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
©1980 Kathy Lynn Gorton Emerson; revisions © 2005-10 Kathy Lynn Gorton Emerson
This section of a map from the Sullivan County Atlas of 1875 shows the area of Liberty in Sullivan County, New York where Fred Gorton lived. "J. Gorton" underlined in red indicates Old Hickory Farm, at the time of this map in the possession of John Gorton, N.G. Gorton's father. The property is on Rt. 175. The point where Rt. 175 crosses the railroad tracks is Strongtown Crossing. The Strongtown Schoolhouse ( District #17) is just south of the area shown above.
CHAPTER ONE: THE CHILD
On September 17, 1878, while people in New York City were experimenting with early models of the telephone and the postal card was first being sent nationwide, twin boys were born to Nathaniel Gildersleeve Gorton and his wife Lucy. Gill Gorton was thirty-six. Lucy was thirty-four. Already there were four children--Janette, Grace, George, and Ai--but Gill was a prosperous farmer and welcomed a large family, especially one of boys. He had been the thirteenth child himself, but had inherited half of his father's farm, which he had previously leased from him, three years earlier. He had traded his house in Liberty Falls to his older brother John for the other half of Old Hickory Farm and owned a dairy herd, horses, and oxen.
The newest Gorton children were named Fred and Floyd, although Daniel and David had been briefly considered. Twins were not unexpected. John Gorton had been a twin too.
For clarity, I insert here a brief genealogical excerpt, starting with the first Gorton to settle in Sullivan County, John Gorton, who came to Liberty, according to the history of that town given in the Hamilton Child's Gazetteer and Business Directory of Sullivan County, N.Y. for 1872-3, "in 1795, having previously, in 1793, located with his cousins, Thomas and William Grant, in Fallsburgh." James Quinlan's History of Sullivan County (1873) adds "In 1797, John Gorton moved to the Blue Mountain settlement and located a short distance west of the present village of Liberty, on land since owned by his grandson, Elias Champlin." This is the present site of the Liberty Central Jr.-Sr. High School, which opened in 1963. At the first town meeting in Liberty, John Gorton and John Woodward were elected fence viewers, to be paid at the rate of 37½ ¢ a day.
John Gorton, born April 01, 1766 in New London, CT; died November 25, 1851 in Liberty, NY. He was the son of Samuel Gorton and Mercy Grant. He married Sarah Gates November 22, 1787 in Preston, CT.
Occupation: 1785, Sea captain between New London and Stonington
Residence 1: 1789, New London, CT
Residence 2: 1793, Fallsburgh, NY
Residence 3: 1795, Liberty, NY
Children of John Gorton and Sarah Gates are:
i. Phebe Gorton, born June 13, 1789 in New London, CT; died July 21, 1844 in Liberty, NY; married Dudley Champlin.
ii. Elizabeth Gorton, born November 19, 1791 in New London, CT; died February 02, 1834; married WilliamVan Benschotter 1811; born 1784; died 1833.
iii. Sarah (Sally) Gorton, born March 19, 1794 in Neversink, NY; married James Hubbell.
iv. John G. Gorton, born June 04, 1797 in Liberty, NY; died October 19, 1875 in Liberty Falls (now Ferndale), NY; married Sally Ann Gildersleeve December 30, 1819.
v. Mercy Gorton, born January 08, 1800.
vi. Grant Gorton, born August 16, 1803 in Liberty, NY; died March 01, 1892; married Emeline Buckley 1826 in Callicoon Depot; born Abt. 1807; died 1864.
vii. Elmira Gorton, born October 13, 1806; died September 20, 1827.
John G. Gorton, born June 04, 1797 in Liberty, NY; died October 19, 1875 in Liberty Falls (now Ferndale), NY. He was the son of John Gorton and Sarah Gates. He married Sally Ann Gildersleeve December 30, 1819.
Sally Ann Gildersleeve, born February 05, 1799 in Liberty, NY; died June 15, 1887 in Liberty, NY. She was the daughter of Nathaniel Gildersleeve and Jerusha Powell.
Occupation: Farmer, Liberty Falls, NY (161 acres); value of real estate in 1850 was $3700 and in 1870, $5000.
Children of John Gorton and Sally Gildersleeve are:
i. Alfred Gorton, born January 06, 1821; died June 04, 1872; married Margaret Tremper 1846; born December 17, 1828; died September 29, 1906. Occupation: farmer
ii. Sarah Gorton, born March 04, 1822; died October 11, 1879; married Daniel Hardenburgh 1842; born 1818; died 1891.
iii. Collins Gorton, born November 1823; died June 02, 1865; married Rebecca Palmatier 1847; born June 14, 1827; died June 28, 1885.
iv. Isaac Gorton, born April 15, 1825; died January 27, 1856.
v. George Gorton, born March 01, 1827; died April 09, 1855.
vi. Elmira Gorton, born October 26, 1828; died March 22, 1903.
vii. Phebe Gorton, born February 01, 1831; died February 1908; married George Kortright January 01, 1857; born 1829; died June 1908.
viii. Mary Gorton, born February 19, 1833; died March 01, 1863.
ix. James G. Gorton, born August 16, 1834; died September 18, 1836.
x. John G. Gorton, born August 16, 1834; died March 12, 1914 in Ferndale, NY; married Hannah Van Inwegen 1858; died January 1907.
xi. Jerusha Ann Gorton, born July 15, 1836; died October 29, 1910; married David Hall 1872; born 1827; died June 10, 1893.
xii. James P. Gorton, born April 04, 1838; died October 08, 1857.
xiii. Nathaniel Gildersleeve Gorton, born December 18, 1841 in Liberty Falls, NY; died December 21, 1922 in Liberty, NY; married Lucy Misner January 26, 1870.
