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  1. There are many free genealogy websites which are a great resource for records and helpful family data, including RootsWeb.  This free site, part of the ancestry.com family, includes a “Getting Started” section with their “guide to tracing family trees.”  The latter has great tips on how to begin, a list of sources and where to find various records, and a list of various countries/ethnic groups.  Clicking on any of these hi-lited items will provide information on beginning your research. 


    Unfortunately, in checking the RootsWeb site to update this article, I learned they’re in the process of making website repairs.  Feel free to check them out for their explanatory letter as some functions, like the Message Boards, are up and running while other functions will gradually return for usage.  However, most of what I reference here from their site is currently unavailable while they make repairs.


    They have a section entitled “Searches.”  This includes surname listings you can peruse to see what might be out there.  My favorite section was the “U.S. Town/County Database.”  Here, I have found a wealth of information for vital records from churches and cemeteries, biographies, family lineages, and more.  Researching my early New York families often brought me to the Albany, Schenectady and Schoharie county genweb sites. 


    The next section is labeled “Family Trees (World Connect).”  You can search family trees generously submitted by other researchers.  I did find errors in submitted family trees when I began my research, prompting my own research to document, write and publish my family articles.  For that reason, I tend to stay away from this section in seeking information on my ancestors.  I prefer to do as much footwork as I can on my own, albeit with guidance from friends who taught me as I learned along the way.  Submitted trees certainly can be entirely accurate; however, if used as a starting point with other online records, you can then seek sources to provide solid documentation and corroborative proof, i.e. church and cemetery records in reputable books or journals, census records, wills, etc.


    The next section is “Mailing Lists.”  These lists are also invaluable.  I was formerly on an email list which provided discussions on various topics relating to the early settlers and records of the 1600s and 1700s in New Netherlands/New York.  It was a rewarding experience to reply to someone’s query by contributing data I have in a book of ancient Albany’s city and county records that was helpful to others. 


    From RootsWeb , I had subscribed years ago to the Schoharie County email list.  That resource was where I saw the notice by a professor from Long Island who found an old photo in a Washington, D.C. antique shop.  The pencil writing on the back of the matting read, “First Tillapaugh Reunion July 1910…”  I replied that my mother’s two oldest brothers inherited that farm, and their sons continue to farm it today.  A reproduction of the photo is in the Dallenbach book of descendants which I own, so I was well aware of what the professor had found.  In fact, the house in the photo, built in the 1830s, is still very much in use today.  I was offered the opportunity to purchase the photo which, of course, I did, thus beginning my genealogy research in earnest in the late 1990s.


    RootsWeb also includes a section for “Message Boards.”  Here, you can search your surname of interest, read other posts, and post your own query for information which I have also done.  Folks on these message boards have been very helpful.  This has also been a resource to meet extended relatives in various lines, which I have also done.  We have then shared our own researched and documented data with each other.  Several friendships were made this way, and they continue to be counted among my close friends today.


    Other sections have even more options available including various surname websites, other tools and resources such as blank forms and charts, and hosted volunteer projects.  The latter includes books owned by folks who are willing to research them for information you might need from a particular book.  You may also find volunteers who are able to do local lookups at either cemeteries or historical societies for you.  When volunteers have helped by doing research footwork for me, I felt it appropriate to pay their expenses, a much-appreciated gift. 


    You can also submit your FamilyTreeMaker data to RootsWeb.  Instead, of doing that, I submitted a McNeill descendancy outline with names and dates of birth to the Schoharie County Genweb site.  It is also common courtesy not to submit names of any living relatives, or those born within the past 75-100 years out of respect for privacy.


    Another free online source of cross-referenced data is the comprehensive CyndisList The Categories section provides a list of resources, including American state and government as well as international resources.  There is an Adoption section to help find orphans and living people, message boards, and volunteers to assist your search.  A section entitled Free Stuff includes charts and forms, translation tools, online databases to search, volunteer lookups, surname family associations and newsletters, etc. 


    Sections you might not have thought about include 1) Migration Routes, Roads and Trails, 2) Canals, Rivers and Waterways, and 3) Immigration and Naturalization.  There are sections entitled Heraldry, Hit a Brick Wall?, and Ships & Passenger Lists.  The Mailing Lists are great for asking questions when you’re stumped, and for connecting with researchers working on the same lines.  There are also sites to purchase items, and free trials to search various genealogy websites before paying their site subscription fee.


