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 THREE: THE MARRIED MAN
Just before his marriage, Fred boarded with Ann Hall, who rented rooms of Seth Annis (d. March 19, 1938 @ 79) on Clements Street in Liberty. Fred worked for B.F. Crawford, paid $1.25 for a ten hour day spent building the William Feitner house on Dwyer Avenue.[There were two William Feitners. William Sr. d. Oct. 25, 1936 @ 75; he owned the movie house and was an elder in the church; William Jr. d. Sept. 10, 1961 @ 82) After the wedding, Fred moved into the Randall house with Daisy and her mother, paying $6 a month for their lodgings at 24 Orchard Street. Daisy worked in Van Fredenberg's Laundry and Fred continued to work as a carpenter. Ma Steenrod, as a condition of the marriage, was to live with them until her death.
During that summer and fall, Fred worked for Crawford, then for Thaddeus Jackson (d. May 24, 1915). Jackson hired him at $1.75 a day but he later cut the pay back to $1.50. While working for him, Fred built Lew Bennet's (d. Nov. 9, 1941) house and a large barn on the Abel Gregory place in Upper Frog Hollow. [There were two Abel Gregorys. Abel Sr. (1875-1900) and Abel Jr. (d. Jan. 18, 1919)] Fred also did some work for Ada Moffett (Ada Ernhout Moffett, d. April 22, 1917) on the White Sulphur Springs House. Unfortunately, Jackson was often late with his payroll, and when he ended up owing Fred $60.00, the young carpenter threatened to quit. Jackson paid off but Fred went to work for James Dice anyway.
James Dice built a cottage for Charles Syreen with two bay windows. Fred lathed some of the rooms and carried hod for Fred Sebold to lay the chimney. A relative of Mr. Dice's, Fred Bailey, came to work after the subfloor was laid over the cellar. Dice left Bailey in charge to put up one side of the 2x4s. They were using shipslap for stays, but Bailey didn't know to spike 2x4s for the corners or how to stay them, so the crew did all the work. They had two sides up and stayed when Dice returned and told Bailey "he done a fine job." [Editor's Note: elsewhere Fred says a James D. Bailey (d. Jan. 17, 1958 @ 68) sold sand and used to work for James Dice.]
One day Dice asked Fred if he could butcher a veal calf. For butchering and skinning the calf, Fred earned a four or five pound piece of veal.
Archie Dice [Archie G. Dice (July 14, 1890-Feb. 27, 1954) married Daisy May Stanton (July 9, 1893-April 30, 1961) on April 26, 1916] was in charge of building a cottage next to the later site of WVOS. It was very cold by then, only ten degrees above zero, but Fred showed up for work as usual and shingled the front porch in that weather. That was the end of the building season for the year, however.
In 1902, Fred saw his first automobile go by. He heard it first, when it was nearly a half mile away. Gould Barlow [d. 1914; m. Jennie Messiter (d. March 21, 1917); worked for Young, Messiter and Dodge) was the first Liberty man to own a power auto. It was two feet high and eight or nine feet long and had no back up lever. To turn it around, he lifted the back end up and swung it the opposite way. Barlow took Gill Gorton to Cold Spring and home again in this peculiar machine.
Dr. Whitcomb (Dr. H. C. L. Whitcomb, who died before 1916) bought a car called a steamer. He had his office in the Solomon Royce home. In 1902 there were very few autos. There were dirt roads and when a horse met an auto it was so scared it would rear up and give a jump to get by.
In November of 1902, Fred and Daisy rented the James Gray farm in Ferndale--forty acres, a horse, two cows, and a few starved chickens. Fred paid the taxes and agreed that the Gray family could spend three months of every year there and have the use of the horse, Old Nell, to do their shopping when convenient. James Gray (d. c. 1937 @ 78) was a printer in Brooklyn, where he had a thriving business, but he sold out to study law. After he passed the bar he was flat broke and had six children to support. The farm was run down, Fred was not permitted to cut wood on the land, half the hay had been sold to Billy Bartholomew, and one year Mrs.Gray stayed on almost all of one year, crowding the Gortons into three rooms. This was Rose Gould Gray, who d. Nov. 8, 1947 @ 80. "The last survivor of the Grays" was daughter Rose Gray, who died Aug. 26, 1966.
In spite of all these annoyances, Fred did all right for himself while the family lived on the Gray farm. He fatted up the horse, made the place into a working farm, and did odd jobs.
In the year 1902, two brothers, Frank and Fred Webster (see Appendix III), and Chauncey Rowe, their uncle, started building a turning mill in Ferndale near Gregorys' boarding house. The dam on the West Mongaup was only four feet high but there was plenty of water before the boarding season to turn out souvenirs to sell to the city people. One job they let out and I got the contract to make little chairs seven inches high of rustic yellow pine. I made them for six cents each in the form of an arm chair, using twenty-seven pieces. I drove the beads and Daisy put them together in the evenings. I cut the little sticks at Websters' turning mill. I went to Black Lake to get the yellow pine boughs. William Bert gave the trees to me free as the Mongaup Falls Power Plant was to flood the land up to his place the next season. I started out at five o'clock one morning and returned home about sundown.
I decided to also make easels to hold pictures. The yellow pine has burs on it and I used them both above and below the picture with a strip of white birch at the top with "Liberty, NY" written on it in red paint. I did the lettering too. I could make three in an evening and sold them for twenty-five cents each. I also learned to nail on a bur to look like it grew there.
I made match boxes in the shape of a log cabin. James Goodsir (1858-1923; married Mary Edmons, who d. 1938 @ 81) took twenty-five at twenty-five cents each on my promise I would sell to no one else in Liberty. I made fifty large chairs, thirteen inches high, at twenty-five cents each for the Hope Souvenir Shop in Hurleyville. At one time I had $75 worth of souvenirs on the bed upstairs. The next year I made the same chairs, seven inches high, with white birch, heart shaped, with "Liberty, NY" printed in red at the top of the chair.
All this time I worked the Gray farm and cut all my wood for fuel from part of the Gorton farm across the Mongaup. I snaked it up to the Gregory Road and drawed it home in big chunks and sawed it into stove lengths when I got home. I left the horses, Kit and Old Nell, at the Henry Bohlen place while I cut the trees down. Fifteen hours a day was nothing for me to work.