Nathaniel Gildersleeve Gorton, born December 18, 1841 in Liberty Falls, NY; died December 21, 1922 in Liberty, NY. He was the son of John G. Gorton and Sally Ann Gildersleeve. He married Lucy Misner January 26, 1870.
Military service: went to Callicoon to train during the Civil War but was not called
Occupation 1: Farmer; inherited ½ of Old Hickory Farm; traded house in Liberty Falls with brother for the rest
Occupation 2: March 1872, postmaster at Liberty Falls
Lucy Misner, born March 16, 1844 in Hasbrouck, NY; died February 13, 1933 in Hurleyville, NY. She was the daughter of Tunis Misner (July 2, 1800-April 12, 1887) and Cynthia Brown (d. Aug. 29, 1891 @ 88).
Children of Nathaniel Gorton and Lucy Misner are:
i. Anna Jeanette Gorton, born October 19, 1871; died March 04, 1910; married George Taylor December 26, 1908; born 1855; died May 16, 1933. She was known as Janette to the family.
ii. Grace Gorton, born August 23, 1873; died March 17, 1966; married Charles Clark Farquhar September 10, 1889; born 1867; died July 08, 1933 in Hurleyville, NY.
iii. George Gorton, born October 03, 1874; died September 30, 1954 in Hartwick Seminary; married Martha Hand October 24, 1900; born September 04, 1877; died October 05, 1960.
iv. Ai Gildersleeve Gorton, born January 14, 1877; died May 15, 1947; married Emma Johnson October 01, 1898.
v. Floyd Gorton, born September 17, 1878; died August 20, 1962 in Oneonta, NY; married Alice Matteson November 22, 1919.
vi. Fred S Gorton, born September 17, 1878 in Strongtown, NY; died November 26, 1973 in Newtown, Fairfield Co., CT; married Daisy Cordelia Steenrod June 25, 1901 in Liberty, NY.
vii. Norman Leslie Gorton, born May 19, 1881; died November 25, 1957 in Middletown, NY; married Hazel Wood February 08, 1912; born 1896; died February 09, 1946.
viii. Cecil Hall Gorton, born April 14, 1887; died July 08, 1944; married (1) Orie Elizabeth Clark May 20, 1912; married (2) Florence Heckman November 29, 1922.
ix. Osmer Norwood Gorton, born September 09, 1890; died June 06, 1959 in Westwood, NJ; married Grace Foley January 24, 1913. Osmer Norwood Gorton was raised as the child of Nathaniel and Lucy Gorton, but he was actually born to Anna Jeanette Gorton, father unknown.
1880 was a census year and the "enumerator" (Victory Champlin) visited Old Hickory Farm, about a mile south of Liberty Falls depot in the area then known as Strongtown, on June 18th. I was surprised, when I looked back two pages, to find the name Cordelia Steenrod. A few pages after Old Hickory comes the entry for David Hall, Fred's uncle. To give a complete picture of the area, I've listed below the entries on Roll 936, Book 1, from the top of page 183a through David Hall's entry on page 185b. There is more information in the census entries, such as country of birth, but I've chosen instead to put only the essentials plus any information on these people to be found in Fred Gorton's memoirs.
#114 was occupied by Basley Gerow, 60, a farmer, his wife Barbara Ann, 60, Gertrude Gerow, 20 and James Gerow, 19, both listed as "adopted" and "servant" and Phillip Miller, 18, laborer. Basley Gerow died June 14, 1905 @ 85. Gertrude Gerow (1859-March 17, 1939) married Frank Delmarter (d. Oct. 25, 1932 @ 72).
#115 was occupied by Jane (or possibly Janet) D. Gerow, 75 and Henry, 27, her son.
[Editor's note: The copy of the census records I'm working from is difficult to read in places both because of the census taker's handwriting and the condition of the pages.]
#116 appears to be occupied by Linda Gorton, 32, servant, which seems odd. Head of household was usually listed first. Perhaps she belongs with #115. Listed next at #116 are William Comfort, 46, farmer, his wife Martha, 42, his daughter Ada, 15, his son Archie, 10, John Haddick, 19, servant and Archibald Ralston, 73, whose relationship is not given. William Comfort died October 29, 1915 @ 80. He married second Mrs. Philemon (Isabella) Young and lived on the Young Place, Loch Sheldrake Road. He had a stroke in 1914. Philemon Young died September 10, 1892 @ 59. Young's daughter Edith married Orville Ray Todd (October 13, 1877-October 3, 1940), and they made their home on the Philemon Young place. Archie Comfort died October 31, 1952 @ 82. He married Minnie Corwin and was a farmer in Bethel.
#117 was occupied by James G. Greening, 46, farmer and others in the family were wife Maria, 45 (d. May 19, 1916) and children William J., 18, Llewellan, 17, James G., 14, and Grace Ella, 5.
#118 was occupied by John Clements, 44, farmer, his wife Lizzie (?), 34, and children John R., 11, Thomas M., 9 and William A., 5.
#119 was occupied by W. D. (William Doll) Steenrod, 52, farmer [May 4, 1828-Jan. 20, 1882] and his wife Cordelia, 47 [d. Mar. 16, 1906 @ 73], together with his sons Amos G., 21 [d. Feb. 8, 1924 of pneumonia, White Sulphur Springs; m. Lucy Stoddard (d. Feb. 16, 1924)] and Julius G., 17 and their children Edwin D., 6 [d. Nov. 5, 1956 @ 82 Sharon WI; m. 1)Carrie Harmon 2) Mary Clottenburg (d. 1946) 3) Mary Jones] and Cordelia, 4, and Jennie A., eight months. Daisy Cordelia Steenrod would later marry Fred Gorton. Also living with W. D. Steenrod was his mother-in-law, Abigail [Dodge] Darbee, 83.