    Ancestry.com has some free data, like the 1880 Federal Census records, but the best records are obtained using subscription-based entrance.  Here, you will find tabs for Home, Trees, Search, DNA, Help, and Extras.  It is an invaluable resource.


    Perhaps your ancestors came through Ellis Island.  Search The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation   to find your ancestors and the ship on which they sailed.  A ship’s manifest lists the passengers, their age, name of the ship, port, date of departure, occupation, nearest relative in their country of origin, and their sponsor in the U.S.  I found information for my husband’s paternal grandfather’s family when they emigrated from Holland in the early 1920s.  Some went first to North Dakota before settling in northern New Jersey as dairy farmers while others settled right away in northern New Jersey and Massachusetts to work in the textile mills.   


    I also found records at the Ellis Island website for my father’s families which emigrated from the Netherlands.  Like many families, both of my father’s grandfathers came through Ellis Island, each with their oldest son – my dad’s paternal grandfather in November 1922, and his maternal grandfather in September 1923.  They settled in and around Kalamazoo, Michigan among other Dutch.  When they earned enough money, they sent for the rest of their family.  My paternal grandfather emigrated from Uithuizermeeden, Groningen at age 15 in July 1923 with his mother and siblings through Ellis Island. 


    However, my dad’s maternal grandfather was determined his wife and children would not go through the rigors of steerage and Ellis Island.  Instead, he sent money back home to them in Rotterdam for second-class tickets.  Decades ago, my grandmother told me only a little about their sailing on the S. S. Rotterdam to Hoboken, New Jersey.  Research showed the ship came into a New York City port in January 1926, with the ship’s manifest listing my grandmother’s family.  Unfortunately, I didn’t ask more questions.  She told me that a Dutchman, who made a living helping immigrants, met my great-grandmother and her children (my grandmother was age 15), and took them to his home in Hoboken, New Jersey.  He fed them, put them up overnight, and the next morning put them on the right train to Michigan with lunches in hand.  There, my great-grandmother was reunited with her husband, and my grandmother and her siblings with their father and oldest brother.  How exciting that must have been!


    My grandparents married in 1931 and lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  With the Great Depression, my grandfather and his father lost everything as building contractors.  They removed to another Dutch enclave in Clifton, New Jersey where my grandfather became a door-to-door salesman before again becoming a successful general contractor, with many a beautiful house or remodeling project to his credit.


    You can purchase quality photo documentation of the ships your ancestors sailed on.  However, I simply printed the free online photo of the ships on which my ancestors sailed, along with each respective ship’s manifest for documentation.  I used both Ancestry.com and the Ellis Island websites to obtain records.


    For steerage immigrants, the Ellis Island experience included passing a medical and legal inspection.  If your papers were in order, and you were in reasonably good health, the inspection process typically lasted 3-5 hours.  The ship’s manifest log was used by inspectors to cross-examine each immigrant during the primary inspection.  Though Ellis Island has been called the “Island of Tears,” the vast majority of immigrants were treated respectfully and allowed to enter America to begin their new life.  However, about two percent of immigrants were denied entry.  Typically, if you were suspected of having a contagious illness, or if the inspector thought you might become a public burden, entrance to the U.S. was denied.  I can only imagine the pain it must have caused when one or more family members were told they had to go back to their native country. 


    I am very appreciative of the efforts my many ancestors made to emigrate from their home country, to which none ever returned, of becoming American citizens, and of their hard work to provide a better way of life for their family.  By sharing bits of my ancestral heritage, of who they were and whence they came, I hope it has encouraged you to search for your ancestors, to find their place in the building of our great America, and thus to know the gift of your family heritage.


    NEXT:  Genealogy Website Resource List

    "Homespun Ancestors is written by Linda Roorda. To see more, visit her site HERE.







  2. Little lambs are so soft, cuddly and cute!  In my mid teens, my siblings and I were given a lamb which I promptly named “Lambie.”  Very original, huh?!  It was only intended until something better came to mind, but nothing ever did.  She was a twin, abandoned by her mother and given to us by our cousin, Robert, from his flock.  I don’t know the breed, but she had light gray wool with a black face and black legs. 


