THE LIFE OF A PLODDER
FRED GORTON'S 95 YEARS
an account compiled from his memoirs and diaries
by his granddaughter
Kathy Lynn Gorton Emerson
CHAPTER FOUR: THE R.F.D. CARRIER
(in his own words)
One winter there was caterpillars nests on trees and bushes everywhere I traveled. I collected several hundred and offered to give a box of candy in each of the three schools for the one who could collect the greatest number of those nests by cutting the little branch off with the next intact. I got 3000 of those nests, but the teachers divided the candy equally to the scholars so no one won. It cost me about three dollars. I put them in shoe boxes in my barn. One day I saw hundreds of them crawling out and hatching. I put boxes and all in the barrel where I burned old papers. That was the most lives I ever took in one day.
George Hutchinson was Rural Carrier starting from Ferndale at that time and that is where I conceived the idea I wanted to be the first carrier out of Liberty, which started March 2nd, 1908. I furnished the conveyance (horse, wagon, and feed) and started at $67.50 per month. Father bought old Dobbin of a young fellow by the name of Howard Bartholomew--harness, halter & blanket for $65. Dobbin was a former race horse when they raced on Loch Sheldrake Pond. I kept her for five years and had her when I first lived in our barn and had a building 14' square I built all by myself. She got lame and I sold her to Chas. Benedict to be killed out of her misery for $1.50.
My hours was 10:30 to 4:30. I served a twenty-seven mile route. Upon returning to Liberty from my trip on the RFD route I was speeding with Old Dobbin when I met Mr. Rampe and a coach dog belonging to Dan Wickham's livery stable. He was extra large and a beauty but just as I came dashing along the dog stepped close to Mr. Rampe, with 4" wide tires on his wagon, and his front foot was crushed. I never told of it but was sorry I drove so fast past the heavy wagon and the dog scooted too near the wheel and got his foot run over.
My first wagon had no top but used an advertising umbrella for shelter. I owned a bay mare (bought from Mrs. Will Nichols) who tried to run away with me. I swung the umbrella handle a half turn and let it go in the air into Lake Ophelia. I never saw it again. I whipped the horse all the way to Bonnell's Mill and she was so winded she slowed down, so I turned around and finished the trip without further event.
W. F. Doll boarded at the Leslie farm house for a few weeks. He owned a large lake and a boarding house, Lake Liberty. The lake had fine pickerel and bass. Mr. Doll made his fortune in South America but never told what his vocation was. He wore cowboy laced boots with a side pocket containint a dagger 8 inches long, so I was told by our mailman, Mr. Kimball. One time he came out next to his little bungalow and introduced me to a girl about eighteen years old. He said if I wanted some "fun" to go in the bungalow with her, as she "is tops to give a good time." I told him I was married and didn't need any extra now or any time. Mr. Doll later got in a fight with another man in Liberty and he poked his opponent in his eye with his cane, which he always carried but didn't need. He was about sixty years old then. He was fined $15 but wouldn't pay so he went to the County Jail for fifteen days. While there the Sheriff let him have his cane and the prisoners were allowed to exercise in the long hall in front of the cells. Mr. Doll made use of his cane by poking out thirty-six windows before he was stopped. [It's thirty-seven in another account, written when Fred was 90.] It was told that Mr. Doll in winter would go naked to the lake, break a hole in the ice, and take a dip in the ice water. He opened the flood gate in the lake and netted a hundred fish. One day Mr. Doll had eight nice fish for me, about one pound each. They were suckers, but good. [Elsewhere Fred says it was six fish, 7½ pounds each. Perhaps this was a second present of fish?]
I used to serve mail on the rural delivery to Mr. Rosner. One day when I came along his daughter received the mail from my hand and got between the wheels of my wagon so I couldn't start up. So, in a joke, I told her I would like to spend an evening with her. She looked me right in the eye, said "all right." I was married and she knew it. I didn't do it. Later I learned Eva Rosner was having two boys staying all night with her in their barn. Arthur D. who lived on the next farm, and Willie D., two miles distant. Each one asked his father if he could spend the night with his friend. Request granted. This went on all summer. Mr. Rosner told me something would happen to Eva for her sin. The next boarding season she wasn't there anymore. I didn't ask why. Both boys got married. Willie's wife died and Arthur's wife left him after his grandfather's $3000 ran out. Arthur hit a procussion (sic) cap with a hammer so he had on his right hand a forefinger and a thumb since he was ten years old. Willie died. Arthur was still living in July 1950.