#120 was occupied by S. C. Jenkins, 76, shoemaker. S. Clark Jenkins died October 2, 1888 @ 84 when struck by the milk train at Gerow's Crossing. He lived on the corner next to Ferndale school. Living with Jenkins was Fanny, 33, listed as his daughter, but Fred's memoirs state she was his granddaughter, daughter of Clark Jenkins's daughter Emma Jean. Fanny later moved to California. By 1963 when most of Fred's memoirs were written, there was no trace left of the Jenkins house or barn.
#121 was occupied by Charles Ryder, 32, laborer, his wife Mary, 29, and son Warren (?). Also Henry Glood (?), 61, his wife Henrietta, 55, and their niece Ella, 16, Kitche (?), 10, and Orloff Doughty, 17, servant. The Charles Ryder place was at the southern end of the railroad trestle.
#122 was occupied by Benjamin O. Williams, 32, his wife Emma, 27 and their son Freddie B., 4.
#123 was occupied by Prudence Horton, 92 and her daughter Annie or Annis, 65.
#124 was occupied by John G. Gorton, 46, carpenter (Aug. 16, 1834-Mar. 12, 1914). His wife's name is listed as Emma J., 44, but this is a mistake. John married Hannah Van Inwegen (d. 1907 @ 71) Their children are listed as I. J., 20 [d. 1935; Irving James married Harriet Lenz and had Paul, Elmer, Vera, Clara & Gertrude], William J., 18 [d. 1941; m. Emma Schuler (d. April 5, 1954 @ 80)], Carrie O., 17 [Carrie or Caroline Ophelia; d. 1902; never married], Dora A., 14 [d. April 10, 1939 @ 61; m. Orrin Mould], Reuben M., 12 [d. March 15, 1949, Dudley, MA; m. Myra Terwilleger and had Edna and Helen], Henrietta A., 10 [Henrietta Augusta aka Retta; d. 1922; m. Alfred Broadway and had Inez and Mildred], Edith E., 8 [Edith Estella; d. March 15, 1954 @78; m. Melvin Blade (d. March 1, 1949 @ 78; ch: Leona, Evelyn, Melvin, Cyrus W.], and John V., 5 [John Van; d. Jan. 31, 1952; m. Mary Scott Purdy and had Anna, Lawrence, Kenneth, June, John, Walter and Edward]. John G. Gorton was N.G. Gorton's brother.
#125 was occupied by Peter G. Brochu, 57, blacksmith, his wife Mary, 45, and children Charles S., 19, Annie L., 11, Ambrose, 5, William J., 2, and Thomas, 1. Nellie Brochu (Mrs. Ambrose) died September 20, 1942 at 62. ("He used stocks to raise the oxen to be shod off their feet using two belts 4" wide and a hand crank to lift the ox up off its feet.")
#126 was occupied by Robert Gird, 54, who worked in tanning, his wife Elizabeth, 56, and his children Thomas, 22, George, 18, and Rose, 16. Fred lists the death of George Gird as January 13, 1937 and Sadie Gird on July 23, 1937 at 50.
#127 was occupied by John Raymond, 41, laborer, his wife Catherine, 32, and children (daughter), 10, Hattie, 7, Abram, 6, Elida, 4, John, 2 and Ernest, 3 months. See Appendix III under Hans Raymond.
#128 was occupied by Mark Meddaugh, 30, laborer, his wife Susan, 16, and Maggie Carpenter, 6. "Duke"died July 9, 1936 @ 83. He'd lost his right leg at 18 when he slipped between the cars of a moving train. See Appendix III for more.
#129 was occupied by Erskine (?) Thompson, 24, laborer, his wife Helen, 24 and a daughter age 2.
#130 was occupied by Jonah B. Davis, 73, shoemaker, his wife Olive, 60, their son Eugene, 28, their granddaughter Carrie, 5. Also listed are Peter Graves? Craven? 29, laborer, his wife Anna, 26 and children Susan, 9, Edith, 4, and Saddie, 2.
#131 was occupied by Edward or Edmund W. Fox, 46, his wife Marietta, 45 and his daughter Edith W., 12.
#132 was occupied by A___ Polhamus, 35, laborer, his wife Mary Ann, 30, and their children (son), 11, (Daughter), 8, and Henry, 2.
#133 was occupied by John McDonald, 55, laborer, his wife Margaret, 50, and their children Mary, 14 and Catherine, 18.
#134 was occupied by George Devine, 55, laborer, Catherine, 45, and Sopherina (?), 12.
#135 was occupied by John Manion, 50, who owned the store, and his children Marietta, 20, Lizzie, 17, Katie, 10, William 28, who worked in the store, Joseph, 21, station agent, and Henry, 14. Also in the household were William Gird, boarder and Michael Manion,65, John's brother.
#136 was occupied by Thomas W. Lane, 54, farmer [d.@ 96; lived at Ferndale hilltop], his wife Mary E., 51 [Mary Smith; d.@ 85] and their children Annie M. 23, Sarah, 20, Charles, 17, Lizzie (?), 15, and Fanny (?), 10.
#137 was occupied by Alexander Gildersleeve, 47, farmer, his wife Mary J., 45, and children H___ (son), 14, and George, 11. This was John Alexander (d. 1903), son of James Gildersleeve and nephew of Sally Ann Gildersleeve Gorton.
