daughter’s home in Canajoharie, NY after the war rather than remove to Canada.  A patriotic son disowned his father, taking his middle name (his mother’s maiden name) as his new surname, removing to Virginia.  George Jacob married Catharine Hendree; their son Jacob Diefendorf married Susanna Hess, my g-g-g-g-grandparents.


    On February 3, 1783, the British government acknowledged the independence of the American colonies.  The next day, they formally agreed to halt all military operations.  A preliminary peace treaty was ratified in April, and Canada offered free land that summer to Loyalists who sought a new life.  Still, the British military maintained a presence in Manhattan.  When Britain signed the Treaty of Paris September 3, 1783 to end the war, the hated Redcoats finally and slowly began to abandon their New York City stronghold. 


    Next would begin the task of establishing the government and president of this new nation, the United States of America.  George Washington rode into Manhattan on November 25, 1783 with his officers and troops, eight horses abreast.  At the same time Washington’s parade began, British soldiers and ships were setting sail for their homeland. 


    Flags were joyfully waved, church bells rang in celebration, and cannons were fired in honor of those who had fought and for those who had given their lives, all for the independence of this fledgling nation.  The war had definitely taken its toll; but, on this day, great joy was felt in every heart for what had been accomplished.  And that is why we continue to celebrate our 4th of July heritage in style – as we remember and commemorate those who gave so much that we might enjoy so much.  And, I trust we will never forget what their efforts wrought for us.


    Revolutionary War Time Line

    Paul Revere

    Robert Newman, sexton
    Old North Church, April 18, 1775

    Battle of Bunker Hill

    United States Independence Day

    Declaration of Independence Document
    Declaration of Independence - About the Signers



    1. George Washington’s Secret Six, The Spy Ring That Saved the American Revolution, Brian Kilmeade and Don Yaeger, Penguin Group, New York, NY, 2013.

    2. History of Schoharie County, New York, 1713-1882, William E. Roscoe, pub. D. Mason & Co., Syracuse, N.Y., 1882; Paperback Reprint by Heritage Books, Bowie, MD, 1994, Two-Volume Set.

    3. Life of Joseph Brant – Thayendanegea; Including the Border Wars Two-Volumes, by William L. Stone, pub. Alexander V. Blake, New York, NY, 1838.

      Complete timeline of Revolutionary War

      History of the Fourth

      Sugar House Prisons

      HMS Jersey prison ship

      Monument to British prison ship martyrs 

  5. Attending my Owego Free Academy 45th class reunion on July 28, 2018, it was great to see and chat with several former classmates.  We were the 100th class to graduate from OFA, and the first class to graduate from the new high school building – such honors!  Having moved 15 times by the time I was 15, attending five different schools, learning to make new friends at each school, I’ve held onto many treasured memories.  With the reunion in mind, I just had to share this blog originally posted in 2013.


    Oh, the childhood memories of places we’ve been and the friends we’ve made!  Don’t you just love to visit with friends from long ago, remember childhood fun, and recall the good ol’ days when life was simpler?  I suspect we all have precious memories tucked away, ready to be pulled out every so often.  It’s a chance to gaze back in time, to smile anew on fun shared by all.  But, I’m sure I’m not alone in having some memories that bring emotions to the surface, and tears to the eyes.


    Twice a year as our children grew up, we’d visit back and forth with my childhood friend and her husband, Hugh.  Kathy and I were friends in East Palmyra – in church, in class at the Christian school, and in playing at our homes.  We continued our friendship via snail mail after my family moved away in 4th grade, just before I turned 10.  It was a very painful and emotional move for me – away from farm life, away from the best friends I’d ever known to city life in Clifton, New Jersey where I was born, and where my dad’s parents and siblings’ families lived.  It was an unwelcome change.  I hated city life, was horribly homesick, and cried for weeks. 


    But, life got better as I let go of childhood pain and released the sadness.  Though there were difficult times and events in Clifton, I now find many good memories to replay in my mind’s eye.  It was an era when my sister and I could walk or bike everywhere without fear.  And then there was the time we biked from our eastern side of Clifton to where our grandparents lived all the way on the other side.  When my grandmother opened the door to our knock, trust me, she was not pleased… because no had known where we were!  Still, with the used bikes my grandfather gave us, we felt so rich!  I treasure memories of fishing with my dad in northern Jersey lakes, and of spending time with my grandparents.  My grandmother was a former professional seamstress who taught me to sew clothes and quilts – and to rip it out if it wasn’t right and sew it over again, more than once as I recall!  This little Dutch immigrant had an unspoken life motto - “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right!”  How I miss her greeting us at the door with a hug and always sweetly saying, “Hello Dear!” in her Dutch accent.


