Friday, July 25, 2014

Meet the Neighbors: John Delafield

By Alice Askins,  Education Coordinator at Rose Hill Mansion

When the Swans moved to Rose Hill in 1850 their neighbor to the east was John Delafield.  Most of our information about John’s life comes from the Centennial Historical Sketch of Fayette by Diedrich Willers, published in 1900.  John was born in 1786 on Long Island.  After graduating from Columbia College in 1805, he found work in a dry goods store. In 1808, his firm made him super-cargo on a brig going to the West Indies and other ports. A super-cargo managed trade for his firm.  Basically, he sold merchandise at the ports the ship sailed to and bought goods to bring back home.  A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts.  Used by merchants and the navy, brigs were fast and maneuverable.    

John’s voyage was not uneventful.  His brig’s captain died of yellow fever in Cuba, and the mate died two days after they left Havana.  At this point, John took charge of the ship.  Several days later, the crew mutinied and tried to kill him.  One of the crew helped him subdue the mutineers and the two men managed to get the ship to Corunna, Portugal.  At this time, Europe was in the middle of the Napoleonic wars, and France and England were wrangling over Spain and Portugal.

The USS Niagara is a wooden-hulled brig that was the relief flagship for Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.  The Niagara is one of the last remaining ships from that war.  It is usually docked at Erie, Pennsylvania, as a museum exhibit. It also often travels the Great Lakes during the summer. 

I have not found whether John’s ship was originally supposed to go to Europe from the West Indies, or why he sailed north after leaving Portugal in 1809.   He must have done so as Mr. Willers tells us the ship met a violent storm off the coast of France, and limped into Bristol, England, with a lot of damage.  There was tension at the time between England and the US that would eventually result in the War of 1812.  Mr. Willers says,

Mr. Delafield was here thrown into prison for some alleged violation of the revenue laws and although soon released he was detained within bounds of thirty miles around Bristol, a stranger and without money. He employed his time, however, in working for a cabinet maker, and in a drug store, remaining thus under British surveillance until the close of the war with the United States.

Eventually John was allowed to go into business for himself, and he married a Bristol woman.  When his wife died in 1820 he returned to New York City.  In New York John became a teller in the Phoenix Bank and ten years later he became the bank’s president.  John was an early promoter of the Hudson River Railroad, a director of the University of New York, and an organizer of the Philharmonic Musical Society. He retired from banking in 1841, and two years later he bought a farm of 352 acres near Rose Hill.  He called it "Oaklands," and dove into the improvement of farming.  He became president of the Seneca County Agricultural Society in 1846, and remained president until he died except for 1851.  That year he was president of the State Agricultural Society, and ran the State Fair in Rochester.  Oaklands won county and state awards.

John was crucial to the farming revolution that John Johnston brought to North America.  When Mr. Johnston was installing drain tile on his farm Viewfields, his neighbors were skeptical.  They assumed that an underground system could never work.  Many thought the system would clog up and the tiles would all smash from draft horses or oxen walking over them.  Ten years after Mr. Johnston put his first tile lines down, he uncovered one of them, planning to increase the capacity of that drain.  While he had it open, he asked John to come see it.  It looked just the same as it had when it was buried in 1838.  John decided that under-draining could work after all, and he imported a Scraggs Tile Machine from England.  Benjamin Whartenby of Waterloo was the potter who had been hand-making drain tiles for John Johnston.  John gave Mr. Whartenby the machine, in return for one quarter of the tiles produced with it.  This machine inspired the spread of under-draining in North America – once one machine was here, someone else imported a second one, a third man copied the first, and so on.

In 1850, John published a history and survey of Seneca County.  It was the most extensive and accurate account that had yet been published.  The work he was most devoted to, though, was the establishment of an Agricultural College for New York State.  He was involved with that at the time of his sudden death in 1853, at the age of 67.  John was survived by his second wife, whom he married in 1825, and by three sons and two daughters.  John’s sons became successful businessmen in New York City and elsewhere.   