Some girls sitting on the bank with knee dresses wanted me to call that evening. One was married and had a girl six years old. I told her if there was something doing I would. She said, "I make no promises."
One time, near the Cosmolitan (sic) Hotel, I came upon a black-haired young woman lying with her back end on a large stump and her head down hill. She had very broad hips. As usual . . . I passed by. The day before a girl with as much on as could cover modestly piled in the RFD wagon beside me and it was quite a job to convince her I couldn't take passengers while on duty.
I cut Tom Devine's hay around his place while on the job while Old Dobbin ate her dinner, and drawed it home later. At Huntington School little Eva Stanton used to get in and ride from the school house to the David Hall place which was bought by Aaron Stanton. One time Aaron said, "Fred, would you like to have that little rooster?" I took him up and the next day, sure enough, he had him in a bag for me. Aaron was close-fisted and it tickled me to get a gift from him. I had seventy-five hens of my own which he didn't know of.
Many patrons on the RFD route thought I was single. One Sunday Daisy and I was out wheeling a baby carriage. A load of people from Hilldale came along and hollered, "Oh, you married mail man!" Ma thought I passed myself as single. I told her I didn't let strangers know whether I was single or not.
Two girls from the Leslie Farm came to the McIntosh School to get mail as their mailbox was at the schoolhouse. Mamie Rafferty got right in my wagon as I arrived and sat beside me, and grabbed me where my zipper closes. I told her "That thing sometimes raises its ugly head." She says, "Come behind the schoolhouse and I'll put it down." The other girl said, "I will hold the horse until you get back." Anything that comes that easy is dangerous, so I passed it up. A few days later Mrs. George Eltz, another patron, said, "Do you know Mamie?" I said, "I've met her." She said, "Keep away from her," and ran into her house. Her George, age sixty, got burnt. (George Eltz, a farmer on the Loch Sheldrake Road, d. Nov. 12, 1929 @ nearly 67)
C. P. Berylson had a chicken farm in sight of the McIntosh School and wrote a column in the Liberty paper. He was known as "Acid Drops." He didn't care whose toes he stepped on. When he wrote "beautiful eyes and charming ways; the mailman is necessarily delayed," I understood what he meant.
Mark Kortright (d. April 10, 1949 @ 84), a half-mile away, also had his mailbox at the school. His daughter Mabel was courted by a very nice looking Jewish boy but Old Kortright told Mabel he wouldn't let her marry him. To hurt her father, she said, "I'll marry the first man who asks me." Harvey McIntosh (d. January 5, 1945 @ 76), a thirty-five year old bachelor, got wind of it and went right up there and asked her to marry him. She accepted at once.This was about 1917. It made quite a stir in the neighborhood because Harvey wasn't thought of as a good catch, but they lived on a farm and reared eight children, all of whom turned out to be good citizens. As rural carrier, I heard all the news that got the tongues wagging.
A new school teacher from this same schoolhouse asked me to deliver a little sealed letter to Will Nicholson (d. June 20, 1947 @ 65; his 400 acre farm became Grossinger's airport). She was blushing real red. "And don't leave it in his mailbox, hand it to him if possible." Will happened to be there. I gave it to him. He smiled and thanked me. Later she married a nice man. They built a new home and lived near my home in Liberty.
In 1910, I was outside my home and a plane was heard running rather low and quite noisy. I heard a crash like trees being broken off. Two days later it was reported seven lives were lost in the woods six miles north of Livingston Manor. So many people went to the scene of the accident a beaten path was made. The cause of the plane crash was never known.