    Admittedly, my favorite memories are those of my childhood on the farms, and the fun my sister and I had back when there was no technology to ruin what our little minds could conjure up.  My earliest memories, though, begin after we moved back from Delta Junction, Alaska.  My dad had a foreign assignment in the Army, stationed at Fort Greeley before Alaskan statehood.  He wanted to homestead, but my Mom wasn’t keen on the idea, so back to New Jersey we went.  I’ve often wished I’d been old enough to remember the trip and the beautiful sights down the Al-Can Highway back to the States; but, then again, as I heard about the road without guardrails next to steep cliffs, of an old car with a steering wheel that caught at the most inopportune times (like coming around a curve and heading straight for a cliff when, at the last moment, the steering engaged again for my Mom, preventing us from plummeting off the cliff), maybe I’m glad I wasn’t old enough to remember that trip.  Dad got rid of that car as soon as they got into Washington state, and they took a train east to Newark, NJ where my grandparents brought us back to their home.


    Dad next went to work on the Everson Farm in Clifton Springs, NY.  I have photos of that time, but my first memories begin when he worked on the Wychmere Farm in Ontario/Sodus, NY.  I clearly recall that, at age 3-4, we drove down a lane to a Lake Ontario beach where I floated in an innertube.  Seeing a ship on the horizon, my child’s mind feared it would “run me over!”  Then, imagine my excitement when, while dating my husband-to-be, Ed, my friend, Kathy, and her husband, Hugh, took us to that very same lane and beach near Chimney Bluffs and it was totally familiar to me, remembered from all those years ago!


    Next, on the Breemes farm in Marion, NY, my sister and I could be seen playing in and around the barn; milking “my cows” with an old tea kettle on the bank-barn’s wall ledge while standing on a bale of hay as Dad milked his cows; throwing rocks into mud/manure puddles with my sister, and accidentally following those rocks into the muck.  My brother, Charlie, was born that year, an interloper to our fun… or so I thought at that age.  Later, we once again moved back to Clifton, NJ where I went to kindergarten, a big girl walking several blocks by myself to school. 


    Returning to Marion, NY the following year, we had many more adventures with Fran and Betty DeVries while living upstairs in their beautiful Victorian house on their parents’ farm.  I still remember the layout of their barn, helping a few times to put milking machines together, watching their Dad put in silage with the belt-driven unloader off the tractor.  My Dad knew Gerald and Joann from the Sussex, NJ Christian Reformed Church when he was herdsman for old Mr. Titsworth after graduating high school.  Actually, Mr. Titsworth was a direct descendant of Willem Tietsoort who settled in that area after the 1690 Schenectady massacre, purchasing extensive lands from the northern Jersey Indians.  Unknown to our family back then, my genealogy research several years ago discovered a daughter of Willem Tietsoort was one of my mother’s ancestors!


    Moving up the road to the spacious farmhouse on the Musshafen tenant farm brought more fun as we meandered the fields, and walked back up the road to spend time with Fran and Betty.  My Dad bought a steer from Mr. DeVries to raise for beef.  We girls named him Elmer… as in Elmer’s Glue!  My sister and I thought it was more fun running between rows in the garden instead of our weeding chore.  Brother Mark was born here, with Charlie anxiously asking, “When can he play ball with me?”  My Dad’s sister, Aunt Hilda, taught us the little ditty, “On top of spaghetti...”  Needless to say, whenever I recall that song, it is always with images from that house as the poor little meatball rolls off our dining room table, out the back door, down the cement steps, down the slope, past the garden and under the lilac bushes this side of a small creek!  We shelled endless piles of peas and snapped mountains of beans, and, I’m ashamed to say, threw some under those lilac bushes when we got tired of it all.  We practiced our fishing techniques, aiming to put the dobber into a bucket though I don’t believe we were too accurate.  We caught tadpoles and watched them grow into frogs in jars before returning them to the creek.  And we tried to fry an egg on the road on a very hot summer day… well, the adults always said it was so hot you could…!


    Next, as tenants on the Bouman farm on Whitbeck Road, fun found us running with Ruth, Annette and Grace in the haymow, catching my shoe on baling twine and tumbling down to the wooden floor below, barely a foot away from the upturned tines of a pitch fork and getting a concussion; traipsing over the fields and through the woods; walking among the cows in the pasture only to be chased by a very indignant new mom for getting too close to her baby and barely making it under the fence with her hugeness right behind me; roller skating, only once, on a pond because we didn’t have ice skates; building snow forts, sledding down the hill outside the barnyard; playing telephone as we kids all sat in a circle, laughing at how the secret message had changed from the first person to the last; playing Mother May I, Red light, Green light, and Hide and Seek; learning to ride bike under Grace’s tutelage with resultant scraped-up knees; playing at friend Kathy’s home, sledding down their hill and across the field when a train came through, freezing up and not thinking to roll off - thankfully, the sled came to a stop a few feet away from the track as I looked up in horror at the train rushing by; voraciously reading every book I could get my hands on, a life-time habit; and so much more…!  Oh such fun!!