    As Lambie’s main caretaker, I took responsibility to make sure she was fed.  Following my Dad’s directions, I made a gruel with oatmeal, water and evaporated milk, feeding it to her in a glass bottle which had one of my brother’s bottle nipples attached – we were good at making do.  And I loved to watch her little tail go “ninety miles an hour” while she drank! 


    Lambie was small, not very old, so we kept her in a box near the old-fashioned wood-burning kitchen stove to keep her warm.  It was too cold to put her out in the barn all by herself without her mama.  Even our mutt, Pepsi, of terrier and other unknown parentage, liked nothing better than to jump into Lambie’s box to check out this new arrival to our menagerie.  And, I’m sure Pepsi wondered why this little one said “baaaa” and didn’t whimper like a puppy, but she contentedly mothered her adopted baby anyway! 


    Eventually, Lambie went to her pen in the barn, and followed me wherever I went.  It was fun to watch her spring up and down as she played and ran about the yard and nibbled on the grass.  Occasionally, she tried to wander beyond her guardian’s protection until called back to my side.  Though I never considered myself her “shepherd,” in reality I was.  I provided food and water for her, protected her and kept her from harm… until the vet diagnosed her with Listeriosis, or circling disease.  Nothing could be done for her and we had to put her down.  Crying so hard I could barely see, I insisted to my Dad that I would dig the grave at the edge of the raspberry patch and bury little Lambie by myself. 


    Such were the thoughts that came to mind after writing the poem below which is based on Jesus’ parable found in John 10:1-21.  Here, we read that the Good Shepherd knows each one of his sheep, and He calls them by name.  But, the sheep also know their shepherd, recognize his voice, and follow wherever he leads them.  Should a stranger enter the fold, the sheep will not follow him… instead, they will run around wildly or just run away en masse, simply because they aren’t familiar with the stranger’s voice. 


    Perhaps, under cover, a thief may come near the flock, pretending to be their shepherd.  He may disguise himself and draw a few young, inexperienced sheep away who think they’re following their shepherd.  Or, a predator may sneak up on an unsuspecting lamb and lead it astray.  Disoriented and lost, the lamb follows the predator to supposed safety.  Soon it becomes obvious that the predator is not its shepherd… but by then it’s too late.


    Except, the true shepherd with his trained eye realizes what’s happened.  Like another of Jesus’ parables in Luke 15:3-6, He seeks out His precious lamb and brings it back, or willingly fights off the predator to rescue his little lost lamb.  Listening to its Master’s voice, the lamb turns around and joyfully runs back to the safety of the flock… and there it stays, feeling content and peaceful under the watchful eye of its protective shepherd. 


    And I thought, how like those sheep we are…  As Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  We have a tendency at times to follow what sounds and looks so good, what seems so right… only to realize later that we’ve been duped… we were on the wrong track… and we need someone to save us.


    That someone, the Master, the Good Shepherd, would do anything for us, His sheep… especially those who have wandered off or been drawn away by a predator.  Not so the hireling who doesn’t care much about someone else’s sheep.  With only a little provocation, he’d as soon run away than fight for the lives of those sheep.  Just as my heart ached and cried for the loss of my lamb, so the Good Shepherd of our story aches for the lost, and would lay down His own life to protect and save His precious sheep from harm. 


    And isn’t that what our Lord, our Good Shepherd, our Master, has done for us?  May we always hear the love in our Master’s voice within our heart and follow His leading…

    The Master’s Voice

    Linda A. Roorda


    Like gentle sheep we’re prone to wander

    Easily enticed by things of this world

    But at the sound of our Master’s voice

    Will we then heed or continue headstrong?


    The Master’s words will not lead astray

    Seeking the ones who meander off

    Softly calling each one by name

    With tender words of comfort and peace.


    When storms arrive and release their fury

    The shepherd guides his flock to safety.

    How like our Master who longs to embrace

    And bring us home to rest in His arms.


    When wolves appear like gentle sheep clothed

    With flattery smooth they strike unannounced

    Their intention dark, the naïve to deceive

    Serving their needs, the meek to destroy.


    Then words of wisdom are soon directed

    At wandering lambs who have left the fold

    Calling them back to a sheltered life

    Protected under the Master’s great love.