#138 was occupied by Lewis S. Wheeler, 47, farmer [d. Sept. 5, 1914 @ 81] and his wife Freelove B., 38 [Fred gives her given names as Anna Freelove; she d. May 6, 1914 @ 71], together with their children William W., 12 [d. Jan. 18, 1956 @ 87 in Oakland CA], Halla D., 10, Horace, 7 [Horace S. aka Racie d. July 29, 1942 @ 69; b. March 26, 1873], Emma C., 4 [Cassie?], and Fred G. (son), 2 [d. Nov. 2, 1958 @ 81 in Jersey City, N.J.]. Their daughter Angeline [d. March 4, 1968 @ 85] married Benjamin Ryal Gerow (December 13, 1880-December 16, 1961). He was the son of Joshua and Anna Kirk Gerow, sheriff, assemblyman, and postmaster and he and Angeline had sixteen children.
#139 was Old Hickory Farm, occupied by N. Gildersleeve Gorton, 38, farmer, Lucy, 36, his wife, and their children Janett, 8, Grace, 7, George, 5, Ai, 3, Freddie, 2, and Floyd, 2. Also in the household were George Cramer (?), 19 and Rosa Riyman, 17, servants.
#140 was occupied by Sally Ann Gildersleeve Gorton, 81, Fred's grandmother (Feb. 5, 1799-June 15, 1887), her daughter Elmira, 51, [Oct. 26, 1828-Mar. 22, 1903], and Sally Ann's grandson James, 15. This was James H Gorton [Dec. 7, 1864-April 11, 1950], youngest son of Collins Gorton and Rebecca Palmatier. Collins Gorton d. June 2, 1865 in the Civil War, James H. Gorton married 1) Hattie Sarvis (div) and 2) Margaret Blivin (d. 1931). See Appendix III for more on Sally Ann, James, and Collins Gorton.
#141 was occupied by Ann E. Wickes, 60 and Hannah Wheat, 18, boarder. [References in Fred's memoirs always refer to his neighbor as Druscilla Wickes.] Also listed at #141 are Emilia or Cornelia Devine, 52, keeping house, and Fanny, 4 (or 11).
#142 was occupied by Moses B. Seargant, 63, farmer. Fred spells the name Sergeant and says he lived on a 20 acre farm just south of the N.G. Gorton farm with the house some distance from the road. The Sergeant farm was bought by Clark Gorton when the Sergeants and Frank Burnham and his wife Laura, who may have been a Sergeant, went west. Also living there in 1880 were Catherine, 53, Delia Knox or King, 33 (daughter), Hattie Seargant 12, and Retta C. Seargant, 10. Frank and Laura Burnham lived at one point in N. G. Gorton's tenant house and Laura took in washing. John and Lydia Burnham were born there.
#143 was occupied by David Carr, 40, farmer. Fred says he lived on the Squire Devine Place in Strongtown. With him were his wife Rosanna, 33 [Rose] and children Margery, 17, William, 15, Jane, 7. Carr's daughter Jennie married Joe Dobbs. Also listed at #143 are Albert Devine, 43, farmer, his wife, (name unreadable) 45, and children Gideon S., 20 and Joseph, 17.
#144 was occupied by Dewitt Bebee, 44, mason [d. March 1929 @ 94 in Harris] and his wife Elmira, 33. Also at #144 were Cyrus Strong, 75, farmer and his wife Mary, 70.
#145 was occupied by George Kilbourne, 72, farmer and his children (Daughter), 23 and Frank, 27, plus Etta Sutton, 19, servant and Archie Wood, 30, boarder.
#146 was occupied by Jane Wheat, 49 and children Alice, 15, Oscar, 11, Mary, 9, and Susan, 3. Jane Irons Wheat was the widow of Elbridge G. Wheat (1830-1879) and the mother of Gertrude, Mary, Edric, William, George, Edwin, Ella, Alice, Hannah, Oscar, Mamie, and Susie.
#147 was occupied by Simon Hornbeck, 67, farmer. Fred calls him Luke Hornbeck, which I believe is correct. Luke Hornbeck was born November 3, 1813. His wife Margaret, 50, was the widow of Alfred Gorton (1821-1872), oldest brother of N.G. Gorton. She was born Margaret Tremper (Dec. 17, 1828-Sept. 29, 1906). Living with them were her son Clark Gorton, 12 (May 20, 1868-Feb. 21, 1947), who married Mamie Carr (d. Feb. 24, 1958 @ 81), and their son Gideon Hornbeck, 11 (June 30, 1870-Mar. 25, 1942), who married Addie Holmes and was a farmer on Rt. 17 in Ferndale.
#148 was occupied by David Lounsberry, 73, farmer.
#149 was occupied by Seth Johnson, 28, laborer [buried July 12, 1917], his wife Harriet, 29, and their children Walter, 6, and Lewis, 3. Also listed at #149 were Lewis Burr, 56, farmer, his wife Ann, 55, and their children John, 24 and William, 22.
#150 was occupied by William A. Bebee, 43, carpenter, his wife Amelia, 30, and their children Steven (?), 15, William, 8, Charles, 6 and Gilbert, 2 (April 1878-Feb. 22, 1945).
#151 was occupied by William Ruforth (?), 21, tinsmith.
#152 was occupied by William Hornbeck, 72, farmer and his wife Anne H., 66, together with Catherine (?) Knapp, 63, a boarder
#153 was occupied by Caleb (?) Dewitt, 33, farmer. Later the site of the Queen Mountain House, this property was ½ mile east of School District #17 schoolhouse in Strongtown. Also in residence were wife Eliza, 44 and children George W., 10 (Oct. 16, 1869-Mar. 3, 1958), who went to work on the railroad at an early age, Miles, 8 (Dec. 4, 1871-July 12, 1942), and Frank, 6. Also living there was Horatio Smith, identified as Dewitt's stepson, 22. Fred identifies him as an uncle who lived to be 84. See Appendix III for more on Horatio. The household also included Mary Smith, stepdaughter, 20 and William (?) Peck, 52, servant.