The agricultural college was to have been centered at Oaklands, but after considerable time and debate it was located at Cornell.  The Agricultural Experiment Station, part of Cornell, is still with us in Geneva to remind us of John Delafield.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Herendeens and the Summer of 1914, Part 1

By John Marks, Curator of Collections and Exhibits

A common quip in my profession is, “I’m a historian. I read dead people’s mail.” Even more revealing are the diaries and journals that have been given to the historical society. A particularly interesting collection is the diaries of Francis (Frank) Herendeen from 1914 to 1929.

In 1868 the Herendeen family began making farm implements and steam boilers in Geneva.  Frank was the secretary of the Herendeen Manufacturing Company, which became part of the U.S. Radiator Corporation in 1910.  After 1910 Frank’s role in the radiator company is unclear, but apparently he had time on his hands. In 1914, he decided to take his wife Annie and only child Frances (Fannie) to Europe for the year. (Genevans will remember the daughter as Fannie Truslow, wife of Tommy; they lived next door to the historical society on South Main Street.) Catherine Rankin, their live-in domestic, also traveled with them.

Annie Boynton Herendeen, Frances (Fannie) Herendeen, Frances (Frank) Herendeen
Both Frank and Annie had traveled before their marriage.  Frank noted in his 1914 diary that he had not been to Europe since 1900. Part of his desire to travel again was to expose their seven year-old daughter to the world while being tutored. He was particularly impressed with German educational methods as Fannie had received German lessons in Geneva.

The family left Geneva just after New Year’s 1914. (I should mention that Annie also kept a diary. While she wrote of exhaustion from packing for a long trip, Frank mentioned packing in passing and said that everyone had been busy.) Sailing from New York, they spent time in Spain, Algiers, Monaco, and Italy.  In June they moved to Austria. Their first stop was Botzen in the Tirol mountains. (I am using the spellings as found in Frank’s diary.)

Fannie Herendeen posing in the Borghese Gardens in Rome, April 1914
Annie was not feeling well and Frank brought in “the best Doctor here to attend her.” The diagnosis was “thin blood” and the prescription was two raw eggs in milk every two hours and daily arsenic shots. Surprisingly, she did gain more strength.

As his wife was bedridden for several weeks, Frank spent his time exploring the area with Fannie. He hired a local woman to walk with Frances every morning and talk in German with her. He recorded his days in great details. The day that caught my attention the first time I read his 1914 diary was June 28, 1914. He wrote of the weather, his activities with Fannie, Annie’s health, and then:
“This eve at 7 o’clock at dinner, the news came of the assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand heir to throne of Austria & Hungary & of his wife the Duchess of Hohenberg, in Sarajevo, the Capitol of Bosnia, by a student of Servia, one Prinzib.”
A few days later Frank mentions the town mourning the Archduke with black streamers, but otherwise there is no mention of political events. They moved to a higher, cooler altitude at Karersee once Annie felt strong enough to travel. On Friday July 24, at the end of an entry about a day trip to San Martino, Frank wrote,
 “Ret[urned] to Karersee at 9 p.m. found the Hotel excited over the 48 Hour ultimatum of Austria to Servia – the news of which had just arrive. It may mean war.”
Frank’s entry the next day reflected the chaos of uncertainty:
 “Nothing was discussed so much today as the probability of a great European war & of the immediate importance of the visitors here leaving at once, in such case for their homes...The dispatches are posted as received & seem contradictory – First that Servia had protested – then later that she had agreed to all of Austria’s demands. When this came there was immense relief and happiness all around….About 10 p.m. came the next telegram that King Peter had fled & Austria had declared War…Many people are now preparing to leave tomorrow…We may soon leave here too.”
Needless to say, things got more interesting in Europe very quickly. I will pick up the story in next month’s blog.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Lazy, Hazy Days of Summer

By Karen Osburn, Archivist

A few weeks ago I went to a wonderful Strawberry Social at a local church and found on each table a lovely centerpiece with 3 brightly colored fans standing like straw flowers in a garden.  The note on the basket encouraged the people sitting at the table to use the fans for their comfort if they were warm and requested that when they leave they replace them in the centerpiece so the next diner could use them.