The souvenir business run out and I raised calves and made butter. I took 1st premium on my ten pound pail of butter at the Monticello County Fair. I also entered three Jersey cows, one Jersey calf, and one belted calf and took 1st premium on the Jersey calf. Each premium carried a prize of $3.00. The three cows standing in stansions were nearly dried up eating hay furnished by the Fair Association. I sold the two calves for $10.00 and sold the butter to Ben Gerow for twenty cents a pound. I made butter that summer on the Gray place. The largest output for one week was forty-nine pounds. I also peddled buttermilk in Liberty Village at two and a half cents a quart. I also bought 300 pounds of onions and peddled them at fifty cents for a half bushel. I plowed gardens that summer for fifty cents and seventy-five cents per garden and let out Old Nell for a lady to ride at $1.50 for one afternoon. I drawed rhododendron with my team for George Taylor (December 12, 1854-May 16, 1933). They were dug up roots and dirt intact and shipped to different parks in and around New York and Long Island.
George Taylor was a meat peddler, who married five times. His third wife was Fred's sister, Janette. The others were Sarah Ann Farquhar, Helen Davis (Mrs. Jake Tompkins), Jennie Benedict, and Sally Knapburg. Janette married George when he was fifty and she was thirty-eight. Eight months later she had a miscarriage with pneumonia and died March 4th, 1910 at the age of thirty-nine years and five months.
I took a contract to furnish ice for the DeBoyce Brothers at Strongtown Creamery at two and a half cents for a cake of ice18x24 and a foot thick. Ma Steenrod was living with us and objected to me taking the big ice house to fill. I hired two other teams, Bruce Frazier's and DeBoyce Brothers', at $2.50 per eight hour day and bought the ice in a little pond next to the creamery from Mrs. Wickes for $5.00. I got ice from my father's pond, which was much larger, to finish the job. DeBoyce used a power contraption to hoist the cakes of ice off our sleighs. I received an $107.00 contract but they only paid me $95.00 as the ice was thicker and didn't take as much as we expected.
I also filled Charles Hosie's (Frendale postmaster) ice house from Manion's pond with George Hutchinson and John Gray and I filled Frank Carr's for $7.00 and Ed Baker's for $7.00 the same winter. Charles Crispell bought ice from me at one cent a cake and demanded we should furnish two men to lift it on his sleighs. When I found out, I offered one man to help lift it. He quit. Father wanted me to put some ice in his ice house, which I did at my own expense.
It was sometime in 1903 when Fred had a conversation with Reverend Seward about dreams. He asked the Free Methodist preacher if he could interpret them, for Fred had dreamed that he had been lying under a hemlock tree asleep when a large turkey buzzard with a six foot wing spread hovered over him. He raised his head and it flew away. Rev. Seward wouldn't tell Fred the meaning of this dream until he promised not to take offense at it. Then he explained that a turkey buzzard is never after anything but a dead carcass. His advice to Fred was to stay alive.
Once, while living at the Gray place, Fred did nearly lose his life. He and James Gray Jr. were out with Old Nell. They had just passed a straw load carrying a number of children whose legs were hanging outside the rigging; suddenly they saw a runaway horse coming at them, two wagon wheels up in the air. Fred told James to drive into the field for safety while he ran out to save the children. He ran alongside the strange horse, missed the bridle but caught one line back of the turrets and fell under the horse. He could feel the horse's hind legs kicking him as he hung onto the line. When the horse fell, Fred came out on the other side, barely saving himself from being crushed. He unhooked the horse, righted the wagon, and was waiting with it when the owner came along and took over. James called him a hero. Daisy said he was a fool. He had a bump on his head the size of half an egg.
One year in the Coaching Parade in Liberty, Fred rode Kit and let Mrs. Ben Hasbrouck ride sidesaddle on Old Nell:
I represented Rip Van Winkle. I was dressed in an old scarecrow suit I borrowed from a neighbor and for whiskers I shredded a piece of rope one and a half inches thick and twelve inches long. I used some red dye on my cheeks, which was hard to remove. The prize was worth fifty cents. The judges was a man and a young woman. The young woman was offered a good steak supper at the new Liberty Hotel if she would give the prize to someone not an equestrian, so I lost out. A coaching parade was largely attended each summer for many years. One time, perhaps 1907, the Bengel family were blacked up like niggers eating watermelons on a hay ride. All four girls were in it.
In 1904 the Gorton family expanded to include a son, Edwin Leslie.
Daisy, Leslie at two months
George Clark at two months one day, Ophelia Clark
Ma Steenrod still lived with them and not one of her other nine children and step-children contributed a cent to her support.
She applied for a Widow's Pension from service of her first husband. She married Steenrod six years after James Bonney died at the Battle of Fair Oaks. She received $105.00 as back pay from the time she applied until the next payment due of $12.00 a month until she died. Ma Steenrod gave me $25.00 to buy a Jersey cow of Bill Ryder. The next year I bought Blossom, a mulley cow three years old, and she had a heifer calf every year until I had the auction and sold out all six cows and the wagon canopy top (for $6.00). No one bid on Kit the horse, so I bought Sookie from Charles Crispell's auction for $26.00 and drove team all winter. In the next spring I sold Sookie for $25.00 and Kit for $60.00.
After the auction they moved to Mary Carrier's farm for the winter. Alice May Gorton was born there on November 13, 1905. She was a pretty baby except for a hair lip, which Ma Steenrod blamed on an incident which took place while Daisy was pregnant. Fred had brought a pig into the house to doctor a bite on its back. As he made stitches and drew the string together, Daisy saw what he was doing and yelled and put her finger to her mouth. Her mother said that marked the child she was carrying. Daisy did feel a sore spot within until Alice was born.
The last two weeks of her life, Ma Steenrod had to have Sophia Strasser as a live-in nurse. One night Fred went to call Sophia to wait on his mother-in-law and had a hard time waking her. He was reprimanded for staying too long in her bedroom. Cordelia Steenrod died on March 16, 1906. At the funeral her son, Sam Bonney (Samuel J. Bonney, d. June 29, 1930 @ 75; married to Avis Benson, who d. Jan. 29, 1943 @ 90), contributed $10.00, her son Jim Bonney gave $20.00, and Levi Steenrod (see Appendix III under Roy Steenrod), a step-son, added $15.00. The undertaker charged $65.00 and the pension money only paid the doctor bills. Over sixty years later, Fred was still bitter about the matter, since all three of her sons--Sam, Jim, and Ed Steenrod--had gotten "rewards" at the time of the retroactive pension payment.