    Unlike the hireling, He lays down His life

    Whatever it takes to gather His own

    Take heed to His call and flee from the foe

    Lean into His arms of mercy and grace.


    Like a good Shepherd is our Savior Lord

    With care He protects each sheep in His fold

    It matters to Him whose words we follow

    The call of folly or the Master’s voice.



    All rights reserved.

    May not be reproduced without permission of author.


    Original posting and more at Linda's blog, Poetic Devotions.

  3. "Down at the local job site, a couple construction workers sat down to eat lunch. 

    Opening his lunchpail, one says, 'Damnit, peanut butter sandwiches again. I'm sick of 'em.'

    'Why don't you ask your wife to make you something else?' the other replied. 

    'Whaddya mean wife? I'm not married. I make my own lunches.'


    The heavy machinery is in place and ground is breaking in Downtown Elmira to prepare for the new $14 million, 75,000 square foot facility to be built on Water St. as part of the city's Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI ). A lot of conversation has taken place about the future and path for Downtown Elmira, and I've watched it with a good deal of interest not only for the purposes of this site, but also personal interest as well. 

    Much of that conversation is pretty positive, which is a good thing. We need some good news around here for a change. But there's two sides to every coin. 

    There's a new crop of people who see the potential that lies within an area like Downtown Elmira. They bring fresh idea and a new positive energy that, frankly, the area could use. They are attempting what many have tried and failed to do; get a foothold and restore the beauty of the place once known as "The Queen City". Some come to the area unencumbered by memories of what once was, they see only what can be. Which is a good thing, of course. 

    However I think there's too much of an attitude of, "be positive, or be quiet" in response to the people who have lived here for generations that raise questions or doubts about the latest, greatest thing. 

    Hurricane Agnes gets blamed a lot for the despair many residents of the city feel, but there's more to it than that. should be remembered that residents of the area have been here and heard a lot of pie in the sky promises over the decades. Developers and researchers have come and gone, millions of dollars thrown their way, only to see little or no results in return. "Good 'ol boy" deals and politicians' personal interests or screw ups have slowly chased small businesses out of downtown and to the west of the county or other outlying areas. A giant hockey arena that was supposed to be the savior of the city sits on a corner in the very heart of downtown, largely unused, costing millions while the major players have moved on.

    The people of Elmira have always been resilient. They've been through hell, yes, and they stayed. They've earned the right to be skeptical when presented with "the next big thing" if you ask me. To tell them to sit down, shut up when doubts are raised is doing a great disservice to the people who built this community. 

    Having said that, I also think the people of this area need a paradigm shift. 

    Folks, the Elmira you remember is gone. Like that last Labrador Duck in Brand Park, it aint coming back. It's sad, yes, but it's also time to stop living in the past.

    While I defend the right of every person to be skeptical about the future of the city, I also believe it's time to stop automatically dismissing every new idea that someone proposes. Sure, some of the ideas are blatantly stupid ( **cough, roundabouts... ) but you know, some of the ideas and things I see happening are pretty good!

    I've often believed that if you point out problems without offering solutions, you end up becoming part of the problem. Lord knows there's a lot of problems in this area, but truth is, we're still better off than others. People need to remember that. So if someone moves here and gets a glimmer of hope in their eye looking at a run down building in the city, good for them. If they want to invest their time, money and sweat into making something of it, yeah you can be skeptical, but I also think they deserve the chance. 

  4. Carol Bossard
    Latest Entry

    “Spring is sprung; the grass is riz --- I wonder where the birdies is….”*

    Winter is having a hard time loosening its grip on us.  Snow just keeps coming down and we keep shoveling and filling the feeders for the cardinals, tufted titmice, chickadees and, although not invited, the deer.   Palm Sunday is just three days ahead, and then comes Easter.  So ---- we keep hoping spring will also arrive!!  We’ve experienced a few snowy Easters in past years, but we’d rather that didn’t happen in 2018.  I changed the evergreen wreath on our door to one with forsythia, hoping to influence the weather, but so far---- no impact on winter!!  In the spirit of eternal optimism, though, I do expect daffodils really soon!

