Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Cornwallville Church, Farmers' Museum, Cooperstown

Built in 1795, this church was originally the Susquehanna Methodist Church in East Durham, Greene County, New York. Later, it was moved to Cornwallville, where it became the Cornwallville Methodist Church, and lastly it was moved to Cooperstown in the 1960s, where it became a part of the historic village. Notable is the fact that it was built using the same basic model as St. Mark's Episcopal Church (1852), St. Stephen's Episcopal Church (1832), St. Mary's Episcopal Church (1850), St. John's Episcopal Church of Tuckahoe (1798), and many others. It was basically the prototypical church of the 19th (and very late 18th) century.

I haven't yet been able to find any information about the graveyard beside the church. I did notice that the 18th-century stones face away from the church building, which is not how they would have been arranged in the 18th century - but obviously they are not in their original locations.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Finding the Old Kirby/Hewlett Graveyard

In the 1893 article about the di Cesnola graveyard controversy, the location of the graveyard is described thus: "Down at the southerly end of this pond there jutted out into it a little wooded peninsula which for over two hundred years has been used as a burying-ground."

This peninsula can be seen in the 1881 map of Kirbyville, not far from the old Kirby flour mill. Note St. Mark's Church in the right-hand corner of the map.

By 1901, the lake was gone, but the location of the graveyard can be approximated from the house General di Cesnola had built in its place.

Some version of this house seems to have been standing in 1929. Interestingly, the property line seems to echo the shape of the peninsula.

As for the satellite image of the area today - it is difficult to say, but it seems likely that the graveyard (if any of it remains) is in this general area.

The Graveyard that General di Cesnola Disturbed

The following article from the New York World, published September 8, 1893, was sent to me via Facebook by Mike Savoca, a descendant of one of the Spencer Optical factory workers. General Luigi Palma di Cesnola (1832-1904) was the first director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Born near Turin, Italy, he fought for the British in the Crimean War, then immigrated to the United States and served in the American Civil War. His estate in Mount Kisco, which abutted that of the notorious Judge Leonard, was sold to him by Albert and Mary Sarles in the 1880s.

General di Cesnola's reputation is somewhat tarnished by his haphazard methods as an amateur archaeologist and by allegations made by art dealer Gaston Feuardent that the general made deceptive restorations to the Cypriot artifacts in his collection (which formed the Cesnola Collection of the MMA). Feuardent's allegations, mentioned in the article below, were generally true. However, the focus of the article is another controversy: that surrounding di Cesnola's treatment of an old graveyard on his property that supposedly contained the remains of Patriot soldiers, in addition to members of the Kirby and Hewlett families. The "troubles" between the villagers and di Cesnola seem to echo those between the villagers and Judge Leonard. In each case, the villagers reacted with shock and disgust to the selfish abandon with which a wealthy man abused his power. On the other hand, both di Cesnola and Leonard felt they had the right to do with their property as they pleased. 

The question is now, does anything remain of the graveyard that di Cesnola destroyed? I am currently on the case. Thanks to Mike for sharing this with us.

Patriots' Bones Dug Up.

Mount Kisco People Say Harsh Things About Gen. di Cesnola's Act.


Commissioner Daly Ordered Cesnola's Overseer's House Removed, and the General Moved It Into Burying Ground - Gen. Cesnola Says Only Two Bones Were Dug Up - He Says It's His Burying-Ground, Anyway.

Gen. di Cesnola, of Cyprus and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, has been rummaging among dead men's graves again. It has been known for years that the General was the owner of a private graveyard. Not that he made it himself, the way they do in Texas, but he bought it outright.

It was in 1882 that Gen. di Cesnola bought the graveyard. He bought it as part of a tract of seventy-five acres of land about a mile and a half east of Mount Kisco. He bought it of Albert Sarles, and Sarles had bought it of Hulett. Hulett had bought it of the Kirbys, who owned over a thousand acres of land in and around New Castle Corners, an outlying flank of the village of Mount Kisco.

The tract of land which Gen. di Cesnola bought bordered the eastern and northwestern side of a long, irregular little sheet of water known for generations back as Kirby's Pond. Judge Leonard bought the pond two years ago, blew up the dam which made it a pond, drained it, and made some very soggy meadow land on which bullfrogs and bullrushes thrive.

Down at the southerly end of this pond there jutted out into it a little wooded peninsula which for over two hundred years has been used as a burying-ground. It began as a private burying ground for the Kirbys. Then when the Huletts came into possession they buried their dead in it. It was thrown open by courtesy to other families in the neighborhood, so that for a while, strictly speaking, private property, it came to be in reality a public place for interring the dead. Many soldiers of the Revolution killed in the fighting above White Plains were buried there.