One time when Rev. Warren J. Conrad was our minister (it was perhaps 1910), the Bible Class had a supper at the Hall House, now the Lenape. James Cusator and Rev. Conrad arranged for a supper. They took care of all the details, menus and all, Eva Weed Ray (Mrs. Frank G. Ray) was cook. I believe I as Treasurer paid her $2.50. Each Sunday we were expected to pay 25¢. I paid if any member was absent on Sunday. We had perhaps $4 in the treasury. I could have stopped it by saying there will be no supper until the cost is in the treasury. We had six or eight members in the class which cost $1.25 each. After the supper I asked by mail for each member to pay $1.25. The next Sunday R. A. Monroe (Roswell A. Monroe, bank president; d. Oct. 26, 1945 @ 85) chided me by saying he never was asked before the pay the ante after the spree was over. I let this go through just to tell many years later how dumb the Rev. Conrad and James Cusator could be. Eva Weed Ray died February 4, 1964 at 88. Rev. Warren J. Conrad died April 10, 1964 at 76. James Cusator died December 14, 1966 at 85.
It was about 1910 [Editor's note: elsewhere Fred says it was about 1912] when I arrived at Liberty Post Office with my collected mail from the RFD route and as I was emptying it in the large tray some of the office force set a large firecracker behind me. The fuse was lit and sputtering. I looked around and spied it and watched until the fuse burned to its top, then kicked it right at the two men standing against the wall, Arch Armstrong and Jay Stewart. It exploded mid-air, half-way from me to them, with a loud roar. Solomon Royce was Postmaster and didn't seem to be scared in the least, but the two men whose heads might have been blown off turned very pale and decided not to try any more stunts on the rural carrier as he was a very dangerous character to deal with. Armon McPhilamy came in from the lobby to find out what happened. It gave the people in the lobby a scare. The weekly paper didn't print it. Andy Sirocco got smart and grabbed me when I returned from the route, so I came in the back door and hustled him across the floor, gave him the hip lock, and threw him heavily to the floor. He never bothered me after that. Archibald P. Armstrong died July 6, 1963 at Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital, Cooperstown @ 79. He was county treasurer for twelve years and a printer and married five times: 1) Molly Whitaker (d. April 11, 1934); 2) Jennie Grant, his first wife's nurse; 3) Harriet McDonald (d. June 28, 1950 @ 65; widow of Milton J. McGibbon); 4) Mary Palmer Bailey (d. Aug. 13, 1961; daughter of Brundage and Mary Palmer Bailey and widow of Mr. Little of Kiamesha); and 5) Mrs. May Whitaker. Jay Stewart was 69 years old on Feb. 10, 1961. Solomon Royce died July 12, 1924.
I bought a large bay mare of Mrs. Nichols. Now The Grossinger owns the place. I hooked her up to the light lumber wagon to get a looking glass for a friend at the Liberty Freight House which stood where Killains' Transfer building now stands. As I just got the looking glass in the wagon, the horse switched her tail and caught the lines and it tangled under her feet. She started to run toward the Fulane Company Place. Sherman Ernhout had a Feed & Coal and Lumber combined. I was without the lines. We crossed a narrow bridge, the horse swayed as if to throw me out. Seth Annis was at the mill. I yelled and asked him to knock her down with the scoop shovel he had in his hand. He waved the scoop and the mare stopped. I was so upset I forgot to thank him. I have been told never to jump in a runaway. You will come out better if you stay in, as maybe someone may rescue you.
[Editor's Note: This incident, unlike the previous ones, did get written up in the newspaper. The clipping Fred saved reports a slightly different version of the story:
While at the station last Thursday evening after an express package, Freddy S. Gorton, the R. F. D. carrier had what might have been a serious runaway. While loading a mirror into the wagon a piece of paper blew in front of his pacer, which he recently purchased and which has a very fast mark. The pacer started down the hill toward Ernhout's mills. Freddy jumped into the back of the wagon and climbed over the seat. When he found his reins were under the pacer's feet, and having been taught in childhood to sit still and never jump during a runaway, he settled himself into the bottom of the R.F. D. wagon. On the street leading to Ernhout's mills is a creek about 40 feet deep, and when near this, men hearing Freddy saying "Whoa" in loud tones ran into the road and shook a sheet in front of the racing steed and in getting past it took Freddy off the bridge, but luck saved him. Just before he reached the mill, Seth Annis ran out and hit the runaway with a coal scoop and before the steed could get up he had him by the bridle and a serious accident was averted. In payment for the mad flight the pacer had to do fifty miles the next two days and wear hopples.]