#154 was occupied by Benjamin Van Inwegen, 49, farmer, known as "Stingy Ben" to Fred and his schoolmates, and his daughter Emma, 15.
#155 was occupied by William Bartholomew, 33, laborer. Billy Bartholomew was buried in Homer, NY on May 4, 1924. Also in the household were his wife Anthea, 26, called Anthy by Fred, who died Feb. 4, 1939 @ 86, and children Metta Ann, 7 [m. Stephen Harrison; d. Feb. 15, 1939 @ 67; see Appendix III for more information] and William G., 4 [Will; Jan. 7, 1876-Dec. 15, 1951; m. Emily (d. April 17, 1942)]. Also listed at #155 were George Smith, 40, laborer, his wife Sarah E., 29, and daughter Annie E., 3.
#156 was occupied by George Hill, 65, farmer, his wife Jerusha, 63, and their adopted children Jason Hill, 24, and Rebecca Hutchinson, 30, together with George Hutchinson, grandson, 5. See Appendix III for more.
#157 was occupied by Elias Raymond, 24, laborer, his wife Mary, 17 and his mother (or perhaps hers), Jane Slack, 64. Clark Meddaugh, 39, boarder, also lived there.
#158 was occupied by Joseph Raymond, 28, laborer [d. Jan. 15, 1936 @ 85 of stroke; lived in the woods near Mongaup Stream], his wife Emma, 22, and children George J., 2 [b. May 10, 1878; d. May 16, 1963; m. 1) Helen Sampson 2) Grace Gardner] and Ira, 4 months
#159 was occupied by Fredric Shaffer, 36, shoemaker, his wife Margaret, 33, and children Henrietta, 13, Julia, 10, Louisa, 4, and Ralf, 2.
#160 was occupied by John Slater, 43, blacksmith, his wife Sarah, 35, their children Austin E., 16, Charles, 14, (Son), 12, Ann (?), 9, Carrie, 4, Dora, 1, and Slater's father in law, 63.
#161 was occupied by Peter ____, 44, works in tannery, his wife Bridget, 35, and their children John, 17, Mary, 15, Ellen, 14, Kate, 12, Michael, 10, Martin, 7, Thomas, 2 and William, 2 months.
#162 was occupied by Joel Blackman, 42, farmer, his wife Eliza, 41, their daughter Carrie, 14, and Blackman's parents, Austin, 78, and Hurdy, 75.
#163 was occupied by Daniel T. Ratcliff, 55, farmer [Daniel Thomas Ratcliff d. Mar. 2, 1897 @ 72], his wife Margaret, 55 [93 on Dec. 14, 1908; died at 94] and their sons Charles, 20 and William, 17, and their daughter Mary, 13. William T. Ratcliff (April 5, 1863-Oct. 27, 1959) married Celia Hall on June 30, 1898. He was a cattle dealer. Mary died September 12, 1947 @ 81. She was a dressmaker.
#164 was occupied by David Hall, 52, farmer [d. June 10, 1893 @ 66], his wife Ann, 43 [Jerusha Ann Gorton; 1836-1910; sister of N.G. Gorton] and their daughter Celia, 7 [d. May 24, 1951 @ 77]. Also in residence were Reuben Huntington, 20, laborer [d. Sept. 1, 1933 @ 75 in Ferndale] Huntington was a policeman later in life. His wife Margie d. April 5, 1950 @ 86.
To Gill's sister, Jerusha Ann, we owe a debt of gratitude. Ann married David Hall.
He wasn't a bit religious, so Ann would not marry him unless he sought religion, so at a protracted service he pretended to accept Christ as his savior and a little later Ann and David were married. Soon he lost faith, and Celia was born in due time. Then Ann started family devotion in the home. He knelt in morning worship but she done all the praying and read a chapter in the Bible. He was a good provider.
David Hall also kept a diary, in which the activities of the Gortons played a large part. All of the entries Fred copied from the diary are in Appendix I. On February 12, 1879:
N.G. Gorton traded his white Kate mare to Ike Gorton for a sorrel four year old mare.
And on August 11, 1880:
Jacob Becker traded the oxen he got of Gill Gorton for a white mare and got $25 to boot.
On June 20, 1882, when his twins were not quite four years old, Gill raised a new barn. It was framed with wooden braces on each corner which had wooden pins to hold them fast. All the framing was done by Grant Gorton, Gill's uncle, but at least a dozen men with pike poles came to raise up the bents. When they were done, Lucy served crullers and cider, the earliest event her son Fred would later be able to remember. David Hall was there too, and recorded in his diary that Gill got the barn finished "so as to put hay in."
Young Freddy's second earliest memory was of an event later that same year. Mrs. Lewis Wheeler, a neighbor, came to Old Hickory with her baby daughter, Angeline. During the course of their visit it became necessary to change Angie's diaper. Freddy, being an inquisitive child, decided to take a peek when Angie's long-skirted dress was pulled up. "Look and you will see all," his mother remarked. He was so embarrassed that his face turned a bright red.
In February of 1883, Gill bought Major, a chestnut sorrel colt with white feet and a star on his forehead. He paid $100. It is likely that this was the same colt who figured in Freddy's next adventure. It was summer when David Hall wrote:
Fred Gorton broke his right leg on July 19, 1883 toward night by falling through the pitch hole from the barn floor to the basement floor and it was set by Doctor Perry and Doctor Robertson the afternoon of the 20th.