    Then, abruptly, we moved back to city life in Clifton, NJ.  Sadly, Dad left much behind, including the unique doll house made especially for us girls when I was in kindergarten.  Now, we enjoyed visiting often with our grandparents, and loved the family gatherings for every main holiday on the calendar.  When brother Andy arrived, my sister and I, at ages 10 and 11, were responsible every week for months for hauling the family laundry in a wagon to the laundromat across the street from the bar at the top of our block, washing and folding it all (we became little pros, respected by all adults doing their own laundry), and getting to buy treats like 5-cent double-stick popsicles, way bigger than today’s version!  We taught Charlie to ride bicycle in the former train station’s empty parking lot across from the end of our block.  Our Dad took us fishing to northern Jersey lakes and on Clifton’s Garret Mountain with its great vista overlooking the cities to the New York City skyline, all fishing holes from his childhood.  We two girls enjoyed traipsing the city unsupervised and unaccosted, walking or biking everywhere to parks and the city library, and to Passaic Christian School and then Christopher Columbus Junior High 12 blocks from home.  I can still visualize so much of the city like the back of my hand, forever frozen in time. 


    After four years, my heart rejoiced when we moved back to New York, through the outskirts with heavy traffic and hippies of the Woodstock Festival on Saturday, August 16, 1969.  Our long drive ended in Lounsberry, half-way between Owego and Nichols, where the odor of neighboring farms was heavenly.  Here, my latter teen years were spent caring for three-dozen-some chickens, 6 Muscovy ducks and their newly-hatched ducklings (who grew to provide us with fine dining), my lamb, and mare, War Bugg, a beautiful grand-daughter of Man O’ War…  along with our youngest brother, Ted.  I was, admittedly, very disappointed he was not a little girl, but I soon fell in love with him and those big blue eyes as my sister and I helped care for him.  After all, we were “pros” in baby care by then!


    Simply spending time recalling precious memories of family and friends in a long-ago world brings a few tears and many smiles to my heart…  So, what cherished memories do you have that are waiting to be brought to mind and shared?

    Going back home…

    Linda A. Roorda

    Going back home within my mind

    To simple retreats of childhood days

    Holding sweet memories of yesterday

    Like quiet oases of rest and peace.


    Stirring emotions that overwhelm

    On traveling back to gentler times

    With early images tucked far away

    On pages engraved in a long-ago world.


    For what could ever make me forget

    The fears that then descended strong

    With dog at fence and thunderstorm

    To shake the world of toddlerhood.


    While a life-long love was built in scenes

    Of farming and learning beside my Dad

    With laughter heard through carefree days

    In adventures had by my sister and me.


    The many homes of my younger days

    Are shelters now for cherished views

    As dear and precious memories enhance

    Wistfully perfect they ever remain.


    But tucked within the pages recalled

    Are days of change and tender tears

    Moving away and losing friends

    Through a lifetime lived, they’re never forgot.


    Yet often they say it’s just not the same

    We can’t return to scenes of our youth

    That life and times are forever changed

    The rift between then and now is too great.


    But as I gaze on all that once was

    I find it’s okay to let the tears flow

    As they wash away the lingering pangs

    To leave my heart refreshed and clean. 


    So I shall always savor the joy

    Of going back home within my mind

    And holding dear those treasured days

    Of childhood mem’ries and lessons learned.



    All rights reserved.

    May not be reproduced without permission of author.

  6. The following post was written by both Christina Sonsire, a candidate for Chemung County Legislature in the 7th District and administrator of the Chemung County Matters blog, and Tony Pucci, a candidate for Chemung County Legislature in the 1st District.

    As we campaign in our respective districts, one of the concerns that residents express is the lack of access to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet access, particularly in the rural areas.  It has become clear to us that what many in this country take for granted as an essential utility for enhancing our personal and professional lives remains unavailable for a significant number of residents in Chemung County.

    What steps has Chemung County taken to ensure that all of our residents have broadband access? How effective have these steps been? What can be done to address the problem?

    In November 2010, almost eight years ago, the Chemung County Legislature passed a resolution authorizing development of a “Regional Open Access Fiber Optic Backbone” in conjunction with Schuyler and Steuben counties.

    Each county committed local taxpayer monies, along with a significant investment from Corning, Inc., to build out this foundational backbone that became known as the Southern Tier Network.

    According to the STN website, “the network was built to support the needs of public safety, improve broadband access in rural areas, increase competition and the level of telecommunications services throughout the region….”

    The network has now been completed; however, broadband access remains woefully inadequate in many areas.

    On June 4, 2018, we attended a meeting of the Chemung County Legislature during which representatives of ECC Technologies presented their Chemung County Broadband Assessment, confirming that Internet access in Chemung County lags behind other urbanized counties in New York state. A link to ECC’s full report is found here.

