Thursday, February 27, 2014

Answers from Glenette Forgea's Scrapbook: George Moseley and the Oldest House

Little did I know when I wrote my last post that some of the questions I had asked were answered in a scrapbook sitting right on the desk beside me! On Tuesday, I brought home a scrapbook from the historical society that was created by Mrs. Glenette Forgea - my great-grandmother's best friend - in the 1940s. The book covers nearly every subject in the history of the village, with much material taken from personal interviews and written correspondence with "old-timers." One of these old-timers was 90-year-old George Moseley.

Mrs. Forgea writes:
"From an interview with Mr. Moseley came the following interesting facts: He was a drummer-boy during the Civil War. He served in place of a member of the family to which he was a slave. He came to [the village] with a family named Gregory in 1871. He worked for H. W. Leonard and one of his memories is the draining of Kirby's Pond in 1888, which act destroyed the Optical Works, an industry employing many people throughout the surrounding country.

"It was the Silas Gregory family that brought Mr. Moseley here. This family lived in a house at the foot of Lundy Lane. Mrs. Charles Underhill of Yorktown Heights was born in this house. Mr. Moseley's wife was the cook at H. W. Leonard's. He and his wife adopted two children: Ruth A. Moseley who teaches music and David Turpeau, a minister."
Note that a "George Mozely" served in the 5th United States Colored Infantry Regiment, Company C. This may have been George Moseley.

Mrs. Forgea also illuminates the background on the "oldest house" in the village:
"According to an old resident the first house in [the village] was located on the east side of the Railroad Reservoir on Capt. Merritt's Hill just above the Gilbert Ganun building. This was on the Captain Merritt farm and was lived in at one time by Leander Sypher. The second house (still standing) was the house of Pat Malone, to the rear of Barney Tompkins's building and close to the railroad tracks. The third house was the Barney Tompkins's (Smith Hall) house. The fourth was built by David Moger and known also as the Dr. Miller house. It was originally located near the site of Bailey Department Store and had a white picket fence around its grounds."

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Moseleys

My last post featured this excerpt from a 1976 article about St. Mark's Church: "Efforts to locate the old rectory led (Mr. Hall's) sister, Catherine Hall Metz to recall that the site opposite the old church, where Conte's fishmarket now stands, was the home of a black family named Moseley who had been slaves before the Civil War. 'Mrs. Moseley,' Mrs. Metz remembered, 'taught piano to the Baldwins and others.'"

Sure enough, I found the Moseleys - or specifically a G. Moseley - living at that location in 1901. The Moseley house was sandwiched between St. Mark's Church and its parsonage, and would have had a lovely view of Kirby Pond before it was drained in 1888. G. Moseley still owned the property in the 1929-31 atlas. At this time it seemed that the house had been expanded, and a corner of the property now belonged to R. Moseley.

New Castle Corners 1901

New Castle Corners 1929-31

Looking into the census, I was able to identify George Moseley, the landowner, and his daughter Ruth Moseley, the piano teacher, in 1940. George's place of birth is given as Delaware, which was indeed a slave state at the time of his birth circa 1850 (that was only 23 years after slavery was abolished in New York State). You can see that each person's level of education was noted in this census. Ruth's was "C-2" (two years of college) while her father's was "0" (meaning no formal education). Viola Brice, age 19, was the Moseleys' maid, a native of Florida.

1940 US Federal Census of New Castle

I was also able to find the Moseleys mentioned a few times in the local paper. In 1932, the Recorder noted: "Miss Ruth Moseley, well known pianist of [the village], was the guest of Mr. and Mrs. William F. Kingsland of 30 Mechanics avenue last Saturday." In the 1930 census, William Kingsland, who was a mailman, his wife Carrie, and their 12-year-old daughter Esther were living at 30 Mechanics Avenue in Tarrytown.

The 1930 census shows that Ruth Moseley was born in New York, while both of her parents were born in Delaware. It also indicates that George was married for the first time at the age of fourteen, and indicates that he could neither read nor write.

1930 US Federal Census of New Castle
In the 1925 New York State Census, a family of Stevenses and one servant, Albertine Appo, were living with George and Ruth. This was the first census (going backward) in which George, then 75, was listed as having an occupation: "general laborer."