Those fans brought to mind the old song about the “Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer” and how very glad I am summer days are here.  I know quite a few folks who dread the summer heat, but not me.  The summer warmth reminds me of the days of back yard swimming pools which killed your grass (until someone dropped a snapping turtle in them and the pool was punctured), fireflies, raspberries picked right off the bush and warm from the sunshine, dusty dirt roads by summer cottages, and swimming in the lake from the end of May until the beginning of October. 

I love the way the warmth embraces me when the humidity is just right so that the air feels “soft.”  I love the smell of warm roses, warm honeysuckle and warm earth.  I love to see things grow!  Tomatoes, cabbage, yellow beans, beets, cucumbers, eggplant, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, and potatoes just spring out of the ground.  Strawberries, blueberries, and melons arrive in abundance, while cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, and plums ripen on the trees and bend the branches toward me so I can pick them.  The grass not only requires lots of mowing, but also beckons me to walk through it in my bare feet and feel the carpet of green blades between my toes.

Firemen's Parade, 2007
I remember days spent on a lake with my dad fishing, canoeing, and boating.  I remember nights spent toasting marshmallows by campfires.  I love the freedom of no boots, coats, scarves or mittens.  I enjoy watching my cats sit in the windows as dusk falls relaxing comfortably on the windowsills and sampling the smells on the night air circulating the neighborhood. 

Cruisin' Night
Do any of these memories from my childhood on a different lake in a different New York State town relate to Geneva?  Oh yes!  I now watch the fireflies infiltrate the back yard behind my apartment and the sound of the Pulteney Park fountain plays gently on the air with the songs from the Methodist Church carillon drifting through my window.  I share ice cream with friends at one of several ice cream/frozen yogurt stores and cookouts and chicken Bar-B-Qs abound.  I thoroughly enjoy the fireworks display the American Legion puts on at the end of their carnival each year.  I love the local church carnivals, the parade on Memorial Day Weekend, the Firemen’s Parade, the Sons of Italy Festival, the Latino Festival, the Plein Air Festival, Crusin’ Night, Music on Porches, the Garden Walk, the Tour of Homes, Geneva Music Festival, Medley of Tastes, Jane Austen Day at Rose Hill, Farm Heritage Day at the Johnston Farm, and the Rose Hill Mansion Food and Wine Celebration.  Wow, that is just a partial list.  I am overwhelmed with the wealth of summer fun that abounds in the Finger Lakes region.  There are cheese trails, wine trails, brewery trails, farmers market, stands and stores selling homemade ice cream, the list just goes on and on.  I don’t think it matters where you are in New York State, you will find many activities to participate in that will remind you of summers past.  And with a little effort you can encourage your children to make memories that they can fondly look back on each time summer roles around anew. 

Pultney Park, 2006
I hope each of you steps out into this bountiful and beautiful area we call the Finger Lakes and make a memory today.  Don’t pass up the chance to eat ice cream, go swimming, see wildlife, visit a local museum, smell and taste the summer.  We have about 3 months to recharge ourselves before winter; last one to the lake is a rotten egg!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Workers at Rose Hill Farm

By Anne Dealy, Director of Education and Public Information

Photo of men, wagons and barrels of potatoes in an orchard
Workers harvest potatoes in the apple orchard at Rose Hill, c. 1885.

As we saw last month, the Swans at Rose Hill relied on female workers to do much of the housework and childcare. Running the farm operations required male workers. The farm consisted of about 350 acres for most of the Swans' residency. The primary crops were wheat and oats. Livestock raised included cattle and sheep. Searching for information about the farm workers is slightly easier than finding out about the domestic workers because the men never changed their names and are usually identified by occupation in the federal census. In addition, while women are rarely listed in the Geneva Village Directories, but most men are.