    Almost 1,300 local residents completed the survey. The results are troublesome to say the least. Over 80% responded that Internet access “is very or somewhat important to their ability to earn a living or quality of life.” A staggering 90% stated that having a choice in providers is important.

    However, many of our neighbors have neither access nor choice. The ECC report shows that nearly three quarters of respondents would consider switching providers if they could; 38% are unable to purchase the speed of broadband service they need; 34% with someone in school report having trouble completing homework; and 15% have no access to the Internet at all.

    We found one comment especially troubling. Lacking Internet access, one person wrote, “I’ve had to sit in the McDonald’s parking lot with my children in order for them to do their homework.” This is a situation that residents in rural communities must not accept as normal.


    A graph from the ECC report showing the respondents with school age children who have difficulty completing assignments due to lack of Internet access.


    Of equal concern is the lack of download speed.  New York State defines true broadband as a download speeds of 100Mpbs, but considers 25Mbps as reasonable broadband for rural areas. The ECC survey revealed that very few residential properties come close to meeting those standards, as shown below.


    A graph from the ECC report showing the lack of adequate download speed at residential properties in Chemung County



    After nearly eight years of effort and financial investment, why hasn’t more progress been made to deliver high-speed broadband access to the rural areas of the county?

    The Broadband Assessment combined with the many negative comments from Chemung County residents should have initiated town hall meetings by all legislators in each respective district to inform residents directly on this important issue.

    From our view, being accountable to the residents of Chemung County means making sure that there is adequate follow-through on critical issues affecting quality of life, such as reasonable access to the Internet.  Significant taxpayer dollars were used to build the network. If it is not working as promised, county lawmakers have a duty to let the community know what went wrong, and take steps to address it immediately.

  7. The set of articles in this story were located in The Elmira Telegram and The Star-Gazette, Elmira, N. Y.  If anyone is offended by this article due to proximity of location or relationship to those in this story, please contact me. I find the article very interesting. It not only tells the sad story of this family but also gives us a snapshot of a families life back in 1917 in the Town of Chemung.  - Mary Ellen

    The stories were transcribed verbatim. Special Thanks to Mike Tuccinardi for uncovering this unusual piece of history of the town.


    Elmira Star-Gazette   Monday  January 8, 1917
     Murder is Outcome of Drunken Night Brawl;
    Hold William Bentley For Slaying John Albee

    Cayuta Man Is Visiting in Chemung Village – Large quantity of Whiskey Is Imbibed – Heated Words Ensue Just After Midnight Sunday Morning and Charge of Shot Is Fired That Almost Instantly Kills John Albee – William Bentley of Chemung in County Jail Charged with Homicide.


    John Albee, aged 55, of Cayuta, N.Y., was murdered Sunday at 12:15 a.m. at Chemung where he was visiting. William Bentley, aged 65, for many years a resident of Chemung is now held in the county jail under a charge of murder.

    It is alleged that Bentley was intoxicated and became enraged because a bottle of whiskey had been taken from him and hidden where he could not find it.
    Mrs. William Bentley witnessed the shooting. David Albee, son of the murdered man, had a struggle with Bentley following the shooting and it is alleged Bentley hit him on the head with the barrel of the shotgun.
    Albee was unconscious for a time. He suffered a long deep gash in the head which was later closed by Dr. C.S. Geer, of Chemung. 18 stitches being taken. Albee is now in the hospital ward of the county jail.
    Mr. and Mrs. John Albee and their son David, aged twenty-three, resided in Cayuta. Saturday the three members of this family went to Chemung to visit at the home of Mrs. Albee’s mother, Mrs. William Bentley. Mrs. Bentley was married before she married Bentley and Mrs. Albee was a daughter by that marriage.


    It is said that William Bentley has been a hard drinker for many years. Chemung is now a “dry” town it was common for him to go to some of the northern Pennsylvania towns for liquor. Members of the family say that Saturday afternoon William Bentley and David Albee drove to Springs Corners, Pa. where they procured liquor and it is said that they brought some of it home in bottles. John Albee stayed at the Bentley home while his son and Bentley went to Springs Corners.
    With the Bentley family lives “Aunt Martha” Rorick, an aged woman, who owns the house in which the Bentleys live. Shortly after supper she retired.
    John Albee and his son, David, retired first, on Saturday night going to a room on the second floor of the home. William Bentley remained on the first floor talking to his wife and Mrs. Albee. Bentley had noticed the missing bottle of whiskey and he demanded of Mrs. Albee where it was hidden. She refused to tell him and the argument followed. Bentley ordered the woman from the house and finally put her out of doors. She returned only to be expelled again. The woman went to the Robert Crispin home nearby and engaged accommodations for the night. She returned to the Bentley home and asked Bentley to let her in to get her clothing. This Bentley refused to do until the woman pushed against the door until a window was broken. He opened the door and she was allowed to enter the house and get her clothing. Just before going out of the house she caller her husband and told him of Bentley’s actions. She then went to Crispin’s.