1925 New York State Census of New Castle
The 1910 census is the first (going backward) in which George's wife Annie appears. Like George, she and her parents were born in Delaware; also like George, she could neither read nor write. They were recorded having been married for 32 years (circa 1878). Annie was the mother of one child, which one would assume would be Ruth, but this will come into question later on. Eliott McMaster, a Scottish hired man, lived with them.

1910 US Federal Census of New Castle
The 1900 census gives more specific information about George's and Annie's dates of birth: George in March 1855, and Annie in August 1856. Contradicting the 1910 census, George was said to have been born in Maryland and Annie in New York. Though Annie was still listed as the mother of one child, Ruth was not recorded in the census. Instead, David Turpeau, a minister born in Louisiana, was listed as George and Annie's son. They also had one boarder, Sarah Brown.

1900 US Federal Census of New Castle

On May 16, 1890, the local paper reported:

According to a notice from 1887, "Mr. Arctic DeVoe, from Savannah," a "young colored man who has been living in this village for the past three years" who had been "recently employed by Mr. J. H. Crane, the furniture dealer," was now working as a coachman for County Register J. O. Miller. The paper added, "'Art' is quite a nice young fellow, attends to his business, and is thoroughly reliable."

It is interesting to note that George Moseley also worked as a coachman at this time - for none other than Judge William H. Leonard (hero/villain of the Kirby Pond controversy). On February 3, 1888, the Recorder reported that George Moseley "has bought the house and lot known as the Jackson house, east of New Castle Corners, and now occupied by Mr. Benjamin Miller."

A year earlier, in August of 1887, Moseley saved a man from being killed on the railroad tracks (a fate that befell far too many others in the village). The man happened to be Marcus Dean, who is buried in the cemetery. It seems that Dean was not particularly grateful to Moseley, but that may be due to the fact that he was quite old and in poor health at that time (he died two years later at the age of 89). Dean's obituary notes that he was also blind, in addition to being deaf.

In the 1880 census, George and Annie were living by themselves in Bedford.

1880 US Federal Census of Bedford

A letter from Ruth Moseley to The Crisis (official newspaper of the NAACP) dated December 27, 1929, is held in the W.E.B. DuBois Collection at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst Library. The letter requests information regarding "the John Wananabe Jr. Contest for musicians" and is signed Ruth A. Moseley.

That same year, the New York Age reported that Ruth Moseley and her students gathered books and toys to send to sick children at Harlem Hospital.

The book Breaking Barriers: An African-American Family and the Methodist Story elucidates David Turpeau's relationship to the Moseleys - apparently, George and Annie served as "surrogate parents" to David when he moved from Louisiana to New York. David, whose full name was David DeWitt Turpeau, married Ila Marshall and raised eight children in Ohio, where David served four terms in the State House of Representatives. In 1920, David and Ila christened their second youngest child Leontine Ruth after Ruth Moseley. In 1984, Leontine Ruth Turpeau Kelly became the first black (and second female) Methodist Bishop. She died on June 28, 2012.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Old St. Mark's Fondly Remembered by Parishioners

Front (L to R): Francis Finch, Caroline Clark, Minnie Finch, Catherine Hall Metz, Marian Taylor Gibson; Back: Irene Harder, Maisie Hall, Anna Close Carpenter, May Finch Woodin, Helene Whitehouse Walker, Virginia Fox Patterson, Eleanor Towne Carey, John Close
 Excerpts from an article by Phyllis Cobbs originally printed in the Patent Trader, July 15 1976

"There were memories galore when nine lifelong members of St. Mark's Church met for luncheon recently to renew childhood friendships and record their memories of the old church on St. Mark's Place, opposite Leonard Park, where St. Mark's churchyard is still located. The congregation m oved to the 'new' St. Mark's downtown, opposite Jeff Feigel Square, in 1911 and the old structure was torn down a few years later, although its timbers, donated to the St. Francis AME Zion, lived on in that congregation's former church building on Maple Avenue."

"Mrs. (Helene Whitehouse) Walker's father, Henry J. Whitehouse, was St. Mark's senior warden for 57 years. Her earliest memories were 'fears of being seasick' when the family set out in a closed brougham on winter Sundays for services conducted by the Rev. Henry V. Chamberlaine."