The doctor told Fred and Daisy that one year was a safe time to operate on Alice's lip, but she was so healthy at five months that they took her to a Methodist free clinic in New York then. The surgeons cut her gums and drew the front together and left only a little 1/8" deep V in her upper lip. Tragically, Alice caught whooping cough at the hospital and at seven months and one day old died of convulsions. Fred remembered that she waved her hands from side to side thirty-eight times, but the doctor believed she died in no pain.
The undertaker used a two-seated surrey and put the little casket on the back seat. Fred and Daisy spent $105.00 to bury their daughter, $18.00 for expenses and the remainder for four corner posts to mark the plot in the Old Cemetery in Liberty.
In the spring of 1906, the Gortons moved to Bill Gerow's (William J. Gerow, who d. July 4, 1907; his wife Amelia d. June 14, 1924) house at 368 South Main Street and Fred went to work for Sherman Ernhout (see Appendix III). Sherman sold lumber and coal and feed. He had an engine to grind corn and used a buzz saw to chop up refuse lumber and old ties into kindling. Fred's job had many facets. He mixed feed, split kindling, which was delivered for twenty-five cents a barrel, shoveled coal up to the chute when it got low in the large bin, and emptied the spittoon. He got $30.00 a month for ten hour days but at Christmas he got a barrel of flour as a bonus. He quit that job to do more carpenter work and worked for Gurnsey Rampe on the George Stoddard (married Fanny R. Steenrod, who d. May, 1924) cottage. Rampe was pleased with Fred's work and told him that a man who could whistle or sing while at work was the kind of man to have. Fred also carried hod for the Stoddard job but Stoddard and Will Clark (see Appendix III) trimmed the house. In the winters Fred did any job he could get, even taking up carpet for a woman to clean it and then putting it back down. He also lathed the Jim Cusator house for O. P. Davis. Osmer P. Davis d. Aug. 20, 1934, his wife Caroline on June 17, 1947 @ 79. Davis was a butcher, storekeeper, and hardware merchant.
On October 21, 1906, Fred revisited his childhood home and was moved, upon his return, to write a lengthy account of his journey. This "essay" is quoted below without corrections to Fred's spelling or punctuation. Any other discrepancies are due to the editor's failure to correctly interpret Fred's handwriting.
Essay October 21, 1906. Liberty, N.Y.
I started from Mountain View Farm southward once more to make Old Hickory a visit. I crossed two iron bridges, went up a hill the road being covered with leaves, passed Simon Kahn's a retired butcher who had a wagon in his front yard with the inscription "for sale" on it, still I journeyed through Ferndale, had a chat with Frank Webster, crossed the arch bridge and next I met Chas. Hosie coming down from the depot with his daughter in the wagon with one yoke broken. I passed the butcher shop met a little dog which acted very friendly, he put his fore paws against me which got my Sunday pants quite dirty following close behind came a tall lady asking where the station agent could be found, I quickly pointed with my umbrella to a house just below the bank, here I turned my back, passed some box cars which stood on the track and walked down the track, the next object met my gaze was a rat which crossed the track before me, and run under the mail bag catcher on I went toward Bulls Cut, kicking up suitable washers and nuts that may come to use on the farm presently I heard a freight train coming at a great rate of speed. I stepped aside so it could pass, next I passed after I got through the cut was the signal block which had dropped down, then I came to Frazier's crossing where those potatoes are said to be so large as to stick out of the hills on one side, to my surprise such rows were already dug, the remaining rows were free from weeds, thanks to Mr. Frasier for his example in the care of potatoes. I walked on soon found myself in an unmown meadow one I mowed last season whistling and singing between the clatter of the old Buckey(?) machine, here I change my course directly west for the hemlocks which stand too thick to ever make heavy timber, as I am nearing the Mongaup River I see eight fine hemlock trees large enough for nice timber standing on Old Hickory Farm too! here I inscribe my name on a large beech tree "F.G. 10,06"(meaning Fred Gorton October 1906). I went to the water's edge, there I saw a barrel without any head yet it hadn't lost its hooped skirts, then and there I disputed the northern line was two rods too far toward the south with a light heart I scrambled up the rivers bank until I reached the path, where the "Gorton boys" used to tread when going in swimming, next I went down a steep rock to a cave below where we boys used to take corn and roast it, this cave is said to be a place where a crazy man stayed and lived forty days and nights, read the Bible through in that time and was cured when I was a boy in knee breeches I saw the corn cobs down the bank from the cave, I walked on counting hemlock trees until I came out into an open space there I saw a partridge after passing the old chestnut tree, on and on I went through the laurel bushes until I came to the South West corner of Old Hickory my first knowledge of ever being there, now I had counted fifty trees that would make nice logs to take to the sawmill hemlock lumber being worth twenty two to twenty four dollars per thousand feet. presently I heard the crack of a gun thundering down through the woods soon a hunter passed in sight of me with his coat sticking out as though it were full of some kind of game. I watched him until he went out of sight then I changed my course eastward toward those hickory trees one of which I used to call mine just north of the old black cherry tree, I passed sixteen cords of wood piled in four ranks just outside the woods next through the nine acre lot and so on through the Storey-lonesome (?) lot where my father used to keep the old black sow while in suspense waiting to find a litter of pigs, the hog pen was in order the swill barrel was there also the hog troth even the outside door was buttoned shut, I passed between the wind-mill and the birch lot saw a man with a hunters coat coming through the meadow, perhaps to help carry the game home of his friend I met in the woods, I now climb over the wall into the lot called Italy where a family of Italians lived in a barn while the Strongtown trussel was being filled. I well remember "Big Mike" the steam shovel and the little steam engine No. 34 called Little Annie with those little self dump cars and how the Irishman cured me of the hiccoughs a little baby girl was born there, Dr. Payne brought it from Liberty in his medical case. I left Italy and went down the hill filled in with stones and was surprised to find a new pasture-gate crotched on the little end, I struck the road went to