Many more male workers are also mentioned in Robert's personal and business papers. The account book mentioned in my post on domestic workers has far more men listed. This account book is not organized as the record of a modern business might be. It includes comical sketches of Robert's brothers, a list of personal expenses for 1846, a prayer, and payments to workers and suppliers, as well as signed contracts with some workers. The farm records date between 1852 and 1862. Robert also kept a memorandum book, or farm journal, which has brief notices of what was being done on the farm and includes the occasional personal comment. He wrote in this book between 1851 and 1858, mostly during the winter and summer months. Occasionally a worker is mentioned in a family letter, but this is rare.

Robert Swan employed workers to do a variety of tasks on the farm. Some plowed, planted and harvested the crops sold at market or grown to feed livestock. Most of these crops were grains and other grasses which had to be cut, tied and dried in stooks (stacks) before being drawn into a barn and threshed. Men hauled manure and plaster and spread them on the fields and dug and removed stones from fields. They cut and hauled ice and timber, hoed and weeded the garden and fields, and built and repaired fences, rails and buildings.They also washed and sheared the sheep, slaughtered pigs and fed the livestock. A large part of their work was just hauling things from place to place. Although Robert Swan used a reaper, and employed threshers with a threshing machine, his workers also used manual scythes and did many tasks by hand.

Illustration of man lowering drain tile into a ditch.

A major project Robert undertook during his first few years on the farm was draining the fields using the principles he learned from his father-in-law, John Johnston. Workers were hired to dig drainage ditches, bring the drain tile to the fields, lay it in the ditch and cover it over. By the end of 1853, these men dug, by hand, over 17 miles of 2-foot-deep ditches around the farm. The pay for this back-breaking work was about $40 per mile per man. Labor was so cheap relative to materials, that it actually cost Robert Swan more to buy the tiles and have them delivered to the farm than to pay men to dig the ditches.

Contract engaging John Hopkins to work for Robert Swan.

The farm work was done by a variety of men. Some seem to have been neighboring farmers or their sons looking for extra work. A few were specialized workers, like the threshers, but the overwhelming majority were Irish immigrants. Many were hired for a specific task or period of time. Men were hired for haying and harvest. Some were hired just for ditch digging or threshing. A major category of employment on the census during the 19th century was "farm laborer," "day laborer" or just "laborer." Some of the men hired stayed on for a year or more. Many of those were given a contract of sorts, written up by Robert and signed or marked by the employee. Most contract workers were paid $8 to $10 per month for a year's work. Contracts specified that pay would be pro rata if they left early, and included provisions like: "I Patt McGuinis do hereby agree to work for Mr Swan...and do further agree to be faithful in my duty & to do anthing [sic] Mr Swan tells me, & to be pleasant, to keep sober & not to have drink or liquor in my house."

Many of the workers lived on the property. Two are listed in the 1860 census as residents of the household; others occupied one of the three tenant houses located on the farm, often with family members. John Hopkins lived next door in 1850, with his wife, two daughters, another farm laborer and his wife and daughter.

The 1850 Census lists the members of John Hopkins' family in the house right next door to the Swans at Rose Hill.

Swan didn't seem pleased with Hopkins's work, writing at the end of the contract, "John Hopkins time is up to day and I have paid him off & am glad to get quit of him." Hopkins may have lived in the house prior to the Swan purchase of the property and his contract stipulated that he would give up the house without trouble. Several others were let go without regret, two for requesting higher wages, one for being impudent, and another for missing work. There seems to have been no shortage of workers.

One of the tenant houses at Rose Hill, c. 1885

Based on the sources we have, Robert Swan actively managed the farm during his first ten years there. In 1860, however, he began to have health problems, and he listed the property for lease in the Geneva newspapers. It is unclear whether he ever went back to full time farming. Though the farm continued to be worked, we don't know how involved Robert was in the day-to-day activities and management. His account book, which contains contracts with his workers, only extends to 1862. In that year, he leased the farm to a Mr. Henderson, an arrangement renewed in 1863, when he noted receiving $2100 annual rent from the man. Mr. Henderson is also mentioned in other material later in the 1860s and must have leased the farm for several years.

There were still workers on the farm after this. In a photograph album of the 1880s we see some of these anonymous men at work harvesting potatoes in the orchard or working in the hay barn, unfortunately we know little else about them.