"Efforts to locate the old rectory led (Mr. Hall's) sister, Catherine Hall Metz to recall that the site opposite the old church, where Conte's fishmarket now stands, was the home of a black family named Moseley who had been slaves before the Civil War. 'Mrs. Moseley,' Mrs. Metz remembered, 'taught piano to the Baldwins and others.'"

"Dr. (Egisto Fabri) Chauncey was 'very interested in social issues' at a time when the church was less concerned with such matters than it is today. His concern led eventually to the building of the new St. Mark's in a downtown location so that less affluent parishioners, who did not have horses and carriages, could walk to church."

St. Mark's Lunch: Front (L to R): Cynthia Baldwin Pease, Helene Whitehouse Walker, Mary Wistar O'Connor, Rose Hall, Catherine Hall Metz, Anna Carpenter; Back: The Rev. William C. Heffner, Virginia Patterson, Evelyn Whitehouse Cobb, Jane Nash, William H. Hall. The picture held by Rose Hall is the Rev. Egisto Chauncey.
"Anna Close Carpenter, whose trace of Irish brogue still betrays her family's origin, remembered that she and her elder brother John, who had a fine voice and sang in the old St. Mark's choir, rode to church in Abijah Merritt's stage, which plied between the railroad station and New Castle Corners ... 'The stage met the train and the service was held when the stage got there.'"

"With prompting from Mrs. Taylor, the oldtimers were able to agree that the old St. Mark's had a red carpet inside and that the outside paint was dark yellow, much weathered - there was a dissenting vote for gray. No one could remember what had happened to a bell, given to the old church by General Alexander Hamilton, grandson and namesake of the Revolutionary War statesman, who conducted services there as a lay reader in 1871-2 and again in 1880."

"Other major fixtures in the old church moved with the congregation. Three Tiffany stained glass windows, given by the Cowdin family, were moved with great care without mishap to the Chapel of the Resurrection in the new church as was the old altar. The baptismal font was also moved to the baptistry of the new St. Mark's."

"Going over the tapes, Mrs. Taylor hopes to fill in a 10-year gap resulting from the loss of the church minutes from this period. No one knows for sure what happened to the missing minutes, but one of the guests at the oldtimers' luncheon said, 'you know, I think perhaps we cut them up to make paper dolls in Sunday school.'"

Kirby Pond and Leonard Park

 "After many years of litigation the old Kirby Pond, which covered 160 acres of land, was yesterday drained and has become one of the things of the past. It was owned by old Judge Leonard, who is now stricken down with apoplexy and he has had a hard fight in the courts to drain it. He was opposed by the people generally, who feared that the draining would prove deleterious to the public health of the village, and by the Spencer Optical Works, which were situated on its banks and in whose business it was an important factor. Not long ago, however, they had a good offer made them and removed to Newark, N.J., and taking a large number of operatives with them and throwing many more who could not go out of employment. The people of the village were present in full force yesterday to see the pond drained and, armed with pitchforks, succeeded in catching or spearing a great quantity of fish. A large number of dead fish were left on the muddy bottom, and it is feared that they will create an unpleasant effluvium and possibly cause sickness unless the weather continues cold. Taking it as a whole, the community regard the draining of the pond as a detriment and a calamity to the village."
-The New York Times, 7 December 1888

 "Leonard Park is a center of outdoor fun today thanks to two generous families who donated part of their good fortune to the village more than a decade ago. In 1943 Col. William Leonard decided to grant some 95 acres of his land to the village to be used for park and recreational purposes ... In 1949 the Memorial Pool was constructed on the property in memory of the local men who gave their lives in World War II ... "
-Yonkers Herald Statesman 29 August 1962

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Miss Hamblin and Mrs. Pugh

The women of Mrs. Pugh's house: Beatrice Pugh, Mrs. Pugh, Esther Hull, Ruth Hamblin, and Annie Reynolds

My great-grandmother, Ruth Card Hamblin, came to Westchester County to work as a teacher around 1918. The daughter of dairy farmers, she was born on Winchell Mountain, on an isolated farm outside of Millerton in Dutchess County, in 1896. She graduated from the New Paltz Normal School and taught for a year in Nyack before coming to Westchester, where she lived for the rest of her life.

The elementary school where Ruth Hamblin taught
Ruth Hamblin and Esther Hull at the elementary school
In 1920, Ruth was working as a fifth grade teacher and living in the house of widow Harriet R. Pugh - at the corner of Main Street and Smith Avenue, close to the Methodist church - along with Harriet's son, daughter, and sister, and Esther Hull, another teacher at the school - as shown in the federal census.