    Albee then arose and hurried down the stairs and as he opened the door to the room he was met with a charge of shot from a shotgun said to have been held by William Bentley. The shot entered in the left side of the abdomen. Death probably came instantly.
    David Albee, hearing the shot, hurried down the stairs, stepped over the body of his father and faced Bentley who held the gun in his hands. Young Albee grappled with Bentley, when the latter raised the shotgun and struck him a stunning blow on the head. Before Albee recovered from the blow Bentley ran from the house.




    A short time later Bentley was caught by Ray Decker and taken to the home of Deputy Sheriff William L. Gregg. It is said that Bentley admitted the shooting. Deputy Gregg at once notified Sheriff Hoke, who with Chief Deputy Knapp and Deputy Kimball hurried to the scene. District Attorney E.W. Personius with Leo Waxman left this city at once for the scene of the murder. Policemen Geisa and Stiles, of the police department, were detailed to go at once to Chemung as it was not known but that their assistance might be needed.
    Coroner Hammond hurried to Chemung from his home at Elmira Heights, viewed the body and ordered it removed to the morgue. Dr. C.S. Geer, of Chemung, and Dr. A.W. Booth, of this city were called upon by Coroner Hammond and performed an autopsy under direction of the coroner. All witnesses who knew anything of the trouble were questioned by the authorities. Photographs of the scene were taken by direction of the district attorney.


    Apparently there was no motive for the crime, other than William Bentley had been drinking and his anger had been aroused by the argument with Mrs John Albee. It is said that Bentley has an ugly disposition. When he was taken to the county jail by Deputy Sheriff Knapp he was asked if he had ever been convicted before. He replied: “I was arrested once for fighting.” He was not pressed further at that time as to his former convictions.
    William Bentley was born in the town of Van Etten. He has resided in this county all his life. He has one half-brother in this city, Jay B. Brink of 738 Hopkins Street.
    When Bentley was seen at the county jail this morning by a Star-Gazette reporter, he appeared only slightly nervous. He paced back and forth in his cell, which is the last one in the tier on “murderer’s row,” on the second floor of the county jail. The large steel grated door to his cell is doubly locked, the usual lock being used and a heavy log chain being wrapped about the door and the steel door jam and fastened with a huge brass lock.
    “I am no hardened criminal,” he said. “I have lived in this county all my life, but I have a daughter and a son living out of this county who think I live in Ithaca. I do not want them to hear of this. If I am convicted I suppose they will know about it, but until then I don’t want them to know I am in this trouble.”
    “I’ll tell you, that young David Albee is not to blame for any of this. He’s all right. It’s that woman---that Mrs. Albee—who is to blame for all of it. She got me madder than anything.”


    The hands of the man trembled as he tried to straighten out his brown hair, just tinged with gray, before the photograph was taken of him. “I have not had time to comb my hair since Saturday, I suppose it looks like sin,” he remarked as the photographer was getting ready to take the picture. 
    “You don’t suppose that everyone will hear of this, do you?” he asked as tears flowed from his eyes.
    District Attorney Personius had requested the reporter not to question the man as to the incidents leading up to or concerning the murder, so the request was granted.


    It was a gruesome sight, which met the eyes of neighbors as they rushed into the Bentley home about 12:30 o’clock Sunday morning. The alarm after the killing was given by two persons, Mrs. John Albee and William Bentley. Just after Bentley had struck David Albee over the head several times with the barrel of the shotgun, having first pointed the gun at the young man and pulled the trigger, so it is claimed, the alleged murderer rushed from the house into the street. He ran to the house just west and on the same side of the street as the Bentley house, pounded on the front porch with the empty and bent gun and receiving no response rushed across the highway to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Ray Decker. Mrs. Decker was the first to hear the noise on the front porch.
    “Who is there and what do you want?” she shouted.
    “There’s been a shooting down to my house, come down,” was the reply of Bentley.
    At that Mr. Decker said, “Bentley, you are drunk; there has been no shooting, go on home.”
    “I tell you there has been a shooting, come out at once,” Bentley shouted.