the barn found my spring tooth harrow, saw the two pigs I sold last spring to Millard Carr, instead of being little pigs twenty pounds each I found they weighed ten times as much, he had them in the pen where father kept the black steers, I went out of the barn, but had no sooner left when Millard came to feed those nice porkers of course I turned on my heal had a chat with him, bragged up the pigs a little, passed the old ice house, went in the other barn went up the long ladder into the hay loft saw the Gardner "hay fork." I went back down the ladder on the barn floor where the hay wagon stood the mowing machine and roler (?) wine (?) there, out I went down the road in search of hickory nuts I found one for a souvenir Then I went down in the little orchard but found no apples there, I saw three trees in the lower meadow one of them had apples on, so I took my umbrella and knocked one off the tree picked two from the ground eating one as I went over the well into the land of Sodom here I passed a pond where I spent three weeks hard labor the old boat half full of water it looked tattered and torn the chute belonging to Debois Bros laid out on the bank waiting for next ice season I went across the dam found it leaked a little near the top, down below the pond runs a little stream of water which I crossed with some difficulty into the land of Gomorrah here I saw another partridge, and plucked a bunch of winter-greens. I ate some leaves but went back to my apple eating again as I was standing in the winter green leaves I saw near by a dead-fall used to trap rabbits I now cross the line from Old Hickory into the Linden Farm the first thing in crossing the swamp was to get one foot wet, I journeyed on until I came to the path that leads to the sapbush (?) until I come to the old hemlock close to the path, I count that No. 1 and start west to the sap-bush counting ten big hemlocks on my way, arriving at the sap house I go in see two brick furnaces, a lot of sap buckets, and the spiles and sap-pan. Also a pile of dry wood inside ready for next spring. I pass between the Linden house and barn strike the Strongtown road again Howard Smith just passed by before I struck the road, along comes Archie Comfort he is going to walk to the creamery with me, I've just arrived at the creamery, Archie went down the track Hallo Phil. how are you? hallo to young Waterbury also, in comes young Ostram with a news paper for me to read I read it carefully while he went up to the little station it was a column about himself and Fred Harris's courtship at the Loomis Saniterarium (sic), I was about to go home when he come back and said, what do you think of that? I said "outrageous" Ostram thinks he will push the editor's face, at that I came home without any further adventure worthy of mention.
There are two Ostrams in Fred's notes. Elmer (d. Feb. 20, 1959 @ 75) was a restaurant owner. Shell (d. Dec. 5, 1915) was a tin peddler. According to Fred, Shell Ostram's daughter Grace taught at Huntington School, turned summersaults, and had twin daughters by March 1916.
Fred signed these eight pages "Fred S Gorton Oct. 21, 1906" and on sixteen later occasions also signed his name there with the date. The last is May 5, 1970. Fred added the initial S after his name (just S, not S.) to distinguish himself from Fred B. Gorton, a distant cousin, who also lived in Liberty. Fred implies the S stood for nothing in particular and says it was preferable to altering his first name to Alfred or Frederick. I have a sneaking suspicion, however, that it stood for his old nickname--Fred "Scorcher" Gorton.
Fred's second son, Chester Frederick Gorton, was born October 24, 1907 but lived less than ten months before succumbing to a fever. During most of Chester's short life his father was out of a job. He also had another of those narrow escapes from death:
I was not employed but lived at 368 S. Main St. I went down the railroad tracks to Father's farm to cut wood and at Ferndale I started to go through Bull's Cut. I got about 300' in and heard train #9's whistle going north. Both sides of the cut was covered with ice. I ran back for my life the 300' and dodged in an open space big enough to stand in as the train went by. My wife warned me not to go on the railroad track, but I didn't listen. Only speed saved me.
One way he could earn money was by skinning horses. He already had experience in this trade:
James Gray had a horse which was lame when I rented his farm in 1902 and not much hay on the farm after Billy Bartholomew took half on shares. Gray gave me the horse to skin and use for chicken feed. One day six months later a man brought a dead horse on a stone boat for me to skin. Mary Carrier had me kill the old mare which raised colts, the mother of Thetus. I skinned her for the hide. In 1908, a short time before I took the RFD job (March 2), Mary Carrier gave me Thetus to skin. I got up at 4AM and walked over there (later the site of the Empire Hotel) with a lantern and a large knife and a 38 center fire revolver. I took Thetus out of her stall and on the barn floor gave her a bit of hay and as she reached for it I shot her in the temple. She fell and never moved. I skinned her and quartered the carcass, pushed the innards in the barnyard, sold the hide for $2.50. Mary's father, Albert Carrier, remarked "what a shame" as he raised her from a filly and felt bad about it. I shot a horse on the Cooper farm for them. They didn't have the heart to kill it.
In 1909, Fred started keeping account books. The first volume runs from January 1 of that year until March 1913. On April 4, 1910, his son William Russell was born. That is not recorded in the accounts (it is, however, in the family Bible) but there are the following entries for May 7:
Leslie play suit, hat, suspenders $1.35
stockings, dress good for Leslie $1.82
pie dish, 15 peanuts $ .20
Russell's carriage $6.00
In the back of the book, Fred wrote addresses. His father was in Jacksonville, Florida. His brothers were scattered--Osmer in South Carolina, Floyd and Leslie in Middletown, Ai in Walton, Osmer a second time in Poughkeepsie, Cecil in Chicago, where Daisy's brother Ed was also living. Grace was living in Hurleyville with her husband, Charles Farquhar, the Hurleyville constable. I'm not sure where George was at this time. He apparently did not want the farm.
Gill Gorton had bought W. M. Kilbourne's house at 9 Maple Street, later the site of the Telephone Company office in Liberty. He had first rented Old Hickory Farm, and then sold it, in October 1908, for $9,600.00 to a Mr. Waddler. Under Waddler's ownership the barn and Linden Cottage burned down, no hay was cut, the meadows filled with trees, and a rooming house and three little cottages were built for summer people. These were still in operation in the 1960s.
Fred and Daisy and their children moved to the Piney Woods Inn, owned by James I Gulnac of Canada, on February 1, 1911. Later it would be known as the Belmont.