Among my family photos from this time are pictures of Esther Hull, and of Harriet Pugh and her family, with my great-grandmother, as well as a picture of the school where Ruth and Esther taught.

Mrs. Pugh's house on Smith Avenue

Sometime in the early 1920s, Ruth moved out of Mrs. Pugh's house and into an apartment in the Ganun Building on East Main Street, where she met Ernest Waldie, a sheet metal worker who had come to the US from Canada around 1900. They married in 1923 and purchased a house on Brook Street for $3,000.

When she was older Ruth used to point out Mrs. Pugh's house to her grandchildren, including the window that had been her room, when they passed by. It was still standing a few years ago, but it had fallen into a state of disrepair, and was torn down to make way for a large office building.

Howard and Mrs. Pugh
Ruth and friends? colleagues? in 1922

Friday, February 21, 2014

Spencer Optical Trade Cards: More Girls in Flowers

Left image: Kansas Collection, Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Right image: The Library Company of Philadelphia, Digital Collections.

Spencer Optical Trade Cards: Artist's Palette

This trade card, from the collection of the University of Rochester, opened up a whole new world of trade cards for me! If you look closely, you can see that along the bottom edge of the palette it says "S.O.M. Co." This is the Spencer Optical Manufacturing Company. I was able to find this card because the University of Rochester had identified the manufacturer from those initials, and now I can identify more cards that have "S.O.M. Co." on them as Spencer's. And if the eyeglasses advertised were celluloid, you can bet that they are Spencer's, as the Spencer brothers held the exclusive right to manufacture eyeglasses from celluloid in the 19th century.

Spencer Optical Trade Cards: Celluloid Eye-Glasses

In the late 19th century, the Spencer Optical Manufacturing Company held the patent on optical products made of celluloid, a lightweight and durable thermoplastic. These color trade cards, were produced by Spencer Optical in 1877 and are currently held by the Museum of Vision in San Francisco.

The Spencer Optical Manufacturing Company

As I've been working on an article on the Spencer Optical Manufacturing Company (commonly known as the Spencer Optical Works) I thought it'd be a good time to share these images I've collected to illustrate the article. The image above is an illustration of the Spencer Optical factory in Kirbyville, featured in J. Thomas Scharf's History of Westchester County, New York (1886). You can see the river in the right background, which powered the factory's turbines. Unfortunately, the lake supplying this water was drained in 1889, forcing the Optical Works to relocate to Newark, New Jersey.

This photo-lithograph illustration has become one of my favorite images. It shows the intersection of Broadway and Maiden Lane, where the Spencer Optical Works salesrooms were located, as it appeared in 1885. I looked, but couldn't find a sign for Spencer. The frenzy of wires between the buildings are telephone and telegraph cables, which became explosively popular at this time. If you look closely you can see a few bedraggled little moppets wandering through the street.

I've shown this image on the blog before, but it's worth reposting because it's so great. It shows the Spencer Optical Band (yes, they had their own band) standing behind one of the factory buildings - probably the smaller of the two buildings shown in the first illustration above. Sixty years later, Edmund P. Horton, a former Spencer employee who had played bass horn in the band, recounted how he and his bandmates traveled to Manhattan in 1883 to play in the parade at the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge. I think what I like best about this photograph is the factory workers leaning out the windows.

Spencer Optical Advertisement

This chromolithograph trade card was produced as an advertisement for Audemairs' glasses by the Spencer Optical Manufacturing Company between 1875 and 1899. This particular card is held by the Baker Library of the Harvard Business School. Between 1874 and 1888, the Spencer Optical factory was located down the street from the St. George's/St. Mark's Cemetery in the hamlet of Kirbyville. After 1888, the factory was located in Newark, New Jersey. The opera glasses shown on the back of the card were imported from Paris. In 1888, factory superintendent C. Elliot Spencer told the Recorder that the Optical Works imported $60,000 worth of French opera glasses that past year.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Village in 1937

Frank Wesley just sent me these incredible images, just a few of a collection of hundreds of negatives from the 1930s through 1950s that belonged to his grandfather, village historian Oliver Knapp. Needless to say, I am thrilled with them! This is the village as it has been described to me by my mother, my grandparents, and my friends at the historical society. Though I have many images of my family from this time, I had never seen an image of the old Goody Shop (with the Dakin House in the background!).