Freddy had been playing with the other Gorton children in the new hay in the hay mow and had grown thirsty, but when he started toward the house to get a drink, he slipped and slid through the hay hole. His leg struck the manger pole and when he tried to stand up he found he could not. He called for help, but none of the children would come to his rescue. Only his oldest sister, Janette, by then nearly twelve, had sense enough to run and fetch their father. Many years later, Fred could still recall what happened next:
Father came and I told him I couldn't get up. He felt of my leg. He picked me up, letting the right leg hang down, and carried me into the house. The broken leg acted like it had an extra joint and it began to hurt, but if I laid very still on Mother's bed it didn't hurt at all. Father went to Liberty to see if Doctor Webster would set the leg, but the doctor said, "Since you found fault with the way I set your wrist when your colt kicked you and broke it, I won't set your boy's leg, but if you want it amputated, I'll cut it off for him."
Fortunately, Gill decided to find another doctor and heard about Doctor Perry and Doctor Robertson of Woodbourne. They agreed to come the next day, a Sunday afternoon, and set the leg.
The doctor poured something from a bottle into a handkerchief and put it on my nose. I could smell something unusual. I started to count but by the time I counted thirty I was asleep.
He awoke with a loud holler, according to his brothers and sisters.
The convalescence was uncomfortable. The doctor tied a seven pound weight on his ankle with a rope hung over the footboard. Then, the next time Doctor Robertson came, he put on a cast, but in those days it was a wooden splint that looked like a big tray and encased the leg from thigh to ankle. It made getting up without help impossible. One time, when the entire family was at dinner, Freddy was "taken short and couldn't wait" and when his mother, who didn't want to be disturbed while eating, failed to respond to his calls, he "let fly right in the sheets." "I was sorry," he later wrote, "and so, I think, was my mother."
Overall, Freddy was accorded special treatment during his time in bed. Someone gave him a color picture book. One illustration showed a large dog, and under it was a rhyme which read:
Erastus Bush, who had come to see Gill, gave Freddy his first six-square red pencil. (Bush died in 1910 at the age of 73.) When Gill bought four little black pigs, the invalid was carried out to see them. This was, however, only because his cousin James got tired of all the "noise about the pigs." By this time, James H. Gorton was living with N.G. and Lucy Gorton
Eventually, the doctor took off the wooden case and replaced it with a bandage wound around the broken part some twenty times and held together by a flour-like paste. This cast was about three-quarters of an inch thick and allowed Freddy to get up. By the time the doctor came on his fifth visit, the patient was out running, cast and all, in the orchard. The bandages came off then to reveal a pure white area where the cast had been. The healing process had taken three weeks. [Editor's Note: This story was the inspiration for my children's historical novel, Julia's Mending (1987)]
In the 1880s children died from injuries and disease far more frequently than they do today. The Gortons were extraordinarily lucky, but two of Fred's earliest memories were of funerals for children. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Snyder Morris, who lived a half mile east of the Strongtown school, died shortly after Fred and Floyd acquired new matched suits. They wore them for the first time to serve as pall bearers. Together with two other boys, they bore the small coffin from the schoolhouse, where the funeral had been held, to the wagon that would take it to the cemetery, probably the one in Liberty. They were told to place their hats on the casket while they carried it. What impressed Freddy, however, was the fact that the bereaved mother yelled "Glenna! Glenna!" all through the service and "never let up to take a breath."
The second funeral was that of one of the Sergeant children, a little girl who lived on the twenty acre farm just south of Old Hickory and had been ill for a long time. The family was very poor so when she died all the neighbors helped out. Gill Gorton used his light lumber wagon for a hearse, sitting atop the box coffin when he took it to the cemetery for burial.
Liberty Falls, later renamed Ferndale, was described in the 1872-3 Gazetteer of Towns as: "situated in the south-east part, on the Middle Mongaup . . . a station on the NY. & O. Midland RR and contains one hotel, a school house, two stores, two groceries, one grist mill, one upper and one sole leather tannery, three saw mills, one wagon shop, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop, and about one hundred inhabitants." A note adds that the railroad, when completed, would cross the creek at this place on a bridge 1,100 feet long and 100 feet high. On October 8, 1882 the new iron railroad trestle was completed. It rose 102 feet into the air above the stream. The depot building was completed by September 1887.
The Gorton children attended school in the Strongtown schoolhouse, however, in District #17, south of the farm. On the twins' first day the teacher asked them their names and then wrote them on tablets. When she wrote "Fred Gorton" and told him that was his name he told her he didn't believe it. He had never seen his name written down before.
The school had desks all around its sides and a stove in the middle. It took sticks of wood about 3' in length and was used to toast bread at noon. The pupils sat on backless benches when Fred first went to school but later the district acquired patent seats with desks to write on.
At noon the children usually went outdoors to play. They engaged in such games as "dog and fox in the woods" and "dog and deer" and the boys played baseball in a field belonging to Ben Van Inwegan, known as "Stingy Ben." Fred was not allowed to join in because he liked to step out of line and hit every ball the pitcher threw.
One boy, Charles Crispell [see Appendix III], came to Strongtown School after starting school in another district. He gave Freddy a black eye and this probably led to some boxing lessons for all the Gorton boys. By the last fight between them, Freddy was capable of clobbering Charlie, but he had hit him in the face so many times that he grew ashamed of himself and let the fight be called a draw.
Across the road from the schoolhouse was a stone wall four feet high over which the children placed a plank to use as a teeter totter. Freddy used to teeter with Minnie Tompkins and some others. Young Fred also played house. A few of the boys had favorite girls with whom them kept house. They would pace off spaces ten feet square and gather moss from logs to put down as carpet. Hattie Crispell (Mrs. Paul Richter; d. Nov. 8, 1962 @ 79; had 14 children) was Fred's first "wife" but later he kept house with Angie Wheeler. Angie and Freddy also played "horse" in which Freddy took a bit in his mouth or a line under his arms and Angie "drove" him. He could run faster than any of the other boys, so Angie called him Black Beauty after the horse in a newly published book.