    I enjoy this time of year.  Unlike Thanksgiving and Christmas, the preparations for Easter are generally not so labor-intensive.    It is a more meditative season that awakens a need for exploring our spiritual component.   We are prone to neglect that part of ourselves simply because we are so busy with careers, community involvement and the never-ending tasks of living.   The Easter-Passover season reminds us to pause; to consider spiritual growth as something that impacts our health and ability to live a satisfying life.    We may realize that if our beliefs are real, they aren’t just for holidays, but for daily living.  If you are a reader, some book selections that speak to this are: Choices by Alexandra Stoddard and How Then Shall We Live by Wayne Muller.  Neither is denominational in any way, but both speak of living joyfully, an interior as well as an exterior life.  And if you are open for it, a more theological and challenging book is Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.  Taking time for thoughtfulness and good Lenten reading is probably more useful than giving up chocolate!!



    One of the most delightful Easter customs is coloring eggs.  This has been going on for centuries, and some traditions turn the eggs into fine works of art, like the Ukrainian wax& dye process.  I’ll probably be coloring Easter eggs when I’m ninety, though mine are not at all elaborate.  The regular coloring kits available in grocery stores are fun, but even more entertaining is using some of the available natural colorings.  Wrapping eggs in red or yellow onion skins gives them muted shades of color, depending on how long one leaves them wrapped.  If you have skillful fingers, you can cut designs in the onion skins.  There are vegetables, fruits and spices that also may be used: beets (lavender), blueberries (purplish-blue), turmeric (yellow), cranberry juice (pink) and grape juice (blue-violet).  Adding vinegar to the soaking cups intensified the color.  And polishing the eggs after coloring gives them a lovely patina.  If you wish to provide a bit more sparkle, apply a thin layer of adhesive (diluted white glue) and roll the eggs in glitter.  (I wouldn’t recommend eating those!)  Nestled in a pot of home-grown grass (or cat grass from the florist shop) they will speak of newness and spring.

    Back to books----- when I think of reading, I (of course) also think of writing.  As I read, I’m often in awe of what comes out of people’s heads, through their fingers and onto paper.  Once in a blue moon, for me, the writing just flows, but more often, it has to be coaxed and pulled out with agonizing and considerable editing.  For several years now, I have promised my family a narrative cookbook: “Grandma’s House”.  This would be a book of family stories and recipes, focusing on my mother and the home where everyone gathered, with peeks into other family homes too.  It would be a sort of anthology of us, as a clan, using our favorite foods as the connecting vehicle.  But --- how I procrastinate! ----how hard this seems to be!  Oh, the recipes are all available, and so are the stories.   But it is difficult; the weaving them together into a tapestry that makes evident the warmth of sitting around that polished oak table with steaming cups of amber tea and several choices of cookie boxes.  How to make clear the combined aromas of varnish and paint (artist’s paraphernalia), wood smoke, bouquets of lilacs, baking cookies and scent of burning candle wax?  And how does one insert the lowing sound of a barn-full of cows, the mostly contented clucking of chickens and the bird song from the trees and gardens?   So far, the pattern has eluded me --- but I will figure it out!   Given time and focus!  Or perhaps the project will fly into another family member’s mind and flow through their fingers into a book.  Meanwhile, just thinking about this brightens my day as I take a mini-vacation back in time to the drumlins and green fields where I grew up.

    While that book remains in my imagination, my garden orders are immediate and real, and I’m now concentrating on getting them ready to send in this week.   Editing the plant possibilities is almost as agonizing as editing what I write.   My gardens are blossoming extravagantly ----- in my plans.  It is so easy to envision what should be marvelous patterns of color and texture in the gardens.  How much harder it is to convince those seeds and plants to flourish as they should in our unwelcoming clay soil.  


    Daffodils are soon to come, but pussy willows are here now.  One of my former co-workers, from an Aleutian tribe in Alaska, said that they always used pussy willows instead of palm branches for Palm Sunday.  Palm trees are a tad scarce in Alaska I’d imagine.  And since I can’t seem to keep a palm (or much else) alive over winter, I too use pussy willows, on the altar table at church.  And they stand in all their delightful gray fuzziness, representing both the coming spring and the wonders of creation.   Whatever our capricious weather brings, I am sending good wishes to you for a blessed Easter/Passover/Springtime.   Take some time to play for as Logan Pearsall Smith** says: “If you are losing your leisure, look out; you may be losing your soul.”  Enjoy each day, be grateful and be glad!!