All of these images come from 1937, the same roll of film that contained the photo of the two little boys featured in my last post, and document a paving/sewer upgrade project carried out during that time. They show East Main Street, including (new) St. Mark's Church with the village hall and Gorham's fountain (known as "The Indian").

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Lewis & Jenkins Store - Found?

About a week ago, I posted the picture on the right on Facebook, asking if anyone knew anything about this building on Main Street, less than a mile away from the cemetery. I have passed by that store front thousands of times in my life, but had never noticed that it was connected to a very old looking building.

Today, Frank Wesley sent me the photograph on the left, along with the message:
"I have an interesting theory on 217 Main Street and some photos to show you. One of the older buildings in former New Castle Corners is shown in a picture of a picture of a picture I had from my Grandfather (bottom left credits John Cawley for taking a photo of the original which may be with the MK Historical Society). It shows Lewis and Jenkins store near the flagpole. My grandfather's note on the back reads 'New Castle Corner - corner of main street and South Bedford Road #172.'

"The house is also seen in a later postcard after it had been moved to a location 'Near Hyatt Ave.'

"[The village] seems to have moved quite a few things around over the years. It's quite possible that I am wrong in guessing here. The roof has been modified and the windows are not a match anymore if this is the house but it has the relative outline of the old Lewis and Jenkins store."
Frank Wesley's grandfather was Oliver Knapp, the village historian. This is the later postcard showing the building in its new location. Notably, the ground on either side of the building seems to slope down dramatically, just as it does on either side of the building today. My mother was always nervous about me walking in this area as a child because you can't see cars coming out of the driveways.

I think that Frank is probably right in his identification of this building as the old Lewis & Jenkins Store. If so, it's a shame that the beautiful architectural details were removed, but quite a marvel that the building is still standing.

This is the full photograph of the Lewis & Jenkins Store in its original location at New Castle Corners, very close to where St. Mark's Church would have stood at that time.

Frank also sent this family photo showing the same area of Main Street in 1937 (the building itself is not visible, but is located about two doors down). The peak of the Catholic Church is visible on the left.

Edited to Add: Laurie found these ads for the Lewis & Jenkins store in a newspaper from 1877. These are great not only because they are a lot of fun to see, but because you can see in small print it says "Successors to William Banks, New Castle Corners, New York." I have been unable to locate the Lewis & Jenkins store in any maps of the time period - but I did see Williams Banks's store!

The first of these maps is from 1867 and the second is from 1881. You can see St. Mark's Church (marked as "Epis. Ch." in the first map and "P. E. Church" in the second) down the street to the south. Strangely, even after the store changed hands, it was still designated on the map as "Store of William Banks."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Old St. Mark's Church - Found?

For a while now, Laurie and I have been investigating the fate of Old St. Mark's Church after the new St. Mark's was built in 1911. According to several accounts, including the Rev. H. Adye Prichard writing to Herbert B. Howe in the late 1920s, the Old St. Mark's Church building was given to the St. Francis A.M.E. Zion Church around 1916. The St. Francis congregation moved the church to a different location. Prichard wasn't sure what happened to the church after that.

Slowly, we have been putting the pieces together. Through various newspaper articles, we learned that the Old St. Mark's building was moved to Kisco Avenue, where they used it for ten years before building another church on Maple Avenue. Laurie located this church in an atlas of 1929-31. Apparently, some of the beams from the Old St. Mark's building were used in constructing this church.

In the 1960s, the Presbyterian Church decided to move to a different location and gave their church to the St. Francis A.M.E. Zion Church, which still uses it today. But what became of the old church on Maple Avenue, with the beams from Old St. Mark's? We weren't sure until we found this photograph below, showing the St. Francis A.M.E. Zion Church that was built in 1926.

We had never seen an image of this building before. Now, knowing its exact location, we went to see what was there today. This is what we found:

Is it the same building? If the answer is yes, it certainly has had a lot of alterations, but that is to be expected. Notably, this building has the same profile as the building shown in the 1929-31 map. Also, looking back at the photo of the building as it appeared in 1926, I feel like I can see how they might have used parts of the Old St. Mark's in its construction. Its facade has the same basic shape. What do you think?