Freddy's younger brother Leslie was also interested in little girls. He would sit in the second seat in the schoolroom and use a looking glass to watch them in the back row. One day the teacher, Floyd Kinney (d. July 1963 @ 87), caught him and got so mad that he pulled Leslie out of his seat by his collar, pinned him to the wall, and nearly choked him.
Some time later Floyd Kinney was replaced by John Robison. One day Robison was seen coming out of the girls' privy by Floyd and Ai Gorton. They started a story going around that he had been in there with one of the girls. It took three days for the gossip to get back to Robison, but when it did he dismissed all the girls from school and kept the boys. Then he called them out one by one to question them. Freddy was first. Fortunately, he knew nothing about it and convinced the teacher of his innocence. It was Floyd who got a well-deserved thrashing. When Robison came to Ai, however, he told the older Gorton boy that he was too big to thrash. Ai agreed and escaped punishment.
Back row: Janette, George, Grace, Ai
Center row: N.G., Lucy, Fred,
Front row: Cecil, Leslie, Floyd
Every year on Arbor Day, "Stingy Ben" Van Inwegan allowed the older children from Strongtown School to take up trees from his property and transplant them in the schoolyard. When Fred was five feet tall and old enough to be allowed to participate he chose a spruce tree the same height as himself and planted it next to the woodhouse. He was always to have a green thumb. The next year he dug up some mayflowers, reset them dirt and all, and landscaped his tree. The tree, which was given the name Benjamin Franklin, survived four others planted at the same time, including Cassie Wheeler's Martha Washington and Charlie Crispell's George Washington.
The Strongtown School closed three weeks earlier than the Huntington School, so Gill Gorton arranged for three of his sons to attend the latter during those weeks. Fred did not last. He made a false face out of black oilcloth with holes cut in it for his eyes, nose, and mouth, and used it to scare Johnny Loder (d. Jan. 28, 1935 @ about 48). Johnny's father (Harrison Loder, who d. Jan. 31, 1924 @ 80 while on an ice pond laughing at a fellow putting a cake of ice through a hole) was a trustee of the Huntington School and when his little boy declared that he would not go to school as long as Fred Gorton was there, Loder had Fred turned out. Fred showed him the black face and tried to prove he hadn't done anything so terrible, but Loder would not change his mind.
Gill Gorton's determination to have his sons well educated is shown by another incident too. During the year of the great blizzard, 1888, he constructed a "covered wagon" of blankets on a box four feet by twelve and used it to take the children back and forth to school. He and Will Wheeler took turns driving the team of oxen.
The Gorton and Wheeler boys did not share their parents' fervor. The Charles Kilbourne Pond was near the school (a saw mill with a bull wheel to draw logs out was located there) and the boys often went there on their lunch hours in winter to skate. One day they cut some holes in the ice and while two or three of them skated to the dam and drove sucker fish up the pond the others snared them as they passed. In the course of the afternoon they caught about a dozen one pound suckers and got back to the school at about three o'clock. The teacher refused to let any of them back inside except Leslie, the youngest of their number, but he did not tell their parents. The older boys waited in Clark Gorton's barn near the school until it was time to go home, but the Wheelers were afraid to take any fish. The young Gortons convinced their parents that the entire catch had been made during lunch hour.
When he was about seven, Freddy made himself a pipe by scraping out a corn cob for a bowl and adding a stem made from a piece of second growth maple with a pith in the middle. In this he smoked dried corn silk and the dried blossom tops of hard tack. The latter made a good deal of smoke but also made Freddy's tongue sore. A schoolmate, Gilbert Beebe, chewed tobacco, and gave Freddy some, which he tried and liked, but he was afraid that either smoking or chewing tobacco would prove habit forming and so refrained from using it altogether.
Fred had assigned chores at home from an early age. The first was to split the kindling for the next day's cook stove fire. Later he milked a short legged cow named Peanut morning and night. By the time he was eight he was also milking one called Topsy. There was always something to keep the boys busy on the farm. They raked hay after the hay wagon and loaded hay in the field. They picked up stones off the meadow and were sent to turn the steers, Tom and Jerry, out to pasture. This had an element of danger. The pair, who were dark red in color, fought every time they were turned loose. The pair of oxen, Ike and Lazarus, were fattened up and butchered when they got too old to work.
One year the boys shingled the woodhouse with hemlock shingles made on the spot by an expert named Bill Davidson. He used a special bench he had designed himself, a contraption somewhat like a vise, which he operated with his feet while using a drawing knife to smooth the sides of the wood. Another year the Gorton boys dug a cellar on the Lane Lot, a thirteen acre property Gill bought from Thomas Lane. Later, with Fred's help, he would build a cottage there, but the first year he had it he planted the land with buckwheat. Tunis Misner, Gill's father in law, gave him his five foot hay rake at that time. The head was a foot across and had fifteen evenly spaced teeth. The boys used it to rake after the hay wagon and found it a great time saver compared to the little hand rakes they had been using.
The buckwheat on the Lane Lot proved popular with the chickens belonging to Druscilla Wickes, who lived across the road. It was legal to shoot such trespassers, but not to keep and eat them, so the Gorton boys had target practice and then threw the dead birds into their owner's dooryard. The Gortons did not do well by Druscilla. On another occasion, when her cow got an apple caught in her throat, she called Gill to dislodge it. He tried everything he knew, including throwing the cow on the barn floor and hitting it in the neck with a mallet. This probably did smash the apple, but it also killed the cow. She was buried in a special burying area for horses and cows on the Gorton farm.
When Freddy reached nine he was considered old enough to walk the three and a half miles to Liberty on errands. One frequent destination was an elderly cobbler on Church Street. Casper Liedman put half soles on their leather boots. On such trips, Fred, Floyd, and Leslie were usually given five cents each to spend. Fred bought marbles (ten for a nickel) or gum, but Floyd and Leslie always bought candy.