The General had hardly time to acquaint himself with all the features of the land he ha bought before a committee of three waited upon him. They were substantial American citizens and sound Presbyterians and came to see the General about a rumor. The rumor was that the General, being a Catholic, was bound to do just what the Catholic priest had told him to do and the report was that the priest had told him to rip up that Protestant burying-ground and scatter the bones and dust of the dead to the four winds of heaven.

The General relieved their minds. He todl them that he was not going to disturb the burying-ground. He told them furthermore that when he submitted to the dictation of any Catholic priest, Cardinal or Pope, as to what he should do with his own private property, he would be a very much older and very much c hanged man from what he then was.

That was trouble number one.

Then a man named Feuardent broke loose. Feuardent was a sceptic and a scoffer about the Cyprian treasures which the General sold to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for such a tidy sum of money. Feuardent said that Di Cesnola was a fraud. Di Cesnola replied.

In the heat of the debate Feuardent accused di Cesnola of having just bought another graveyard in Westchester County for the purpose of ransacking it for skulls and coffin plates to sell to art museum gulls.

That was trouble No. 2 about the graveyard, and now we come to the third and last of the General's burying-ground woes.

That began about six weeks ago, and it originated in the office of Michael T. Daly, Commissioner of Public Works. Commissioner Daly, in his efforts to keep the source of the Croton water supply from contamination, promulgated an edict that the house in which William Garrison lived had to be moved. Garrison had been overseer of Gen. di Cesnola's farm for over ten years. He said if the house was moved he would have to throw up his job and move, too, for he could get no place near by to live in.

Gen. di Cesnola was perplexed, but he had an inspiration. Why not put Garrison in the graveyard? As he thought of it it grew in his estimation to the proportions of a great scheme. He carried it out. He hired Pete Archer to move the house Garrison had lived in bodily over to the graveyard, and before he did that he hired William Wetherell to scoop away enough grave-tops and dig down into enough grave-bottoms for the house to rest on and have a cellar under it.

It was this despoiling of the last resting place of the dead, and particularly of the patriot dead of the Revolution, which has brought down upon the General the final and most serious of all the verbal attacks which his purchase of the graveyard has developed. It is discussed with much bitterness by people for miles around Mt. Kisco and Newcastle Corners.

The General had not been popular with the country people to begin with, and this last act has made them like him less than ever. Extravagant stories as to the number of the bones dug up and the sacrilegious way in which they were handled are going about. As a matter of fact but few bones were dug up. Just how many is a matter of dispute. William Archer says he only saw two and that they were leg bones. This is what Gen. di Cesnola says:

"The house is not in the graveyard proper, but in the front of it. I was present during all the excavations and present for the very purpose of seeing if any bones and relics were turned up. I am too much interested in antiquities to let an opportunity like that pass. If any bones were dug up I intended to put them in a coffin and have them decently interred. Two bones were dug up. They were leg bones, but whether of a man or a woman I could not tell. I told my overseer to put them aside and take care of them. He did put them aside, but the next morning they were gone, and since then we have not been able to find any trace of them. That is all there is to the story.

"The place was never a public cemetery, and if people choose to sell the land in which the bones of their forefathers rest they must not complain if strangers show as little respect for the place as they have shown. The proprietorship of that land lay between me and Judge Leonard. Judge Leonard said if I did not claim it he would. My deed fully shows that it was included in my purchase, and in a suit I had with a telegraph company that was putting up lines Judge Dykman, at White Plains, held that it was mine. Nobody has said anything to me about what I have done, but I suppose they talk among themselves."

Gen. di Cesnola scraped away the soil for the foundation and a little back yard to the house for a depth of about three feet. About [illegible] feet distant from the line of excavation there are two tombstones in good condition, one of white marble and the other of brownstone. Both are moss grown, but the inscriptions are very plain. One reads:

Memory of
who died
July 2, 1836
Aged 67 years
3 months and
Four days

The other, which is the one of brownstone, erected to a member of one of the Kirby family, and this is all that bear legible inscriptions, although there are the outlines of scores of graves visible, many of which have only the broken stubs of headstones sticking out of the ground and are evidently very ancient.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Mystery: Harry E. Acker (update)

This wooden, iron, and plastic sign commemorates the life of Harry E. Acker. The sign is placed in front of the Stanton family plot - you can see the iron bar of the fence in the background. There are no other Ackers in the cemetery. Why does Harry Acker not have a stone? Was he even buried in the cemetery? Since the sign doesn't look like it was made in 1909, when was it made and why?

In 1880, Harry was four years old and living with his parents, Benjamin and Hattie Acker, and sister Mary. His father was a carpenter.