The weather was zero most of the time. We used to sit next to the kitchen stove and Mama took Russell on her lap to keep warm. Leslie was sick with pneumonia. His mother let him play in the water tub next to the barn. Then she got sick and spit green. I employed a nurse for her, Helen Seifert. About that time Arch Armstrong lost his first wife, Mollie Whitaker, and married her nurse, Jennie Grant. One day Helen opened all the windows so Daisy would get pneumonia. Then she asked me if Daisy should die what would I do. I told her I didn't know, but in my mind I said, "I'd be damned if I'd marry you!" She had already told me Leslie was nasty but Russell was a nice boy. That cooked her goose.
Daisy, and Leslie, recovered, and with the future made more secure by Fred's job as a RFD carrier, they began to look for a place to build a house of their own. The Asa Carrier place belonged to a friend, Will Clark. It was a lot 75x300' and 130' 10" wide to the extreme southeast corner. Will and Ophelia Clark were willing to sell it for $300.00. Fred borrowed $252.00 on his $1000.00 Prudential Insurance policy, which he had taken out in 1898, and another $120.00 from Frank and Sarah Webster. E. L. Cooper then built a 20x24' barn on the lot where the family lived for the next thirteen months. On April 1, 1912, there are these entries in the account book:
Pd balance for lot $150.00
Dubin (Dobbin) 4 new shoes $ 1.25
sausage $ .30
2 front clips on wagon $ .20
We lived in our new barn to save paying rent while I was building our first house. I was putting the children to bed, my wife was out in the back yard, and along came Ralph Main, a former beau, to call on us. I could hear them talking but didn't go down until the children were asleep. He told her how disappointed he was to have married the woman he boarded with who was twenty years older than he was and had colored her hair jet black and was too old to have children, and how sorry he was to have lost Daisy. She shot right back, "You never asked me to be your wife. Anyway, you are five years younger than I. I love my husband and wouldn't trade him for any man, even though he was very rich." Ralph soon went back to the Pinney House, after having a chat with me. Ralph played around with the girls at E. E. Pinney's all summer. He told me the girls at E.E. Pinney's would stand naked before the upper windows in the evenings with the lights on. Ralph suggested I come up some night and see for myself. They had about twenty girls boarding there. I didn't go. I attended his funeral with my wife and Mrs. Ralph Main was very anxious to see Ralph's first love. He died April 29, 1932 at fifty.
The house at 100 Carrier Street went up slowly, with Fred doing much of the work himself, running the risk of injury. At one point during construction he got a sliver in the third finger of his right hand that showed up past the nail.
I took a three-corned file and separated the nail and Clem Zeiss took my razor and slitted the inner skin. Then I squeezed the finger and Clem picked it out. We didn't call a doctor either. (Clement Zeiss married Daisy May Mansfield on April 14, 1928 in Ellenville.)
E. L. Cooper was the contractor at $2.50 per day and the two others got $1.50 per day of ten hours. They put up the sills (4x8' wide) and studding and plate and I sheeted it up to the plate. At this time the June 13, 1913 fire in Liberty took Charles Morton's livery stable and licked right into B.F. Green's store and north to Dr. Charles Payne's residence where there was an open space. Also the Baptist Church burned, the only building on the south side of Main Street to burn. Then the men came back and laid the floor beams and the garret floor and framed the rafters and put them up. Floyd and I sheeted the roof using one inch boards which I got from a hen house on Lake Street for $18.00. The garret floor was made of matched six inch flooring from the same hen house and there were also four windows used in the cellar.
I was the rural letter carrier from Liberty (working from 10:30 to 4:30) and used my horse to draw all the stone for the foundations and dug half the cellar using stone in the cement to save cement and sand. Mike Beseth and two sons poured the foundation at $1.50 per day each, using wheelbarrows to carry the dirt out front. We used eighty-six bags of cement which cost ninety cents a bag. E. L. Cooper made the forms for the masons. This was 24x28. Then Cooper's carpenters came again and laid eleven rows of shingles all around the four sides. Then Floyd and I finished shingling the roof. George Stoddard built the chimney in one day for $2.50. I carried hod and mixed the cement. George Stoddard and Ben Hasbrouck plastered the rooms on the first floor and one room above the kitchen. I trimmed the first floor. I also laid all the flooring and lathed the entire house. The carpenters came again and put on the three outside doors, made the porch, but I laid the porch floor. The carpenters also built my back porch and lavatory, and added a bay window not included in the house plans. We had no door upstairs except the bathroom door.
We moved in from the barn September 4, 1913. My brother Leslie and his wife Hazel at our first meal together in our new home.
I had William Sunderland (d. May 27, 1933 @ 73; wife Mary d. 1959 @ 97; Chief Engineer at the Power Plant; lived on Lincoln Place) install the knob and tube wires, cost $17.00, and I tapped a lead wire on and lathed the remainder of the upstairs by a twenty-five watt bulb. Some years later on the RFD vacation time Joe Delmarter (d. Nov. 2, 1951 @ 80; m. Violet Bell, who d. April 13, 1949 @ 72) plastered the upstairs one coat troweled down. I carried hod right over the back porch through the window to him. I paid him $18.00 for six days' work. I trimmed the upstairs rooms except the garret room which E. L. Cooper trimmed free as Daisy helped care for his mother as she was sick at that time.
George Messler (d. Sept. 24, 1949 @ 81) put on tar paper and mackerel bone shell wire for the stucco eleven and a half feet up to the green shingles, four and a half feet down from the cornice. Messler's bill was $45.00, time and material. I hung four doors.
The well on the Gulnac Place I was using run dry and I drew water from Lake Ophelia in two fifty gallon barrels with Roxy and my light lumber wagon.
Our neighbor, George Cowell (d. Nov. 10, 1931 @ 60; m. Etta Morris, b. Aug. 17, 1876; d. Feb. 7, 1959), helped move the stove and heavy furniture and acted like a real neighbor, but later plowed so near my driveway the stones fell into his garden. So I stretched a line from his front iron stake to his back line, which was 140' from the center of the road, and found out I could take 16" more than I formerly used, which I did, laying up a wall. He worked on the section of the O&W Railroad and each night when he came home from work would squint from one iron post to the other. I came out to meet him and said to him, "I have stretched a wire from post to post and will bring my driveway out to the wire." He was mad, and didn't speak to me for a year or more. If I spoke to him he would just grunt. Later he got three geese and fenced them next to the driveway to make a stink and force Mrs. Martha Hill (Mary Martha Hill who d. April 1934; wife of Rufus Hill who d. Sept. 2, 1944 @ 80) to dispense of her septic tank and hook on the sewer, as Mrs. Hill had a house in the lot back of the George Cowell residence. The scheme worked. He tried to get me to swear the stink came from the septic tank. I refused.