    *--An old country verse, but I haven’t any idea from whence it comes.
    **--Logan Pearsall Smith (son of Hannah Whitall Smith) was an American-born British essayist and critic.  1865-1946.

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

  5. by Erin Doane 

    In 1876, the Town of Veteran had a population of around 2,300 and it had 15 schools. 15!? To modern eyes, that may seem like a lot, but the majority were small, one-room schoolhouses. This was typical of most rural towns in the 19thand early 20th centuries. Nearly all of the students would have to walk to school, so the schoolhouses needed to be close to where they lived. Of the 867 school-age children who lived in Veteran in 1876, 717 were enrolled pupils. There were 12 male teachers and 21 female teachers and a library of 445 volumes shared across the schools.


    The Town of Veteran Historians have a wonderful collection of photographs and materials related to these early schools. While researching the Towns and Villages of Chemung County: Veteran exhibit, which is on display here at CCHS through July 2018, I got to look through their school files. All the images in this post are from the Veteran Historians’ collection.


    The first schoolhouse in the town of Veteran was built in the early 1800s just east of the village of Millport. Simeon Squires served as the first school teacher. By the middle of the century, more schoolhouses had been built in Sullivanville, Pine Valley, and more remote areas of the town.


    Millport’s famous octagon school was built in 1869. The two-story building had two rooms, one upstairs and one downstairs, where students in grades 1 through 8 were taught. This was one of the only schools that had more than one teacher. In 1888, the two teachers were a husband and wife team who made a combined salary of $750 a year.


    The interiors of the one-room schoolhouses were fairly similar. Typically, there were wooden student desks facing a teacher’s desk and a blackboard in the front of the room. The early schools had no electricity and water had to be brought in from either a well with a pitcher pump outside or from a neighboring home. A wood or coal stove would provide heat for the building in the winter. Since nearly every student walked to school, some were able to go home for lunch. Those who stayed would bring their own lunches or, at some schools, the teacher or parents would provide hot soup for all the students. Outhouses, one for boys and one for girls, were nearby. Some schools had a swing outside or a teeter-totter that students could enjoy at recess.


    Most of the schools had students from grades 1 through 8 all in the same room. The teacher would work with one grade at a time but everyone could hear the lessons. Because of that, younger students often learned what their older counterparts were being taught. It was not unusual for students in these one-room schoolhouses to pass tests to skip into higher grades. After 8th grade, students would go to high school in Horseheads.


    One of the neatest things that I found in the Historians’ files were photocopies of yearbooks from Veteran School No. 10 from 1935 and 1936. The homemade yearbooks included class photos, drawings likely made by students, and even a class will. I wonder how many schools produced their own yearbooks like that.


    Veteran’s rural schools were consolidated with the Horseheads Central School District in 1950 and the days of the one-room schoolhouse came to an end. Several of the schoolhouses were torn down but may more remain as private residences. For more photos and information about Veteran schools visit http://www.townofveteranhistoricalsociety.com/id14.html. To see more photos of students and read stories from those who went to some of the one-room schoolhouses in Veteran visit http://www.townofveteranhistoricalsociety.com/id24.html



    Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. This article was originally posted HERE 2/18/18

  6. The political climate in Chemung County is very interesting right now.

    At last count nearly 30 people have either announced their candidacy for Chemung County Legislature or are giving it very serious consideration, and there are at least three – possibly even four – candidates for Chemung County Executive. This injection of people and energy into local politics means our community will have an excellent opportunity to learn about the issues  from a diverse set of perspectives.

    Despite each candidate’s individual concerns and ideas, one common theme has already begun to emerge: Chemung County’s struggling economy, and the way our county government goes about addressing it, has to be the top priority.

    For too long our area has been dogged by sluggish economic growth, prompting more and more people to seek ways that they can get involved and make a difference.

    Although we are incredibly fortunate to have an outstanding Chamber of Commerce run by innovative, creative thinkers who go a long way toward making our area attractive to both established and prospective economic investors, as well as numerous strong economic development agencies such Elmira Downtown Development and Southern Tier Economic Growth (STEG), we clearly have a long way to go.

    Indeed, recent measures of Chemung County’s fiscal health are sobering:

    *A report last summer by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York showed Chemung County was the only area in New York State with declining job growth. The entire report is found here.