1880 US Federal Census
In the next census in which Harry appears, he is 24 and living in Howell, New Jersey, where he worked as a "pool room manager." He died nine years later.

1900 US Federal Census
None of this really answers my questions about Harry Acker, so I decided to investigate Harry's parents. Six years before Harry's birth, they were living with Gilbert and Mary Ann Caniff. Benjamin Acker's wife is listed here as Celia - is she the same person as Hattie C. Acker of the 1880 census, or is she Harry's former wife? Notably, Celia and Hattie C.'s ages are the same. In any case, they had one child named Eveline at this point.

1870 US Federal Census
Ten years earlier, Benjamin had lived with his parents, Enoch and Phebe Acker ...

1860 US Federal Census
... while his future wife Celia lived with her parents, Gilbert and Minerva Caniff. Based on the fact that Celia's (or Cecelia's) middle initial was H, I'm going to guess that she and Hattie C. are the same person - although I could very well be wrong. It also seems likely that Minerva Caniff of the 1860 census and Mary Ann Caniff of the 1870 census are the same person.

1860 US Federal Census
That's all I've been able to find so far. I welcome anyone's help in solving this mystery!

Update: I found this obituary for Gilbert Caniff, Harry Acker's grandfather, from 1891. Interestingly, it notes that Gilbert was buried in St. George's/St. Mark's Cemetery, but I have no record of his name in the transcription I have. Was he moved to another cemetery, as many others were?

  1. Enoch Acker (1812-) m. Phebe (1805-)
    1. Benjamin H. Acker (1840-) m. Cecelia H. Caniff (1841-)
      1. Eveline Acker (1865-)
      2. Mary E. Acker (1872-)
      3. Harry E. Acker (1876-1909)
  1. Gilbert Caniff (1815-1891) m. (1) Mary Ann Hewlett (1824-); (2) Helen Swift
    1. Cecelia H. Caniff (1841-1876) m. Benjamin H. Acker (1840-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Elfreda C. Jackson

This page from the scrapbook of Elizabeth Jackson Guinand is a beautiful tribute to Elizabeth's sister, Elfreda Jackson, who died December 7, 1941, at the age of 52. At the center of the page is a letter written by Elfreda to Elizabeth when the former was ten years old. The envelope contains a greeting card Elfreda gave to Elizabeth more recently. Elfreda was a sales manager for the Fresh Silk Company.

Elizabeth and Elfreda were half sisters. Elizabeth, born in 1874, was the daughter of Edward W. Jackson (1849-1937) - a harness maker - and his first wife, Cornelia B. Tompkins. Elfreda, born in 1889, was the daughter of Edward and his second wife, Harriet Elliott. Despite their differences in age and maternity, Elizabeth and Elfreda seemed to be quite close. After leaving her parents' house, Elfreda moved in with Elizabeth and Elizabeth's husband, Walter Guinand, and lived with them until her death more than thirty years later (she was predeceased by Walter).

Elizabeth had two full sisters, May (born 1875) and Clara (born 1878). Elfreda had one full brother, Edward W. Jackson Jr., born in 1890.
Elfreda C. Jackson
Elizabeth and Walter Guinand married in 1893, when she was 20 and he was 35. Seven years later, they were living together with their three-year-old daughter, Gladys, and Elizabeth's sister Clara. Sadly, Gladys Guinand had died by the 1910 census. Clara Jackson had married Wallace Fish, a hardware store proprietor, and moved out, and Elfreda Jackson had moved into the Guinand household. Perhaps Elfreda, who was fifteen years younger than Elizabeth and thirty years younger than Walter, was somewhat like a surrogate daughter as well as a sister.

In 1910, Walter, Elizabeth (or "Lizzie" as she was named in the census), and Elfreda lived on Jane Street (which I believe is now West Main Street) going up Captain Merritt's Hill. In 1920, the three lived at 77 Hillside Avenue. By 1930, Walter had died, and Elizabeth and Elfreda lived on 331 East Main Street.

In July of 1939, the local newspaper reported that Elfreda had undergone a "serious operation" at Northern Westchester Hospital, but was recovering. Two years later, on August 8, 1941, Elfreda's mother Harriet Elliott Jackson died at her home at 57 North Moger Avenue at the age of 83. Less than half a year later, Elfreda died in her home at 52 Grove Street. Her funeral was held at Oelker & Cox Funeral Home with the Rev. Lee M. Fairchild of the Presbyterian Church officiating, and she was buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

The scrapbook in which I found Elizabeth's tribute to Elfreda is only one of at least seven of Elizabeth Guinand's scrapbooks at the historical society. I have yet to go through them all.