    Mr. Decker at once went out and found Bentley with the blood-smeared shotgun in his hands. Mr. Decker took charge of the gun and with Bentley walked back towards the Bentley home, which was but a few rods distant.
    Arriving at the home they found that Mrs. John Albee had gone to the home of Robert Crispen and given the alarm. She left the Bentley yard immediately after the shot was fired. Deputy Sheriff William L. Gregg had been aroused, in fact the Crispin and Gregg families had heard the shot. They were at the Bentley home. Sheriff Hoke and the authorities were at once notified.
    The Bentley home is situate about one-quarter of a mile east of the John I. Ford general store in Chemung, on the main highway to Waverly. The E.C.& W. Railway cars pass the door. The house is on the north side of the street. The door to the living room opens from the front porch. The living room is rectangular in shape, the long way extending east and west. Nearly directly opposite the front door is the door which opens from the bottom of the stairway leading to the second floor. There are two windows in the room looking out towards the highway and one window opening east. On the north side of the room, not far from the east side, sat a common trunk. The heating stove is near the east wall of the room. On the south side of the room was a couch. Opening to the north and near the east wall of the room is a door which leads into the bedroom occupied by Mrs. Martha Rorick, an aunt of William Bentley. Mrs. Rorick, aged about eighty-five years, was a sister of the mother of William Bentley, who died about five years ago. It was ascertained late today that William Bentley owned the little home, it having been deeded to him by Mrs. Rorick, on condition that he support her during her lifetime.


    When the neighbors and county officials entered the room they found the body of John Albee lying at the door which opens from the stairway. His head was towards the west, his feet pointing towards the east. A large pool of blood was upon the carpet.
    Piecing together the story of the shooting from fragments of information gained from various members of the party little of additional information other than contained in the first part of this story is found. It appears that when the Albee family arrived at the Bentley home Saturday forenoon, having traveled from Cayuta by railroad to Sayre, Pa., from there to Waverly by trolley and to Chemung on an E.C. & W. car, William Bentley decided it best to celebrate the occasion. To his mind the proper way to celebrate was to procure liquor. There was about half a barrel of hard cider in the Bentley home, but after partaking of much of it the decision was reached that some other “refreshment” was wanted.


    John Albee declined to go on the trip to Springs Corners, Pa., which is just over the state line in Pennsylvania, near Sayre, Pa., so William Bentley and David Albee made the trip. At a café the men purchased some drinks and took with them two quarts of whiskey. After getting into the wagon they decided that more whiskey was needed, so they returned to the café and bought another quart and a pint, making three quarts and a pint. They returned to the Bentley home. Whether all partook of the whiskey or not is not yet clear, but at any rate after the shooting only a quart of the liquor was found in the home. Drs. Booth and Geer, who performed the autopsy on the body of John Albee, said they endeavored to ascertain by pressing on the chest and forcing air from the lungs, and smelling at the mouth and nose, whether or not Albee had been drinking. They could not detect the odor of alcohol. While this is not positive confirmation that the man had not been drinking, it was an indication that he had not partaken of a great quantity of the liquor.
    Shortly after John Albee and his son, David, had retired to a room on the second floor, a discussion arose between Bentley and Mrs. John Albee regarding a bottle of whiskey which had been hidden by the woman. The discussion waxed warm, and after Mrs. Albee had been ejected from the home and had made arrangements to sleep for the rest of the night at the Robert Crispin home, which is the first house east and on the same side of the highway, she returned to get some of her clothing. Bentley had locked the door and when the woman demanded admittance he refused to open the door. The woman then found a paving brick which was lying in the front yard and pounded on the front door. When Bentley still refused to open the door she is said to have thrown the brick through a window. Bentley then opened the door, she entered, procured her clothes and went out.
    She then desired to enter the house again, but Bentley refused to open the door. Shoving her head through the opening made by the broken glass of a front window she shouted to her husband, “John, ‘Bill’ won’t let me in. He’s shut me out.”


    Albee arose and started down stairs. The man had retired after removing his outside trousers. He still wore a pair of gray trousers, socks, shirt, collar, tie, stick pin and underclothes. Albee walked down the stairs and opened the door directly at the foot of the stairs into the living room. Whether words passed between Albee and Bentley is not now known. Witnesses will state when the proper times comes. However, it is claimed that Mr. Bentley took from the northeast corner of the living room his double barrel, hammerless, twelve gauge shotgun. The gun is of Ithaca make and had been used a number of years by Mr. Bentley who frequently hunted small game in the vicinity of Chemung. It is not known whether words passed between the men after Bentley picked up the gun.
    It would take but a fraction of a second to push the little safety catch device on the top of the stock of the gun. From the size and direction of the wound in Albee’s body, it is thought that Bentley did not raise the gun to his shoulder, but fired “from the hip,” as is done by some expert shots. From the shape of the wound in the left side of Albee, just above the hip bone, it is thought that both barrels of the gun were discharged at the same time. Neighbors say they heard only one report. This would have been true if both barrels had been discharged at the same time. When the gun was taken from Bentley by Ray Decker there were two empty shells in the barrels. Some who examined the gun said they thought both shells had recently been discharged.
    The physicians who performed the autopsy found that the charge of shot had passed from the left side through the abdominal cavity, tearing the intestines, cutting many large arteries and had lodged in the bone and muscles of the right side. The wound was sufficient to cause instant death. Many shots were found. They are known as No. 6 size. These have been preserved along with wads found. There were no powder marks on the clothing or body. It is thought that the muzzle of the gun was about five or six feet from Albee when the shot was fired. The opening made in the clothing and flesh was oval in shape. Had only one cartridge been discharged, the hole would have been nearly round.