Having created a home for his family, Fred began to consider a career move. On October 17, 1917, after serving his six hours on the twenty-seven mile RFD route, he started work as a fireman at the Liberty Power House. His adventures as a rural mail carrier and those in the power plant rate separate chapters in this account but one more event of importance must be considered here. In 1914, Fred began to keep a diary in addition to an account book. The first volume runs to 1920, but most of the entries fall in the years 1915 to 1917. He noted deaths, births, marriages, and the progress of crops. He also filled the 160 page composition book with details of his family life. It would be impossible to quote all the entries, but the most revealing are reproduced here:
September 6, 1914 I called on George [his brother] between Sunday School and Church. He was having gall stones. Martha had just got home from her Father's who was ill from a stroke. Floyd spent the evening with us. Went home at 8:30.
September 10, 1914 Russell and myself went to Grace's and Charley Farquhar's. 25th anniversary of their wedding. Those present were Mr. and Mrs. N. G. Gorton, Ai Gorton, George Gorton and Martha, Mr. and Mrs. Charles E. Benedict (Charles Benedict d. Aug. 30, 1925 @ 57, shot by George Raymond at his home by his own gun), Charles Taylor (d. Sept.20, 1944 @ 50; accidentally shot in barn), Matt Raymond's first wife (the cook), Grandma Farquhar (Mrs. James Farquhar who d. Dec. 22, 1915), Mr. and Mrs. C. C. Farquhar, Edna, Earl, Lucille, Alice, Leonard (Grace's five children), also Mrs. Andrew Farquhar. Met Charity Ernhout on Scoot on our return home. She was bound for Stevensville. [The train called the Scoot used to leave Liberty O&W at about 7:45 AM.]
September 20, 1914 Took Roxy (the horse), and Leslie and Russell and went to Ferndale through by Cooleys' back past Pine Grove Hotel today.
September 21, 1914 Made drive-way next to Atkins line. [Amenzo Atkins (d. July 4, 1962 @ 78 m. Minnie Morris (d. July 17, 1971 @ 85)]
September 27, 1914 Daisy fell out of wagon in front of Church. Bruised right arm. Skinned left knee.
October 10, 1914 Atkins house all sheeted and half of the roof sheeted for shingles.
October 17, 1914 Less [E. L.]Cooper trimmed garret door and hung both garret and pantry door today.
October 29, 1914 Got N. G. Gorton six hens of Jim Demerest ($3.30). Daisy and Russell went to Hutchinsons today.
November 26, 1914 We all spent Thanksgiving with Father and Mother.
December 6, 1914 Leslie, Russell & myself went calling on Coopers this afternoon (Sunday.)
December 14, 1914 I began running the sleigh again. I drove Kit and arrived back again to the P.O. at 3:35.
January 1, 1915 Father and Mother were here for supper. We had spare ribs and crullers.
February 21, 1915 Myself and family went to J. W. Brown to take dinner. Geo. Ackerly & wife were there also Joe Brown, Geo Ackerly, Fred S Gorton went over to the Liberty Park Preserve. We saw Chancy I. Smith in his one room "log cabin." He showed us a fish pole which some trespasser left, also the dagger which Mrs. Taylor murdered her husband and afterward cut him up and burned him in the cook stove, also a picture the title "a September Morn." He had a type writer a banjo, revolver, couch and chairs, gas lamp, center table and even rugs on the floor, a stuffed bird ten years old when it died and some kind of stuffed bird two feet high, a nice little sink, a hanging bird's nest, an army sword, also a common sword, the picture of his little spotted pony all framed. Wilbur Roosa was there in the cabin with us also. We then went to the big house and saw fish eggs and a few little trout just hatched with the feeding bag with 60 day rations with them. J. G. Smith said the eggs which he hatched would be 95% good where the trout only hatch 5%. [George Ackerly (July 15, 1881-May 26, 1940) was a police officer and a guard at the old bank; he married 1) Latta Porter (d. Aug. 22, 1936) and 2) Mrs. Myrtle Miller.]
February 22, 1915 Leslie, Russell & myself went to Fulton's Creamery to get skim milk. 2:45 is the time it took.
March 7, 1915 All of us went down to 368 S. Main for hen dinner at Mrs. Amelia Gerow's.
March 27, 1915 Ralph Main called and took supper.
June 15, 1915 I met Grace and Chas. Farquhar with their automobile just past Glen Porter's bridge today on the regular trip. Earl was with them.
June 28, 1915 Leslie went to T. L. Maltby's to spend a week. Afishing he caught three trout, 1 catfish, pickerel. We were very lonesome. It seemed like a death in the family to have him gone.[Theodore Maltby d. March 9, 1955 @ 74. He married Nellie Ray (d. 1918). He was a farmer at Hurd, NY and had a daughter Retta and a son Harold.]
July 23, 1915 Mrs. Daisy Gorton, Leslie & Russell started for Cortland. Fred stayed home & kept house for 2 weeks.
July 24, 1915 I took dinner with Father and Mother today.
August 5, 1915 I rode home for the first time an old auto Ford belonging to Ben Gerow. Walter Gerow went along.
August 9, 1915 I made all my RFD trip in my new automobile No. V8284. Nothing happened. Mr. Messler Jr. went with me to teach me how to drive. We started at 11 o'clock and got back at 4:25 then at 5:15 I drove the car down to Ben Gerow's place, backed up, and went home on Carrier Street by way of Hotel Reed. When I entered my driveway I ran the wheel on the bank a little. A thunder storm came up and the car got a good ducking.
August 16, 1915 I took Daisy, and the children to Websters and to Strongtown School house and returned for their first auto trip.
August 22, 1915 We all went for an automobile ride. Took Less Cooper along to Monticello. It took 45 minutes to come back as far as the railroad.