One day about 1910 I decided to drive Old Dobbin the whole length of Hilldale Lake on the ice and get my name in the Liberty Gazette, but skipped two boarding houses by so doing.
A plaster mason boarded with my wife and I in winter about 1912. Will LaBarr (d. Dec. 16, 1969 @ 80) used to walk Lena Gerow (d. Aug. 13, 1963 @73) home from the store in Liberty village where she was a saleslady, about a half mile. One night he got fresh and insulted her. She told him never to call on her again. He really expected to marry her. He asked me to write a letter of apology which he would copy, so I did for him: "Dear Lena, I am heart sorry for the way I treated you Sunday night, and I promise I'll never let it happen again. I want to make up and still be friends." She forgave him and after they were married (on Sept. 12, 1916) she told me she couldn't believe he could word such an apology. I intended to tell her whose brain wrote the words for him to copy, but she died before him.
Amasa Prince asked me to leave his letters to Frank Denman's mailbox before I came to his home as his mother got his letters before he got home from work. He was courting a Jewish girl named Bessie Nabatoff. Both his mother and the Nabatoff parents objected to this courtship. I did his bidding and they got married and had three children. After he died I wrote her a nice letter. Told her I was sorry for her loss and about how I helped save her letters from his mother. She wrote me a nice latter and said they lived happily until his death (Feb. 23, 1968) at age seventy-eight. Fifty-six years of marriage. [editor's note: According to Amasa Prince's grandson, he had only two children, Irene and Marjorie. Amasa (pronounced Am' zee) and Bessie moved to Hurleyville in about 1910, after Amasa sold his farm to his brother Charles.]
In 1912 or 1914 we had a big snow storm. I went out each day and made part of the RFD route on foot, or used the horse part way, leaving the horse with someone while I made another loop, coming back again for the horse. One time I left the horse tied at the bottom of the hill near S. Duberoff's and walked to the Oliver Cooley (Sept. 1875-July 25, 1955) place and left five partrons' mail there, and returned to turn the horse around and go on Loch Sheldrake to serve some more patrons. This same winter I went in the fields off the road five times to serve the route. One day I walked maybe ten miles. The O&W train got through at Taylor's Crossing and I got on and rode to Liberty, the only time I carried mail by train.
At the Workman's Circle Sanatarium I met Dr. Rayvesky. He hooked his sleigh staves on mine and threw Old Dobbin down. I was pretty mad but done nothing about it.
Morris Seiken bought the Lake Liberty Farm of W. F. Doll and ran a boarding house in summer. He had a pump house to get water up to the house run by electricity. The pump stopped so he went in the pump house to start the pump. It was dark in there so he lit a match and was blown through the roof and killed. This was about 1912. I was rural carrier from Liberty at the time and a month later Mrs. Seiken asked me for my Liberty Register to get the printed account of his mishap and death. I didn't have it but referred her to the Liberty office. Morris Seiken Jr. didn't want to go in the army in 1917 so submitted to appendix operation and died. Liberty Village bought the above lake after the boarding house burned down March 26, 1955. I think the United States government paid about half of the purchase price and we made a dock for boating and a black top driveway with picnic tables.
The boys of Liberty on Sundays used to go to Ferndale to get the Sunday papers. They either used a horse or a bicycle and rushed to White Lake with the Sunday News and sold them to the city people boarding there. By coming to Ferndale, a two mile distance, they got the jump on other boys who got their papers from Train #9. This saved ten minutes time. The O&W railroad was in full swing at that time and did a thriving business carrying city folks to Sullivan County in the summer season. The Ontario and Western railroad had as high as nine coaches on one train and every seat was generally filled. The Liberty depot had two wings and at train time two or three hundred waited under this long roof. The Liberty stables had as high as 20 horses in summer. We had three livery stables in the business and a few private folks doing livery work too.
In 1912 Teddy Roosevelt made a speech from the upper porch of the New Liberty House. He was running for President on the Bull Moose ticket against Wm. Taft. I, Fred Gorton, and twin Floyd, ate dinner in the Old Liberty House by invitation of Mrs. Payne, who ran a boarding house across from Old Hornbeck's place. Also Fred Payne, her son, was with her.