More on the Chestnut Ridge Methodist Church

I found an article written by Richard N. Lander on the Chestnut Methodist Church in The Westchester Historian Vol. 51, No. 1 (Winter 1975). This photograph of the church and its stables, taken about 1900, appeared on the cover of that issue. 

Mr. Lander provides many new (to me anyway) details about the church, including:
  • The Chestnut Ridge Methodist Society was never officially organized or incorporated
  • Richard Mosher, a schoolteacher and farmer, was the donor of the land
  • Local tradition held that the congregation built the church itself, with no professional assistance
  • "The building was a plain clapboard structure with three large windows on either side, these windows were of clear glass with accompanying shutters. Across the front of the church was a porch supported by four pillars and a small enclosed entryway located between the center pillars. Inside was one large assembly room which would accommodate forty to fifty persons. The pulpit was at the west end of the room on a raised platform one step above the floor, enclosed by a communion rail with kneeling cushions in front of the rail. The room was heated by a coal stove. No tower or steeple adorned the building."
  • The church was under the charge of the Bedford Methodist Church until 1888
  • From 1889 to 1895, it was under the charge of the Mount Kisco Methodist Church
  • No one remembered when regular services stopped
  • Arthur W. Butler, who bought the land surrounding the church (along with much of Chestnut Ridge), used the church as a storehouse for farm tools before he demolished it
  • The Mount Kisco Methodist Church owns the photograph featured on the cover
  • On December 1, 1963, the author took Mrs. Olive Cunningham Heuss, who was then in her 80s and remembered attending the Chestnut Ridge Church as a child, to look for remains of the building. They found only "a scattering of foundation stones."

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Katharine Carpenter Conklin (updated)

I found this scrapbook at the historical society on Tuesday. It was started by a 12-year-old girl, Katharine Carpenter, in 1903, and completed in 1908 when she was 17. It is priceless, probably one of the most uniquely fascinating artifacts I have ever had the opportunity to see in person. It is a very personal record of Katharine's experiences, thoughts, and dreams. The ephemera it contains - including letters, photographs, dance cards, playbills, advertisements, drawings, and even trinkets like pressed flowers, decorative napkins, and ribbons - are all captioned in Katharine's lively and playful voice. One of my favorite pieces is a pledge that Katharine made her friend sign: "Maude Fish will not tell anyone that Katharine Carpenter is going to try to go to the party at the Opera House on February 3, 1903. Signed, Maude Fish."

I hope to digitize the entire thing (somehow), but right now it's almost too delicate to handle. As you can see, the binding has broken and many of the pages are flaking away. I am currently exploring options for its restoration. In the meantime, I decided to look into the Carpenter family and see what I could find out about them.

There have been several Carpenter families in the village, but the question of which one Katharine belonged to is answered in the scrapbook itself. A pass allowing her to leave school early was signed by both her parents, T. Ellwood and Ella (Sutton) Carpenter. T. Ellwood Carpenter was the president of the Mount Kisco National Bank, which he founded in 1895. Ella Sutton Carpenter was a Quaker. They were married in 1885 and had three daughters, Helen (born 1887), Katharine (born 1891), and Mildred (born 1897). Their son, Herbert Ellwood, was born in 1885 and died as an infant.

Frank sent me this photo of the Mount Kisco National Bank, which was located on Main Street.

This was one of the family's houses, possibly the one where Katharine wrote and compiled her scrapbook. Aptly, it was on Carpenter Avenue.

Katharine first appears in the 1900 census, living with her parents, her uncle George Sutton, and their servant Ella Ryan. The same group was living together in the census of 1910.

1900 US Federal Census
1910 US Federal Census

Katharine attended high school at Blair Academy in Blairstown, New Jersey (then known as Blair Presbyterial Academy). Her father, T. Ellwood Carpenter, died in 1917 at the age of 62. In 1925, she married DeWitt Conklin,an electric fixture salesman. In 1920, the couple was living with Katharine's widowed mother and her two sisters. Helen and Mildred both worked in a lawyer's office, Helen as an assistant and Mildred as a stenographer.

1920 US Federal Census
By 1930, Katharine and her husband had moved to East Orange, New Jersey, where DeWitt now worked as the president of an investment bank. Katharine's mother and sisters had also moved to East Orange. Mildred worked as a bank clerk, presumably in the same bank that her brother-in-law was president of.

Ella Carpenter died in 1935 at the age of 74, and Mildred died in April 1987 at the age of 90. Katharine died in December 1977 at the age of 86. I haven't yet been able to determine when Helen Carpenter died.

I also haven't been able to determine who gave the scrapbook to the historical society. Katharine doesn't seem to have had children, and neither of her sisters married or had children, so she had no nieces or nephews either. Who inherited her property? Was the scrapbook given to the society after her death or did she herself give it to the society when she was still living?