On the Fourth of July the boys walked to Liberty because the merchants always had something going on to entertain young folks. One year, on Charles Young's front lawn, there were two peacocks. The male was strutting and showing off his feathers, one of the wonders of the world as far as a small boy was concerned. Another Fourth, Freddy won two dollars in a wheelbarrow race. His brother Ai was also in the race, but he crashed, and Freddy ran around him to win. The same day he took second in the sack race in spite of a fall of his own. Often there were parades with soldiers and bands marching. Fife and drum corps were considered fine music in those days before radio.
Circuses and other traveling shows also made frequent appearances in Liberty. In 1883 it was the Bonnell & Company Circus. One year a show was coming to the Liberty House lawn and the Gorton children were to go to the parade, but their father had chores to do first andputtered about so long with them that they missed all but two show wagons with animals in them. That year money must have been tight because Gill refused the pleading of seven children and would not buy tickets to get them into the show. He was not ungenerous. In 1887, he bought an organ for Janette, and the same year he took his daughter Grace along when he and Will Carr and Will Ratcliff went to the fair at Newburgh.
When Fred was about eleven he did get to go to the circus. Again it was held at the Liberty House. This was a well known hotel, located next to the Methodist Church.
It being our first show we laughed so loud that a woman "blew her top" but it didn't stop us in the least. It cost perhaps ten cents. Another time Liberty had a tent show on the Mansion House lawn that cost five cents. They put up wooden seats. I don't remember the name of the show. Later a horse show located on Mill Street. One man handled eight horses and it was a sight to see the different things he made them do.
Lucy Gorton's opinions had a great influence on those formed by her son. She told him, for example, that Abe Lincoln freed the slaves because so many of them had white blood, the result of plantation owners fathering "the wenches' children." John Newton Clements (d. July 9, 1937 @ 84) told him that the north couldn't make the south surrender until they burned their wheat fields and starved the southerners into submission. "The northern soldiers even smashed up their pianos, a wanton destruction for no cause at all."
Lucy joined the Free Methodist Church at Strongtown, built in 1887. It was dedicated for worship on April 26, 1888. At one point she tried to convince Fred to become a minister. He declined. In contrast to Lucy, Gill refused to join any church and vowed to die the way he had lived.
Fred attended preaching by a minister named Thicket who had a long black beard and was rumored to have fathered a child by a fourteen-year-old girl. Sometimes, when he was preaching, tears fell from his eyes onto the floor. Chances are the gossip grew from knowledge of an infamous case in Boston where a minister got a pretty choir girl with child and poisoned her trying to abort the pregnancy.
1888 was the year of the blizzard. A record low temperature was reached on February 10th when the mercury hit -24. Then, on March 12th, the snows came. There were drifts up to twelve feet deep and they lasted until April 18th. The railroad was tied up for a week and on the Gorton farm the drifts were so high that the boys had to melt water for their twenty-five cows to drink. They could not get through to the spring on the back lot. This experience prompted Gill to put a windmill over the spring which pumped water into a cistern above the orchard. From then on there was a good force of water both in the barn and in the house, where Lucy soon installed a bathtub.
On October 12, 1888, Samuel Clark Jenkins, who lived next to the Liberty Falls School, was returning home from a trip to Liberty when he was hit by the milk train at Gerow's Crossing. He was thrown up into the air and landed stradling the engine boiler. His buckboard wagon was demolished and both Jenkins and the horse died of their injuries. He was eighty-four.
While Fred took a natural interest in such local disasters he also had milder interests. One was watching swallows. After the tannery in Liberty Falls was discontinued, chimney swallows moved into the forty foot high chimney. One time the boys counted fifty swallows entering the chimney in the early evening. There were also swallows in the Gorton barn. It was fifty feet wide and at one time there were a dozen nests under the eaves on the west side.
Fred considered himself more responsible than his brothers. In apple season the boys had to gather apples and put them in the wagon and then load some thirty bushels of them onto the train. This brought in four dollars. One year, when their parents had gone to Liberty to do some trading, four of the boys spent the entire afternoon having apple fights. Only Fred kept gathering apples, but when the money was divided this dedication got no reward. Gill heard Fred's complaint but his decision was "share and share alike."
Fred and Floyd had a harrowing experience on their way home from school one day. They decided to cut through David Carr's orchard, a walled-in one acre lot occupied by three cows and a bull. They got over the wall and were halfway to the far side when the bull bellowed and charged. Fred was encumbered by a 12' fishpole, a bait can, and a lunch pail, but he managed to get a toe hold in the five foot wall and throw himself over. He landed in a heap in the Carr garden. The bull, right behind him, stuck his head over the wall and bellowed again, but Fred was safe. He does not record how Floyd escaped. Although they were twins, they were not identical and do not seem to have spent any more time together than non-twin brothers.
On September 9, 1889, Fred was picking pears on the farm when a man came along and asked him if it was true his sister Grace was getting married that day. It was the first Fred had heard of it, and Grace had just turned sixteen, but she did in fact marry Charles Farquhar on that date. If they were married without Gill's consent, he soon forgave them, for he built a cottage for them on the Lane Lot. Fred helped, using a wooden lathe 4' long and 1½ ' wide.
A year later, Grace lost her first baby, a little boy, and the funeral was held at Old Hickory. It was the custom then to have singing at funerals, but the Gorton children cried so hard at this one that the singers got too choked up to continue. At a later funeral, that of their Uncle David Hall, Fred and Floyd shared a handkerchief between them and shed many tears during the service.
Fred was still quite young, not yet a teenager, but he was leaving childhood behind him at a rapid pace. At twelve, he was expected to earn money on his own.Go on to Chapter Two
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