    When David Albee heard the shot he at once leaped to his feet and hurried down stairs. Entering the room he was shocked to find the dead body of his father upon the floor. It is said that Bentley pointed the gun at young Albee, but it was not loaded. Albee started to grasp Bentley and the latter swung his shotgun, using is as a club, and hit David Albee on the head. The force of that blow can, in a measure, be estimated for the steel barrels are bent so that the gun is now useless for the purpose for which it was made. That portion of the wood stock under the barrels, which is easily removed, came off during the trouble. It was later found by Deputy Sheriff Knapp and replaced on the gun.
    District Attorney Personius is making a most thorough investigation of the affair. From all he is able to ascertain there is no motive behind the shooting, other than the condition that arose that night in the Bentley home. The Albees have been frequent visitors at the Bentley home and, as far as can be learned, there has never been trouble between the families before. There does not seem to be any old feud or anything which might have led up to the tragedy. When asked if Bentley had confessed to the killing, the district attorney said: “He does not deny the shooting.”
    The body of John Albee was claimed by his wife and brother at the morgue this forenoon. Coroner Hammond issued a death certificate and the body was taken in charge by Undertaker R.D. Horton of Odessa. The body will be removed to the Albee home in Cayuta where the funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon.
    At noon today Mrs. William Bentley was called before District Attorney Personius where she told in detail of the life of her husband from the time she first knew him down to the present. Assistant District Attorney Waxman and Sheriff Hoke were present during the interview.
    Coroner Hammond said this afternoon he would hold an inquest in the near future. As yet he has not set a date, for he desires to let the district attorney and sheriff have full sway for the present in the examination of witnesses, etc.



  8.                      It has been a while since I've put "pen to paper".  For some unknown reason the words aren't flowing easily for me.   Certainly, I've had ideas and I have several drafts of stories but nothing that comes together the way I'd like, nothing that makes me happy.  

                           Another bit of a problem I'm having is writing stories on two different sites and then keeping track of what I wrote where.  I'm thinking it's probably a good idea to stay with one site, the Telegram, but I worry about copying my stories from the other site to this site in case some here have already read them. 

                           Yep, over-thinking again, I do that quite often.

                          Anyway, this is a true story I posted a couple of years ago, I don't remember where, but I'd like to share it again.  I'd also like to say "thank you” to my editor for inserting two graphics that I believe add just the right touch to this story.  I hope you enjoy.   


    When I was younger, Mom was always just Mom, someone you loved but also sometimes feared.  As children we don’t realize that Moms are also individuals with feelings, frustrations, dreams, hopes and regrets.  Never perfect but with many facets of personality that make up the person we call Mom.  

    I have memories of Mom wearing rolled up jeans, saddle shoes and sometimes a kick ass attitude.  I remember occasions when she went nose to nose with someone who did something she didn’t like.   She wasn’t always the winner but she also didn’t often back down.  When I first wrote this story I had always believed she was just upset about the spitting.  I’ve re-read it and thought about things and have come to realize that perhaps anger and frustration for someone else was probably the motivation for her actions that day.  I don’t know if she ever apologized to anyone or felt bad about that day but I guess it really doesn’t make any difference.  She was Mom…not Perfect.

    Anyone who knew my mother knew her as a kind, generous, loving woman who absolutely adored her family and who opened her door to any and all in need.  Ask any of my sons about their Grandmother and the first thing you’ll see is a softening of their face.  A gentle look comes into their eyes and you’ll see a bit of a smile tinged with sadness as they think about her.  They remember the older, gentler, kinder woman; I remember the younger, feisty woman you didn’t want to piss off.

    One summer day we were visiting my mother’s parents. One of our male cousins was staying with our grandparents for the summer and, as me the child remembers, he was about 7 years old, a red-headed, whinny, tattle-tale brat so I’ll refer to him as Cousin B. This particular day, Mom had reached her limit with him and his pissiness and she said it was time to go home. My sisters and I were in the back seat of our car with the window down.  Cousin B. walked up to our window and spit at us.  He stood there smirking until my mother’s car door opened.


    In a flash, Mom was out of the car and reaching for him.  He took off running up the alley probably figuring she wouldn’t go after him because she was too old being in her late 20’s or early 30’s.  Wrong…….she was hot on his heels. The exact moment he realized he was in for it, that Mom was mad as hell and not giving up the chase until she caught him, he started screaming for our Grandmother.  “Help, help me Nanny, help” he yelled.  The way he was screaming for our Grandmother I’m sure they heard him in Corning.  Dad started laughing because Mom was really moving.  Our Grandparents came running out of the house as Cousin B. ran past them into the house with Mom right behind him.