    *Elmira’s 2.8 percent private-sector employment decline was worst in the state, and placed it among only three other metro areas in the state to record job losses. The rate of job loss here is the highest in New York state – nearly 3 percent over the past year – with a 6 percent drop since 2008 (link here.)

    *Personal income growth since 2008 in Elmira was half the United States national annual average for metro areas of 3.2 percent, according to numbers compiled by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (link here.)

    *Chemung County’s reserves decreased from $30 million in 2011 to a projected level of just $19 million in 2018, and are expected to drop below $10 million by 2021 if no changes are made to the way county government approaches the budgeting process. This decrease in reserves stems from an average yearly budget deficit of approximately $2 million that started in 2011. (Note: this metric was provided by Chemung County Treasurer Steve Hoover during last November’s Legislative Budget Workshop. It is possible the projected loss in reserves for 2018 is now somewhat less severe given an unexpected increase in sales tax revenue generated last year, a figure that was released after the budget passed.)

    *Chemung County’s debt has risen by 25 percent, from roughly $40 million in 1999 to over $50 million in 2017, as its expenditures have far outpaced revenues each year. A link to an Op-Ed I wrote in November on this issue is found here.

    *Numerous local municipalities are facing hard economic times, including the Town of Horseheads that levied a property tax in 2016 for the first time in 30 years (link here), the Village of Van Ettan that voted last December to dissolve, a measure that will relieve residents of heavy tax burdens (link here), and the Town of Southport that will likely have to raise taxes over the next year or two as it has controlled expenses while seeing revenues its dry up (link here.)

    *The City of Elmira was forced to impose a 17% (!) property tax hike at the start of this week, leaving Elmira residents with one of the heaviest tax burdens in New York state (link here.)

    *The First Arena – an entertainment venue located in the heart of downtown Elmira – is (a) currently without an prospective; (b) owned by the Chemung County Industrial Development Agency; (c) saddled with considerable debt; and (d) its future is unknown (link here.)

    *Town and Village officials expressed their concerns about finding addition ways to deal with dwindling revenue stream to the Center for Governmental Research last year:


    The reasons for Chemung County’s economic hardship are plentiful, driven in great part by a weakened (yet still relatively vibrant) manufacturing sector along with more and more directives from Albany that account for a tremendous portion (roughly 80%) of our county budget.

    Last night someone asked me what my vision is for addressing these economic issues, i.e. what are the solutions? In general, I think there are two core principles that can go a long way toward helping: cooperation and empowerment.

    With respect to cooperation, we need to find ways to solicit genuine input from all levels and all types of government. Some of the issues that are certain to be discussed in coming years – further municipal consolidation, sales tax distribution, countywide public safety (i.e. police and/or fire) agencies – affect everyone who lives in Chemung County.

    Many years ago there was a group called the Council of Governments. It included representatives from county government, city government, town and village boards, school boards, the library district, etc. Unfortunately that group no longer exists, nor does the cooperative spirit it fostered. Bringing back COG or something similar could be a great first step toward big-picture thinking on these matters.

    Closely related to cooperation is the need for empowerment of the governing infrastructure we already have, particularly the county legislature. Chemung County’s Charter envisions the legislature as a proactive body, stating:

    *”The County Legislature shall be the governing body of the County and shall be the legislative, appropriating and policy-determining body of the County…”, and

    *The Legislature shall have the power to…”make such studies and investigations as it deems to be in the best interests of the County and in connection therewith to obtain and employ professional and technical advice, appoint temporary advisory boards of citizens, subpoena witnesses, administer oaths, and require the production of books, papers and other evidence deemed necessary or material to such study or inquiry.”

    (Emphasis added.) A link to Chemung County’s Charter is found here.

    However, several people who have served on the Chemung County Legislature express concern that the opportunity for it to effectuate positive change is not being fully utilized. This concern has led several current legislators to undertake a study of their own rules in order to find ways they can have a bigger impact on policy decisions. At this time it is unclear what, if any, changes will be made.

    Every four years we elect 15 legislators to serve our community. It only makes sense that we take full advantage of the ideas and initiatives they bring to the table.

    Cooperation and empowerment, along with a frank exploration of the issues, can go a long way toward helping our community really begin to thrive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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