September 5, 1915 My family, Osmer & Grace went to Wm T. Ratcliff's in the afternoon by way of the Workmen's Circle Sanatarium. We got there at 3 o'clock. Then I had to go after Father and Mother at White Sulphur Springs House with the automobile. We got back about 8 o'clock.
September 10, 1915 We took the automobile and went to Stevensville Lake and took Mr. and Mrs. Geo. Cowell with us. A fishing this evening Russell caught three fish. One was a sun fish. 17 were caught in all. We got back at 10:20.
September 12, 1915 I took six boys of the Sunday School Leslie included to Monticello. We went through the Court House and Prison. I gave one of the prisoners some matches. (Edwin Young was one of the boys. The sheriff excorted us past all the prison cells. I think Buck Winner was sheriff in those days. A sheriff couldn't serve more than 2 years but he was elected after the 2nd year term of another sheriff expired. Later Harry Borden served as sheriff for 12 years. I went through Frank Leslie's hotel the same day.) [Mrs. Elmer "Buck" Wimmer (Edith) (Jan. 20, 1879-Oct. 27, 1964)]
September 16, 1915 I left Leslie with Florence & George Gorton while Uncle George and Aunt Martha, Mildred, Russell, Daisy and myself went to Monticello for an evening ride. We got back at 8:35 to Liberty.
September 17, 1915 Russell went over my trip today. We had a hard shower when we were at Chas. Taylor's place.
October 2, 1915 The automobile balked at the bottom of the driveway and Geo. Drennon (d. April 8, 1954 @ 83) put the ropes on the car and took me to the corner. Then we got around the trip all O.K. It was very slippery and rainy. I got a cream colored kitten at Box 100 today.
October 10, 1915 We took the automobile and family, also Iva Gerow and May Ebert [May Coddington Ebert (Mrs. Lewis) d. June 25, 1968 @ 88] and went to Roscoe. At Denny Cook's the autumn leaves were just turning. The day was ideal. Got back at supper time. Went to church. Heard Mr. Conrad preach on women's rights. [Denny Cook of Cook's Falls d. Feb.1,1952; his wife was named Anna and he had a sister named Grace.]
October 17, 1915 Less Cooper called just as we were ready to go to Cooks Falls to see Carl Cook and wife go to Arizona for Carl's health. We saw Andy Cook & wife, Mr. Marvin Cook the father, and Denny Cook & wife. Also Burnette, the only son. At the depot we saw Moses Westbrook (d. July 21, 1951 @ 86) and Elias Champlin from Liberty. As we were coming back at the top of the hill above the Washington place an auto stopped very suddenly and our car hit it in behind and bent our left lamp a little inward, but the man found no fault. Didn't even speak. The day was warm. No overcoat needed.
October 27, 1915 I had my first "blow out" with the left hind tire near Divine's Corners. I put on a new tire and inner tube and it leaked by the time I got to Martha Grant's place so I left the car to Ben Gerow's house and got Roxy to finish the trip.
November 17, 1915 My right hind tire blowed out today halfway between Greenspan's place and Frank Denman's. I put on a new tire and the inner tube blowed out at Levine Bros., one mile distant from the first blow out all the same trip.
November 25, 1915 We had Royce's 7lbs. Turkey as usual. Mrs. Cowell took dinner with us. I dug dirt next to the hen house and taught Leslie how to make his first "box trap." I put a window in the end of the hen house toward the east.
January 16, 1916 The family attended a temperance talk by Mrs. Maud Perkins at the Methodist Church of Liberty in which Mr. Rev. Chasey said that Liberty would be dry in two years. Rev. Conrad led by a prayer. The church was full. It snowed as we came home.
January 25, 1916 Father came and got a pullet for dinner to celebrate his 46th anniversary of his wedding.
May 1, 1916 Father and Mother are visiting Cecil and Orie at Philadelphia this week. We expect them back about the 23rd.
June 11, 1916 I took Mother and George to Hurleyville to day to see Dr. DeKay (d. March 31, 1935) concerning George's gallstones. I saw Grace & Chas. and Leonard Farquhar. Daisy and Archie Dice called this Sunday afternoon and took supper, all of us went to the Presbyterian Church exercises for Children's Day. Took them home in the car in the mud after six days rain without chains. Leslie and Russell got a geranium.
June 21, 1916 I took Leslie and Russell over the trip. It started to rain before we got back. We took lunch at the top of the Kenan Hill.
August 11, 1916 I took four people from Geo. E. Woods place at Hilldale. Started for Monticello. When I got up the 2nd Mongaup Hill the crankshaft broke (price $7.50). Dr. Hasbrouck towed me in. We took the rope at 7:35, arrived at Gerow's Garage 8:10. Frank Scott got the four dollars and I paid out three to get towed in. 77666 chauffeur license number. [Frank Scott d. 1937; his wife Lena d. Dec. 23, 1961 @ 79]
Editor's Note: During this period Fred often took people in his car or in the wagon for a fee. It seems to have been $1.00 per person.
September 10, 1916 We all went to Aunt Paulina's funeral. She was buried from Cooks Falls M.E. Church. Rev. Lincoln preached, the subject being the children of Israel led through the wilderness and crossing the river Jordan on dry land coming in the Land of Canaan over against Jerico. Mrs. Paulina Steenrod was represented as going over to the Holy City. Lee Steenrod & wife, also Bessie went in his Ford. Ophelia Clark and shaneff (?) took Geo. and Fan. Stoddard up there. It took us 1 hr. 33 minutes to go up and 1 hour and 25 minutes to return. Mrs. Inez Crystal, Daisy's cousin, rode as far as her home in Livingston Manor with us. She gave us some sweet baked apples. We took dinner with Wm. Steenrod. [Aunt Paulina was Elizabeth Polina Misner Steenrod, widow of Daisy's uncle Ed Steenrod (1835-1912)]
September 22, 1916 We all went to T. L. Maltby's the 20th and stayed all night and then Theodore and Nellie, Daisy & myself went to Port Jervis for an automobile ride. We went to Bethel to White Lake to Mongaup Valley to Monticello to Bridgeville to Mamakating. There we had four miles detour turned to right and went to Westbrookville and entered Port Jervis. Left the Ford in a garage and crossed the bridge in the State of Jersey into Matamoras where George Ray (d. Oct. 1968) lives. We came back the same way, leaving Matamoras at 4:30 and got home from Maltby's at nine o'clock to F. S. Gorton's place. Theodore bought some cabbage on the way home.