Rev. George Murry Colville came to Liberty as Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in 1914. He had lost his wife just before he came here. He preached at three different churches in Binghamton before he came to Liberty. Our Presbyterian church paid him $1200 a year but Chandler Young, our first bank president, paid $500, making his income $1700. He boarded with the Newton Clements, met a maiden lady thirty-five years old there, and married her. He was the best Gospel preacher we ever had. At a men's meeting he told of some travels in foreign lands. One time in Egypt he stayed with a man who had five wives. He asked Rev. Colville if he would like to see his latest bride. She was eighteen years old and came out naked and well built too. A dear friend of Rev. Colville's lost his wife and three days after the funeral wanted Rev. Colville to marry him to her sister. He said she looked so much like his late wife. After due explanation, Rev. Colville married them. The sister lived with them, so he thought it better that way. Rev. Colville was stricken with encephalitis and died twenty months after he came to Liberty, on February 10, 1915, at sixty-three.
I bought a Model T Ford July 7, 1915 for $467.50 delivered. Charles Crawford (d. Nov. 8, 1955 @ 92; blacksmith at Stone Ridge near Newburgh) got one at the same car load. The automobiles came in a box car on the O&W. Ben Gerow sold the car to me and Lee Crook (d. May 30, 1965 @ 73; m Elsie Helbig, who d. Sept 25, 1947 @ 55) loaned me $250 to pay for it. I paid a man who knew how to drive to go with me for two days and expected him the third day but he didn't show up so I drove alone after that. My first license number was 8482, next number was V5284, next A-51-966 and last one A64-112. I sold to Jim Manion of Livingston Manor for $175 cash.
My first blow out occurred near the Tom Deviny place. We had to crank the car as self-starters didn't exist. One couldn't take the wheel off as now with six nuts and bolts, but had to jack the car up, take the shoe off, and patch the inner tube and blow it up with a foot pump. It took me half an hour before I got started again. Will Nicholson bought a Ford and I taught him how to take the shoe off and patch the inner tube. It was on my regular trip too. On my vacation I dug potatoes and helped the Nicholson boys thrash oats and buckwheat on the farm. I received $1.50 a day.
My horse Roxy was in pasture in the old Jim Schoonmaker place on the Loch Sheldrake Road. When I went to catch Roxy to use her for the winter she would turn around tail first at me, so I took her by the tail and came up beside her and put the halter on and we came home. I hired a livery horse every Thursday to spell Roxy but she made the trip five days per week nearly all winter.
I drove my Model T Ford three summers over the RFD route, but never got stuck so bad as to have anyone help me out. But sometimes I had to get stones from the stone wall to block up the hind wheels when I got stuck. About four months in winter I used horses to make the trip. They didn't plow the roads in those days. We generally had good sleighing from Christmas until March 15th or April 1st. I used a single horse. The staves was shifted so as to let the horse travel in the left side path as there was a comb between the two paths
February 19, 1916: I served the RFD trip with difficulty. I sent Wm. Green's (d. Jan. 9, 1951 @ 78; m Alice Deviny) to Crary's from Devine Corners and upset twice in going to Clements'. Lost my horse feed in the field. Met Mr. Drennon at Clements'. Roxy the horse wouldn't stand so I jerked her and broke the turret on the saddle of the harness. I arrived to Alvin Brown's (d. May 18, 1967 @88) and the road was closed with a ladder so I put Roxy in his barn and put all the mail in the sack and traveled on to Cooley's. It was 12:30 PM. I took dinner at Cooley's and left eight patrons' mail there--C. Taylor, Annie Devine, Frank Carr, Chas. Benedict, Dewey Carr, Morris Seigel, Aaron Stanton, Jas. Osterhout (James H. Osterhout was buried June 17, 1935?). I went to Geo. Earl's (George Earl married Lillie Hankins; she d. Feb. 2, 1945 @ 80). There I met him with the ox sled below Max