    “Stay in the car” Dad said as he got out.  The next thing I saw was the second story bedroom window open and Cousin B.’s head pop out.  With the window open we could hear Mom yelling at him and, realizing she was still after him, he crawled out onto the sun porch roof.  Mom came out that window right behind him.  My Dad must have explained what had happened because he and my Grandfather were laughing while my Grandmother was yelling at my Mom.

    Cousin B. was cornered with no place to go as Mom caught up with him on the sun porch roof.  By now he’s wailing like a banshee.  We stayed in the car like we were told but four heads were squeezed out the back seat window in awe of our mother.  She actually caught him and she climbed out on to the roof to do it.  “You will apologize” Mom yelled at him.  “No…help me Nanny, please” was his reply.  My Grandmother starts using the Gaelic so we know she’s really pissed now too.  Mom grabs him by the arms and holds him over the edge of the roof.  “You will apologize to them all or else” she tells our cousin.  “Okay, okay” he cries, believing she’s going to drop him if he doesn’t.  At this point my Dad reaches up and takes him from Mom after she lowered him down a bit.  As an adult I realize that porch roof was probably only 6 or 7 feet from the ground but to a 7-year-old it probably looked like the Grand Canyon.

    Mom crawled back through the window, came outside, grabbed Cousin B. and marched him over to the car.  He apologized for spitting at us and promised to never do it again. Nanny wasn’t happy with Mom for what she did and continued to yell at her.  Cousin B. received a couple of swats on his ass from our Grandfather.  No one said much on the drive home as Mom continued to vent her ire.  When her temper was up you left her alone if you knew what was good for you.

    Our cousin never spit again, never antagonized us again and Mom was the only Aunt who never had to speak more than once to him.  As he grew older he and Mom actually became close and whenever he was in town he’d stop in and visit with her.  The loving, gentle woman my sons remember had fire in her blood and, at times, a temper to match. That fire was just banked to warm, soothing embers as she grew older.

  9. Eighty years ago, during the height of the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, President Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote in a letter to America’s governors, “The Nation that destroys its soils destroys itself.”

    That statement remains as true today as when it was written in 1937. Last week in Albany, farmers, researchers, policymakers and other experts gathered for New York State’s first “Soil Health Summit” hosted by, among others, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University.

    It is a rapidly evolving modern-day scenario getting the attention it deserves, and demands. It is simply one of the most alarming and critical challenges facing farmers and the agricultural industry overall throughout New York State, the nation and the world.

    Last year the Nature Conservancy released a report, “rethink Soil: A Roadmap to U.S. Soil Health,” examining how over the past century agricultural technology improvements have helped farmers continue to feed a world population that has soared from under 2 billion to over 7 billion. At the same time, however, it is taking a toll on America’s agricultural soils. The report estimates that “the annual societal and environmental costs of the status quo are up to $85.1 billion annually through unintended effects on human health, property, energy, endangered species, biodiversity losses, eutrophication, contamination, agricultural productivity, and resilience.”

    The Senate and Assembly Environmental Conservation Committees also hosted a panel discussion last year, “From the Ground Up: Why Soil Health is Key to Sustainable Food Production.” The discussion focused on soil health and resiliency, giving it the attention it warrants and encouraging action on the development of a New York State Soil Health Management Network modeled after the successful federal Soil Health Network. 

    Furthermore, last year’s state budget included funding from the state’s Environmental Protection Fund for a “Soil Health Initiative” at Cornell University. The initiative works to facilitate ongoing soil-related research and guide additional efforts toward the establishment of the state-level Soil Health Management Network. The envisioned network would be a public-private extension and education consortium. Last week’s Soil Health Summit continued to advance the next steps. You can read more at http://www.summit.newyorksoilhealth.org.

    We have witnessed firsthand in the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions over the past several years how soil health and resiliency have such a significant impact on farm productivity, profitability and sustainability. The same is true statewide. The ability of soils to resist drought, flooding and other impacts continues to emerge as a critical conservation, economic growth, environmental protection and food quality challenge in New York State, as well as across the nation and world.

    The bottom line is clear: the sooner the better on developing and implementing a comprehensive, state-level response. As always, Cornell CALS is at the forefront of the emerging research and response strategies. 

    The fundamental, underlying importance of this challenge -- and the necessary pursuit of forward-thinking programs and policies to tackle it -- is highlighted in a recently released book by author David R. Montgomery from the University of Washington, who was a keynote speaker at last week’s New York Soil Health Summit.

    In “Growing a Revolution: Bringing Our Soil Back to Life,” he echoes FDR’s warning from eight decades ago when he writes, “Unlike other environmental problems such as dwindling water supplies and loss of forests, the degradation of soil fertility has gone relatively unnoticed. It happens so slowly that it rarely becomes the crisis du jour. Therein lies the problem. The once-Edenic, now-impoverished places that spawned Western civilization illustrate one of history’s most underappreciated lessons: societies that don’t take care of their soil do not last.”