October 10, 1916 We took the Ford, Nellie & I, and went to Mrs. Celia Kortright Herbert's place after a pig 3 months old. We started about 6 o'clock AM got back at 5 minutes of 8. Pretty cold ride. Then after supper the family and Nellie and Reta and Harold motered to Maltby's place and brought back 20 pullets for Less Cooper. I drove Roxy over my trip. I rode about 65 miles all told today.
October 31, 1916 My family, Daisy, Russell & Leslie & Fred, also Mrs. C. M. Peck [Charles M. Peck d. Jan. 28, 1935 @ 62; his wife, Cora B. Pierce, d. Sept. 29, 1956 @ 82] & Mr. Goodsir went to Roscoe to the County Convention of Sunday Schools. Mrs. Randall, Mrs. Westbrook, Mrs. Holtslander, Mabel Clements (d. Feb. 26, 1964 @ 80), Mrs. Paul, Miss Chamberlain, Mrs. Gildersleeve, Mr. Conrad, Douglas Drennon. The speakers were Mr. Baker, Miss Bird.
November 12, 1916 I took in my Ford Margaret & James Gorton, also Father & Mother to W. T. Ratcliff's for a calf. Got back at 3:40 and took Jim & Margaret to the 4:10 train. Chas. & Grace come to Father's place after we got back.
November 14, 1916 I signed paper for Rural Carrier's Pension Bill. Answered 21 questions.
December 29, 1916 I rec'd check dated Dec. 28, 1916 of $48 back pay of year ending June 30, 1916. I got $6.00 off the Route this x'mas. Box nos. 37-61-84-93-94-88. Also no. 96 and no. 10. I got 2 cans fruit, 1 bx. candy, 1 shirt 61 (Carr's place) D. M. Bakam necktie fine shirt, Leslie gloves, Mama bureau cover, Russell mouth organ, and three handkerchiefs.
January 13, 1917 I've had Roxy 4 years today. The thermometer stood at 2 below zero today. Joe W. Brown went around the trip today to be my new substitute. I took dinner at Carr's today.
January 26, 1917 Otto Hillig (d. Sept. 12, 1954 @ 79) gave us, the 3 Leagues, a Magic Lantern views of his trip to California this evening. About 100 persons were present.
March 8, 1917 Russell is 3' 11" at nearly 7 years. Leslie is 5' tall.
March 24, 1917 This is the 1st day I drove a wagon on my RFD route since December 13, 1916.
March 30, 1917 I traded horses, Old Nellie or so called Sukie for Prince "the man eater" and drove him the same day over the RFD. Traded with E.E. Pinney. $30.00. [Ellery E. Pinney d. April 23, 1939 @ 82; his wife was a niece of Webb Horton, who owned the tannery in Ferndale]
April 1, 1917 8 soldiers came to Liberty to guard the trussel [trestle] and 16 to Ferndale.
May 21, 1917 A big Pierce Arrow car was in the mud between us & Cowells last night at 12 o'clock. Walter Gerow hooted me out and I took the tie rope & a 2 hooked chain to help them out of the mud. (NOTE: this probably should be April 21, 1917)
May 14, 1917 Sold Prince the man-eater to Alf Broadard $15.00. Bought Mar. 30. Had him 45 days, drove 17 trips over RFD. 3 days later I was offered by Chas. Muhlig $25.00.[Charles Muhlig d. Nov. 29, 1960; he was Gladys Blade's father]
May 25, 1917 I took the measles from Russell after 22 years of relief from the same. Father and Mother went to Philadelphia this morning and will return in two weeks visiting Osmer in Jersey City on way home, after Cecil and Orie has 1 week.
I didn't go on RFD from Thursday until after Decoration Day the 30th, six days rest.
June 6, 1917 Leslie has his new Scout suit.
July 3, 1917 Daisy & Russell has the red measles. They took to their beds Tuesday evening.
July 11, 1917 Daisy came downstairs after having the measles.
July 17, 1917 Leslie & Russell caught 16 catfish at Redington's Pond, when dressed they weighed one and a half lbs.
August 31, 1917 We went to see Leslie at the Boy Scout Camp at Silver Lake. We took him some plums and a chocolate cake. There were 20 boys including the two Durkind boys (colored).
September 11, 1917 The Mary Carrier place burned to the ground this morning at 4 o'clock.
October 19, 1917 To the Fourth Assistant P. M. General Wash. D.C. I Fred S. Gorton resign my position as Rural Letter Carrier to take effect immediately or as soon as possible. I name Mr. John Farenholtz as my successor. He is young and strong and of good habits. I cheerfully recommend him. Fred S. Gorton
Tuesday, October 16, 1917 (Editor's Note: This entry follows the previous one in the diary)
I took a job as Fireman at the Liberty Light and Power Plant beginning at $15 per week with one night off per week.
October 20, 1917 Leslie, Russell & myself went and picked the apples of Chas. K. Benedict. Cost $1.50 about 13 bushel.
October 26, 1917 Father, Mother and Aunt Grace Farquhar took dinner with us today.
November 6, 1917 Liberty was voted dry by a majority.
November 9, 1917 We had our first fire alarm. Davis Meat Market. I blew the alarm. Sunderland the call. 10 minutes of 12.
November 13, 1917 I blew the 7 o'clock whistle at the Power House for the first time. I've been there 4 weeks today.
November 17, 1917 I had my first lesson with the steam getting low. The lights went practically out at 17 after 8 o'clock.
November 22, 1917 I sold Roxy to Lew Halprin for $8.00. I bought her for $140.00 nearly 5 years ago. Halprin lives near Benton Hollow on the Lewis Place.
November 27, 1917 Russell's bantam hen laid an egg.
November 29, 1917 We got a eight and a half lb. turkey of the Light and Power Company for Thanksgiving.
December 25, 1917 We celebrated x'mas by having a 20 lb. 6 oz. turkey from the Light and Power Co. Father and Mother were here with us. I got an Ingersoll Eclipse watch for xmas.
copyright 2010 Kathy Lynn Gorton Emerson. All rights reserved.