Keller's place, breaking the road for me. Then to Pshonick's [Mrs. Israel (Rose) Pshonick d. March 19, 1948 @ 66], then to Prince's, and left Frank Denman's mail there. I met Glenn and Ernest Porter (d. May 2, 1956 @ 66). At Levine's place left Kalmanson's paper. It took forty-five minutes to reach Chas. Spitzer's place from Tony Vantran's. Next stop Myer Abramson. The bull pup came out and I called him a son of a bitch for chasing me. I went to Bonney's Corner. Sold 20¢ of stamps to McIntosh up to the McIntosh School. Two boxes there and on to C. P. Berylson's place to get signature for the special delivery letter for Mr. Kahn. They offered me coffee. Went on to Joe Bonnell's. Saw Fred Beseth. Went to Nicholson's Corner. Sat down, put Beseth's mail in his box. The drift was high. Next stop Bushlovitz. Here I went in their house and cleared my felt boots of snow and ice. They offered me some tea but it looked like liquor in a glass. I took none. I passed on through Workman's Circle to Howard's place. Here I asked him to take Wm. Abplanalp's (d. Dec. 24, 1954 @ 84?) mail to him. I had no mail for Abe Zeller so I went to Den Brock's, box 102. Took a cup of tea there and then to Alvin Brown's to get Roxy. They had unharnessed her and they hooked her up while I rested and visited with his wife. I got in Liberty Post Office at 7:05 PM so lame from walking I felt it for two days. I presume I walked seventeen miles over the route. Quite a long walk when one is used to riding. The snow was perhaps two feet deep.
March 9, 1916: I started over my trip on RFD. I skipped 11 to 16 but went to Mr. Robt. Smith's box and returned to Joe Brown's. Took dinner and left there just as the clock struck twelve. Thence to Crary's and Newton Clements'. They offered me dinner. I got a signature for the special delivery at P.A. O'Malley's (lived next to Nichols School) and when I got to J.R. Gerow's she asked me to dinner and coffee and Jas.Wyncoop (James Wyncoop d. Oct. 4, 1934) asked me to eat. I stopped and took tea. Dewey Carr and wife also offered me dinner. Mr. Tripps was there. Also Dewey's sixteen month little girl. Aaron Stanton met me halfway to the corner. Took his mail and Jas. Osterhout's. I retraced back to Geo. Earl's place. Mr. Earl was at Cooley's Corner to meet me but I went past Earl's to Arch Kirschbaum (d. April 6, 1949) and Prince's and Fred Vantran (Frederick M. Vantran d. April 18, 1962 @ 73 in Livingston Manor; married DeliaO'Keefe, who d. Oct. 4, 1958 @ 76; farmer)met me at the corner by Two Bridges and I gave him Levine Bros. mail, Kalmanson #72, also Chas. Spitzer. I turned for Liberty, went past Pshonick's to Alvin Brown's. Brown hooked up the cream colored horse while I went in their house and heard four phonograph records. They had a live hen in a pail with two sticks of wood to keep her in. She could stick her head out. I was taken to the post office by Elu, the son, with his covered sleigh. Otherwise I walked or ran all the way. It was 5:30 PM.
March 25, 1916: I went out in the field all these places to serve the RFD route: Crary's road was blocked with snow from Mrs. Mary Simmons' to Crary's Corner; took the field at Morton's to J.N. Clements'; went in the woods next to Martha Grant's; next blockade was A.B. Stanton's and Prince by Mauer's Corner. Retrace to Seigel's through Geo. Earl's place; Prince place to Geo. Eltz, W.E. Porter. No road from the Rexford place. We went in the field to the left from Levine's place through his barn yard to Tony Vantran's; up in the field to Spitzer place; in the gully halfway to Abramson's place; at the top of Nicholson's Hill; in the meadow to the Workman's Circle. Here we dash out of the road to the Cold Spring House. Four roads past Seiken's we go into John Nicholson'sfield, left past his barn, and come out at the bars. We cross Den Brock's lot to the sand bank by Howard Rowe place, the last place in the field making twelve places apart from the regular road traversed by the RFD route from Liberty.
October 17, 1917: I served a twenty-seven mile route and the same night served as fireman thirteen hours in the Liberty Power House.To go to Chapter Five
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